For 30 years, the Madden series has consistently been one of the most recognizable sports video games. There are many factors for this, from iconic coach and sportscaster John Madden gracing the cover for many years, to Madden reaching an exclusivity rights deal with the NFL.
While I can go on about that for years, that’s not what this post is about. Today I decided to go through as many Maddens as I can to create my perfect Madden. You might disagree with this list and that’s fine. I’m a weird person and you’re going to read some weird reasons why I like each feature. I’m also always happy to discuss this topic with each and every one of you. (That last sentence was a lie.)
Anyway, here’s MY ideal Madden. These are features and game modes I would combine to make the Madden I’d enjoy the most. Let’s do this.
Perfect soundtrack: Madden 2007
Now I know a lot of you are going to immediately disagree and give your take, but what stands out to me about the 2007 soundtrack is the consistency and how there isn’t a single misfire on this soundtrack. A lot of sports video game soundtracks are great, but top-heavy for the most part.
For Madden ‘07, there are over 30 songs on this thing and they’re ALL awesome. Most sports game soundtracks showcase many genres like this one does. But what jumps out in this is that every song has such a distinct and recognizable sound. No two songs sound the same and, more importantly, no songs hog the spotlight. In addition, several of these songs were also featured in Guitar Hero. If you had both games, you could listen to “Woman” by Wolfmother, “Don’t Hold Back” by The Sleep, or “Monsters” by Matchbook Romance and then pick up your toy guitar controller and play those songs. That’s pretty cool.
Transitioning from Lupe Fiasco’s smooth flow to the HEAVY guitar from Rise Against, there are so many electric and diverse bangers on this soundtrack. Skipping a single song feels like a party foul.
Create a Play: Madden 2004/NFL Head Coach 09
Look, the best part about sports games is the customization, and the best part about any football game is customizing a playbook and going to WORK against a friend or the computer. In a lot of the Madden and NCAA Football games, you had the opportunity to create a playbook by adding and subtracting certain formations, plays, and audibles. But there was a time in Madden when you were able to create your own plays.
Yup, this is awesome for many reasons. For one, it’s WAY more fun to feel like an actual coach. You could tell Peerless Price to basically run in a circle while Michael Vick improvised. You could also invent your own formations, which made the games feel timeless. Both NFL and Madden playbooks have evolved over the years, and the ability to create these plays allows the older teams/games to have a new playbook.
For example, you could give Vick’s Madden ‘04 team more spread formations. The default Falcons playbook had formations that looked like this.
Ew. Let’s change that.
The only drawback to the older feature is that there aren’t any option plays you can create. Unfortunately, the create-a-playbook was phased out of Madden and hasn’t been seen in a long time. NFL Head Coach 09 had this same feature and you could do it mid-game.
For instance, on second-and-9, if you had a play idea you wanted to run and edit some routes, you could try it out in the middle of your game and then after you run it, there was an option to keep the play. Creating your own plays was always a joy and it’s a shame it’s no longer in the game.
Passing/Catching Modifier from Madden 18
Forget target passing. That’s not what I’m talking about right now. The passing modifier is a cool feature because it allows the player to throw a high or low pass depending on the situation. This is extremely helpful because it makes accurate quarterbacks even more accurate and adds an additional wrinkle to the passing game. This feature also helps you exploit mismatches and get the best out of designed routes. For example, if your receiver has a height advantage, you can throw a high pass and have your receiver perform an aggressive catch.
It’s an effective tactic that makes sense at the end of the day.
Madden Test 09: Hear me out.
This game mode was a fun new thing in Madden 09. Players would theoretically use this to test out their skills so Madden could evaluate the player’s Madden IQ. They made it hard as shit in Madden 10, but that’s a separate complaint I have.
At its core, the “Madden Test” was a great way to both introduce new players to the game as well as get people reacclimatized to the game in case they hadn’t been playing over the last couple of years. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good idea that the series could have expanded upon. The untapped potential of the “Madden Test” is why it makes the list.
Superstar mode from Madden 07
Superstar mode was so intriguing.
