So instead of going out, getting drunk, and having tons of unprotected sex with random skanks, me and my friends go out, get drunk, and occasionally talk about super-nerdy topics. Last night was one of those nights (we also got into the biggest snowball fight I’ve ever been a part of in a Hoboken parking lot…if I get pneumonia in a few days, I have no one to blame but myself and my asshole friends who pelted me with snowballs until I was drenched). At a diner around five in morning, we got to talking about video games and one of the topics we touched on was Madden. On an unrelated note, we also talked about Hey Arnold earlier that night for an extended amount of time. Great show.
Anyway, this got me to thinking: what better way to spend my day off (today) than waking up at two in the afternoon, masturbating no less than eight times, and doing research (reminiscing) to compile a list of my favorite Madden games since the MME (Modern Madden Era)? Couldn’t think of one, so read on kiddies…
As I mentioned before, Madden as we know it was birthed in the dawn of the MME, 1995 (though the time period before this provided comic gold for every sadistic child out there as you’ll see below)
In 1995, we had the inception of player names, as the developers were able to acquire the licenses to use the NFL logo and the NFLPA. In addition, gamers were now able to keep track of statistics, something you were not able to do up until that point. Most importantly, however, this was the start of “season mode” as gamers were now able to play an entire season as their favorite team…and save and continue it whenever they wanted. We’ve just cracked open Pandora’s box.
Four years later, gamers could now play up to fifteen (FIFTEEN/15/QUINCE!) years as their favorite team, being able to sign, release, draft, and trade players. Before you know it, Madden slowly became what it is today: a media giant and a threat to the human race. Luckily, I was able to shed my Madden addiction, mostly because the last few incarnations have really fucking sucked (minus Madden 10…more on that later) and were just stale, but during my peak Madden years between 1999-2007? If Madden told me to go hold up a bank with a gorilla mask and a box cutter, I would’ve done it, no questions asked. Skynet has nothing on Madden. For heaven’s sakes, there was a reality show on ESPN about Madden, Madden leagues, insane Madden launch parties, and now a movie based on the Madden Curse is in the works!
So let’s take a look at Madden through the years by taking a look at my top five favorite Madden games. As always, feel free to disagree and please do so in the comments section. But let’s all agree that Madden Football 64 is the worst.
5. Madden NFL 2005
Who didn’t love opening up the newspaper and reading about their franchise tearing shit up? Or hearing your stud wideout being interviewed on The Tony Bruno Show? Fuck school, you had a team to build damnit! The franchise mode in this installment might have been the most immersive, building upon the model introduced from the previous year and now adding Storyline Central. Thinking back, I was hoping I was around eight or nine when this game came out considering how into the game I remember being. Unfortunately I was fifteen. Jesus, no wonder I got no pussy sophomore year of high school, I was too busy trying to turn around the mess Al Davis had created with the Raiders. Damnit, I don’t care if he sucked in real life, I will make Lamont Jordan a 2,000 yard rusher, consequences be damned. This was also the year Madden introduced the Hit Stick, where you could control your strong safety and land a lick on a defenseless receiver that would nowadays warrant a six figure fine. Gotta love historical revisionism!
The animation when your team won the Super Bowl was also greatly improved, which made fifteen-year-old Armando very happy. Nothing better than having your players showered in confetti and your head coach bathed with Gatorade to help celebrate your fake accomplishment.
Best song on soundtrack:
4. Madden NFL 10
The only decent installation since the advent of Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Revamped the feel of the game that had felt stagnant for awhile, improving the gameplay by leaps and bounds, making it feel much more realistic. Little things like the way players accelerate, turn, look for the ball, tackle etc. were all improved upon. All you need to do is play 09 and then play 10 to feel the difference. The franchise mode was vastly improved as well, making player progressions seem much more real. On a related note, player ratings were tempered. For awhile, it seemed as if every starter in the league cracked an 80. Here, if you sucked, Madden let you know. I remember starting a franchise with my roommates as the Houston Texans and trading for Brian Leonard to be our feature tailback (as Rutgers students, you gotta hold a soft spot for him). As much as we tried (and believe us we did), he just couldn’t really get going. Though I will say this, our pass rush was nasty. Spent a lot of time drinking and playing this version so it has to make this list. Though I did hate the chain gang coming out for every single play that was within three yard of the first down marker.
