It’s time to get that shot in from downtown as we check out the best PS4 basketball games!
The fast pace and relatively small team sizes of basketball makes it a great sport to adapt as a video game – though numerous other sports work well, as you can see on our best sports games on PS4 list.
The huge popularity of the NBA – in the US particularly, though it does extend worldwide – also means that there are legions of fans who are always keen to take their favourite teams and players through their paces in video game form too!
There are two franchises that dominate basketball games on the PS4: EA’s NBA Live and 2K’s NBA 2K series – though there’s also a few other underdogs that might occasionally get their shot.
Which are the best though?
Let’s find out, as we check out the best PS4 basketball games!
Though this list is dominated by NBA licensed games from just a few annually released series, we here at Retro Dodo wanted to make sure we made room for this somewhat unusual basketball game.
Even though it’s not the best title out there, we have to give credit to the developers for at least trying something new – and bringing some fun back to the court, given how serious and realism-focused most basketball games are (though of course this type of over-the-top basketball game isn’t a new concept – even Mario tried it in Mario Sports Mix, which you’ll see on our best Mario games on Nintendo Wii list)!
3on3 Freestyle is a free-to-play street basketball game that – unusually – gives players control of a single character on the court.
You can play 1vs1 – as in, one human player vs another human player, each with two AI team mates – or jump into a 3vs3 game with each slot occupied by human players.
Being free to play, naturally there’s a grind to earn currency and improve your player’s stats or buy cosmetics.
Of course, there’s also the option of purchasing in-game currency with real world cash, which is always a temptation in this sort of game.
The visuals are nicely stylised and cartoony – and 3on3 Freestyle plays pretty well too.
It’s a simple, arcadey take on basketball – but, in a genre that often takes itself very seriously, it’s a breath of fresh air.
Though it isn’t the only light-hearted, arcade-style basketball game in town – as you’ll see if you keep reading our best PS4 basketball games list!
Though here we were bemoaning the fact that basketball games take themselves too seriously and that arcade style experiences were thin on the ground – yet here’s another example of a PS4 basketball game that aims for fun, rather than pure authenticity and realism!
In the 90s, NBA Jam filled that very specific, over the top, super move-filled sports game niche with aplomb (and you’ll find it on our best Sega Genesis games list), but in recent years there really hadn’t been much else like it.
That is, until NBA Playgrounds came along.
Accessible, fun and welcoming, NBA Playgrounds lacks polish but it is a game that’ll appeal to pretty much all ages – and, just like NBA Jam decades ago, is likely to draw in players who aren’t even basketball fans.
It’s even got a surprisingly large roster of players to collect – with its official NBA license granting access to a wide range of current and former players, each of which can be taken online or played in single player and local multiplayer modes too.
Though it certainly doesn’t have the glitz, glamour and full on presentation of its more serious simulation style big brothers, NBA Playgrounds is a decent game that has perhaps been unfairly overlooked.
Given EA’s dominance elsewhere in sports games – which has been the case for many years – it might seem strange to outsiders that they are currently the underdog when it comes to basketball games.
For years, NBA 2K games have absolutely dominated the video game basketball scene – but EA’s NBA Live series has also produced some great experiences.
Weirdly though, they’re not even regular annual releases. You can’t get less EA-esque than that!
Perhaps the strongest entry in recent memory, NBA Live 19 brings an embarrassment of riches to the table.
One key aspect that needs to be mentioned is the inclusion of fully licensed female WBNA teams – which for the most part are ignored elsewhere.
It’s good to see some representation in a basketball game – that kind of inclusion is sorely lacking in sports games, which have been slow to catch up in that regard.
Of course, that’s not all – a career mode (known as The One), street basketball (in 3 on 3 and 5 on 5 variants) and a brilliant new mode called Court Battles, which introduces wild, bespoke rule changes to the game, are all present and make NBA Live 19 a brilliantly well rounded experience.
So here we are with another NBA Jam-inspired basketball game: this time, it’s the sequel to NBA Playgrounds.
As mentioned in our entry for the first game, it’s surprisingly difficult to find a basketball game that you can just pick up and play.
Yet the NBA Playgrounds titles really do bring that element of instant, accessible and silly fun back.
A stronger and much more polished game than its predecessor, NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 features another sizable roster of contemporary and historical basketball legends – 300 at launch and a further 200 added post-launch in updates – to unlock and play as, each with their own stats and customisation options.
Christmas, Halloween and even Valentine’s Day themed basketball courts were added in updates too!
2K’s involvement this time around also allowed for a bit more authenticity and the use of likenesses – along with music – that 2K had the licenses for.
All in all, NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is definitely the game of choice for players who aren’t interested in getting to grips with super serious, deep sim-style basketball games!
It’s right about now on the best PS4 basketball games list that you’ll see the absolute dominance of 2K’s main series of NBA titles!
