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The definitive football franchise. The game that brought video football into the 21st century.

Developed by Electronic Arts, John Madden Football, later shortened to simply Madden NFL, is the namesake of coaching legend John Madden, an American Football game based on the National Football League 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:

  • A.I. Breaker: Quite a few plays can be used infinitely and the AI will never catch on.
    • Madden NFL 18 took this to the next level with the Gun Monster playbook. This set of plays involved lining up only three offensive linemen in the centre with the tackles lined up next to the wide receivers. The problem? The AI responds to this play by spreading out its front seven to cover the groups of three, resulting in an easy run up the middle every single time. EA eventually nerfed this playbook in response.
  • Announcer Chatter: Well, it is named for one. The commentary teams have changed over the years, with Madden 17 taking a new route - two commentators who live near the studio and come in weekly during the season to update the commentary to match what is happening in the real NFL.
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  • Artifact Title: John Madden no longer appears on the cover since the 2001 edition, 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 PS2/Xbox era, 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 present from 05 to 08 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. It would occasionally make hilarious claims like describing a team that is still undefeated 3/4 of the way through the season as being "in shambles".
    • 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.
      • This also happens with the Mobile game. If the AI calls a QB kneel down, the player can respond by calling a field goal block. The AI will then (often, but not always) call an audible to a PASS PLAY. This can backfire on them if the receiver drops the ball, or catches it out of bounds. If this happens, the player will save a timeout or a chunk of time that would have otherwise been wasted, since an incomplete pass stops the clock. Be careful, though, since if the AI's receiver catches the pass they will likely score a touchdown. Worth trying if the AI can run out the clock or you are losing by only 1 point (since a touchdown would put the AI up by 8, which is still one possession.)
  • Artistic License – Sports:
    • Given that the game is licensed by the NFL and intended in every way to be a simulation of real-life football, it generally does a good job of avoiding this trope, at least for the football games themselves. Franchise mode, however, deviates significantly from real-life NFL rules. Listing every example would require its own page, but some particularly notable ones include: a 53-man roster limit at all times (NFL teams have a 90 man roster limit in the offseason), no practice squads (a 10 man group of players who can practice with the team but is barred from participating in the games unless called up to the active roster first), no customization of player or coach contracts (all contracts are back-loaded, guaranteed money is evenly spread throughout, there are no incentives, etc.), the coaching staff is generally limited to the head coach and coordinators only, etc. etc.
    • Crossing over with Artistic License – Statistics, players are typically unrealistically productive. Since Madden is meant to be played with 5-7 minute quarters (rather than 15 as in real-life), this means that gamers are running between 50-70% as many plays as a real NFL contest. Yet many expect to produce as many points or exciting moments, while somehow maintaining realistic results on a per-play basis. This is mathematically impossible. EA chooses the former, heavily slanting the game in favor of the offense.
  • Ascended Glitch: After a video that showed a glitch that featured Cleveland Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey reduced to 1'2" in size went viral, and said linebacker tweeted it, EA made him part of an Ultimate Team Weekly Challenge.
  • Ascended Meme: Madden NFL 12 includes an achievement called "Put Da Team On My Back" for scoring a 99 yard touchdown with Greg Jennings. Broken leg optional.
    • Gus Johnson's commentary track also includes his (in)famous line "He's got gettin' away from the cops speed!"
    • Several fans like to use image editing programs to replace the cover with their own creation, spotlighting their favorite player. When Brett 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, so they never get used.
  • Black Comedy: Detailed under Worst Aid below, but in the older versions, the ambulence drivers have...Skewed Priorities at best.
  • 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 and onwards, 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.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: A couple of ways:
    • 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).
    • The Xbox 360 version of Madden 13 has an achievement for calling an audible with the Kinect add-on, which is of course a separate purchase.
    • Coach Glass is an add-on app available for the Xbox One which gives you a great deal of information about your opponent's tendencies mid-game, but it requires a tablet to use.
  • Cameo: In 11, the Super Bowl-winning team will be shown presenting their jersey to Barack Obama. Amusingly, this cutscene plays no matter how many years you play your franchise for.
  • 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.
  • Cold Open: Possibly the first ever for a Sports Game franchise - Upon first launching Madden 15, the player will be dropped into the NFC Championship game as Cam Newton and the Panthers, with one last chance to score a TD on the Seattle Seahawks and go to the Super Bowl. When a similar scenario happened in the real NFL that year (Cam Newton's Panthers played in Seattle in the Divisional round), the Madden team included a reference to it in the loading screens. This was continued in Madden 16 and onward, with a different scenario each year.
