When it comes to aesthetics and character customization, "NBA 2K," pictured above, takes the cake. (Image via Arena Digest)
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When it comes to aesthetics and character customization, "NBA 2K," pictured above, takes the cake. (Image via Arena Digest)

Which is the better game?

Aside from the top-selling “FIFA,” the two largest professional sports-simulation games in the United States are “Madden” and “NBA 2K.” Like “FIFA,” “Madden” is created by sports-game goliath EA. Earlier in the 2000s, competitors like “NFL GameDay” and “NFL 2k” posed threats to EA Sports’ prominence in the football video-game market. However, 2005 would mark the year “Madden” secured exclusive rights from the NFL, forcing all other simulation-style NFL games out of the picture.

EA studios also produces a yearly NBA game-series called “NBA LIVE” alongside their soccer, hockey and football titles, which leaves an impression that EA has dominated the sports games market. Nonetheless, Take-Two Interactive’s “NBA 2K” franchise has remained highly regarded since they began 20 years ago, due to their year-to-year innovation and consistent superiority over “NBA LIVE” releases.

Therefore, both “Madden” and “NBA 2K” are in positions to continue thriving for years to come. Both of the respected franchises’ 2018 releases resulted in similar yearly sales of around 1.5 million copies sold, with “Madden 19” surpassing “NBA 2K19” by only 16,300 units.

So financially the two are neck and neck, but is this a viable indication of the titles’ esteem? By playing both, it becomes very apparent that each game offers different pros and cons for different types of gamers. The question still lingers: which is better?

General Gameplay and Graphics

“Madden 19” improved on player movement, ball-carrier moves and tackling animations tremendously.

On run plays or after the catch, a ball carrier’s ability to swiftly impose a juke or spin on an oncoming defender feels and looks smoother than ever before. A runner’s ability to cut and maneuver between defensive tackles and linebackers has never come with so much freedom. Scrambling out of the pocket as a quarterback has also been polished from the sometimes-awkward QB scramble mechanics found in the release’s predecessors. Along with these innovations in offensive play, defensive players have been made more powerful with brutal “hit-stick” tackle sequences and fluid player movement on pass coverage.

Madden NFL 19 – Official Reveal Trailer

Using a two-box system that represents the two halves of an offensive line, play calling has also been enhanced in “Madden 19,” and now users have the ability to see whether the defense or offense has the advantage on a run. If the box on the right-side glows green but the left side glows red, there is a likelihood that a run play will gain more yards if it goes right rather than left.

However, the two-box system is no either-or; there are times where both sides will glow green (which tells an offensive play caller that the defense is fully invested in a pass, leaving the run wide open) or both will grow red (which tells a gamer to abandon the run because the defense is fully prepared for it). This new function can help novice players or those less familiar with the sport of football adapt to the game more easily.

“NBA 2K19” also focused a lot of energy on improving player movement, along with defensive rotation and A.I. player ability. The newest release in Take-Two Interactive’s franchise is more realistic in a basketball sense than ever before; mismatches are no longer the tell-all of whether you can get a basket or not, and A.I. defenders are much more capable of shifting and standing their ground than ever before.

The increased capabilities of defenders cause a greater level of strategy to go into gameplay on offense. Consequently, it will be much more difficult for beginners to pick up this chapter of the “2K” series. Playing defense may be one of the most difficult aspects of the game to pick up throughout all of the “NBA 2K” series, which also provides an obstacle for beginners, because it is such a key part of this release.

However, “NBA 2K19” built on already strong dribble-moves and paint-finishes to enhance offensive play. They also stayed true to their specialty in clothing, accessories (such as sneakers that can improve a player’s 3-point shooting), tattoos and more. They have also expanded on facial features and the appearance-customization of players, while “Madden” has not changed its parallel features in years, leaving gamers with a paucity of ways to customize player appearance.

Also, the detailed way “NBA 2K19” recreates the broadcast experience of an actual NBA game is not even closely reached by “Madden 19.” The broadcasters’ dialogue and half-time show in “2K” is also superior to “Madden.”

Franchise Mode

Similar to apparel and appearance, the franchise mode in “2K19” is more customizable and engaging than that of “Madden 19.” For instance, in “2K” you are able to set the prices of tickets and parking for your team’s games, all the way to the price of the bobble heads and ice cream that is sold at your stadium. “2K” even welcomes you to expand the NBA league into the future with the ability to create and customize teams, logos, uniforms and stadiums, none of which can be found on “Madden.”

However, “Madden” did improve on player development in its newest effort at franchise mode. The new system, where different positions are made up of several key components a gamer can upgrade, is much better than the “buy a point for each attribute” player-development system “Madden” suffered from with previous releases.

EA also revived the sorely missed ability to create and customize college draft classes, and being able to share and download them online. This capability allows gamers to recreate the hottest names in college-football, making for more realistic rookie drafts in franchise mode in between completed seasons.

My Player 

“Madden” has attempted to compete with the “2K” franchise’s ability to craft a robust narrative and story behind the my-player mode, with the “Longshot” story-mode EA implemented to the franchise in “Madden 18.”

It has returned to “Madden 19” as the same bland experience with cheesy dialogue and monotonous gameplay. Also, since you have to use the predetermined characters of the story rather than a customized self as you can in “2K,” it diminishes the personal attachment a gamer could have with the main character.

Although Take-Two’s theatrical sequences are not much better than that of “Longshot,” the customization and capabilities of their my-player mode are far more gratifying. In “2k19,” your my-player has their own wardrobe and home, and they have the ability to wander the streets amongst other online players; you can stop at the practice facility to practice with your NBA team, hit the playground and create a squad for three-on-three streetball or make a “PRO-AM” team with other my-players from around the world and enter tournaments.

There is much more to explore in the my-player mode on “2K19,” but all of these capabilities can overweigh the server at times, causing more lagging than you will find on any game-mode in “Madden 19.”

Ultimate Team vs. MYTEAM 

Although it has seemed like “Madden” slander thus far, this is an area where EA undeniably takes the cake. “Ultimate Team” mode in “Madden” has been the most celebrated part of the franchise in recent years. The ability to collect cards, grind through challenges, compete against the collections of others and climb the world ranks has been mastered by EA.

“Madden 19” further improved on the awesome game mode by making upgrade cards the main way to improve your team. You can now undo previously upgraded players and use those points in order to build up new players, leaving for less monotonous grinding and quicker upgrades in personnel.

Take-Two’s approach at making an “Ultimate Team” has been a rough road. The system is corrupted by micro-transactions and players basically “buying” the best team. Therefore, online-rankings are skewed in favor of those who dump money into the game, and it is less likely to find an adequate opponent online.

“MYTEAM” makes you feel like you have to buy “2K”’s online currency in order to compete, a problem “Madden” has been able to avoid by making the best cards only attainable through gameplay rather than direct purchase. The “upper-level” player cards attainable in “2K” through gameplay only come with boring and repetitive challenges in comparison to those set by “Madden.”


It is very difficult to decide between these two successful franchises. But if I had to, I would go with “NBA 2K19” because it is a denser game with more capabilities and game modes. Although “2K19” is more difficult to pick up than “Madden,” I think it offers an experience that is more fun once a gamer learns the basics.

However, if you value online gameplay more than anything, I would go with “Madden 19” due to the superior “Ultimate Team” experience and the lack of lag compared to “2K.” Both games have their strengths and weaknesses, but it is astonishing to see how far these two titles have come since their humble beginnings.


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