I have always been a soccer-addict, no matter if it is real or virtual. My parents recall that I started kicking a ball at 2 years old and when I was 4, my father was amazed at how hard I shot. At 6, I joined a local soccer team and played on until a bad ankle injury put an end to my dreams of glory. I was 18… That’s life!
At the end of the day, I have always seen this wonderful sport as a mere game, rather than as a potential job.
I have not had a chance to become a professional soccer player, but I have never stopped playing soccer with my friends and that – of course – goes for its virtual counterpart too.
As for the latter, I played a soccer video game for the first time when I was 7 and I can say without a doubt that – together with Rpg – it is the genre that I have played the most.
I have hardly missed any arcade soccer games and I have tried all the most famous titles for the consoles and the personal computers that I have had.
With that being said, do fasten again your memory belt and follow me on this two-part journey through the top 10 retro soccer games.
A proper clarification before starting: my one and only personal evaluation criterion to define a retro video game is the lack of a proper online mode. For this reason, the following list features soccer games whose release date ranges from 1983 to 2005.
I know, we could already play online in 1996, but we had to wait for 10 more years in order to play in the proper way. Right when I was giving up on it, 2006 worldwide improvements in connection speed made the miracle. On such grounds, to not mention Pes 5 on PlayStation 2 would make no sense (netplay was beyond awful).
Alright, Enough chatter. Let us get on with it:
(Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that – at no additional cost to you – if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. For more info, please check my affiliate disclosure page.)
10. Exciting Soccer (1983) – Platform: arcade
The first soccer video game I have ever played could just not be left out of this list. It was 1984 and a classmate of mine informed me that a soccer game had just been installed in the bar where I had had my first well-documented encounter with an arcade machine. I went and saw it later that day and – needless to say – I immediately wanted to try it.
Simply wonderful, I could not believe I was playing a soccer video game and I did not want to stop (thanks granny for being so patient). Reluctantly, I have to say that Exciting Soccer has not aged well and if you happen to play it today you will be unlikely to continue, after losing your first game. A small pitch, slow players and an extremely limited gameplay will quickly kill its longevity.
Back then, it was so rewarding to correctly time a shot. Being able to position that blue and pink arrow close to either post meant sure goals, the keeper had just no chance to catch the ball. Oh, and I loved the digitized voice announcing a goal: when this happened, I just could not help screaming: “IN GOAL!” All that to the delight of the bar regulars (poor granny, she was so embarrassed). 😀
Finally, a real touch of class was to see your opponents turn their backs in the team selection screen once you had defeated them.
9. Microprose Soccer (1988) – Platform: Commodore 64
“Soccer with rain” or “rainy soccer”. This is what we called it. How fun was it? Brazil and Italy were basically unbeatable, but random rain showers were our secret weapons. When the pitch was wet, anything could happen: endless sliding tackles and impossible ball trajectories just made any games unpredictable.
After countless beatings, one day I managed to get to the final stage, where the aforementioned Brazil could not wait to give me another soccer lesson. One of my friends said he had had an idea and did an obscene rain dance. Well, do not ask me how, but it worked: 5 seconds into the game and a storm broke out. I fought tooth and nail and was able to nick the world cup-winning goal with 3 seconds remaining. To this day my friend is still known as “The Shaman”. 😀
8. Tehkan World Cup (1985) – Platform: arcade
The red-haired team, who remembers it? I loved this game, it was so fast and hectic and you could score some incredible screamers. For the first time, players ran instead of walking and an obsessive tune got you to attack the whole time.
The thing was either you won or it was game over. Neither extra time nor penalties were provided in case of a draw. Despite this, the CPU’s artificial intelligence was terrible and after a few games you were able to get its number.
With minimal effort you could easily predict and stop any CPU’s attack and score with every single shot. I recall I got to a point where I would rattle up at least 15 goals in the early stages and 7 in the final game.
Still a lot of fun in versus mode, anyway.
7. Virtua Striker 2 (1997) – Platform: arcade
Technically the best arcade soccer video game ever – although not the most fun – Virtua Striker 2 stunned everyone with its incredible graphics and the spectacular goals that you could score. Screamers, volleys, diving headers, scissors kick… Candy for the eyes!
In addition to that, Every goal was given a score and the best one – named “Today’s best goal” – was displayed in heavy rotation, when no games where being played.
Amusement arcades used to arrange tournaments where two different prizes were up for grabs: one for the actual tournament winner and the other for the best goal. A challenge within a challenge.
Unfortunately, a non-state of the art artificial intelligence and some stiff animations prevented it from ranking higher on this list.
6. Fifa: Road to World Cup 98 (1997) – Platform: PlayStation
As far as I am concerned, the best Fifa I have ever played. I consider it a hidden gem amid many Fifa releases that – for a number of reasons – have always failed to make an impact on me.
