What’s The Best Australian Sports Game?

What’s The Best Australian Sports Game?

With the lack of sport going on, ABC’s Grandstand recently ran a little poll to determine the best sports game. Football Manager 2020 won out, which I can understand, but it’s still a bit of a travesty. So let’s run a slightly different poll.

I’ve led with a shot of Jonah Lomu Rugby from the PS1, which somehow didn’t make the final of ABC’s Boredom Bracket. And as much as I’d rather replay Myst than endure a match of rugby, Jonah Lomu is probably the PS1’s greatest sports game.

It’s certainly the greatest rugby game, that’s for sure.

I’ll take one more liberty: games that used an Australian or New Zealand icon for the cover will be counted. And in fine Aussie fashion, any New Zealand games will also be counted as Australian. It wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t just steal things that weren’t ours, right?

Shane Warne Cricket ’99

If you still have the CD or DVD of this, please contact me. I need this blocky love back in my life.

I wonder how well it’d play today with a modern gamepad.

AFL Finals Fever

What’s The Best Australian Sports Game?

I know there’s a lot of love still for AFL 98, the first 3D AFL game in the franchise. I found that to be a bit too janky for its own good, but the arcadeness of Finals Fever really worked for me. Getting this game going again on Windows 10 is also a giant pain in the arse, although thankfully I still have the original CD lying around.

Super International Cricket

I don’t know how or why we ended up with a game that let you bowl off two steps or permanently spam the appeal button, but I’m glad we did.

Cricket 97 Ashes Tour

best australian sports games

Basically a slightly tweaked version of Cricket 96 from Beam Software. You could edit your own teams, create your own players, and there was full licensing, although it didn’t support DOS anymore, but by then most people had migrated to Windows 95 anyway.

Aussie Rules Footy (NES)

Another classic from Beam Software in Melbourne, although I don’t know that this one would have set the world alight. Those flashing arrows are a bit of a nightmare, and there’s no HUD to give you an idea of where your teammates are. Some nice animations, though.

Brian Lara International Cricket 2007 / Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007

Ricky Ponting was on the cover in Australia, but the game itself was also partially made down under. Codemasters partnered with IR Gurus, a Melbourne studio responsible for the AFL Live games and a Saddle Club tie-in.

Brian Lara/Ricky Ponting ’07 was also the first cricket gave to support online multiplayer, which was a huge departure for any niche sporting games at the time.

Rugby League

Probably the only thing to take up the mantle from EA’s ARL 96, the Rugby League series of games were made by Sidhe Interactive in New Zealand. The games were a huge success locally – GameSpot reported over a decade ago how a single EB Games store in Sydney took 1,169 preorders for the original Rugby League, a figure that was later bettered by Rugby League 2‘s release.

Australian Cricket Captain

Australian Cricket Captain was a localised version of International Cricket Captain from Empire Interactive, based around Sheffield Shield cricket and released just for the Australian/New Zealand market. Everything about the game was functionally the same as the UK version, but it meant that instead of dealing with a bunch of Poms, people got to see what it was like when players like Martin Love and Stuart Law actually got a proper run in the Test team. Or what happened if you just promoted Adam Gilchrist immediately.

Don Bradman Cricket 14

best australian sports games

Cricket 19, Ashes Cricket and Don Bradman Cricket 17 are all out, but there’s just a certain charm about the original game. It still looks real good in screenshots, and I’m still partial to the progression system.

Why I've Spent Almost 400 Hours Playing A Cricket Game

383 hours. It's more time than most people put into any video game in a year. It's more time than most put into any video game ever. And it's definitely more than most would consider sane for playing the virtual version of a sport that's akin to watching paint dry. Let me explain my obsession with cricket.

