The Top 8 Boxing Video Games of All Time

March 19, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Bates

“VINTAGE” boxing

If you were born any time after 1980, or possibly even earlier, there’s a pretty good chance that video games have been a part of your life for a large portion of your life. Dating all the way back to the blips of the two sticks and dot known as Pong to the games of today which oftentimes provide better CGI and storylines than most Hollywood spew, video games are a stable of childhood. And if you’re reading this article, it’s a safe assumption that in your childhood, teen, or early adult years, boxing became a stable too.

Peanut butter, meet jelly.

Since back in the days of the stick figures of Atari, boxing has been a constant presence in video games, as would-be heavyweight champions with severe cases of punched-in-the-face-it is grabbed their controllers and stepped into the virtual ring. Sometimes they assumed the role of their favorite champions, be it Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Riddick Bowe, or the late Diego “Chico” Corrales. Sometimes they donned the mantle of fictitious boxers, determined to climb the ranks of Whateverland to become the system’s greatest beltholder. Sometimes they stepped in as virtual renderings of themselves, only to realize why they did not become a boxer in the first place.

Whatever route they take to get to whatever ring they choose, boxing games are undoubtedly one of the most popular sub-genres of sports video games, so we teamed up our Boxing and Games staffs and asked them to name the best boxing video games of all time.


8.) Rocky (2002) – It’s hard to argue the greatness of the Sylvester Stallone boxing cornerstone. Every boxer at some point has wondered how they would look in a pair of stars-and-stripes trunks (and yes, I do have some), and every Italian fighter has tried the Italian Stallion moniker. And although the game fails to be exactly canonical, it does remain fairly true to the story. As Rocky Balboa, your quest takes you through familiar names like Apollo Creed, Ivan Drago, and Clubber Lang, and also lets you pit the famous characters against one another in fantasy matches. Not exactly a must, but a fun one to pick up, especially if you have a thing against Sylvester Stallone and want to watch him purposefully lose over and over.

7.) Riddick Bowe Boxing (1993) – Riddick Bowe’s boxing career was spotted with several “WTF?” moments, ranging from dumping the WBC heavyweight belt in a trash bin, to the notorious “Fan Man.” However, his image graced the sprites of one of the more advanced boxing games of the early ‘90s. Riddick Bowe Boxing was largely a button-masher, but the increasing difficulties in career mode, the two-player capacity, and the advanced Super Nintendo graphics kept the game fun and playable, and has also rekindled the heated rivalry between Boxing/Games editor Ramon and Boxing Video Guy JayPea.

6.) Fight Night 2004 (2004) – I’ll admit, at first when Fight Night 2004 came out, once I got past my initial disappointment of it not being released on GameCube, I sat and wondered, “Well, why re-brand the franchise? Isn’t it essentially the next Knockout Kings?”

Three words, my friends: Total Punch Control. These three words, which allowed the player to fight using only the analog sticks and use the buttons for maneuvering and manipulating punches, revolutionized the boxing video games of today. According to 411Boxing’s Tennessee correspondent Patrick Cassidy, although the career mode and fighter roster left some to be desired, “once you got used to the new system, you were never going back.” True words.

5.) Knockout Kings 2001 (2000) – What made this game great? Roster, roster, roster. All the “Who would win in a fight?” questions could now be played out with a roster including: Muhammad Ali, Butterbean, Evander Holyfield, Rocky Marciano, David Tua, Hector “Macho” Camacho, Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Fernando Vargas, Pernell Whitaker, Diego “Chico” Corrales, Zab Judah, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Sean O’Grady (yes, “The Champ” from USA’s Tuesday Night Fights!), Kevin Kelley, and Erik Morales. Just to name a few.

4.) Fight Night Round 2 (2005) – EA had a big task ahead, having to top the boxing game regarded as the most realistic game of all time and a control system that was “revolutionary.” How do you top it? Give the people more of what they want. This includes amateur fights requiring headgear, the addition of the “Haymaker,” more realistic swelling and cuts, and dirty tactics. Plus, how can you go wrong with ESPN2’s Joe Tessitore? “My take, the best game ever,” says New Jersey correspondent Patrick Mullin. “Plus I never lost with Rocky Marciano.”

