The origins of the first hockey video game is the subject of much debate.
Some people want pong-esque games to count, some don't.
We're also not sure why exactly we still play most of our old NHL video games.
Maybe it is because it is fun playing with old time players. Whatever the case, to us there is nothing better than playing old time or even current NHL videos games amongest friends or even by yourself.
NHL 09' brought alot of casual NHL video gamers back full circle. We can honestly say we played the game the entire year.
And on the eve of the release of NHL'10, which looks to be one of the greatest yet, we pay tribute to the games that paved the way.
There are like five million NHL video games, so clearly we didn't break down all of them. If you're mad because we didn't talk about NHL Hitz, cut yourself.
In late November-ish, when hockey fever is in full force again,
we'll be back to this page to download all these ROMs to satiate some desires.
This game was a beast, but it was quickly overshadowed in hockey-game lore, by the maybe one of the most dominant video games of our lifetime.
When that music came on. Oh man.
One of our earliest memories from life, not only video games, is playing Blades Of Steel.
To call this game revolutionary is an insult it. This game was bigger than an revolution.
This game had it all. It was the first hockey-game to focus on the hockey game play. The players didn't just glide on the ice, you could see them churning their skates as they headed up ice.
Passing and shooting were no longer a joke. Goalies got pissed when they gave up a goal, throwing their hands up in the air.
But this game will always be remembered for one thing:
How great was this feature? And how great was the rule.
You win the fight. You don't get a penalty. You lose, you're going to the box for five minutes.
What would the NHL be like if they went with this rule? You'd have to give both players five minutes for a fighting if it is a draw. But how much would fighting be stopped, yet so appericated if they gave a five minute major to the loser of the fight.
One agruement against this, the Max Talbot/Carcillo fight in the playoffs.
Under Blades of Steel rules, Talbot would have gone to the box.
Not to be outdone, Wayne Gretzy threw his hat into the video game world.
And it was poor.
You can see for yourself here. [Gretzky Hockey] that the game was terrible.
We try to talk about Gretzky as little as we can. He made some other games. This game actually makes us want to kill ourselves.
NHL Stanley Cup
This was another game with just an NHL license, no players.
So you'd have to guess who that guy in black, silver and white was as he took a shot at some goalie from the Montreal Canadiens in the 1993 Stanley Cup Final.
The SNES was all about Mode 7 at this point in time, so the game spun around more than a drunk at a VFW. After a while it made you kind of sick. It was made by Nintendo, but it was no Ice Hockey. The boards disappeared sometimes and there was no crowd, so the ice was often surrounded by a black abyss.
The game looked good, but all the spinning made it difficult to play.
Pretty dead on review. It could have been the next big thing.
Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey
This game was originally an arcade game made by Midway and we remember it being a big deal when it came out. It was like NBA Jam, but hockey. The teams were three-on-three and the commentary featured NBA Jam-style overreaction from the announcer. It was like listening to Pierre McGuire yell about Ovechkin and Richards for the entire game. This game was arcade city.
There were glowing pucks and crazy speed bursts. You could check people across the screen and set the net on fire with powerful shots.
The goalie even turned into a brick wall when he was hot. It definitely wasn't realistic, but it was really fun to play with friends. An updated version was released in 1998 for the N64 and the Playstation. There was also an Olympic version that year, which was exactly the same game with international teams.
The faceoff series was a late 90's challenger to EAsports via Playstation 1.
It didn't go so well. But we do remember playing them when we got bored with the EA.
Too lazy to look this game up, but pretty sure it sucked.
This game was actually fun at points. Someone at IGN said it was solid, which probably means they got paid off.
It is sad that it took us like 3 minutes to figure out who that was.
John Leclair must've owed someone money at 989 sports.
Another basic game. It had icon passing which was cool.
Can honesty say we didn't play this game. But putting a Maple Leafs goalie on anything is a kiss of death.
The faceoff series was out after 2001.
The whole series was worth a few good times.
But to us, there is only one Faceoff.
NHL 2K Series
The NHL2K series was released to compete with EA's NHL series. It started off on Sega's Dreamcast, but has since branched out to include every platform. The 2K series is currently the only hockey series available for the Nintendo Wii.
