The definitive football franchise. The game that brought video football into the 21st century.John Madden Football is the namesake of announcing wunderkind John Madden, an American Football game that has, since 1988, been released annually, and always falls among the top sellers of gaming each year. It's praised for its realistic level of play, to the point where the latest edition is frequently used to predict the outcome of big games up to and including the Super Bowl.Still, the franchise has some detractors (mainly because, by this point, they've run out of things to add, so the latest sequels are more like roster updates). The most notable incident happened in 2005, when it was announced that the Madden games would be the only football games allowed to use current NFL players and teams for (at least) the next few years. While many people blamed EA for buying out the license because they couldn't handle competition, the truth is that the NFL was going to give one franchise or the other exclusivity; the venerable Madden franchise simply won the bidding war.Also of note is the Madden Curse, which has felled some of the great football players of the last decade, and is famous enough to have its own page on this wiki.
These games contain examples of:
Actor Allusion: The players are often given their own signature dance moves to do after they score a TD or record a sack. Examples include Charles Woodson doing his famous Heisman pose, Jared Allen "lassoing" the QB, Santonio Holmes flying around like a Jet, Tebowing, etc. Saturday Night Live even mocked this with a sketch about Eli Manning trying and utterly failing to develop one in motion capture.
Artifact Title: John Madden no longer appears on the cover, nor does he do the in-game commentary. In 13, however, he returns as an Ink-Suit Actor as the coach of the Canton Greats all-star team.
Artificial Stupidity: There's been good amount over the history of the franchise. A few particular examples:
The QB Kneel (the "Victory Formation") has two running backs stand next to the QB so that in the event he fumbles, they can quickly dive on the ball and retain possession. However, the AI gives these guys blocking assignments, so that when the ball is snapped, they quickly run to the sides to block edge rushers. That's right: On a play where their entire role is to stand still, the AI still goofs it up.
In the earlier half of the decade, that year's Madden's Franchise Mode would hold on to players like they were made of diamond-encrusted gold, and free agency would mean slim pickings all around. They apparently overcompensated in the latter half because in Madden 2007's Franchise Mode, there exists a phenomenon that can only be called "Roster Musical Chairs".
Signing free agents in Franchise Mode is chock full of AI stupidity as well. For example, you are given the option to re-sign soon-to-be free agents from your own team before they hit full fledged free agency. One option for keeping them is to use the "Franchise Tag," which prevents the player from reaching free agency by forcing a 1-year, fully guaranteed contract onto him (which is equal to the average salary of the top 5 players at that position or 120% of the player's previous years salary, whichever is higher.) It is actually possible to get the player to agree to a 1 year contract for significantly less money than the Franchise Tag would be worth, something a player worth tagging in real life would NEVER agree to. (They would much rather have the fully guaranteed franchise tag contract or the massive amount of guaranteed money they'd get for signing a long-term deal with a new team.)
The newspaper feature that is at least present in the 2007 game had predictions for the next game. However, who is picked to win seemed to be pretty much random. It would usually be the home team, no matter who they were playing.
Since historically the NFL draft allowed only limited (and often impractical) means of evaluating potential draftees, the player could ask the AI for advice. Occasionally, the advice can result in a gem, but 99% of the time, the AI will recommend a punter or kicker. Even in the first round, and even if the team already has the best punter and kicker in the league. That said, this one's reportedly been getting better over time.
In 13, a bug in the AI's play selection leads to teams making brainlock decisions in crunch time. More than one AI team has driven down the field in the final seconds, only to run the ball up the middle on the final play rather than kick the game-winning field goal or throw the hail mary.
Ascended Meme: Madden '12 includes an achievement called "Put Da Team On My Back" for scoring a 99 yard touchdown with Greg Jennings. Broken leg optional.
Several fans like to use photshop to replace the cover with their own creation, spotlighting their favorite player. When Favre un-retired and returned to the Jets in the year he was the cover athlete, EA released their own photoshop job of Favre in a Jets jersey for players to use instead.
