Madden NFL

Madden NFL
Madden NFL series logo
Genres American football video game
Developer(s) EA Tiburon
Publisher(s) EA Sports
Platforms PC, Commodore Amiga, Super NES, Genesis, Game Gear, 3DO, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Microsoft Windows, macOS, DOS, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, Sega Saturn, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, Nintendo 3DS, Android, BlackBerry PlayBook
Platform of origin Commodore 64, Commodore 128, Apple II, MS-DOS
Year of inception 1988
First release John Madden Football
June 1, 1988
Latest release Madden NFL 19
August 10, 2018

Madden NFL (originally known as John Madden Football until 1993) is an American football video game series developed by EA Tiburon for EA Sports. It is named after Pro Football Hall of Famer John Madden, and has sold more than 130 million copies, and influenced many players and coaches of the physical sport. Among the game's realistic features are sophisticated playbooks and player statistics, and voice commentary that allows players to hear the game as if it were a real TV broadcast. As of 2013 the franchise has generated over $4 billion in sales.

Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins conceived the series and approached Madden in 1984 for his endorsement and expertise. Because of Madden's insistence that the game be as realistic as possible, the first version of John Madden Football did not appear until 1988. EA has released annual versions since 1990, and the series' name changed to Madden NFL in 1993 after EA acquired the rights to use NFL teams and players. Despite Madden's retirement as a broadcaster in 2009, he continues to lend his name to provide expertise for the game franchise.


As of 2013 Electronic Arts has sold more than 100 million copies of Madden NFL, and more than five million in one year, for more than $4 billion in total sales.[2] At EA Tiburon in Orlando, Florida a team of 30 developers and more than 100 game testers works on each new game in the series,[3] which as of 2012 contains more than 10 million lines of source code.[4]

Madden, once better known for Ace Hardware commercials than football despite winning Super Bowl XI with the Oakland Raiders, is now better known for Madden NFL than as coach or broadcaster.[5][3] He receives an estimated $2 to 3 million each year for his endorsement[6] but describes himself as "never a good player" of Madden, and prefers to watch others play.[4] Although Madden says that "a computer is a helluva lot smarter than me"[1] he has influenced the series' design from the first game, and since retiring from broadcasting and doing videogame voice commentary in 2009 his participation in each Madden's development has increased:[4][3]

He breaks down upcoming rules changes. He brings up concussions, helmet-to-helmet hits and gimmick quarterbacks. A digression on how the Dome Patrol-era Saints used to frustrate Bill Walsh's 49ers teams with short linebacker drops becomes a lecture on the obsolescence of the fullback, which then morphs into a short aside on player character.[3]

EA estimates that the series has five to seven million dedicated fans, and an underground circuit of Madden cash tournaments exists.[4] Marshall Faulk in 2010 estimated that "50 percent on up" of NFL players are Madden players, who play in the league with or against childhood heroes they once chose to play as in the game.[8] Players typically play as themselves regardless of their electronic counterparts' abilities[7][9][8] and immediately check new releases of the game for changes in the more than 60 ratings of their talent.[10][1] They often complain to Madden and EA about allegedly inaccurate ratings (only Emmitt Smith has told him that the game rated him too high), or ask for changes in their in-game appearance. Such complaints began as early as 1990, confusing the broadcaster, who did not contribute the player statistics for that year's version due to lack of time.[3][6]

Coaches and players at all levels of the sport say that Madden has influenced them, and recommend the game to learn football strategy and tactics, practice plays and assignments, and simulate opponents.[3][8] Young players who grew up with it reportedly understand plays better than those who did not. Wired in 2010 attributed the growing use of rookie quarterbacks and the spread offense to the game, stating that "the sport is being taken over by something you might call Maddenball — a sophisticated, high-scoring, pass-happy, youth-driven phenomenon". When the Denver Broncos' Brandon Stokley in 2009 burned six seconds of the clock with an unusual run before scoring the winning touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals, Madden designers—who were watching the game with Madden—immediately recognized his action as "what happens in the game!"[8][3]

Football broadcasts on television use Madden-like visual cues to more closely resemble it, and the NFL considers the series its "33rd franchise" because each week during the season EA Sports receives the same searchable film database of every play that each of the league's 32 teams do.[4][1] The game is the NFL's second-largest source of licensing revenue after apparel, and an important part of the league's recruitment of children as new football fans.[7]

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003 opened an interactive exhibit in which visitors play Madden,[10] three years before its namesake's induction.[3] Museum of the Moving Image in New York City in early 2014 celebrated Madden NFL's 25th anniversary, with an exhibit including five playable versions of the game.[11]

