Top 10 retro soccer games – kicking through the decades PART 2

Soccer balls

Welcome to the second and last part of our journey through the top 10 retro soccer games.

The first part featured the games ranked from 10 to 6, so no dilly-dally today: it is time to reveal the titles that occupy the top 5 positions in the ranking. I hope you have not unfastened your memory belt, as another back and forth ride in time is coming. Are you ready to find out who the undisputed king of retro soccer games is?
Kick off (no, not the game…Not yet at least, lol)!

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5. Kick and Run (aka Mexico ’86) (1987) – Platform: arcade

Mexico 86, an 80s arcade game

Kick and Run was ported to the Famicom, but nothing memorable, unfortunately…

Forget about its two official names, this game was universally called “Angry Soccer”, period.
Except for a goal being scored, everybody had an angry, funny face… Even the referee!

But I loved it, it looked like a cartoon. I wasted away with tournaments at my local arcade with my schoolmates, much to the joy of the owner. 10 years later, the man still remembered those times when that weird soccer game earned him at least 50 bucks a day. It was probably the most crowded cabinet he had ever had.

Back to the game, I recall I used to drive older boys crazy with my USA (the fastest team in the game). Most of them would pick Germany because their players shot hard, but there was little they could do, when they had to face a team, whose players were basically uncatchable.

I just loved to hide the ball from them and score with a bicycle kick from outside the penalty area.
I was not one to brag, but I had a special catchphrase for sore losers (there were a few, sadly): “Germany shoot hard, but it is hard to shoot when facing USA!”.

Needless to say, such “soreboys” grew even more frustrated and would call me names at will. Actually, It was a crescendo of insults and physical threats, but no risk no fun, as they say. 😀

4. Pro evolution soccer 5 (2005) – Platform: PlayStation 2

Pro Evolution Soccer 5 on the PlayStation 2

Fun fact: we buy PES every year. Do not panic, we are retro gamers at heart. This is just the exception that proves the rule, lol…

The best retro Pes by far. If on one hand, it is safe to say that Konami revolutionized the world of soccer video games, on the other one, Pes transition to the PlayStation 2 did not turn out very well.
A series of titles with gameplay, technical flaws partially ruined the relationship of trust between Konami and their fans. Luckily, Pes 5 set things straight.

What a qualitative leap compared to its predecessor (Pes 4): goal-actions, goalkeepers’ saves and animations were finally credible. In addition to that, player movements without the ball were logical and well-timed, thus giving through passes a reason to exist. Last but not least, graphics were worthy of the name.

Not the best retro simulation of a soccer game – the award goes to the runner-up on this list – but definitely a solid effort by Konami.

I played Pes 5 for the whole 2005/2006 season and partook in all the Summer tournaments that were arranged in my town.
Lots of pleasant memories.

3. Soccer Superstars (1994) – Platform: arcade

Soccer Superstars for the arcade

I recently beat this game with Holland and published the video on my YouTube channel. Please check it out!

Someone calls this soccer video game by Konami the forerunner of the Pro Evolution Soccer saga. In fact, it is possible to recognize more than a few similarities with Pes, not only in the players’ movements, but also in commands and celebrations.

What I loved most about this game was both the chance to create amazing goal-actions and the different characteristics of each team. Forget about all-star and “all-crap” teams:
Soccer Superstars’ sides featured tight-marking defense and/or skillful center backs on high balls, technical and/or muscular midfielders, fast attackers and/or a powerful shot taker.

The last was Holland’s lethal weapon and a guy I used to play seemed to know that very well.
None of us were able to understand how he never failed to score from outside the box and -obviously – he would not tell anybody (in a world without internet certain peculiarities could only be discovered through experience 😀 ).

I think we had a bias against the Dutch squad, so we were more apt to believe that the guy was using some tricks. We eventually figured the whole thing out and got his number: no tricks, only super bombs shot by his central forward, but still we needed to erase that cheeky grin from his face.

I secretly implemented a defensive strategy with Italy and on the day of a legendary tournament – which took place at my favorite arcade – I met him in the quarterfinals: he did not know that I had figured out how to stop him and when I demolished him 4-0 to popular acclaim, he got hysterical, left the arcade and never set foot in there again.

I still feel a little bit guilty. 😀

2. Football Kingdom: Trial Edition (2004) – Platform: Japanese PlayStation 2

Football Kingdom for the PlayStation 2

In my mind, I will never give up hope on a sequel…

Football Kingdom was billed as the next big thing, at the time. I still wonder why Namco never released a sequel, what a shame! As the title suggests, it deals with a trial version and not the definitive game. Some flaws are therefore noticeable, but they are outshone by its superb overall quality.

Make no mistake, the learning curve is very high – not to say a bit frustrating – and it will take a while before you can fully understand its deep gameplay mechanics. If you are tenacious enough though, you will have the privilege to play a soccer game that conveys a strong feel of realism.