  • 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.
    • If the AI challenges a play, they will win 9 times out of 10. If the player challenges a play, they will lose 9 times out of 10.
      • The latter half of this could theoretically be attributed to terrible camera angles when they are reviewing the plays. Sometimes you are watching the play happen from 50 yards away. Of course, this doesn't really explain anything because it's a video game.
      • This is especially evident when you go back and watch the instant replays after-the-fact, and they can clearly show that the player was NOT down before the fumble occurred.
  • Crutch Character: Usually, there will be a few players who, for whatever reason (age, injury concerns, off-the-field concerns,) were not signed by a team in Real Life but are available in Madden as free agents in franchise mode. Usually these players still have relatively high overalls (80+) compared to those you can typically find as free agents in-season in franchise mode, so signing them will give your team an extra boost. However, if the player is older he may retire after only 1 season or, if not, will see his physical stats deteriorate as he ages. If he is oft-injured, he may not play many games for you before getting hurt. This was much more common in the late-90s/early 2000s Madden games as they lacked the ability to receive roster updates via the internet. More recent games (from 06 onward) will receive roster updates throughout the year to clear out players like this, but it still happens occasionally.
    • Disc-One Nuke: When one of these "crutch characters" is a particularly good player. After Steve Young's and Barry Sanders' relatively surprising retirements, EA left them in the game but simply added them to the free agent pool, available for any team to sign. There's nothing like adding Hall of Fame players with ratings in the 90s to nuke the competition. In more recent games with online roster updates available, these types of players are usually removed, but instances still occur. (Like Brett Favre in 2008 "retiring" from the Packers, only to then sign with the Jets. As that year's Madden games had already shipped, Favre, who was on the cover of the game, was made available as a free agent until the first roster update.)
  • 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.
  • Developers' Foresight: While the Cold Open of Madden 16 puts you in control of the Steelers at 1st and goal needing a touchdown to secure victory (and heavily encouraging the player to throw to WR Antonio Brown), it is completely possible to fail to score, and the game's ending will change to reflect that.
  • Do Well, but Not Perfect: The officials are deliberately designed to make mistakes occasionally, in order to allow you to challenge plays.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: The game adjusts the computer's skill of certain mechanics (running, passing, etc.) after every game, depending on how well or poorly the player performed in those areas. Particularly apparent in 09 and 12.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The series did not obtain the NFL license until Madden NFL '94. The NFLPA didn't sign on until Madden '95 (no real players were featured before then), and no coaches' names other than Madden himself were featured until Madden 2001, when EA obtained the NFL Coaches' Association license.
    • John Madden himself appeared on the covers, usually alone, until Madden 2001, since which players have been featured exclusively.
  • An Entrepreneur Is You: Franchise mode includes aspects of running an NFL franchise outside of the football games themselves, including roster building, signing coaches and a training staff, setting vendor prices at your stadium, and possibly even moving the team.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: In owner mode, the user can set concession prices for every product a stadium sells, excepting beer.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • Madden 16 shipped with major glitches in franchise mode that caused some players ratings to plummet during the season, while others started exploding, even going over 100 in some cases. The bug was so prominent that the game developers were going to enthusiast forums to tell people not to start those game modes until they were patched.
    • Madden has never implemented the Fair Catch Kick rule, which allows a team that makes a fair catch to attempt an uncontested field goal from that spot. Admittedly, it's a rarely invoked rule but it 'is' a rule.
  • Game Mod:
    • For the PC version, which was discontinued for 10 years after Madden 08. A team of dedicated modders continues to release reasonably accurate roster updates, complete with player portraits and coaching staff changes, every year so that they and their PC-playing brethren can continue to enjoy the game. They've even release mods to keep the game up-to-date with NFL rule changes, like moving kickoffs to the 35 yard line and extra point attempts to the 15 yard line.
    • Madden 19 has brought the game back to PC and, like previous versions, has quickly formed a dedicated modding community which offers everything from minor gameplay tweaks to graphics improvements to full blown overhauls (such as converting the game into an updated version of EA's discontinued NCAA Football series).
