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Before FIFA: A History of Football Games and How They Influenced EA

There’s no doubt at all that FIFA is the pinnacle of football games across all gaming platforms. 
 
That translates through its sales figures because it’s become the biggest selling sports franchise ever. Of course, we already know it’s the king of the virtual pitch, so it’s not surprising that football fans (and gamers) have taken it to heart across the world. But when you consider just how many other games there is that feature the sport, it’s even more of a feat. 
 
There is always talk of the next game that will rival FIFA or knock the game off the top spot, and UFL is the latest of those. But also amongst the packed genre, there are many other options for football fans beyond the ultra-realistic simulations. Mobile gamers are loving the flick to kick action on titles like Score! Hero and Super Arcade Football as they make their morning commutes.

There’s a football game nestled amongst the jackpot slots featured on Gala Casino, namely Top Trumps Football Stars, which blends the popular card game and football together in a different experience for fans. It uses images of top players, such as Neymar and Ronaldo, but instead of avoiding duplicates as in FUT, you want to see four in a row! There’s also the game for those who love to control things from the side-line as the Football Manager franchise allows people to be the tracksuit (or suit) wearing orchestrator of their favorite team on mobile. 
 
However, while those titles are on the horizon or are currently available, so many games have been and gone that played the through ball to allow FIFA to smash in the winning goal. Here’s our pick of the games that have influenced FIFA’s development over the years. 
 
International Soccer 

This game, released on the C64, was one of the first hits in terms of football games in the US. International Soccer’s gameplay and animation were so different from previous football games. As a result, it won the certificate of merit at the Arkie Awards, which the popular gaming magazine of the mid-80s, Electronic Games, awarded.

What was notable about this was that it was released during a time when other sports games were proving to be popular. Although the basketball game, One on One, was the hit sports title released at the same time by EA, International Soccer made so much noise it got more people interested in football games than we’d previously seen. It put the game on more consoles than ever before, which fed into the hunger FIFA later satisfied. 
 
Sensible Soccer

At first glance, it might not seem that Sensible Soccer has a link with the FIFA franchise, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s because following the success of the first Madden game released on consoles, EA looked over to see what games were popular in Europe, and Sensible Soccer was THE game to beat in terms of football titles. It was the game that senior EA executives used to indicate how good an idea a football game would be for the company. 
 
Actua Soccer

Actua Soccer was a revolutionary game that goes by the wayside when people look back at football games and, well, looking back at it now wouldn’t leave you surprised at that. However, what’s notable and what it did before FIFA was bringing motion-captured players to a game to add an extra layer of realism, and it all came from a small independent company in a city in the heart of England.

Although the game didn’t outsell FIFA 95, it did enough to turn heads at EA Sports, who introduced motion capture in FIFA 97, and ever since, it’s been a staple of almost every football game. 
 
International Superstar Soccer Pro

While FIFA had the licenses and had raced ahead in the sales charts, ISS Pro came along in the late 90s and really upset the formbook. FIFA was full of high-scoring end-to-end contests, which were thrilling, but they didn’t replicate the beautiful game. This is where ISS prevailed.

It encouraged players to be patient, and use build-up play and passing rather than racing to goal. There was the first introduction of on-the-fly tactical changes and overlapping fullbacks. ISS was the first time anyone had even contemplated there being a true rival to FIFA. 
 
Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 6

This was the first game where player size really could make a difference. Tall, strong players could outmuscle their opponents while smaller, agile players could race onto a through ball like never before. So, it added even more importance to the passing element, rather than just hitting the back of the net, and EA took note.

Within a year, with the release of FIFA 08, the game’s lead designer Gary Paterson, admitted to The Guardian, they were now using a similar concept as designers were looking at creating a game where players would not only pass the ball once but 15 times in order to create space for a shot. 
 
There’s no doubt that FIFA remains the best video game representation of football, but without these above, there’s no doubt that things may have been very different indeed. 

About Christian Silvestri

Content Writer for FIFA Infinity. Passionate about football, FIFA and AC Milan!

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