What’s wrong with me? I’ve been planning for a while to clear out my cupboards from the countless PlayStation discs I’ve accumulated over the years, but just as I’ve started making progress on that process, I’ve been unable to resist the temptation of adding new cases to my collection. There’s a twist, though: I’m only purchasing American football games. Weird, right?
I’ve always enjoyed sports games, but I have a particular fondness for NFL titles because it’s through them that I learned to appreciate the real-world game. You see, I was guilty of being a gridiron sceptic up until a few years ago, when I watched Tom Brady decimate the Atlanta Falcons against impossible odds to add yet another Super Bowl ring to his collection. I didn’t understand a second of it, but I was smitten.
I committed to understanding the sport in the off-season, and Madden NFL 17 – the one with former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on the cover – became my handbook. Rather than treat it like a traditional game, I really did use it as a kind of makeshift learning assistant, going through all the rules and basic plays. Whenever there was something I didn’t understand, I turned to YouTube.
By the time the new season came around, I was a diehard New York Giants fan, and with Eli Manning at the helm, I’ve seen my team register eight wins in two full seasons. It’s all been a bit depressing – especially when you consider that I also “selected” the equally awful New York Knicks and New York Mets around the same time – but I very much fell in love with the sport, and its associated video games.
So now I’m embarking on a new mission: to collect every single American football game ever released on a PlayStation platform. I don’t really know why I’ve committed to this, but I guess it started when I stumbled upon a stack of old copies of Madden for the PlayStation 2. At just £0.50 a piece, I picked up a bunch of games and still had change from a £10 note.
Of course, it’s not always going to be this cheap. I’ve assembled a giant document which I believe includes every American football game ever released on a PlayStation platform, and while the likes of Madden NFL 11 for the PS3 can be picked up for peanuts, sealed copies of Sony’s in-house NFL Blitz rip-off NFL Xtreme can cost up to £40 on auction websites.
My goal is to own every copy of every game, so in the case of Madden NFL 07, I’d need three: PS3, PS2, and PSP. In this instance, all three versions are the same; in others, like NFL Street 2: Unleashed and Blitz: Overdrive, the handheld received an adaptation of its home console counterpart.
Then there are the oddball titles, which aren’t even necessarily linked to the NFL at all. For example, Kurt Warner's Arena Football Unleashed may be endorsed by the ex-Arizona Cardinal, but it adopts arena football rules, meaning there’s no concept of punting. Other series like Atari’s Backyard Football utilise a more cartoon visual style and a playground theme.
By my calculations there are 121 games to collect, although I’m sure I’ll learn about some I’ve never even heard of as my library begins to grow. A half-dozen or so of these, like last year’s Maximum Football 2018 on the PS4, are digital only. I’m primarily motivated by physical copies, and seeing as a lot of these games only launched in America, I’m going to be paying some heavy postage fees.
I think it’s the NCAA series that’s going to take the most effort; while the titles are easy enough to find on auction websites, there are a lot of them and not a single one made its way outside of the United States. The same is mostly true of Sony’s own NFL GameDay franchise, with the 2005 entry in the series being one of the last games the Japanese giant ever published on the PSone. It didn’t even come out on PS2!
I’m not sure how many of these games I’ll actually end up playing – where it’s affordable, I want to grab sealed copies – but I’m really excited to try out the NFL Street titles as well as the old NFL Blitz games, too. I’ve also never played the legendary ESPN NFL 2K5, which many people claim is still the pinnacle of American football adaptations.
I’m in no rush to complete this collection, and right now I’m doing it on a very small budget, so it’s the likes of Madden where I’ll be starting out. This series has always launched in Europe, and old copies can be picked up for as little as £0.25 if you look around. Once I’ve nailed down the easy-to-find titles, it’ll be the more obscure ones – like Acclaim’s NFL Quarterback Club – that I turn my attention to.
If you do happen to have any old American football games lying around that you no longer want, then please do drop me an email as I’d love to chat with you about that. If not, I just hope this article inspires you to maybe begin a collection of your own. It’s been exciting starting this project, and while I’ve set myself a lofty goal, I’ll be sure to let you all know how I get on over the coming years.
Do you have any video game collections? If you were to start a collection, which titles would you pick up and why? Go for it on fourth down in the comments section below.