The Tecmo Bowl Craze

Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

There has been a lot of talk this week about one of sport’s classic video games, Tecmo Bowl, because of the NFL Films presentation of a movie featuring the game and having former NFL players play it.

But we want to make one thing very clear here when people are – rightly so – celebrating the game.

There was a huge difference between Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl. Repeat: a HUGE difference. And we think the lines are becoming blurred, as evidenced by this NFL Films blog. And that’s unfortunate.

The original Tecmo Bowl only allowed you to call four plays.

The eight plays seemed revolutionary in Tecmo Super Bowl.











Tecmo Bowl was the first football game of its kind to incorporate real players and the ability for users to call real plays. Any Nintendo veteran will remember 10-Yard Fight, which featured a quarterback who could only throw about 20 yards and didn’t have the ability to truly hand the ball off. He was like a Nebraska QB in the 1980s.

The complexity, yet the simplicity of Tecmo Bowl was what made it such a classic. It was complex in the sense that it was new – calling one of four plays on both offense and defense and then actually having the ability to accurately move your players around the field. Simplistic because think of video games now – you can act as coach, general manager, owner, player and you have playbooks the size of Todd Haley’s and the options to run everything from a Wing T to a West Coast offense to a Run N Gun. It’s insane how far the games have come.

A different option emerged based on who scored in Tecmo Super Bowl.











But the differences between Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl were extraordinary at the time.

Everyone knows about Bo Jackson and Lawrence Taylor dominating the field in the original.

But hardly anyone talks about how good the Bills were in the Super Bowl version. Or how unstoppable Christian Okoye was.

Tecmo Super Bowl was superior to Tecmo Bowl, but no one ever talks about it. The lines have been blurred.

There were more teams to choose from, more plays (eight!), and there was better touchdown graphics, better gameplay and sometimes the receivers dove for a ball. Also, a good quarterback-wide receiver combo didn’t automatically result in an interception when the ball was thrown to a covered man. Running backs actually got tackled after a few yards rather than having the ability to go all Bo Jackson and run circles, literally, around people.

Plus, it kept stats and records so long as the game didn’t reset somehow.

The unfortunate thing about Tecmo Bowl is that if you wanted any real semblance of who was the best, you picked the Raiders and the Giants because of the Bo Jackson-Lawrence Taylor connection – each side with a dominant player on either side of the ball.

More teams equaled more players in the new version.

Tecmo Super Bowl had the Bills – in the midst of four straight Super Bowl appearances – the 49ers with Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, etc., the Houston Oilers with a highly underrated Warren Moon and Haywood Jeffries, the Chiefs and the Nigerian Nightmare, Christian Okoye, Atlanta with Mike Rozier and Randall Cunningham on Philadelphia.

The difference is that these options actually allowed you to win the neighborhood battles because nearly every team had a dominant player. Even the Cincinnati Bengals had David Fulcher, who was a beast.

While Madden is clearly the best video game – and one of the deepest in terms of building teams and players – ever,  give us four hours with some friends, Nintendo thumb be damned, and Tecmo Super Bowl.










  1. Tecmo Super Bowl ( for SNES) is better than any Madden.

    If they could have kept the game play of Super Tecmo Super Bowl when TSB 3 was released… that would have been great… the music too… unfortunately , they tampered with what was working fine a little too much & it led to its demise… Tecmo 4 Life

  2. Cool article! One thing, though, is that Rozier is on the Falcons in Tecmo Super Bowl.

  3. How about the following differences:
    -Full NFLPA and NFL licenses, in a video game age when sports games never got both
    -Full season schedules and playoffs (you could even choose a different schedule)
    -11 players on each side of the ball
    -Full rosters, including bench options in the event of injuries (which had variable recovery time)
    -Conditions, which made the seasons dynamic and could greatly affect how teams played on a given day…even today you see little to no dynamic variation by players in a season
    -A full slate of player ability traits that were actually comprehensible
    -A Pro Bowl with full rosters that were adjustable! You could make your own Pro Bowl at the end of a season that reflected the performance of the players that season
    -Weather, including gameplay impact
    -And plenty of other stuff

    I also think it’s silly to call Madden the “best football video game”…for their times, I believe the only two competitors for that title are Tecmo Super Bowl and NFL 2K5. TSB was one of the largest leaps in gaming quality and quantity of features in gaming history, a quantum leap ahead, and remains incredibly fun to play to this day (including the season mode…it contains elements that even today’s football titles fall short in). NFL 2K5 did a number of excellent things itself, and was the first football video game I ever played that actually had the feel of player movement, tackling, route-running, etc (it’s the only major football video game I ever played in which traits such as agility or route-running could easily trump speed). NFL 2K5 is still played by many today (how many Madden games are continued favorites by people?) as well, and in some ways the seven year old game is superior to this year’s Madden.

    • Thanks everyone for reading for the comments.

      @Eduardo – you’re absolutely right! The music, the simplicity of it, was great. A good background noise to the trash-talking between you and your friends.

      @Matt – good catch. Our fault. Meant to include Atlanta. Fixed.

      @RedSoxU571 – We still feel that Madden, with all of its rabbit holes, is great because it can appeal to almost anyone. Like economics? Then you’d be a great GM. Are X’s and O’s your thing? Then you’re good at play calling. Great list of everything we skipped over in TSB. Such a classic, classic game.

      Make sure to follow us @ThrowbackAttack and like us at

  4. Techmo bowl and super tecmo were the shit. I logged MASSIVE hours on those games.


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