Then & Now: Madden Football Turns 20

We have comparison shots from the last 20 years of Madden. See how the franchise has changed over the years!

To call Madden big is both an understatement and an overstatement. It's an understatement because the Madden brand is more powerful than any other in North American video gaming history; it represents the triumph of one of the industry's richest publishers, as well as the potency of good licensing. It's an overstatement because though John Madden is not a little guy, he would have to be 10 stories tall, stomping through New York City taking bites out of the Chrysler building and crushing taxis with his feet to be half the monster his video game franchise has become in the past 20 years.

That's right, with the release of Madden NFL 09, John Madden Football is turning 20. So what better time than the present to look back at all the things that made Madden Football one of the most powerful forces in gaming? Of course, 20 years is a long time, so rather than go too far in depth and provide a feature that might take two decades to read, we'll provide you with some striking sales figures, our signature Then and Now image comparisons, and a video outlining the series' greatest innovations.

Madden 1990-1999

1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999

But first, you can't talk about the brand without talking about the man. After all, back in the late '80s when Electronic Arts was first developing John Madden Football, it was Madden the man who insisted that the games had to be 11-on-11. According to Scott Orr, who oversaw Madden titles from 1992 to 2000 for EA, John Madden had a huge amount of input on what went into the games, taking their realism and authenticity very seriously. When we interviewed him recently, Mr. Orr told us that the design team would visit John Madden three or four times a year and that "Spending time with John was like a graduate course in football strategy and tactics...We made the game easy to play and fun; John made it the standard that it still is today."

Back in the '80s and early '90s, focus tests told a different story. According to Bing Gordon, the chief creative officer at EA, marketing research found that people were 30 percent more enthusiastic about the brand name "Electronic Arts Football," than "Madden." But EA stuck with its man, and now Madden is one of the most powerful brands in the world.

This is due in large part to the potency of another brand: the NFL. People don't think of Madden as licensed software in the same vein as Harry Potter or James Bond, yet its annually updated rosters full of real NFL players on real NFL teams are a big part of what makes the series irresistible to gridiron fanatics starved by the long summer months for their football fixes. John Madden Football picked up the NFL license in 1993, as well as the rights to NFL player names in 1994, and enjoyed a substantial increase in popularity. But the success of the series didn't go unnoticed, with several other publishers and developers attempting to cash in on the allure of the NFL to line their own pocketbooks with the sales from rival football games.

NFL Gameday and the NFL 2K series were Madden's chief competitors, the latter even going so far as to offer its final installment, ESPN NFL 2K5, for 20 dollars. With the power of ESPN's brand on its side, as well as a price tag half the size of Madden's, 2K looked like it might steal some of Madden's bacon. Then, in 2004, EA announced it had acquired the sole right to publish video games using NFL team and player names. Madden became the official video game of the NFL and utterly demolished its competition in one devastating power move.

Madden 2000-2008

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

The rest has been a recent history of analog stick tweaks, franchise options, licensed soundtracks, and massive, massive sales figures. According to EA, Madden has sold millions of copies. Take Madden NFL 08; to date, it has sold 6.7 million copies in North America. That's 1.4 million more than Halo 3, 2.2 million more than Grand Theft Auto IV, and 3.7 million more than Super Mario Galaxy. The only game that really trounces it is Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, which has sold 9.2 million copies. But Madden comes out every single year on platforms all across the industry. Using our own NPD data, we've been able to account for the sale of 40 million copies of Madden. We're only missing one minor detail: the entire 1990s. Fortunately, EA graciously filled in the gap; they claim to have sold 70 million copies, give or take a hundred thousand. Of course, when you get into numbers that large, everything loses perspective.

To weigh matters on a smaller scale, let's look at handheld games. Since 2001, The Advance Wars titles have been some of the most popular games to play on the go, selling approximately 1.2 million copies across four titles, averaging scores of 89/100. Madden, over the same period of time, has sold 1.1 million units across all handhelds. Wow, kind of impressive, huh? After all, Madden isn't exactly popular among portable gamers, yet it can hold its own with a truly respected franchise. Except for one thing: That 1.1 million figure isn't really Madden's overall handheld sales--it's just Game Boy Advance sales.

