To celebrate the release of the 2016 edition of the game, we look back at Football Manager expert Iain Macintosh's take on his favourite ever versions of Sports Interactive's FM/CM series...
Championship Manager (1992)
The original Championship Manager, released in 1992 with the above pixelated picture of an angry man on the box, was a genre-buster.
It created a new world and forced the player to wander in and look after themselves. If the player was useless, it would sack that player and happily move on without them. It was immersive, it was addictive and it was only the start.
When an update arrived with real life player names, a generation of supporters were trapped in its grasp forever. Suddenly, it was possible to do all the things you talked about in the pub, in real life. Though it must be said, I’m playing fast and loose with the phrase ‘real life’.
Championship Manager 97/98
The culmination of the second game engine was Championship Manager 97/98 and it still stands the test of time today.
Training was minimal, tactics were limited and you could blast through a season in a session. Granted, it was hard to explain why your season had hit the skids when it inevitably did, but these are minor complaints.
Nine playable leagues gave more depth to your career than ever before and the inclusion of an editor sparked arguments across the world as one friend turned to another and cried, "You’ve given me an 8 for passing? Are you serious? Have you ever seen me play?"
Football Manager 2007
There was a slight flaw in Football Manager 2007, but for me, it only made the game more wonderful.
Station a gigantic striker with heading and jumping attributes at the near post and you could score almost a goal a game from corners. It is for this reason that I always recall Antoine Sibierski with such affection. No, FM07 was by no means perfect, but the adaptability of the tactical sliders gave an extraordinary level of control to the player.
As an added bonus, Sports Interactive also resisted the temptation to pollute the database with the inclusion of soap opera team Harchester United, a mistake that hopelessly compromised FM06.
Football Manager 2012
Balancing the demand for detail with the desire for simplicity is one of the biggest challenges for the Sports Interactive team.
While some of the latter games have been a little unwieldy, Football Manager 2012 was a solid gold classic. It had that intangible quality, that natural equilibrium that allows you to sink so smoothly and yet so deeply into an alternative universe.
It had everything one geek could ask for and it was the last of the series to retain the ability to quickly take control of the reserve team and test out tactics. From FM13 onwards, that could only be achieved with an apology and a very large compensation cheque to one of your coaches.
Championship Manager 2001/02
It’s difficult to quantify exactly what it was that was so amazing about Championship Manager 2001/02. After all, it had no graphics and yet it was so memory-intensive that, on its release at least, only a very powerful PC could run more than a couple of leagues.
It might have been that all-important balance between detail and time. It was a game with great depth and perfectly integrated national, continental and international competition, yet you could complete a season in a day. And, by thunder, what a day that would be.
It might have been the introduction of a reserve team and a simple training model, something that induced a stirring feeling of empire building. Or perhaps it was just that it caught a moment in football before the so-called "Sky Four" ensconced themselves in the Champions League places for year after year. Before Chelsea and Manchester City’s bank balances swelled with new money.
In short, CM01/02 came at a time when it was still quite possible to power a small team into the big time with Taribo West as your pilot. As wonderful as the new incarnations are, I’m not sure that anything will ever steal this game’s place in my affections.
Read Iain's New Book, The Football Manager's Gude To Football Management