In the sports video game world, there are two juggernauts looking down on the mass of yearly challengers attempting to take the throne. MLB the Show, UFC, FIFA, NHL, all of them are wonderful simulation video games in their own right, but none compare to the popularity and grandiose of Madden and NBA 2K. Madden has been the only football video game franchise for a long, long time. NBA 2K, however had to fight to become the juggernaut that it is, having had a direct competitor in NBA Live for the majority of it’s existence.
The two of them are the top of the sports video game food chain, but Madden still has a lot it could learn from NBA 2K. 2Ks biggest strength over Madden is easily the MyPlayer mode, where you create your own player and play as them in the league. In Madden, you usually have three archetype options to choose from at each position, and then you play through seasons on your team, fighting for every scrap of overall points. NBA 2K has a vast array of archetypes to choose from, deep customization options such as arm length, plus a fully immersive hub where you can play with other people’s players from around the world, known as The Neighborhood. The Neighborhood is the biggest edge here, since there is absolutely no way to play your 90 overall wide receiver you’ve been working on against someone else’s 90 overall cornerback.
NBA 2K also has “The Park” which is the mode allowing players to take their own custom players and play against one another in “street” style basketball in either 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 matches.
Another thing Madden could always feature more heavily is the “badge” system from NBA 2K, which gives players special skills (ex. Quick Draw, which allows faster shooting) outside of their normal overall skillset. Madden already has a similar system, but it’s not nearly as fleshed out and doesn’t feel as meaningful as NBA 2K.
Lamar Jackson is on the cover of the latest Madden however, so at least they’re doing something right.