The 20 Best Madden Games, Ranked

The Madden series has long been a mainstay in gaming, but some titles in the franchise reach greater heights than others. With football being one of the most popular sports in the world, it’s not surprising that many Madden games have generated positive receptions. As is the case with most yearly franchises, however, the quality of the titles varies wildly.

Some Madden games are well-polished, well-thought-out, and incredibly fun titles that prove fun to both football experts and newcomers alike. However, not all of them are perfect. Lesser Madden games seem cheaper, less refined, and more focused on the likes of microtransactions than providing a genuinely fun and complete experience. Recent years have seen some of the weakest titles in the franchise, even if Madden NFL 22 made some modest improvements. Looking at an overview of the twenty best Madden NFL games ranked helps showcase where the series has shone the brightest.

Madden NFL 20 (2019)

As noted, some of the more recent installments of Madden weren’t met with the strongest response, but Madden NFL 20 still did well for itself. Patrick Mahomes landed the cover and pulled off a rare feat by winning the Super Bowl in the same year that he did this.

The game itself might not have been a Super Bowl winner, coming in at a solid but comparatively modest 79 on Metacritic, but it had its merits. The coolest addition was the QB1 career campaign that allowed a player to experience college, the pros, and more, working to improve upon an already successful Superstar Mode.

Madden NFL 12 (2011)

PS2 screenshot of Madden NFL 12, showing Logan Mankins in Patriots uniform from behind.

Throughout the 2000s, Madden was basically untouchable as a sports gaming franchise. The NFL 2K series, currently delayed from its impending return, was its closest competitor. Once EA landed the exclusive rights to the league, however, that went by the wayside. Madden NFL 12 was kind of the first look at a hiccup as, despite good ratings, it scored lower than most of its era.

There were some interesting ideas here including an auction-style bid during free agency in franchise mode and the ability to trade for draft picks. However, despite critics still giving Madden NFL 12 a 79 on Metacritic, the lack of actual new game modes was seen as a disappointment because the series was starting to grow stale in some ways.

Madden NFL 19 (2018)

Shot of Jalen Ramsey from behind in Madden NFL 19

In an effort to make this game feel more like experiencing an actual NFL sporting event, Madden NFL 19 included the use of “real player motions” driven by stats and performances from real players. That led to players making cuts and performing blocks that lined up with how they look in real life.

The game also made the move to include a continuation of the Longshot story mode from the previous game, which isn’t something a lot of sports franchises do with their respective story/career modes. The game earned an 80 on Metacritic, but various AI issues made fans less receptive.

Madden NFL 25 (2013)

High camera angle of a Madden NFL 25 starting lineup on the field.

It’ll be interesting to see what happened when the actual 2025 edition of Madden comes out since the title for that year has already been taken. In 2013, Madden NFL 25 was released as a way to honor the silver anniversary of the NFL’s official video game series.

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The game tried new things with the presentation, including things like the use of social media, though it was glitchy in parts. That said, the game received praise for the improvements made to the franchise mode and the inclusion of legends like Joe Montana and Barry Sanders.

Madden NFL 09 (2008)

A Los Angeles Chargers running back runs with the football in Madden 09.

The Madden series was on quite a run throughout the late 2000s, but many fans feel that it stopped with Madden NFL 09. Released in August 2008 and featuring football legend Brett Favre on the cover, Madden NFL 09 actually has the distinction of being the last game released for the Xbox in North America.

Like some of its predecessors, many praised the game for the next-gen graphical updates and enhanced physics, earning it an 85 on Metacritic. However, there were a few criticisms about the “same old” gameplay, and poorly balanced online play made it a step backward from Madden NFL 08.

Madden NFL 15 (2014)

Madden NFL 15, gameplay announcement screenshot showing a player avoiding a failed tackle.

A lot of the aspects that typically worked for the franchise were key parts of the success of Madden NFL 15. The graphics were strong, the soundtrack was diverse and impressive, as was the presentation. The game was seen by many as EA looking to improve upon issues.

