DAR Gaming Roundtable: The NFL Madden Series

Now, as DAR Gaming Week rolls on, we had to take a moment and discuss the Madden NFL series. Now iconic and a game to look forward to every year, Madden NFL has become a cornerstone of every gaming console. Giving fans the ability to play as their favorite team, build a franchise, and just work at their craft, Madden NFL can provide an experience like no other. The game definitely has seen a number of flaws, but regardless, this series remains classic. Let's get into it.

Let me start off by saying this: Madden, in recent years, has mostly sucked. And sucked hard. The reason more people don't complain about it is because it's the only player in the game. Back in the day, when the ESPN 2Ks and the NFL Fevers (which kind of sucked, let's be honest), and the GameDays were around, EA Sports had to get off their asses and actually try to make a great game. Now? People get siced up and hyped out by a couple graphic updates and we're suddenly supposed to say the new Madden is the Second Coming of Sports Christ.

Blasphemy aside, I do still play Madden games. And even though their evolution has become somewhat stagnant, I've enjoyed them--for the most part (screw you Madden '15). However, I usually hop on versions that are two years older than the new-new ish. I mean, I'm still on Madden 25, which was a pretty solid game. It is probably one of my all-time favorite Madden games in that it doesn't pat itself on the back too hard about being the 25th edition of Madden the way that, for instance, Madden 09 did for the series' 20th anniversary (while, yeah, playing Madden '93 was cool...it was one of those "we're obviously doing this so you can spend more money to feel 'elite'" moves that EA has become notorious for). Plus, it fine-tuned a lot of what was wrong with '13 (and believe me, there was a lot wrong with '13).

In addition to Madden 25, I'd have to say my favorite editions of the series are:
* '99 (I spoke on this one in my PS1 games piece)
* '05 (one of the few games from the past ten years to actually try--and succeed--at bettering itself aside from shinier graphics and a slightly tuned engine)
* '16 (I don't own it, but I've played it a bunch on friends' PS4s/XB1s to know that it's a huge step in the right direction) and... 
* '97 (while '96 was the first Madden to include the Create-a-Player feature, '97 was the first to include the Baltimore Ravens. You draw your own conclusions).

I don't know if its that Madden has gotten better or if its just the only football game out right now to play, but I still enjoy it. I think I just enjoy the competition of it all. Madden has had its up years and down years with different new gimmicky things to set it apart. 2004 is was widely acclaimed because cover athlete Michael Vick was the most unstoppable force in a football game since Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl. It also had that cone vision thing to help make passing seem more realistic. After getting used to it, I kinda dug it.

But for me, the best additions to Madden came in 2005. "Fear The D" was the tagline. That year, Madden focused on defense. The game introduced pre-snap defensive adjustments and introduced the almighty hit stick. All of which are staples in Madden today and make you look back wondering how you ever got along without it.

Cool things I remember about earlier Madden games; The FOX logo in the lower corner, the "Madden Theme" which is the Fox Sports theme they use on everything, not just football (It's still the Madden theme to me and weird as fuck to hear on anything other than football) and I also remember when you had to have the code to play as the expansion teams, Panthers and Jaguars.

I kinda miss the Madden Radio show the franchise mode had in 2005 with Tony Bruno. A lot of work went into it and was really taylored to your team. Super cool how they had the players voices spliced to fit the questions Tony Bruno would ask. A lot of people didn't like the in game radio broadcast commentary from a year or so prior. While I liked having John Madden and company broadcasting, I think it was kinda cool.

The Madden Series has always had its ups and downs, and that goes without saying. I remember playing the original John Madden Football(92 or 93) when I was really young and at the time, there was no way to tell the impact this franchise would grow to have. Once it changed over to Madden NFL, the legacy started to build more. The mechanics of the game through its inception were quite simple, as it allowed some fans and video gamers to look inside playbooks and formations that previously they would not have much of an idea of how they worked. The feel of the game on Madden was as close as you could get to actually being on the field. It was truly a great experience.

Now, when Madden arrived in 2001 on PS2 and GameCube, it started a new trend for the franchise: Athletes as the sole cover star. Now, while some players were featured on the cover before, a majority of the covers just featured Madden on the front. When Eddie George got the cover, it changed the direction for the series. For me personally, Madden 2001 holds a special place for me because it was one of the games I would always play after school and I would never put the controller down. Madden 2001 was beyond addictive to me. Madden 2004 was a true gem and could quite possibly be the best of the entire Madden Series in some ways. With a beautiful introduction to a new (at the time) Franchise mode, Michael Vick on the cover, and some solid gameplay, Madden 04 is a true classic.

While it always seemed as if Madden went above to provide the best experience for gaming and football fans alike, after Madden 06, there was a steep decline in gaming quality. This could be attributed to the loss of competition when EA Sports gained control of the NFL license. Now, previously the GameDay and NFL 2K franchises gave Madden a run for its money, but without the ability to compete anymore, it left one top dog at the throne. I didn't really enjoy Madden 06-08 too much, and thought Madden 09 had its flaws, but because Madden is only the dance in town, I would purchase it every year. That's the allure of Madden now is that it is the only game in town that really gives you a football experience. While Madden has attempted in recent years to give us a more solid and efficient game (with some success), the true excitement that used to carry over is not as prevalent as it used to be.

Madden 16 is a fun game, but I think it would be fun to see someone else take a stab at giving fans the NFL experience (we all know what 2K can bring to the table). Regardless, Madden NFL has a legacy that spans over 4 decades now (80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s) and because of that longevity it is the greatest sports game series ever. Salute to Madden.

Have thoughts on the Madden NFL series? Post them below in the comments.



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