Managing people is a challenging skill. Managing our own lives is already a difficult task, and the day-by-day can sometimes be stressful. That's not to say it's all stress and whatnot cause despite the bad days, there are good days too, and they happen in equal measure.
Nowadays, video games have become so meta that simulating the management side of things can be a gamified experience. For fans of the genre, virtual stress can be a dopamine/endorphin-releasing experience. Paradoxical? But that’s a mystery we can solve in another article.
Let’s list down the best sports management simulation games released over the years. Popular franchises like the NBA 2K Series, FIFA Series, MBL, and many others inspire these management games. The only difference is that instead of controlling every minute action of the player, such as shooting or passing, you take on a more hands-off-the-ball approach. By hands-off, I mean making the crucial decisions that’ll make or break the team, drafting, scouting, player development overview, and contract negotiations.
The amount of text and graphs you have to sift through with these games is complicated and possibly overwhelming. But I think it’s a natural expansion of what a sports video game should be and how it should play. So, wear your best suit and tie and hustle and huddle with us as we take you to the rabbit hole of sports simulation games.
You may be familiar with football or soccer games like FIFA and PES. But some of you may have heard about Football Manager. It is striking and is considered one of the most in-depth sports management sim games of all time.
The first game in the series was released in 1992 by Sports Interactive and published by Eidos under the name Championship Manager. After the developer’s fallout with Eidos in 2004, SEGA picked up Sports Interactive and released it under its new title, Football Manager.
Since then, the series has become widely known and critically acclaimed. Modern game iterations have many features: maintaining the budget and finances, developing infrastructure, taking up press conferences, indulging in transfer market activity, engaging in coaching sessions, experimenting with formations, scouting young talents, and signing potential superstars to secure your club’s future.
The number of decisions you make is varied, and to add realism, it uses real-life football metrics to measure activity. Real football clubs use the game to do scouting runs! If you’re a football/soccer fan, why don’t you give it a whirl? Who knows, it might even inspire you to get a Coaching license in the future!
If football fans have Football Manager, baseball fans have their version called Out of the Park Baseball. Starting as a simple text-based game released in May 1999, it created a buzz among online gaming sites. It wasn’t until OOTP 3 that the game took off, and players started noticing. At this point, the developers were still in the indie gaming scene. By 2005, Sports Interactive purchased the franchise, but Markus Heinsohn, the lead developer, still directed the game.
By 2007, Sports Interactive split from the franchise and gave the reins back to OOTP Developments. Since then, the game has been constantly praised as one of the best games on PC. A true testament to the staying power of simulation games such as this.
It has since moved on from its simple text-based gameplay and added modern features for better immersion such as officially licensed MLB rosters; better 3D graphics, an interactive and dynamic user interface, a recoded scouting system; a new fielding ratings development system; achievements; new trading AI; more realistic player creation among many other features. This game certainly knocks the ball out of the park!
So far, we’ve only discussed two popular ball games, and now we’re on to the third. Another critically acclaimed game due to its realism, Tennis Elbow Manager sets the bar high for most sports management sims games, let alone for Tennis sports. It currently has no other rival in its niche, making it the only available Tennis simulation game. But would you ask for anything more if your game is as polished and balanced as this? I certainly wouldn’t! Every iteration released since 1996 has continually improved over the previous games.
Its latest iteration is Tennis Elbow Manager 2, which features a complete 3D match engine, improved AI with new player strategies, and more realistic behaviors. It even has a system to accurately measure player statistics such as fitness, power, and precision, to name a few.
You can tweak the level of realism in the game, such as turning “fatigue” on or off having the indicators of where the shots will impact the court displayed or not. There are different CPU levels (6 in total, from "beginner" to "incredible"), and choosing from Arcade, Simulation, Elite "Controls" affect gameplay. What makes this game unique from other sports sim games is the ability to take control of your players and play the actual 3D tournament matches. A new release is said to be in the works, and although there is no official announcement yet, we’re curious about what new features it brings to the table and hope it’s something smashing!
Enough about ball games! How about we pick up the speed with the next game on this list: Motorsport Manager Racing! This game puts you behind the wheel of a racing team manager as you create your own motorsports team, hire engineers to give you the best car performance, recruit new drivers, build new infrastructures, and the usual micromanagement of your finances.
Although initially released on mobile platforms only, it has since been released on Steam thanks to Sega taking on the publishing reins for Playsport Games. The PC version improves on the mobile version by adding a more in-depth gameplay experience and a massive improvement to graphical fidelity.
One of its features is a random events system that provides choices to the players, which either improves their relationship with a different team or compromises the player’s popularity with the current team. The random events system in place may also provide optional upgrade choices to the three research segments in the game but may increase cash costs. These research segments include manufacturing—which determines car reliability and tire wear, design—which generally affects all aspects of the car, and aerodynamics—which affects car downforce and acceleration. These random segments can trigger during or at the end of a racing season.
With that said, the exhilaration doesn’t just come from behind the wheel while zipping past other cars; sometimes, it's the satisfaction that you made all the right decisions during race day, allowing for a smooth team workflow, essentially grabbing a win for the whole team!
We’re down to the last game on this list, and it certainly packs a punch! World Championship Boxing Manager™ may be an old simulation game, but its influence is evident across different gaming generations. It was initially released for the Commodore Amiga in 1990 and is one of the earliest boxing management simulation games.
For modern gamers looking to try this out, it is now on Steam if they want to get a hold of a classic retro game. Gamers may consider much of the gameplay elements to be clunky nowadays, but it still holds on its own and adds to that element of deep and immersive mechanics that’ll pull you in to play for hours and hours.
These features include designing boxers' training regimens to get their skills and physique in fighting shape and negotiating with managers and promoters to secure fights with top-rated fighters that provide good payouts. In addition to this, coaching boxers in each round will make sure they come out on top; and keep your boxers healthy and motivated to take the number one spot.
Most modern boxing simulation games released recently follow these formulae laid down by WCBM, attesting to the adage that “if it ain’t broken, there’s no need to fix it.” With almost two decades in its life, WCBM needs a proper sequel. Fortunately, for us fans of the genre, Mega Cat Studios, in collaboration with Ziggurat, is up to the task of bringing us the much-awaited sequel: World Championship Boxing Manager™ 2.
The franchise's next iteration will be adding more features such as a story mode with branching narrative choices and multiple endings. If you're a skill buff, extensive skill trees and deep statistics will keep you occupied for hours. The features don’t end with more deadpan humor and goofiness, an improved user interface, and real-time cinematic fights. Recruit and grow your staff, such as physical therapists, trainers, cornermen, and secretaries, to help you in your efforts. That is just scratching the surface of what is to come, and by the time the game comes out, you’d want to channel that inner Rocky Balboa of yours and start shadow-boxing to the tune of Eye of the Tiger! In the meantime, add the game to your Steam wish list!
YOU MANAGE TO HAVE FUN!
That ends our list of some of the best sports management simulation games in the past few years. The sports sim genre is certainly not for everyone due to the steep learning curve and the amount of patience you need for the entire playthrough. But different strokes for different folks!
There’s undoubtedly fun injected into tycoon and management games, and if you think about it, everyone can use it to learn specific soft skills. Even real-life sports managers and aspiring ones are already using these games with actual scouting and drafting sessions. All these real-world applications show how much video games can be a force for knowledge and learning, and though some people may not agree, it’s not just pure fun and games.
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