Read more

AFL Live 2003

Sure, the commentary repeated constantly, but the gameplay was smooth for the OG Xbox. It marked the first of a string of officially licensed AFL games over the next few years, with AFL Live sequels, AFL Challenge, three AFL Premiership titles on the PS2, and a reboot of AFL Live in 2011. Given that a “good year” of sales for those games would have been around 80,000 or 85,000, it’s kind of remarkable how many AFL games got made in the first place. (Cricket games, according to Laura Parker at the time, could sell in the hundreds of thousands owing to their bigger global appeal.)

AFL Evolution 2

AFL Evolution didn’t get a look in for ABC Grandstand’s video game bracket, but being the most recent it deserved a shout. The graphics are naturally going to be a little jankier than the latest FIFA, although from all the AFL fans in my feed, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Also, I appreciate the fact that you actually get a full view of the pitch and where most of your players are.

That said, I still really enjoyed the speed of AFL 98. Won’t ever replace my love of cricket, but you do have to enjoy a good sports game.

So that’s a round-up of some of the greatest Aussie and Kiwi sports games. What game did you sink the most time into – and what would you love to replay now? (Also, if you know how to get Shane Warne Cricket working on Windows 10 please email me because I’m about to tear my hair out.)


      • Awesome game.

        I still remember how if you pitched all the way short and almost as far as possible outside off stump with a swing bowler then did maximum inswing the CPU would get bowled playing no shot almost every time.

  • As someone who has Rugby league 1 & 2.
    Those games are a trash fire of glitches, poor gameplay and somehow it got even worse in 2.
    Its so sad that number 1 is the best league game we got.

  • +1 for Cricket ’97 Ashes Tour Edition. The addition of Richie Benaud’s commentary was the icing on the cake.

    As for Rugby League, that game was an awful, almost unplayable mess. I was soooo disappointed with it because I had been looking forward to it. It remains the ONLY game where I took advantage if EB’s 7 day return policy (I think I swapped it for Doom 3). It does not deserve to be on this list. I never played RL2 due to being soured so much by the first game but I heard that was even worse.

    • What I never understood with the RL games was that they had a perfectly good template for the games with Jonah Lomu Rugby, and still managed to royally butcher the games. It was released 5 or 6 years before the first Rugby League game as well, so there were no excuses to not modify its concepts to fit league.

  • I concur that Jonah Lomu Rugby was a masterpiece in fun game play and great commentary. ‘He’s digging like a demented mole” “Oh he wont be pleased with that” I still have my copy 😉

  • Too bad NBA Live 2014 was crap. Kyrie Irving is Aussie Born.
    We do alright in the NBA with 3 no.1 picks

  • I remember getting an AFL live demo disc for PC when I signed up for auskick. Spent hours playing that demo.

  • Played most of these games over the journey. Australian cricket captain was my favourite, still looking for a copy of the CD if anyone has one lying around.

  • Shane Warne ’99 and probs Rugby League Live 2 or 3(can’t remember the differences).I appreciated the effort with limited resources.

  • Do Motorsports count? If so, then Forza Horizon 3 has to be in there given that it’s a) set in Australia and b) has the region where I grew up in it.

    Otherwise it’s gotta be International Cricket on the NES, solely because, once you knew the correct field placements, you could bowl any team out for 0/10 in ten balls.

  • I have zero interest in Aussie sportball, but for the best “sport” game EVER it would be Speedball 2: brutal deluxe on the ol megadrive. Absolutely criminal it wasn’t included on the megadrive and mini. If you haven’t played it, my condolences.

  • My Old Boy still loves to reminisce about AFL 98. As a kid, I’d tweak the sliders so that the opposition were slow midgets, while my team were all speedy gigantic blokes.

    Naturally it was completely lopsided, and he thought that was the most hilarious thing. I just wanted to win and the mechanics were otherwise terrible.

  • For some reasons “OUT OF BOUNDS ON THE FULL” from the NES Footy game has stuck with me for over 3 decades…. Maybe because it was the first audio voice I’d heard in a video game? Not sure… but I find myself always saying it exactly how the game said it.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!