The first game in the series featured Brendan Shanahan on the cover. The game looked great and featured commentary by Bob Cole and Harry Neale of Hockey Night In Canada fame. At this point in time the EA NHL series was starting to stagnate. Each year provided only a few updates and most of them were in the graphics department.
NHL 2K provided a whole new experience. It looked great and the realism in this game was amazing, especially for 2000. The crowds and the player movement was realistic and graphically it blew EA's effort away.
The AI in the game wasn't great though. The computer controlled players were awkward and they'd often make moves a real player would never do, like ice the puck for pretty much no reason. However, it was the first game in the series and it was a good one.
After taking a year off, NHL 2K was back. The controls were tightened up and the AI was vastly improved.
Players had different abilities in this game, so some players were faster or tougher than others.
It wasn't a huge step up from the first 2K, but it improved in the areas it needed to. Another note was that Chris Drury was on the game's cover.
Who puts Chris Drury on the cover of a game? NHL 2002 had Mario Lemieux on the cover and 2K2 had Chris Drury?
If they wanted a player from the Avalanche, couldn't they have picked Sakic or Forsberg? The difference between the EA series and the 2K was evident in the cover athlete of both games. Lemieux VS. Drury.
Which game would you buy?
No matter how good of a game it was, 2K still had a long road ahead to become as recognized as the EA games.
This was the first 2K game to appear on multiple systems.
It was released for the original Xbox, the Playstation 2 and the GameCube.
It was with this game that 2K started to pull ahead.
Seriously how bad were the video game pens in 2003?
While the EA Sports games had headed in an arcade direction, the 2K games were true simulations.
The game featured sliders that let you adjust pretty much every aspect of the game.
The AI was great and the physics were excellent. This game also featured a Franchise Mode that let you manage your team, including drafting players and signing free agents in the offseason. EA did not yet have this feature. 2K had gotten to a point where they could legitimately consider themselves a true competitor to EA, and many felt that this game was better than NHL 2003. Strangely, the sides seemed to be reversed here. The EA game looked much better, but the 2K game had much better gameplay.
ESPN NHL Hockey / 2K4
Here 2K tried to push the ESPN license in order to give themselves some brand recognition.
They also went with this commercial:
Like 2K3, Jeremy Roenick was the cover athlete.
This was an excellent game and it was released before NHL 2004.
The sliders allowed you to customize the game however you wanted and the franchise mode was even more indepth than the year before. It also featured several classic jerseys and classic teams and the graphics were much improved. Once again, 2K had produced the better game.
ESPN NHL 2K5
Again the ESPN name was pushed here and again this was another awesome game.
With EA struggling, 2K was providing the best hockey game available. The franchise mode was improved and the controls were excellent. It also featured a party mode, that allowed you to play a more acade style of hockey, along with several other mini-games. There was also a Dream Team Challenge that put you up against teams handpicked by the ESPN staff. It was a fun addition. The graphics in this game weren't great, but the gameplay experience was excellent.
The game was priced at $19.99, which won over many new fans.
2K Sports lost their ESPN license this year.
The game played very well, but the graphics were still lacking.
Marty Turco was on the cover and thus the game featured brand new goaltender controls which were actually somewhat good. The franchise mode was improved and there were tons of classic teams available, including national teams.
The game did have a couple of glitches though, primarily in the franchise mode and sometimes the record keeping was off.
With ESPN leaving the game, Bob Cole and Harry Neale returned to do commentary. This was, unfortunately, the first 2K game that was worse than its predecessor.
Most of the improvements in this year's game came on the graphics front. There were new camera angles and cut scenes and dramatic music played during tense moments like shootouts.
Otherwise, the gameplay was pretty similar to other years.
*Joe Thornton on the cover should of meant you couldn't show up in the playoffs..wooo
In NHL 07 EA added a "Skill Stick" to their control system. The next year 2K sports added a similar "Pro Stick" to NHL 2K8.
Some people liked it, some people didn't. It changed the way NHL 2K games were played and was mostly a reaction to EA beefing up their offering. The learning curve between 2K7 and 2K8 was pretty steep.