Awesome, but Impractical: Many plays in the playbook take too long to develop or rely on trickery that doesn't fool anyone (see: The Computer Is A Cheating Bastard), so they never get used.
Bowdlerise: Madden's soundtrack usually consists of rap and heavy-rock songs, most of which usually contain a lot of profanity that cannot be used in an E-rated game. Thus, some songs get a lot of lyrics deleted, leaving a lot of awkward pauses, most notably in Madden 09's use of Hollywood Undead's "Undead".
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Lampshaded Trope. In 13, there are fake Twitter feeds from real ESPN analysts in career mode. If a player has a truly absurd performance, one of them may tweet something about it being straight out of a video game and hashtag it #fourthwall.
After a successful field goal, the stadium jumbotrons will show an animation incorporating the video game's kicking meter.
Madden Ultimate Team mode essentially turns team creation into a collectible card game, with all the pros and cons that entails.
Several editions of the game allow the player to unlock various "tokens" (for various achievements) which - if used strategically and correctly - could virtually ensure victory for a player before the first snap. Most of these were rather routine (e.g., disabling a pass-receiver's abilities, giving the team a good spot on short-down situations, or holding teams to three downs per series), but a few of the more inventive have included such things as "unlimited challenges for any reason" (which could be used in combination with another token that would allow favorable verdicts each time).
Madden 13 has an achievement for calling an audible with the Kinect add-on, which is of course a separate purchase.
Cameo: In 11, the team will be shown receiving their jersey from Barack Obama. Amusingly, this cutscene plays no matter how many years you play, and dynasty mode can stretch decades.
Cash Cow Franchise: Arguably the cash cow franchise. It frequently pops up in Top 10 sales lists despite being a yearly release.
Character Customization: Prior to starting up Franchise Mode, you are free to edit the rosters to your liking. You can even create your own new players or add your favorite players that were left out of the game for one reason or another.
Christmas Mode: The game will update throughout the year with appropriate decorations. October gives you breast cancer month ribbons and pink-wearing crowds, the holidays puts Christmas lights on the scoreboard, etc. In a more direct connection, both this game and NCAA Football have a partnership with the Weather Channel wherein the game will try to simulate the actual weather at each stadium.
It can get a little outlandish during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, where a user-created coach will be shown wearing an all-pink business suit.
Colbert Bump: The New York Times published EA stats of Madden teams' usage for the 2010 season. Randy Moss, a physically talented but... hard to handle athlete, changed teams twice during the season and a significant chunk of players followed him around the league.
The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The AI players will often react to things they shouldn't be able to see, meaning many plays which rely on that deception don't work in the game they way they should in real life. The player, at least, gets to see things from 20 or 30 feet above the action.
This YouTuber has several examples in which the AI cheats in Madden 2010 - to varying degrees (from "mind reading" AI to "magic trick" ball recovery).
On the higher difficulty levels, the computer will have almost always have called a play that was specifically designed to counter whatever you just called.
Players don't suffer many injuries in played games, but if you decide that there are a few games on the schedule that you don't want to bother with and let the computer simulate them, your roster will start to look like a hospital ward. It is possible to invert the trope, however, if you play out all your own team's games.
Department of Redundancy Department: In the newspaper feature, there will occasionally be an article with the title of something like "Giants at 6-2" and the entire article will be a single sentence restating this information.
Do Well, But Not Perfect: The AI refs are deliberately designed to make mistakes occasionally, in order to allow you to challenge plays.
Executive Veto: Madden outright refused to put his name on the six man football prototype EA first showed him, forcing the project to be shelved until 16-bit consoles came around which could handle a full team.
Gretzky Has the Ball: Madden doesn't correctly account for ties or properly apply the actual NFL rules on tiebreakers, meaning that playoff bids can be incorrectly awarded. This bug has not only been present in the series for years, but it crops up in sister franchise NCAA Football as well.
Guide Dang It: Did you know you can audible on kickoffs? The manual writers sure didn't!
Manual? As deep and feature-rich as this game is, it provides nothing more than a quick-start guide. There's not even a manual in electronic format, at least as of Madden 08.