Voice commentary

Voice commentary in Madden allows players or watchers to hear the game being called as if it were a real game on TV.[12] For early versions of the game, this commentary was performed by Madden himself and his play-by-play partner. Initially, this was Pat Summerall, his partner during their days at the CBS and the Fox from the early 1980s to the early 2000s until Summerall retired; the role was then filled by Al Michaels, John's broadcast partner on ABC Monday Night Football (20022005) and NBC Sunday Night Football (20062008). For the first Madden games on the Xbox 360 and PS3, they featured a generic EA Sports radio announcer doing play-by-play. This started with Madden 06 and ended with Madden 08.[13] Other versions of those games still featured Madden's commentary. Madden NFL 09 would end up being the last version to feature Madden's commentary, albeit in a reduced role. By that time, he felt that reciting a script covering every single scenario in the game was boring and tedious[14]Madden recalled the long hours spent alone in the recording studio as "the most difficult part of any part that I've ever had in the game and the least amount of fun"[4]but said that in the decision to remove him from game commentary, "I feel that something is being taken away from me".[3]

Madden and Michaels were replaced by Cris Collinsworth as color commentator and Tom Hammond on play-by-play in Madden NFL 09 and Madden NFL 10. Gus Johnson replaced Hammond in Madden NFL 11 and Madden NFL 12, with Collinsworth handling color commentary in both games.[15] Madden NFL 13 marked the debut of real-life announcing team Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, including them appearing in an in-booth cutscene before the game.[16] Nantz and Simms stayed until Madden NFL 16, when they were replaced by Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis for Madden NFL 17. Gaudin and Davis returned to the studio throughout the 2016–17 NFL season to add new commentary relevant to each week of the season.[17]

In a similar approach used by the automobile industry, until Madden NFL 25, the Madden series has always historically been numbered one year later than the year in which it is released. However, the season it represents is the year in which the game is released (thus, Madden NFL 13 was actually released in 2012 and is modeled after the 2012 NFL season).

Series overview

Titles in the series
Title Release year PC 4th gen 5th gen 6th gen 7th gen 8th gen Handheld Other platforms Notes On the cover
John Madden Football1988MS-DOSC=64/C=128, Apple IIJohn Madden
John Madden Football1990Genesis, SNESAmigaJohn Madden
John Madden Football II1991MS-DOSJohn Madden
John Madden Football '921991GenesisJohn Madden
John Madden Football '931992Genesis, SNESJohn Madden
John Madden Duo CD Football1993TG16 (Super CD)John Madden
Madden NFL '941993Genesis, SNESJohn Madden
John Madden Football[18][19]19943DOJohn Madden
Madden NFL '951994Genesis, SNESGame Boy, Game Gear, TV gameJohn Madden with Erik Williams of the Dallas Cowboys and Karl Wilson of the San Francisco 49ers in the background
Madden NFL '961995WindowsGenesis, SNESGame Boy, Game GearJohn Madden
Madden NFL 971996WindowsGenesis, SNESPS, SaturnGame BoyJohn Madden with Cary Brabham of the Carolina Panthers and Gordon Laro of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the background[20]
Madden Football 641997N64John Madden
Madden NFL 981997WindowsGenesis, SNESPS, SaturnJohn Madden
Madden NFL 991998WindowsPS, N64John Madden / Garrison Hearst of the San Francisco 49ers (PAL version)
Madden NFL 20001999WindowsPS, N64Game Boy ColorMacintoshJohn Madden with Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions in the background / Dorsey Levens of the Green Bay Packers (European PAL version)
Madden NFL 20012000WindowsPS, N64PS2Game Boy ColorEddie George of the Tennessee Titans
Madden NFL 20022001WindowsPS, N64PS2, GCN, XboxGame Boy Color, Game Boy AdvanceDaunte Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings
Madden NFL 20032002WindowsPSPS2, NGC, XboxGame Boy AdvanceMarshall Faulk of the St. Louis Rams
Madden NFL 20042003WindowsPSPS2, NGC, XboxGame Boy AdvanceMichael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons
Madden NFL 20052004WindowsPSPS2, NGC, XboxGame Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Tapwave ZodiacRay Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens
Madden NFL 062005WindowsPS2, NGC, XboxXbox 360Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, PSP, Windows Mobile, Mobile phoneDonovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles
Madden NFL 072006WindowsPS2, NGC, XboxXbox 360, PS3, WiiGame Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, PSPShaun Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks, John Madden for the Hall Of Fame Edition
Madden NFL 082007WindowsPS2, NGC, XboxXbox 360, PS3, WiiNintendo DS, PSPMac OS XVince Young of the Tennessee Titans / Luis Castillo of the San Diego Chargers (Spanish language version)
Madden NFL 092008PS2, XboxXbox 360, PS3, WiiNintendo DS, PSPBrett Favre of the Green Bay Packers / Brett Favre of the New York Jets (alternative cover) / Roberto Garza of the Chicago Bears (Spanish language version)
Madden NFL 102009PS2Xbox 360, PS3, WiiPSP, iOSTroy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals
Madden NFL 112010PS2Xbox 360, PS3, WiiPSP, iOSDrew Brees of the New Orleans Saints
Madden NFL Football20113DSMadden NFL Football logo
Madden NFL 122011PS2Xbox 360, PS3, WiiPSP, iOS, Android, BlackBerry PlaybookPeyton Hillis of the Cleveland Browns
Madden NFL 132012Xbox 360, PS3, WiiWii UPS Vita, iOSCalvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions
Madden NFL 252013[21]Xbox 360, PS3Xbox One, PS4iOS, AndroidBarry Sanders of the Detroit Lions (Xbox 360 and PS3)
Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings (Xbox One and PS4)
Madden NFL 152014Xbox 360, PS3Xbox One, PS4Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks
Madden NFL Overdrive2014iOS, AndroidRichard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks (2014 season), Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants (2015 season), Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots/Von Miller of the Denver Broncos/Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers (2016 season), Tom Brady of the New England Patriots (2017 season), Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers (2018 season)
Madden NFL 162015Xbox 360, PS3Xbox One, PS4Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants
Madden NFL 172016Xbox 360, PS3Xbox One, PS4Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots
Madden NFL 182017Xbox One, PS4Tom Brady of the New England Patriots
Madden NFL 192018WindowsXbox One, PS4,Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Terrell Owens of the Dallas Cowboys for the Hall of Fame Edition