Even Madden's afterthoughts can sell a million copies. For even more perspective, let's look back through the years at Madden Then and Now.

1989--The beginning of John Madden Football on the Apple II, DOS and Commodore 64. We don't have screenshots of the game, but you can throw a bunch of Lego bricks onto a bright green carpet to make a passable representation.

John Madden Football, Genesis

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1990--Madden hit the Sega Genesis console and featured a spiffy new isometric perspective with handy passing windows.

John Madden Football '92, Genesis

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1991--Park Place Production Team developed John Madden Football for the SNES, while EA handled John Madden Football '92 for the Genesis. Now with two player co-op!

John Madden Football '93, Genesis

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1992--Though the Genesis and SNES versions were both called John Madden Football '93, the former was developed by Looking Glass Technology, while the latter was handled by EA. Now with taunting, stupid.

Madden NFL '94, Genesis

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1993--This year marked the introduction of audibles, as well as the introduction of players who didn't understand how to use them. The franchise name also changed from John Madden Football to Madden NFL '94. Why? Because EA wrapped up the licensing rights to NFL teams. It also threw in a brand new mode called Season.

Madden NFL '95, Genesis

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1994-- The two final pieces of the Madden-pocalypse fall into place. Madden NFL '95 included real player names and launched on five systems (including handhelds for the first time). Quick, buy EA stock!

Madden NFL '96, Genesis

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1995--After big years in 1993 and 1994, Madden NFL '96 focused on details. In other words, EA took Madden NFL '95, added new plays, animations, and the ability to trade players, then slapped a '96 on it. Sound familiar?

Madden NFL 97, PlayStation

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1996--Madden NFL 97 added more bells and whistles, including motion-capped animations, and got rid of the apostrophe in the title. This was also the year Madden came to the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation; however, the series' arrival on the latter system was overshadowed by the strong showing of Sony's own football franchise, NFL Gameday. It's true, once upon a time, Madden had competition.

Madden 64, Nintendo 64

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1997--NFL Gameday went 3D on the PlayStation, while Madden accomplished the same feat on the Nintendo 64. Even though Madden 64 lacked the NFL license, many still felt it was the superior product, with better artificial intelligence and more varied options. Who will win this gridiron battle?! Is the suspense killing you?

Madden NFL 99, Nintendo 64

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1998--Madden NFL 99 was 3D on every system and NFL licensed. On top of that, EA unveiled the new Franchise mode, letting players transform their horribly mismanaged hometown teams into Super Bowl contenders.

Madden NFL 2000, Nintendo 64

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1999--A slightly visible Barry Sanders on the cover foreshadowed the series' eventual switch to cover athletes. Otherwise, with more tweaks, options, and small features, Madden NFL 2000 was Madden as usual.

Madden NFL 2001, PlayStation 2

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2000--This was a big year for Madden football, marking the series' first release on the brand spanking new Sony PlayStation 2, as well as the first box cover with an athlete on it: the Tennessee Titans' Eddie George. However, Madden NFL 2001 did not mark the beginning of the Madden curse, as George went on to have a good season.

Madden NFL 2002, PlayStation 2

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2001--Madden NFL 2002 mostly added slight tweaks to the rock-solid foundation established in 2000 (and 1999, and 1998, and so on), but it was still an interesting year. Not only did the game come out for the new Xbox, but it also shipped on seven other systems, including the GBA and Game Boy Color. Most importantly, Dante Culpepper was featured on the cover. His career completely imploded after that, making him the first and one of the worst examples of the uncanny Madden curse.

Madden NFL 2003, PlayStation 2

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2002--Madden NFL 2003 for the PS2 was the first Madden game playable online. Aside from that Sony exclusive feature, every version featured a greatly expanded soundtrack, including cuts from such bands as Bon Jovi, OK Go, and Good Charlotte. Marshall Faulk was the cover athlete and next victim of the young Madden curse; a bum ankle led to his worst season in at least five years.

