Tecmo Bowl

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Tecmo Bowl
TecmoBowl arcadeflyer.png
European arcade flyer of Tecmo Bowl
Sculptured Software (Game Boy)
Composer(s)Keiji Yamagishi
Platform(s)Arcade, Nintendo Entertainment System, PlayChoice-10, Game Boy
  • WW: December 1987[1]
  • NA: February 1, 1989
  • JP: November 30, 1990
Game Boy
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Tecmo Bowl (Japanese: テクモボウル, Hepburn: Tekumo Bōru) is an American football video game developed and released by Tecmo. Originally released as an arcade game in 1987,[2][3] the game features a large dual screen cabinet with up to four players between two fictitious teams. A port for the Nintendo Entertainment System was released in 1989 and was the first console game to include real National Football League players, via a license from the NFL Players Association. A Game Boy version developed by Sculptured Software followed in 1991. The NES version was extremely popular, spawning various sequels, starting with 1991's Tecmo Super Bowl. The NES original has been cited as one of the best sports video games ever made. The NES and arcade versions have been re-released (without the NFLPA license) for various platforms, including mobile phones, the Virtual Console, the NES Classic Edition, and Nintendo Switch.


The original arcade version is distinguished by a large two-monitor cabinet, support for up to four players, and the ability to break tackles. Only two fictional teams can be chosen: the Wildcats and the Bulldogs. Its 2D graphics are more advanced than the NES version, with a larger color palette and more detailed sprites.

The NES version allows two players to play rather than the arcade's four players. The player can choose between three modes: one-player, two-player, and coach. In one-player mode, the player picks a football team and plays against the computer. After every game that the player wins, it is given a password to continue their quest for the championship and the computer picks another team to play as, and the player stays with the original choice. In the two-player and coach modes, the player and another human will play one game but the players only choose the plays in the coach mode (which cannot be done in the arcade version).

In both versions, the playbook consists of only four offensive plays. When on defense, a player selects a play based on the anticipation of the offense's choice; if chosen correctly, it results in a collapse of the offensive line and well-covered receivers, therefore setting up either a potential sack or an interception.

Although featuring the names, rosters, and statistics of real National Football League (NFL) players from a mix of the 1987 and 1988 seasons, the gameplay limits how closely the video game players mimics real-life players. Unlike the NFL's 11 players, the arcade version only allows ten players for each team on the field at a time and the NES version only allows nine for each. The offense tries to avoid the defense, and the defense tries to either avoid blockers, tackle the ball carrier, or intercept a pass.


Tecmo Bowl contains twelve teams, each equipped with four plays. Most teams have two running plays and two passing plays. The exceptions are San Francisco and Miami, who have three passing plays and one running play.

Tecmo was not able an obtain an NFL league license to use real team names, as that had been given to LJN's NFL video game for the NES.[4][5] As a result, the teams in the game are identified solely by their home city or state. However, through the NFLPA license, each roster mimics that of the NFL team based out of the same city or state. Tecmo Bowl only uses players from twelve of the best and most popular teams of the time.

The teams featured in the game are Indianapolis, Miami, Cleveland, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles (Raiders), Washington, San Francisco, Dallas, New York (Giants), Chicago, and Minnesota.

Los Angeles (Raiders) Washington
Indianapolis San Francisco
Miami Dallas
Denver New York (Giants)
Seattle Chicago
Cleveland Minnesota

Each team has a different level of effectiveness based on its personnel and play selection.

Two NES versions were released in the U.S. The first is identified by its black and gold seal of quality, Eric Dickerson as running back, and Albert Bentley as a kick returner for Indianapolis. The second is identified by its white and gold seal, Albert Bentley as running back, and Clarence Verdin as a kick returner. One year later, the Famicom version has many roster changes (from the same twelve teams available in the North American version) to reflect being released during the real 1990 NFL season.


Box art of North American NES version
Date Platform Notes
2005 Xbox Tecmo Classic Arcade
2007 Wii Virtual Console[6]
2009 Wii Virtual Console (arcade version)[6]
2013 3DS Virtual Console [7]
2015 Wii U Virtual Console[8]
2018 Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Online. The emulator allows the game to be played online.[9]


Sinclair User reviewed the arcade game in 1988, scoring it 8 out of 10. They called it a "superb" game that significantly improved on earlier American football games such as 10 Yard Fight (1983).[10]

In the September 1997 issue of Nintendo Power, twelve staff members voted in a list for the top 100 games of all time,[11] putting Tecmo Bowl at 30th place.[12] Both GameSpot[13] and Time have also listed Tecmo Bowl for the NES in their lists of all-time greatest video games.[14] Time noted that the arcade-like controls and "quasi-realistic teams and players" made it a "breakout hit that's still fun to pick up and play to this very day".[14] Game Informer placed the game 38th on its top 100 video games of all time in 2001.[15]

TechTimes noted that the game's character of Bo Jackson is "[a]bsolutely, positively—and absurdly—unstoppable". Said to apparently reflect the real Jackson's extraordinary athletic abilities, this character can be effectively used as a means of cheating within the game.[16]

As of June 2007, 5 million units in the Tecmo Bowl series had been sold worldwide.[17]

See also[edit]

  • Gridiron Fight (1985 arcade game) – American football game by Tehkan (before it was known as Tecmo), a precursor to Tecmo Bowl.
  • NFL (video game) – contemporary NES game developed by Atlus, featuring real NFL teams but no real NFL players.
  • Retro Bowl (2020 video game) – American football game developed by New Star Games, based on Tecmo Bowl featuring similar game play and graphics.


  1. ^ Akagi, Masumi (13 October 2006). アーケードTVゲームリスト国内•海外編(1971-2005) [Arcade TV Game List: Domestic • Overseas Edition (1971-2005)] (in Japanese). Japan: Amusement News Agency. pp. 49, 138. ISBN 978-4990251215.
  2. ^ "Tecmo Bowl". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
  3. ^ "The Arcade Flyer Archive". Flyers.arcade-museum.com. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  4. ^ Cite error: The named reference mobygames was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  5. ^ "Game overview (second reference)". IGN. Archived from the original on February 24, 2004. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
  6. ^ a b "Nintendo - Official Site - Video Game Consoles, Games - Nintendo - Official Site".
  7. ^ "Nintendo - Official Site - Video Game Consoles, Games - Nintendo - Official Site".
  8. ^ "Nintendo - Official Site - Video Game Consoles, Games - Nintendo - Official Site".
  9. ^ "Nintendo Switch Online: The NES Games You Need to Play, and the Ones You Can Safely Ignore". 18 September 2018.
  10. ^ "Coin Ops". Sinclair User. No. 75 (June 1988). 18 May 1988. pp. 82–3.
  11. ^ "100 Best Games of All Time". Nintendo Power. Vol. 100. September 1997. p. 88.
  12. ^ "100 Best Games of All Time". Nintendo Power. Vol. 100. September 1997. p. 92.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". www.gamespot.com. Archived from the original on 3 February 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ a b Aamoth, Doug (November 15, 2012). "All-Time 100 Video Games". Time. Archived from the original on March 13, 2016. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  15. ^ Cork, Jeff. "Game Informer's Top 100 Games Of All Time (Circa Issue 100)". Game Informer. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  16. ^ "Remembering Bo Jackson's 'Tecmo Bowl' Dominance". Tech Times. 21 October 2015.
  17. ^ "TECMO Corporate Profile (as of June 2007)" (PDF). Tecmo. August 23, 2007. p. 12. Retrieved 2008-01-07.

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