There are four seconds left in the fourth
quarter and the clock is ticking down —just enough time to
call one more play. You’re down because Emmitt Smith of the
Dallas Cowboys just broke seven tackles for an 80 yard touchdown
run. Phil Simms, better known as “11,” steps up to the
line and quickly yells for the snap. Your B receiver runs a slant
that leaves him wide open and way ahead of the pack. You hurl the
ball downfield for an amazing over-the-shoulder catch, and even
though your man is still 40 yards from the goal, a timely speed
burst and a few well-placed jumps secure the winning touchdown. The
crowd roars for the 1994 New York Giants, and just when you think
it can’t get any better, you hear it from the big man
himself: “Now that is big-time football!”

If “Madden 2005” is the premiere game for the
football aficionado, then “Madden ’94” for Sega
Genesis was football for the nerdy everygamer. Nothing was
realistic and anything was possible. Play-action passes that looked
like Hail Marys? Check. Kickoffs that never went out of bounds?
Check. Punt rushes that earned more sacks than any blitz in the
playbook? It’s in the game.

Perhaps the most memorable feature in “Madden
’94” was the ability to flip an offensive play.
According to the back of the game box, flipping a play allowed the
offense to “avoid roving LBs.” It was true. Running a
flipped halfback counter in the I-formation — basically a run
that swung out to the left — was nearly a guaranteed first
down, even on third and long. Come to think of it, Michigan’s
play calling would work pretty well in this Sega Genesis
universe.

Speaking of play calling, running a solid defense was a breeze.
While the punt rush has already been hailed as the ultimate
run/blitz defense, making the right call against a pass was as
simple as pressing any two buttons at random. Anything from
“Prevent” to the intimidating “Red Dog”
carried the same odds of knocking down a pass. Pass interference
was rarely enforced, so there was no need to be shy about shoving
prospective receivers into the sidelines.

With Madden ’94, EA Sports achieved the arcade feel that
always felt forced in games like NFL Blitz. It thrived on its
ability not to mimic actual football, but to stand on its own in a
world of fairy-tale football illusion.

— Jared Newman

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