Since the beginning of time with video games, there has been a tennis connection. Some of the earliest versions of video games were based on the game of tennis, and things have evolved nicely over the years.
From one of the very first popular multiplayer games to the current generation, below is a list of the seven best ever created. The early options might not seem as great as they were during their run, but they served as a great option for its time.
For platform-specific recommendations, check out one of these posts:
- Best Tennis Games on PS4
- Best Tennis Games on PC
- Best Tennis Games on Xbox One
- Best Tennis Games on Nintendo Switch
- Best Tennis Games on Nintendo Wii
1. Super Tennis
- Released: 1991
By the early 1990s, video games really started taking off. People were very interested in playing different types of games all the time, and graphics are getting to the point where it looks like a game.
One of the first to really break through as a game that people thoroughly enjoyed was Super Tennis in 1991. There were 20 different players in the game, and although they didn’t have the official names of top players, everyone knew who they represented.
What this game really nailed was the ability to play either against a human or a computer opponent. Tennis has always shown to be a very competitive game in a video game world when going against a human and trying to beat them. The game was pretty fast-paced and had solid graphics for the time. The physics was so much better than any tennis game before that time, which made it a bit more realistic.
Comparing Super Tennis to a game today is going to obviously not hold up particularly well, but it’s still a nostalgic game that people will play from time to time. It is an essential piece of tennis video game history, as it ushered in new technology and set up many popular games that were released in the 1990s.
Games such as Jennifer Capriati Tennis, Andre Agassi Tennis, Jimmy Connors Tennis, and even Pete Sampras Tennis all had a big-time pro endorsing the game. They didn’t quite match the same level as the original though, which takes the prize as the best from that era.
- Released: 1972
The video game Pong is simple enough, but when it first hit the scene in 1972, people were amazed. For one of the first times ever, there was a legitimate video game available that could be played at an arcade or on early computers at home.
Of course, the game of Pong is not exactly like tennis, as there are some differences to keep in mind. It’s a simple game of rallying back-and-forth, but the ball speeds up the more extended the rally is. Think of it as a combination of tennis and air hockey for a better understanding.
To this day, people still play very long against others. It will remain a classic for years to come, and it proves that in some cases, the most basic game can be extremely challenging.
3. Virtua Tennis
- Released: 1999
By the end the 1990s, tennis games weren’t exactly progressing like other sports games out there. The video game enthusiasts around the world were looking for something to take tennis to the next level and encourage people to play consistently against human and computer opponents.
There has always been a tough balancing act between real tennis, and an arcade type of tennis. What made Virtua Tennis unique is that they had some of the most realistic-looking players and courts ever, but they made gameplay rather arcade-ish.
The move brought in not only tennis players, but those looking for a casual type of game that was easy to learn. They wanted to make it a very arcade-like experience so people can play quick matches without knowing all the different types of shots in tennis.
Another great thing about this game was the fact that they spent some money to get some pretty big names in tennis at the time. Players such as Patrick Rafter and Tim Henman made the men’s list, while women in the game included Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles, and more.
In the last release of Virtua Tennis, known as Virtua Tennis 4, the game looked as realistic as ever. There will always be some people who want a more realistic game, but it’s still fun and quick to play.
4. Mario Tennis
- Released: 2000
If Virtua Tennis is considered an arcade experience, Mario Tennis takes that to another level. There is no doubt that tennis is a little bit different when playing with Mario and his friends on Nintendo.
For some people, this is their main introduction to the sport of tennis in the first place. It is fun to play with a group of friends, and many people like to play against the computer as well. It is challenging enough to bring people back, even if it doesn’t quite represent how tennis is played.
There are a ton of power-ups and other tricks to learn to really excel at the game. Think of it as a casual game linked to tennis, and nothing more than that. It is not going to win over purists, but it is a video game that people should have a lot of fun playing.
5. Wii Tennis
- Released: 2013
When the Wii was first released, there were a few games that came along with every console. Some people were blown away with this technology from the very beginning, as players could get a bit of a workout while playing video games. The movement controls were the first of their kind, and although this might not be the best tennis game, it was the most accessible.
