NBA 2KI ( Sega, for Sega Dreamcast, $49.95) Every NBA player and arena has been re-created with painstaking detail in this rich simulation. You can trade players from team to team, track stats over a season and, best of all, play against your friends online using the Dreamcast's built-in modem.
NHL 2001 ( EA Sports, for Sony PlayStation 2, $49.95) So stunningly lifelike, you're tempted to put down the controller and simply watch the game. But don't: Take advantage of the fact that you can control everything from how aggressively your players check to how hard the puck bounces off the crossbar.
Madden NFL 2001 ( EA Sports, for Sony PlayStation 2, $49.95) Possibly the most beautiful-looking sports game ever made. The details are so unnervingly realistic, you can see the eyes of a receiver as he looks a ball into his hands. The game action is equally true-to-life: Most play-calling options are taken from NFL playbooks.
SSX( EA Sports, for Sony PlayStation 2, $49.95) A high-energy snowboard simulation whose fluid action and adrenaline-pumping speed effectively capture the extreme spirit of the sport. Pull off big-air tricks as you race down a series of slopes, many of which could only be digital fantasies, like the Aloha Ice Jam, a run set on a giant iceberg that has been towed into Honolulu Harbor. To complete the illusion, plug in the FreeStyler Board (Thrustmaster, for Sony PlayStation 2, $69.99), a full-sized snowboarding accessory that senses tilt and motion so that you can twist and turn along with your on-screen character.
Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball 2001 (3D0, for PC, $19.95) Details, details: 30 major league teams, more than 750 players and 45 stadiums (including classics like Shibe Park). Not to mention pitcher-batter confrontations as dramatic as the real thing.
Ridge Racer V (Namco, for Sony PlayStation 2, $49.95) Detailed enough to satisfy racing enthusiasts (you can choose from 27 engine types, as well as from 14 courses) but simple enough that you can start tearing up the tracks right away. If maneuvering your ride by pushing burtons on a controller doesn't do it for you, try the Blue Thunder Racing Wheel (InterAct, for Sony PlayStation 2, $69.99), a steering wheel that comes with internal vibrating motors so that you can feel every paint-trading bump.
PGA Championship Golf 2000 (Sierra Sports, for PC, $29.99) All the joys of golf (beautiful vistas, ball-striking satisfaction) with none of the annoyances (four-hour rounds, criminally bad fashions). Play a single round, a full season of events or unleash your inner Pete Dye and design a course of your own.
Virtua Tennis ( Sega, for Sega Dreamcast, $39.95) You take on the guise of one of eight real-life pros (such as Yevgeny Kafelnikov or Carlos Moya) and work your way up the world ranking. Better yet, plug in four controllers and stage a doubles match with your friends. There hasn't been a tennis simulation this much fun since Pong.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (Activision, for Sega Dreamcast, $44.99) Even if you can't tell an ollie from a nollie, you'll appreciate this game's thrashin' action. There's a wide array of venues and real-life boarders to choose from, but the real thrills are in the tricks. You haven't lived until you've pulled off a boneless on an elevated train track.