DAR Games: NFL Video Game Franchises

By @TrueGodImmortal

Once upon a time, the NFL license wasn't just only for Madden. Madden wasn't the only game in town way back when, and the NFL gaming crown was always up for grabs. It is funny in retrospect, but for some, Madden wasn't the best game for football multiple years in a row, because we had options. Long before Madden hit a stagnant period and saw no competition, you could go to the video game store and purchase at least two other games that could give you the same feel or a better feel than the EA Sports juggernaut. Those were great times. However, as Madden 19 gets ready to be released, we wanted to look back at all those other franchises that made an impact in the football gaming world. We didn't actually list every single franchise, but we listed all of the noteworthy ones that made noise and were NFL centered. Which franchises fit that bill? Let's take a look.

*NFL Gameday

-A slept on video game franchise that doesn't get the credit that it deserves, Gameday was one of the best games in the football world and it features a gritty realism that Madden sometimes polished too much. The series would start in 1995/1996 and continue for a few years, and was one of the premier options for a good 10 years through the 989 Sports brand. To me, the series finally came of age with the 1998 edition that features Jerome Bettis on the cover and then continues with the Terrell Davis featured 1999 edition. Those two editions were the best games in the series, but Gameday kept going and positioned itself as the second longest running series next to Madden before eventually ending the franchise shortly after Madden got their competition out of here. Regardless, Gameday had a nice run that expanded from the original PS1 all the way to the PS2, which was more than a lot of other franchises can say.


-One of the greatest franchises gave us the greatest game in football gaming ever. I remember seeing the NBA and NFL covers for 2K and I was instantly intrigued. I mean, you have Iverson on one. Randy Moss on the other. For young gamers in my neighborhood, this was the best one-two punch, and we faithfully played both of those games. For me, the first few editions of NFL 2K were better than Madden, but not by too much. It would be the final edition of the series that took things to a whole different level, as NFL 2K5 stands as the best NFL game ever to many. The realism, the replay value, the fun, and everything else made this game one of a kind and showcased that Madden in for a rude awakening. 2K5 still is recognized as a classic and I fully believe that 2K would have taken over the top spot had Madden never took the rights for a number of years. The fact that Madden decided to do that anyway showcases how much pressure 2K had on them. NFL 2K might be the greatest shortlived franchise in football gaming because they didn't miss once in the series at all and their last edition was the GOAT. That's how a franchise goes out on top.

*NFL (John Montana/SEGA Series)

-So, this series was shortlived, but was definitely fun to play. Montana was the focal point of the series early on, but they would also have a Deion Sanders themed game as well. I included the games such as NFL 95, NFL Sports Talk Football 93, and the Prime Time game in this one, among others because it all came from the same developer and same premise game wise. The gameplay for the time was fluid enough, and though nothing about it was that realistic, it was probably the premier game for the NFL at the time. This series would give way to Madden and allow them to takeover, but regardless it was an important moment in NFL video gaming and one of my favorite series in the sports gaming world.

*NFL Fever

-The Xbox exclusive gaming series was about as impactful as Inside Drive was for the NBA. You're probably reading this wondering what the hell Inside Drive is right? Exactly. NFL Fever didn't move many units nor did it excite the fans of the sports too much and is a big reason why 2K and Madden had so much success really. As the 2000s started, no other game could really keep up. The holy trinity of NFL games were Madden, 2K, and Blitz, and Fever just couldn't get over that hump. NFL Fever was that stepchild of a franchise for the league and it never quite reached a level that made it a contender for the NFL crown. Still, the 2003 edition was solid and tried to fix a few of the problems that the 2002 version had. The 2004 game was subpar, and that was the end of it. While Fever was not a top tier franchise, but it had momentum for sure. It just fell short.

*NFL Quarterback Club

-One of the more underrated series in terms of sports games, NFL QB Club was actually fairly successful and a regular game that released multiple years in a row to decent fanfare. The game had a good appeal to it as it offered multiple modes to play in, which gave it a bit more to work with than other games. You could take part in the actual QB challenge and run those drills, you could play an actual game (preseason, regular season or playoffs), or you could play in Simulation mode, which puts you in one of 30 scenarios that have been executed before that you must now complete. That type of variety made the game much more fun, and the 1996 edition of the game still stands out as the best version. The game would fizzle out sooner than later, but it had a nice run.

*NFL Street

-While this wasn't my favorite series, one couldn't deny how impactful the NBA versions of the game were to the genre, so why not give the NFL the same treatment, right? Some things are better left alone and I fully believe that this was one of those things, despite me enjoying the game to an extent. The first Street was my favorite, as I felt the game was raw enough to work, but the other two editions didn't have the same appeal. There are many of people who love this series so I won't bash it, I just think street football in a video game is a harder sell than basketball, which is very street orientated in so many different ways. Regardless, EA would add another successful series to their name in football, as Street would be right there with Madden, though not as big, iit still made an impact and that was enough to get a spot on this list of franchises.

*NFL Blitz

-One of the best franchises for football is definitely Blitz. It was the arcade style game that we didn't know we needed. It was hard hitting, over the top, and just the right amount of ridiculous. There were a few games that had the NFL gaming world buzzing, mostly Gameday, Madden, and 2K, but those three were normal games essentially. No bone breaking, outrageous, unrealistic aspects, just straight up football.  Blitz employs the style of games from years past where they didn't try to mirror football in reality but provide a more fun, loose playjng alternative. Blitz would run for years, becoming a favorite amongst many, but would lose luster once it no longer had the NFL license. Still, the arcade style game was a ton of fun and sometimes, I wish it would return.

*Tecmo Bowl

-A clear classic franchise in terms of the NFL, this one is the first game and series to get the NFL license and it is the true OG of football games. Tecmo Bowl was the best game before Madden took over and it is still the best football series IMO. While we could argue that the graphics and gameplay were limited, which was just a sign of the time, for the most part, Tecmo Bowl was the essential football game. The original is a classic, along with the follow up edition Tecmo Super Bowl, which is my favorite of the series. The fact that this series was the first to feature the NFL license makes it so far ahead of everything else from this time and a landmark moment in football gaming for sure.

*Madden NFL

-The standard bearer and the last man standing.... for legal reasons. Madden is essentially the Wrestlemania of sports video games. Every year you know it is coming. Every year you wait on it. Every year you support it. Every year it tends to disappoint you. Just like Wrestlemania (fuck you, WWE). Regardless, Madden is a huge part of the casual and hardcore gamer experience and much like the larger respected franchises, it has carved out a place for the yearly update and massive sales. Madden is mentioned in the same breath as big time casual franchises like Call Of Duty and NBA 2K, making it the obligatory must-have game and a perennial top seller. It is the longest running franchise at this point in the sports world, with no breaks in between or changes to the execution of the game. While there have been some excellent Madden games, it has always maintained the same format and the same style that it has always had. They may add a piece or two, take away a mode that wasn't too popular, and fix small issues in gameplay, but Madden, in all of its years, has never quite hit the perfection scale. Regardless, it is a powerhouse franchise, and EA did give us the classic Madden 2004 among other solid editions, so it does have a rightful place in the gaming world. Let us hope Madden 19 is great and can restore the feeling missing from Madden for some years.



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