Madden NFL 2004, PlayStation 2

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2003--This year's version of Madden featured an impressive soundtrack, with contributions from OutKast, The Roots, blink-182, Jet, and AFI, as well as the less impressive ability to set hot dog prices. The new gimmick was called playmaker controls, which was best known for letting you quickly switch the direction of a play before the snap. The cover athlete was Michael Vick, who broke his leg almost immediately after Madden NFL 2004 hit store shelves.

Madden NFL 2005, PlayStation 2

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2004--Madden NFL 2005 introduced the hit stick, which let players lay brutal tackles on ball carriers. EA, taking a cue from its own game, then went and applied a devastating hit to the competition by announcing that it had acquired the exclusive NFL license. That's like a boxer acquiring the exclusive rights to punching. The cover athlete, by the way, was Ray Lewis, but the Madden curse was too busy utterly devastating 2K Sports' football franchise to mess up his season much.

Madden NFL 06, Xbox 360

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2005--Not one of Madden's finest years, 2005 saw the introduction of the quarterback vision cone and Superstar mode. Neither of these features was particularly popular, and even though the series made its debut on the Xbox 360, that version was conspicuously light on content. Madden NFL 06 cover athlete Donovan McNabb unwisely called out the Madden curse, which responded by giving the versatile quarterback a hernia. He missed the last seven games of the season.

Madden NFL 07, Xbox 360

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2006--Madden NFL 07 launched on the new Wii and PlayStation 3 systems, as well as 10 other platforms! No wonder it sold 7.6 million copies. It also introduced the highlight stick and featured Shaun Alexander on its cover, who broke his foot three weeks into the season.

Madden NFL 08, Xbox 360

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2007--Madden NFL 08 didn't introduce any groundbreaking new features, though it did finally find its legs on the Xbox 360 and PS3, running more smoothly than ever before. The new "Weapons" ratings distinguished star players on various teams, but these mostly seemed to be based on the same attributes system the series had been using for years. Vince Young, the Tennessee Titans' quarterback, was relatively untouched by the Madden curse, though that's probably because the starting-rookie-quarterback curse got to him first. Besides, the Madden curse was saving up its dark energy for...

Madden NFL 09, Xbox 360

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2008--Though the new tutorial content and adaptive difficulty features are very interesting, Madden NFL 09 will almost certainly be remembered as the year the Madden curse completely outdid itself. Fortunately, as the curse gets better and better, so does the game. And while there's no telling which innovative features and unimaginable hexes we'll see next, if the past is any indication, one curse will remain constant: everything Madden touches will turn to gold.

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Discussion

107 comments
Foxx193
Foxx193

I love Madden, but this year in Madden 10, the scoreboard looks awful, I think that the 2006-2007 scoreboard looks so much more appealing. As well as the blur effect they have on the crowd, they need to bring that back because the graphics of the crowd look horrible, on a rather good looking game.

Sporkguy3
Sporkguy3

2003 may have looked crappier than 2002 (which it actually didn't. graphically there wasn't much of a difference.) I remember 2003 definitely playing better than 2002

jjwalker9600
jjwalker9600

I have been playing Madden football the very first game came out. It has gotten better and better.

TheAtrain
TheAtrain

Madden is a great game i have enjoyed it over the years i was a lil bit dissapointed with this years version though.I realy hope that madden10 comes thru it looks promising

kinglargo
kinglargo

2003 looks crapier than 2002

Smoolander
Smoolander

Wow, really shows how EA can incrementally pump out a game every year, with minor upgrades and people will fork out money each time. Talk about a cash cow con.

alquich
alquich

I thought Football was meant to be played with your feet. Oh wait, you guys call it soccer.

jgon_9
jgon_9

We've come a long way.

diamond2d
diamond2d

serious,, it don't matter dude

LoserMike
LoserMike

To ao28. EA didn't start calling it 06 until Madden 06. Before that it was known as 200X. Look at the screen caps.

ao28
ao28

they made an error, they say madden 2000, but is it madden 01, 01 is 02, 02 is 03 is 04, 04 is 05, 05 is 06, etc. but 09 is the best.

