Stop us if you’ve heard this kids: several years ago EA and Sega were battling it out for football supremacy and the results effectively ended console pigskinnery as we once knew it. These were the days when Sega was had just stopped making hardware, mind you. So, together with the help of ESPN, quality development from Visual Concepts, and eventually half the asking price, the NFL 2K series was putting up some extremely stiff competition against the Madden dynasty.
Above: Hail to the King, baby
So yeah, EA went and ended that conflict forever back in 2004 by buying up the NFL rights exclusively, thus tanking any hope for other developers hoping to license the players and teams of the National Football League. And while the demise of the 2K series is sad, we’ve had plenty of time to get over it… and after a long look back at these football games of yore, we’re possibly a little grateful! Almost overnight there were no more football games. Ironically, despite the lack of any competition whatsoever, the Madden seems to deliver the goods every year. To its credit, it’s improved itself so persistently everybody’s all but forgotten about the several dozen mediocre football titles that dared to dream. Except GamesRadar…
Above: NOT THESE
We’re not talking about Tecmo Bowl here. I can’t mention what I do to strangers my age without getting bombarded with a billion Tecmo Bowl questions (and it just got remade.) Nor are we talking about whatever the that bizarre thing Europeans call “Football” featuring helmetless men in shorts kicking a checkered sphere back and forth. We’re talking the Good Ol Fashion, beer guzzlin’, American FOOTBAWL Hank Williams Jr. sang about. So, we gotta ask
With the ability to use even the names of NFL players resting exclusively in EA’s legal documents, it seems nobody can even make a game using pro players. After all, affixing Johnny McThrowsgood name to your game will only get it so far. But that didn’t stop many a publisher from trying
Joe Montana II: Sports Talk Football | 1992
Okay, youngling, can you guess why the second collaboration of the Joe Montana/Sega Trilogy is the most memorable? The answer’s in the title…
Above: “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT”
A game that talks? As hard as it is to believe, in these days any game with an instance of speech - no matter how garbled, digitized or unintelligible – wasn’t just worth bragging about on the schoolyard, it could also redeem just about any game. Such is the case with Joe Montana II. Everybody was blown away by the technology, and even non-football fans were soaking in the handful of electric voice clips. Only after games moved onto CDs could and we take off the “Talk Goggles” and see the game for the turd it truly was.
Above: Nice Sonic cameo though
Prime Time NFL starring Deion Sanders | 1996
Say what you will about the Madden curse, it’s nothing compared to the heartbreaking, love-‘em-and-leave-‘em attitude shown by Sega Sports. They’d go put a star’s name on the box, leading on these poor millionaires with the prospect of their own game franchise, then hand them walking papers the second they found a prettier athlete.
Troy Aikmen NFL Football | 1994
How good were the Dallas Cowboys in the early 90’s? Three, count ‘em – THREE – people involved with the Super Bowl champs ended up getting their own game! Troy Boy was the first.
Emmitt Smith Football | 1995
No one in this office had heard of this game until this very moment.
Jimmy Johnson’s VR Football ’98 | 1997
Be they slipshod attempts at baseball, basketball, or football the VR series had failed to make an traction across the landscape of sports. Tearing a page from EA’s playbook, they figured the next best step was a little license action and landed Jimmy Johnson, the golden boy coach who lead the Dallas Cowboys to many a Super Bowl. The game was rightfully slammed mostly due to being horrible, but Jimmy Johnson’s VR Football ’98 still had one thing the completion didn’t: FMVs of Jimmy Johnson yelling at you for being an ass (Oh, and two penis synonyms on the cover.)
Mike Ditka’s Ultimate Football | 1991
If you’re going to start knocking on the doors of coaches, then this guy’s a no brainer. Unfortunately, Mike’s good name was squandered in the hands of Accolade, the people who also proudly gave Bubsy and Elvira starring roles. So sad… Because as far as I know, Ditka’s positively godlike. But then most of my knowledge about the man comes directly from Chris Farley in a mustache.
And would ya look at that? Ditka’s game also has its own Rudy-esque comeback tale. It seems the Ditka series got its start on the NES but was eventually canceled. But Mikey rose from the ashes after the game was unearthed in 2008 and you can buy an independently released cartridge right here.
NFL | 1989
Above: Ain’t too proud to brag
Years before EA thought of it, defunct toymaker LJN were the earliest to actually do it. You’re looking at the first game to purchase NFL right, and they weren’t ashamed to crow about it.
Good on ‘em, too. If not for that historical footnote, and possibly the giant folded play sheet that came in the box, there’s almost nothing else about NFL anybody would possibly remember
Capcom’s MVP Football | 1992
You know, I’m not really sure there’s any more outrageous a combination of words than in the title of this game. It’s not like Capcom’s above tossing oddball franchises into peanut butter and chocolate situations… but NFL vs. Capcom?!
Above: None of this makes sense to me
There’s just something so unsettling with the thought of a company as imaginative and innovative as Capcom, at this point and time riding high on the success of Street Fighter and Mega Man, mingling with the mainstream dregs of Americana. Oh well, everyone sells out. And most of you had no idea until just now!
Side note: The music will make a man out of your ears
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