3.) Super Punch-Out!! (1994) – When it was announced that there was going to be a sequel to Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! for the Super Nintendo, many scoffed at the idea. “Punch-Out!! with no Tyson? Who wants to play that?”

Many as it turns out. The colorful, fluid graphics, rope-level view of the ring, and fun supporting characters made Super Punch-Out!! an instant hit for the still-young 16-bit system. Though some criticized its easier, more predictable challenge factor, this actually brought more fans to the table as more casual and non-sports game fans found it a relief, having lost many, many bouts on the NES. New Jersey 411Boxing correspondent Jonathan Yaghoubi called it “one of the funnest boxing games ever.” And if we’re allowing incorrect grammar like this, you know it must be true.

2.) Fight Night Round 3 (2006) – Todd Vote of 411Games calls it “the biggest, best baddest boxing game out there,” and the masses seem to agree. “Take the succesful formula of Fight Night‘s innovative controls, slap a coat of polish on the graphics, and you have one of the best boxing experiences ever to enter the digital arena. This game was fun, the knockouts looked brutal, and it was a blast to play.” All around, it stands as the most recent marker of excellence in boxing games. EA continues to set the bar for the next generation to beat.

1.) Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (1987) – The first boxing title to have mainstream popularity is still the best, taking the number one spot in our Standing 8. The storyline is simple. You are Little Mac, and you want to challenge and defeat the heavyweight champion of the (video game) world, Mike Tyson. Fight the right fight with the help of your trainer, Doc Louis, and you get stars which allow you to throw uppercuts. Fight the wrong fight, and Referee Mario (in a guest starring role) will say “No mas” for you.

The play was simple, and the characters were memorable, from Glass Joe to King Hippo to Super Macho Man. But what really sold the game was one computerized “Iron” Mike Tyson. Gamers expect games to get more and more difficult as levels progress, but who knew the then-recognized undisputed heavyweight champion would be so damn dangerous in video games as well? “There is no greater thrill then beating Tyson,” said Jonathan Yaghoubi. Matt Knowles called it “The all-time classic prizefight title, with Iron Mike being, to this day, one of the most difficult ‘boss’ characters to defeat in any game of any genre.” Even some people on both our boxing staff and our games staff admitted their dirty little secret: “I still bust out the old NES from time to time just to try once again to beat Mike Tyson,” said Todd Vote of the 411Games staff. “I still can’t do it, and I am not afraid to admit that.” 411Boxing’s Video Guy JayPea Gonzalez confided, “Here’s a little secret… I never even beat Iron Mike. Yes I suck.”

His frustration is well-founded, as PC World magazine named Mike Tyson as the #25 Most Diabolical Video Game Villain of All Time. GameWad ranked the bout with Tyson #5 in their list of Top 10 Boss Fights. And humor site summed it up best when they ranked the game as the #10 Hardest Video Game of All Time: “When you finally made it to Tyson… no amount of Rocky-inspired runs through the city were going to save you. Mac’s punches have about as much effect on the champ as a stiff breeze, which doesn’t stack up well against his ability to send your teeth flying with little more than a mean thought. Basically you had to withstand a series of withering blows from Tyson, dodging each with perfect precision (if any of his punches landed, you were done) while waiting for a window of opportunity about a quarter-second long to strike back.” They continued to describe the saddest part of the whole thing, as being the moment when you watch “Mac crash to the mat following a thunderous right hook by Tyson and knowing that it was time for him to ‘f*ck you ’til you love it.’ Then, realizing that to get back there you have to box every f*cking one of those guys again. No saves in this game, boys and girls.”

The painful reality, but for those of us who have finished off Tyson, a well, well, WELL deserved victory.


Honorable mention goes to the arcade game MoCap Boxing (2001), Victorious Boxers: Ippo’s Road to Glory (2001), and Ready 2 Rumble (1999).

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Ryan Bates
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