While game's franchise mode was still very deep, it had a few glitches. 2K was suddenly facing renewed competition from EA Sports and they made a few too many changes to their game in hopes to stay competitive.
This was the first NHL hockey game on the Wii. The Wii version had a completely new control scheme which made use of the system's motion sensing capabilities. Unfortunately, the game feels rushed. The graphics are quite terrible and the Wii controls are more difficult to use than you would expect.
Passing can be done by the standard method of pointing at a player and pressing the pass button, but there was also the option to string together passes by pointing at specific players and building a chain. When it worked, it led to some pretty passing plays. When it didn't work, you gave the puck away to your opponent.
Taking slap shots by swinging the remote forward felt pretty satisfying though.
The glitches in the Wii version of the game were pretty bad. Frequently the commentators would call a goaltender by the opposing goalie's name. It really throws you the first time Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save and the game screams "Great save by Osgood!"
But the worst glitch came during the franchise mode. Frequently, in the middle of a season, the game would freeze up completely. You wouldn't be able to restart the system or even shut the power off. The only solution was to unplug the Wii and force it to reboot. The game also had a problem where you couldn't trade a player to a team that was above the cap or had too many or too few players on the roster. That seemed like a good idea until you realized how unbelievably difficult it was to fix any roster issues.
Overall, when the game played properly it was pretty fun to play. But when it had problems it was a nightmare.
Not much is known about 2K10 at this point, except that Ovechkin is heavily featured.
Whether or not the new game bans backchecking remains to be seen.
Overall, the 2K series seems to be heading in a casual, pick-up-and-play direction and farther away from the sim feeling that initially made it popular.
In 1991, EA Sports released NHL HOCKEY.
It was considered a revolutionary
It all started with Electronic Arts release of NHL Hockey in 1991. Compared to Nintendo's Ice Hockey and Blades of Steel, NHL Hockey was far and away the most realistic game of the time.
Prior games had used the left-to-right TV angle, but NHL Hockey used a vertical view that better captured the feel of the rush.
It had the NHL license, but nothing with the PA.
So you get the teams and logos, but no player names, only numbers.
So you'll just have to take an educated guess at who is centering the Penguins with a 66 jersey.
NHLPA Hockey 93
EA went the opposite way with 93, scoring the PA license, but not the NHL. So you had player names and numbers, but no team names or logos, only city names and colors. It was the first game of the series that put to use the organ music that the series is famous for.
It was also the most violent game of the series, with not only fighting, but also encouraging injuring opposing players. Says the manual: Player Injuries - it's part of the game.
Knock key opposing players out of the game with an extra hard body check.
And while the entire series has different scoring loops, PA 93 is famous for the right-side around the net wrap around that worked every single time.
Which in the hands of two experienced players often left final tallies looking more like a football score.
The holy grail of hockey games. Graphically there was not major improvements, but a series of minor tweaks to the gameplay created what many consider to be not just the greatest sports game ever [ Boston.com ] but one of the greatest video games of all-time [ IGN ].
Most important of all was the addition of the one-timer, which has changed how hockey games have been made to this day. They brought it together by securing both the NHL license and the PA license for the first time and allowing 4 player action.
If this game has any downfall, it's the lack of fighting. Which is famous bemoaned in Swingers.
Simply put, this game singlehandedly lowered academic performance in 83% of males between 6 and 24. Fact.
Also, Jeremy Roenick on this game was unstoppable. Top 10 video game player of all time. It is sickening.
You've gotta give the guys at EA sports credit for what they tried to bring to the table in 95.
They added fake shots, drop passes, blocked shots. And for the first time you could completely play through a season, making trades, signing and releasing players.
You could even create players.
But ultimately a sketchy skating engine and their attempts to reel in the high scoring model of the previous games held 95 back.
NHL 96 was not a memorable game, but the game was still solid. There were limited additions to the game besides some additions to make the AI better.
Five minute majors and the rocking sports anthem "Get Ready for This" were two other notable additions. Players were noticeabley sleeker, and the ice felt a little bigger compared to previous games. EA didn't have much left to prove graphically as the old systems were almost at the end of the road. One other notable thing about this game was that the Quebec Nordiques, who moved before the start of the 95-96 season, were included instead of the Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche.