Best song on soundtrack:
3. Madden NFL 2003
Will always be remembered by its usage of “Party Hard” by Andrew WK. That alone might be enough to vault it into the top spot if not for the other two. Its biggest detraction was probably losing the voice of Pat Summerall and replacing it with Al Michaels. Who I do like, but it’s no Summerall. I think we can all agree on that. This was the first Madden game to feature EA Trax and had a sweet minicamp mode that I spent an unspeakable amount of hours playing.
This was also the version of the game in which my brother (eight years old at the time) was playing against the computer and mounted the most legendary comeback I’d ever witnessed. He had scored a pair of touchdowns to cut the deficit to one score and needed to recover the onside kick with a few seconds left in the fourth. He recovered that. Check. Then he needed a long pass for the TD and the win. Tommy Maddox drops back and launches it deep to Hines Ward who leaps and catches it. He breaks the tackle of the CB covering him, I start jumping up and down, pixelated Ward is running down the sideline. My brother’s screaming. I extend my hand to give him a high-five. He obliges. But he puts the controller down. Wards stops running at the three yard line and gets tackled. End of game. El oh fucking el. He still hasn’t shaken that loss.
Best song on soundtrack:
2. Madden NFL 97
Classic. I still play this game to this day. A lot. This is the game I’ve far and away mastered, there are certain plays I can do with my eyes closed. Literally. This game is so ingrained in my muscle memory I simply try to outdo myself every time I play. Which record of mine do I want to break today? Points? Rushing yards? Passing yards? Heck, all of ’em! Helps that the Raiders were armed with some of the fastest players in the league. Napoleon Kaufman, Tim Brown, James Jett, it almost wasn’t fair. This was also the first installment in the 32-bit systems and also implemented free agency to go along with trades while using a salary cap to manage it all. Of course, I had it for Super Nintendo cause I was poor but it was still awesome. This was the first Madden that had the Create-A-Player feature, which I used mercilessly. Of course, I always fucked up on one of the drills which rendered my fictitious player useless. Regardless, this game really helped develop my passion, knowledge, and love for the game by appreciating the X’s and O’s that I clearly was not learning on my shitty Pee-Wee football team. The commentary by Summerall and Madden in this one were the best in the series by far.
“I heard their helmets collide way up here!”
Best song on the soundtrack:
1. Madden NFL 2004
Fitting that Vick is on the cover of my favorite Madden. There is no bigger dramatic shift from one year to the next with Madden as we saw from 2003 to 2004, which makes 2004 far and away my favorite version. The owner mode that was introduced to supplement the franchise mode from the previous years put you in complete control of your franchise. This meant in addition to playing the game and choosing which players were on your team, you, as the owner, built your coaching staff, had the ability to relocate your team, build or rename your stadium, set prices on seats in the stadium in addition to how much fans would have to pay to have a beer and eat a bratwurst, and decide when to hold giveaways to attract fans (I would love to give out snow globes to all the fans…of course, I’d later rip their hearts out when I’d relocate the Raiders to Mexico City). It was so overwhelming at first, I took a whole week to get used to the ins and outs before I started my proper franchise. Training camp before the season allowed you to boost certain players’ ratings through various mini-games. Also, they added the Playmaker stick in which you’d use the right analog stick to make adjustments either before or during the play to fuck up your opposition. The soundtrack was the strongest of all as well.
Best song on soundtrack:
Honorable mention to Madden NFL 99-2002, which was pretty much the same game but with roster updates. And 06 as well, as it introduced my personal favorite innovation: the Truck Stick, which you could use your big running back to run over defensive backs.
Feel free to post your opinions, would love to hear feedback. If not, we’ll all just assume I’m right as always