I’ve been gaming since my dad brought home the Pong home console around 1975 and while I have played many genres of games, hockey has always been my favorite. There have been a number of hockey games released since the early seventies, but these 5 are my favorite.
1. NHL 96 – Sega Genesis
The original NHL Hockey changed hockey videogaming, but it was the 96 edition that is my #1 hockey game of all-time. I loved being able to play multiple seasons, make trades as well as create my own players. None of the previous versions of the game had the create-a-player feature. I ended up playing over 1000 games (I kept track of stats in a notebook) and went through 3 cartridges. The gameplay and the graphics were advanced (at the time) and the animations was sufficient enough to make each game feel different.
2. Hit the Ice – Arcade
My cousin and I must have pumped $100 into this game in a 24-hour period one summer. The ability to play 2-2 with up to 4 players made this a great game to play in the arcade. We’d play on teh same team and take on the CPU or anybody you dared play us. The graphics were great (for 1991) and the gameplay was smooth. The abilty to choose players that had distinct abilities gave the game some extra enjoyment. The power-ups were a bit over the top, but for an arcade game they added an element of strategy. The nostalgia of playing with my cousin gives Hit the Ice a higher rank. The home versions of the game were horrid.
3. NHL 12 – Xbox 360
The latest generation of hockey games keeps getting better and better. NHL 12, reviewed here, is the best in the current series, but will probably be surpassed by NHL 13. The online and offline modes are excellent and I’m looking forward to the advancements in NHL 13.
4. SuperStar Ice Hockey – Commodore 64
The Commodore 64 wasn’t known for sports gaming, but this game took up quite a bit of my time during high school. SuperStar Ice Hockey allowed gamers to create a team and be the GM for multiple seasons. Players could be traded, created, drafted and released. Players also got better and worse as they aged. The gameplay was so-so, but at the time the GM features made this game seem incredibly advanced.
5. Activision Ice Hockey – Atari
I can still remember playing this game for hours until my mom made me go outside. I got Activision Ice Hockey for Christmas one year and played it nearly everyday for the next 2 years. Even though it was 2-2, it was still hockey and the 1st game to move past the pong-style of hockey gameplay (Intellivison Hockey was a bit more advanced, but I didn’t have that system). I still have my Activision All-Star Ice Hockey patch.
Update: While there are many other hockey games, and some much better than these, these made my top 5 due to the moments in which I was playing them. For example, Hit the Ice was not the best hockey arcade game, but playing it with my cousin made it special to me. NHL 96 was a game I played when I had just moved to a new town . The memories of these games include those circumstances and make them MY favorites even though a game like Blades of Steel was great, it lacked that emotional connection.