Crazy_Kid314
Crazy_Kid314

Peyton will be on the cover, my guess is either in 2 years after Tom Brady is (because everyone at EA Tiburon is a Pats fan) or he wins another super bowl.....but he will.

rodss
rodss

i like madden nfl 07

ronnet
ronnet

HBOMB29, Its huge in the USA, in other places FIFA is the biggest. I can not comment for most countries but my own while not the biggest football (yes, thats soccer) nation in Europe has FIFA on the number one spot for weeks with atlrast 10 times the amount of sales.

HBOMB29
HBOMB29

MY BAD MADDEN 2001, WAS one of my favorites, id say madden 2001,madden 97, and madden 93.

HBOMB29
HBOMB29

WOW man the madden franchise has grown and me with it. ANYONE who sds madden isnt the biggest name is sports gaming is crazy and probably under the age of 26 id say. I will always play madden, hell im 30 years old and my dads friend told me about JOHN MADDEN FOOTBALL back in 1990. BACK THEN I WAS LIKE WHATEVER IM PLAYING JOE MONTANA FOOTBALL, BUT I GAVE MADDEN A SHOT AND it was the best game since tecmo bowl on nintendo. Wow ive went from a kid to a grown man with a house and kids and MADDEN IS STILL AROUND. it is the best game over the years in sports. but i agree madden 94 was trash right i think madden 93 was the best of the older back in the day ones, and my favorite might be madden 2000 they came back with a vengence on the ps2 and that was primarily one of the reasons the dreamcast was done in cause a. lack of ea sports games on it and 2 ps2 played dvds(another subject). but im glad madden is still around, it has outlasted every other football game thats challenged it aka. GAMEDAY 2K( WELL BOUGHT OUT SORDA HAHAHAH an games back in the day like MIKE DITKA POWER FOOTBALL HAHAHAHA. again have to be a certain age to even know that was a game. Just congrats to ea in general and contrary to popular opinion NCAA FOOTBALL IS GETTING UP THERE IN AGE ALSO because BILL WALSH COLLEGE FOOTBALL CAME OUT IN WHAT 1990 AND WAS EXCELLENT. NOW IF WE ARE TALKING BEST EA FOOTBALL GAME id have to give it to the college ive had it every single year , starting with bill walsh, (AGAIN HAVE TO BE A CERTAIN AGE TO REMEMBER BILL WALSH COLLEGE FOOTBALL.)BUT ANYWAY CONGRATS TO EA FOR BEING ABLE TO MAINTAIN AND MAKE GREAT FOOTBALL GAMES IN THE PROCESS.

HBOMB29
HBOMB29

WOW man the madden franchise has grown and me with it. ANYONE who sds madden isnt the biggest name is sports gaming is crazy and probably under the age of 26 id say. I will always play madden, hell im 30 years old and my dads friend told me about JOHN MADDEN FOOTBALL back in 1990. BACK THEN I WAS LIKE WHATEVER IM PLAYING JOE MONTANA FOOTBALL, BUT I GAVE MADDEN A SHOT AND it was the best game since tecmo bowl on nintendo. Wow ive went from a kid to a grown man with a house and kids and MADDEN IS STILL AROUND. it is the best game over the years in sports. but i agree madden 94 was trash right i think madden 93 was the best of the older back in the day ones, and my favorite might be madden 2000 they came back with a vengence on the ps2 and that was primarily one of the reasons the dreamcast was done in cause a. lack of ea sports games on it and 2 ps2 played dvds(another subject). but im glad madden is still around, it has outlasted every other football game thats challenged it aka. GAMEDAY 2K( WELL BOUGHT OUT SORDA HAHAHAH an games back in the day like MIKE DITKA POWER FOOTBALL HAHAHAHA. again have to be a certain age to even know that was a game. Just congrats to ea in general and contrary to popular opinion NCAA FOOTBALL IS GETTING UP THERE IN AGE ALSO because BILL WALSH COLLEGE FOOTBALL CAME OUT IN WHAT 1990 AND WAS EXCELLENT. NOW IF WE ARE TALKING BEST EA FOOTBALL GAME id have to give it to the college ive had it every single year , starting with bill walsh, (AGAIN HAVE TO BE A CERTAIN AGE TO REMEMBER BILL WALSH COLLEGE FOOTBALL.)BUT ANYWAY CONGRATS TO EA FOR BEING ABLE TO MAINTAIN AND MAKE GREAT FOOTBALL GAMES IN THE PROCESS.