1980s: Creation

Trip Hawkins created a clone of the Strat-o-Matic paper and dice-based football simulation game as a teenager. The game was unsuccessful due to its complexity, and he hoped to one day delegate its rules to a computer. At Harvard College, where Hawkins played football for the Crimson, he wrote a football simulation for the PDP-11 minicomputer which, he later said, predicted that the Miami Dolphins would defeat the Minnesota Vikings 23–6 (actually 24–7) in the 1974 Super Bowl.[3][23] After founding Electronic Arts in 1982[3]—"The real reason that I founded [it] was because I wanted to make computerized versions of games like Strat-O-Matic", Hawkins later said[22][8]—the company began designing a microcomputer football game. Hawkins first approached his favorite player Joe Montana to endorse the proposed game but the quarterback already had an endorsement deal with Atari Inc., and his second choice, Cal coach Joe Kapp, demanded royalties.[3]

In 1984 Hawkins approached Madden. He and game producer Joe Ybarra arranged a follow-up meeting with the broadcaster during an Amtrak train trip over two days because of Madden's fear of flying.[3][24][25][4] The EA executives promised that the proposed game would be a sophisticated football simulation, and asked the retired Oakland Raiders coach for his endorsement and expertise. Madden knew nothing about computers beyond his telestrator but agreed; he had taught a class at the University of California, Berkeley called "Football for Fans", and envisioned the program as a tool for teaching and testing plays.[3][14] (Madden continues to see the game as an educational tool. When asked in 2012 to describe Madden NFL, he called it "a way for people to learn the game and participate in the game at a pretty sophisticated level".[4]) Hawkins and Ybarra during the train trip learned football plays and strategies from Madden from sunrise to midnight.[3]

EA likely expected Madden to endorse the game without participating in its design. Early plans envisioned six or seven players per team because of technical limitations but Madden insisted on having 11 players,[3][4] stating "I'm not putting my name on it if it's not real."[25] Ybarra, who had played chess, not football, in high school, became an expert on the subject through his work, but found that 11 players overwhelmed contemporary home computers. Most projects that are as delayed as Madden are canceled; Ybarra and developer Robin Antonick needed three years, more than twice the length of the average development process. The project became known within the company as "Trip's Folly", and Madden believed at times that EA had given up.[3]

The company hired Bethesda Softworks to finish the game, but this only got them partway to their goal. While EA used many of its designs, including contributions to their physics engine,[26] within a year Bethesda stopped working on Madden and sued EA over EA's failure to publish new versions of Bethesda's Gridiron! football game. This added to the delay.[25] After a final development push, John Madden Football debuted in 1988 for the Apple II series of computers. Hawkins and an exhausted Ybarra ("All my memories are of pain") were able to move on to other projects.[3]

EA had a copy of the 1980 Raiders playbook, and hired San Francisco Chronicle writer Frank Cooney, who had designed his own figurine football game with numerical skill ratings. Although the company could not yet legally use NFL teams' or players' names, Cooney obtained real plays from NFL teams. The back of the box called the game "The First Real Football Simulation" and quoted Madden: "Hey, if there aren't 11 players, it isn't real football." Documentation included diagrams of dozens of offensive and defensive plays with Madden's commentary on coaching strategies and philosophy.[27] The game sold moderately well[3] but given the sophisticated playbook its interface was complex, and Madden's insistence on 11 players caused the game to run slowly.[25]

