Madden NFL Football 3DS Review

By Kevin Kelly - Posted Mar 23, 2011

Madden first appeared on the DS platform with Madden NFL 05, and left that platform with Madden NFL 09. Ostensibly so they could put a lot of time into developing Madden NFL Football for the 3DS, right? Wrong. This title represents an unfortunate step backwards for the franchise on Nintendo's fledgling handheld. Some innovations have bridged the gap between releases, but some of the oversights are pretty unforgiveable.

The Pros
  • Touch-screen playcalling
  • Wide variety of plays to choose from
The Cons
  • Cartoonish players are a step backwards
  • No Multiplayer
  • No StreetPass Functionality
  • 3D Doesn't Add Anything To The Game

Madden NFL Football 3DS Review:

Madden first appeared on the DS platform with Madden NFL 05, and left that platform with Madden NFL 09. Ostensibly so they could put a lot of time into developing Madden NFL Football for the 3DS, right? Wrong. This title represents an unfortunate step backwards for the franchise on Nintendo’s fledgling handheld. Some innovations have bridged the gap between releases, but some of the oversights are pretty unforgiveable.

Madden NFL Football 3DS

What Have We Learned From The Big Boys?

On the consoles, Madden recently introduced Gameflow, which is a way to move the pace of the game along. You won’t be buried in the playbook, searching for an obscure play-action pass. Instead, Gameflow chooses the best play for that situation, and immediately puts you on the field ready to go. You can hit A to Gameflow (which is actually highly recommended), or if you want to pick the play yourself, hit B to open up the playbook.

They’ve also given us the ability to draw custom plays. On Offense you can hit Y to bring up “Call Your Shots,” where you can tap on a receiver and then draw a route for him with up to two different direction changes. On Defense, you can do the same thing to set up your pass coverage. It’s a nice touch that you might not use that often once you get knee-deep in a season, but I particularly enjoyed creating new routes for my receivers with the stylus.

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Penalties Abound

Madden NFL Football 3DS looks graphically better than Madden NFL 09 on the DS, but I miss the more realistic players that game provided. Instead, the 3DS very features cartoonish looking characters, much like the player models on the Wii version of the game. I know I’m playing this on a handheld, but I want it to look as much like a real experience as possible. With the color commentary and presentation of each game looking and sounding fairly sharp, cartoon models take you out of it a bit.

You know what else I’m missing from the Madden NFL 09 DS version? Multiplayer. Madden NFL Football 3DS has nothing in that regard. Absolutely zip. Why? Nintendo has been singing the praises of multiplayer and saying they need to do better in that arena, while touting the WiFi and StreetPass functions of the 3DS itself. You can’t even exchange records as you walk past someone, let alone challenge them to a match. That’s a completely missed opportunity, because some backseat quarterback action on long family roadtrips would be ideal for this game.

Additonally, the in-game AI is very easy to beat. I took the Cowboys all the way to a Super Bowl in Season Mode and was undefeated. There are some AI settings that you can tweak, but I would have liked a little harder opponent to play against (like a real person, am I right?) and every team tends to play against you exactly the same.

Madden NFL Football 3DS

Onside Kick

Okay, the game isn’t a complete wash. I’ve been bagging on it because I just can’t understand the lack of multiplayer, particularly when the last generation of the game on the DS had it. But that’s not to say I didn’t have fun playing the game. When you nail a deep pass and score a touchdown, and then listen to Cris Collinsworth talk about how great a QB Tony Romo is, there’s some satisfaction in there. Running and passing are both robust, and if you head into the playbook rather than hitting Gameflow, you’ll see how deep the game is.

The graphics, the presentation, the rocking soundtrack, and some of the other modes buoy this title up and give you some fun options, despite the misses. You can play 5 on 5 mode, which is more like backyard football. It isn’t time, and it’s all about racking up huge points. Lots of fun for a quick game. You can also drop into Practice Mode anytime to work on your running game, your passing game, or even kicking. Then, there are Spotlight Moments, which take place during games. The action slows down, the spotlight is on you, and you’ll have to pound the A button faster than the AI to perform a move like Evading the Sack or Sprint to the Endzone. It doesn’t come up that often, but it’s a nice little touch.

Madden NFL Football 3DS

Wait, Isn’t This Thing Supposed To Be In 3D?

Yes, yes it is. I played this game in 3D mode many times, but kept finding myself dialing the slider down to 2D when it would start hurting my eyes, which was often. When the game is in 3D, there’s a tendency to want to tilt the unit to look around or behind someone, but it doesn’t work that way. That will break the plane of 3D, and you’ll have to reposition the 3DS in the optimal viewing spot to get back. I didn’t find that 3D really added anything to the gameplay, and it was just as much fun to play it in 2D where the graphics are sharper.

Are You Going To Want This?

As the only football entry for the 3DS, it’s going to come down to how badly you want to play this game to let you decide whether or not you want to pick it up. If possible, give it a rental and see what you think. The game is $39.99 at launch, which is exactly the same price as Madden NFL 11 on both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 right now. And only $19 for the Wii version. There’s a big gap between the gameplay on these platforms, so which way do you want to go?

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?