The Madden franchise has been around for over 30 years, dating back to its inaugural game in 1988. Since then, technology, as well as the Madden franchise, has evolved and changed over time. Of all of the games that have launched since the series’ inception, which Madden titles are the best? We’ve got our list, as we will go over what we think are the 10 best Madden games of all-time.
10. Madden NFL 16
Madden NFL 16 is the lone game that launched exclusively in the current generation to make this list. The title, which launched in 2015, received rave reviews thanks to its smooth gameplay, which was given a boost thanks to the introduction of brand new catching and penalty systems. Draft Champions, which allowed MUT players to draft their own squad and receive Ultimate Team rewards, was also added to Madden in this edition.
9. Madden NFL 25
To celebrate the Madden franchise’s 25th anniversary, EA Sports diverted from its traditional system of naming the annual game. Rather than call this edition ‘Madden NFL 14’ (since the game launched in 2013), EA named this special edition Madden NFL 25, with the cover athlete being NFL legend Barry Sanders. Madden 25 makes this list thanks to an incredibly deep Franchise mode, one that puts today’s game to shame, and challenging gameplay. The Madden series has had its ups and downs since the move to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but at least it went into this current generation with a bang.
8. Madden NFL 07
Madden NFL 07 might not have the sexy visuals compared to some of the more recent games, but this title has stood the test of time. Madden 07 featured an improved Superstar mode to go along with a solid Franchise campaign. But what might have been the most impactful addition to Madden 07 was the Highlight/Truck Stick, which made it much easier to have running backs bully over opposing defenders.
7. Madden NFL 2001
Madden NFL 2001 was historic for a couple of reasons. For one, Titans RB Eddie George became the first cover athlete in Madden history. Previously, former Raiders head coach and NFL commentator John Madden, who the Madden franchise is named after, graced the cover every year. That changed in 2000, along with a few other things. Madden NFL 2001 also included the ability to change defensive coverage before the snap and new player-specific celebrations, both of which are a staple of the game today.
6. Madden NFL 08
Madden NFL 08 has maintained a strong player base to this day, even though the title was launched all the way back in 2007. Madden 08, which featured former Titans QB Vince Young on the cover, not only offered a series of good game modes, but this version also ushered in new Weapons icons. 24 different categories that highlighted a player’s on-field strengths were instituted in Madden 08. The Hit Stick 2.0, which gave users more control to pound receivers and running backs with massive hits, was introduced in Madden 08.
5. Madden NFL 06
Madden NFL 06 introduced a slew of new features to the series, including the highly-controversial Vision Cone for quarterbacks. This title makes this list thanks to the introduction of an in-depth Superstar mode. Users could mode their created Superstars into their very own image, as players could choose their position, background, and even parents (which affected a player’s attributes). Yes, we know, it was a pain to get the right background, but all you really had to do was re-roll until the right one popped up. But, with all the different features that were in this mode (ability to take IQ tests to prove your smarts, signing agents, team drills, plus the ability to see your path to the Hall of Fame), it actually makes us a little upset that we don’t have an in-depth Superstar mode like this in Madden 21.
4. John Madden Football (1988)
We can’t have a top 10 best Madden games list without mentioning the game that started it all. John Madden Football (1988) was the first game of the franchise, and while this 2D, 8-bit title might not have the graphics that newer Madden games have, one thing we can say about this title is that it was revolutionary. No, it didn’t have real football players, but this game was state of the art for its time given that it brought 11-on-11 football from the actual gridiron to the TV screen.
3. Madden NFL ’99
Madden NFL 99 was groundbreaking for a few reasons. For one, 3D players were introduced for the very first time in Madden 99. No longer did Madden users need to look at two-dimensional players. Rather, every virtual player on the TV screen would not be in total, three-dimensional goodness. Second, Franchise mode, which became a staple of the franchise, was first introduced in this title. Users now could control an NFL team and build up that roster through trades and free agency.
2. Madden NFL ’94
Believe it or not, but when the Madden series first launched, EA Sports did not have a license to use NFL players or team branding in its games. That changed with Madden NFL ’94, the first title that included NFL team names and logos. Additionally, this game also introduced players to the abilities to flip plays and a bluff play feature.
1. Madden NFL 04
It’s hard to find a game that’s more universally liked than Madden NFL 04. Madden 04, which launched in 2003, featured then-Falcons QB Michael Vick on the cover. Vick was arguably the most OP player in Madden history, thanks to his 90+ ratings in both Speed and Throw Power. Vick was surely going to go off in any game that featured the Atlanta Falcons, especially since he had WR Brian Finneran (who also had some ridiculous stats) on his side.
But besides the legendary video game greatness of Michael Vick, this game makes the top of this list for several reasons. One, this game introduced players to Owner Mode, which allowed users to take over a franchise and manage the day-to-day financial operations and set gameday promotions. Additionally, Madden 04 also saw the introduction of Playmaker Control. This feature allowed players to change plays on the fly without audible and direct teammates to block defenders during the play.
Considering how innovative Madden NFL 04 was, it’s not much of a surprise that this game tops our list.