Every single person who had a Wii played Wii Tennis at least once. It is a game that is fairly simple, and the graphics leave a lot to be desired.
People would use their likeness to play either singles or doubles, and the controls with the Wii perfectly fit into what Nintendo was trying to accomplish. The controller feels a lot like a tennis racquet, and it just made a lot of sense.
EA Sports released Grand Slam Tennis on the Wii at a later time, and most will agree that is the superior game when using motion controls. Not only do they have actual pro players, but the controls were a little more complex.
It was also easier in general to get a more realistic type of game. However, not nearly as many players played this game, so for the casual fan, Wii tennis is going to be solid enough.
6. Topspin 4
- Released: 2011
In 2011, what would ultimately be the most recent release of Topspin as a series came to all of the major consoles. Topspin 4 is a beautiful game for people who want a realistic experience. It has long thought of itself as the leader in realistic gameplay, and that certainly hasn’t changed.
Topspin always has one of the widest range of players to choose from when playing the game. Players can use current or retired men and women on tour, and they can also create their own players as well.
What makes Topspin 4 the best of the bunch is that it has amazing graphics, realistic gameplay, and it gets why people like tennis for what it is. A casual player might think that it is a bit too hard to pick up and learn all the different shots.
The learning curve is somewhat frustrating, but when looking at other sports games, the best all have that problem. This is more of a game for the hardcore fan, and that’s why so many people still play the game today. Pretty impressive for a game that was released almost a decade ago. It’s unclear whether or not there will be a Topspin 5, but until then, the game of choice for many is still Topspin 4.
7. AO Tennis
- Released: 2020
Video gamers have felt deprived of tennis games on the current generation of video game consoles. Maybe the market just isn’t big enough to support a major release, but for those people who like tennis video games, it’s been tough.
AO Tennis is trying to change all that with their independent release. Big Ant Studios has always had a focus on some of the smaller sports, and they have now released two versions of their game in consecutive years. It might not be perfect, but it’s a game for the current generation that gets a lot of things right.
For starters, it’s fun to play with license pros, and the list has become quite extensive. Not only that, but they have full licensing for the Australian Open, so that makes play look impressive as well on the blue courts.
There’s a lot of customization, so players can create pros or download venues shared by others in the community. It’s not perfect, but it helps to round out the roster and make actual realistic tournaments. While there might only be 20 or 25 actual pros in the game, this allows people to grow it a bit more.
Since Big Ant Studios has a few limitations as a smaller company, it’s not as polished as Topspin or even Virtua Tennis for that matter. With that said, plenty of praise has been handed out for their ability to bring the sport to consoles.
They have listened to feedback and improved the game, as AO Tennis 2 is considered a vast improvement. It remains to be seen if they will continue to release this game every year, but it certainly is off to a good start.
Hard To Get A Full Licensed Tennis Video Game
When people look at video games depicting other sports, virtually every team and player from a particular league are in the game. Take the NBA, for instance. Not only do players get a chance to play with every single current team and player, but there are hundreds of retired players in the game as well.
The same goes for every venue around the world. It’s much easier to get a single license for the entire NBA, rather than going to all the different countries and getting venue licenses. Grand Slam Tennis is the only game to find a way to license all four majors, but they were missing plenty of big venues outside of the grand slams.
The Future Of Tennis Video Games
The outlook isn’t the greatest for tennis video games at this point. It seems to be a niche sport more than anything, which makes it difficult for people to spend a lot of money to develop. There hasn’t been a single major release on the current generation of consoles, and that doesn’t bode well for the next generation either.
AO Tennis deserves praise for pushing forward and doing the best they can, but a lot of people are still holding out hope that Electronic Arts or 2K steps in and tries a video game for tennis in the future.
From a gameplay perspective, things are evolving to a certain degree. It seems like most players are still looking for true realistic gameplay, but it certainly has come a long way since the early days. Graphics are also improving, so slowly but surely, the evolution of tennis video games is beginning to catch up with the rest of the sports world.