Another August is here, and with it comes this year’s edition of Madden NFL. Madden NFL has become bigger than EA Sports ever could have imagined when they started kicking around the idea of developing a football game way back in 1986. EA approached John Madden about lending his name to the game. He agreed but famously told the development team that the game had to feature full 11-on-11 games, saying, “I’m not putting my name on it if it’s not real.” His commitment to realism helped to get the franchise off on the right foot, and the rest is history. Madden NFL ’11 hits store shelves tomorrow (or tonight at 12:01 for the die hards), but before you hit the sticks in this year’s entry, let’s take a look back at the all-time top 5 installments of Madden NFL.

5. John Madden Football — Apple II, Commodore 64, MS-DOS

John Madden Football Cover Art

The game that started it all, John Madden Football was released on June 1, 1988, for the Commodore 64. It was quite advanced for the time it was released, featuring varying weather conditions, player injuries, and customizable quarter length. The game didn’t feature any real players, teams, or stadiums because EA hadn’t obtained the NFL or NFLPA licenses. This edition gets on the list mainly because it was the first and helped set the stage for all the Madden games to come. It also featured John Madden on the cover, something that EA would continue through Madden NFL ’99.

4. Madden NFL 2005 – Gamecube, Xbox, Playstation, Playstation 2, Windows

Madden NFL 2005

Madden NFL ’05 was the year of defense, featuring Ravens LB Ray Lewis on the cover. EA focused on “the other side of the ball.”  Madden ’05 saw the introduction of the Hit Stick, a revolutionary element to the series. The hit stick allowed the player to flick the right thumb stick in any direction and deliver extra brutal hits while playing on defense. The hit stick would lead to the “Truck Stick” the very next year (the Truck Stick allowed an offensive player carrying the ball to lower their shoulder and “truck” a defensive player trying to tackle them). While the hit stick is the most remembered feature of Madden ’05, it also introduced formation shifts, EA Sports Radio, player progression within franchise seasons, and a create-a-fan mode. A collector’s edition was released on the Playstation 2 that included three classic versions of Madden, game commentary, and various behind the scenes videos.

3. Madden NFL ‘97 – Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Playstation, Sega Saturn, Windows

Madden NFL '97

Madden NFL  ’97 was the first Madden game of the 32-bit era, releasing on both the Genesis and Playstation. The graphical jump from the previous year was the biggest to date. The polygon count in each player model skyrocketed and EA introduced motion-captured animations. Madden NFL ’96 had been released after the NFL season had started and was only released on the Sega Mega Drive and Sega Game Gear. This allowed NFL Gameday to steal much of Madden’s thunder and become the best-selling football game of the year. In response, EA hired Tiburon Entertainment to create Madden ’97 from the ground up and this move helped to push the Madden franchise back towards the top of the sales charts.

2. Madden NFL 2001 – Playstation, Playstation 2, Nintendo 64

Madden NFL 2001

Madden NFL 2001 pushed the franchise into the 128-bit era and became one of the games that most PlayStation 2 owners, myself included, picked up with their console. The graphical leap was the largest in the series history, and the game’s features became more robust. Madden NFL 2001 featured a deeper franchise mode, player cards, create-a-player, and create-a-play modes.

1. Madden NFL ‘95 – Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis

Madden NFL 95

This is the game that put it all together for the Madden franchise. Madden NFL ’95 was the first football game to feature all of the real NFL teams, stadiums and players. Gamers could finally take control of their favorite players and see the names on the screen! What may seem like an arbitrary feature was huge to gamers who had always played with “DT #95” (NCAA Football players know what I mean). On top of the unparalled realism that the NFL and NFLPA license gave, this was the first Madden that allowed you to save a season directly to a cartridge. Couple that with advanced stat records (both in-game and season stats) and this was the best edition in Madden NFL history.

Where Madden NFL ’11 fits into the history of the series is yet to be seen.  Features like GameFlow, ”swagger” ratings, and Team Online play could make or break this year’s edition. What was your favorite edition of Madden? Let us know in the comments. Be sure to follow GameRant on Twitter to see some of the craziness from the midnight releases.

Madden NFL ’11 releases for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP, and PlayStation 2, at 12:01 a.m. on August 10, 2010.

Source: IGN

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