The NBA 2K series seems to take the basketball world by storm every year, and fans flock to buy the game around the world. Similar to how FIFA dominates the soccer universe, NBA 2K is the undisputed king of all basketball games. The roster updates, gameplay improvements, and unlimited game modes make this franchise the best way for NBA fans to fantasize about professional basketball.
NBA 2K22 was recently released and has met approval from the majority of fans. Next-gen is truly here, and seeing the graphics and gameplay tweaks this year has been truly exciting. But where does NBA 2K22 rank among the best 2K games ever? Here are the rankings of all 2K games, from the very first one until the new September 10, 2021 release.
22. NBA 2K8
NBA 2K8 underdelivered in some aspects, including a ton of misrepresentations with player movement. Large centers could play lockdown defense on the perimeter, and finishing at the rim was a bit annoying due to slower and laggy animations. If 2K corrected these flaws, 2K8 might have been a more solid game but overall, it pales in comparison to the rest of the games that were released.
21. NBA 2K6
With Shaquille O’Neal on the cover for the first of two straight years, 2K6 was not a bad game by any means. The game was lauded for its presentation, soundtrack, and gameplay as NBA 2K started separating itself from every other basketball game. The main issue was the lack of improvement over NBA 2K5, which frustrated some basketball fans.
20. NBA 2K19
NBA 2K19 had some strong aspects, including guest commentators and very solid player faces, but there were simply better games that 2K made. There would be little changes in 2K19 from 2K18, which made it seem like a game that had roster updates and slight changes in player movement. The game was still light years ahead of NBA Live, as the majority of fans would agree.
19. NBA 2K18
NBA 2K18 promised a lot when it came out with Kyrie Irving on the cover, and it was somewhat delivered. The gameplay was solid, as expected with the 2K franchise, but the major addition was “All-time Teams” which had the best players in the history of every NBA franchise. There were slight improvements in gameplay from 2K17 although there were some frustrations with the game’s A.I.
18. NBA 2K20
NBA 2K20 had mixed reviews upon release but ended up being a solid game for NBA fans. After all, there is no other competition with NBA Live falling well short in terms of simulation gameplay and a ton of features. 2K20 was fun for fans to play online as well, and progressing a created player in “MyCareer” might have been the best part.
17. NBA 2K4
ESPN NBA BASKETBALL was essentially NBA 2K4, although the “2K” part of it was missing. As in the case over the last years, Allen Iverson was the esteemed cover athlete. ESPN NBA BASKETBALL introduced some revolutionary systems including enhanced passing, presentation, graphics, and streetball-style features. At the time, this game was truly special.
16. NBA 2K17
With Paul George on the cover, NBA 2K17 promised a ton of new game features which it delivered. The practice facility was fun for new gamers in the series, while the ability to relocate and expand the NBA in player modes was very positively received. The gameplay also shifted to a more 3-point heavy style of play, an indication that simulation basketball was the focus of the game.
15. NBA 2K21
NBA 2K21 introduced some nice features to next-gen systems including varied vibrations in the controllers and also gameplay that represents the modern-day NBA. The only issue was the poor shot meter, which frustrated a ton of fans upon release. But graphics, presentation, and a ton of game modes made 2K21 a solid game despite the poor shooting animations.
14. NBA 2K3
NBA 2K3 had 2K legend, Allen Iverson, on the cover, signaling that this would be a great game upon release. Which it was. With 2K’s first partnership with ESPN, the game took an entirely different look as the presentation was rock-solid. The gameplay was similar to 2K2, although graphics and player movement took a jump as well.
13. ESPN NBA 2K5
This was the first NBA 2K game to not have Allen Iverson on the cover, as this time a heavily-afroed Ben Wallace was the cover athlete. Wallace was arguably the most dominant defender in the league and was a fan-favorite, so he was a solid choice. Nonetheless, 2K5 had strong gameplay and was very affordable for fans at that time upon release.
12. NBA 2K1
While graphics or unlimited game modes are absent from this game when looking back, it changed the quality of basketball games when it came out. NBA 2K1 took the original release and boosted the gameplay entirely while adding real-life landmarks such as Rucker Park. Of course, 2K1 introduced online multiplayer into the basketball series.