  • God Modders: Extremely common in tournament play.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: If two teams are tied for a playoff berth at the end of the season, Madden can on occasion screw up the tiebreaker rules and award the playoff berth to the wrong team. It's right a vast majority of the time, but more than one player has Rage Quit their online franchise when they got screwed this way. To a degree, this is forgivable as it is a rare scenario and the NFL rules for breaking ties are complicated, with no fewer than 12 criteria for doing so. (#2 on the Conference tiebreak side is where Madden usually screws up.) However, it isn't completely consistent between different iterations of Madden either, so you never know what will happen if your team ends the season tied with another team.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • Did you know you can audible to an onside kick on kickoffs? The manual writers sure didn't!
    • The manual (prior to 06) also doesn't say how to scramble anywhere, instead phrasing the ability as "toggle on/off WR icons". When put that way, it sounds like they just mean turn off the icons underneath your receivers.
    • "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 in the game.
  • 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. Madden 25 even includes columnist/blogger Paul Lukas to mock you if you do this.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: The players and coaches, obviously. 13 adds polygon versions of CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, along with John Madden himself.
  • Joke Character: Long Snappers in general. In the real NFL, long-snapping (for field goals and punts) is considered so specialized that there are many players who spend their entire careers doing nothing else. In Madden, every snap is the same regardless, and long snappers are generally so bad in every other stat that they are immediately cut by the vast majority of teams, and nearly all will be out of the league by season 2 or 3.
  • Lethal Joke Character: Brian Finneran from Madden 2004 was coming off his only noteworthy season and shared the roster with the ultimate Game-Breaker, Michael Vick. Throwing jump balls to Finneran in that year's edition was so easy that Finneran has been considered a Madden legend, and he appears in Madden 25 and 16 MUT mode with a completely absurd 95 OVR rating.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The "Madden Moments" feature in various iterations (and its spiritual successor in Ultimate Team solos) challenges 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 pretty much impossible. You control the Oakland Raiders, down by ten points 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. note  Fortunately, you have all three timeouts. Still, you have 65 seconds to score twice and grab an onside kick. Nintendo Hard doesn't even come close to describing it.
    • Also impossible was the final game in the Great Games series, which featured the Atlanta Falcons' 30 - 27 overtime win in the 1998 NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings. You have to stop arguably the best kicker in history (Morten Andersen) from making a rather routine 38-yard field goal. Good luck blocking it - even lowering the AI's ability to kick field goals doesn't help. Arrrrrgh.
    • Another was bringing the Indianapolis Colts back from a 31 - 17 deficit against the New Orleans Saints in Madden 2011. You have the ball, 4th and goal from the 5 in Super Bowl XLIV. Two timeouts and 50 seconds to work with. Have fun. (Unlike the two above entries, the Colts failed to do this in real life, making it all the more impressive if you are able to pull it off.)
  • Logic Bomb: Proven possible by'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 on the trope page, 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 GOD THEIR FACES
  • 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.
  • Multi-Platform: One of the biggest multi-platform sellers of the 21st century. From 2001 to 17, it was multi-generation as well, as every Madden in that span was released for both the current consoles and at least one Daddy System.
  • Multiple Endings: Like Madden 15, 16 had a cold open which introduced some of the new gameplay elements in a scenario with Arizona and Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. This one included a branching storyline.
  • 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  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 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. (The cone was removed for the seventh-generation release of Madden 09.)
    • 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 are usually randomly generated, but from Madden 10 to Madden 25, 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. 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.
  • Old Save Bonus:
    • Most versions (prior to 13, which removed the feature for legal reasons, but interestingly including the seventh-generation release of 25) allow you to import rookies from the corresponding NCAA Football title.
    • Madden 09 let you import plays from that year's NFL Head Coach title.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Although it varies by just how much it rules in the game from year to year, Speed has been the most important stat throughout the history of the series. It is common for speedy but otherwise mediocre players in real life to become game breakers in the game itself due to the emphasis placed on speed. There are a few reasons for this: First, these "speed merchants" often block, tackle, and/or break tackles far better than their real life counterparts which eliminates their greatest weaknesses. Second, because passes are usually targeted to hit a player in the chest, it can be surprisingly difficult to run one of the most common plays in football - throw it high to the tall receiver or tight end and let him use his size/reach to out-jump the defender to catch the pass.
  • Product Placement: An enormous amount in recent installments. Culminating in "Patrick Chewing" being available as a draftable rookie; basketball player 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.
    • Owner mode takes this further. Instead of setting the price of "hats", the user sets the price of "New Era 59Fifty Fitted hats." and instead of "T-Shirts" they are "Nike Dri-Fit T-Shirts" and so on.
