Top 10 retro soccer games – kicking through the decades PART 1

Soccer balls

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 costs to you – if you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission) 

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10. Exciting Soccer (1983) – Platform: Coin Op

Exciting Soccer

Exciting Soccer

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

Microprose Soccer

Microprose Soccer

“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

Tehkan World Cup

Tehkan World Cup

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

Virtua Striker 2

Virtua Striker 2

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

Fifa Road to World Cup 98

Fifa Road to World Cup 98

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!
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About Andrew A.

Andrew is the founder and owner of RetroGamingLoft. He considers himself a natural-born gamer and is on a mission to keep our younger gaming years alive through the medium of Retro Stories. His event recount includes hopes, dreams, broken joysticks, magic, nostalgia and another final boss defeated.

24 thoughts on “Top 10 retro soccer games – kicking through the decades PART 1

  1. Salvatore Gagliardo

    Hi Andrew,
    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!
    Thanks,

    Salvatore

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      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!

      Reply
  2. Wei

    Hi Andrew,
    What an amazing post you have here. It’s always lovely to see games from my childhood. Can’t wait for part 2!
    I think what I miss the most is the fact that I was playing these games with my best friend back then. I personally prefer Pes 6, it has the best feeling and the most realistic control. Sadly it was released in 2006, so it doesn’t make your cut.
    Anyway, Thanks again!
    Wei

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Wei and thanks for stopping by.
      I agree, I associate video games with the most carefree moments in my life and this is basically the goal of this website. I think there is still room for fun anyway, as you might have ready, my secret weapon to stop the ageing process is to not quit playing.
      As for Pes 6, great game that I thoroughly enjoyed… It was the first soccer game that I played online, so I just cannot forget it. When virtual reality games will consign online games to oblivion – thus making them retro games – rest assured it will top my retro online soccer game ranking. 😀
      Till next article!

      Reply
  3. Lane Onson

    My son likes soccer. I called him over and showed him this page and he likes the last game. I enrolled him in soccer and he had a nice time. He’s constantly downloading video games, so the last one appealed to him.

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Lane and thanks for promoting my website, lol.
      Seriously, I appreciate the fact even non-soccer fans drop by and leave a comment… I always try to go with my heart and I feel repaid by your comment.
      Hope your son will chime in, I would like to hear his thoughts. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Dave O’Hara

    Hi Andrew,

    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.

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      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!

      Reply
  5. Karin Nauber

    Greetings Andrew!

    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! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Karin, it is always a pleasure to hear from you. It is such a joy to know that I made you want to play FF 10 again… My mission is to keep retrogaming 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, yesterday I published the second part of my retrojourney and now you can see what my top picks are. I hope I will make you want to try some more games.
      Thanks for being my number one fan! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Emmanuel Buysse

    Great post and good info.

    I was the same like you, an upcoming talent and when I was 19, an injury halted everything and gone carreer.

    I love the old games because for the way they are made it looks amazing and funny.

    Do you also remember the other old Fifa games? Those were epic, you could smash every opponent, and make sure the half of that team had injuries, if it was out of sight there was no chance you could get a yellow or red card.

    Epic times, I miss them, you too?

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Emmanuel, I am sorry to hear that… It was hard back then, but you know, life goes on. My positive attitude has surely helped me.

      What I have always loved about old games is that any of them seemed to have that certain something no matter the genre. Back then, there was not even much distinction or many discussions about favourite genres: we would talk about favourite games, period.
      Oh, I do remember the old fifa too…My friend Luke and me, we would sneak in his father’s home office at times and play Fifa ’97on his then phantasmagoric pc.
      There was a so called (well, we called it like that) “bad foul” button and I must say fouls were very creative… We used that button more often than not. 😀

      Until next Retro Story!

      Reply
  7. Stratos K

    Now that’s an article that brought back a lot of memories and traveled me many years back. I remember playing virtua striker 2 at the coin-ops and I was so amazed by it’s graphics that I was thinking how amazing it would be to be able to play this at home. How far we have gone from there it’s amazing. Personally one of the best retro soccer games is by far kick off for Amiga 500. I spent hours upon hours playing it on my Amiga and it should be the number one retro soccer game.

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hehehe, I knew a Kick Off fan would come sooner or later… To be honest with you Stratos, I am very grateful for your comment as you give me the opportunity to explain my readers why I made certain choices.

      To begin with, much respect to Dino DIni and his Kick Off series: it had hoards of fan all over the world back then and I know for a fact that a bunch of die-hard fans arranges a yearly offline Kick Off world cup.

      The fact that I did not particularly appreciate does not mean that the game was not good.
      That said, the reason I left it out and that prevented me from clicking with the game is that I was never able to get over the fact that the button controls were logically inverted.

      I mean, why do I have to tap to shoot and why do I have to press the button to pass? I am sorry, I just cannot play like that… In my mind, you have to maintain a certain level of pressure in order to shoot in the proper way (a gauge bar would have been an excellent solution for Kick Off ) and you have to tap to pass. Do you want to take a long pass, maybe a chipped one? Then move the stick backward.