The first NBA 2K game released on the PS4, this was a title that certainly turned heads with its then-next gen looks back in 2013.
Not only did LeBron James feature on the cover, but he also curated the licensed in-game soundtrack!
New additions to the series as of 2K14 included Euro League teams and an additional mode called ‘The Park’ – in which players could take their MyPlayer custom creations online and hang out with up to 100 other players.
Also new to the series was a very welcome Training Camp tutorial mode, which helps ease the learning curve for new players.
Impressively, over 50 hours (!) of commentary was recorded for the game by announcers Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg, and Steve Kerr.
Despite being a decade old, NBA 2K14 is still one of the best PS4 basketball games!
It was always going to be hard to top the brilliance of NBA 2K16, particularly with regards to its MyCareer mode (as you’ll see when you get further down the best PS4 basketball games list!) – but NBA 2K17 is another strong entry in the series.
There’s a real focus on improving the gameplay in this series entry, with particular accuracy on dribbling and jump shots becoming possible thanks to its refinements.
Though the MyCareer mode isn’t as strong as it was in NBA 2K16, it’s still an excellent and compelling way to play – and, notably, it features actor Michael B. Jordan too!
Not to mention that there’s also the strategic, managerial MyGM mode – which is fantastic – as well as incredibly robust online play.
NBA 2K17 also has particularly strong and varied commentary too, which puts most other sports games – let alone basketball games – to shame!
The very first game in the 2K series to feature all 12 of the WNBA teams (which demonstrates how far behind the 2K games were in comparison to EA’s NBA Live, in this respect at least), NBA 2K20 is yet another incredibly strong entry in the series.
Again, it must be said that the MyCareer mode is a highlight; this time around, a genuinely impressive voice cast was assembled – and it features the talent of Idris Elba, Rosario Dawson, Ernie Hudson, Mark Cuban and other actors too!
Creation tools for your own personalised player have also been expanded – and players can even improve their stats by working out at their team’s training facility!
For a few years, the NBA 2K games had featured historically noteworthy NBA teams alongside contemporary lineups and 2K20 is no different in this regard, featuring six teams – including the 2015 Cleveland Cavaliers and 2013 San Antonio Spurs.
It’s another impressive, industry-leading release that definitely earns its place on the list of the best PS4 basketball games!
Though more fully featured and evolved in its PS5 incarnation, NBA 2K21 is still a superb basketball video game on the PS4.
There is the sense that 2K took an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to the PS4 NBA 2K21, but when the foundations are so solid, can you blame them?
The presentation and production values are, as always, second to none. MyCareer and MyGM modes appear as usual, though it’s a little strange that creating a female basketball player is locked to the next gen (ie PS5 and Xbox Series) versions.
It’s another strong entry in the 2K series, which would see its swansong – and one of its strongest entries overall – just a year later with NBA 2K22.
Speaking of which, shall we check out NBA 2K22 in the next entry on our best PS4 basketball games list?
You’ll note from the rest of the best PS4 basketball games list that not all 2K games are made equal and not every single entry in the series is a slam dunk.
Some have been omitted due to their lack of changes from one year to the next, others may not appear because 2K – like many big publishers – went all in on mictrotransactions in certain years and damaged the reputation of the series as a result.
Despite this, even incremental improvements – and a step away from trying to fleece players out of even more cash, even though microtransactions are still embedded in NBA 2K22 – can make a difference.
Steps were taken to make NBA 2K22 feel fresh even after its release too, with the soundtrack updated as new songs were released.
Of course, all of the usual features and modes were also included in NBA 2K22; if you’re a basketball fan and you needed to have all of the current team rosters and updates, then of course you would have moved from NBA 2K21 to 2K22 with no second thought.
It helps that by this game, the 2K basketball titles really had cemented themselves as by far the strongest and best basketball games available.
So successful and well received, in fact, that 2K had pretty much driven their strongest competitor – EA’s NBA Live games – out of the market entirely, with the final NBA Live game having arrived in 2018 (NBA Live 19) and NBA Live 20 being cancelled the following year!
It’s not often that a Hollywood legend gets involved with video game development, but it’s always big news when it happens.
Think Guillermo del Toro’s involvement in Death Stranding, Clive Barker lending his horror expertise to Jericho or even Steven Spielberg partnering with EA on the Boom Blox games (which you can see on our best Nintendo Wii party games list).
It’s even rarer for this to happen in the world of sports games – yet iconic director/producer/actor Spike Lee was heavily involved in the creation of the MyCareer mode in NBA 2K16!
Lee – a lifelong basketball fan – brought a real authenticity to the MyCareer mode, filming real, young basketball players as they played in school and college games.
Plenty of other improvements and additions were made to NBA 2K16, making it easily one of the best NBA 2K games on the PS4 – and a more than worthy entry for the number one spot on our best PS4 basketball games list!
Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.