  • Rage Quit:
    • So you picked the game up with only a cursory knowledge of football? I hope you like seeing the other team merrily intercept your passes and carry them for touchdowns with no help from the game on how to stop them.
    • 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.
  • Rubber Band A.I.: And how. Bill Simmons of ESPN coined the term "No F***ing Way game" for the times when the computer makes an unbelievable Miracle Rally while your own players become inept clods.
  • Script Breaking: One 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the sponsors you can get for your team is the "Michael Scarn Paper Company", Michael Scarn being Michael Scott's Marty Stu character.
    • The "Midway Monster" Achievement in '09 is a reference to Mutant League Football.
    • After years upon years of complaints that it was nearly impossible to block field goals, 17 included a mechanic to help you do this. Accomplishing it gives the achievement "The White Whale."
  • Skill Gate Characters: Every iteration of the game usually has at least one team which beginner players can use to defeat AI competition rather easily. This team usually has a skilled QB, at least one stud WR, and a solid defense. (Any Colts or Broncos team under Peyton Manning frequently fit the bill.) However, skilled players could usually easily defeat the unskilled players using these superior teams quite easily, even when using far less talented teams themselves thanks to their superior knowledge of the game.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: In franchise mode, "Ego" is a hidden stat which will affect the way a player behaves, such as taking a hit to his morale if he's not getting a lot of playing time or holding out for more money in the offseason. A high Ego for big name but hard-to-handle players like Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson made sense. It made less sense, however, for a low-rated CPU generated player you drafted in the 7th round to have a hugely inflated Ego, to the point where it hurts the morale of the entire team if the lousy backup center isn't getting the playing time he wants.
  • 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.
  • Sports Game: One of the most popular and best-selling in the history of video games.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Madden 12 includes some of the staffers as Joke Characters, including women. In-gameplay, the women are completely indistinguishable from the men, unlike fellow EA franchise NHL Hockey
  • 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 
    • 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."
  • Took a Level in Badass: Any player who was initially rated poorly (usually because they were a rookie) who is then bumped up due to dominant real life play. The most notable example is Richard Sherman who went from being the worst rated player in Madden 12 to being the highest rated (and cover athlete) in Madden 15. This can even happen over the course of a single season, as it did with Alvin Kamara. He went from a 76 rating in Madden 18 to an 88 in Madden 19 after a Rookie of the Year campaign.
  • Unperson:
    • Occasionally when an athlete has found himself in legal trouble, he'll get totally removed from the game until he's reinstated. This most notably happened to Michael Vicknote  and Ray Ricenote .
    • Similarly, in 15 onward, the free agent listing would only show you the top 30 or so free agents at a position by rating, or the top 100 overall at any position. If a player below that threshold gets cut, they are effectively lost because no means exist to locate them and re-sign them.
  • 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 number 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 . This has not been repeated (outside of Ultimate Team) due to the general reaction from the fans.
  • Video Game Delegation Penalty:
    • This is especially prominent when playing defense. On offense, under most circumstances, you control whichever player has the ball. The other players will run their routes or block as designed, with their attributes (especially "Awareness") playing into how well they do these things. On defense, however, you can take control of any player. The ones you aren't controlling can almost certainly be expected to perform worse than they would under your control. One of the most prominent examples occurs when the opposing QB rolls out out of the pocket. Pursuing defenders have the option of either going for the QB (at which point the QB will try to pass the ball), or dropping back in coverage (at which point the QB will try to run with the ball). This is a desirable situation in real life for the offense, as it forces the defenders to choose and should leave one of the options open. However, in the game, if you are not controlling the closest pursuing defender, expect to see him get indecisive and hover in between, leaving both the pass and the run wide open. This can even happen with defenders who have maxed out Awareness.
    • In Franchise Mode, you may choose to skip over offseason events such as the free agent signing period and the draft. Do so at your own risk, as the AI may decide to, for example, sign multiple expensive free agents at one position leaving you without enough cap space to fill other needs. It may draft players at positions where you already have excellent players and good depth, meaning those players won't even see the field while leaving gaping holes at other positions on your roster. It may allow a young stud to leave via free agency while re-signing an aging player with decreasing stats to a multi-year extension.
  • 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.
  • Worst Aid:
    • In the older versions, when a player was severely injured an ambulance would come out on the field to help them, and in doing so it would clobber all the players in its path..
    • In the more recent games, injured players will get up and hobble off the field regardless of the injury suffered. This includes knee, hip, and back injuries so severe they end the player's career.

Alternative Title(s): John Madden Football


Example of: