RealSports Football presents a greatly simplified version of football for play. Players in the game cannot go out of bounds or fumble the football, and there are no penalties in the game. Also, touchdowns automatically score 7 points; there is no kicking for extra points.
Each game is 15 minutes long and is played on a standard 100-yard football field. There are no kickoffs in the game, and each side is given five players. The team on the offensive side of the ball has a quarterback, a flanker, and three offensive linemen (a center and two guards); the user controls the one with the ball. The team on defense has two defensive linemen, two cornerbacks, and one linebacker, which the user controls.
On offense, the user is given these choices for plays: pass left, pass right, run or kick. The game does not recognize a handoff (the usual method of a running play) and has no running back, although the quarterback is allowed to scramble. After the play is selected, the user presses the joystick button to snap the ball and start play. Once the quarterback lets go of the ball on a passing play, user control immediately moves to the receiver. To pass or kick the ball, the user presses the joystick button, and to navigate the field, the user moves the joystick.
In kicking, the game does not differentiate a punt from a field goal kick. Also, there are no kick returns — where the ball lands on a punt is where the opponent starts play, unless it enters the end zone or counts as a field goal, in which case play starts on the 20-yard line.
On defense, there are more choices: full-out blitz, left cornerback cover, right cornerback cover, and prevent (both cornerbacks deep). Interceptions are incorporated into the game, but play is called dead when one occurs, and possession is turned over to the interceptor.
Seven (7) points are scored for a touchdown, three (3) for a successful field goal, and two (2) for a safety. There are no kickoffs; after each score the opposing team gains possession at their own 20-yard line. Each team is limited to scoring 99 points. The game will continue after a team has scored that much, but any points scored afterward do not count on the scoreboard.
- The "novice" and "expert" switches affect the speed of the players on each side of the ball, as well as receivers' ability to catch a pass if the player is human.
- The linebacker is usually slightly faster than the player with the ball on offense for both the user and computer. Because of this advantage, the computer will often use the linebacker to stalk the player with the ball when the user is on offense.
- Due to the low video quality, sound effects are added to identify game events. A "ringing" sound (meant to simulate a whistle) indicates a tackle, incomplete pass, or unsuccessful kick; a high melody indicates a completion, a lower melody (in minor key, a variation of the theme from Dragnet) indicates an interception, and a "roar" indicates a score. A pass in motion is indicated by a sound that starts off high and then drops in pitch as it reaches the receiver.