The Great Sporting Drought of 2020 is well underway, and sports fans everywhere are searching far and wide for alternate forms of entertainment to hold them off until professional leagues resume.
TV streaming platforms are great, and movie binge sessions are a good distraction as well. However, in my opinion, nothing quite soothes that competitive crave I get when I watch my favorite sports teams like competitive video games do. Esports, especially those that feature teams of players or individuals facing off against one another, are so much similar to physical sports than most people realize. By taking this opportunity to try out some of the most popular Esports games – whether you consider yourself a gamer or not - you may find that Esports offer some of the best head-to-head competitions our entertainment industries have to offer.
1) NBA 2K20
I’m starting the list off with an obvious pick. The NBA 2K series has some serious flaws (including some particularly shady business practices), but it stands as the most complete sport simulation game on the market. Yes, that includes the Madden series, the FIFA games, the EA NHL games, and the MLB The Show series – NBA 2K offers the most realistic and simultaneously accessible gameplay of any other sport simulation franchise.
Basketball is my favorite sport, and many fans may prefer those other games over the 2K series – but in general, NBA 2K involves the least amount of computer-generated luck of any sport simulation series. The gameplay can stutter at times, but provided both players are properly switching on defense and moving the ball to some degree on offense, winning almost always requires you to legitimately outplay your opponent. Compared to something like Madden or FIFA, where one off-ball, out-of-place CPU on your defense can lead to a loss, NBA 2K gives players the most control over the outcome of the game relative to its competitors. It’s far from a perfect Esports game, but it’s the best basketball experience a fan could ask for outside of physically playing or watching athletes compete.
2) Rocket League
Simply put – it is soccer with cars. This physics-based soccer game sees two teams control small vehicles and attempt to knock a massive ball into a huge net at high speeds. Directing the ball in certain directions and scoring goals requires immense precision and teamwork, and matches are quick and intense, often coming down to the final seconds.
Rocket League is the least accessible game on this list – it has a huge skill gap and requires patience and practice to learn. This can be very intimidating to new players, but after a handful of matches, it’s easy to get used to the movement system and general gameplay. The crazy tricks that skilled players can pull off in order to direct traffic to a certain portion of the field or set up a teammate for a score can make the game extraordinarily entertaining to spectate. Working your way towards being completely comfortable with the controls is immensely satisfying once you’re able to perform a variety of moves and really contribute to the outcome of the game. It’s difficult to get into, but it is so rewarding and a lot of fun after players can get settled in.
Overwatch is different from the other games on this list in that it is not modeled after any physical sports. It is a first-person shooter like Call of Duty or Counter Strike, which may make it less appealing for sports fans looking to explore video games for the first time. However, Overwatch’s mechanics are so similar to that of physical sports that the potential for crossover appeal is through the roof. The game sees two teams of six players attempting to accomplish a certain task on a map. One team takes on an offensive role, while the other team takes on a defensive role, and both teams fight to either 1) control a specific area of the map, or 2) escort a slow-moving inanimate object from one side of the map to the other. The game contains 31 different playable characters, all with unique abilities and movement speeds to take advantage of.
Winning matches in Overwatch requires, above all else, teammate coordination. Every single player in the match is important to the end result, and any one player lagging behind can result in a losing effort. Relying on teammates for a proper gameplay experience can be frustrating at times, but it can be the most intense, high-energy spectacles in gaming at its peak. The amount of information your brain processes as different players are flying past you and dueling it out with one another makes playing this game so encompassing, and massive fights breaking out between huge groups of players utilizing their different skills and abilities to counter one another reminds me so much of a physical sport with players running around a field or a court. Call of Duty and other first-person shooters can be a lot of fun, but few manage to achieve the competitive peak that Overwatch reaches.