The 7 best winter sports games ever
Steep has brought winter sports back to consoles, but how does it compare to the classics?
Remember when snowboarding games used to be some of the biggest games around? When 1080 Snowboarding represented N64 against PSone’s Cool Boarders in Nintendo and Sony’s console war, when SSX was the top PS2 launch game…
These days, you’re more likely to see gamers shooting rifles than shooting down the slopes, but Ubisoft's Steep is hoping to get gamers back into boarding again. Of course, the game’s not just about pulling tricks on your snowboard – you can ski, paraglide and try on a wingsuit for size, but it’s great to play a game that’s brought back the extreme thrills (and chills) of the mountain back to our screens.
But how does it compare with other winter sports classics? Here are the seven best winter sports games of all time.
1. SSX 3 (PS2, Xbox, GameCube: 2003)
After nailing over-the-top freestyle in Tricky, SSX 3 took the franchise, very literally, to new heights. Doing away with the carefully constructed linear courses, this ambitious sequel put players on top of a mountain and gave them a gorgeous openworld to explore.
Borrowing the board-press system from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, SSX 3 turned traversing the world into a crazy trickathon, letting gamers rack up impressive scores before they even reached the half-pipe. SSX 3 is still the king of the mountain today.
2. SSX Tricky (PS2, Xbox, GameCube: 2001)
If you ever owned a PS2, the chances are that this is the boarding game that stole your heart. Featuring grin-inducing characters, space-age race tracks and a great soundtrack, SSX Tricky is pure arcade fun.
After the more subdued tone of its predecessor, the sequel introduced gravity-defying uber tricks and ludicrous characters (it’s MOBY baby!), while ingeniously matching every course to an infectious head-bobbing groove.
If you want fast-paced, cartoony thrills, this is the snowboarding genre at its very best. What other games feature voice acting from both Lucy Liu AND Rahzel?
3. Amped 2 (Xbox: 2003)
While most boarders were preoccupied with wacky arcade fun, this Xbox exclusive was one of the few that tried its very best to be cool. Taking inspiration from Tony Hawk’s Underground, this trick-happy boarder tasked wannabe pro riders with tricking their way to fame.
Less concerned with racing, the game’s career mode saw players saving their best gnarly grabs for the photographers littered across every course. The grungey cool combined with an enjoyable sense of progression made Amped 2 a realistic, but enjoyable boarder. If you’re after a spot of trick-tastic bro-boarding then look no further.
4. Steep (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
While fourth on the list, Steep is our first (and last) current-gen entry. Released in December 2016, Ubisoft’s alpine adventure shies away from the genre’s usual linear, arcadey fun and lets you loose on a stunning open-world playground.
Free to switch between skis, a snowboard, paraglider or wingsuit at the press of a button, Steep puts an emphasis on player choice. Boasting different playstyles, Ubisoft allow you to explore The Alps however you see fit, and while its racing mechanics and trick system aren’t the greatest, the sense of scale and freedom that comes from traversing Steep’s peaks make it a unique and absorbing open-world experience.
5. 1080 Snowboarding (N64: 1998)
Back in the ’90s the console wars were in full swing – from racers to platformers and snowboarding games, there were rivalries across many different genres.
Going head to head with Sony’s Cool Boarders on the virtual slopes was this Nintendo-developed snowboarding game. Adopting a more sombre tone than its PlayStation rival, 1080 Snowboarding offered a sense of speed and intricacy that had never been seen before in the genre.
Where Cool Boarders focused on insane five-button tricks, 1080’s impressive physics meant that the game's races were the main event. With different snow types affecting your drifts, local multiplayer is still a pretty intense affair to this day. Well worth a look on the Wii Virtual Console or on the N64.
6. Cool Boarders 3 (N64: 1998)
While many will still have fond memories of the first two games, it’s Cool Boarders 3 that has held up the best. Offering pure arcade tricking thrills, this classic borrowed hours worth of player’s lives with its demanding five-button combo system.
With 13 characters and 11 boards to choose from, this PSone trick-em-up offered a surprising amount of variety at the time. Addictive, challenging and well worth the measly price you’ll find it for today.
7. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games DS (DS: 2009)
Uniting what were once gaming’s greatest rivals, this unlikely mashup sees the Mushroom Kingdom duke it out with Sonic at the Winter Olympics. While the winter sporting festival is always well worth a watch, nothing quite compares to seeing Toad and Tails thrash it out in an intense game of curling.
The DS version may have lacked the local multiplayer of its Wii counterpart, but it actually did many of the sports better. Without the Wiimote waggle, the handheld release offered not only more fun and precision, but also a strangely addictive RPG adventure mode. If you’re looking for winter sports action on the go, then look no further.