Tennis video games have been around since the very dawn of video game history, with only the second video game every made being a tennis game.
While the first few tennis video games were some of the most popular games at the time, there has never been a tennis title or franchise that has truly managed to capture the excitement and complexity of tennis as a sport the way other games have been able to capture football or basketball.
However, this doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some fantastic tennis titles throughout the years that are sure to have brought tennis fans countless hours of entertainment. From arcade games, to console games, to PC games, to early mobile games and even to the recent tennis themed slots, which you can try out for free at Vikingslots, there have been plenty of games throughout history for tennis lovers to enjoy.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest titles in the history of tennis video games.
From the lab to the living room
The first tennis video game ever created also happens to be only the second video game ever made – and the first created for entertainment purposes. Designed in 1958 by American physicist William Higinbotham, Tennis for Two was conceived to entertain the visitors of the Brookhaven National Laboratory and show them what the computers at the lab were capable of.
Using an oscilloscope as a monitor, the Donner Model 30 analog computer was able to reproduce a side view of a simulated tennis court. A game for two players, each player would use a controller with a button to hit the ball and a knob to control the angle of the shot.
Perhaps the most popular Tennis based game of all time, however, would come into existence 14 years later when in 1972 Atari released the insanely popular Pong (you can play Pong for free at PlayPong). Claiming the honor of being the first sports arcade game of all time, Pong was loosely based on table tennis. Taking the net out of the equation, players would hit a ball back and forth with the paddles until one of the players failed to return the ball back.
With its addictive gameplay, Pong managed to become of the first mainstream arcade hits and even invaded living rooms after being released as a home console in 1975 – the first of its kind.
The home gaming system Tennis revolution
With the 90s brining about a revolution in computer, console and handheld gaming, the gaming industry saw a huge selection of Tennis video games emerge.
It’s impossible to start a conversation about 90s tennis video games without starting with Super Nintendo’s 1991 classic Super Tennis. Featuring 20 male and female players with names curiously similar to top pros at the time, Super Tennis was considered by many the finest sports simulator at its time – thanks to its fast action, intuitive controls, multiple shot types and exhilarating arcade-like gameplay. But what really made Super Tennis truly exceptional was its addictively competitive 2 player mode, which was practically impossible to put down.
After Super Tennis and its generic named players came a myriad of top player licensed titles such as Sega Genesis’ Jennifer Capriati Tennis (1992) with its highly customizable players, the terribly lacking Andre Agassi Tennis (1992), the famously challenging Jimmy Connors Tennis (1993), and well regarded Pete Sampras Tennis (1994), among many others. While many of these are regarded as cynical cash ins, Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras managed to acquit themselves from this charge with games that – while certainly not amazing – gave players their money’s worth.
Search for the successful franchise
Since the start of the millennium several tennis franchises have popped up trying to compete for the title of the Madden of tennis. The first to try and claim this title was Sega’s highly rated Virtua Tennis, released in 2000 for the Sega Dreamcast, which you can play at Vizzed.
One of the most successful tennis franchises of all time, Virtua Tennis opted away from creating a realistic tennis experience and focused its efforts on providing the explosively fun arcade-like experience that Sega games are best known for.
Giving players the ability to pick from a roster of elite tennis players including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and the Williams sisters, as well as tennis legends like Jim Courier, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, Virtua Tennis not only featured a robust career mode and a surreal training mode (which included bowling pins and oil drums), but also introduced online play to the equation.
Another franchise that decided to lean away from the realism and focus on the entertainment factor was the Mario Tennis series, which spans through 7 different consoles. Going for a more cartoon-y look and gameplay, Mario Tennis looked to make tennis a delightfully simple experience by only using 2 different buttons to create up to 7 different shots – including a power shot unique to each character. Mario Tennis also introduced a story mode aspect to its gameplay, often times even including RPG elements in the mix.
But the definitive tennis franchise thus far has to be the Top Spin series. Originally for Xbox, but later expanded to all different consoles, Top Spin is the one series on this list that made it its focus to emulate a game of tennis as realistically as possible.
Featuring licensed venues and the most complete roster of tennis pros ever seen, including all the main active pros as well as legends Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and Boris Becker, Top Spin is structured like a TV broadcast – capturing the feel of watching a game of tennis to a dot.
The latest title in the series, Top Spin 4, even manages to incorporate the PS Move – a motion detector controller – allowing players to move around and emulate the rackets movement – a great improvement on the infinitely more casual and simplistic Wii Sports Tennis.