Madden NFL

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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.

Tropes used in the Madden NFL series include:
  • Announcer Chatter: Well it is named for one.
  • Artifact Title: John Madden no longer appears on the cover, nor does he do the in-game commentary.
  • 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".
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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 possession), 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 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.
  • God Modders: Extremely common in tournament play.
  • Guide Dang It: Did you know you can audible on kickoffs? The manual writers sure didn't!
    • The manual 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (Morten Andersen) from making a rather routine 38-yard field goal. Even lowering the AI's ability to kick field goals doesn't help. Arrrrrgh.
  • 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 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: Though the Wii, handheld, PlayStation 2, and mobile version is a lot different from the Play Station 3/360 versions.
  • 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: The Wildcat formation was nerfed in 12 by removing the easily-abusable option plays from it.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Madden draft classes used to be randomly generated, but in Madden 10, 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. Why look, it's a scrambling QB from Florida named "Tim Tribow"! Who could that be? A few of these are supposed to be Shout Outs to the NFL Head Coach series some of the programmers worked on as well.
    • Ironic use of the term since players on the cover seem to get frequently injured
  • 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.
  • Old Save Bonus:
    • Most versions 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.
  • 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.
  • Rage Quit
  • 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 AI: 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.
  • 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"[1]
    • The "Midway Monster" Achievement in '09 is a reference to Mutant League Football.
  • Sports Game
  • 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?" [2]
    • 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.
  • 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 rating. This has not been repeated due to the general reaction from the fans.
  • Worst Aid: In the original version, 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 recent games, getting up from a knee injury so severe that it forced the player to retire and walking towards the sidelines.
  1. Michael Scarn being Michael Scott's Marty Stu character.
  2. 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.