During this period, Madden turned down the opportunity to buy an "unlimited" number of options for EA stock in its initial public offering, a decision he later called "the dumbest thing I ever did in my life".[3][4]


In early 1990 EA hired Park Place Productions to develop Madden for the Sega Genesis video game console. Park Place had developed ABC Monday Night Football with "arcade-style, action-heavy" game play, and its Madden also emphasized hyperreality compared to the computer version's focus on exact simulation.[3][5] Impressed with Park Place's work, EA chose it for the Genesis Madden instead of completing an in-house version by Antonick.[28]

EA reverse engineered the console to sell the game without paying the standard $8 to $10 license fee per cartridge to Sega, then proposed a compromise of $2 per cartridge and a $2 million cap on the fee. The console maker agreed, afraid that EA would sell its reverse-engineered knowledge to other companies; the agreement saved EA $35 million over the next three years. As its own Joe Montana-endorsed football game would miss the 1990 Christmas shopping season, Sega asked EA to let it sell Madden with the Montana name. EA refused, but offered an inferior alternative that lacked Madden's 3D graphics and most of its 113 plays.[3][5] Joe Montana Football sold well despite shipping after Christmas 1990, and remained popular after BlueSky Software took over development.[25] John Madden Football for the Genesis, however, became both the first hugely successful Madden game—selling 400,000 copies when the company expected 75,000[28]—and the first killer app for EA and Sega, helping the console gain market share against the Super NES.[3][25] From 1992 to 1994, Mega placed the game at #1 in their monthly Top 100 Mega Drive Games of All Time.

In 1990, EA producer Richard Hilleman brought in veteran sports game designer Scott Orr, who had founded the mid-1980s Commodore 64 game publisher GameStar, and had led the design of their best-selling sports games. The team of Orr and Hilleman designed and led the development of what is today still recognizable as the modern Madden. Early versions of Madden were created by external development studios such as Bethesda, Visual Concepts, and Stormfront Studios. John Madden Football '92 also featured the ambulance which would run over any players in its path. After Visual Concepts failed to deliver Madden NFL '96 for the new PlayStation in 1995, EA hired Tiburon Entertainment for Madden NFL '97[25] and later acquired the company, centralizing development in-house.[3] It planned to release John Madden Football as its first sports-based arcade game, but the game was cancelled due to unenthusiastic reactions from play testers.[29] EA's refusal to release Madden and other sports titles for the Dreamcast in 1999 contributed to the console's lack of success and Sega's exit from the hardware market.[25]

Franchise Mode

In 1998 Electronic Arts added "Franchise Mode" to Madden, giving players the ability to play multiple seasons, make off-season draft picks, and trade players.[30] Within Franchise Mode, players take on the role of General Manager and manage all personnel matters, including contracts, free agency, draft picks, and hiring and firing coaches. The player also acts as a head coach-like character (although there is a head coach figure in-game), choosing which players to play, making substitutions, running practices, practicing gameplans, etc.

Players may play with any of the NFL's 32 franchises, and can choose whether or not to have trade deadlines, salary caps, and if they want to start their Franchise with a 49-round fantasy draft of all active NFL players. Players can also upload created teams for use in the game.

Once in game, players run training camp (individual drills for improving players' attributes), play in preseason games and compete in a regular 16-game NFL season, including playoffs and the Super Bowl. The player has the option to play any game in the simulation, including those involving other teams if they so desire, or may simulate through the games as they choose. Most versions of Madden give a player 30 years with their franchise, sometimes with an opportunity to apply for the Hall of Fame at the end of the simulation.


Madden NFL 2001

Madden NFL 2001 featured a segment called "Great Games" where one would be put in a situation where they control one team and would have to win the game with a set amount of time. If the player wins, they unlock either a new team or a stadium. Overall, there were more than 60 teams and over 80 stadiums in Madden NFL 2001.

Madden NFL 2002

Madden NFL 2002 featured for the first time Create-A-Team where one would make a team and play with that team in either Play Now or Franchise mode. It also featured Create-A-League mode but it never caught on. Create-A-Team was not featured in Madden NFL 13 and moving teams was first featured in Madden NFL 2004 called "Stadium" in the Franchise mode of the game. Madden NFL 2002 was the 2nd highest selling game in 2002.

Madden NFL 2003

There are multiple modes of game play, from a quick head-to-head game to running a team for a whole season or even multiple seasons. Online play, which was a new feature for Madden NFL 2003 (in this version there are also mini-camp challenges) was only available for users of the PlayStation 2 console, Xbox console, or a Microsoft Windows PC until early 2004.

