As a person who has dedicated a lifetime to football, John Madden’s name is no accident when it comes to the Madden NFL series. Following his success as a high school football star, Madden went on to play at San Mateo College. Due to his great ability and sportsmanship, he was awarded a football scholarship at the University of Oregon.
After being drafted into the Philadelphia Eagles, Madden suffered a career-ending injury in the first training camp. It would be easy for most people to give up—but not Madden.
His injury allowed him to get a teaching degree and to learn coaching skills from Norm Van Brocklin. Madden never had a losing season as a head coach, and he went into sportscasting after coaching. As a sportscaster in 1988, John Madden contributed his name, voice, and creative input to the John Madden Football game.
He would tell Grantland that through these games, he wanted to build “a way for people to learn [Football] and participate in the game at a pretty sophisticated level.” The game continues to have entries even after he passed away in 2021.
Our list is sorted from worst to best, so be prepared for many games.
Every Madden NFL Game, ranked
You can’t compare Madden NFL games from the past to today, so it’s hard to judge them. Sports games are known for their graphics and features, which are far better than those before the PS2. Expect a lot of the earlier games in the beginning, not because they’re bad but mostly because they’re not as good. Each entry brought in better gameplay and a new roster, which was enough for the time. It wasn’t until Madden NFL 2000 that the games really challenged what a football game needed to be.
33) John Madden Football
John Madden Football was a step in the right direction. The game wasn’t licensed from the NFL, so there were no real-life players, teams, or numbers, but it experimented with a genre that hadn’t gotten much love on PCs or consoles.
32) John Madden Football II
There were still no NFL licensing rights for this game, so it had the same lack of recognition as the previous one, but it had more plays to choose from and more insight from John Madden himself.
31) John Madden Football ’92
John Madden Football ’92 introduced several new play modes were introduced in this game, such as pre-season games, playoffs, regular seasons, and sudden death, which was essentially overtime.
30) John Madden Football ’93
A lot of real features were given to players in John Madden Football ’93, and the graphics felt a lot more realistic. It felt more like a real Football game because they could make plays, change the weather, etc. John Madden Football ’93 was so well loved that the next game would carry the official NFL name in the title.
29) Madden NFL ’94
Madden NFL ’94 was the first game to feature the “EA Sports, it’s in the game” phrase. It introduced new options like Flip play and Bluff play. It was a fun game that experimented with giving players more.
28) Madden NFL ’95
With real names and numbers of players on the field, Madden NFL ’95 was a full-fledged football simulator with a lot of NFL love.
27) Madden NFL ’96
Create-a-player was a long-awaited feature in Madden NFL ’96 that allowed players to design their own NFL player. For a ranking, players had to play mini-games, which would later be removed, but it was an interesting idea.
26) Madden NFL 97
In this Madden NFL game, players could view 2D sprites from different angles. For the first time, the series focused on its graphical capabilities.
25) Madden NFL 98
Players could play as any football player on the field at any time. This would be the last time Madden NFL used 2D sprites for players.
24) Madden NFL 99
This was near the end of the PS1 era, when EA started to think about huge features to add. This is the first game to feature Franchise mode, a series staple, and gave players different options when knocking over ball carriers.
23) Madden NFL 19
Madden NFL had reached the bottom of the pit. This was the last time the series followed its copy-paste development formula. It felt exactly the same as the last four games in the series, but it didn’t really improve anything. Very little was added, glitches were still common, and the graphics weren’t impressive. We will point out Real Player Motion, which was so buggy that it hurt the game significantly.
22) Madden NFL 18
Madden NFL 18 was hard to like because it represented a lot that is wrong with the Madden NFL series. Madden NFL 12 had been out for many years, and players still didn’t get the game modes featured from that older game in this one. It also didn’t help that the copy-paste feeling only worsened.
21) Madden NFL 09
While Madden NFL 09 had plenty of features, its balance was off. The offense easily broke the defensive lines in every team, and everyone was blitzing because it was overpowered. While there were many singleplayer features, this was not a great year to buy Madden NFL.