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Madden is Madden’s latest cover star

EA Sports honors ‘our North Star’ with three different close-ups

Another cover of Madden NFL 23, showing Madden in his role as a television analyst, wearing a headset and drawing lines on the viewer’s screen Image: Electronic Arts
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Madden NFL 23’s cover star is … John Madden himself.

The Hall of Fame coach, broadcaster, and namesake of EA Sports’ longest-running series died Dec. 28, 2021, at 85. Madden NFL 23 will remember him with three different covers, representing the legacies he left to the NFL, television, and video games.

“There are so many ways that we’re trying to live up to, aspire to, the legend that Coach Madden was, in our game this year,” Mike Mahar, EA Tiburon’s senior producer for the Madden NFL series, told media last week at a preview event and cover reveal for the forthcoming game.

The “interactive first experience” of Madden NFL 23 — playable as the game is installing — will pit two generations of All-Madden NFL stars against each other, both sides coached by Madden as he appeared in different periods of his career. The game is played in a throwback rendering of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, where Madden led the Oakland Raiders to a 103-32-7 record from 1969 to 1978.

On one cover, Madden is at the Rose Bowl celebrating his Oakland Raiders’ 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI. In the second, he is wearing a broadcaster’s headset and scribbling pass patterns on the viewer’s screen; Madden was an analyst for all four over-the-air networks that aired NFL games from 1979 to 2008.

Madden NFL 23’s All Madden Edition cover is a tribute to the cover of the first Madden title, John Madden Football, which Electronic Arts published in 1988. In the adaptation by Philadelphia artist Chuck Styles, Madden bursts through a playbook full of X’s and O’s, like pro football’s Kool-Aid Man.

cover of Madden NFL 23’s All Madden Edition, with artwork inspired by the cover of 1988’s John Madden Football in which John Madden bursts through paper carrying a football Image: Electronic Arts

“A pervasive theme this year is living up to the standard and the passion that Coach had for authentic, 11 v. 11 football,” Mahar said. Madden famously refused Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins’ first pitch to do a football video game, in 1984, unless it would put two teams of 11 players on the field — something that video games had yet to deliver at that time. But developer Robin Antonick and producer Mike Ybarra committed to that standard, and four years later EA published John Madden Football for the Apple II.

John Madden last appeared on the main edition cover of Madden NFL with 1999’s Madden NFL 2000. (He was on the cover of Madden NFL 07’s Hall of Fame edition.) Madden fronted or shared the cover of the first 14 games Electronic Arts published under his name. In 2000, EA Sports began the tradition of picking a new NFL player each year. The only stars with multiple covers, other than Madden himself, are Barry Sanders (Madden NFL 2000 and Madden NFL 25), and Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, who co-starred on Madden NFL 22 last year after appearing on the covers of Madden NFL 18 and Madden NFL 20, respectively.

Madden NFL 23 is expected to launch in August, before the beginning of the NFL’s regular season, on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox consoles.