Yearly sports game franchises often get accused of being little more than roster updates coupled with some subtle are often so inconsequential, all but the most rabid fans would be hard-pressed to notice. In 2010, NBA 2K11 managed to handily buck this trend, giving gamers a great reason to keep this year's entry in their gaming libraries long after the 2011 season is over. That reason is Michael Jordon. His host of "Jordan Challenges" allow players to replay some of MJ's most legendary performances, or even rebuild his career from scratch.
That's not to say that 2K11 isn't a stellar basketball package without number 23. Quite the contrary. Visually, NBA 2K11 is the best-looking game of roundball on the market today. A mind-boggling amount of unique player animations are more than just great fan-service. It also offers an on-court experience that gives unprecedented control of each player, and artificial intelligence for both players and coaches that makes teams behave like their real-life counterparts. More than ever before, you'll have to run your offense, set up picks, double-team superstars, and take advantage of mismatches to win. The game's career mode is also a startlingly deep basketball RPG, and a real treat for NBA fans. NBA 2K11's simulation-bent and wicked-tough AI may frustrate those in search of another "half-court pass and dunk-fest," but those looking for the best basketball simulation available (and best sports game of 2010) need look no further.
Runner-up: NHL 11
NHL 11 also stood out in 2010 as being greatly improved over prior years, both in terms of presentation and on-ice action. The addition of real-time physics bring a lot more bone-crunchiness to collisions and subtle tweaks like improved passing and the potential for broken sticks are nice touches. A new EA Sports Ultimate Hockey League (EAUHL), which uses the Ultimate Team trading card system, adds some great depth and value for hardcore fans who want to cultivate their very own team of all-stars. With more modes than you can shake a hockey stick at (Ultimate Team, Be A GM, Be A Pro, Playoff Mode, Tournament Mode, and Practice Mode), NHL 11 sent much of the competition to the penalty box in 2010.