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History of rugby video games: 2011-present

By Jack Tunney

Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge (Sidhe, Tru Blu Entertainment) – 2011:

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This was the first arrival of rugby onto the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 consoles. It was met with a largely positive reception with the fluid gameplay, in particular, being highly praised. The game was clearly short on detail, however, many of the player graphics were well off the desired effect and certain refereeing decisions gave the wrong outcome.

Rugby World Cup 2011 (HB Studios, 505 Games) – 2011

Opposed to the simulation-style game released the same year, this title was much more styled as an arcade game. It was designed to be easy pick-up-and-play that used much of the gameplay style used in EA Sports ‘Rugby’ series. The biggest issue this game had was the lack of game modes and expansion, which made the full price hard to justify.

Rugby Challenge 2: The Lions Tour Edition (Sidhe, Tru Blu Entertainment) – 2013

A marginal advancement on the previous game, this sequel received largely negative reviews, however, the career mode and the inclusion of the British and Irish Lions tour were seen as a major improvement.

Rugby 15 (HB Studios, Bigben Interactive/Maximum Games) – 2014

Not much needs to be said about this game, other than IGN referring to it as an “utter disaster” and Official Xbox Magazine describing it as “easily the worst sports game we’ve played.”

Rugby World Cup 2015 (HB Studios, Bigben Interactive/Plug In Digital) – 2015

Similar to the previous world cup game, this edition was seen to be very bare in terms of actual gameplay features, and only a minor improvement on the previous year’s Rugby 2015 title.

Rugby Challenge 3 (Wicked Witch Software, Tru Blu Entertainment) – 2016

This was the third instalment in the series, with updated graphics for the new generation of consoles released at the time.
It made a significant step forward with the introduction of Rugby Sevens into the franchise for the first time, however, this edition no longer had licences for the Top 14 or the Pro 12.

Rugby 18 (Eko Software, Bigben Interactive) – 2017

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Described by Games Radar as a ”woefully inadequate representation of one of the world’s most popular sports”, this was one title that did not live up to expectations. Despite the clear efforts to improve graphics and provide a hugely improved amount of licences, this game had gameplay levels that you would find disappointing on a Nintendo GameCube.

Rugby 20 (Eko Software, Nacon) – 2022

An improved game on its predecessor, Rugby 20 introduced the Six Nations Championship which should have given players hours of excitement if it weren’t for the severe lack of international licensing.

Rugby Challenge 4 (Wicked Witch Software, Tru Blu Entertainment) – 2020

This title was delayed for many months due to the Coronavirus pandemic, so when it was finally released it was met with much anticipation. The anticipation was partially rewarded with much-improved player graphics and licensing, but very much let down with the gameplay being essentially a copy and paste from the previous model.

Rugby 22 (Eko Software, Nacon) – 2022

Widely regarded as the most complete rugby game we’ve seen since 2008. Despite missing some major licenses, Rugby 2022 provides the most lifelike game of rugby we have seen on consoles. The ability to control pods to build phases leads to some very satisfying scores.
There are of course glitches and issues that you would expect without the backing of a big budget you may get from the likes of EA Sports, but certainly an improvement on what we’ve seen before.

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