The Best and Worst Boxing Games

Boxing has given us some truly memorable moments over the years. The much loved sport is one of the most exciting to watch, that is of course if you happened to miss the bore-fest between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. A sport like boxing is very lucky, not only does it make for compelling viewing in the real world, it is also superb when moved across into the virtual realm. The sport has been a near-constant presence in the gaming world since the 1980s, although in recent years the game has been neglected due to EA Sports opting to prioritise their UFC game. This was a move that left a sour taste in the mouths of many.

Due to the popularity of boxing and boxing games it can come as no surprise that the public have been inundated with boxing games over the years. For the most part, these games are usually knockout victors, but there are some that should just stay on the canvas. Below are some of the best and worst boxing games to have ever made it to market.

The Best

James “Buster” Douglas Knockout Boxing

Release Date: 1988/1990

Platform(s): Sega Genesis

Publisher: Sega

Final Blow was a game released by Sega in 1988 that was available on all of the ported platforms. However, in 1990 the game was renamed James “Buster” Douglas Knockout Boxing and released on the Sega Genesis.

At the time of the game’s release, Buster Douglas was riding a wave. Earlier in the year (February, 1990) the American stunned the world, knocking out the unbeaten Mike Tyson in the tenth round – Douglas was priced at 42-1 in the boxing betting. Unfortunately for the slugger, he was defeated by Evander Holyfield in his very first title defence. He was lucky to cash in with Sega when he did.

The side scrolling boxing game was your typical rock ‘em and sock ‘em style game. If you managed to time your strikes correctly, you could unleash a knockout punch on your opponent. You could even enjoy the spectator mode if you wanted to.

Sega were genius in the marketing of the game. Douglas featured in their “Genesis does what Ninten don’t” – the game was considered by many as a response to Nintendo’s Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! The game also took a thinly veiled swipe at Tyson with the in-game character of Ironhead, an obvious reference to “Iron” Mike Tyson.

Wii Sports Boxing

Release Date: 2006

Platform: Nintendo Wii

Publisher: Nintendo

The Nintendo Wii really did change the way we game. Had it not been for the success of this gaming upstart, would Microsoft and Sony develop Kinect and Move respectively? Probably, but were it not for the Wii then it would have surely taken far longer. You couldn’t help but be impressed by the Wii. At one time it was the must-have console, as proven by the fact that Nintendo has sold more than 100 million units.

Granted the graphics were not worth shaking a stick at, it was 8-bit gaming brought into the 3D world, but the gameplay was innovative and highly enjoyable. Despite its childish nature, it is hard not to enjoy seeing the punches that you are throwing in the living room land on the opposition chin in the virtual world. By nature boxing games are hugely competitive. On the Wii they were even more so. Although you would hopefully never knockout your best friend in the real world, you can’t help but enjoy putting them flat on their back whilst playing on the Wii. And to put the cherry on the cake, all the while you are playing you can pretend to your concerned parents that you are simply working out.

Fight Night: Champion

Release Date: 2011

Platform(s): PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360

Publisher: EA Sports

Fight Night: Champion may draw the ire of some boxing fans who thought that the fighting mechanisms were not as realistic as EA Sports had promoted, however, these folk were certainly in the minority. As of writing, there is yet to be a boxing game that has bettered the quality of graphics and gameplay possessed by Fight Night: Champion.

Many who played the game were left hugely impressed by the “Full-Spectrum Punch Control” that allowed gamers to throw punches by simply flicking the right analogue stick. You could still throw punches by pressing buttons as well. The addition of “Full-Spectrum Punch Control” eliminated the complicated controller manipulations (calculated button mashing) that were essential for the “Total Punch Control” system of previous Fight Night instalments. Moreover, secondary controller buttons (triggers) allowed for uncommon and power punches. The blocking and leaning system was also modified.

What left many amazed was the depth of the Champion mode, something that most sport games neglect. Storytelling is more often amiss within sporting games which made the Champion mode all the more refreshing. The story sees you play the part of Andre Bishop, a boxer who is currently serving time in a correctional facility for a crime he did not commit. After serving his time inside, in which he has numerous unlicensed boxing clashes, he goes to work for his brother, Raymond, another heavyweight boxer. It doesn’t take Andre too long to get back his licence and return to the professional arena, where he makes a very good account for himself with some convincing wins.

