Top 5 All-Time Video Game Football Players

Walter Payton

Football is back and so is Madden.
EA Sports

Known to many of today's gamers from the All-Madden and Chicago Bears legacy teams, Payton's unmatched competitive will translated well to the digital game. In digital form, Payton's speed is average, but he's a brute to bring down. His pass protection blocking is flawless, and he often levels blitzing linebackers. He also catches with glue hands. It's a shame today's gamers won't get to see in person why Payton earned the nickname "Sweetness."

The No-Name Quarterback from 10-Yard Fight

Before there was Madden, gamers went to actual arcades (and Laundromats, carryouts, and restaurants) to play early games such as 10-Yard Fight, manufactured by Taito in 1984. Its bizarre game play and get-a-first-down-to-extend-the-clock set-up turned 10-Yard Fight into an addiction for many children of the 1980s. The players were unnamed, which didn't matter because they rarely followed positional rules anyway. But the game's QB could run 80 yards backwards just to clear daylight for a 10 yard gain. Passes worked best when thrown 60 yards or more in the air, and even the QB could shrug off tacklers if the player jostled the controller. I'm not sure it's fair to say he was playing "football," but the 10-Yard Fight QB deserves his props.

Randall Cunningham

I agree with Bill Simmons that Randall Cunningham deserves ranking in the top 5 video game football players of all time. Today's gamers probably don't recognize the name, but Cunningham, a long-time Philadelphia Eagles QB from 1985-1995, was a beast in the early Madden games. Cunningham played with a rocket arm, and he was nearly impossible to sack. I don't think I ever used him for a QB sneak that didn't gain at least two yards. Efforts to digitize Michael Vick's game-play overshadowed Cunningham's unique gifts. But in his day, Randall Cunningham was the unfair-to-use digital QB.

Michael Vick

The only surprise about Eagles quarterback Michael Vick's inclusion on this list is that another player outranks him. Vick's combination of speed, agility arm-strength took the NFL - and its digital counterparts - by storm. In his Falcons-era Madden titles, Vick's speed could outmatch double-spy defenses. And Madden's settings for Vick's throwing accuracy were generous, too. More than any player I can remember, Vick did in real life what most players could do only on the virtual field. So, as a playing with a virtual Vick was like using cheat codes.

Bo Jackson

Bo knows video games. The running back, an MLB All-Star and Auburn football legend was just moonlighting for the NFL's Raiders, but he remains the most unstoppable video game football player in the history of gaming. Anyone who's played TECMO Bowl knows the game's three basic truths. First, a run up the middle will gain -1 yards. Second, the end-around play works 50% of the time. And third, no defense can stop Bo Jackson, even up the middle. Bo was a real-time physical freak, but he is a TECMO Bowl god.

So what do you think: Who are your selections for best video game football player of all time?

S. Alexander Cooke is a lifelong fan of the Chicago Bears. He once gained 5000 rushing yards in one Madden season using Walter Payton.

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Updated Tuesday, Apr 3, 2012