No. 4 — NFL Street
NFL Street finds its way to number four on this list by taking everything great about NFL Blitz and improving on it and making it their own.
NFL Street featured 7-on-7 football with NFL players that are drafted by the users wearing street clothes in various environments including on the street, in a park, in a cage, etc. There are Gamebreakers, there’s showing off, there’s style points to try and make your team blow out the opponent.
There are multiple game modes including NFL challenge, which is the main mode where you create a team and take on all comers to prove you’re the best street team. NFL Street had a lot of replayability, and got even better with the release of NFL Street 2. But NFL street takes the spot on this list simply because of what it did for the football arcade genre.
No. 3 — MADDEN 95
At number three we have Madden 95. Madden 95 is big because it was the first Madden game to have both NFL team licenses and NFLPA licenses. It was also the first Madden to get rid of the WR passing windows, though you could turn them on if you wanted via the options menu.
It also tracked individual stats throughout a season for players so they know how their team was faring against the rest of the league. It was the first Madden to feature players on the cover as Dallas Cowboys left tackle Erik Williams and San Francisco defensive lineman Karl Wilson were featured on the box alongside John Madden. Plus it’s got the theme song for the NFL on Fox.
It was a great game overall that was fun to play, and it still gets a lot of love to this day.
No. 2 — NFL 2k5
That’s right, we finally reached it. NFL 2k5 comes in at number two on our countdown for the greatest NFL video games of all time.
What’s not to love about 2k5? It’s been 13 years since this game came out, and it still holds up today when you put it against madden 15,16, 17 and beyond.
Visual Concepts hit the game out of the park when it came to gameplay and visuals. The franchise mode was deep, the pre-, half- and post-game shows were fantastic. The fact that you could watch a weekly roundup hosted by Chris Berman in your franchise mode to check out scores, stats and highlights was revolutionary…and it’s something we haven’t seen since.
The Cribs were awesome, and it gave you a nice little reason to keep going. Everything about this game was seemingly perfect. Playing against celebrity teams to try and become the best team, and the fantasy draft mode that was popular in 2k added even more fun to the game. First-person football kind of stunk, but it was nice little innovation they tried, it just failed. But there’s hardly anything negative you can say about 2k5.
It’s so popular and so beloved that it’s still played by quite a few people to this day. In fact, it probably would’ve overtaken EA as the juggernaut of the football sim if EA hadn’t gone out and purchased the NFL exclusivity license after 2k5 was released.
No. 1 — Tecmo Super Bowl
At number one we have Tecmo Super Bowl for the NES, as if there was any doubt.
Tecmo Super Bowl was the very first football game to feature both the NFL and NFLPA licenses allowing use of players and team names for the game.
It featured 9-on-9 football, full season mode, play now mode, some of the best gameplay of its time, and there’s just nothing to hate about this game. Unless you were facing Bo Jackson, but that’s for a different video all together because he’s the greatest player in Tecmo Bowl history.
Of course, Touchdown Thurman Thomas remains my favorite simply because I’m a little bit biased, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s just so nostalgic.
The game gets updated every year with new rosters, and you can still buy cartridges with the updated rosters every year. It’s stood the test of time, still great. It’s hard to put into words just how great this game was and still is.