Click and Score: The Short History of Soccer Video Games


While we have no way of knowing where the evolution of video games will stop, it’s probably safe to say that a new game mode and the stylish presentation that’s catapulted the FIFA series to fame are standout features of FIFA 18. The game is as exciting and realistic as a video game can be, offering players a unique experience and countless hours of gameplay to dive into. What few of its younger players know is that FIFA 18 is the result of a long evolutionary process that started in the late 1960s.

Before the 1970s, video games were mostly text-based and ran on university mainframes. Arcades were populated by electro-mechanical games, many of them based on sports like racing and soccer – like Taito’s Soccer Special released in 1967. After Pong pushed video games to the mainstream, several similar ball-and-paddle games inspired by sports appeared, including Taito’s Davis Cup, a tennis game, and Soccer, both released in 1973. The game was for two players controlling two paddles each, representing a forward and a goalkeeper. This was the first true video game inspired by association football. Both games were designed by Tomohiro Nishikado, famous for creating Space Invaders.


The next major landmark in the evolution of soccer video games was Exciting Soccer, released by Alpha Denshi in 1983. The game featured six teams the players could choose, the possibility of tackling, shooting, passing, as well as corner kicks, throw-ins, penalty shots, and even had cheerleaders. Other influential games released around the same time were Data East’s Pro Soccer and Commodore’s International Soccer.

In a couple of years, a new generation of soccer games saw the light of day: Tehkan World Cup, one of the first multiplayer titles. It had a fairly realistic gameplay, with the controller’s trackball used for direction and speed and a specific button used for shooting. Video games kept evolving in the coming years, improving their graphics and controls. By 1990, when Taito’s Football Champ was released, competitive and cooperative multiplayer became available. In Football Champ, players could also perform special actions like heel kicks, high kicks, sliding tackles, and could even foul other players. And they could even get away with them when the referee wasn’t looking. Later, the first 3D soccer game, Sega’s Virtua Striker was released, followed by Gremlin Interactive’s Actua Soccer series to be launched on gaming consoles. In the years that followed, extreme sports games received most of the attention, until EA Sports began striking licensing deals with various sports leagues in 2004 – a move that marked the beginning of the modern era of sports simulators.

EA has been creating soccer simulators since the early 1990s. Its first FIFA game was FIFA International Soccer or FIFA 94, as it is sometimes referred to, launched close to the Christmas of 1993. It was the first game with an isometric view, it featured national teams and no real player names. It was a major success, ensuring the continuation of the series. A new FIFA game was released in every year, and a mobile version of the game was also added to the mix in 2017. And all this culminated in the release of FIFA 18 this year.