Hockey games on PC have not enjoyed the same fruitfulness as other sports games like FIFA, but that’s not to say there aren’t jewels underneath the rubble. EA Black Box and 2K created some of the best hockey games, and they’re well worth checking out even today.
They have varying degrees of mechanical intricacies and shine with unique gameplay and systems that engage hockey fans and immerse them in the world of hockey.
5 Best hockey games on PC:
- NHL ’94 Rewind
- NHL 09
- Slapshot: Rebound
- Puck Off
- NHL 2004
1. NHL ’94 Rewind
NHL ’94 Rewind is a remaster of the original 2D NHL ’94 game released in 1993. Electronic Arts wanted to stay true to the original by keeping the arcade-style gameplay, adrenaline-inducing music, and exciting gameplay features that players enjoyed. You can get the game on the Microsoft Store for PC.
In the spirit of keeping things original, NHL ’94 Rewind only has couch co-op multiplayer. It maintains the roster at the end of the 2019-2020 season and comes with four game modes: regular season, playoffs, playoffs best of seven, and a shootout mode.
When you first start the game, you’ll encounter the old-school menu with its retro music. The menu lets you pick your game mode and tweak the line changes, penalties, and period length rules. There are two different period options; five minutes being the shortest and 20 minutes the longest.
Shootout mode allows you to pick teams, and you can adjust the order players shoot, who you want in the net, followed by a fun and old-school gameplay match. Season mode lets you pick your team and opposing team and jump straight into the action.
Playoffs follow a single-game elimination ruleset where you pick your team, the game selects your opponents, and you battle it out in a bracket to claim victory and the cup when you have four wins.
- Solid gameplay
- Engaging music
- Good amount of content
- Works on low-end PCs
- Only couch co-op
- Lacks in-depth systems
- Few customization options
2. NHL 09
NHL 09 is a loved game by many fans of the genre, especially with the improvement of Skill Stick that lets players triple their amount of moves from NHL 08. Although EA Sports released it in September 2009, gamers still cherish its fantastic design.
The new features also allow them to deke all players on the ice with moves like the windmill to the famous Datsyuk move. For instance, players can now perform one-handed dekes. NHL 09 also provides players with strategic plays by allowing them to flip the puck into the air to mix up their offensive capabilities.
The fighting engine includes a few straightforward buttons, and winning a fight can give your team a momentum boost or demoralize the crowd at home. One of the best features of NHL 09 is the Be a Pro Mode, which allows gamers to create a hockey player from scratch or take over an existing player’s career.
The player receives performance ratings, with better ratings meaning quicker placements on the NHL team’s first line or starting goalkeeper. Of course, poor performance can also get players demoted.
NHL 09 raises the bar for online play, allowing players to participate using their own Be A Pro character to compete against hundreds of other gamers by forming an online team. Each side can have 50 players in this online mode, which offers six-on-six plays.
NHL 09 also features the Russian Super League, Czech Extraliga, Swedish Elitserien, and more. The PC version of NHL 09 has commentators Craig Simpson and Jim Hughson.
- Several interesting modes and systems
- Fun gameplay
- Realistic graphics
- Competitive online multiplayer
- Detailed tutorials
- Steep learning curve
- Teammate AI might feel incomplete
- May experience frame drops
3. Slapshot: Rebound
Slapshot: Rebound is an arcade hockey game focusing on physics-based gameplay to attain victory. Oddshot Games developed it, which has since accrued more and more popularity over time. It’s available as a free-to-play game on Steam.
Players can customize their own character and take to the ice in online multiplayer matches against friends or other people across the globe. A single game lasts five minutes.
Due to the physics engine, Slapshot Rebound requires players to maneuver their puck carefully because it doesn’t stick to their hockey like other games. You control your player by moving them up or down, left or right on the ice, and the mouse is for managing your puck and hockey stick.
Despite its simplistic gameplay, it’s one of those games with a low barrier to entry and a high skill ceiling. As such, it’s beginner friendly and suitable for all ages.