Madden NFL 2004

Also, starting with Madden NFL 2004, EA Sports created the new Playmaker tool, using the right analog joystick found on each of the adjustments previously unavailable in prior installments of the franchise.[31] One such adjustment includes the ability to switch which direction a running play was going without changing the formation. Prior to the Playmaker tool, the Player could only call one of four available "hot routes." With Playmaker and the use of the right thumb stick, the player is given 4 additional Hot Route options. When the quarterback has the ball the Playmaker Tool can be used to make receivers alter their routes mid-play. When running the ball on offense, the runner can control the direction in which the blocker is going. Defensive alignment adjustments, however, were not available leading to obvious imbalance in favor of the Offensive player.

Madden NFL 2005

In Madden NFL 2005, EA Sports ran a campaign with the Theme "Fear the D" emphasising their improvements on the "other side of the ball." In an attempt to re-balance the players experience, EA gave a Playmaker Tool to the defense. Similar to the offensive Playmaker Tool, the defensive Playmaker allows the player to make pre-snap defensive adjustments. EA Sports further utilized the right analog joystick on defense by creating the "Hit Stick", an option on defense that allows the controlled player to make big hits, with a simple flick, that increases the chances the ball carrier will fumble. Also introduced for the first time is the "Formation Shift." This new feature allowed players to shift their formation in the pre-snap audible menu without actually changing the play. For example, if you call a run play up the middle out of a goal line formation, you could then call a formation shift and make your players spread out into a four wide receiver formation while still in the same running play. The problem with this new function was that EA also added a fatigue penalty for the defense causing defensive players to get more tired each time there was a formation shift. This led to players on offense calling multiple formation shifts each play making the defensive players too exhausted to keep up and force them to substitute out of the game until they are fully rested. This led to more imbalance that could only be fixed by turning off fatigue.

2005 also added "EA Sports Radio", a fictional show that plays during the menu screen of Franchise mode to provide a greater sense of a storyline during gameplay. It features Tony Bruno as the host, who often interviews players and coaches about how the season is going and also has quiz questions in which fake listeners call in to make attempts at answering football-related questions. It included mock interviews of famous NFL players and coaches throughout the in-game season. Some fans have criticized EA Sports for not including new features to the 'programming' as the radio became stale after only two seasons in franchise mode, but the feature drew acclaim for adding content to the Franchise menu. Also added was the Newspaper where the player could look at National News from licensed USA Today and Licensed Local papers for almost each of the 32 NFL teams. Lastly, 2005 also saw the introduction of multiple progressions during franchise mode. Previously NFL players in Madden would only progress or regress at the end of each season. Now at the end of Week 5, 11, and 17 the game would use a program to "progress" players based on their performance in addition to end of season progression.

Madden NFL 06

In Madden NFL 06, the "Truck Stick" was introduced. This feature allows the offensive player to lower his shoulder and break a tackle, or back juke to avoid one. Another new feature is the Superstar Mode, which allows the player to take control of a rookie, and progress through his career.[32] This includes an IQ test, interviews, workouts, the NFL Draft, hiring an agent, and other aspects of a superstar's life.

EA also introduced the QB Vision feature in the 2006 installment. With this feature, a cone of spotlight emits from the quarterback during passing plays, simulating his field of vision. To make an accurate pass, the quarterback must have his intended receiver in his field of vision. Passing to a receiver not in the cone reduces pass accuracy significantly. The size of the quarterback's vision cone is directly correlated to his Awareness and Passer Accuracy rating; Brett Favre and Peyton Manning see nearly the entire field at once, whereas an inexperienced quarterback such as J. P. Losman or Kyle Boller sees only a sliver of the field.[3] This feature also allows for bigger plays and more interceptions.

Also, EA sports added the Smart Route. This means that when pressing a hot route to the corresponding receiver, you put the analog stick down and the receiver will run to the first down, and you can throw him the ball.

While current gen Madden remained the same with the exception of a "Smart Route" and "QB Vision", this was also the first year Madden was released on the next-gen Xbox 360. It was completely stripped down, almost every change made in the previous gen was wiped away.

Madden NFL 07

In Madden NFL 07, EA introduced Lead Blocker Controls which allow users to control blockers during running plays. In addition, EA redefined the Truck Stick into the Highlight Stick. With the Highlight Stick, users can have their running backs perform different running moves and combos, instead of just bowling over defenders. Truck Stick features still exist for bigger backs, but not for smaller backs who would never realistically use them anyway. Instead, more agile backs perform acrobatic ducks and dodges to avoid tackles.[33]

Madden NFL 08

In Madden NFL 08, the Weapons feature was added, allowing superstar players to be noticed. Randy Moss, for example, is a Go-To-Guy, allowing him to make amazing one-handed grabs. Peyton Manning is a Franchise QB. It also includes new skill drills, Hit Stick 2.0, and Ring of a Champion features. Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young is on the cover. Madden NFL 08 was also the last GameCube game ever released. 2008 marked the last year of the PC version of the game.

