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
  • NA: February 1, 1989
  • JP: November 30, 1990
Game Boy
Genre(s)Sports video game Edit this on Wikidata
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 featured a large dual screen cabinet and allowed up to four players to compete in a match 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 of the game was extremely popular, spawning various sequels, starting with 1991's Tecmo Super Bowl. The NES game has also been cited by various media outlets as one of the best sports video games ever made. Both the NES and arcade versions have also been re-released (sans 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. The 2D graphics are also more advanced than the NES version, with the arcade original having 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, 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, the arcade version only allows ten players for each team on the field at a time while the NES version only allows nine for each as opposed to the standard 11 players. The offensive player with the ball tries to avoid the defenders, and the defenders try to either avoid blockers, tackle the player with the ball, or intercept it.


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 to get the NFL's consent to use real team names. 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.

There were two NES versions of the game released in the U.S. The first release is identified by its black and gold seal of quality and the second version by its white and gold seal. The original Tecmo Bowl for the NES features Eric Dickerson as running back and Albert Bentley as a kick returner for Indianapolis. A later version that was released had Albert Bentley as running back and Clarence Verdin as a kick returner, instead. A year later, the Japanese Famicom version of Tecmo Bowl has many roster changes (from the same twelve teams available in the North American version) that are included in the game to reflect the year it was released (1990).


Box art of North American NES version.
Date Platform Notes
2005 Xbox Tecmo Classic Arcade
2007 Wii Virtual Console [4]
2009 Wii Virtual Console (arcade version)[4]
2013 3DS Virtual Console [5]
2015 Wii U Virtual Console [6]
2018 Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Online. The emulator allows the game to be played online.[7]


In the September 1997 issue of Nintendo Power, twelve staff members voted in a list for the top 100 games of all time,[8] putting Tecmo Bowl at 30th place.[9] Both GameSpot[10] and Time have also listed Tecmo Bowl for the NES in their lists of all-time greatest video games.[11] Time noted that the game's arcade-like controls and "quasi-realistic teams and players" made the game a "breakout hit that's still fun to pick up and play to this very day".[11] Game Informer placed the game 38th on their top 100 video games of all time in 2001.[12]

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.[13]

See also[edit]

  • NFL (video game) – contemporary NES game featuring real NFL teams, but no real NFL players


  1. ^ "Tecmo Bowl". Arcade-history.com. Retrieved November 30, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Tecmo Bowl". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved October 6, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "The Arcade Flyer Archive". Flyers.arcade-museum.com. Retrieved November 30, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/tecmo-bowl-nes-wii
  5. ^ https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/pA40svXofdV4JGakpUdc2UkFgR-otwAc
  6. ^ https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/FHxkmukWX58_GA1alDXwkbEiGzCK9LmH
  7. ^ https://www.usgamer.net/articles/nintendo-switch-online-the-nes-games-you-need-to-play-and-the-ones-you-can-safely-ignore
  8. ^ "100 Best Games of All Time". Nintendo Power. Vol. 100. September 1997. p. 88.
  9. ^ "100 Best Games of All Time". Nintendo Power. Vol. 100. September 1997. p. 92.
  10. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20070203164009/http://www.gamespot.com/gamespot/features/all/greatestgames/p-13.html
  11. ^ 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ Cork, Jeff. "Game Informer's Top 100 Games Of All Time (Circa Issue 100)". Game Informer. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  13. ^ "Remembering Bo Jackson's 'Tecmo Bowl' Dominance". Tech Times.

External links[edit]