Sensible Soccer: The Best Football Game Of All-Time

The ultra realistic modern footie games? No thanks. Sensible Soccer was the footie game series of the 1990s. So good in fact, that teenage boys would even choose to play it ahead of watching Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct...
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The ultra realistic modern footie games? No thanks. Sensible Soccer was the footie game series of the 1990s. So good in fact, that teenage boys would even choose to play it ahead of watching Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct...

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For a golden period between 1992-95 I would sleep over at Rhys’s house almost every Friday night. During these classic coming-of-age adventures, we would usually munch a saveloy and chips - drink chocolate Nesquik - watch Cheers, Roseanne and The Word – study the latest Muddy Fox mountain bike catalogue – stare open mouthed at Rhys’s older sister as she smoked/drank/put on make-up - talk about baseball caps - try and play Batman The Board Game - take turns reading the letters section from old issues of Penthouse – and listen to Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted album or the Boyz N The Hood soundtrack*. The rest of the time we would go into lockdown and crush the hell out of Sensible Soccer on the Amiga – quite simply the greatest football video game series of all time.

Incredible as it may seem to all the young punks of 2013, back in 1992 we didn’t all cruise around maxed up on technology 24/7. In fact, having a number one guy with a computer in his bedroom was the god damn luxury to end all luxuries. The first time we played Sensible Soccer, it was as a free demo taped to the cover of Amiga Format magazine. You could play a two-player match until someone scored, but then the demo would quit and you had to eject it and start again. Annoying. Remember the bedroom creation scene from Weird Science? That’s a bit like what loading up a computer game was like in 1992. No matter, the neat passing, bright colours and clunky sound effects meant we were instantly hooked, and it wasn’t long until we moved on to the full-blown version.

So what made Sensible Soccer such a hot game? Yes, the graphics, titles, and basic camera angle were all ultra stylised and classic 1990’s imagery. But more than that, the actual gameplay was so damn instinctive, you weren’t actually judging the game on what it looked like or how cool it was, but how excited it made you feel. A one-button joystick sports game nowadays might seem inconceivable, but Sensible had a great way of responding to the action like you were really in control. It’s hard to explain what amazing fun that shit was. And unlike today’s football games that all have some weird obsession with realism, Sensible had no desire to appear realistic – it was pure simplicity and efficiency, but mixed in with crazy Faustino Asprilla diving headers, never-ending Phil Babb sliding tackles and wild Gheorghe Hagi style shots from the half way line.

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In later versions, the depth of the various game modes created an unprecedented world of computer football that included all the real world players and competitions. It was the first game to include black and blonde players, and the first to acknowledge countries like Yugoslavia, Poland and Australia even existed in footballing terms. But when you’re 12 or 13 years old, all you really want to do is strip down to your boxer shorts and a Raiders cap and get sweaty with your bro – and that’s where Sensible truly came into its own. As a single player game it was really good (and later became untouchable with the release of Sensible World of Soccer 95-96), but as a two-player experience it was absolutely unbelievable.

Because this was the era of Gazzetta Football Italia, we often got into some epic Serie A grudge match marathons. Rhys would always select Inter Milan (Star player: Ruben “Funkmaster Flex” Sosa), while I always took it to the max as Juventus (Star player: Roberto “Soul Glo” Baggio). The sheer addictive brilliance of this video game in a one-on-one format meant that some nights we would actually decide to just keep on playing match after match, rather than sneak downstairs and watch our pirate VHS copy of Basic Instinct again. If that doesn’t tell you how spectacular a game this was, I really don’t know what does. Once again, I cannot emphasise this enough, sometimes we would choose Sensible Soccer AHEAD of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. That is how much we loved that god damn game.

* Yes, we're white.