Madden NFL 09

Madden NFL 09 was released on August 12, 2008. Citing business concerns, EA chose not to release it on the PC platform.[34] The game features quarterback Brett Favre on the front cover.[35] Madden NFL 09 was the first of the series to offer online, league game play, allowing up to 32 players to compete in an online, simulated NFL season. EA Sports Senior Producer Phil Frazier, up to 32 players were able to participate in competitive games, the NFL Draft and conduct trades between their teams. The game was also the first of the series to incorporate a Madden IQ. The Madden IQ is used to automatically gauge your skills through a series of mini-games consisting of run offense, pass offense, run defense, and pass defense. At the end of each of the drills, the player receives a score ranging from rookie to all-Madden. The final Madden IQ is a mixture of those scores which is used to control the game's difficulty.[3][36][37]

Madden NFL 10

Madden NFL 10 was released on August 14, 2009. It featured Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu [38] Compared to previous iterations, Madden NFL 10 has been extremely transparent with its development efforts, maintaining a weekly blog updates as well as a constant presence on various message boards. A new design team has also taken over the game, including members from NFL Head Coach 09. The direction of Madden NFL 10 has been shifted to much more of a realistic and simulation focus, with info already released including Procedural Awareness (a robust head tracking system), a new philosophy on player ratings, and big improvements to realism in QB play, WR/DB play, and other areas across the game. Madden 10 has several new features including the PRO-TAK animation technology, which allows up to nine man gang tackles and fumble pile-ups to help players 'fight for every yard', in this year's tagline. Madden 10 also features an in-game weekly recap show called The Extra Point. Madden 10 offers a series of multiple play packages. This allows for more options to score. This version features a completely overhauled rating system for players, featuring new categories such as throw on the run and specific ratings for short, medium, and deep passes.[39] The game's soundtrack features rap, alternative rock, rap metal and hard rock bands such as Nirvana, Pantera, System of a Down, and Kid Rock.


Madden NFL 11

Madden NFL 11 was released on July 27, 2010 (moved up from its original release date of August 10, 2010 for promotional reasons[40]), and features Drew Brees on the cover. It features several new additions to the franchise, such as Online Team Play,[41] Online Scouting[42] and online attribute boosts for co-op play.[43] Along with these new game additions is a new rating (sponsored by Old Spice) known as Swagger.[44] Although early speculation was that this new rating would be reflective of "confidence" or "composure," it was quickly confirmed to be directly tied to a player's personality for celebrations.[45]

Madden NFL 12

Madden NFL 12 was released on August 25, 2011. The release was delayed by two weeks due to the NFL lockout,[46] and features Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis on the cover. However, there is a limited edition in which the cover features St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk.

Madden NFL 13

Madden NFL 13 was released on August 28, 2012, and features Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson as the cover athlete. Madden NFL 13 is the first Madden game to be released on the PlayStation Vita, and is also the first game in the series to have Kinect support as well as a new physics engine promoting real in game physics.[47]

Madden NFL 13 included a complete revamp to online franchise mode which became known as Connected Careers Mode (CCM). Some of the new CCM features included player contracts, the ability to trade draft picks, a salary cap, and up to 30 seasons worth of gameplay.[48]

Madden NFL 25

In early 2013, EA Sports announced that the next installment of the Madden series was released on August 27, 2013. As this installment is the 25th anniversary of the series,[49] the game is called Madden NFL 25, instead of Madden NFL 14 with the year like the previous versions.[50] The cover vote consisted of two brackets containing past players ("Old School") and active players ("New School").[51]

"Old School" player and Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders was chosen as the cover athlete for Madden NFL 25 on the April 24, 2013, episode of ESPN's SportsNation. The "New School" finalist was Adrian Peterson.[52]

Madden NFL 15

On March 13, 2014 EA Sports posted on its website that user would be able to design and submit uniforms for Connected Careers by March 17, 2014 for "the next Madden NFL."[53] On April 28, 2014, EA announced the release of Madden 15 pre-ordering in a release video with NFL linebacker and 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly. The game was released August 26 in North America and on August 29 in the EU for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. The game featured "dramatic all-new camera angles, as well as dynamic pre-game and halftime features."[54] During the Detroit Lions 10th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, Barry Sanders announced fans again would be able to vote for the cover athlete.[55] On June 6, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was announced as the cover athlete.[56]

Madden NFL 16

EA decided not to have players vote for the cover athlete through a traditional bracket, but rather through collectible cards in Madden NFL Mobile, or through Ultimate Team on the console devices. On May 4, 2015, the four finalists were announced for the 2016 game cover: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. On May 13, Beckham Jr. beat out Gronkowski in a fan vote for the cover of Madden 16. It was released on August 25, 2015.[57]

