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I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing the new Pro Evolution Soccer 11 and FIFA 11 games this past month. Pro Evo is my favorite of the two — I find myself on the pitch of Pro Evo late into the night for the first time since the series' heyday on PlayStation 2.

All that soccer on the brain has me thinking about past footy titles I absolutely love — especially the wackier ones. Here’s my list — in no particular order — of the best offbeat soccer titles. They all seem to feature three things: power-ups, fighting, and…role-playing stats.

So dive in — studs down, please.


Sega Soccer Slam (PS2, Xbox, GameCube)

Sega Soccer Slam

Best Mexican national team ever.

Sega Soccer Slam is hands-down the best soccer game ever made. This three-on-three title features zany cartoon characters that play to their team’s nationality in a hilarious, almost insulting way.

Equipment can be bought to boost the skills of your players as you embark on your campaign to beat every team. This part of the game is similar to any sports title, really. The thing that sets it apart as one of only two titles I found myself playing before high school at 5 a.m. is the sheer fun of playing with two buddies — and the fact that you can punch people.

 

Teaming up as Mexico's El Fuego, I took on the role as the goal scorer, and my friends became enforcers. They’d have the computer stuck in corners getting beat silly. This gave us time to figure out that I could actually score by running up to the keeper, jumping, and getting punched, which kept the keeper occupied while the ball slowly rolled into the net.

Awesome.

Sega Soccer Slam

We not only broke our adversaries with punches, we broke that game and figured out every little thing it had to offer — like stat tracking. Much like Super Smash Bros., players can enter a name in order to track stats. Seeing how many shots and goals I could accrue was a blast, but they paled in comparison to the absurd numbers my friends were putting up in the hits category.

This stat boosting — which led to bragging among my friends — became a game in itself.

I’d love to see a sequel to this on a current system. Anyone interested in the title that doesn't own a last-generation console can find it for download on the Xbox 360.


Soccer Superstars (iPhone)

It makes sense that combining my number-one passion (soccer) with my favorite video-game genre (role playing) would result in too many lost hours. And that’s exactly what the simply titled Soccer Superstars did to my time.

Players can create a character to lead to national team glory. On the way to stardom, they can train using different activities to level up stats and even equip a bike helmet or baseball cap for minor boosts. They can also learn a handful of wacky power shots their character can unleash on poor goalies.

The best part is it's an iPhone title. I've never had so much fun covering city council meetings for the newspaper before! Just don't tell my boss that….

Soccer Superstars


Super Mario Strikers (GameCube) and Mario Strikers Charged (Wii)

Super Mario Strikers is a five-a-side soccer game featuring crazy power-ups similar to what’s in Super Mario Kart. Players grow to gigantic proportions, shells wreak havoc on your striker’s ankles, and team captains perform Super Strikes to score two goals instead of one. It isn’t as fun as Sega Soccer Slam, but it sure was able to induce many sleepless nights.

The waggle-infused Wii sequel is also a nifty title, featuring much of the same with slight improvements and chaotic environmental hazards. Shaking Wii Remotes to tackle players is a great way to keep the energy high when playing close matches against the cheap AI.

Super Mario Strikers

Mario is about to find out that it is totally on like Donkey Kong.


Red Card 2003 (PS2, Xbox, GameCube)

This is one of the few games to get me to stand up while playing that doesn’t involve waggle or motion controls.

The reason? A heated match between bitter rivals Mexico and U.S.A., tied two to two with penalties looming. My adversary took possession and charged up field. I ran him down, ready to dispossess him…with a flying two-footed kick to the chest.

Red Card 2003

And Arsene Wenger complains of dirty play in the English Premier League….

Anyone familiar with Midway sports titles in the early 2000s will remember high-flying antics and players that seem to spontaneous combust into a raging flame only to become a better pitcher, striker, or tackler.

Oh, how I miss Midway and its zaniness.


Lego Soccer Mania (PS2, PC)

Way before the "Lego-ization" of franchises Harry Potter and Star Wars came this sweet little gem of a title. I remember picking it up at a now-defunct electronics store in a small town about two hours away from home and bristling with excitement during the long drive back to my PlayStation 2.

That excitement was well founded: The game is actually really good.

Players can create teams from different popular Lego themes like pirates and Martians; each has their own skill ratings to make them unique. Power-ups like missile shots litter the pitch, and there’s even a plot where you chase the evil Brickster to a volcano and then to space for the ultimate soccer showdown.

It’s aimed at a younger audience, but it’s still engaging enough to play through to the end of the story and challenge a friend to a few matches.


World Tour Soccer 2003 (PS2)

World Tour Soccer has a dive button.

I first found this out on accident when I had a defender in the box. My friend was running up the sideline when all of a sudden the center official blew his whistle.

What?

And there it was in the replay. My poor defender diving in the box for no reason other than I accidentally hit the wrong button. I was carded and scored on in the subsequent penalty. Swearing ensued.

World Tour Soccer 2003

Diving. Ruining not only the real game but also the virtual game as well.

After that initial frustration, I used the dive button to my advantage to earn penalty kicks and easy-to-score direct kicks. What started as a good, fairly played soccer game turned into a test of who could dive the best to earn an advantage — a shameless maneuver that players of even Christiano Ronaldo’s skill employ on a weekly basis.

Italian soccer players everywhere — especially those involved in the 2006 World Cup — rejoiced at the addition of a dive button. I’m sure Fabio Grosso has this game in his trophy case.


Well, there's my list of favorite wacky soccer titles. Fellow Bitmobbers, do you have a game of footy you absolutely love? If so, tell me about it in the comments!