Of course, it was not without its faults as it also included some lackluster commentary and the removal of online team play. The last-gen versions also didn’t really work as the focus was on the newer systems. Still, it was well-received overall and accumulated an 81 score on Metacritic.

Madden NFL 18 (2017)

Tom Brady in Patriots uniform throwing the football in Madden NFL 18.

Right off the bat, Madden NFL 18 stood out because of Tom Brady, its cover athlete. To play off of that, they also offered up a “G.O.A.T. Edition” that gave players early access. In a notable addition to the series, this was the first installment to feature the Frostbite engine that is still used today.

This game also marked the debut of the Longshot mode, which let you control a quarterback as he went through high school, college, the combine, and eventually the NFL. Some reviewers considered it to be a great addition, earning the game an 82 on Metacritic, but the first implementation of the Frostbite engine also led to some awkward animations and issues.

Madden NFL 17 (2016)

Two players try to catch the ball in Madden 17.

A year before Brady was on the cover, his teammate Rob Gronkowski was given the honor. By this point, those who had been playing the game for over a decade had noticed that Madden was becoming stale, with things not changing all that much in terms of gameplay.

So, EA Sports looked to make a few alterations to improve things, including adding the ground game mechanism to balance things out. They also made franchise mode a bit deeper and worked on the defensive side of things. The game earned an 83 on Metacritic, even if commentary and presentation missed the mark.

Madden NFL 13 (2012)

A 49ers player jukes a Cardinals player in Madden 13

There are a few historic caveats regarding this game, including it being the final Madden released on the Wii and the only one for the Wii U and PlayStation Vita. As soon as it was booted up, some fans were upset as the popular EA Trax was gone, meaning there wasn’t any licensed music in Madden NFL 13.

Instead, the menus were filled with instrumentals, which turned away some fans. However, the gameplay was solid enough to earn an 83 on Metacritic. One true highlight was the Connected Careers mode that let players combine Franchise and Superstar mode into one place if they wanted.

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Madden NFL 16 (2015)

Cam Newton pointing in Madden 16

Following the aforementioned removal of EA Trax, it took the game three years to reintroduce it. Songs returned in Madden NFL 16, although gamers could still opt for what the composer put together if they preferred.

In terms of the actual gameplay, not all that much had changed, but a larger focus was put on the passing mechanics. The game also took advantage of the popularity of fantasy football with the Madden NFL Draft Champions mode, combining fantasy elements with on-the-field action. These improvements earned the game an 84 on Metacritic.

Madden NFL 2001 (2000)

An image of big Baltimore Ravens football player from Madden 01.

Many Madden fans would argue that the series was at an all-time high in the early 2000s. Released in 2000, Madden NFL 2001 proves one of the better entries in the long-running franchise.

Subsequent titles would bring more to the table, but the game more than delivered for the time of its release, receiving widespread critical acclaim with a 90 on Metacritic. This game is notable for a number of firsts, including the first Madden game on the PlayStation 2 and the first to feature a football player (Eddie George) on the cover, rather than box art with John Madden himself.

Madden NFL 10 (2009)

A Steelers quarterback looks for an opening in Madden 10.

Madden NFL 10 is more well-known for its unique cover than the gameplay itself. Breaking away from the series’ longstanding tradition, the cover of Madden NFL 10 actually features two football players, the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu, and the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald.

The game itself was well-received, accruing an 85 on Metacritic and proving less divisive among fans than its predecessor Madden NFL 09. The good running game, passing game, and improved graphics made it an undeniably solid entry in the franchise.

Madden NFL 2002 (2001)

Image of two teams lining up and getting ready to make a play in Madden NFL 2002.

Madden NFL 2002 is a throwback, indeed. It was the last Madden title to be released for the Game Boy Color and Nintendo 64 and a launch title for both the Nintendo GameCube and Xbox. It was also the first game to feature the Houston Texans, who joined the NFL for the 2002 season.

Madden NFL 2002 took what worked about 2001 and made numerous improvements. These included a muscular AI opponent, an improved physics engine, and more substantial gameplay mechanics. Critics loved the title, giving it a 94 on Metacritic.

