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Gameverse | September 25, 2020

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What is the Worst Madden NFL Game of All Time?

Matthew Byrd

Madden NFL 21

While the sales figures will tell the tale, Madden NFL 21‘s initial reception suggests that it is a tremendous disappointment. Some fans are already calling it the worst Madden ever.

While I respect that enthusiasm, “Worst Madden Ever” is saying a lot. While the majority of Madden games have at least been playable, the worst Madden games ever truly stand out as stunning disasters.

We can’t promise that you’ll enjoy Madden NFL 21, but take comfort in the fact that you’re not playing one of these Madden games.

5. Madden Football 64

Tired of Madden games that feel too similar? Meet the Madden game that may have objectively been too ambitious.

Basically, EA decided that they wanted to use the power of the N64 to created the first truly 3D Madden game. The problem with that noble effort to advance the franchise was that Acclaim owned the exclusive rights to produce N64 NFL games for the 1997 season. In what would later be seen as a delicious bit of irony, EA was muscled out of the NFL license and was forced to make an unlicensed football game.

While it’s easy (and fun) to mock Madden Football 64‘s attempts to get as close to making an NFL game as legally possible, the real problem here is that the time just wasn’t right for a fully 3D football game. This title’s embarrassingly bad animations and nearly non-existent frame rate made electric football games a more accurate representation of the NFL, license or no license.

4. Madden NFL 25

The oddly named Madden NFL 25 is, according to the series standard naming conventions, Madden NFL 14. The name is meant to celebrate the 25-year history of the Madden franchise.

Instead of honoring the innovative nature of its predecessors, though, Madden NFL 25 helped cement the series soon to be infamous legacy of complacency.

Despite being the first Madden available for the next-gen PS4 and Xbox One, Madden NFL 25 featured few notable innovations that would suggest it was the harbinger of the medium’s future. Actually, most of its best features were just minor concepts that had strangely been removed from previous Madden games and resurrected in this one with little fanfare.

Maybe it is appropriate that Madden NFL 25 is named as such. After all, it’s the game that subtly informed us that future Madden games would rely heavily on our memories of what was.

3. Madden NFL 19

While it sometimes feels like most fairly recent Madden games have received the same general criticisms (bugs, lack of new features, etc), a notable amount of scorn is typically reserved for Madden NFL 19.

Why? Well, it starts with the animations. EA (quite hilariously) stated that this game would feature “real player motions,” which actually resulted in some of the clunkiest and most awkward animations in franchise history. More than a problem of visual vanity, Madden NFL 19’s awful animations would often result in players not behaving as they should. This was especially frustrating in online games which were too often determined by whose players accurately executed requested actions.

Interestingly, many feel that offenses (and the best offensive players in Madden NFL 19) felt somehow “nerfed.” It’s not clear whether this was intentional, but this was the Madden in which it was totally possible for a relatively slow defender to chase down some of the league’s fastest players.

We could go on, but the basic idea is that this was the year in which all of Madden‘s problems caught up with it and a few more problems were tossed in just for flavor.

2. Madden 13

Do you ever wonder if the Madden franchise was always like this and it’s your fond memories of the series which are misguided? We suppose that’s always possible, but honestly, we feel like you should be saving a little blame for the “innovations” of Madden 13.

Madden 13 is the game that removed Franchise mode, Superstar mode, Create-a-Team, and a host of stats and various other previously available features. In their place, we got a poor first attempt at a Connected Franchise mode and the Madden Ultimate Team concept which led us into the era of aggressive microtransactions that didn’t require the support of significant gameplay additions to incentivize purchases.

This is the game that stripped so much of the fun and little touches from Madden in order to help create an easily replicable formula that could slowly be built upon typically by gradually re-introducing features that used to be in the series in the first place. It was a nightmare that’s still being felt today by legions of disappointed fans.

1. Madden NFL 06 (Xbox 360)

Madden 13 may have done the most damage to the Madden franchise in the long-run, but if we’re talking about the absolute bottom of the barrel, then we’ve got to talk about Madden NFL 06 for the Xbox 360.

Now, you might think it’s strange that we’re specifying “for the Xbox 360.” After all, haven’t current and next-gen ports of Madden titles been largely similar over the years?

While that’s traditionally been true, this is the glaring exception to that basic rule. Rushed through development by an inexperienced team trying to get something out the door in time for the launch of the Xbox 360, Madden NFL 06 removed many of the best mode, features, and little touches from the previous-gen versions in order to make room for admittedly improved visuals that weren’t nearly good enough to justify the gameplay losses. Madden NFL 06‘s only modes were “Play Now” and an online option that many people still couldn’t properly access. It didn’t even feature John Madden as an announcer!

What’s strange is that many people consider the PS2 version of Madden 06 to be one of the better Madden games ever. By comparison, EA has actually apologized for this game and has basically described it as the worst Madden ever. We’re inclined to agree.