Madden NFL 17

Madden NFL 17 was released on August 23, 2016. The features in the game include an upgrade of the Ground Game, a redesigned and better Franchise Mode, "Madden 365", new Ball Carrier UI Prompts, the new Path Assist and more.[58] New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski serves as the cover athlete.[59]

Madden NFL 18

Madden NFL 18 was released on August 25, 2017.[60] The game is the first in the series to be developed in the Frostbite Engine, and incorporates a story mode titled Longshot Mode, akin to The Journey in FIFA 17.[61] It was announced that Tom Brady would be on the cover, marking the second consecutive year where a Patriot will be on the cover.[62] Furthermore, an enhanced G.O.A.T edition was also announced.[63]

Madden NFL 19

Madden NFL 19 was announced with Antonio Brown as the cover athlete.[64] It was released on August 10, 2018.

License history and spinoffs


Until 1993, the Madden series did not have official licenses from the National Football League or National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). Madden NFL '94 was the first game in the series to include real NFL teams, and Madden NFL '95 added an NFLPA license for real players through the National Football League Players Incorporated (NFLPI).[65] The licenses restrict EA from including certain content in current Madden games, such as the humorous ambulance that picks up injured players in 1991's John Madden Football II.[3] The NFL Coaches Association sold the rights to have NFL coaches' names appear in the Madden NFL games; Madden NFL 2001 was the first game in the series to feature this license.[66] Neither New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick nor Bill Parcells appeared in the game as they are not members of the NFL Coaches Association. Likewise, non-NFLPA players (such as Thurman Thomas during his playing career) do not appear in the game, instead being replaced with generic placeholders.


In 2004, EA signed an exclusive license through 2009 with the NFL and the NFLPI to give the company the exclusive rights to use the NFL's teams, stadia, and players in a video game.[67] This exclusive license prevents other official NFL video games. The deal, reportedly worth $300 million and later extended to 2013,[3] has been widely criticized. Some competitors, such as the Blitz: The League series, have elected to continue, seeking to distinguish themselves through innovative gameplay while others, such as the NFL 2K series, have ceased production. In 2007, 2K Sports released All Pro Football 2K8, which used former NFL stars.

Head Coach series

In August 2006, EA Sports debuted NFL Head Coach, which utilized the Madden engine to create a football management simulation. The game was criticized as buggy and unrealistic. EA Tiburon rebuilt the game from the ground up, addressing flaws and creating a proprietary engine, over the course of three years. NFL Head Coach 09 was released on August 12, 2008 bundled with the special edition of Madden NFL 09 and as a standalone game on September 2, 2008.

Madden NFL Social

Madden NFL Social was an early version of Madden NFL Mobile for Facebook and iOS that was released November 1, 2012 and shut down September 2, 2013.

Madden Arcade

Released on November 24, 2009,[68] the game is 5-on-5 and takes the best 10 players from each of the 32 NFL teams.[69]

Madden NFL Mobile

Madden NFL Mobile was released on August 26, 2014 and is only the third Madden game on mobile devices. The game is very similar to the My Ultimate Team (MUT) game mode, and the game is currently on its 4th season.

Madden NFL Football

Madden NFL Football was released as the launch title for the Nintendo 3DS on March 27, 2011.[70]

Reception and legacy

In 1996, Next Generation listed the Genesis installments of the series collectively as number 30 on their "Top 100 Games of All Time", calling them "One of the best two-player games of all time, the game that reinvented EA, and (along with Sonic the Hedgehog) the game that launched Sega's 16-bit assault on Nintendo."[71]


On August 26, 2018, a mass murder shooting occurred at an eSports tournament in Jacksonville, Florida,[72] that was a qualification event for the Madden NFL Championship Series, playing Madden NFL 19. The incident was live-streamed on Twitch, and shots can be heard in the streaming coverage.[73] 3 people were killed and at least 11 people were shot.[74]

Madden Curse

Prior to 1998, every annual installment of the Madden NFL series primarily featured Madden on its cover.[3][75] In 1998, Electronic Arts selected Garrison Hearst to appear on the PAL version's cover, and has since featured one of the league’s top players on every annual installment[76] despite Madden's opposition.[3] While appearing on the cover has become an honor akin to appearing on the Wheaties box,[3] much like the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx, certain players who appeared on Madden video game box art have experienced a decline in performance, usually due to an injury. This apparent run of misfortune for Madden cover athletes has been dubbed the "Madden Curse."[77]

When asked about the Madden Curse, EA Sports' Chris Erb said, "I don't know that we believe in the curse. The players don't believe in the curse."[78] Running back Shaun Alexander, who was featured on the cover of Madden NFL 07, commented, "Do you want to be hurt and on the cover, or just hurt?" Madden NFL 08 cover athlete Vince Young expressed skepticism,[79][80] while Madden NFL 12 cover athlete Peyton Hillis attributed his subpar season that year to the curse.[81]

