DAR Games: History Of The Madden NFL Franchise

By @Peagle05

It's that time of year again...and no I'm not talking about the 4 week period of preseason where those of us with historically underachieving squads talk ourselves into this year being our year (though it is that time and the Eagles have made it impossible for me to NOT do it). No, I'm talking about the release of EA's next entry in the Madden NFL series. Madden 18 is upon us and on paper, ON PAPER, it has the potential to be one of the best Madden games of this generation. But this isn't about current Madden, this is about what led us to this point. That's right, it's time for another Gaming History Lesson with Professor Peagle...this is a thing now. Deal with it.

In 1984, EA approached John Madden to consult on their upcoming football video game. Madden, being about as old school as it gets, insisted on the most realistic game possible if he was going to put his name on it. Eventually, EA got it to Madden's standard and released John Madden Football in 1988. It's funny to look back at that period in gaming and think that this was the benchmark for realism. At any rate, this was the beginning of a legendary franchise that's changed the way we look at sports games.

In 1990, the franchise turned its sights on annual releases and in 93, EA acquired the rights to use the NFL teams and players and from here, the franchise took off finding its footing and popularity on Sega's Genesis console at this time. After finding some success on the Genesis, EA took Madden into the 3D world with the N64 and PlayStation though in separate forms. Madden 97 for the PlayStation used 3D models in motion capture that were then made into 2D sprites that could be seen from multiple angles. Think being able to rotate the camera in a 2D Mario game and actually seeing the side of Mario as opposed to just a line. Now if you're like me and you had the N64 at launch, then what you were treated to was "Madden Football 64" the first in the Madden series to be fully 3D. The trade off here? The NFL license wasn't in use. Just the NFLPA. So though you had the players, you didn't have the teams. Just generic squads using the team colors. Gameplay wise, the game was solid and a good indication of what could be done with a 3D football game. EA would then release Madden 99, their first multiplatform 3D effort.

Here's the first fast forward of the article as we jump to highlight the first legendary game in the series, Madden '04. It's here that were introduced to the Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl of our generation: '04 Falcons Mike Vick. Not just the cover athlete, but a gamebreaker so powerful that usage of the Falcons in multiplayer games could only occur when both parties agreed to use them lest a fight breakout. You could do anything with Vick in this game and his impact didn't stop there. For years after, you would see competitive players backing up an ungodly distance from the line of scrimmage before kicking into gear for the play. That all started with Vick in 04. 

The very next year, EA gave us the best game in the series, Madden '05. This year, with Ray Lewis in the cover, EA focused on defense and gave us the Hit Stick. Back then, it was a mechanic that actually meant something before the crackdown on concussions forced EA to soften and make it almost nonexistent. Nonetheless, the gameplay changes were spot on and we got what I still consider to this day to be the most complete Madden game ever.

Now I'm gonna stop to preface this next part with this: I am a DIEHARD Eagles fan. I bought this game simply because Mcnabb was on the cover. Now that we got that out the way, Madden 06 was one of the most boring Madden games ever. It got approximately 2 weeks of playing time out of me. This was the game that really started the "just a roster update" comments. First off, the vision cone was a horrible idea *stop* FOR THAT GENERATION. The vision cone was not at all a terrible idea, but the animation engine and coding for lineman just wasn't where it needed to be for that feature to thrive. The biggest problem with the game is that once the vision cone was turned off in game, what you got was essentially Madden '05 with a new coat of paint and slightly worse gameplay.


The gotdamn exclusivity deal that EA signed with the NFL because 2K had them shook-diggity. You didn't think I forgot that did you? That's right, after releasing the best game in the series with Madden 05 (due to the immense pressure put on EA by 2K releasing a superior product for 20 bucks), EA decided that no one should be able to compete with them in the football world and got a deal done with the NFL to make sure they were the only game in town. NFL 2K5 had it ALL, I can't even cover all of that without this turning into a 2K5 love fest but if you didn't experience it, know that it was amazing. In addition to gaining the NFL license, EA also signed a long term deal with ESPN. That's right, EA signed a deal with ESPN and proceeded to do next to NOTHING with it for any of its football games. And for those that don't remember, a fight was put up. It was argued and brought to court that this deal created a monopoly and those that claimed that, in my opinion, were correct. EA settled to the tune of $27 million (I saw some of that money) and they were allowed to continue with their deal.

So from Madden's 06-12, we got some of the most average games in the series while EA struggled to find a balance between complacency and innovation. Speaking of Madden 12, Michael Vick should have been the cover athlete. Not Peyton freaking Hillis. Thanks Dog Avi Twitter...assholes.
Amazingly enough, Madden 13 was the true beginning of EA's next gen Madden turnaround. When it seemed like EA was mired in mediocrity, a much needed change in animations and gameplay occurred and the series has been on a roll ever since. Madden 18 is dropping August 25th and reviews to this point have been positive across the board. So far, it seems like EA has found its groove. They've still got some work to do on Franchise mode but I'm sure it'll come. At least I hope.

Are you buying Madden this year or are you skipping? Let us know.



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