Video game hockey went through another huge change when NHL 97 was released on Playstation.
The new graphics were very distant from anything you were used to on SEGA and took some time to accept. We still spent most of the time playing NHL 97 for Sega instead, because something just didn't feel right with the Playstation version. The Sega version featured a new skills challenge that was a nice addition to an already great game, and both games featured national teams for the first time. The Playstation version featured commentary for the first time and CBC's Jim Hughson was the announcer.
The game's cover athlete was John Vanbiesbrouck after he made a stunning run to the Stanley Cup Finals in the previous season. There still has not been a goalie on the cover of NHL since the Beezer.
The last version of the NHL series on Sega and SNES was NHL 98. While the game still was very fun to play on the old consoles, Sega and SNES were at the end of their lifespans and new consoles were starting to improve their games.
NHL 98 for Playstation and Sega Saturn was a more polished game than NHL 97, and the improved graphics gave users a glimpse into what was possible on these new consoles. There were introductions to games with part of the National Anthems being played and a color commentator(Daryl Reaugh, VS., Dallas Stars) was added to the game. NHL 98 was the end of an era of hockey video games, but the beginning of a new era for EA.
NHL 99 had one of the best intros ever in a hockey video game.
The game lived up to the great intro and was one of the better NHL games since NHL 94.
This was also the first year the game was featured on the new Nintendo 64 with Bill Clement giving legendary commentary. The N64 version was highly underrated.
When we weren't exchanging this game at the mall after the disc was scratched, the expansion draft feature on Playstation was played non stop. Having to assemble a team of ham and eggers and take the Predators to the playoffs was a great challenge.
All the other games modes were pretty much the same as the previous years, and the graphics improved. One of the criticisms of this game was that it was choppy. We went back and played it and we didn't feel that it was enough to make the game bad. The only noticeable problem in the game may have been that the controls were sometimes unresponsive. Eric Lindros graced the cover, with his head down of course
Another great intro
NHL 2000 did not feature any huge additions to the franchise. The game was pretty much a more polished version of NHL 99.
This was also one of the first years we started to get into the PC version. The PC version was superior to the Playstation version, because there were a lot more custimization options.
You could import photos onto your created players head which was a nice feature, even though we never got it to work. Bill Clement was the color man for this game as Daryl Reaugh left the franchise.
Playstation 2's first version of the NHL franchise was NHL 2001. The graphics on the PS2 version put the Playstation version to shame, because the game on the PS2 looked like it was a computer game. Although the series started on a new console, there weren't a whole lot of changes to this game. Team Latvia and Team Ukraine were included with the National teams already on the game.
Fresh off his unbelievable comeback, Mario Lemieux was on the front cover of a game for the first time since the great Mario Lemieux Hockey.
NHL 2002 was a step in the right direction for EA and got great reviews (IGN).
This game also had a soundtrack that featured Canadian bands Barenaked Ladies, Sum 41, Treble Charger, and Gob(Gob kicked off their lifetime contract with EA).
Bill Clement was switched with Don Taylor in this version as EA continued to try and find the perfect color commentator. This was the second year on the PS2 and the first year on XBOX, and the game was an improvement from NHL 2001.
The game had some breakaway feature. It was a little gay.
NHL 2003 built upon the success of NHL 2002 and was another solid game.
The big addition to this game was the GameBreaker feature. If your player would perform enough dekes the GameBreaker would activiate, and you could change the momentum of the game by scoring a goal, delivering a big hit, or getting into a fight.
The NHL series was getting a lot of competiton during this time from the 2K series, because a lot of people didn't like the arcade style hockey anymore. Even though NHL 2003 was a fast paced game with a lot of hitting, the game was still fun and featured a solid soundtrack.
EA struggled to find the right cover player for NHL 2004.
Joe Thornton, the original choice to be on the cover, was not put on the cover after facing assault charges, and DanyHeatley was removed from the cover after his driving accident that claimed the life of Dan Snyder. Squeaky clean Joe
Sakic was finally put on the cover of the game, and there were 2 editions that were sold (Heatley, Sakic).
