Madden is a name that’s been synonymous with great football video games since the late 80s. They started with an actual playbook from the Raiders 1980 book.
The series namesake, John Madden, was a player and famous commentator who would only put his name on the game if it had 11 players so it was real football.
The series eventually became known for having easy-to-use controls, and real players, and gameplay.
Since we have played almost all Madden NFL games in the series, we are in a position to rank the best 10 games (from worst to best) according to the author’s experience.
Let’s get started.
#10 – John Madden Football
Retro gamer completists have to try John Madden Football at least once. It’s quite an old game, so it’s not for everyone, but it’s fun playing through how it all began.
It came out for the Apple II and MS-DOS in 1988. It’s a surprisingly fun game for something so retro.
It could run a little slow on those computers, but if you try a port of it then it should run a lot faster. You could choose weather conditions for games like cold, snowy, windy, rainy, or hot.
There are no real NFL teams since they didn’t have the rights yet. You could only play single games.
But this is one of the most retro of retro football games from this era. The game was positively reviewed at the time and had a generally positive reception from players in general.
#9 – Madden 64
Madden 64 was the first game put out for the Nintendo gaming series N64. It’s a great pick for gaming enthusiasts since it was relatively easy to play even for those just picking it up.
It made the switch over from 2D to a 3D polygon with the full engine. It mapped real names of players right onto jerseys, which was a new thing at the time.
For realism, the game made it so that you could create a custom season instead of a regular one, or do a tournament mode, or you could just do a full fantasy draft, to make your fantasy teams.
This means you could put together a team full of your favorite player which was particularly a lot of fun.
#8 – Madden 25
This is actually an anniversary game that commemorates the 25th year of Madden, and it came out in 2013 for PS3 and Xbox 360, eventually coming out for even more systems later on.
The game has a famous feature for Connected Franchise career mode where you can own and manage an NFL team.
You can even move your team to new cities, even going to cities outside the U.S. Like London, or Dublin.
If you want to bring back a team that doesn’t exist anymore, you can do that as well, with a common Example being the Houston Oilers.
It’s fun to be able to focus on both the owner side of things as well as the play-to-play side when playing an actual player on the field.
#7 – Madden NFL 12
Madden 12 originally came out for PS2, though it’s been popular enough to make it to many other places like Xbox 360, Wii, and so on.
There were little changers like the kickoff happening at the 30-yard line instead of the 35-yard line to go with what the NFL ruled.
Larger changes include what the game does for collisions. There’s a new system in this game that makes tackling more authentic by actually taking into account the physics of momentum more.
They actually added 100 new animations for tackling, as well as 40 more for tackling in groups, which is the reason why the tackling system is so satisfying.
Another big mechanic players will notice include how the A.I. can actually play real coverages.
That means that if a defensive player is controlled by the A.I in a Zone coverage, it means that the player will react to plays in the way that a zone coverage player would naturally.
The A.I. Can even have defensive players break coverage if they likely would in a real game.
That’s exactly why playing this game feels so natural in terms of the resistance you get during plays.
#6 – Madden NFL 10
The soundtrack for this game from 2010 was known to be particularly good and catchy, helping you to stay in the game. The graphics were a huge upgrade as well, and Franchise Mode continued to be a huge draw.
This also added the Extra Point Show. The show recaps the history with your franchise as if you were playing a real-time that was showing up on TV.
Everything looks real and it gives a lot of people a thrill to just be able to have that feeling of running a real NFL team.
Many have praised Madden 10 for being a dazzling game to look at while you’re playing.
Everything is done to make the game seem like a real NFL production. Players are even visible getting yelled at on the sidelines.
You have calls being debated by refs, pre-game warm-ups, and lots of other elements that make it seem like this is all a legitimate game being produced for Sunday Night Football.
This means it’s great for realists who want the full immersion experience.
#5 – Madden NFL 2004
One of the more popular game years for Madden is 2004, and this year had the playmaker control feature.
Initially, it might seem like just a way to change the play from the one you picked during the actual play, it does more than just let you call an audible.
While you’re on the field, but before you snap the ball, you can fix the play directly if something is happening on defense that you’re worried about.
So, if it looks like a linebacker is about to blitz you in the direction you’re throwing the ball, you can use the analog stick to just shift the direction of the play right away.
This gives you a lot more control than you would have in real life where a QB would likely call an audible and try to get everyone on board before the play clock ran out.
This is like actually being the QB and just deciding at the last minute to throw the ball in a totally new direction.
It adds a lot of extra fun and possibilities to the game.
#4 – Madden NFL 07
Madden 07 came out for PS2 with more options added later. This game added some interesting elements including being able to control the lead blocker.
In just about every video game about football, you automatically control the player with the ball, like the running back or wide receiver. However, in this game, you could instead pick other players as well, such as a tackle, guard, center, or whatever you want once you select this play.
Then, you can mash players out of the way with your big blocker, while the computer controls the player with the ball and tries to slip through the hole you make.
This makes for a lot more dynamic play, customization, and control than you would get otherwise.
Other additions in this excellent game include the ability to “juke,” which means to suddenly jump out of the way while trying to dodge tacklers.
You can also spin and perform other moves to try and make it through your opponent and gain yardage. There’s also a “highlight” stick that lets you choose animations to string together.
#3 – Madden NFL 2005
The Madden game for Xbox in 2005 is a popular one among Madden enthusiasts. It had a lot of innovations that are valued by players so much some are calling for the game to be remade.
You can create a player and a team in this game complete with your avatar face. The Franchise Mode is highly addictive to play over and over again since it had so much variety with each go-round.
Another big addition to this approach is that they added something called EA Sports Radio.
It has a host, who is a real person, named Tony Bruno, who reacts to plays happening in your league on the radio program.
The show also had a lot of generalized stuff from offbeat callers and other content as well. This made Franchise Mode a unique edition to the series and its part of what made Franchise Mode so much fun to play.
#2 – Madden NFL 94
This game is considered to be one of the best SNES games put out at all, and it’s a must-play for fans of the 16-bit era.
As per its name, it came out in the mid-90s and featured the first time that players could use real NFL teams since they finally got rights to the names from the league.
The graphics and gameplay were all upgraded over what had come before, and you could play full seasons now. One of the reasons why the game stands out is because it stands out so much from previous iterations.
The game came out for SNES as well as Sega Genesis. It was simply fun to play since going through the playbook was intuitive. You could also easily change around plays with options like “flip play” and” bluff play.”
It also had a feature that made playing easier where it would flip the screen around whenever the ball turned over such as with a punt or a fumble.
Before this feature, the constantly rotating camera could make you feel vertigo. This feature made everything feel much more natural.
#1 – Madden NFL 2008
This game initially came out for Nintendo Game Cube and PC, but eventually, there were many ports for it including Xbox 360, Xbox, Wii, PSP, PS2, PS3, and others.
It’s consistently one of the best-reviewed games in this genre for a reason. It has excellent graphics and added a huge amount of new features.
This includes an animation system during an extreme play that you can still control.
You would switch over to animation whenever you have a one-handed catch, a hurdle, gang tackling, and more.
The game has tournaments you can get involved in online even up to the present day.
There is also a fatigue system that made it so that users can’t make the quarterback run around over and over again since realistically a QB would never be able to do that in real life.
The system even added a feature so that fatigue can limit players in situations such as a team from a cold area playing in hot weather.
At some point, they also added a co-op mode which makes it so that you can play two players against the computer or against two human players, which is also a lot of fun and somewhat unique in this genre.
Football games don’t always allow for people to play 2 v 2 and it’s a lot of fun to use when the game is well-made like this one. It can be a rare treat.
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