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John Madden Football: What Did Critics Say in 1990?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on September 03, 2014   |   Episode 90 (Show Archive)  


John Madden Football (Sega Genesis)
Ever wonder what Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro and other popular magazines thought of your favorite 8-, 16- and 32-bit games? Now you can find out, thanks to Review Crew! This is the only show on the internet that is willing to go back in time to find out what old school critics thought of retro games at the time. Did they pan your favorite game? Did they love something terrible? Find out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday as Defunct Games presents Review Crew!

After a quarter century, it's hard to think of a time without yearly John Madden Football installments. This was the case in 1990, when Electronic Arts finally conquered the console market with Madden's first appearance on Sega Genesis. Was it love at first sight? We dig through old issues of GamePro, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Raze, CVG, Mega Play, and Video Games & Computer Entertainment to the answers.

(NOTE: Although we occasionally cut for length, no other edits are made to the review. Defunct Games does not change any of the wording, grammar or punctuation use. Also keep in mind that our score is the average of all critics at the time, not just the sample that is reprinted on this page. If you still have more questions, I recommend you check out the Review Crew FAQ, where we address the review guidelines, converting scores, magazine covers and more.)

John Madden Football
[ Company: Electronic Arts | Console: Genesis ]

GAMEPRO (January 1991)
5 out of 5

"John Madden Football has the right balance of strategy and action to keep gamers engrossed for months. You'll get a kick out of seeing how your favorite NFL teams perform under your command. Except for the one noted flaw and the fact that you can advance a fumble (unlike in the NFL), John Madden Football is the most ambitious football cart to date. Helmets off to the folks at Electronic Arts for satisfying every football fan's dream." -Fantastic Fan

95% out of 100%

"John Madden's stunning intro music (by ex-C64 maestro, Rob Hubbard) lets you know that this game is something special, and things just get more impressive from then on! The array of options and statistics give this the kind of realistic feel that was missing from Megadrive Cyberball. With gorgeous graphics, super sound, and perfect playability, this is a Must-Have game for Megadrive owners." -Matt Regan

94% out of 100%

"John Madden American Football is successful because of two important factors. For real fans, the game is very accurate, containing all the moves you'll ever need with accurate implementation of the rules. For fans and non-fans alike, the game is very easy to pick up and play, visually attractive and aurally entertaining. A totally original game for the Mega Drive is always a pleasure to play, and when it's got this sort of depth you'll have trouble removing it from that cartridge slot."

94% out of 100%

"Using stunning state-of-the-art 3D graphics and unbelievable sound, this is one of the finest sports games ever seen. Easy-to-operate drop-down menus are used to dictate play, and the control pad is used intelligently to allow an incredible amount of different moves, including running, passing, diving, spinning and head-butting. With its two-player option, and multiple modes of play, this is a game which will keep you entertained for months."

9 out of 10

"Without question, doubt or reservation, Madden Football is the BEST sports simulation I've ever played! Not only do you get a good game of football one-on-one or against the computer, you get great graphics, incredible voice and even highlights from other games! Outstanding!" -Steve

MEGA PLAY (April 1991)
9 out of 10

"John Madden Football is as close to real gridiron fun as you can get! The feel is so precise, you feel as though it's your bones crunching! Almost a 10, but there's no cheerleaders ..." -Dave

9 out of 10

"I'm not into sports games but a football game as good as John Madden has even attracted me. Incredible scaling of the field gives JM a feel no other football game has captured. Amazingly addictive game play and almost endless options and special features." -Martin

MEGA PLAY (April 1991)
9 out of 10

"Completely awesome is the perfect description for this game. Incredible 3-D effects of the field and hard playing football action. Plenty of plays and a ton of fun in 2-player mode." -Bart

ENTERTAINMENT (January 1991)
7 out of 10

"Some video sports contests concentrate more on the action than the important strategic elements of the game. Not so with Electronic Arts' John Madden Football, which combines strategy with thrills and spills -- enough strategy, in fact, that it almost qualifies as a simulation. Madden Football is a fine electronic rendition of one of America's most popular sports. Even video aficionados not into sports will get a kick out of it." -Clayton Walnum
REVIEW CREW AVERAGE: 90% - After two dozen iterations spread across a quarter century, it's normal to have Madden fatigue. But this was certainly not the case back in 1990, when the chubby coach made the leap from the PC to consoles. The critics lost their heads, quickly calling it the best football game ever made. It raised the bar, making it tough for the competition to keep up.

You can almost hear Mega Play's Dave hyperventilating when he says, "John Madden Football is as close to real gridiron fun as you can get!" ""Without question, doubt or reservation, Madden Football is the BEST sports simulation I've ever played," echoes EGM's Steve. GamePro gave it a perfect score and called John Madden Football "the most ambitious football cart to date."

Perhaps the most interesting observation is that the European critics liked John Madden Football as much (if not more) than their American counterparts. CVG, Raze and Mean Machines Sega all gave the game scores ranging between 94% and 95%. Only GamePro had a score higher than the UK lot. And if we're going to get technical, the only "low" score comes from California-based Video Games & Computer Entertainment.

After reading Clayton Walnum's review several times, it makes me wonder if the score was a typo. He didn't seem to have many problems with the game, even going as far as to say "video aficionados not into sports will get a kick out of it." You would think that a game able to do that would rate higher than a 7 out of 10. But even with this grade, John Madden Football averaged an impressive 90%.

ON FRIDAY'S EPISODE: Coming out mere months after John Madden Football (and the NFL season in general) was Sega's response, Joe Montana Football. Did critics like this game even more than John Madden Football, or was it a fumble? Find out on Friday when Review Crew tackles Joe Montana Football for Sega Genesis. Make sure and check out the Review Crew archive for more old school reviews, and don't forget to tweet me @DefunctGames to let me know what games you want to see next!

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