You’ll have access to several training modes in the form of mini-games that teach you the controls and help you familiarize yourself with the physics engine. These modes also have a ranking system that shows how you match up against players worldwide.
- Runs on low-end PCs
- Beginner friendly
- Competitive online multiplayer
- Active community
- Free to play
- Fun and challenging gameplay
- Requires a lot of time to master
- Need a decent internet speed for online play
- Lacks in-depth systems and mechanics
4. Puck Off
Puck Off offers an interesting take on hockey by removing the rules and allowing players to employ mayhem to win. The developers and publishers are Kuura Playhouse, and it’s available on Steam.
The game is brutal and relentless in terms of gameplay, acting more like a beat-em-up, story-based street-hockey simulator. You can use various strategies to defeat opponents, including outscoring them or outlasting them to win a game.
Be prepared for many cheap shots, lunges, knocks, and aggressive competitors looking for the chance to put you down.
The game has some of the most beautiful realistic graphics a hockey game has to offer. Matches take place on a frozen lake outside in the woods, and that’s also where the main story picks up.
Players get to create a character and progress them through levels in a sports career while achieving milestones and unlocking new types of equipment and accessories that allow you to customize your character further.
The RPG (role-playing game) elements of the game allow you to develop your own build and refine your hero’s skills as they progress. The goal is not only to become the best but to locate the enigmatic and renowned hockey player Dominator by traversing the globe and participating in hockey games.
- Impressive graphics
- Smooth and fun gameplay
- Engaging main story
- A lot of customizability
- A focus on fighting hinders authenticity
- Controls are difficult to learn
- Lacks in-depth mechanics and modes
5. NHL 2004
NHL 2004 provides an authentic experience closer to the real thing than most hockey games. EA Black Box created the game, and EA Sports published it. The game is available on Amazon.
NHL 2004 is more of a defense-oriented game, ensuring that every goal you score is hard-earned and gives you a real sense of accomplishment.
Players have the control to manage open areas by creating manual dekes and throwing checks in any direction to overshadow the opposition and get their team playing to win.
NHL 2004’s two-button control layout allows for a standard pass or a saucer pass. Saucer passing is excellent for getting the puck past the defender by lifting the puck from the ice and over your opponent’s stick. For this reason, a player’s choice matters because defenders are speedy to intercept even slightly mistimed or misdirected passes.
Fights spark from a player’s agitation level when your team loses or gets knocked around repeatedly. You can ignore the fight or engage in the manly pursuit to regain some semblance of integrity.
When you choose to engage, both players remove their gloves and lock in a grappling stance, allowing you to perform low & high punches and low & high blocks.
The idea is not to mash keys, or you might find yourself face-first on the ice; instead, read your opponent and react accordingly to gain the advantage.
Dynasty mode is arguably one of NHL 2004’s most exciting features for hockey enthusiasts. It gives you the power to plan practices during your off days.
These practice sessions are critical to maintaining a healthy balance for your players since each day affects the quality, morale, and endurance of your players based on your training activities.
- Fantastic graphics
- Authentic gameplay close to the real thing
- Dynasty Mode for in-depth planning
- Arguably one of the best hockey games
- Defensive gameplay might be challenging for beginners
- Mistakes are very punishable
- Not beginner friendly
Our Top Picks
It’s not easy to choose a winner between NHL ’94 and NHL 2004, but because they look and play so differently, it’s easy to see which one you’d prefer. Some gamers weren’t born during the days of NHL ’94 and thus became accustomed to NHL 2004.
The truth is they’re both great, and if you want a hockey game with retro graphics without the multiple mechanics and systems, NHL ’94 is a brilliant pick.
It will entertain for hours, and you won’t regret spending the hours, either. NHL 2004 is a much more realistic approach, focusing on systems and mechanics to engage the player and distort the line between a game and reality.
It does a great job with an engaging fighting system, Dynasty Mode for planning, and getting players to care about their players and what they want. So, decide what you want to experience, or better yet, try them both to see which one you prefer – you can’t lose either way!
For the best hockey games on other platforms, check out one of these posts: