Most dedicated or hardcore gamers dismiss sports simulators as something for casual players or people who don't really play videogames, and they're definitely right. That's not to say that there aren't some really cool hidden gems amongst the piles of turd that gets rehashed every year, and that's where this list comes in!
This is for titles which go for a more conventional simualtion of sports.
Baseball Stars 2
Incredibly expressive characters collide in this battle of the sports titans! While it lacks the custom teams of previous "Stars" titles, it easily plays the best, being smoother, faster, and more spot-on. There's still some variables though, as the players' expressions are also an indicator of their current state. If someone's tired, time-out and swap out! There's also the "POW Bat", which does just what you'd think it would when it hits the ball.
Arcade, Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, Wii, PlayStation 3, Windows
It's bowling, that's it. Time button presses, move the bowler, and knock the pins down. "Why's it so well-loved then?!" You play an extremely schizophrenic bowler who snaps back and forth from panic attacks to being cocky as fuck. Between the bowler and the score screens, there's a lot of expression and animation for a 1991 game. In addition, 4 people can take turns and play in 3 slightly different scoring rules. Great pick up and play fun, and plays surprisingly better than you'd expect!
Arcade, Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, PSP, PlayStation 3
Neo Turf Masters
The best golf game you'll ever see, by the same team who made the Metal Slug series. Amazingly fluid and large sprites and spot on physics all make this a great option for a relaxing afternoon!
Arcade, Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, Neo Geo Pocket Color, Wii, iOS, Android, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Windows
Super Sideckicks 3: The Next Glory
Soccer REAL FOOTBALL
Another pretty well-known entry of a well-loved series. Sidekicks 3 is probably the best of the series. It's essentially a remastered version of 2, but with even more teams, and different types of tournament cups. These cups are regional, thus giving you a good idea of which countries you'll be facing off against. This series ate many a quarter around the world in its hayday, so you know it kicks some serious grass.
Arcade, Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD
Titles which give a spin on conventional sports, often adding combat elements or twisting the rules.
Windjammers / Flying Power Disc
A fun take on Pong/Airhockey. Throw frisbees around 1 on 1. Better than it sounds. There's special moves and bonus stages to spice things up. Each character also has different specialties and stats. It's almost like a fighting game in that regard, though scoring goals is top priority.
Arcade, Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita