The Madden football series makes its debut on the 32-bit consoles with Madden NFL 97. Like the PC version, the game moves into the world of polygonal 3D graphics, but has a unique set of modes, teams and options.
The game includes the 30 teams of the 1996 NFL season, the 1996 All-Madden team plus 68 classic teams from NFL history. Playing modes include Exhibition, Season and Tournament. All scheduled games during a season can be either played or simulated. The tournament is for either 8 or 16 players in single elimination mode. The game also includes the 30 team's home stadiums plus one extra arena in Hawaii.
Many features introduced in previous titles are reused here: variable weather (including night games), injuries and substitutions, ten different penalties (all adjustable), two skill levels, a bluffing mode for play calling, color commentary by John Madden, instant replays, and team roster editing with player creation (stats are set from a point pool), trading, releasing and signing of free agents. Player records and season progress can be saved to memory card/backup RAM. A new feature is the possibility to change which team is controlled at any time during a game.
During a game, the stadiums are rendered in polygonal texture-mapped 3D, with only the players, referees and ball as bitmaps. The game allows to choose from eight different camera perspectives, including views from the end zones and sidelines, a diagonal view and a "classic cam" emulating the perspective of earlier titles in the series on Genesis and SNES.