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Retro Sports Gaming: Tecmo Super Bowl

Updated on November 19, 2014
Tecmo Super Bowl
Tecmo Super Bowl | Source

Tecmo Super Bowl

Systems: Nintendo Entertainment System

Versions were also released for the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo with upgraded graphics and sound.

Publisher: Tecmo

Developer: Tecmo

History of Franchise

Tecmo Super Bowl is the sequel to the successful NES/Arcade hit "Tecmo Bowl". Tecmo Bowl featured 12 NFL license-less teams, though that game did feature the NFL Player's Association's license, allowing the use of actual player's names. As mentioned, following Tecmo Super Bowl, versions of the game were released for the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo, along with two sequels for those two consoles. Following a release of Tecmo Super Bowl for the Sony Playstation, subsequent releases have lacked NFL and NFLPA licenses due in part to EA having exclusive rights to both. Still, new versions of Tecmo Bowl has appeared on most modern consoles and portables, but without the use of actual team or player names.

League Licenses

Tecmo Super Bowl was the first football game to feature licenses from both the NFL and the NFLPA, allowing the use of both team names and player names.

Gameplay of Tecmo Super Bowl
Gameplay of Tecmo Super Bowl | Source


While the game featured 11 on 11 football, somewhat of a rarity back in the NES days, the game had more of an arcade style of play rather than the simulation type commonly found in your typical Madden game. Penalties were nonexistent and the game was more offense-heavy than simulation football games usually are.

Each team has a playbook with a default set of eight offensive plays - four running plays and four passing plays - which could be customized to feature plays of a player's preference. Pressing the A button along with a corresponding direction on the d-pad would select a run play while a pass play would be done the same way but with the B button.

The defense had no playbook to choose from. Instead, they would try to "guess" which play the offense was running and, if successful, would "blitz" the offense, increasing the chances of blowing up the play for a loss. Guess incorrectly (for example, picking a run play while the offense picked a pass play), and chances are very high the offense will gain a lot of yards on that play.

On the field, offense would have control of the quarterback for passing plays, or the designated running back on run plays. In pass plays, the A button would change the targeted receiver the quarterback would throw to while the B button would have the quarterback throw the pass. Running with the ball can be a very exciting experience if you know the Tecmo Super Bowl secret to evading tacklers: zig and zag as often as possible. While the game's CPU would almost ensure a defender could run fast enough to catch up to you, another zig or zag would cause him to miss his tackle. In the event you get caught, its also possible to break a tackle by button mashing.

On defense, you're in control of a defensive end. Usually its best not to engage the offensive lineman opposite of you, and play sort of a "read" defense so that you can be prepared to stop the run or cover an open receiver. Against human opposition, though, you might as well hope for a fumble if your opponent knows what they're doing.

Playing Tecmo Super Bowl Now

Tecmo Super Bowl has been one of the bigger scenes in emulation, with many people hacking the game's rosters for one purpose or another, most notably updating them to include the current 32 NFL teams and rosters for play on an NES emulator for your PC, phone, or certain gaming devices. A quick google search can help you find those resources, just be aware of the legal gray around surrounding emulation before continuing.

Season/Playoff Modes

Tecmo Super Bowl featured a full 17-week season, complete with a 12 team playoff, based on the 1991 NFL season. Players could choose to control as many of the 28 NFL teams as they wanted to, playing the games of those selected while the game would quickly simulate the other games.

The season mode featured stat tracking of various stats like passing touchdowns and rushing yards to things like sacks and punts. Injuries were also possible in the season mode, and the game has six substitutes for each team to choose from on offense (injuries to defense and special teams were not possible).

Touchdown cutscene in Tecmo Super Bowl
Touchdown cutscene in Tecmo Super Bowl | Source

Other Features

The game also featured a stand-alone "Pro Bowl" mode which players could control either the NFC or AFC Pro Bowl team and play the Pro Bowl game. The game also allowed players to view player cards for each team and make offensive substitutions at any time (though there were no options for any other kind of transactions like trades or free agency). The game also had a sort of "coach" mode where players would be allowed to select plays but the CPU would control the actual gameplay, which is fine for a change of pace but its usually more fun to play the game yourself. The game also features multitudes of cutscenes during gameplay and the season mode which enhance the experience.

Bottom Line

For retro gaming enthusiasts who want to play some good ol' fashioned NFL football, it would be difficult to find a game better than Tecmo Super Bowl. Its simple gameplay mechanics combined with all of its features make a game well ahead of its time and is still fun to play now.

Games to come in the Retro Sports Gaming Series: RBI Baseball, NBA Jam. Links to those hubs will be included when they are made.

Have a favorite sports game from the 80s or 90s? Let me know and I may include it in a future RSG hub.

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