"Playmaker" controls were introduced to great fanfare in Madden 2004, allowing a player on offense to essentially control two players at once. However, in the last several years there have been no mention of them in any official documentation, even though they remain active.
Hatedom: Fans of the Take Two line of football titles, which were forced out of the market when the NFL sold the exclusive license to EA.
And then there's Backbreaker which, unlike the 2K series, doesn't even have any sort of legacy or what not associated with it. Thus resulting in a series with 15+ years of experience, technology, time, and budget being compared against a series with none of that and expecting the latter to be the former 'but different'.
More than a few fans of NFL Blitz were upset as well... though the disappearance of that franchise is arguably more due to Midway's bankruptcy than anything else. The NFL also leaned on the makers of those games to make them more kid friendly, which killed the spirit of the game, making fans say They Changed It, Now It Sucks.
And now, NFL Blitz is back. Complete with the violence. It's being made by EA this time around, so the Dueling Games problem that Blitz had in its previous incarnation won't hurt it.
Forget players of other franchises, what about Madden players on the PC (and Mac)? There have been no PC editions since Madden 08.
The Hatedom of EA reached its apex in 2013, when they settled two massive class action lawsuits regarding their football franchises. One, concerning the use of student athletes, killed the NCAA Football franchise for good, while the other forced EA to pay out millions for supposed price-fixing after NFL 2 K was forced off the market by the exclusivity deal.
Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Madden allows players to mix-and-match a team's uniform elements. Considering some teams have radically changed their colors over franchise history, this can lead to some horrendously ugly combinations. In Madden 25, the game will even include UniWatch blogger Paul Lukas to mock you if you do this.
Ink-Suit Actor: The players and coaches, obviously. 13 adds polygon versions of Jim Nance and Phil Simms, as well as finally rendering the big man himself.
An article in Wired magazine focused on the aforementioned runback parallel to the goal line, and implied that plays like this wouldn't happen if not for the extra training provided by video games. In reality, this play has occurred at least as far back as Buccaneers safety Neal Colzie's interception return in the 1981 season opener.
Luck-Based Mission: The "Madden Moments" feature in various iterations challenge you to replicate some of the greatest feats in football history. Of course, the reason they were memorable in the first place is because they were so ridiculously improbable. One of the most infamous is Madden 2002's recreation of the Heidi Game from 1968, which was nearly impossible. You control the Oakland Raiders, down 10 points (even though the real-life game was only a 3-point deficit) to the New York Jets - the team that would go on to win that year's Super Bowl - with only 1:05 left on the clock. In other words, you lose if your opponent has the ball. And the onside kick is impossible to aim, so your only chance is to force a fumble. Nintendo Hard doesn't even come close to describing it.
Also impossible was the final game in the Madden 2002 'Great Games' series, which featured the Atlanta Falcons' overtime win in the 1998 NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings. You have to stop arguably the best kicker in history (Gary Anderson) from making a rather routine 38-yard field goal. Even lowering the AI's ability to kick field goals doesn't help. Arrrrrgh.
Logic Bomb: Proven possible by SBnation.com's "Breaking Madden" series which uses player creation settings (5'0" 400 lb. QB "BEEFTANK"), roster settings (a team of all Tom Bradys) and unusual play calling (only punts and fake punts) to get the CPU "clearly so fed up with my silly adjustments that it stopped trying to create a realistic simulation." The results: lopsided scores and Hilarious GIFs of players hit in the head by balls, giving piggy back rides, leaving for Gatorade mid play, and even having their head spin (vertically).
Madden Curse: Trope Namer. The real-life examples are listed above, but it is interestingly inverted in the game itself, where the cover athlete is nigh-unstoppable. 2004 Michael Vick was nearly a God-Mode Sue, possessing one of the highest speed ratings, throwing power ratings, AND accuracy ratings all in one. Essentially, the Falcons were a Game Breaker. Deploy five wide receivers and call a Hail Mary. Vick will either throw an unerringly accurate 60-yard bomb or he'll scramble past the flat footed linemen and linebackers for a huge gain.
