Madden NFL releases at 12:01 AM 8/26. Courtesy: EA Sports
Right now NFL gamers are concocting their best lies so they can call out sick from work, while chasing down alibis to verify their stories as they prepare to get lost in the newest version of EA Sports Madden NFL 15—it releases Tuesday at midnight.
As my own excitement builds about the latest installment, I can’t help but to reflect on how far sports games have come in the 29 years that I’ve been playing, going back to when I was a five year old kid playing my father’s Atari and Coleco Vision. The graphics, realism and sophistication in bringing the most realist simulation of the on field action blows my mind with these seventh and eight consoles (PS3, XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, PS4, XBOX One and Nintendo’s Wii U). But also, it gives me a chance to look back at the hit games of yester-year that captivated my imagination even though graphically they’re Stone Age.
The nostalgia of the classic 16, 64 and 128 bits are the ones most tout as their favorites mostly due to the time period of their lives when they played them, but are also considered the best because of the simplicity of them. So with that in mind, here are my best (favorite) football video games of all time. You’ll notice a common theme with some, competition with Madden, which has none now and many feel that’s hurting the series.
Tecmo Super Bowl (Nintendo) ~ This wasn’t the first football simulation, it wasn’t even the first in this series, but it’s the one everyone who grew up in the 1980’s talks about. The LA Raiders (yes, Los Angeles for you young kids) were led by the most potent running attack in gaming history, Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson. It was hard enough for opponents to catch Jackson, that even if they got him in their grasps, he’d still break away. Without a doubt he was the best player in Tecmo Bowl history. Then there were the dominate teams; Joe Montana’s San Francisco 49ers, the up and coming Triplet led Dallas Cowboys and the incarnation of the Jim Kelly Buffalo Bills that eventually went to four consecutive Super Bowls. These teams and others didn’t have over hyped players with unrealistic ratings like in today’s games. The best teams were just the best teams, but unlike reality—and today’s games—you could win with every team.
Tecmo Super Bowl is the game most true football gamers still hail as their all time favorite. Of course it has it’s flaws. It’s not a true simulation and is very arcade, but go play it now and you’ll still get the same enjoyment you got over two decades ago. That’s why the last gen consoles attempted to update the game with better graphics, but without a licensing deal with the NFL, the rosters were filled with generic names playing for generic teams.
College Football USA 96 from EA Sports (Sega Genesis) ~ Although there we two previous College Football games in this series, many would point to this one as the true birth of the NCAA College Football series we all fell in love with that has since been terminated (Thanks Ed O’Bannon!)
The was the first game with all 108 Division l-A teams—at that time. It was also the first time the big four major bowl games (Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, and Rose) were involved. The series introduced windowless passing and the 96 version in particular brought in a new passing mode that allowed gamers to choose from five receivers on every play. Speaking of plays, there were 400 to choose from, as well as new key features such as substitutions, injuries, audibles, spins, hurdles, dives, blocked kicks, interceptions and laterals that are extremely important video games or reality.
NFL 2K (Sega Dreamcast) ~ Thanks to EA Sports decision not to publish the Madden Series on the Sega Dreamcast, NFL 2K from Visual Concepts, made a splash on the brand new Sega console which was first in what was called the sixth generation of consoles (Sega Dreamcast, Playstation 2, Nintendo GameCube and XBOX). Madden which was the runaway popular choice, found it a formidable foe.
Helping to usher in the new era of sports gaming, 2K sports a relatively unknown, gave us the blueprint of what was to come. Oh and Randy Moss—the 2K Cover Boy—who’s Sunday performances were video game like, was just as great in the game. This game got me through many of nights in my sophomore year of college, and cost me several valuable study time.
Courtesy: Courtesy: IGN
NFL Gameday from 989 Sports and Interactive Studios America (Playstation 1) ~ The game that was Madden’s top competition in the mid-90’s. I remember Gameday for it’s jarring hits, that if completed during a game played in the rain, would light up the field as if lightning had struck the victim. I would say this is what eventually led to the hit stick that Madden made popular. The game broke ground with the 1998 version, becoming the first to introduce 3D polygonal graphics.
On the negative side, I do remember the players being extremely bulky with everyone from QBs to O Linemen having the same build; Plus, the players moved awkwardly, but like in anything in life, it was nice to have other NFL gaming options outside of Madden.
NCAA Game Breaker by 989 Sports (Playstation 1) ~ Like its NFL big brother Gameday, this series was the alternative to the EA Sports NCAA Football series. The gameplay was similar to Gameday, and produced high quality animation and presentation. It was a precursor of what was to come at the turn of the century with the arrival of Sega Dreamcast, Playstation 2 and the Xbox.