In Celebration of Super Bowl Sunday, it felt like an appropriate time to look back at Sega Sport’s brief but successful foray into the NFL football video gaming business. Sega’s 2K series was created out of necessity when EA Sports chose not to port their popular Madden series to Sega’s Dreamcast console. The Madden series was hugely popular on the Sega Genesis in the early to mid 90’s but eventually found it’s way onto Sony and Nintendo’s 90’s video game consoles (SNES, PS1, N64) which made EA’s partnership with Sega less important to them. The mistakes that were made with the Saturn soured numerous developers, including EA so when the Dreamcast was announced in 1998, EA wanted nothing more to do with Sega. Sega still needed to offer realistic, licensed NFL football gameplay for the Dreamcast with or without Madden and 989 Sports, the maker of the NFL GameDay franchise, was already exclusive to Sony’s PlayStation so the end result was the creation of NFL 2K.
The NFL 2K series offered everything Madden & GameDay offered and then some. A complete list of NFL licensed teams and players, superior graphics to PS1 and N64, ability to call a multitude of offensive and defensive plays, injuries, turnovers, penalties, realistic renditions of NFL stadiums, full seasons and stats, the list goes on and on. The gameplay was complex enough to win over the die hard simulation fans but easy enough to figure out immediately for an NFL gaming newbie. NFL 2K featured Randy Moss, one of the most talented and biggest named receivers in the game on the cover to lend it some legitimacy. Everything about the NFL 2K series was on point as a launch title and early adopters of the Dreamcast and this game had to be pleased.
The sequel, NFL 2K1, released a year later in 2000, was an improvement on an already great game. Subtle but welcomed tweaks were offered for this incarnation including a multi-season franchise mode option. Sega still chose to use Randy Moss as the face of the series for the sequel as opposed to other series’ decision to rotate cover athletes year after year. Due to the short lifespan of the Dreamcast, only one other 2K title, NFL 2K2, was released for the system but the series lived on for a few more years as a multi-platform alternative until EA signed an exclusive agreement with the NFL in 2004, effectively ending Sega’s chances to compete and the series as a whole. From a historical perspective, Sega did everything they could to compete with EA and the beast that was Madden and while I enjoyed that series, I was always partial to the 2K series when it came to 6th generation NFL video games. I supported the 2K series on other platforms after the Dreamcast’s death and still find the two titles I own for the Dreamcast to be nearly flawless representations of what NFL simulation gaming could be.
The only jarring aspect of returning to these games after so many years is that when I play as my favorite team, the Green Bay Packers, I can still remember all of those players names as if they were still on the field today. It’s difficult for me to believe it’s been 17 years since Robert Brooks, Antonio Freeman and Bubba Franks were catching passes from Bret Favre with Dorsey Levens out of the backfield. Thanks to NFL 2K and 2K1 for making me feel ancient.
Currently in my collection:
NFL 2K – game, manual, case plus one unopened copy A-
NFL 2K1 – game, manual, case A