Though it's far from the most important thing right now, the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has done the nearly unthinkable by bringing the sports world to a standstill. In the U.S. alone, the NBA, NHL, MLS and NASCAR all had to suspend their seasons, MLB pushed back Opening Day, and news about tennis and golf events being postponed seems to be coming daily. It's a worldwide trend as well, with soccer pausing in the stretch run of almost all club leagues and serious questions being asked about the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo.
It's an unprecedented state of affairs in the lifetime of any sports fan, and it's so far unclear when things will be able to get back on track. The leagues are turning to some creative ways to provide some entertainment in the meantime, with the NBA offering its League Pass for free, and NASCAR drivers teaming to go iRacing in virtual races that will air on broadcast TV.
These are stopgap measures, to be sure, but they can be supplmented by video games. There's a sports game to help you pass the time until sports come back into our lives, and better yet, most of them are marked down from their full prices since they've been out on consoles for a while (with one notable exception). Here's what's worth checking out so you can keep your social distancing in effect but still get your sports fix.
Even without competition this year as EA shelved the NBA LIVE series (again), NBA 2K20 didn't rest on its laurels. 2K's hoops game once again plays great and looks amazing, leaving one dreaming about what NBA 2K21 might have in store on the visual side with the power of next-gen consoles available to it. With the robust MyGM and MyLeague modes, you can easily use the game to play or simulate the NBA games we're missing right now, something that the actual NBA franchises have quickly figured out.
If you'd rather build the team of your dreams, the popular MyTeam mode is the way to go, allowing you to assemble a roster of past and present stars. Though it usually relies on the season in progress for inspiration for new content, the devs have gotten creative and released a series of new challenges for every NBA team during the coronavirus outbreak. It's possible to play your way to great cards for every team right now with even better rewards for completing all of the challenges, it's arguably the best time to jump into MyTeam.
You probably don't want to start kicking a soccer ball around inside even as an outlet to being cooped up. FIFA 20 has the perfect alternative: Kick a virtual ball around on indoor and street courts in the VOLTA Football mode that is new for this year. Quite possilbly the most pleasant addition to any sports game, VOLTA has its own story, leagues and a ton of customization items that you can unlock just by completing challenges. It's undeniably fun and could almost be a game unto itself. Uh, please don't get any ideas though, EA Sports, if you're reading this.
Fancy more traditional football action? FIFA 20 has plenty of that as well, including pretty much any top club league that currently is on hold. Liverpool supporters probably want to finish off their Premier League championship run, while Arsenal fans like yours truly can just play out the string. Football Ultimate Team is once again very much in evidence, with content divided into seasons so you can jump in and not feel like you've missed all that much.
Though EA didn't make huge changes to its hockey franchise with NHL 20, it did stuff the game full of an impressive different number of game modes. As our review explains, maybe the best thing it has going for it is the sheer number of ways you can play, from Franchise Mode to World of CHEL — which is something of a collection of modes in and of itself. Hockey Ultimate Team is back too, of course, but World of CHEL is an antidote to in-app purchases that is very welcome.
It almost goes without saying that it's possible to play through real world contests that are currently postponed. And if you want to have some unexpected fun, play a few HUT Squad Battles and you'll notice a certain famous rapper from Long Beach drop in to do guest commentary. Hockey and Snoop Dogg? Hard to pass that up for extra entertainment value at a time like this.
MLB The Show 20
Poor baseball never even got a chance to get going in 2020, with the coronavirus outbreak slamming the breaks on MLB action while it was still spring training. There's every likelihood the Boys of Summer will get back at it eventually, but MLB The Show 20 is all we have for the moment, and as our review details, that's not a bad option at all. Longtime fans of the series will appreciate new mechanics like Perfect/Perfect hitting, fielding tweaks and the new throwing meter, while newcomers are just going to be blown away by all of the options available.
One of the things that is easy to appreciate aboit The Show 20 is the way all of its modes work together organically. If you really enjoy Diamond Dynasty but want to dabble in other things as well, the game doesn't punish you — quite the contrary, as you'll be leveling up and continuing to earn Diamond Dynasty rewards while you play. Road to the Show could certainly be a rewarding way to pass the time until players are back on fields everywhere, as it has been enhanced with a more RPG-esque perk system to give your create-a-player an edge.
Oh, and before you ask, no, there is no banging on trash cans in the game to tip you off to when off-speed pitches are coming. Sorry.
NASCAR Heat 4
Yes, even the drivers of fast cars are unable to do their thing right now. PC gamers can turn to iRacing to get in some virtual laps in the meantime, but not everyone has a rig at their desktop with a steering wheel and pedals. For the rest of us, there's NASCAR Heat 4, the latest in a line of steadily improving stock car racing games. The career mode is especially fun as you race your way up from dirt tracks through all three of NASCAR's national series, either for your own team or by impressing real race teams enough for them to give you a seat.
One thing to note is that this game isn't updated for the 2020 NASCAR season, presumably because there's a NASCAR Heat 5 coming at some point later this year. That said, it's got all the tracks and events that fans are craving while the sport is paused, so it's still a very good option for console gamers feeling the need for speed.
What are the best sports games to play right now?
On one hand, it all depends which sports are the ones you feel like are leaving the biggest voids in your life right now. All of the games we've listed here are solid choices for passing the time until their respective sports return. There are even more besides — Madden NFL 20 comes to mind, as even though it's the NFL off-season and the league hasn't missed time due to the coronavirus outbreak, there's been a flurry of free agency activity and it could be fun to see how Tom Brady looks with the Bucs, to name just one example.
That said, if your goal is just to put any sports back in your life, it's hard to beat NBA 2K20 in terms of great gameplay and a solid mix of solo and online multiplayer options. FIFA 20 is also highly recommended if you're looking for something different, as VOLTA Football is the best new mode in any sports game over the past 12 months.
And if you've got a great sports game not on this list that you think can make the current sports-less reality a little easier for fellow fans, please feel free to drop a comment below and let us know.
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