(almost) Anything is possible in this game: I still remember when I found out there was a dedicated button to slow down the ball carrier’s run: right after I pressed L2, some of his teammates started to sprint in order to receive a through ball in the open space. Amazing, teamplay at its best!

And what about those magnificent, ultra-accurate 40-meter long balls that – if taken with a technical player – just land on the attacker’s kicking foot? Such freedom of movement on the pitch lends creativity (almost) unlimited powers so, in the long run, you will be able to play quality soccer and score some incredible goals.

I must confess that Football Kingdom was the first soccer game simulation that made me experience suspension of disbelief. It is truly hard to believe that it was released 14 years ago… Still worth and ridiculously fun to play!

Honorable Mentions:

Sega Worldwide Soccer ‘97 (1996) – Platform: Sega Saturn

Sega Worldwide Soccer '97 on the Sega Saturn

Told you I was going to revive this old post by adding some well-deserved honorable mentions… 😉

When people think about soccer and video games today, their mind often turns first to FIFA. But, back in 1996, Sega’s Worldwide Soccer ‘97 was not only regarded as an industry standard, but many critics thought that Sega might make a serious run for the crown. After all, Sega’s pedigree in the sports arena cannot be denied. From the Genesis’ Joe Montana Football to the 2K Sports’ franchises, Sega was not only a master of arcade titles but also sports games.

One of the marquee titles for Sega’s beleaguered Saturn, Worldwide Soccer ‘97 did not have the official licenses but it made up for it with customizable rosters and the like. You know how much I love that gimmick, and it is present and accounted for here. Interestingly, SWS ‘97 might not have happened had its first game, going under the name Victory Goal (a game that is a comparatively poor effort), not been somewhat of a commercial success, especially for the game-starved Saturn.

Sega figured out the secret sauce though with the sequel to that game and we reaped the rewards back in 1996. The game was so beloved, in fact, that it saw a PC release. If you are looking for solid, classic soccer gameplay with customization options that help extend the game’s life well beyond the era in which it first arrived, then look no further than Sega Worldwide Soccer ‘97 on the Saturn.

Back Street Soccer (1996) – Platform: arcade

Back Street Soccer for the arcade

The Street Slam of soccer games! That says it all…

Soccer is normally known as a somewhat buttoned-up affair. That is not the case in BackStreet Soccer from SunA, a Korean developer. Featuring 14 international teams and 8 round gameplay, BackStreet Soccer’s claim to fame is an NBA Street-style approach to sports games years before NBA Street was even a thought in a dev’s mind.

While it is often billed as a “traditional” soccer simulation, it is anything but that. Coloring outside of the lines as well as looking beyond the conventions of the genre within which it was created, BackStreet Soccer is a compelling, quirky retro game that promises hours of fun.

The Kick Off  Series (First Release: 1989) – Platform: Atari ST and Amiga

Kick Off 2 Amiga Version

I will be honest: I will never be a Kick Off fan, but I decided to give it a spot in the honorable mentions out of respect. It is hard to deny the impact it had on the 90s gaming world and the millions of fans it had and still has

Developed by Dino Dini and his company Anco for the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga, the Kick Off series kicked off its existence in 1989 and immediately lodged itself in the collective consciousness of sports game fans everywhere. You might remember Dino Dini’s later game for Virgin, Goal!, release in 1993. Basically, when it came to soccer games, Dini was the guy to go to in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Kick Off not only introduced simulation elements but also spawned a line of games like Player Manager that gave gamers access to a “different type” of sports game than the arcade-inspired titles of the early era. Sports games started to mirror their real-world counterparts and that is a trend that Kick Off and Dini helped usher into existence.

Ready to find out the number one on this list? We are talking about one of the most iconic video games ever released…

1. Sensible World of Soccer 96/97 (1996) – Platform: Amiga 1200

Sensible World of Soccer 96/97 on the Amiga

I read somewhere: “Swos is a way of life”. I could not agree more!

All hail the King!!! If there was ever any doubt, I will be quick to remove it.
Sensible World of Soccer (aka Swos or Sensi) is not only the best retro soccer game, it is also the best soccer video game ever, one of the best video games in history and last but not least, one of my favorite video games of all time.

I have played it without interruption since 1992, when it was still called Sensible Soccer. It was love at first sight and the beginning of an endless addiction to a game that – despite featuring disarming simplicity – never ceases to amaze you.

You do not need a variety of buttons to proficiently play Swos: just maintain different levels of pressure on a single button and those pixelated soccer players will execute countless technical gestures.

Such a brilliant control system could only be echoed by a supreme gameplay: just when you think you have seen everything – because after 26 years, one thinks it is impossible to not have seen everything – you suddenly score a goal from an impossible position or land that header combo you had been unsuccessfully trying for years.

