The Best Football Video Games Of All Time

John Madden Football is the first video game that comes to mind when most people think of football-themed video games. Since its launch in 1988, the game has ranked as the most popular and arguably the best American football game ever made. 

The Madden series is the undisputed champ of NFL video games, with esports competitions featuring the game attracting millions of viewers from across the globe. The series is so popular that betting on the outcome of Madden games is becoming as common as betting on real-world NFL games. Reviewing NFL betting odds is a pastime of many who follow the sport and many Madden fans are also NFL fans. 

While it's unlikely a game will unseat Madden as the reigning champ of football games anytime soon, many quality football games have been produced over the years. We haven't included Madden in this list because the game has so many iterations it deserves a list of its own. In the meantime, let's take a look at some of the greatest of all time. 

NFL 2K (1999-2004)

Before Madden Football dominated the sports-themed video games, NFL 2K was Madden's biggest rival. The game debuted on the Sega Dreamcast in 1999 and featured online and offline play. Although competitive gaming wasn't yet popular when NFL 2K was released, the online gameplay was cutting edge for the turn of the decade. 

NFL 2K's partnership played a big part in its success against Madden. The game featured commentary from ESPN personalities, adding to its realism. Plus, EA released it for only $19.99, a steal compared to Madden's $49.95 asking price. 

NCAA Football (1993-2013)

The NCAA is second only to the NFL when it comes to football fans in the United States, so it's not a big surprise that a game based on college football made our list. The game debuted in 1993 as Bill Walsh College Football and was rebranded NCAA Football in 1998. The game's most popular feature was dynasty mode, which let players take over a college team, leading it through multiple seasons, changing history in the process. 

The Xbox, Game Cube, and PS2 versions received the best reviews and used engines similar to those used in the Madden games. EA canceled the series in 2013; however, the company recently announced it could return as early as this year. 

NFL Gameday (1995-2004)

Besides Madden, NFL Gameday was arguably the most popular football game globally during its decade-long run from 1995 to 2004. The 1998 version of the series scored the highest reviews from critics, solidifying it as a football gaming classic. Sony published the game for its new PlayStation console, and it was a hit. 

It was the first football simulation to use 3D polygonal models, and its motion-captured animations and realistic graphics were at the center of the gameplay. However, the game didn't make a smooth transition from the original PlayStation to the PlayStation 2, and gamers moved to NFL 2K and Madden after the new generation console was released. 

Tecmo Super Bowl 1991

Many point to the release of Tecmo bowl in 1987 as laying the foundation for football video games as we know them. Tecmo Super Bowl is the game that took the genre to the next level. Temco developed the game for NES with improved graphics and arcade-style play. The game featured coin-flips, timeouts, fumbles, playbooks, player ratings, injuries, and more. 

Today the game is a classic that has aged surprisingly well given how far video game graphics have come since the early 90s. There were several follow-up versions for Super Nintendo and PlayStation, but the 1991 version is what fans remember most fondly. 

Although the graphics in Temco Super Bowl are simplistic by today's stands where we're on the brink of VR becoming standard, the game broke barriers when it was released. The game was so good ESPN named it "the greatest sports video game of all time," twenty years after its launch. Not many games age that well, but Temco deserves the title. 

Published in Other Articles

You may also like...