The Super Bowl concludes the NFL season, but there’s still plenty of football left in Madden 24
By Owen S. Good, Contributor
Those who cover the league routinely present it as a year-round sport, regardless of the schedule or the off-season, because it’s always throwing out news. Still, much of the way in which football is consumed in America—from the final whistle in Las Vegas on Sunday to the first day in pads at training camp this summer—comes from Madden, and the millions of fans who have found a year-round surrogate in EA Sports’ 35-year-old simulation.
“In Madden NFL 23, the Super Bowl was the single highest-played day of the year for us,” EA Sports’ Micah Kropp, a Senior Brand Manager, told Epic Games Store. “This is the day when football is top of everyone’s mind, and we are the pathway for people to live vicariously through that. We’ll see spikes [of interest] through the scouting combine and the draft, but the Super Bowl is usually the biggest day.”
And though it is fun to relive or rewrite history, Madden NFL 24 is now so much more than just picking your favorite team (or a sentimental underdog) and facing off in one game, whether that’s in the bread-and-butter Franchise mode or ranked multiplayer. The Super Bowl may spell the end of the 2023-24 season for the NFL, but it’s only halfway through this live-service game’s life cycle.
Here’s what’s in the game, here’s what’s coming, and here’s some things football fans can do after the Lombardi Trophy is handed over and the players and coaches say goodbye on Sunday.
• Ultimate Team: It’s the backbone of Madden’s live-service model, of course, and keeps the game fresh regardless of whether it’s in season. Titled "Light It Up," the fourth season of Ultimate Team began Jan. 10, offering another battle-pass of unlockables and rewards, and headlined by past Super Bowl greats Ray Lewis (cover star of the landmark Madden NFL 2004), Joe Montana, and Jerry Rice.
Ultimate Team is so much more than just the latest-and-greatest cards, or grinding up to earn them. Challenges—bite-sized gameplay tasks that combine to earn good players or special cards for your team—are always there, waiting to be knocked out. So far, there have been 12 Challenge series added to MUT, and it’s a good bet some are still waiting for you to complete.
“There are hundreds of [free] cards and players you can add to your team," Kropp said. “Last night, my son and I knocked out 10 challenges. What makes the mode interesting is the depth and breadth of the players you can add, by era and team. Last year, we saw a lot of engagement down two paths; one was staying in lockstep with the NFL up to the off-season, and the other was the reality we create with Ultimate Team.”
For those who are always looking for the newest and best players joining the game, the end of the Super Bowl means its MVP joins Madden Ultimate Team as that mode’s first 99-rated player. (Odds currently favor Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, San Francisco QB Brock Purdy, or San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey as the most likely to take the honors.)
Acquiring this player isn’t easy, and often costs real money. He’s usually available with a token granted in a premium pack that's available earlier in the season, or by turning in a set of three very highly rated Super Bowl players. The 49ers and Chiefs’ Ultimate Team Super Bowl players will join the mode on Thursday, Kropp said. Still, it’s the game’s first 99-rated player, and for those whose Ultimate Teams have plateaued around an 85 or 86 rating, this star will definitely take their games up a notch.
• Franchise: It’s another core mode that gets a lot of attention after the season ends, mainly from players looking to rewrite history if the outcome of this season wasn’t satisfying. The Detroit Lions were probably everyone’s sentimental favorites, making their first NFC Championship game in 32 years and coming very close to going to the franchise’s first Super Bowl. In Madden NFL 24, players can always go in or go back to finish the job themselves, simulating whole chunks of a season if they want to skip to the good stuff.
Kropp is a Las Vegas Raiders fan, growing up about five minutes from Oakland, where the team played until 2020. He went to college (Florida State) to study sports management, so all the offseason activity that Franchise offers is in many ways the most fun part of the game for him.
“You can build your Super Bowl team and start a dynasty whenever you want, you can get the coach or the free agent you thought the team should get,” Kropp said. “The guy who wasn’t gonna come to your team, now you can get him.”
• Superstar: Madden NFL’s single-player career mode, where players control just one created star, seems to have hit its stride in the reconstituted Superstar. This new version of the mode improves on previous entries, adding more convincing role-playing style player progression and level-ups. Thanks to a polished gameplay engine—particularly when it comes to line-of-scrimmage blocking and the run game—Superstar is one of the most enjoyable long-term modes in Madden. Like its title implies, it allows you to indulge in the fantasy of becoming an NFL superstar.
For those who don’t want to control an entire team, or who don’t care for all of the off-the-field management of Franchise, Superstar is always there. It lets you come in as the stud savior who finally delivers a ring to Cleveland, or Detroit, or Buffalo.
• The last roster update is somewhat the ceremonial adieu that Madden NFL makes each year, even if the game is still supported, patched, and updated through the offseason. But it is the final set of ratings for all of the current players in the National Football League and, more importantly, all of them come off the Injured List even if they spent all year on it.
For Jets fans, this means you get Aaron Rodgers back for ranked multiplayer (outside of MUT) or your Franchise playthroughs. You'll also get him back in Superstar if you’re looking to be a wide receiver in that single-player career mode.
• Taylor Swift: OK, we’re joking. Taylor Swift might have been a weekly topic of conversation in the NFL because of her very public visits to watch boyfriend Travis Kelce, but she is most certainly not coming to the game. Kropp allowed himself a hearty laugh at the idea of integrating Swift into Ultimate Team. (I proposed her as a tight end or a receiver who upgrades to a 99 if Kelce is in the same lineup. No dice.)
“She would be … a hard get,” Kropp chuckled, hinting that the pop music megastar’s license to appear is well outside of even EA’s voluminous pocketbook. “But we also pride ourselves on authenticity, on what’s taking place in the game is in the game you play at home, too. No doubt, this has been a lot of fun; you should see the memes and the email threads we have. But no, I don’t think Taylor Swift will be in Madden Ultimate Team this year.”
Madden NFL 24 is currently available on the Epic Games Store.