For over a decade, one of the most exciting times of the year for me occurs in the month of August. It has become tradition for my friends and I to skip school, run down to the local video game store and purchase the newest football video game the first day it's available. We then proceed to playing it all day long, or at least until our eyes can no longer stay open or our fingers are all bruised.
There were many football games over the years that I liked to play, such as Joe Montana Football, NFL Quarterback Club, NFL Blitz and NFL Gameday, but the two games that I felt stood out the most to me are Tecmo Bowl and John Madden Football. Though all the other games might have added some good stuff to the football video game industry over the years, it was these two games that I feel made the biggest impact.
The original Tecmo Bowl, which was made by Acclaim, originated in 1987 and was a four-player, two screen arcade game. The game was not licensed by the NFL or NFLPA, which meant they were not allowed to use any real team or player name. There were also only two teams that you could play with, the Bulldogs (red) and the Wildcats (blue). You also had to insert more money at the end of each quarter to keep playing. In 1988, Tecmo Bowl was brought out of the arcade and into the home by the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). This game only featured nine players on the field for each team (there are supposed to be 11) and allowed you to play with the 12 teams (which were only called by the city they played in) that made the playoffs that year. Though this game showed some advancement from the previous version, the game that really took a giant leap forward was Tecmo Super Bowl.
Tecmo Super Bowl, which was introduced in 1991, had a full 16 game season with playoffs, let you use timeouts and had all the real teams and players. It also included substitutions, player conditions, injuries and kept stats for the whole season. The graphics were also much improved from the previous game. Though Acclaim would produce Tecmo Bowl football games through 2003 (though they stopped production between 1997 and the 2003 version), the Tecmo Super Bowl game is what most gamers will remember the most.
Though Tecmo Bowl might have started this football video game craze, it has ultimately been the work of EA Sports and their John Madden Football series that has carried the torch for over a decade and has become the number one selling football video game of all-time. Madden Football, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, was first introduced in 1989 for the Apple II computers, where it was the first video game to ever feature 11-on-11 player action. A year later, Madden moved up to the Sega Genesis console and really took off from there. Taking advantage of all the new opportunities that were allowed by the more powerful and higher-bit system that the Sega provided, Madden came out each year with new features, graphics and playing modes with each new version that came out annually.
In 1991, it was the first game to offer a 3D playing field. In 1993, you were able to play with "all-time great" teams, allowing the gamer to play with teams like the '85 Bears or the '72 Dolphins. Season mode was added in 1994 and this feature became a major part of the Madden series. With season mode, you were allowed to play the same schedule as whatever NFL team you choose.
Though the Sega Genesis had been very good to Madden over the years, the switch over to the Sony Playstation (32-bit) in 1997 and the Nintendo 64 (64-bit) console in 1998 created a rapid advancement in graphics and allowed even more feature capabilities to be fulfilled. With the new use of technology, Madden included Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 1998, which made the game much more realistic. This controlled the way the computer controlled teams or players reacted during the game and allowed the user to determine just how hard or easy they wanted the game to be. Another major addition came in 1999, when franchise mode became a part of the game. This is probably my favorite addition to the series, because it allowed you to control the franchise over a number of years and included a salary cap that let you control free agency and how much you could pay your players. Over the next few years, this feature would go on to include an annual college draft, trades and a mini-camp mode. Even though the graphics, features and overall playability took a tremendous jump in the late '90s with all the new consoles that came out, the greatest advancement probably occurred with the invention of the Sony Playstation 2. Madden 2001, the first Madden game to be sold for the PS2, included amazing graphics, real-looking player faces and brought a new feel to the football game industry.
Over the last few years, other key components have added to why Madden has become as big as it today. New online play, which allows a person to play another person anywhere in the world, has made a big splash. A radio talk show is also now included in Madden 2005 and this allows you to listen about news from around the league and you can hear fans call in to see what they are thinking about how the season is going. Topping this off is an owner mode, which expands on the franchise mode and allows you to act as the owner of the club. You can do stuff like raise ticket prices, decide what to serve at the stadium and even move your team to another city. This game just seems to get better every year and I see no reason for it to stop now.