      On such grounds and despite countless tries, I have never get used to tap to shoot and I have never really enjoyed the game.
      I could went on to say I did not even find Kick Off’s gameplay that varied and that the same goals were scored over and over but that would only draw me heat from the above mentioned Kick Off’s die-hard fans and I do not want that.

      Back then it was nice because there was a sort of rivalry between Kick Off and Swos’s fans: the former told the latter they played Swos as a second-best choice because they could not play Kick Off. The latter told the former kick Off was unplayable and repetitive and Swos was simply the best. We were teens and it was nice to side with a faction, now we have to stick together and remember the old times without fighting. 🙂

      Thanks again for your comment, like I said I truly appreciate when one politely disagrees.
      Stay tuned for more Retro Rankings!

      Reply
  8. Melissa

    Oh my gosh you took me on such a journey back to retro games I loved so much! We had a Commodore 64, but my absolute favourite was our Atari! I can’t remember a soccer game although we may have had one, I just can’t remember. The reason I went searching for retro games was that when I was shopping on the weekend, I found an Atari – they have made them again ready for Christmas and I think I might get me kids one (code for I am buying this for myself but may share it with my kids), and I need to find Atari games that they would like. They’re really into soccer so fingers crossed I can find it!!  Awesome site – thank you!

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Melissa and thanks for your comment. I am glad my article took you back in time. 🙂
      I think I can help you “cure” your nostalgia attack: just take a look at Amazon and search for Atari FlashBack 8. Like you said, they made them again ready for Christmas and you do not have to look for Atari Games (they are very hard to find, I know), as such release comes with 105 inbuilt games.
      I got to see its list of games days ago and in addition to some great classics like Pitfall (I loved it!), Frogger and Centipede, there are also 4 soccer games.
      I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas in advance! 😉
      Thanks again for stopping by, stay tuned for more Retro Rankings!

      Reply
  9. BEazzy Shifts

    Hello friend. I Am a fan of soccer game too. I remember playing some of these games with my friends. Back then in school after class, we usually go to a gaming shop and do some challenge. Lol. I pretty much did not experience the first four games you posted here. But I know FIFA. Football is fun 🙂

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Beazzy, thanks for stopping by! Yeah nice times, the best times of our lives aren’t they?
      I arranged my first offline tournaments right in a video game shop owned by a friend of mine.
      Something funny (more tragicomic) happened on that day and I am fancying writing a Retro Story about it soon.
      Yeah soccer and soccer video games are the ultimate fun, I had to celebrate them! 🙂
      Stay tuned for more Retro Rankings!

      Reply
  10. Ali Batuhan Oguz

    If I remember correctly, I was less than 10 years old. My parents bought me an arcade. There were tapes back then. There were between 100 and 1000 games in the cassettes. Then there was a football game in that tape. My father and I loved the game. My father was 50 at the time, I guess. When I read this article, I remembered my childhood. I miss those times when I played with my father. I got emotional for a moment. I want to tell my dad that I love you. Thank you for writing. Reminds me of old times.

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Ali,

      Since I am a father myself, I got emotional too. At the moment, I feel so fortunate that I am able to play and have fun together with my three kids. Egoistically I wish they would never grow up but apart from living life to the fullest, there is nothing we can do about it. Anyway, I will tel you what: I hope that my kids will tell me the same things when they are adults.
      Thank you very much for such an emotional comment, as you can see good childood memories are forever…

      Reply
  11. Chris

    This is a great post and has brought back some good memories. I am hoping thet Fifa 95 might make the list at some point, that was the first football game that I ever got into, then in th early noughties it was pro evo all the way. I look forward to part 2…Thanks for the post!

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Chris and thanks for your comment.
      I remember Fifa 95, it was good at the time, but not enough to make my list, sorry about that. 🙂
      Anyway Fifa ’98 got an honourable 6th place…

      Yeah I am also not fond of Fifa’s and Pes’s alternate monopoly, always hoping for a breathe of fresh aira… Who knows?
      Part 2 is online, please check here.
      Thanks again for stopping by, stay tuned for more Retro articles!

      Reply
  12. Clement

    Thanks for this wonderful post, I cherish soccer while I was young, I was one of the best kids around but I never made it to PRO because I wanted different thing with my life.Up till now I still play football for fun. Consoles game are really nice and I enjoy every bit of it but I think my favorite is Pes 6, I wish you could cover it in your next article. 

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Clement and thanks for your nice words.
      I am glad to hear that quitting soccer was your own choice and not because of an injury.
      As for Pes 6, it is true that it was released 12 years ago, but it was also the first soccer game that could be decently played online. So I am in two minds, because the online gaming has got anything to do with Retro Gaming (at least at the moment).
      It is also true that Pes 6 servers were discontinued years ago, but personally I only Played Pes 6 online (not even an offline game).
      I will think about it… At worst my son James will cover it in 10+ more years when virtual reality will be the new frontier of online gaming. 😀

      Thanks again for stopping by, please stay tuned for more Retro rankings!

      Reply

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