On the birthday of Tony Hawk and Jonah Lomu, we rate the greatest gaming franchises that carried the name of famous sportspeople.
In honour of Tony Hawk and Jonah Lomu’s birthday on 12 May, we decided to rank the greatest video game franchises named after sports stars.
Each game was judged by three criteria:
Quality: How good the game was. This was measured by a combination of the game’s Metacritic score and user rating on Gamespot.
Longevity: How many games were released in the series.
Nostalgia: How iconic the game is and how much it is still talked about to this day.
Each game was scored between 1-8 in each category, with 8 being the best score and 1 the worst. The scores were then added up to give us our final order.
Read our rankings below and head to our Twitter page and vote in a poll to decide which video game franchise is the best.
8. Jonah Lomu Rugby
Described by both The Telegraph and Irish Independent as the greatest rugby game ever made – which admittedly isn’t saying much – Jonah Lomu Rugby is an underrated classic.
It featured all 16 teams from the 1995 Rugby World Cup and managed to be genuinely fun while offering rugby fans an experience that was close enough to the real thing.
Lomu himself was one of the most dominant video game characters ever – an unstoppable blend of pace and power that made playing as the All Blacks essential.
7. Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX
There were, surprisingly, two popular BMX games around in the early 2000s, but while Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX had its fans, Dave Mirra was for the heads.
Of the many, many extreme sports games that tried to ride the wave created by Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, this one stayed truest to the original’s formula and is easily the most fun to replay.
Outrageous tricks, exciting locations and a cracking soundtrack made the first Dave Mirra game a classic, which then spawned two sequels that were almost as good.
6. Brian Lara Cricket
Like Jonah Lomu Rugby, this series certainly benefitted from the fact that there just haven’t been many (or any) really good cricket games.
Six Brian Lara Cricket titles were released between 1994 and 2007, but the 1999 edition was the best of the bunch – the closest a cricket game has come to making it fun to patiently bat through a Test match.
Let’s face it, though, we all eventually thought “sod this” and tried to slog it for six off every ball.
5. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
That a boxing game from 1987 is still talked about and even played in the present day illustrates just how addictive Punch-Out!! was.
The premise of this NES button-basher is simple – you play as an undersized fighter, working your way through a series of increasingly difficult foes until you meet Tyson, one of the most formidable bosses in gaming history.
Gamers spent hours trying to beat the hulking heavyweight champion. A YouTube video titled ‘How to beat Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!’ currently has over 1.1m views and is still watched today.
4. Colin McRae Rally
Gran Turismo was the sexy driving game of the late 1990s and 2000s, but Colin McRae Rally managed to build a dedicated and surprisingly large audience thanks to its incredibly realistic gameplay.
The Codemasters series received huge praise for its realistic physics, which allowed gamers to experience the feeling of sliding sideways on dirt tracks at exhilarating speeds.
Colin McRae Rally 2.0 was particularly well-reviewed, scoring 88/100 on Metacritic and a rating of 9.4/10 from IGN.
3. Tiger Woods PGA Tour
Golf isn’t the most exciting sport to play on a console, but Woods’ star power made this a hugely successful series for EA Sports.
The franchise carried the 15-time major winner’s name from 1998 until 2014 – lasting even during his troubles on the course and transgressions off it – before he was replaced on the cover by Rory McIlroy.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour received positive reviews every year during that 16-year run, with the 2003 and 2010 editions standing out among the best games of the 2000s.
2. Madden NFL
Madden’s staying power is unmatched by any other franchise on this list.
Named after coach-turned-broadcaster John Madden, who also lent his voice to the game’s commentary from 1988 until 2009, the series has been running for 32 years and has spawned 40 games on various platforms during that time.
Now one of the titans of sports gaming, Madden has also helped countless non-Americans learn the rules of a sport that can appear dauntingly complicated to an outsider.
1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
If you played video games in the early 2000s, you played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Activision’s revolutionary series achieved incredible popularity for a skateboarding game, received widespread critical acclaim, and turned Hawk from an underground cult figure into a household name.
Pro Skater 2 and Pro Skater 3 were the glory days – the former received a score of 98/100 on Metacritic – although later releases did deteriorate in quality.
The early games, however, are timeless classics, and the reason hordes of gamers over the age of 20 still get misty-eyed over thoughts of grinding rails and collecting S-K-A-T-E.