Move Over, Madden: NBA 2K Is The Most Popular Sports Video Game In America

Move Over, Madden: NBA 2K Is The Most Popular Sports Video Game In America
Photo Credit: 2K

As the NBA playoffs roll on, the enthusiasm of basketball fans extends beyond the court. The NFL may be the most popular sport in America, with an average audience totaling 16.7 million people, but Madden NFL isn’t the most popular sports game. Instead, it’s the NBA 2K series of basketball video games, beating out the Madden NFLFIFAMLB The Show, EA NHL, and PGA Tour franchises. 

Sports gaming experts from OHgamblers conducted the recent study by analyzing Google searches, trends, and related data to each sports game across the past 12 months.

The Five Most Popular Sports Games In America

Research reveals that NBA 2K is the most searched sports video game in 31 states. It is most searched for in New York, California, and Massachusetts, where the game was first played in Springfield, Massachusetts, in December of 1891. The NBA Hall of Fame currently resides in Springfield. 

In second place is the Madden NFL franchise, which debuted as John Madden Football in 1998 for the Apple II. It is the most searched-for game in 20 states, including Delaware, Maryland, and Ohio, where the Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton. The series has sold over 130 million copies since 2018. It is the only licensed NFL game since 2004 and is developed by Electronic Arts.

While soccer is the most popular sport globally, the FIFA franchise settles for third place here. It has the third-highest search volume in 33 states. In addition, it’s the second most searched sports video game in seven states, including Illinois, New Jersey, and Oregon. Electronic Arts also develops the FIFA franchise, which will be known as EA Sports FC starting in July 2023. 

Rounding Out The Top Five

MLB The Show, developed by San Diego Studio, a subsidiary of Sony Interactive Entertainment, is next on the list of most popular sports video games in America based on search volume. It is the fourth-highest searched-for game in 37 dates, and the third-most searched sports video game in ten states.

While baseball is often referred to as America’s pastime, this is an example of how sports like basketball, football, and soccer have now eclipsed baseball in popularity. One thing working in favor of MLB The Show recently is the game’s debut on Xbox and Nintendo consoles. Formerly a PlayStation exclusive, MLB The Show 21 was the first game to appear on an Xbox console, with MLB Advanced Media co-publishing the title alongside Sony Interactive Entertainment. MLB The Show 22 marked the franchise’s debut on a Nintendo console the following year. 

Finally, in fifth place is the EA NHL series. The hockey video game is the fourth most popular search in 24 states, including “The State of Hockey,” Minnesota. The NHL video game series debuted in 19991 as NHL Hockey for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. Its high point is arguably NHL 94, often considered one of the best sports video games ever made. For a brief time in the late 2000s and early 2010s, a rival existed between EA NHL and the now-defunct NHL 2K series. 

Of note, the PGA Tour video game series misses out on the top five but appears as the fifth most searched-for sports game in 20 states. In addition, EA F1 also appears as the fifth most searched-for sports video game in two states. 

More About The NBA 2K Series

For over 20 years, NBA 2K has been a video game staple. Its debut outing, 1999’s NBA 2K for the Sega Dreamcast featuring Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson on the cover, was developed by Visual Concepts.

A temporary rebrand occurred in 2003, as the game was then titled ESPN NBA Basketball. For the fifth and final time, Iverson was on the cover. The following year, the game was re-titled ESPN NBA 2K5, with Detroit Pistons star Ben Wallace as the cover athlete. In 2005, the ESPN branding was dropped, and the game was called NBA 2K6, a moniker that remains in place today. NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, then of the Miami Heat, graced the game’s cover. 

The most recent entry in the series, NBA 2K23, is available for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns is the most recent cover athlete.

Other NBA stars gracing the cover of NBA 2K include Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan, and Luka Dončić.

Analyzing The Results

A spokesperson for the study said, “Sports are amongst the most popular genres for video games in America, and this study highlights the most popular sports video games in the country. It’s interesting to see that despite football being the most popular sport in America, for gamers the most popular sports video game is the NBA 2K. Whilst four of the top five video games on this list are all-American sports, FIFA finishes third on this list, supporting soccer’s growing popularity across the United States, the game has been popularized by famous fans such as streamer ishowspeed.”


Written by Jake Valentine

I am the Editor-In-Chief of BossLevelGamer. I'm also a lover of video games, food, and beer.

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