The perception that the curse is real has resulted in some fans lobbying for their favorite players not to be on the cover, such as fans of LaDainian Tomlinson who were strongly opposed to EA Sports' initial decision to feature him on the cover of Madden NFL 08, so much that a fan created to voice their disdain.[82][83][84] Tomlinson eventually declined the offer, but stated it was solely due to contract negotiations.[84] Starting with Madden NFL 11 EA has allowed fans to choose their favorite player for the cover.[85] However, EA believes that many fans vote against their favorite player to avoid the purported "curse".[4] It has become so prominent that bookmakers create odds on how likely an injury will occur to the player appearing on the cover.[86]

The injuries that Madden cover athletes experience can be attributed to the physical nature of football.[78] Also to earn the honor of being put on the game cover, a player is usually coming off of a strong year and some regression the following year is likely. Attributing some cause, such as a curse, to this randomness is a regression fallacy and a spurious correlation.

In December 2010, EA announced plans on developing a movie based on the Curse, which would be a comedy, and not based on fate-based horror movies like Final Destination.[87] However, EA Entertainment executive Pat O'Brien stated in October 2014 that EA is not working on a Madden Curse movie.[88]

Madden Bowl

The Madden Bowl is a single elimination tournament held on the most current edition of Madden NFL. It has been held since 1995 during Super Bowl weekend in the host city and, in the past, participation included NFL players and celebrities. The Madden Bowl's participation has changed over the years from being an event held with athletes, musicians, and celebrities, to become an event where only NFL players who are invited to participate get a chance to play. Participants in the Madden Bowl are free to choose whichever team they like. Winners receive a Madden Bowl trophy and recognition in the upcoming Madden video game.

The 2006 Madden Bowl, held during the weekend of Super Bowl XL in Detroit, Michigan, was televised on ESPN and premiered in April 2006. It is not to be confused with Madden Nation, which was a reality television show that chronicled a cross-country trip to crown the best Madden player in America, which also aired on ESPN.

From 2011 to 2012, the Madden Bowl competition utilizes the new Online Team Play feature included in Madden NFL 11. Rather than competing as individuals, players form groups of three to square-off for the trophy. After this feature was discontinued, the Madden Bowl competition continued in a Head-to-Head format.

Madden Bowl winners

Rookie Madden Bowl winners

Annual EA Super Bowl simulation

Since 2004, EA Sports has run a simulation of the Super Bowl using the latest game in the Madden NFL series and announced the result. The game simulations conducted by EA have correctly predicted ten of the last 15 Super Bowl winners. The company accurately predicted the final score for the 2015 game and other details, including a score of 24–14 in favor of Seattle in the third quarter, despite skepticism within EA that Seattle would lose after a double-digit lead.[89][1] The predictions were incorrect in 2008, 2011, 2014, 2016, and in 2018. EA also releases a computer-generated description of the simulated game as if it were a summary of the real Super Bowl. The results of the simulated and actual Super Bowl games are listed below.

Year Super
Madden's winner Madden's loser Actual
Madden's prediction Madden's
Score Result Points diff.
2004 XXXVIII New England Patriots Carolina Panthers 32 – 2923 – 201–0 [90]
2005 XXXIX New England Patriots Philadelphia Eagles 24 – 2147 – 312–0 [91]
2006 XL Pittsburgh Steelers Seattle Seahawks 21 – 1024 – 193–0 [92]
2007 XLI Indianapolis Colts Chicago Bears 29 – 1738 – 274–0 [93]
2008 XLII New England Patriots New York Giants 14 – 1738 – 304–1 [94]
2009 XLIII Pittsburgh Steelers Arizona Cardinals 27 – 2328 – 245–1 [95]
2010 XLIV New Orleans Saints Indianapolis Colts 31 – 1735 – 316–1 [96]
2011 XLV Pittsburgh Steelers Green Bay Packers 25 – 3124 – 206–2 [97]
2012 XLVI New York Giants New England Patriots 21 – 1727 – 247–2 [98]
2013 XLVII Baltimore Ravens San Francisco 49ers 34 – 3127 – 248–2 [99]
2014 XLVIII Denver Broncos Seattle Seahawks 8 – 4331 – 288–3 [100]
2015 XLIX New England Patriots Seattle Seahawks 28 – 2428 – 249–3 [101]
2016 50 Carolina Panthers Denver Broncos 10 – 2424 – 209–4 [102]
2017 LI New England Patriots Atlanta Falcons 34 – 28 (OT)27 – 2410–4 [103]
2018 LII New England Patriots Philadelphia Eagles 33 – 4124 – 2010–5 [104]


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