Emandudeguy
Emandudeguy

Madden = football = lame = not worth the money.

jweb24
jweb24

I have bought mostly all the Madden games since the beginning.(Yes I still have my Genesis versions)I enjoyed most of them despite year to year marginal updates in some of the games. I admit to liking the NFL 2K brand better (in some ways) simply from the competition factor. Madden shouldn't have feared the competition but welcomed it, then crush the competition not with sales but with gameplay and features.(Sales alone didn't make Madden better its history did) Sorry for the minor rant. I still enjoy Madden and it will always be the best video sports franchise, period!

kc0lcs04
kc0lcs04

This brings back memories of the Madden PC games that I've played (and own). I have Madden 97, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2004 (and hoping to get '06). Interesting thing to me from looking at the game photos; to me, the PC's graphics look better for its year than the console's graphics do. Like Madden 97 for PC, I think the graphics on that look better than they do in the Playstation version. Just an observation.

Lum_Yatsura
Lum_Yatsura

I've decided it's best to just enjoy the game. Very fun series. You don't need to buy every year's edition.

Shmoe82
Shmoe82

I have only played a couple of Madden games. I don't really like the games but the series is a power player in the video game industry and I do give it props for helping the industry for the last 20.

Zoomer30
Zoomer30

I played Madden on my Sega Genesis pretty hardcore from the 1991 version to 1993, I swore myself off of it after the 1994 version, that was a step backwards. I did not get a new Madden game will Madden 2000 for the PS2. To look at the visual change in just 20 years is insane. Makes you wonder what we will be playing in 2028.

USASandman
USASandman

OK it is getting out of hand...any person who comes on these boards and says these words in any variation is not a "real" football fan. Im talking has grown up watching their favorite team year in and year out and doesnt just say the patriots and cowboys are my favorite team because they are so damn good. Im talking being a seattle seahawks fan when other fans were hoping there teams win and you just hoping your team doesnt get skunk'd. Now the words are "This game never changes," you do realize that the game of football was made up in 1869? How "big" have the changes been since then? It took them almost 80 years to start wearing helmets, football is what it is from tradition not change. Madden has only been out for 20 years and if you look at the first madden 20 years ago and look at the one we have now...that everyone is "change" i dont understand what you are expecting madden to turn into when the nfl doesnt change so why would a simulation of the nfl change? If $60 dollars once a year is a waste of money then you need to ask your parents to up your allowance because for us big kids that is less then half a days worth of work, which in turn equals at least a months worth of fun. So shut your mouth and just play the "game"

xerxes5678
xerxes5678

I still remember the theme song from John Madden Football '91 (or was it '90?) on the Genesis.

speedjunkie4
speedjunkie4

Crazy Kid, i agree with wat you said. I loved Madden 06 on the PS2, and it will be my fav madden.

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

for me the best madden was 03. i wonder why payton manning hasn't been on the cover of madden?

