When not playing or coaching hockey, some will watch YouTube highlight reels or turn on NHL Network to scratch that itch, and some of us will turn to playing a video game. We all have our favorite games from a certain genre in video games, and people will argue until the end of time whether Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat was the best fighting game ever, while others will throw in Tekken. Each had their own “little something” to make themselves stand out amongst the rest. The same can be said for sports games and considering this is Beer League Talk, I’ll provide you with my Top 5 Hockey games of all time.
5. NHL 17
Coming in at Number 5 on my list is last year’s NHL 17. Now I’ll be honest and say I’m slightly biased towards this and it’s strictly because this was the first Next Gen hockey game I played, and considering the shortcomings of NHL 18, I’d say this game wasn’t bad at all. Hockey Ultimate Team was fun and provided the first Competitive Seasons mode which rejuvenated the game late in the year and also gave the players some challenges by forcing them to use specific player types at times. EA also gave the players free (yes FREE) rewards in HUT like X-Mas Mike Richards, TOTY Tarasenko and a NHL Award player. So even with some of the shortcomings the game had this honestly wasn’t a bad game when you look back.
4. Gretzky 3D Hockey
At Number 4 I have Gretzky 3D Hockey for the great N64 system. Not as popular as other franchise titles in the hockey genre, but this game holds a special place in my heart from my childhood. For some reason this game had weird quirky things like big head mode, the “hot” goalie would literally turn into a brick wall and also had a puck turn into a fire ball and score every time you shot (which is what typically what happens when I shoot a puck in real life)… The thing I loved most about Gretzky 3D Hockey was the ease of play. You could just pick up that awkward N64 controller and play, for hours, without ever realizing it. The game was just pure fun, which is sometimes a lot better than realistic graphics or a skill stick to pull off crazy dekes.
3. Blades of Steel
Number 3 is where we get into the REAL classics and honestly I don’t think I’ll list these next three with much controversy. Number 3 is the 1987 hockey classic everyone knows and loves…Blades of Steel. With a show of hands, how many of you reading this remember blowing into the Nintendo cartridge, maybe wiping it down with a cotton swap doused in rubbing alcohol and popping this game in to hear that iconic intro “Blades of Steel” with the 8 bit sound of ice scraping under a skate blade? I mean can anyone say this shouldn’t be on the list? Seriously, this game is about as classic as the movie Slap Shot and should forever hold a spot in anyone’s top 5. The game was simple, you picked teams based out of a city from Canada or the US and you watched your team come out for warmups, skate circles and then square up. Within seconds you were thrust right back into old time hockey where you’ll be button mashing the A and B buttons because you’re in a donnybrook with someone and then the game ended in a tie because that’s pretty much all you played for. Ah…the good ole days of video games, just like hockey.
2. NHL Hitz
Number 2 is what I can only imagine as being an idea from a somewhat regretful drunken night that turned bad but years later became a great memory: NHL Hitz (literally doesn’t matter what year). Honestly this was THE ONLY hockey video game ever to be played in the arcade so how could it NOT be on my list? Seriously this game will forever go down as one of the most fun sport games (not just hockey game) of all time. What can I say that you don’t already know about this game? 3 on 3 hockey with no penalties, no off-sides and tons of fights. Sounds like your typical beer league doesn’t it? Ok maybe it’s not as bad as your beer league, but hey Midway Games tried! Anyways playing Hitz was a blast growing up, you were able to customize your player, your teams and even make your character’s head into a plank of wood…yes wood. But it was the gameplay that made Hitz the classic that it is. Hard hitting, fast paced action. If you haven’t played this, then I suggest you get a buddy, grab a 12 pack and dust off your old PS2/Xbox and go play.
Coming in at Number 1, drumroll please, with an obvious choice of NHL 2K10. I mean you had Ovi on the cover, it’s a non-EA made game, so clearly this needs to be number 1 right!? No? Oh shit…sorry I had a Steve Harvey moment there.
Of course number 1 is none other than NHL 94! (Yay you can all not hate me now) NHL 94 is the ultimate hockey game and in my opinion EA sports hasn’t been able to live up to this classic ever since it released. NHL 94 didn’t need any fancy game modes like Hockey Ultimate Team, Be a Pro or franchise mode, it just was simply about hockey. You chose your favorite team whether that was Pittsburgh with Jagr and Lemieux or the Bruins with Bourque and Neely (my favorite), or any of the other teams who had hockey greats on their rosters, and you simply played the game. It came from an era of when sports games didn’t need to be realistic or focused solely on stats, it was about fun. 94 also had a memorable soundtrack and if you’re like me, you can probably play the theme song in your head with ease. NHL 94 also had features like being able to check your opponent into the bench, fight, and it provided the best celebration ever which has actually been recreated in real life:
True story, I recently dusted off my old Sega Genesis and introduced my 11yo to NHL 94. That was last week and he hasn’t stopped playing the game, meanwhile he hasn’t even touched NHL 18 since December. So if my kid can pick up a game made nearly 15 years ago and play it more than the game made last September, and even more than Fortnite, then that says something about it. It’s such an easy game to pick up and play whether it’s on Genesis or Super Nintendo. You only need to pass, shoot and check. Otherwise known as the fundies.
Like my list? Or do you hate it? Either way comment below and let us know what YOUR top five are!