When it comes to sports games there are not many that can compare to Madden NFL. An annual release since 1990, the EA title is consistently the most popular game on the market and is eagerly awaited every summer. Super Bowl betting might concentrate on who will win the game but fans of Madden enjoy fevered speculation about who the cover star will be each year.
Fans of other sports will know that it is not always a given that they will transfer from reality to virtual in a positive way. But football fans have been blessed with a number of titles over the years that have faithfully replicated the excitement and passion of the NFL. Here are five games that are fondly remembered by football and gaming fans alike.
Our rundown of the best NFL games had to start in one place – with Madden. Poignantly, the most recent version of the game was the first to be released since the incomparable John Madden passed away. Unsurprisingly it was hugely popular and ensured the name of the famous commentator will live on for a good while yet.
Alongside improved graphics and features every year, one of the major attractions of Madden NFL has always been that novices and experts can play it. Whether you are a former NFL player yourself, or just someone who doesn’t really like sports but digs games, this is the football game that all others have to live up to.
Tecmo Super Bowl
There have been some other games that we have loved down through the years though. The original Tecmo Bowl was a huge hit way back in the day, but when the Tecmo Super Bowl came out on the NES it became an instant classic. It certainly helped that the original license from the NFL could still be used for teams and players.
Where the original only offered a few play options, Tecmo Super Bowl expanded the game play and was able to keep statistics and records as well. This always went down well with the true football fans. The players of the day were faithfully featured – and if you came up against Bo Jackson, you had no chance of winning.
ESPN NFL 2K
Madden might be the undisputed NFL game, but for a while there was some very intense competition from the ESPN and NFL licensed NFL 2K series. Unfortunately the series didn’t last too long thanks to EA picking up exclusive rights after the release of 2K5.
This game is fondly remembered for gameplay and the AI. But there were also features such as the pre-game and halftime shows that gave it the feel of a real football Sunday, rather than just another game. There was an attempt to bring 2K back after losing the license but there is something just not right about playing an NFL game that can’t use the real players and teams.
Of course, for millions of Americans, the NFL is not really where all the excitement is at when it comes to football. The college game is revered all across the country but comes out on top in many cities and states where there isn’t a pro franchise. Add to that the realism of the product and NCAA Football was a surefire hit.
This was another series that ended because of licensing rights. But the realistic recruitment process and the opportunity to turn a weaker team into a champion made this a hugely popular game. So much so that the announcement that it will be returning in 2023 was welcomed across the board.
When we talk about the popularity of most sports games – including titles such as Madden – a lot of the reasons why is the authenticity of the product. The more realistic, the better, it seems. But that was not the case for the last game on our list of top football games.
NFL Blitz took all the aggression and speed of the sport and exaggerated them out of all proportion for what was essentially an arcade game. The fans loved it – especially the late hits feature. The design of the modern games are all very impressive but obviously sometimes we just want things to smash together in front of our eyes!