A year on from the first winter World Cup in Qatar, we're reminiscing on the best World Cup video games of all time.
In total there are nine official World Cup games, the oldest being Italia 90 on the Sega Megadrive, going all the way through to last year's World Cup 2022 game mode from EA Sports. You'd best believe we are going to detail and rank each one.
Gamers, prepare for a blast of nostalgia.
Ranking the best World Cup video games of all time
#9 - World Cup USA '94 - Sega Megadrive/SNES
Last place on our list goes to the official game of the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Developed by U.S.Gold for the Sega Megadrive and Super Nintendo, this was the studio's second attempt at an official World Cup game.
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a let down compared to the Italia 90 game, which features much higher on this list.
The birds-eye view of the pitch and the top of your player's heads is iconic for the Megadrive, and this particular game introduced little animated referee windows which popped up any time he made a decision. They were a tad annoying.
Gameplay-wise USA 94 wasn't that bad, but it wasn't enough of an improvement over Italia 90, which came 4 years before it, this is one of the main reasons for it's place at the bottom of the pile.
#8 - 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany - Xbox 360/PS2/Gamecube
EA Sports' first entry in this list is a game from the "dark ages" of FIFA's lifespan, when Pro Evolution Soccer was the undisputed king of soccer video games.
2006 FIFA World Cup was released at an awkward time for games consoles, as the Xbox 360 had recently launched but the Playstation 3 was not yet available outside of Asia. Therefore EA released two different versions, one for the older generation of consoles, and one for the Xbox 360.
FIFA games were not a "must own" game at the time the way they soon became. The graphics were odd, players always looked kind of ill, and the mechanics of the game resulted in a much more sluggish representation of footy than the PES games did at the time.
Online play and leaderboards were the main attraction, as well as the availability of 127 teams to play through the qualifying and World Cup finals tournament, but really this game didn't live up to the tournament it was representing.
#7 - 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea & Japan - PS2/Xbox/Gamecube
Another EA Sports game which faced stiff competition from other football games was the official game of the 2002 World Cup.
A mixture of the engines used for FIFA 2002 and FIFA 2003 gave us this solid effort, which came just before the explosion of Pro Evolution Soccer into the mainstream, and alongside the cult classic This Is Football series.
2002 FIFA World Cup always looked a bit odd. Player's heads, the ball, and the goalframe looked absolutely massive, and the gameplay was criticised for feeling like it was "on rails", a common complaint for EA Sports games at the time.
Still, Niall Quinn and Jason McAteer were complete beasts in this game, so it makes it into the top 5.
#6 - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar (FIFA 23 add-on)
With the 2018 World Cup in Russia, EA Sports began a new policy for their major tournament games. Instead of releasing a standalone game for each one, the tournament would simply be added as free DLC in that year's version of FIFA.
It saved a good bit of money for gamers, but it also meant that the gameplay features were somewhat more limited in the World Cup mode, and that was felt particularly keenly in last year's game.
Only two of the stadiums used at the World Cup were included in the Qatar 2022 update, and there wasn't too much in the way of new game modes. The solid gameplay of FIFA 23 keeps this from around the bottom of the pile, but it was still underwhelming.
#5 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia (FIFA 18 add-on)
Much the same as the entry ahead of it on the list, the 2018 World Cup game was released as a free add-on to FIFA 18.
It suffered from the same pitfalls that befell the 2022 game, but it did have all of the stadiums used in the 2018 tournament.
Given the games were virtually the same in terms of features, and FIFA 18 was a solid instalment in the series, the 2018 version ranks ahead of '22 purely for being more true to the real-world tournament.
#4 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil - Xbox 360/PS3
Coming in just outside the top 3 is Brazil 2014. Whereas most games on this list had stiff competition in the football video games market, Brazil 2014 had none, apart from FIFA 14 - which was almost the exact same game.
EA Sports made the controversial decision to ignore the shiney new Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles, and only release the game for PS3 and Xbox 360, which is understandable as most gamers have not yet made the leap to next-gen, but it was still disappointing none the less.
Gameplay-wise 2014 FIFA World Cup was almost identical to FIFA 14, with changes to the speed of the game and new skill moves being the only noticable differences. That is not to say it was a bad game, but the Xbox One/PS4 version of FIFA 14 was significantly better than the 360/PS3 version - which was beginning to feel a little bit stale.
The Road to Rio mode was entertaining, and the Online World Cups were a great challenge. Decent game, room for improvement.
#3 - World Cup France 98 - Playstation/Nintendo 64
Who could forget loading up the World Cup 98 game for the first time and being blasted by Chumbawumba's iconic vocals "I GET KNOCKED DOWN!", which no doubt made the intro for World Cup France 98 the most watched intro ever.
Released on Playstation and N64, France 98 was built on EA Sports' critically acclaimed engine which powered FIFA 98, an iconic football video game (I hope you loved the indoor football as much as I did). The gameplay was very similar to FIFA 98, if not a little more frantic, and little details like a man of the match award were added to give more of a tournament feel.
The game wasn't stacked with features, but World Cup 98 was so damn playable. Hours were lost trying to take Ireland to glory, and "winner stays on" sessions were seemingly endless, with Tony Cascarino absolutely lethal. Great game.
#2 - World Cup Italia '90 - Sega Megadrive
If you owned a Sega Megadrive, chances are you owned Italia 90.
For many people in the UK and Ireland, Italia 90 came bundled with the Sega console as one of a number of games on one cartridge, along with the likes of Sonic, Moto GP, Golden Axe, Columns, and the daddy of them all, Streets of Rage II. Italia 90 was this video game lover's first taste of virtual football, and I loved every minute of it.
Made by U.S.Gold, like USA 94, Italia 90 was a top-down, birds-eye view soccer game with amazingly 90's menu music and a weird Schwarzenegger-esque grunt that greeted the player on the press start screen. Minimalism at its finest, Italia 90 was a no-frills, frantic, football game.
Does anyone else recall the one stock image that used to flash up when a goal was scored? The same picture of a player running off in celebration, only the colour of his clothes altered to reflect the team he was playing for. Brilliant.
#1 - 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa - Xbox 360/PS3/Wii
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa may still be the best EA Sports football game ever made - in fact, it still ranks among the greatest football games made by any studio.
The game came out at a great time for EA Sports, as disgruntled PES fans were looking for a new football game after giving up on the terrible PES 2008 and PES 2009 games. EA was slowly stealing the fan base, after FIFA 08 and 09 laid the foundation. FIFA 10 was a huge hit, and 2010 World Cup South Africa built on that success with a beautifully balanced football game.
The true beauty of this football game was that, for the first time, the emotion of the World Cup was accurately represented. Crowd shots of wild celebrations, and the unique way the camera zoomed in on goal celebrations gave the player an emotional link to the action.
The online modes were fantastic, the Online World Cup was introduced and many hours were lost trying to bring the likes of Burundi, Papa New Guinea, and Andorra to World Cup glory.
Offline multiplayer was also excellent (thanks largely to the penalty shootout system) and the qualification campaigns were epic, with every team who tried to qualify playable in game.
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, #1 in our list of the best official World Cup video games.
The original version of this article was written by Mikey Traynor in 2014.