All this leads to Raymond challenging his brother in a fight to be named the number one contender. This is a fight that Andre intentionally loses. Raymond goes on to fight the nefarious Isaac Frost, who knocks him out cold with a devastating punch, prompting Andre to challenge Frost to a title match. Andre goes on to claim retribution, beating Frost for the World Heavyweight title and also witnessing DL McQueen, the man who framed him, investigated and eventually jailed. As you can picture from reading this, it is a story mode full of character and one that keeps you glued from start to finish.

With a roster that included Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Muhammed Ali, Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Robinson, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Manny Pacquiao, and Roberto Duran, to name just a few, there were plenty of competitors for you to chance your arm with.

Online play was also at the forefront of the game. It was awesome.

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

Release Date: 1987

Platform(s): Nintendo (NES)

Publisher: Nintendo

If you were to ask anyone of a certain age – anyone old enough to have owned a NES – what the best boxing game of all time is they would reply in a matter seconds, telling you and anyone else who cares to listen that it is Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out via unanimous decision.

The arcade game Punch-Out had been around since 1984 but Tyson didn’t get involved until 1986. Minoru Arakawa, the founder and former president of Nintendo of America, was in attendance of an early Tyson bout. After watching what was a routine demolition job by Tyson, Arakawa was adamant that he needed to get the ferocious young American on board for the upcoming port version of Punch-Out!!, believing that Tyson’s inclusion in the game would help the game sell. Although it remains very hush-hush, it is widely reported that Tyson was paid $50,000 for a three-year period for his likeness. It is one hell of a deal for Nintendo, a little later on in the year Tyson went on to win the World Boxing Council heavyweight championship from Trevor Berbick, which would have subsequently seen him command a much higher fee.

Playing as Little Mac, a fighter who was grossly undersized in this world of heavyweights, your challenge was to rise to the very top of the sport and topple Tyson to claim the world title. Infuriating would be an apt word to describe this game. Losing a fight, something you end up doing more often than not, sees you fall down the rungs of the ladder, whilst losing to Tyson, the match you have been building up to for ages, signals instant game over.

This was a time when Tyson ruled the world, there were still a few years before he lost to Douglas. It was after that that his career started to seriously decline. First it was his imprisonment, then it was the Evander Holyfield ear bite, and then at the end you had embarrassing losses to journeymen like Danny Williams.

There is no other boxing game quite as beloved as Punch-Out!!, and it is testament to the game’s overall quality that it frequently ranked in the top-10 best NES games ever.

The Worst

George Foreman’s KO Boxing

Release Date: 1992

Platform(s): SNES, NES, Game Boy, Sega Mega Drive

Publisher: Acclaim

George Foreman was a hellacious boxer. His victory over Michael Moorer in 1994 made him the oldest heavyweight champion of all time at the tender age of 45. Despite his boxing prowess, Foreman has actually made more money from his grilling range, a cool $200 million, than he did from boxing. Foreman won’t mind being remembered for the grill over boxing, at least that way he can distance himself from the diabolical boxing game named after him.

If you have ever had the misfortune of playing KO Boxing, we are truly sorry. The game, which can be classed as a cheap Punch-Out!! imitator, was a horror. The gameplay was stoic and unresponsive, while the graphics were uninspiring to say the least.

Mike Tyson Boxing

Release Date: 2000

Platform(s): PlayStation

Publisher(s): Codemasters

Although Tyson was involved in the best loved boxing game of all time, he was also involved with one absolute stinker. Mike Tyson Boxing ties in perfectly with “Iron” Mike’s boxing career post-millennium. It was terrible.

The graphics were shambolic. It looked like a game that should be played on the SNES and not the PlayStation. But you can learn to live with shoddy graphics. Downright awful gameplay, though, is simply unforgivable. Boxing is all about speed, with counter punching being imperative. The 1987 game that featured Tyson vested itself heavily in developing a counter punching style, which added to both its realism and enjoyment levels. However, in Mike Tyson Boxing speed does not exist. If you are to throw a punch you have to wind your arm back as if it were a sling shot. This is an arduous affair that takes at least a second, which in the boxing world would see you put on your back. As a consequence, effective jabbing and counter punching were all but missing in this game.

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