Story modes and sports games don’t mesh…yet

Photo: EA

I’m a 21-year-old male in relatively good shape. I enjoy playing sports at a recreational level, but I would be lying if I said that it would be realistic for me to lead a team to a victory in the Super Bowl or connect on a last-second shot to advance in the NCAA basketball tournament in March. Outside of pickup sports games with my friends that I probably take a little too seriously, video games have always been the easiest way for me to experience the scenarios I just mentioned. At least, they would have been had said video games included an in-depth and fulfilling story mode.

In a recent post for Polygon[1], Owen S. Good explained his issues with the story modes found in the top yearly sports titles–think FIFA, Madden, and NBA 2K. As Good says, “It wouldn’t surprise me to see it [story modes in sports games] end up as a nice idea that has run its course, as opposed to a new expectation of the genre’s biggest names.” I fully agree with Good’s stance: due to the success of open-world games like Skyrim and Fallout, it’s not surprising that developers would attempt to cash in on the RPG cash-cow. Therein lies the problem, though–the story modes found in sports games are less RPG/open-world and more cinematic, linear, and cliché. When critics describe a story mode[2] found in a triple-A sports title, they often use at least one of the preceding three adjectives.

Dull and bland story modes aren’t a new issue when it comes to sports video games; outside of a few entries, most players often never touch a game’s version of a story mode. Still, when Scott Porter (who voiced a lead protagonist in Madden 18‘s story mode known as Longshot) claims[3], “The future of gaming is all going to be about storytelling,” wouldn’t it make sense for developers like EA and 2K to perhaps put some more effort in their adaptations? It’s somewhat shocking that a fully-fleshed story mode in a sports game is a dream in 2018 instead of a yearly feature. Due to all the technology and resources at our disposal, though, it doesn’t have to be that way.


1. Good, O. S. (2018, September 22). Sports’ story mode sequels have a hard act to follow – their own. Retrieved September 23, 2018, from

2. Goldberg, H. (2017, August 29). Review | ‘Madden NFL 18’ attempts to navigate the last great frontier in sports games. Retrieved September 23, 2018, from

3. Powell, S. (2017, September 14). Why are more sports games introducing story modes? – BBC Newsbeat. Retrieved September 23, 2018, from


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