John Madden Football ’92 – Review

Sports games have always been popular amongst gamers. However, technology has always held creators back from producing quality and realistic sports sims. Madden ’92 is an example of an early attempt to produce a playable American football game…and to be fair, they didn’t do a bad job.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

John Madden Football ’92 is an American football sports game developed and published by Electronic Arts for the Sega Mega Drive, beginning a series of yearly instalments for the video game market. I chose to review the Sega Mega Drive version.

Basic Rules

For those unacquainted with the game of American football, each team consists of groups of offensive, defensive, and special team players. When you are in possession of the ball, you have four plays or “downs” to move the ball forward 10 yards or more. This can be achieved by throwing or kicking the ball or running with it. This is decided before each play as you set your team up in a tactical way to deceive and outmanoeuvre your opponents. If you fail to move the ball 10 yards or more within those four downs, the ball passes to the opposite team. If you are successful, then you go back to a “1st Down” and the process starts again until either you score a “touchdown”, “field goal”, or lose the ball in a number of different ways.

“Red, 27, HIKE!” (screenshot taken by the author)


Madden ’92 can be played in single-player modes as well as two-player head-to-head and co-op modes (the later being a new feature).

There are 28 professional teams (the All-Madden team can only be played in Regular Season) to choose from and several new options for you to play:

  • Pre-Season – An exhibition match with no fouls except offsides and the 45 second play cock is turned off
  • Regular Season – Exhibition but with all game rules in effect
  • New Playoffs – Begin a new tournament
  • Continue Playoffs – Continue with a previous tournament
  • Sudden Death – Normal game rules but the first to score wins the game

American football consists of four quarters, and you can choose how long these quarters are. Quarter lengths of 5, 10, and 15 minutes can be chosen.

You then get to choose the type of stadium and field you play on. The choices are:

  • Open stadium with grass
  • Open stadium with Astroturf
  • Domed stadium with Astroturf

When you select open stadiums, the weather can affect the game in the guise of wind, rain and snow. In the snow and rain, players are slower and have less traction. The wind affects field goals and punts making it trickier to judge direction.

The game came with a very comprehensive manual explaining in detail the intricacies of the plays and in-depth stats on the players. Simply by reading the manual, one could quite easily become an expert (or a bore).

The manual will help you learn the strengths and weaknesses of the various plays you can make (screenshot taken by the author)


Madden ’92’s competitors released in 1991 were Tecmo Bowl (NES) and Mike Ditka Power Football (Mega Drive). I haven’t played either of those games and so cannot compare playability, but I do feel that Mike Ditka Power Football’s graphics are slightly better than Madden ’92. That’s not taking away from Madden ’92 which I think looks very good.


Music doesn’t play a big role in this game, and one can live without the SFX. I tended to listen to a podcast or stick on some music.

Personal Memories

Naturally I had heard of American football as a youngster through American films but had never actually played it. I had previously played John Madden American Football (1990) which gave me the opportunity to learn how the sport was played. When we picked up Madden ’92, I was pleased to see there had been some improvements. There were more plays for the teams to perform, and when a player was injured, an ambulance would drive onto the pitch, which proceeded to plough through the huddled mass of players, splaying them across the field. Sadly, there was still no license for authentic teams, stadium and player names.

In my youth, I would always play as Chicago (because for some reason I liked the Chicago Bears), and my older brother preferred Cincinnati (Bengals). Like most sports games, Madden ‘92 is better in two-player mode. The negative aspects of this game include the fact that the players are very slow when running that trying to gain rushing yards is pointless. You may as well stick to throwing plays.

Did I Complete The Game?

In many modern sports games you don’t necessarily complete them, as much as win the league and cup titles and then move on to the next season. Completing early sports games simply means winning a tournament or league once before restarting with a different team. I have won the play-offs many times with several different teams including Chicago, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Philadelphia.

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines:Better than the original John Madden’s football in every department. What more can be said?”. Overall 95%.”[1]

Mean Machines Index: “Featuring new teams, higher difficulty level and plenty of gameplay tweaks, this sequel does the impossible and improves upon the original to become the best Megadrive game yet seen! An essential purchase. Overall 96%[2]

Sega Power: “Better than the original, but at first sight it seems very similar. Don’t be fooled! (If you’ve got the original though – think before buying. It’s not radically different.) Overall 5/5.[3]

GamePro: “John Madden Football ’92 features the most talented computer opponent – ‘nuff said. Add to this the additional plays, two-player cooperative play, and improved graphics, and JMF ‘92 gives you great bang for your buck. Overall 5/5”.[4]

Sega Force: “Madden is one of those rare things, a complex game easy and fun to play, but with the detail to allow constant improvement by practice. Even rarer it merges detailed tactics with arcade gameplay so well, few people will be able to resist it. Overall 94%”.[5]

MegaTech: “This is the best American footy game anywhere on any machine. The graphics are excellent, and more importantly, the control system is easy to understand and use. No Megadrive owner should be without a copy. Overall 95%“.[6]

My Verdict: “An improvement on the first game. Definitely more enjoyable in two-player mode but sadly, the game hasn’t aged well.”


What are your memories of Madden ’92? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.

[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – John Madden Football ’92’. Mean Machines. (December 1991). Issue 15:20-24.

[2] ‘Review Index: Mega Drive – John Madden Football ‘92’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:139.

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – John Madden ‘92’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:97.

[4] Fanatic Fan. ‘GamePro’s Video Football Playoff – John Madden ‘92’ GamePro. (December 1991). Issue 29:55-56.

[5] ‘Reviewed – John Madden’s Football ’92’. Sega Force. (January 1992). Issue 1:36-7.

[6] ‘Game Index – John Madden Football ‘92’. MegaTech. (May 1992). Issue 5:76.


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