Great sports iPhone games for your 2011 wish list

Jan 14, 2011
Games

While it was far from a disaster, iPhone sports gaming in 2010 was also far from being an over-the-top success. Certainly the most rational sports gamers would agree it was somewhere in between. Madden and Backbreaker Football returned, developers continued to pump out a plethora of quality soccer games, NBA Live was replaced by NBA […]

While it was far from a disaster, iPhone sports gaming in 2010 was also far from being an over-the-top success. Certainly the most rational sports gamers would agree it was somewhere in between.

Madden and Backbreaker Football returned, developers continued to pump out a plethora of quality soccer games, NBA Live was replaced by NBA Elite, and we were finally treated to our first full hockey game.

But while the sports genre simply did well, Angry Birds became one of the most popular mobile games ever, while casual hits like Fruit Ninja and Cut the Rope cemented themselves in the iTunes App Store’s top paid game list, and online-based gaming continued to become more prominent on the iPhone.

So, no, 2010 wasn’t a bad year for sports gaming enthusiasts. But in the interest of making the upcoming year better than “not bad,” here’s a 2011 wish list for the genre.

Madden NFL and Franchise Mode

Madden NFL 11 by EA Sports, the latest incarnation of the legendary football series, included a number of snazzy additions. The “GameFlow” feature not only meant you didn’t have to be Bill Belichick to win a virtual Super Bowl, but it led to a remarkably smoother and quicker gaming experience. The controls got a boost, most notably from the new “Total Defensive Control” system, and while the graphics aren’t on par with the unreal realism of the console game, they continued to improve.

Really all that’s left for the next app version of Madden is to include “Franchise Mode,” the game mode that turns this game from a fun excursion into a dangerous obsession. Even a limited version of the mode, say allowing gamers to play five seasons and offering a trimmed-up “Training Camp,” would be a huge addition to iPhone’s most complete football game.

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More Hockey and 2K Sports, Please

Not only was 2K Sports NHL 2K11 the iTunes App Store’s first full, officially licensed hockey game, but it was the first app from console veteran 2K Sports. Puckheads were treated to a solid arcade game with real teams, real players and a full season mode. Better yet, the app debuted with the entirely reasonable price tag of $1.99 (and it has since been dropped to 99 cents), making it one of the genre’s unquestioned bargains.

So, the obvious wish is for a NHL 2K12 with general improvements in all areas of the game. It would also be nice, though, to see 2K Sports expand to other sports in 2011, especially given that the company has games for most major sports.

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NBA Elite 11 comes to the App Store

Don’t let the name fool you – NBA Elite 11 by EA Sports is very much a sequel to the now-defunct NBA Live series that gave iPhone gamers their first full basketball game. Of course, there were some new wrinkles in Elite, such as a 3-point shootout mode and basic tweaks/improvements to the controls and graphics, but the base of the game is similar to the initial EA Sports basketball release. This game is also available for the iPad.

While Elite is certainly a welcome return in 2011, a more arcade-based app such as the recently re-released NBA Jam (Wii, Xbox 360, PS3)  would also be a nice addition to the iTunes App Store. And if the 2-on-2 game featuring oversized heads and the classic “He’s on Fire!” call were as solid as the console remake, it would easily be in contention for sports game of the year.

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A sequel to Touchgrind

Released way back in October 2008, Touchgrind remains near the top of many iOS sports game lists due to its innovative controls, as well as an HD version that came to the iTunes App Store last year. The unique title has gamers looking down at a skateboard and use two fingers similar to how you would use your feet on an actual skateboard, performing various tricks across three different game modes.

In 2009, Illusion Labs’ Anders Mårtensson said it was “likely that there will be some kind of spin-off” to Touchgrind, but more than a year later, nothing has come. Illusion continues to update the original, most recently in October, and seeing as how it remains the top skateboarding game a sequel isn’t exactly needed – but this is a wish list, not a need list.

Success for iOOTP

Enough of this hearsay and conjecture, and on to a sure thing. Out of the Park Baseball, a veteran PC-based baseball management series, announced its intention to release an iPhone version of the game in the spring of this year. Like fellow PC game Baseball Mogul or the ill-fated NFL Head Coach, the game tests your skills in building and maintaining a team, as opposed to your button-mashing prowess.

A solid app version of OOTP would not only provide a much-needed breath of life to the iTunes App Store’s baseball genre, but possibly also to similar management games such as Championship Manager 2011 and Football Manager Handheld 2010. While both apps do an admirable job of bringing the PC-version of the games to your phone, they also aren’t quite as immersive, something that hopefully gamers won’t be saying about the OOTP app.

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