The hardwood comes alive with these iPhone basketball games

Nov 24, 2010
Games

There is no shortage of basketball games in the App Store – or at least games with a round ball and hoop involved – but when compared with sports like soccer, football and baseball, the options do look a little paltry. Fortunately, Electronic Arts has introduced two full five-on-five games to iOS devices (the now-defunct […]

There is no shortage of basketball games in the App Store – or at least games with a round ball and hoop involved – but when compared with sports like soccer, football and baseball, the options do look a little paltry. Fortunately, Electronic Arts has introduced two full five-on-five games to iOS devices (the now-defunct NBA Live series has disappeared from the App Store), and other developers have figured out ways to make more than a few entertaining basketball-themed games. So, while there isn’t a plethora of great, full basketball games, there are certainly enough to fill a “best of” list, which gives me an idea…

NBA Elite 11 by EA Sports

The follow-up to last year’s NBA Live, NBA Elite 11 by EA Sports ($4.99), is the obvious place to start because it’s the one game that brings full five-on-five action to your iPhone. In addition to that, the game has real teams and players, as well as the ability to unlock NBA legends through various achievements. But despite a number of small improvements – most notably improved graphics, tweaked controls and the new three-point shootout – the biggest change in this game from last year might be its name. The game is still more arcade than simulation, though because of the NBA license and a really nice presentation, it will be easy enough for hardcore basketball fans to get lost in the game. Of course, it’s not like they have any other options (where are you, Gameloft?), and while NBA Elite won’t blow you away with new features, it’s a good enough game for a decent price.

StarDunk

Godzilab’s StarDunk (free, $2.99 to remove ads) is certainly a basketball game at its core, but much different than any other game you’ll see on this list. The basic gameplay involves you trying to make as many buckets as possible, with shots controlled by touching the screen, pulling back and aiming – a setup similar to a number of physics-based games like Angry Birds. Here’s where it starts to get different, though. Instead of playing on a hardwood court, you play in space, with Earth as the background, a reminder that this is a multiplayer online game and you’re playing against people from all over the world. Also, the backboard has four panels that, if activated, will give you various specials. As you earn (or purchase) StarPoints, you can buy various balls to help improve your game. All told, while StarDunk is very much a basketball game, it’s one that will appeal as much to casual gamers as to NBA fanatics.

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iBasket

What do you get when you take all the space references and flashy features from StarDunk? Ideateca’s iBasket ($0.99), a game that lacks the depth of StarDunk, but boasts similar addictive gameplay in a more ‘baller-familiar environment. Shooting is again controlled entirely by touch-screen controls, with you choosing where you want the ball to arch. You have 90 seconds (though you can earn extra time) to score as many points as possible, and there are multipliers, such as making three baskets in a row. The game also works with Game Center, so the main replay value is going to come in trying to top your high score, as well as the high scores of others from around the world. But the big selling point here are the physics-style controls that have proven to be a big hit in the app store, and while this game doesn’t have as many features as StarDunk, it’s still a nice game in a more basketball-friendly package.

Flick NBA Basketball

Before there was NBA Live/NBA Elite, the closest thing basketball gamers could get to a real NBA experience on the iPhone was Freeware’s Flick NBA Basketball ($4.99). While it doesn’t allow you to play full games, the app does include real players, and allows you to square off in five mini-games: Three-point Shootout, Hotshot Arcade, Long Shot Challenge, HORSE and a Spin-the-Ball mode. As the app’s name suggests, you control the events with flick motions, and there you can play both against the computer or another human opponent. It’s funny reading the graphics being described as “realistic and noteworthy,” as now that we’ve been spoiled by the retina display, they don’t quite stand up. Still, this is a decent-enough game that I would have no issues recommending as an alternative to NBA Elite, if it weren’t for the ridiculous price tag. If you can catch the game on sale for 99 cents, it’s worth your time, otherwise you might as well get the much more complete game from Electronic Arts.

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Streetball

Battery Acid Games’ Streetball ($0.99) hasn’t earned so many downloads because it’s the perfect game – indeed, there are a number of issues I could point out. But, as they say, the positives outweigh the negatives in this basketball game. The most enticing part of the game is that it actually allows you to play a basketball game, including 21, Two-on-Two, HORSE and multiplayer modes. The game also features characters with unique attributes, a nice touch for a game without an NBA license. It’s controlled with the familiar d-pad and two action buttons, somewhat similar to NBA Elite, but not nearly as detailed. As for the negatives, there are still bugs, and the player models are very rough. Like I said, though, Streetball offers enough good here to outweigh the bad, making this a decent basketball option.

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