The best football games bring the Beautiful Game to our consoles, desktops, handhelds and mobile devices with flair and panache. Whether that’s EA Sports’ decade-spanning, genre-defining, FIFA, and its gamified slant on televised sports broadcasting; Sports Interactive’s career coach champion, Football Manager, and its stats-heavy delivery of soccer management; or any one of the best football games you can pick up and play on your phone – we really are spoiled for choice when it comes to kicking a ball.
Like a manager with team selection headaches on the eve of a cup final, whittling the best football games down to one concise list was no easy feat. But we’ve given it our best shot. Without further ado, here are the best football games playing the field in 2022.
10. Football, Tactics and Glory
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
For those of you with just a passing interest in football and football management, Football, Tactics and Glory is for you. It has management simulation elements, sure, but nothing as convoluted or in-depth as Football Manager, and rolls role-playing and turn-based strategy elements into its mix for good measure. Players have individual skill trees too, which gives player selection (and transfers) Darkest Dungeon and XCOM vibes as you invariably get closer to your favourites and begrudge those costing you three points. Released in 2018, Football, Tactics and Glory is now available across PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Those playing on the latter can access a free demo via Steam.
9. Behold the Kickmen
Developer: Size Five Games
Platform(s): PC, Nintendo Switch
A game about football made by someone who has no interest in football is a bit of an oxymoron. As you might expect, it’s also a bit of a piss-take, and while teetering close to the condescension levied at football supporters from the upper classes – certainly in the UK – Behold the Kickmen does a fine job of taking the piss out of passionate football fans without causing too much offence. All told, it’s a tongue-in-cheek, outwardly facetious throwback to old-school, top-down, arcadey footie sims, filled with deliberate errors and inaccuracies which, ultimately, is really good fun. The most unlikely, and yet one of the most deserving, games to be included on this list.
8. Lords of Football
Developer: Geniaware srl
Maradona. Messi. Ronaldo. Pele. The greats of the game are said to transcend mere mortality, but only you are God in Lords of Football. With a sprinkling of Football Manager, PES’ old-school Master League, FIFA’s Ultimate Team, and The Sims, Lords of Football puts you in charge of every single element of your team and the goings on around your club – both on and off the pitch. Life simulation-meets-football management is probably the best catch-all term for it, but there’s as much Big Brother-like voyeurism here as there is willing your players to train well and push for a place in the starting 11. Launched in 2013, Lords of Football isn’t exactly new, but it’s a novel take on the formula that’s definitely worth your time.
7. Score! Hero
Developer: First Touch Games
Platform(s): iOS, Android
Score! Hero is a free-to-play mobile football game about nurturing and developing a young fledgling footballer on their path to international superstardom. In doing so, you’ll work through a multitude of increasingly difficult, multi-tiered levels where attacking scenes are paused, and players must drag their finger to simulate the path of the ball – in order to complete successful passes, score goals, and, ultimately, progress to the next stage. In doing so, Score! Hero is as much a puzzle game as it is a football simulator, and with limited lives and a whole suite of unlockable customisation options, it’s proper moreish.
6. Top Eleven
Platform(s): PC, iOS, Android
Top Eleven has been ruling the virtual dugout for over a decade, and it’s no surprise. As a virtual management simulator it shares the same DNA as Football Manager, but makes no claims to be as in-depth or sophisticated. Instead, it offers a distilled, free-to-play version of the process and, given it can be enjoyed on your browser and mobile phone on the go, it’s all the better for it. Placing a greater onus on training over tactics, we could say Top Eleven has its eye on the fast-flowing, high-pressing football that managers like Jurgen Klopp and Brendan Rodgers have popularised in recent years, but it’s more likely this choice is design-related. Either way, Top Eleven is great at what it does.
5. Super Arcade Football
Developer: OutOfTheBit Ltd
Platform(s): PC, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android
With Sociable Soccer – the spiritual successor to Sensible Soccer that was launched on Steam’s Early Access programme in 2017, before being pulled and signed exclusively by Apple Arcade – not due until later this year, Super Arcade Football is a more than worthy substitute. Drawing from the Sensi-era of top-down, arcade football sims while adding its own off-the-wall slants – not least teleports and bouncy walls, it’s fast and furious, and, crucially, fun!
4. Championship Manager 01/02
Developer: Square Enix, Sports Interactive
Easily one of the best football management simulators the world has ever seen. Now over 20 years old, it is, of course, well out of date (seriously, some of the Premier League’s best young stars weren’t even born when the management sim first hit store shelves). But, thanks to some resilient hobbyist die-hards, Champ Man 01/02 can be played as freeware on PC today, complete with today’s players and opposition managers. The internet is often a terrible place when it comes to virtual football discourse, but in this instance, it’s played an absolute blinder.
3. Rocket League
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Hang on… cars? Cages? Giant balls? What’s going on here, then? It might better reflect Robot Wars or BattleBots at first glance, but Rocket League is a unique spin on football that’s as entertaining as it can be addictive. By fusing real-world football elements – formations, tactics, high-balls, aerial and ground duals – with over-the-top racer/destruction derby video game features – power-ups, cosmetics, and, like, the ability to temporarily fly through the air – Rocket League ticks all the boxes. First launched in 2015, developer Psyonix has and continues to provide a stream of wholesome updates and content drops, something that’s enjoyed by casual and competitive players alike.
2. Football Manager 2022
Developer: Sports Interactive
Platform(s): PC, Xbox Series X
The Special One of football management simulators, Football Manager is, simply, the GOAT of its genre. So good is FM, in fact, that its constant presence in Steam’s top-10 most played list is reflected by each season’s latest iteration – whereby the previous year’s instalment only ever drops out when a new game is launched. At times it’s as much a data-management video game as it is a football coaching simulator, but that’s only testament to the reams of stats, numbers, and variables Football Manager possesses – wherein you can micromanage everything from transfers to training regimes, youth coach recruitment, and how much money your football club’s board allocates to maintaining facilities. A new Deadline Day system was introduced to FM 2022, and it is anxiety-provoking, nail-bitingly wonderful.
1. FIFA 22
Developer: EA Sports
Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
FIFA is, and at this rate probably always will be (sorry PES/eFootball), the best simulation of football on the market. The purest simulation of football would, surely, be viewed through the eyes of one player at pitch-level, but FIFA’s scope for replicating the broadcast experience – shiny text and player graphics, stats breakdowns, engaging commentary, and all – is second to none. In his FIFA 22 review, GamesRadar+’s Ben Wilson hailed it as EA’s best football simulation in years – in part due to its 700 teams, 17,000 players and the fact that its Create-a-Club features bolster its Career Mode – but said the the long-standing series’ latest instalment is now too obsessed with Ultimate Team’s pay-to-win mechanics.