You could create your own player, but you were able to choose your parents to see if that had any type of effect on your talent and skills. Would having your mom work at a grocery store improve your ability to calculate routes as a quarterback? Who knows. But it was good to try out as many combinations as possible, especially because you weren’t able to choose your parents directly.
Instead, you had to play roulette until you found the combination you wanted. Weird genetic assumptions aside, it was still a unique feature that had us playing the “What if” game for hours.
Weapon Icons: Madden 08
For the casual gamer, it’s a chore to try to look at all 22 players on the field and figure out who was good and who wasn’t. Instead of making you have to look through the depth chart and try to figure it out, Madden introduced the weapons system. The weapons system gave us an indication of what each player with a special ability can do.
Whether the QB has a rocket arm or the linebacker can absolutely truck you with no hesitation, the weapon icons gave you an idea of who to watch out for on the field. In addition, each weapon had a specific counter like you would have in a real game.
Putting a shutdown corner on a quick receiver or having a big hitter to disrupt a receiver that could make a spectacular catch were just two of the many options you were presented with in this game. It was like an in-game scouting report where special players had special abilities. This feature was also in Madden 09.
The good thing about this is that Madden gave you individual tutorials for each weapon type, so you would be able to read up on each ability.
Madden Playmaker: Madden 2004
This feature unlocked the devastating potential of dual-threat quarterbacks. I’ve already talked about how they made Michael Vick damn near unstoppable in Madden 2004, but this is a useful weapon for any quarterback who’s in scramble mode. What makes this stand out is the way it reflects the realism of how football players act after a certain play. In the NFL, when a route is done but the play isn’t, receivers don’t just stand still for the remainder of the play. The playmaker ability allows the user to control and reduce the chaos of these broken plays, which in turn makes offense that much more fun with a QB who can run.
Now the rest of the features that I list I would consider to be the “arcade section” of my custom-made Madden.
If you ever had a big party at your house and just one console, this was the mode that made setting up tournaments fun, easy, and official. It’s not one that would be used a lot on a single console, but having this seep into online play would be prime.
Two-minute drill was SO MUCH FUN. It seems pretty standard; you had two minutes to score as many times as possible. The best part about this mode is the fact that you got the ball back immediately and could try again. That’s right. There was no need to go for an onside kick because you just get the ball back. It’s the best mode for just chilling and practicing big plays and you can just play it over and over again.
Now here’s where we get a little wild with it: This is what I would add in a world where I control Madden.
I know EA Big doesn’t exist anymore, but this would be the premier time to bring NFL Street back. In a world where some think the NFL stands for “No Fun League,” bringing back a game that had style points, dope music, and swagger would be epic — especially if there was a capability to play online. Hell, even have an ultimate team NFL Street game. This is a layup y’all. BRING IT BACK!
Fantasy Football: Madden 09
Madden 09 allowed you to import your fantasy football teams into the game. I’m going to be honest with you guys and say that I never used this feature. However, I believe that enough can be tweaked into this where you could use Madden to draft a fantasy team and use the game/integration with NFL to track stats scores and schedule.
You could also let the league use these players to play against each other so you could have a Madden champion and a real-life fantasy football champion. That would be sick.
The Madden Gauntlet
The Madden Gauntlet is one of my favorite parts of the game these days. Not only does it serve as a tutorial test on some terms, but it serves as a fun mini-game as well. The boss levels are so fun and different that I wish there were a gauntlet mode with all boss levels.
A part of me wants Madden to let us make our own gauntlet levels to share on the internet like in Mario Maker.
Madden Moments takes inspiration from the Pontiac College Classics game mode from the old college video games and the ESPN 25th Anniversary mode in ESPN NFL 2K5. In this game mode you would reenact awesome moments from the previous season and try to recreate the outcome of what happened. It’s always a blast trying to put yourself in the moment and see if you can do the same thing within the game.
Now I know that Madden isn’t going to bring most of these back, but it was fun to take a look back at the many games and features the series has tried over the years. Each and every year, Madden comes out with a new game, but damn, it would be so cool if they would bring back some of the elements the older games had.
Everyone has different tastes and I just wanted to share some of my favorite Madden ingredients.
Thank you and happy gaming,