Let's just state the obvious right now. If you're a basketball fan, you owe it to yourself to pick up NBA 2K13. It's a terrific sim, one that follows years of previously well done basketball games, and one that features plenty of content, both online and off.
But, for the sake of argument, let's also say you can't afford it. Or you prefer something outside the norm of playing a routine basketball sim. Or you're bummed about the cancellation of NBA Live 13 and just can't bring yourself to experience the stronger game, at least at the moment. Where else can you turn?
Well, the answer may surprise you. Because while NBA 2K13 sits at the top of the heap, there's no question there are other basketball games you might have overlooked that are also worthy of your attention. So here now are some basketball games that are worth your time, when you're not playing the champion of the court.
NBA Jam: On Fire Edition (Xbox Live, PlayStation Network)
In 2010, EA Sports effectively brought back Midway's slamming arcade hit to home consoles, complete with online play and a number of classic moves, including the ridiculous 50-foot high dunks. But the company improved on the series a year later, lowering the price from a retail standpoint to a much more affordable $14.99, and improving the core game with a number of additional modes and features.
Today, a year later, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition remains a top choice…especially considering that EA Sports isn't taking the court with anything else at the moment. The classic gameplay from the arcade remains intact, whether you're shooting outside to get "on fire" or sending a dunk flying through the hoop. The graphics are great and Tim Kitzrow continues to provide his signature commentary, which he's known for. Don't miss this Jam party.
NBA Street Homecourt (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
It's years old, and, sure, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony aren't exactly playing for the Nuggets anymore. Regardless, NBA Street Homecourt has a timeless street ball appeal that continues to stick around well today. Featuring the kind of arcade tactics first made famous long ago in NBA Jam, Homecourt has plenty of style to go with its gameplay, whether you're hustling down the court with flashy moves or setting up a buddy for a thunderous alley oop play.
What's more, you can activate a Gamebreaker and turn the tide in a game quickly, scoring a mega three-point shot while knocking your opponent down a level or two. And with online features still intact for the game, along with a lengthy single player campaign through the entire NBA, it's a lot of fun. You can probably track down a copy for dirt cheap these days – it's well worth it.
NBA Live 95 (Sega Genesis, SNES)
Maybe you're an old-school kind of gamer and you want to see what EA Sports' dominance of basketball looked like so long ago. Well, have we got the game of choice for you. NBA Live '95 changed things significantly for EA's take on basketball, going from the traditional side-scrolling view of the court to a more in-depth isometric view. As a result, it was easier to come running in the side for a slam dunk, or setting up plays to get a crucial three pointer.
These days, the game may be primitive, but back when 16-bit was king, it really defined excellence in basketball, as the controls were just about right and the presentation was as good as simulation b-ball could get. Though there was no running commentary, the audio was good too, especially when you nailed a dunk and heard the roar of the crowd.
Chances are you can find this game for under five bucks, and it's a steal at that price. You gotta wonder if EA Sports should consider a digital recreation of this game, rather than pouring millions into cancelled projects. Just a thought…
NBA Inside Drive (Xbox)
When Microsoft attempted to make all things sports for the original Xbox, none of the franchises really stuck in the long run. That's too bad, because with NBA Inside Drive 2002, the company actually had some pretty good ideas. The first thing players would notice about a game such as this were the graphics. For an early 2000's game, it was fantastic watching players move around on the 3D court, transitioning between running and defensive moves with ease.
But get this – the gameplay was also quite enjoyable, as you could easily get the ball around the court and set up shots like a pro. That, combined with superb commentary by Kevin Calabro and Marques Johnson (who did play-by-play for the Seattle Supersonics in the 90's) really made the game something.
Unfortunately, it just didn't sell well enough compared to the other third-party offerings, so Microsoft scuttled it. Too bad – we have a feeling NBA Inside Drive 2013 would've been phenomenal.
NBA Give n' Go (SNES)
Loosely based on their Run and Gun arcade game, NBA Give n' Go was a 3D basketball game created by Konami, featuring some pretty good graphics as you ran up and down the court. However, what really made it stand out for us was the ability to call out alley-oops. At the time of its release, this was rather innovative, and made it easy to come back when your team was behind on points.
While not the greatest b-ball sim out there, for its time, NBA Give n' Go was quality arcade entertainment, right in your own home.
Arch Rivals (NES, Arcade)
Finally, we must again give the nod to Midway for creating a fun little arcade/NES release called Arch Rivals. Featuring fictitious teams and a cartoony small-town atmosphere, the game kind of set the standards for the NBA Jam games that would follow, including fast-moving two-on-two action, the ability to shove your opponent to the ground, and dunks that would last a few seconds, just for dramatic effect.
The NES version is easy to come by, but if you can wait till next month, an arcade perfect port of Arch Rivals will be included in the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 release Midway Arcade Origins.