The best “Madden NFL” games of all time, according to the critics

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While best known to sports fans as an Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame coach and prolific commentator, the late John Madden has also left his mark in the video game world.

For the past thirty years, its name has been synonymous with the National Football League (NFL), as it was attached to all of their officially licensed games. For those who want a real simulation experience, with up-to-date playbooks and squads, authentic commentary, and the ability to play as real athletes, there is simply no alternative to the game. Madden NFL franchise.

The Electronic Arts (EA) series has been booming since 1988, when John Madden Football was released for the Microsoft Disk (MS-DOS) operating system. Equipped with an unparalleled level of customization, it allowed you to tweak everything from match conditions to teams and the rules of the game. Madden himself was keen to get involved in this first project and gave his endorsement when he saw the potential of its use as a modern teaching tool.

The franchise quickly annualized, and since 1990 at least one entry has been published each year. Speaking of which, the last installment, Madden NFL 22, was released in August and has been heavily criticized for its abundance of glitches and outdated game engine.

While the series has been going through a rough patch lately (having been the subject of bad reviews and meta-bombings), it still holds a special place in the hearts of many fans and has delivered a few classics of the genre.

In this spirit, and to commemorate the death of a sports legend, News week rounded off the strengths of the Madden NFL catalog. According to Metacritic’s overall ratings, here are the 5 best entries in the franchise.

The image shows a screenshot of “Madden NFL 22”. The most recent entry into the franchise has not been particularly well received.
EA Games

5. Madden NFL 2001

Sitting at a meta-score of 90, this PS2 release received near universal reception around the turn of the millennium. One of the reviews listed on Metacritic, posted by GameSpot, called it the “best iteration” of the sports game to date, praising its wealth of new features, polished visuals, and realistic simulations (though they did. found fault with slow controls).

The article ends with the following recommendation: “Madness 2001 is the most realistic and comprehensive video game interpretation of football ever. The level of detail in the presentation and feel of the game is so superior to previous football games, it’s amazing. “

Echoing those sentiments, IGN said, “This series is the granddaddy of virtual football and for all intents and purposes this version of the game is the best of the whole bunch.”

While Madden NFL 2001 was generally considered the franchise’s biggest release at the time, the next few years would only see things get even better.

4. Madden NFL 2005

Madden NFL 2005 is certified “Must Play” on Metacritic, with an overall score of 91 out of 100.

GameSpy gave it a perfect 5-star rating, citing improved artificial intelligence (AI), cutting-edge animations, and online mode. On that note, Madden NFL 2005 has the distinction of being the first entry in the series to offer the Xbox Live feature, which obviously became an important part of the brand in the second half of the 2000s and into the future.

GameSpy especially liked the innovative “feedback system” here, which lets you rate others and get everyone to play well. If someone was showing lack of sportsmanship, rage leaving games that were wrong with them or that it was unpleasant to interact with, then you could essentially give them a boost to that the whole world can see it.

It was a bit like an Uber Star rating (albeit 5 years before these existed), and it helped foster a more enjoyable online community.

In summary Madden NFL 2005, GameSpy wrote: “There are very few things not to like […] Its incredibly deep and thoughtful franchise mode is the best I’ve ever seen, while the core gameplay is still unbeatable. [You] will not be disappointed. “

3. Madden NFL 2002

Madden NFL 2002 Box Art
Image shows screenshot of “Madden NFL 22” superimposed on “Madden NFL 2002” box art. The latter is the franchise’s third highest rated game on Metacritic.
EA Games

You might detect that a bit of a pattern is emerging here, like Madden was clearly on a roll in the early 2000s.

Continuing this trend, the 2002 iteration boasts a staggering 94 on Metacritic, based on a sample of 23 reviews. At the time, reporters were in awe of its detailed graphics, in-depth customization options, and addicting local multiplayer offering.

IGN noted that EA admirably refuses to rest on its laurels with this sequel (which isn’t what you’d expect from the company these days) and made “key improvements in every facet of the game.”

Specifically, the outlet praised the developers for adding new content (like the fun exercise mode) and refining the campaign. There was also an improved player creation feature, a better fantasy draft option, and various quality of life improvements.

Overall, IGN said: “Whether or not this is the best football game ever to come out is debatable. [but] we’re going to go ahead and give it our vote for “Best”. Madden. Never. ”Of course, being only third on our list, he was ultimately passed.

2. Madden NFL 2004

Madden NFL 2004 Also has a rating of 94 but, given that it’s based on more reviews than the previous release (29 to be exact), it’s a bit higher. As you would expect by now, most of the articles focus on how the release completely beat the competition and deserved to be considered an industry standard.

Dedicated gaming journalists and sports experts were caught with Madden NFL 2004. It has 11 perfect scores listed on Metacritic, sourced from a wide range of outlets like Playboy, the official site. PlayStation Magazine and Weekly entertainment. In their review, the latter wrote: “Still in its 14th year, the latest edition of this classic football once again simulates the stake.”

The piece referred to owner mode as a particular highlight, noting that it added “a mind-boggling level of depth” to the debates. With this innovative feature, you could take on the managerial responsibilities of an entire team, negotiating salaries, building stadiums, hiring coaches, and even fixing the price of hot dogs at concession stands. It was something completely new for the show at the time and it really changed things.

1. Madden NFL 2003

Madden NFL 2003 Box Art
The image shows a screenshot of “Madden NFL 22” overlaid on the box illustration for “Madden NFL 2003”. This last game is the highest rated of the series on Metacritic.
EA Games

According to Metacritic, Madden NFL 2003 is 59e Most acclaimed video game release of all time. Hailed by many as the complete package, it had refined gameplay, authentic NFL integration, and a suite of extras.

However, the game’s defining attribute was its pioneering online multiplayer component, which was a revelation for the series. Maxim cited this as a key force in their 5-star article, as did GameSpot. For the first time in Madden story, you were able to play with your friends without having to set up a face-to-face meetup and it was a total game-changer in sports games from that point on.

Reflecting on this revolutionary innovation at the time, IGN said, “The idea that you can finally sit down in front of the TV and play another guy thousands of miles away is great.”

Elsewhere, they also praised the game for its unprecedented realism, like the way it understood halftime shows, its authentic commentary, and the use of official uniforms. Summarizing it all, they wrote: “You will not find [another game] which has more authenticity from top to bottom. “


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