11. NBA 2K7
For NBA fans still enjoying the Playstation 2 and even the Playstation 3, NBA 2K7 was a ton of fun. It had very solid gameplay, as usual, and each player’s style was translated well into the videogame. Game modes such as “Association” and “Street Mode” were also welcomed by fans, and it was hard to get bored playing with one of the better video games of the 2000s.
10. NBA 2K10
NBA 2K10 was a decent game, but a large part of the game’s success was having Kobe Bryant on the cover. There were some technical issues upon its release, but the game ended up having favorable reviews from players thanks to the introduction of “MyPlayer”. Because of this mode alone, 2K10 makes the cut in the top-10 because that game mode is still a fan-favorite until now.
9. NBA 2K14
Much like 2K11 did 3 years prior, NBA 2K14 gave the player a chance to relive the career of one of the all-time greats: LeBron James. The “Path to Greatness” mode was very fun to play, reminding NBA fans of the path LeBron took to becoming a special talent and arguably the greatest player of his generation. Other than LeBron’s mode, an amazing soundtrack and Euroleague teams were a massive addition for NBA fans worldwide.
8. NBA 2K15
NBA 2K14 was fun to experience in the “LeBron: Path to Greatness” mode, but 2K15 built a bit more of what was successful. 2K15 improved player movement, faces, and smoothness of gameplay while keeping the majority of the game modes the same. 2K15 was simply a solid game to enjoy every day, and one could hardly ever get bored with it.
7. NBA 2K9
NBA 2K9 was simply fun to play because improved graphics were apparent on the latest consoles including the Playstation 3. Playing defense was fun, whether it was drawing charges or using the right stick to guide the player. 2K9 was also very fun to play thanks to its realism, and half-time shows were a great addition. Having “The Big Ticket” Kevin Garnett on the cover was also a massive plus for NBA fans.
6. NBA 2K13
NBA 2K13 was an interesting game because it had a ton of new features, including having Jay-Z as the producer. Beyond a bumping soundtrack, 2K13 included solid features such as “Shoe Creator” with some recognizable name brands and also an All-Star Weekend. The classic teams were also fun to play with, such as the “Dream Team” and the 2012 USA Team. Having Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and Derrick Rose as cover athletes also made it a modern attraction.
5. NBA 2K22
While it seems very early to place 2K22 very high up on this list, the game is truly magnificent. The graphics are truly next-generation, and there are a ton of offline and online modes for players of all ages to enjoy. 2K22 is very inclusive, meaning die-hard basketball fans and casual players can all enjoy the game the same way, something that most 2K games were not built for in the past. Building off good things from 2K21, 2K22 adds an improved shot meter to match real-life gameplay.
4. NBA 2K12
NBA 2K12 was a really great game, showing improved graphics and giving players more freedom by adding more legends to the franchise. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson were cover athletes of the game which showed 2K’s willingness to strive for perfection. The gameplay was as close to NBA basketball as one could get, and it is absolutely one of the top-5 basketball games ever.
3. NBA 2K2
Whether it was the bumping introduction music or seeing the league MVP in Allen Iverson on the cover, 2K2 was a special game for gamers back in the day. 2K2 was available on Playstation 2, XBOX, and Gamecube which gave NBA fans around the world instant access to one of the best basketball games ever. The game also introduced real-life basketball factors such as defense and shot selection and moved away from the arcadey-feel that most basketball games had at the time.
2. NBA 2K16
Most fans will rave about NBA 2K16 as the game most closely linked to simulation basketball because it incorporated the spread offenses seen in the modern NBA and greater control on defense. Not to mention, 2K16 included the rejuvenation of MyCareer which allowed players the chance to relocate franchises and experience basketball at their own imagination.
1. NBA 2K11
It is only fitting that NBA 2K11 had Michael Jordan on the cover because it was the GOAT of NBA 2K. The game hit a big turning point, including the Chicago Bulls legend on the cover after he had been absent as a playable character for a few years. From the “Jordan Challenge” modes to smooth gameplay, this was the best 2K game from start to finish.
Credit for the pictures: HoopsHype