Fun, innovative modes, two different running speeds (normal and sprint), in-game commentary, cutting-edge graphics and an amazing artificial intelligence make this EA title still enjoyable today, both in single player and in versus mode.
I will never forget what happened the first time I played it: 70 minutes into the game, I was attacking on the left side of the pitch and successfully dribbled twice past the right back in order to center the ball. As soon as the ball went out, the opposing team’s coach replaced that very defender with a fresher player.
Simply fantastic… And it was 1997!
End of the first hal… Er, part – Let us go back to the locker room
Just a 15-minute break and you will be able to read the second part of the article, featuring the top five positions in the ranking. Well No, you will actually have to wait for some days… Sorry, I just got carried away by this backward journey through retro soccer games. 😀
Have you already figured out the winner? Then please write it in the comments below, if you like. I am not going not give out any spoilers, but I cannot wait to see how many of you will guess.
See you on five more virtual pitches!
I wanted to quckly say thanks for your article! I rarely now play on any consolle game but if I do it will only be a football game.
Reading your article I returned back in the years, during a beautiful period of my childhood, when on vacation with m family I was waiting for the afternoon to go to the beach bar to play the new soccer game arrived, it was “Exciting soccer”, unforgettable moments!
Hello Salvatore and thanks for your nice comment. I can perfectly relate to your childhood memories, I also anxiously waited for that fateful time of day to come (normally 5 pm).
I started to bug my granny about going to the bar one hour before. I still wonder how she could be so patient.
To be honest with you, she had dealt with it…I remember her saying to my mum: “It is a passion, he likes it… He is doing nothing wrong.” Mine was such a strong habit that she used it as a mood detector: say one day I did not feel like going to play my video games, she would immediately ask me what was going on. 😀
Yeah, you said it right, unforgettable moments!
Till next article!
It was great reading your walk down memory lane. As an Englishman, from the North East of England, soccer (or football to give it the name we know it by) is never far from our thoughts, much to the frustration of the fairer sex.
The early days of console games and coin ops were healthily inhabited by footy sims. I used to play Sensible Soccer on my PC before getting more into the strategy games like Football Manager. It’s really good that you are keeping the memory of the early soccer games alive though.
I look forward to the second half.
Hello Dave and thanks for your nice words. Knowing that they come from a fellow football/soccer fan means the world to me.
To be honest with you, I also like strategy games (I am an omnivorous gamer), so sooner or later you will run into a top management games ranking… 😉
Soccer has been in my thoughts since I was a toddler boy, so – in order to stop hurting the fairer sex’s feelings – I had a wonderful idea 15 years ago: I married a woman who likes soccer! 😀
Till next article!
I love the way you tell your stories! After reading a previous post of yours, I got out the old Final Fantasy X game and began to play! I loved the soccer games, too, but I was never very good at them. I may have to try again on some of the ones I have for my old PlayStation! I have no guesses as to the top soccer game or even the top five, but I can’t wait to see what your top picks are! 🙂
Hello Karin, pleased to hear that! 🙂 It is such a joy to know that I made you want to play FF 10 again… My mission is to keep retro gaming alive, so your words just made my day.
Have you also had a chance to try again the ones you have for your old PlayStation.? I truly hope so.
The wait is over anyway, I published the second part of my retrojourney now months ago and now you can see what my top picks are. I hope it will make you want to try some more games.
Hello ! First of all I want to thank you for the excellent article and for the content that makes me smile 🙂 I’ll always have that kid inside me super addicted to video games, especially football video games! I wanted to ask you for help about a video game I played when I was a kid on my Europc Schneider CPU 8088 monochromatic Amber 😀 speed :9.54 MHz ram : 512kb – The game was football, it was National Teams – There was still the USSR – therefore it must not be after 1991. This game had the particularity of not needing to run MSDOS it was a floppy disk that was bootable. I remember that at the beginning there were the flags of the selections moving from right to left on the screen and that if you let the game run without touching any keys, the teams would appear, for example from the USSR and the Anthem would play (pc speaker) then another team came and played the respective anthem… the game was very similar to Microprose, it was played vertically. Any ideas please? I think the game must be between 1988 and 1991 and would be from some World or European because it was National Teams. Thank you very much and all the best always. Sorry for my English as it’s not my mother tongue. Goodnight ! 🙂 Games I already researched and they are not: -World Cup Italia ’90
-Kick off 1
-Tehkan World Cup (1985)
– Kickoff 2 (1990)
-Tecmo World Cup games
-International Soccer Challenge
-Rick Davis’s World Trophy Soccer DOS – 1989
-European Championship 1992
-Emilio Butragueno 1987
-Not any Sensible Soccer
-International Soccer 1994