When it comes to sports video games today, none is more recognizable than the Madden series. The gameplay of recent versions looks like an actual NFL game, but it wasn’t always like that. Technology has come a long way since 1988.

The Museum of Moving Image in Astoria recognized Madden’s progress over a quarter-century with the exhibit, “Madden: 25 Years And Running.” Curated by Jason Eppink and Samit Sarkar, the exhibit shows how far video games in general have developed.

John Madden Football, the original game released in 1988, looks archaic. The game’s 3D players didn’t arrive until 11 years later, in Madden 99. But today, with high-definition everything, you can see the most meticulous details in Madden 25, such as grass stains on the jerseys and specific brands on the football gear.

The Madden franchise also had a draw to the actual players featured. Marshall Faulk, a former running back for the St. Louis Rams–who has been the cover athlete for two Madden games — was a rookie when Madden 95, the first NFL-licensed Madden game, was released. So, he was part of the first class to be able to play as himself. “As a kid, growing up playing the game, you have no idea,” Faulk said at a press event at the museum Wednesday night.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton swears by playing as himself as well — using another player feels like “cheating on himself,” he says — but the game also gives players the opportunity to play in ways in which they can’t IRL. Quarterback Michael Vick says he used to play vicariously with elite passers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, quarterbacks whose styles of play are very different from Vick’s own.

The “Madden NFL: 25 Years and Running” exhibition is on view through February 23.

Watch ANIMAL’s video of the event, including interviews with Faulk and Newton, above.

(Video: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)