I’ve been playing football video games for as long as I can remember. Heck, one of the first games I remember putting into my original Nintendo was 10-Yard Fight. From there, my obsession with the sport and football video games began to develop. Several years later, I remember my uncle letting me play Bill Walsh College Football on his Sega Genesis. There was also Joe Montana II: Sports Talk Football and, of course, the beginning of the Madden franchise. But somewhere in between those “realistic” football simulations fell Mutant League Football. To this day, Mutant League Football remains one of my favorite games of all-time. It was a large part of my childhood, and to be completely honest, it just hit differently.
As the Madden series began to grow and 989 Studios released NFL GameDay, another arcade-style game released, NFL Blitz. Blitz was great and added a different dynamic to the sports gaming world. But neither Mutant League Football nor NFL Blitz can match what EA released on January 14, 2004.
With all this talk of 2K making a non-simulation game in the future, let’s take a trip down memory lane and do our best to recognize one of the most genuinely unique video games of our time, NFL Street.
First released on the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube, NFL Street continued the trend of incredible arcade games from EA. Developed by EA Tiburon under the now-defunct EA Sports BIG brand, the game had a bit of a Madden feel to it, but it was so much more. NFL Street had three game modes, exhibition, create a team (season mode), and pick-up game. Most of us remember creating our team and going through the endless challenges and rewards as we ran through all 32 NFL teams. Best of all, defeating your opponent would allow you to acquire one of their players. Ultimately, this helped you strengthen your squad from one game to the next.
New games were later implemented in NFL Street 2 and NFL Street 3. Street 2 released on December 22, 2004, and introduced Own the City, four on four, Crush the Carrier and NFL Gauntlet modes. Most importantly, however, it added new wall moves and gamebreakers 2, which completely transformed the game as we know it.
NFL Street 3 was, unfortunately, the last of the series and released on November 14, 2006. (No, NFL Tour is not canon, and we will not speak of it further.)
What I Like
The gameplay was ultimately the heart and soul of NFL Street and introduced a similar seven-on-seven gameplay that we saw in NFL Blitz years prior. This structure allowed for big plays and scoring opportunities. Moreover, the addition of “style points” and other special moves added another layer to Street’s already fun gameplay. I remember many times running away in the open field with Ricky Williams, and instead of scoring, I’d go from side to side to build up my gamebreaker meter. When filled up to full capacity, an unstoppable unusual move would be unlocked that would leave your enemy helpless.
Most unique was the way each team was constructed. It didn’t matter if the NFL superstar played quarterback or middle linebacker, NFL Street forced each player to play on both offense and defense. So, it was fun to see the way teams were constructed and added an entirely different element than games like Madden and NFL 2K. Speaking of Madden, the playbook was much more detailed than what we were used to with NFL Blitz and some of the other lesser titles. Overall, the experience was second to none, and if EA ever wanted to bring back one of their old school football games, NFL Street would be at the top of my wish list.
My favorite thing about NFL Street was probably the style. Looking back at it now, the graphics were exceptionally well done in comparison to what we were accustomed to at the time. But beyond that, I loved how accurately a lot of these players were portrayed in a “street” environment. I remember Ricky Williams had his shells on the outside, and his dreads tied high like Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons. Ocho Cinco and many other players wore basketball jerseys and jeans. Then there were the outdoor environments that took every one of us back to playing football at school on a cold day with our friends. It was the perfect look, and NFL Street executed it well.
What I Would Like To See
It seems like an obvious answer, but NFL Street 4! I would all love to see another version of this timeless classic brought to the next-gen consoles. Madden should not have the NFL lane to itself every year because even if you love it, variety is always better. A new representation of an arcade NFL game would be a huge hit with the masses and would fill the void left behind by NFL Street since 2006. I doubt it will happen because EA has turned their attention to Madden and other video games. But if EA wants to make some easy money and bring back a game that many fans want, it’s NFL Street.
Would you make it 11 on 11? I’m sure the PS5 and new Xbox can handle that type of madness. You could allow players to roster an entire team of NFL superstars consisting of offensive and defensive players. Furthermore, you could revamp the presentation and graphics — all for more carnage and specialty moves. I think that’s what a lot of us football fans would like to see. Heck, you could even expand the playbook, allow online play, and the rest is history.
In the end, we might never see another NFL Street game for as long as we live. But with the recent news that NFL 2K is prepared to get back into the football market, maybe, just maybe, EA will bring us their own representation of arcade football we desperately need. If not, maybe it’s time to dust off the old PS2 and look for a cheap copy. Because at the end of the day, NFL Street is one of the best arcade football games of all-time.