Sensi is all this and much more: it is friendship, fits of laughter, joy and sleepless fun nights.
And again, Sensi is carefree teenage memories, ranging from the hours spent editing custom teams with the names of your friends/classmates, to browsing through the thousands of clubs in its database, looking for hidden champions for your career mode team. When I found one, I would brag (in a funny way) for weeks, I felt like a real talent scout. 😀

Swos was also the first soccer game to feature players with different – and customizable – physical characteristics. I know, such a customization sounds laughable today, but back then, seeing a fair-haired Dennis Bergkamp or a dark-skinned George Weah really had an impact on us fans.

Anyway, I think it is unjust to go on now: this is just a summary and Swos deserves its own article and its own page.
It will not be long before I write it and it will be something like “26 years of Swosness”. 😀

Final whistle – No extra times needed

Swos walks away with an overwhelming victory, how could it be otherwise? We are talking about a game that – after 26 years from its first release – is still played by thousands of people around the world. Many of them do even play it online, thanks to a program called Kaillera.

For the rest, I know that there are some high-profile exclusions in this ranking (Kick Off anyone?), but I guess this is the beauty of lists: you can compare your personal opinions and experiences to enrich one another and learn new things.

For this reason, I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this evergreen topic.
Whether you agree with me or you think my ranking needs VAR, I will be more than happy to officiate… 😉

Till next Retro ranking!


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 gaming memories alive through the medium of Retro Stories. His event recount includes hopes, dreams, broken joysticks, magic, nostalgia and another final boss defeated.

8 thoughts on “Top 10 retro soccer games – kicking through the decades PART 2

  1. Brandon

    I’m a HUGE fan of old school retro games and loved Football Kingdom Trial Version. Me and my cousins use to have a blaaaast back in the day. I also wonder why they never released a sequel, I think it would’ve been a great success, however, their loss. These other games I am not fond of but they definitely do look amazing. Thanks for bringing back the fun times!

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Brandon, I am so pleased to read your comment, i feel great when I capture my readers’ interest.
      No need to thank me, mine is a mission ? and your appreciation means I am on the right track.
      Yeah, Football Kingdom rocks, period. You know what, back then
      FK was so good that although I had the all Japanese version (no English menus) I decided to learn of bit of the Nihongo language in order to be able to fully enjoy the game.
      The power of fun… 😀

      Stay tuned for more Retro articles!

  2. Holly Brace

    OMG me and my brother used to LOVE playing Soccer Superstars! I was never good at it though and he used to thrash me every single damn time haha! We had this one and a huge coin operated King Kong machine that our parents bought on a whim. This has definitely brought back so many memories! 

    He’s 30 this year and I want to buy him one as a present – alas I don’t know if I’ll ever find one! May have to settle for FIFA boooo! 

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Holly and thanks for stopping by!
      I am going to paste an excerpt from another reply, I am sure it will answer your question: ”

      “Actually, today you can buy some old or newly manufactured arcade machines featuring thousands of old, classic games (including soccer ones, of course).
      If your brother does not have enough space for a cabinet – which is understandable – there are some new devices that you can use as handheld consoles or directly connect to your tv. Prices do vary…There are both very expensive arcade machines and quite affordable devices. I think it depends on how nostalgic we are. ?
      I suggest that you take a look at Amazon, I am sure you will have a nice surprise. ”

      In addition to that, to my knowledge you can customize the list of games in some cases. You should contact the manufacturer and specifically ask for Soccer Superstars and any other games that you would like to be included in the cabinet.

      That said, if you ever have a chance to play Soccer Superstars again, please follow my suggestion: get Holland, work your way to the penalty box and shoot just from outside of it. The keeper (any keeper) will have no chance. This is the strategy used by the guy I trashed in that tournament, but I have never told anybody how I was able to stop him, so no worries, you will score! 😉

      Till next Retro Ranking!

  3. Babsie Wagner

    This article is such a kick.  I bought my sons a PlayStation 2 back in the day, and they loved that silly Pro evolution soccer 5 game.  I remember my sons almost having fist fights about it, they were that into it.  when I look at this site, nostalgia floods over me, and I am taken back to those years, not that long ago, but far enough back that life has completely changed.  My sons (twins) were probably 12 or 13 at the time, and now they are grown men of 25, and my one son has a daughter of his own.  Believe it or not, they still play games together, but online now. 

    Great article.  Thanks! 

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Babsie and thanks for another lovely comment… I can perfectly relate to your flooding nostalgia, as I associate every game that I listed with a particular moment in my life. But you know what? Many things have changed , but I am still here playing and now I have 3 special playmates to have fun with: my kids.
      I wish your beloved kids the same: many light years of fun both with each other and with their kids.
      I wish you all a Merry Christmas!!!

  4. Stratos K

    Now that’s a two-part 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 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.

    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 it only got an honorable mention 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 fun because there was a real 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, but 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!


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