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:
10. Exciting Soccer (1983) – Platform: Coin Op
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 (1989) Platform: Commodore 64 version
“Soccer with rain” or “rainy soccer” this is how 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: Coin op
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: Coin Op version
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.
A non-state of the art artificial intelligence and stiff animations prevent it from ranking higher on this list.
6. Fifa: Road to World Cup 98 (1997) Platform: PlayStation version
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, if you like. I will not give out any spoilers, but I cannot wait to see how many of you will guess.
See you on five more virtual pitches!