Made of Plasticine: Poor, poor Bob Sanders. After several years of season-ending injuries in Real Life, he was given a "Durability" rating in the 40's. When he appeared in the Madden 11 demo, it was rare for him to finish the game even with quarters shortened to two minutes.
Male Gaze: Recent additions include TV-style bumpers for halftime and the quarter breaks. These include the traditional cheesecake shots of the cheerleaders, including the pan-up from the knees to the OH MY GODTHEIR FACES!
Milestone Celebration: The 2014 game (released in August 2013) was titled as "Madden 25", celebrating the franchise's 25th anniversary. note This leads to the obvious question of what the real Madden 25 will be titled. Also, it's titled after the anniversary rather than the edition - it's the 26th entry in the series.
Mission Pack Sequel: The criticism that each new year is "just a roster update" essentially boils down to this. The developers actually do try to add new modes and gameplay features each year; how this criticism is received is inversely related to how well that year's new features were received.
Muscles Are Meaningless: To the great chagrin of the hardcore community, height and weight mattered very little with regard to how well players blocked or shed blocks - only the ratings mattered. This was shown when one player shrank an entire offensive line to 5'6, 150 lbsnote The typical offensive lineman will be at least 8" taller and at least twice that weight and they still blocked as effectively as before.
My Rules Are Not Your Rules: The AI can do things the player is prevented from doing. Most notably, they can audible in the Wildcat formation.
Nerf: There are almost always some from year to year that try to correct imbalance issues from the previous years.
The Wildcat formation was nerfed in 12 by removing the easily-abusable option plays from it.
The QB Vision Cone, added for Madden '06, was an attempt at one, but backfired spectacularly. The tiny vision cone for Quarterbacks with low awareness could actually be used to "look off" defenders, causing them to adjust their coverage to the wrong receiver. Elite Quarterbacks with high awareness, like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, wouldn't be able to do this.
A number of near-game breaker level plays have gone from abused to impractical over the years, though this could be more to do with improved AI and technology rather than an intentional attempt by the developers to nerf them. One example were the nigh-unstoppable "play action" plays in the early 2000s. Safeties, even those with maxed out awareness, would almost always bite on the play fake. This left the receiver one-on-one with the cornerback deep down the field. Racking up NFL records in points and passing yards, even on higher difficulty settings, was not unheard of when abusing this play.
To stop players from manually breaking the AI to create unblockable blitzes, defenders will automatically return to their designated spot in the formation if the player moves them and then switches to another pre-snap.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Madden draft classes used to be randomly generated, but in Madden 10 and onwards, they were specifically created. This leads some to notice similarities between the athletes you can draft and real college players (whose names they cannot legally use. A few of these are supposed to be Shout Outs to the NFL Head Coach series some of the programmers worked on as well.
Obvious Beta: Many, many glitches abound. Some of them are alarmingly obvious, making one wonder what they pay their testers to do all day. For example, in Madden 10, the clock doesn't stop when a tackle animation begins in bounds but ends out of bounds, despite the fact that 09 correctly implemented the clock stopping on such plays.
Many of these elements can be attributed to the franchise's production schedule. They come out with a new version every year, and the title must be released when the football season starts. This means that there is only a fixed window in which bugs can be fixed and features iterated, and the vagarious possibilities in any software development mean that some things get lain by the wayside to make the ship date. Their testers have to crunch hard, but they only have so-much time to find bugs and have the development team correct them that some things inevitably fall through the cracks.
Most versions allow you to import rookies from the corresponding NCAA Football title. However, this was removed from Madden 13 due to the difficulty of making it work correctly online.
Madden 09 let you import plays from that year's NFL Head Coach title.
One of Us: Many, many real athletes play this game. There's a Madden Bowl tourney just for them during the Super Bowl festivities.
Product Placement: An enormous amount in recent installments. Culminating in "Patrick Chewing" being available as a draftable rookie. Patrick Ewing appears in Snickers commercials with that name, and Snickers is a major advertiser in the 2010 edition. Madden 11 took it even further by having product placement in their achievements.