Some of the main features of this game was better puck control, rebound control, and improved checking. This was also the first year of a new Dynasty mode, and European elite leagues were also added to the game.
The best addition to this game though was the rewarding Stanley Cup presenation.
After the Cup was presented, players were shown lifting the cup, and then they took a team picture. The best part of the celebration was when the team picture froze, a special song (Vendetta Red- Shatterday) was unlocked, and the camera would zoom in on each player and show their playoff stats.
Hockey fans weren't able to enjoy the 2004-2005 season because of the lockout.
NHL 2005 allowed fans to atleast play through a season that never happened. This game did not boast any series changing features and really wasn't a memorable game.
Getting over the blueline without being hit was sometimes impossible because of the agressive CPU. This made it an especially frustrating game to play during an especially frustrating time. The Free 4 all mode was fun, and the World Cup of Hockey was a nice addition. The online part of the game was still too laggy to be considered fun.
Back from the lockout, NHL 06 began a marketing campaign to welcome back hockey.
After NHL 2005, the NHL series was beginning to feel stale on the current generation of consoles. Besides tweaks to the gameplay and player animations, there wasn't a whole lot going on for EA's NHL series. This game did improve on the crazy hitting from previous edtions.
NHL 06 also introduced the short lived skill stick to try and add some highlight reel goals to the game, like batting the puck out of the air and between-the-leg shots. One great addition to this game was NHL 94 on the PS2 version. The only downside was that the original rosters of NHL 94 weren't included, and the Whalers were missing. But for 30 bucks, NHL 06 and NHL 94 was a solid deal.
While NHL 07 was much of the same for the PS2 and Xbox, the game was released on the new Xbox 360. We didn't have an Xbox 360 to play this game but from the very little we did play of it over friends houses, it impressed.
The new skill stick was added to this game and rejuvanted the NHL series.
The left analog was used for moving the player, and the right analog was used for shooting, checking, and deking. The skill sticks gave players much more control of where they wanted to shoot the puck, and the deking allowed for easier ways to get past defenders. These changes took time to get used to after playing for years using the same control scheme, but the change was what the NHL series needed. Gary Thorne and Bill Clement also became the new broadcasters for the Xbox 360 game.
NHL 08 was a revolutionary game for EA's NHL series. The game, on PS3 and Xbox 360, boasted a brand new skating engine and the already proven skill stick.
The combination of the two felt like some of the most realistic video game hockey to ever be played. All 29 AHL teams were added to this game along with a create a play feature. The online portion of the game was also overhauled as new modes were finally introduced, and a third person goalie mode was added. The AI of NHL 08 was the greatest improvement.
Never did it feel like playing the same game twice, and the computer adapted to what the user did well.
There were very few complaints about NHL 08. The dynasty mode still needed to be worked on, and the lack of playoff and season modes was somewhat disappointing. But after a few years of playing an NHL game for a few months and then putting it away, NHL 08 was played all the way to the release of 09.
And we would still be playing it if 09 wasn't released.
Building upon the success of NHL 08, NHL 09 continued to improve on the already solid game EA had built. The additons of Be a Pro mode and the EASHL added more value to the game. An all new checking engine added more realistic hits, and the defensive skill stick was added to give more control to the user when on defense. A stick lift button was also added to the game which made taking penalties much more realistic. The speed of the game was also tweaked slighty from NHL 08 to make it feel smoother.
The EASHL may have the longest lasting effect out of all these new features. EA's NHL series always lacked an identity when it came to playing online, but they finally got it right with the EASHL.
Being able to create your own players and teams and play with friends using an isolated camera view was an enjoyable experience. It was one of those features where when you first play it, you cannot believe how cool it is.
But after time the holes in the mode became glaring. No real clear point system and online cheesing got old fast.But the future of the mode has a lot of potential. And in '10 we expect big things.
Overall NHL 09 didn't have a number of huge additions like NHL 08, but changing the gameplay too much at this state would be a mistake.
Simply put, NHL 10 is one of the more anicipated hockey video games of all time.
New board play, and a new fighting first person fight mode promise to front line another solid effort.