Sports games are one of the most popular genres in the entire gaming industry behind annual series such as FIFA, NBA 2K, MLB The Show, and Madden. Outside of a few disappointments by other developers, Madden is the only name in the football video game world and has been that way for a number of years. The last time players really had another option in gameplay style was that of the NCAA Football series, which last released in 2013 with NCAA Football 14. Now six years later, the desire for a new college football game is even higher and hopefully the inclusion of some teams in the upcoming Madden is just the first step towards that happening.
The NCAA Football video game series dates back to 1993 when it was known as Bill Walsh College Football and released annually all the way up through 2013 with NCAA Football 2014. The series was still selling quite well, though not to the degree of Madden. However, ongoing litigation about player likenesses started by Ed O’Bannon effectively killed not only NCAA Football, but also put the final nail in the coffin for the NCAA Basketball series that had ended a few years prior already.
While Madden is still a great series and has improved on past entries most every year this generation, the lack of NCAA Football is still felt for longtime fans of college football. Not only did the NCAA Football series offer a large roster of teams to choose from, but game modes like Dynasty and Road To Glory provided hours upon hours of single player fun that the various game modes in Madden typically don’t offer.
It wasn’t just the game modes either, as the gameplay between the two series was quite different. College football itself offers a larger variety of playbooks for you to pick between, which was always translated well to the video games as well. There was just something about the wild and crazy offenses you could string together in NCAA Football, whether it was a high octane air raid offense or a straight up I-formation offense focused on running.
As a huge fan of football in general that loves the NFL, college football has always been my favorite version of football to choose from. This was also the case with the games, as NCAA Football was the series I would consistently play all year round, while Madden I would typically only play during the NFL season. To this day, I still have my Xbox 360 hooked up so I can play NCAA Football 14 six years after it last released.
EA Sports is throwing college football fans a bit of a bone this year with the addition of some college football teams to the game, but this is very limited and likely will play just as Madden itself does. There are some other developers trying their hand at a college football game with Doug Flutie’s Maximum Football 2019 and Gridiron Champions, but these will not feature actual colleges and would require people to create the college teams themselves at best. Hopefully those games could replicate the gameplay style of an NCAA Football, but it would be great to see an official return.
While these types of games would not have actual licensed college football teams, it’s possible we could see an EA Sports jump back into the college arena in the near future. The NCAA has seemed to be more open to allowing players to potentially get paid a little for their likeness, which could open the door for a new NCAA Football game. This would be even better than before, as they could actually use player names in that case, rather than having nameless players that were clearly based on real life players. A change in the NCAA rules would have to come first for that to happen though. It is possible EA Sports could bring the series back and have all the players be completely original and not based on any players, but I think we’re more likely to see them wait for the player likeness situation to be straightened out instead.
Madden NFL 20 is releasing this week, which is a few weeks earlier than it usually comes out. The aforementioned addition of a select few college football teams will be nice to fill the void as fall practices start to fire up soon for the upcoming season, but it would be so much better if EA Sports truly brought back NCAA Football again. Six years has been way too long and it would truly be incredible to see where the series could go visually while we are on the precipice of next generation consoles yet again.