Boxing is a sport with a long and storied history. It’s not really possible to prove whether prehistoric cultures engaged in sports akin to boxing, although since playfighting for fun is a common sight among many animals it’s not impossible to imagine. The Ancient Greeks believed that boxing was a sport played by the gods atop Mount Olympus, and the Romans altered the sport with leather hand coverings and more violent rules.
Today, boxing is a much less brutal and much more sporting discipline. Most boxing takes place under Queensberry Rules, named after the Marquess of Queensberry, who refined many of the sport’s more bloody aspects and made it into the gentlemanly pursuit many know it as today. Just like many sports, boxing is well-represented in the video game sphere, with major publishers and unknowns alike lending their expertise to digital representations of the sport. Here are the games that put the “box” in “Xbox One”. Pickings are unfortunately a bit slim on Microsoft’s old faithful, but there’s plenty of old favourites and newcomers alike to choose from.
This one isn’t a boxing game, strictly speaking – although boxing is one of the disciplines represented in EA’s official UFC game, it’s not the only one, UFC being a mixed martial arts promotion and all. EA Sports UFC 3 is, as the title would suggest, the third in the series, and carries with it an endorsement from fan favourite fighter Conor McGregor. A new “G.O.A.T” (Greatest Of All Time, for the uninitiated) career mode allows players to immerse themselves fully in UFC culture, while an overhauled fighting engine provides the most realistic representation of MMA fighting available in a video game. To top it all, EA Sports UFC 3 has a whopping 234 fighters to choose from across 10 weight classes, so you’ll never need to worry about your favourite being represented here. A boxing game alone this is not, but it’s still a superlative sports game and one of the few Xbox One-specific boxing titles available.
Okay, this one’s an Xbox 360 game, but believe it or not we’ve already pretty much exhausted the Xbox One’s native library of boxing titles (if you don’t count previous entries in the EA Sports UFC series). Luckily, Fight Night Champion still very much holds up today, so it’s well worth a revisit for boxing aficionados. Gameplay-wise, Fight Night Champion heavily emphasises the more violent and brutal aspects of the sport, with the much-touted “Full Spectrum Punch Control” allowing players to throw punches using the right stick. This system is just as intuitive and satisfying as it is in EA’s Skate series, so each bout in Fight Night Champion provides a cathartic and realistic boxing experience. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a surprisingly robust and well-written story mode with characters and plot arcs and everything. Give it a try, even though it’s getting on in years now. You won’t be disappointed.
Moving over to the simulation side of things, we have Lazy Bear and tinyBuild’s management sim Punch Club. Players take control of a nameless boxer whose father is killed a la Daredevil when he’s a youngster. Said boxer pledges to continue his training and become the best boxer ever, while simultaneously trying to discover who was behind his father’s murder. Players hoping for a super-accurate depiction of the boxing world will be disappointed by Punch Club, as it’s all cartoony aesthetics and thinly-veiled pop culture references, but those who are willing to experiment a little with the wackier side of things will find a surprisingly deep and complex management sim. Your boxer’s hunger, tiredness and boredom must all be taken care of, while training is also important; your stats dictate not only how effectively you fight in the ring, but what style you use and what skills you can utilise during bouts, too. A sideways choice, but a good one nonetheless.
Oh, don’t look at us like that. Super Street Fighter IV has a character in it who fights using boxing (Dudley, we love you, even though you’re a raging stereotype), so we’re counting it. Besides, it’s a great game, and if you’ve never played an entry in this franchise, then it’s an excellent place to start, especially for boxing fans. Super Street Fighter IV represents the best version of Street Fighter that it’s possible to play on your Xbox One, since Street Fighter V is kinda lacklustre in comparison. The Arcade Edition tweaks the characters and adds some new EX moves, but it’s really just a distillation of the technical one-on-one fighting gameplay you know and love (or, if you’re new to the series, that you’ll grow to know and love). Dudley the boxer is just one of the many reasons to pick up this colourful, explosive and lovingly-crafted fighting game.
Want to take a trip back to where it all began? Atari’s Flashback Classics Volume 1 collection contains arguably the progenitor of all the games we’ve already mentioned on this list. It is perhaps retro games that we should thank for the inspiration of games today. RealSports Boxing may look dated now, but it packed a real punch when it was first released back in 1987, showing off (then) realistic graphics and (then) deep gameplay. If you want to know where Fight Night and Ready 2 Rumble got their chops from, then look no further than RealSports Boxing. Into the bargain, you’re also getting a huge collection of other Atari favourites, including Centipede, Pong, Combat and many, many more. RealSports Boxing may be long in the tooth, but it’s still got the potential for a knockout evening, especially if you invite a friend over to enjoy its retro charms.