Crazy_Kid314
Crazy_Kid314

Madden 09 is good, but personally my all time fav is Madden 06 on the PS2. That game had it all, and looked rather K

cool55dude
cool55dude

the madden 05 pic on the first page is actually madden 06 on the 360 and the madden 07 pic is actually madden 08

NoseWeed619
NoseWeed619

Wow, i love how the graphics were all so grainy and lacked...everything that we see in a new game today. And seriously, you guys need to stop talking about Farve nonsense, and start talking about Madden 09, instead of arguing like drunk women.

monkeytoes61
monkeytoes61

Will everyone just chill about Favre. You should be talking about Madden, not Favre. Like we haven't heard enough about Brett already on ESPN. He was traded to the Jets, the story is over. Move on.

Normaral85
Normaral85

Don't hate on Favre, he's just tryin to progress and change. I just wonder if they are gonna come out with some special edition Jets jersey covers or maybe a version of the game with maybe madden 97 and then 98 and 2000 so that it's worth droppin 90bones on a game that is a 20th edition because it reminds you of where you've been and where you can possiblely go. HOlla

clawboy
clawboy

Don't care about Farve. Madden 09 is here. Let's just enjoy it people.

Aimmarked
Aimmarked

I do enjoy when games are compared to the first and shown progression throughout the series. It makes me appreciate the ones they are working on today more.

NuKkU
NuKkU

lol i wonder what will happen to favre this season dont care if he broke his leg cause i dont like him anways

dragonvizard
dragonvizard

Bah...Favre should have just have stayed retired, so the Madden curse would be broken.

fooldog01
fooldog01

I tend to agree about the curse this year. Whats worse than being essentially told you are unwanted on the team you spent 16 years with and won a superbowl, 3 MVPs and took to the NFC title game just the year before? To a lot of players that might just be worse than a season ending injury! It would be to me! Just when we thought the curse was going to be snapped completely...

daJonesy7
daJonesy7

Excellent feature GS, I love these "little walks" down memory lane!! :D

Paulitis
Paulitis

OMG look @ the changes from genesis to playstation

mp21a1
mp21a1

@scc88 they might be different reviewers?

scc88
scc88

But why gamespot gave lower "points" to madden 09 than other madden games, check the past years. Does this mean that madden is going backward? Look madden 05 it recivied 9.0

J_Dodson
J_Dodson

We weren't listing the nicest, huggiest, or chicken-soupiest moments in Madden history. We were listing milestones. And EA used their number one milestone to beat the competition completely to death, then they used it to mark their shallow graves. That isn't just a Madden mile stone, it has to be the single biggest can of whup ass ever opened in the video game industry. It makes what Sony did to Sega look like a half-hearted wedgie.

Durhamster
Durhamster

I'm scared of the madden curse now I know I'm no football player but....if it's growing stronger...what if it attacks people who play the game next?!?!?!? OHNOES!

TENTHROW2
TENTHROW2

While it's interesting to see Madden over the span of 20 years, I have a ton of problems with this article. First of all, how is the addition of voice commentary from John Madden and Pat Summerall not on a milestone!?!?! And how did the exclusive license granted to EA from the NFL/NFLPA make the number one slot?!?! The single worst thing that could have happend to football gaming enthusiasts!!!! This practically monopolozed EA's marketshare in football games by not even giving rival companies the chance to make a football game so consumers can choose what they want instead of being forced into Madden every year?!?!! After NFL 2k5 outdid, outsold, and outclassed Madden 05, EA sought out to not let this happen the next year for not only 2k games, but every other developer. Hopefully when their contract expires in 2009/2010 with the NFL, they will not be granted exclusivity again. This single act by EA was not only one of the darker days for the gaming industry, it turned EA into what they are now. A gigantic no talent corporation who buys out competitors when their own development team can't put anything worth playing on the market. Yet it's number one in Gamespots mind.... WTF Gamespot, W. T. F.

Super_Amanda
Super_Amanda

Didnt I read this on IGN yesterday? Gamespot, Gamespot ,Gamespot. (shaking my head in shame.)

buzzguy
buzzguy

I think the gameplay pics are labeled with the calander year, not the year on the box. Remember, 97 actually came out in 1996 on PSX and Saturn.