Leon Sandcastle was Deion Sanders' alter ego in a Super Bowl Special ad for the 2013 Super Bowl. Within a month, he had been added to ultimate team as a playable character.
You may want to pick up a few extra controllers if you plan to play on the All Madden difficulty. Have fun as poorly rated defenders intercept your elite franchise QB and 3rd string running backs bowl over your elite linebacker who has a maxed out tackling ability rating.
Revenue Enhancing Devices: Madden 2010 has begun selling things like One Time Stat Boosts and vintage uniforms that used to be free rewards for in-game success.
Screwed by the Network: Wanna know why the Dreamcast died after about two years on the market? It was partially because Sega could not successfully negotiate with Electronic Arts with releasing this series on their system. A lot of this breakdown happened due to EA wanting greater control over the online modes. EA also had these same demands of Microsoft, but that company was considerably more flexible.
Sequence Breaking: On sbnation.com writer has a weekly series called "Breaking Madden," wherein he creates wildly unrealistic scenarios to see how the AI handles it. Often times, the game doesn't know what to do with the absurdly overpowered humans he creates, including one scenario where Punter Pat McAfee was made so absurdly strong that he would have booted the opening kickoff out of the stadium if he hadn't hit the invisible sky wall.
Serious Business: Every year when the Madden ratings are released, expect at least one real NFL player to publicly gripe about their ratings. This was even mocked in old commercials. Sometimes it can get downright insulting. Take DeMarcus Ware, who showed up in Madden 08 with a single-digit "Intelligence" rating on a 0-99 scale.
The "Midway Monster" Achievement in '09 is a reference to Mutant League Football.
So Last Season: Happens in Real Life because of this franchise. The used games market value for Madden titles runs like clockwork as people rush to trade in last-year's release in anticipation of the new year's release. The quantity of old titles drives their price down very consistently, and a store which does not carefully police the number of titles they take in will find their shelves crowded with almost unsellable old Madden games.
Take That: Some of the Achievements in Madden 10 and 11.
The Madden 2010 Achievements mostly involve abusing a real player, and the titles of them are usually at the players expense. For example, the Achievement for forcing a fumble from former-stockboy Kurt Warner is "Go Bag Some Groceries."
They also included a Take That to themselves in Madden 2011. In Madden 2010, if you scored an unbelievable amount of points, you would receive a message saying to stop scoring before you 'break' the game. The achievement unlocked for beating another team by at least 59 points in Madden 2011 is named "Did I Break It?" note The choice of 59 points is itself a Take That - it was the largest margin of victory in the 2009 NFL Season: Patriots over Titans, Week 6.
Another Take That is against the Pro Bowl, the NFL's utterly meaningless All-Star game. You get an achievement called "Thanks for coming" just for playing it.
In Madden 25, they introduced the concept of a "Legacy Score," which would track your character's success as a player, coach, or owner. Achieving a score of 2, which basically requires failing so hard that they boot you off the team as a rookie, earns you the "Blaine Gabbert Legacy Award."
Unwinnable by Mistake: In Ultimate Team mode, if you play exceptionally poorly or quit a lot of games you can run out of players (who are limited to a certain # of games) and be unable to replace them with fresh ones. It is possible to spend real money to get out of this situation.
Up to Eleven: For years the highest player rating was 99, but in Madden 08 they handed out a single 100 ratingnote Specifically, the speed rating of special teams wunderkind Devin Hester. This has not been repeated due to the general reaction from the fans.
Vaporware: During the rollout of X-Box "Smartglass", a companion app for the 360 which would allow you to use a second screen from a phone or tablet, the developers showed a functional prototype for Madden and promised it was coming soon. It was never released on the 360, instead being re-worked into "Coach Glass", an X-Box One exclusive.
What the Hell, Player?: In older versions, trading or releasing a star player (or locker room leader) will cause morale to drop dramatically. Players are not above asking for their own ways out; some will even call you out in the paper for it.