The cauldron is lit and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are underway. For the next three weeks in Brazil, the world’s most elite athletes will compete in a showcase of the best their respective sports have to offer. It’s too bad Olympic video games can’t say the same. Licensed games tied to the Olympics have never been that great. They attempt to capture so many sports in one package that none of them end up being deep, robust representations of their real-life counterparts. These games always end up feeling more like mini-game compilations or party games than recreations of the fierce competition of the Olympic Games.
The Mario & Sonic games do an admirable job at presenting the Olympics in a fun, easily digestible — if not overly simplistic — manner. This year’s game is no exception, and Mario & Sonic at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games is a great way to get into the Olympic spirit and get exposed to some sports that would never get a full game on their own. Plus, where else would we get to see something like this?
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) June 22, 2016
If actual sports aren’t your thing, but you still want to get into the Olympic spirit, there is always Lúcioball, the soccer-like brawl featured in Overwatch for the next few weeks as part of what Blizzard is just calling The Summer Games.
But for those of you that crave a deeper simulation of your favorite Olympic sports, there really isn’t one game that is going to fit the bill. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best games for five of the most popular Olympic sports (plus one bonus). With just a bit of imagination and time spent in their create-a-player and create-a-team modes, you can recreate the Olympic teams from your country of choice and take control to bring home the gold, regardless of what ends up happening in Rio.
NBA 2K Series
The USA Basketball Men’s and Women’s National Teams are both heavy favorites to win in this year’s Olympics. Expect to see them dominate their competition on the way to winning gold. The NBA2K series knows a thing or two about dominating the competition. 2K’s basketball series has pretty much been the only game in town for serious basketball aficionados for the past few seasons. The new game, NBA2K17, arrives in September and includes this year’s USA Basketball Men’s National Team, complete with legendary Coach Mike Krzyzewski. You can pick up last year’s version for a steal if you want to simulate the Olympic experience while the games are going on this month.
Fight Night Series
Before EA’s Fight Night series came along, boxing video games tended to be more arcade like, with games like Punch Out! And Ready 2 Rumble ruling the ring. EA’s video game version of the sweet science arrived on the scene in 2004 and immediately delivered a knockout punch to the competition. Not only did the game have a more realistic fighting engine, it also featured extremely detailed character models of actual fighters across several eras. The series has been dormant since 2011’s Fight Night Champion, which is a real shame. Hopefully it is just training for its big comeback.
Football / Soccer
FIFA / Pro Evolution Soccer Series
Football fans have two great options when it comes to reproducing the action taking place on the pitch in Rio. FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) are both excellent representations of the sport, and while fans of each series will be happy to exhort the virtues of their chosen game, really you can’t go wrong with either.
The Golf Club / Rory McIlroy PGA Tour
After a 112-year hiatus, golf returns to the Olympic Games this summer. While several of the top pros from the PGA Tour opted out of the Olympics this year, that’s all the more reason to play these golf video games. Rory McIlroy PGA Tour features actual golf pros, including its namesake who is skipping the Olympics this year, and some of the most recognizable courses in the world. The Golf Club foregoes licensed players and courses for a more realistic feeling game of golf and a robust course creator. If only we could somehow combine the two games to get the world’s best players on accurate reproductions of the Olympic courses in Brazil.
Judo / Taekwondo / Freestyle Wrestling / Greco-Roman Wrestling
EA UFC Series
There isn’t a game that reproduces any of the combat sports from this year’s Olympic games on their own. However, MMA is an amalgam of almost all fighting styles, including those featured in the Olympics. EA’s UFC series is the most realistic MMA simulation on the market, featuring the world’s greatest fighters employing a variety of techniques to take down their opponent. This year’s game also lets you fight as Bruce Lee and Mike Tyson, which is reason enough to give the game a look.
Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis
When Rockstar first announced Table Tennis in March 2006, people were completely taken by surprise. Many thought it might be a joke, as they were awaiting the next Grand Theft Auto announcement, or perhaps the announcement of some other equally violent and mature title. But Rockstar was serious, and they went about making the best table tennis simulation, if not one of the greatest sports simulations of all time.