Madden NFL 11 (2010)

Peyton Manning throws a pass in Madden 11

There were still attempts to innovate the series when Madden NFL 11 hit the shelves. One way this installment did that was to include GameFlow, which was done to speed up the time each game took. That was mostly well-received by casual fans, though hardcore gamers didn’t need to speed things up.

The commentary was also a highlight, as was the gameplay and some of the modes, justifying Madden NFL 11‘s 84 on Metacritic. However, Madden Ultimate Team proved to be a misstep. Gamers were incentivized to spend real-life money to guide their Madden Ultimate Team to victory, which fans didn’t appreciate.

Madden NFL 2003 (2002)

Football players from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Las Vegas Raiders jostling with each other on the field.

Madden NFL continued the streak of improvement for the franchise in the early 2000s. Featuring Marshall Faulk on the cover, Madden NFL 2003 sits with a 95 as the best Madden NFL game according to Metacritic

Ten of the website’s 25 reviews are perfect 10s, with many praising the robust gameplay and countless modes to try and perfect. Although it may no longer truly be the peak of the series, it still serves as a strong ambassador of some of Madden NFL‘s best years.

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Madden NFL 06 (2005)

Kansas City Chiefs player celebrating a touchdown

Madden NFL 06 features the Eagles’ Donovan McNabb on the cover. This game is notable for introducing some unique mechanics into the series, with gameplay like Madden NFL precision passing, QB Vision Control, and the series staple Superstar mode/Career mode.

The game was also a launch title for the Xbox 360, suitably heralding the franchise’s entry into the new generation. Madden NFL 06 sits at an 88 on Metacritic, with many reviews praising the game’s innovation.

Madden NFL 2005 (2004)

An image of two players and the referees doing a coin toss in Madden 05

Released in August of 2004, Madden NFL 2005 was the last Madden game on the original PlayStation. 2004 was also a fantastic year for online gaming, and Madden NFL 2005 proved to be the first game in the series to feature Xbox Live online capabilities.

Many critics praised the complex gameplay and new defensive system, and the Metacritic score for the game remains an 88. The online portion also helped bring the Madden series into a new generation, and the franchise would never be the same again.

Madden NFL 08 (2007)

HIgh angle of the Chargers lining up for a play in Madden 08

Madden NFL 08 released on virtually every video game console that it could, being placed on the precipice between the sixth and seventh generations of consoles. Released in August of 2007, the game saw versions on a whopping 11 different platforms, including the PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, Wii, and GameCube. It is also featured on the PC.

Starring the Tennessee Titans’ Vince Young on the cover, Madden NFL 08 sits at 85 on Metacritic, with many critics praising the improvements, features, and buttery sixty frames per second.

Madden NFL 07 (2006)

An image of the Madden 07 gameplay. This shows that the player has selected Culpepper to receive the ball

Madden NFL 07 was released as a launch title for both the PlayStation 3 and Wii, and it served as a wonderful entry into both football and the seventh generation of consoles. Featuring running back Shaun Alexander on the cover, the game brought some new additions to the series.

These included a lead blocker control, spins to avoid tacklers, and Madden changes like stringing together evasive moves. The game received a positive reception, getting praised for its new additions and landing at an 84 on Metacritic.

Madden NFL 2004 (2003)

Patriots players stand around in a huddle in Madden 04.

Madden NFL 2004 was a little too early for Xbox Live, but it was an enormous success, nevertheless. This entry introduced the owner mode, which allowed players to control the team’s owner and gain all the responsibilities that came with owning a professional football team.

The mode was quite robust, complete with the option to lower or raise hot dog prices at the stadium. It also included Michael Vick, whose scrambling abilities made him one of the best football players in video game history. As a perfect evolution of the Madden improvements in the early 2000s and a great title to this day, Madden NFL 2004 earned a 94 on Metacritic that well befits its status as the best Madden NFL game.

Source: EA Sports Madden NFL/YouTube

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