Continuing my 30 for 30 NFL Preview event, I'm taking a bit of a break from the norm to pay tribute to today's release of Madden 2011 (pictured.) Football video games have been a part of my life for over 15 years. I've played some good ones (and some not so good ones) and playing these games always get me in the mood for the upcoming season.
Today I will be counting down the five best football video games ever. Of course, there are factors to consider. These are the best for the time of their release. You could argue that Madden 2007-2011 are the five best of all time (I wouldn't, but you get the idea) but I'm not going to do that. I tried to make my list diverse, and span the entire lifespan of the NFL video game.
On to the list...
You have to include the game that spawned a revolution. Today, Electronic Arts has a monopoly over the sports gaming industry, and it never would have happened without this classic installment.
Of all the innovations made by the Madden franchise, this game had the biggest one; the vertical field. Can you imagine a football game today without the vertical field? (Not that the horizontal field is a bad thing. Stay tuned for later in this list...)
The history of this game is an interesting one. The game was envisioned over a 1984 train ride between gaming developers and Madden. They approached him asking for his naming rights, and he agreed. However, they wanted to make a 7-on-7 game, but Madden refused to put his name on anything that wasn't an authentic 11-on-11.
A game with 22 characters on the screen at once was too overwhelming for any current platform, so the development took many years. It was finally released circa 1989 for the Apple II, and the rest was history.
The NFL Live Series was a staple of Sega sports and, when the Dreamcast debuted in the early 2000s, the NFL 2k series was its exclusive football game. However, the Dreamcast failed miserably, and the 2K series became a multi-platform game.
The 2k franchise signed a deal with Take-Two Interactive, a developer associated with Global Star Software, a company that produces low-priced video games. This allowed 2K5 to sell for $19.99 on its first day, something unheard of in today's gaming market.
A year into a deal with ESPN, this game really nailed it on a presentation level. It was the first game to produce highlight shows, with commentary from Chris Berman. Also, there were features like the power burst and the over-the-top leap that Madden fans are still waiting for.
Unfortunately, this game also may have effectively killed the industry. Instead of welcoming the competition from Sega and improving the quality of their own games, EA Sports decided to buy out the rights to be the exclusive provider of NFL games. Thus ended the promising 2K series. The 2k games may be gone, but I still have great memories of this wonderful game.
How much did I love this game? This is one of only two games that I continued to play after I purchased newer games. I remember getting Madden 98 for Christmas in 1997, played it for a few days, but decided that Prime Time was a lot better.
The play-calling was relatively in depth, and the animation was very good. I loved the trash talking buttons, and wish that they were still in current games.
This game took the football video game to a whole other level. Surprisingly, it was not a next gen debut, but with the amount of new features added to the previous installment, it might as well be. This is the Madden that changed sports games forever when it implemented the most important thing to gamers; online play.
Today, online play is about as common to football games as the vertical field. Although changes have been made to this feature, one cannot deny the way this game broke through with its use of the net.
In addition to online play, several other features were added. My personal favorite was the mini-camp. I remember staying up all night the day that I bought this game, doing nothing but playing the mini-camp games. I think it took me almost a week before I remembered that I could play actual football games too. The mini-camp is still around, but it isn't executed nearly as well as it was in this version.
Ah yes, the one game to rule them all. Even the image accompanied with this article gives me chills.
Despite the horizontal field, this incredible game was at least a half of a decade before its time with its full season and playoffs, NFL league leaders, and Pro Bowl. I have several old versions of Madden from Sega Genesis, Playstation 1 and 2, and X-Box 360 that sit on my shelf and haven't been touched in years, but I'll always play Tecmo Super Bowl.
Now, I know we all love playing with Bo Jackson and Barry Sanders, but I have a few hints for extra fun. Play as the 49ers and sub Jerry Rice as a running back. Give the 49ers the best running plays and enjoy! To this day, he was the best running back I've seen in the game.
Another hint is playing as the New Orleans Saints, and adding Craig Heyward as the kick returner. As long as you get decent initial blocking, he should return the kick for a touchdown every time. I played a season with the Saints and he returned almost 40 kicks for touchdowns. Great times.