Sports game fans suffered a massive blow last year when EA cancelled NCAA Football 15 due to lawsuits from ex-players and the NCAA’s decision not to renew its license with the veteran publisher.

But we will endure.

The NCAA Football franchise has ruled July for years. These games offered a glimmer of hope on the second Tuesday of a notoriously lean gaming month. I’ve always looked at the NCAA games as the start of the sporting game season. We get NCAA in July, Madden in August, NHL and FIFA in September, and close out the season with NBA 2K and some kind of professional wrestling game in October.

EA promised the franchise will return next year under a new name, but what are college football fans supposed to do in the meantime?

While nothing can really take NCAA’s place, I did scour the Web to compile a list of five possible replacement activities for brokenhearted fans out there — such as modding your existing copy of NCAA 14.

Madden

The obvious choice would be to play Madden 15 right now, especially if you want modern new-gen graphics.

Like every one before it, Madden 15 promises loads of flashy upgrades. EA Tiburon, which also develops the college football franchise, overhauled the defensive side of the ball this year with new tackling and pass rush mechanics. The latest Madden also takes another crack at fixing the notoriously faulty A.I. that causes computer players to run in opposite directions or completely botch plays.

I am not trying to say that college football and pro football (and their respective games) are interchangeable. The two can barely be distinguished as the same sport at times. That’s why I found a few other options for college fans that hate professional football.

But these other options certainly don’t look like this:

madden-nfl-15-screen-3

Above: A whimsical pose from 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (left) in a PS4 screenshot of Madden 15.

Image Credit: EA Sports

Mod the s*%^ out of NCAA Football 14

Pockets of diehard college football game fans are keeping NCAA Football 14 alive through mods and extensive roster updates.

The Operation Sports forums are a gateway to all kinds of fun ways to get a few more precious hours out of your copy of NCAA Football 14. They offer up-to-date and classic roster downloads, four-team playoff systems, six-team playoff systems, and a number of ways to tweak certain parts of the game to create new experiences.

Tecmo Bowl

If you are feeling lost, why not return to the source?

Believe it or not, the 8-bit arcade/Nintendo Entertainment System classic is still going strong after over 25 years. The retro-enthusiasts over at tecmobowl.org even released Tecmo Super Bowl 2014 last year with modern rosters and playbooks.

Anyone can transform their PC or Mac into an NES by downloading an emulator and a Tecmo Bowl ROM, or computer file that acts as a game, to play these modified versions (if you want vanilla Tecmo Bowl, you can buy it on the Wii U and 3DS virtual consoles). The website recommends the Nestopia emulator, which you can find here. Tecmobowl.org also offers a browser version of Tecmo Super Bowl 2014.

College football fans will be pleased to hear that forum user Steven V. Brown created a Tecmo Bowl ROM featuring teams from the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The rosters are a few years old, but the SEC version offers nostalgic, arcade-style gaming with a college twist.

Players seeking serious competition can join leagues or tournaments through tecmobowl.org, and the community is quite friendly if you just want to chat about sports or have any problems with the ROMs.

You could also turn to the modern versions of this classic football game. Tecmo Bowl Kickoff was released for the Nintendo DS back in 2008. It featured a league of completely fictional teams and online play. There are ROM versions of Kickoff floating around the internet, but there doesn’t seem to be any updates available.

Tecmo Bowl Throwback hit the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in 2010. PS3 and Xbox 360 players can edit rosters, compete in seasons, and switch from 3D to 2D graphics with the touch of a button. Again, there doesn’t appear to be an active Throwback community contributing any updates.

Check out this Tecmo Super Bowl 2014 reenactment of last season’s NFC championship game:

Fantasy college football

OK, so this isn’t an actual video game per se, but fantasy sports aren’t that different from the Online Dynasty or Online Legacy modes found in NCAA or Madden games. Players draft according to their own preferences and rankings, set their depth charts, and battle it out in a browser each week.

Web sites like Yahoo, CBS Sports, and ESPN all offer fantasy college football leagues. Yahoo and Fox Sports also offer fantasy pick ’em leagues where players compete by trying to guess the outcome of each week’s games.

The fantasy sports gurus over at Rotowire.com have already started to rank next year’s players by position. Most college fantasy drafts won’t start for another month, so you can read up now and crush the competition. Hell, web sites like CBS Sports even offer prize leagues where your prowess could earn you some cash!

Mobile/browser games

If you are looking to kill some time while you are at work or waiting in line at the DMV, a few mobile and arcade games might soothe your football cravings.

Backbreaker 2: Vengeance looks like your best bet for iPhones and tablets. It’s $1 on iTunes and features some pretty good graphics and gameplay. The camera angles almost remind me of the god-like ESPN 2K5 (long may it reign as king of all football games).

For Android users, Fanatical Football seems to be the first choice. It is free and looks a lot like Backbreaker 2. Gametime Football with Michael Vick is also a solid choice. I enjoyed making my own four-man (quarterback, running back, two wide receivers) team, but the controls are a little weird.

ESPN’s website offers some fun, position-specific browser games. Players can play as a quarterback or a linebacker, but the Return Man games are by-far the most popular (five of the worldwide leader’s top 10 highest rated sports games are incarnations of Return Man).

It even has a Return Man riff in which players avoid zombies instead of defenders:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL2q2COr4xI