Tecmo Super Bowl

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Tecmo Super Bowl NES
Tecmo Super Bowl
North American cover art (NES version)
Developer(s) Tecmo
Publisher(s) Tecmo
Designer(s) Akihiko Shimoji
Series Tecmo Bowl
Platform(s) NES
Release date(s) NES:
  • JP: December 13, 1991
  • NA: December 1991
Genre(s) Sports, American football
Mode(s) Single player, multiplayer

Tecmo Super Bowl (テクモスーパーボウル Tekumo Sūpā Bōru) is an American football video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) that was released in 1991. Developed by Japanese video game company Tecmo, it was the first sports video game that had licensing privileges with both the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association, thus allowing the game to use both the names and attributes of real NFL teams and real NFL players. (Prior games used the real teams or the real players, but not both simultaneously.) Although the game was released in late 1991, all team rosters and player attributes were based on the prior 1990–91 NFL season, which meant that no rookies taken in the 1991 NFL Draft and no player team changes executed before the start of the 1991 season were added.

The original game utilized the 1991 NFL schedule only; therefore, playing multiple seasons with alternate schedules was not possible. The game was very successful in the final years of the NES[1] and, although more than 20 years old, it has maintained an extensive cult following.


After the initial success of the NES version of Tecmo Bowl in 1989, Tecmo followed up with the release of Tecmo Super Bowl in 1991 in both North America and Japan.[2] The original NES version of Tecmo Bowl was licensed by the National Football League Players Association, but was unable to obtain an NFL team license because another NES football game, NFL, had an exclusive licensing agreement with the NFL.[3]

The sequel, Tecmo Super Bowl, acquired an NFL license, making it the first NES game to feature real NFL teams and players. Unlike the original Tecmo Bowl for the NES, which consisted of twelve teams, a truncated roster and limited play selection, Tecmo Super Bowl featured the complete league of (then) 28 teams,[4][5] expanded rosters, expanded playbooks, statistics tracking (including NFL records) and many other improvements. Subsequent games in the series would build on this foundation.

Gameplay and features[edit]

Gameplay of Tecmo Super Bowl

In the original NES Tecmo Bowl, each team had at least 20 players on its roster (21 if the kick returner wasn't a starter), with nine players for offense, nine players for defense, a kicker and a punter. In Tecmo Super Bowl, each roster has 30 different players. Each team has 11 defensive players who can be neither substituted nor injured. Each team has 17 offensive players, which includes 11 starters and six substitutes. At any given time, 11 players are on the field for each team, consistent with NFL rules. A kicker and a punter are also on the roster.[6][7]

In addition to using real teams and players, Tecmo Super Bowl incorporates the full-length 1991 NFL regular season schedule. The playoff format, including the Super Bowl and the post-season Pro Bowl game, is also featured.

Tecmo Super Bowl retains the arcade-style football gameplay of the original, which included no penalties and the ability to break tackles. However, the game adds new features, such as the coin toss, fumbles, five-minute quarters, timeouts to avoid ten-second runoffs, stat tracking, single season NFL records, expanded and editable playbooks,[8] the ability to substitute players, varying health conditions of players and player injuries. As it had previously, the game uses cut scenes for important events like touchdowns and halftime shows. Tecmo Super Bowl also adds cut scenes when injuries or big plays occurred.

As part of the gameplay, players can adjust offensive plays and substitute players for each NFL team and for the two Pro Bowl teams. The Pro Bowl team's roster can be edited as well. Offensive, defensive and special-teams players may be viewed as individual "player cards" with statistics, attributes and status, which can improve or decrease, making the player better or worse.

Game modes[edit]

The game has multiple modes, including preseason, regular season and Pro Bowl. In regular-season mode, a player controls a team through the entire NFL season. Multiple teams may be controlled. In addition, players can choose three styles of play in any of the game modes: "MAN" (in which the user both calls and runs plays), "COA" (in which the user coaches the team by calling the plays only, with the computer running them) and "COM" (in which the computer handles all aspects of the game, with the user as just a viewer).

In all game modes, unless the user edits the team beforehand (setting plays and starters), the default team depth chart and play selection is used.

In preseason and Pro Bowl modes, statistics are not kept and the computer AI is easier than in season games.


In 1997, both Electronic Gaming Monthly and IGN publications named Tecmo Super Bowl as one of the top 100 video games of all time.[1] IGN ranked Tecmo Super Bowl #53 in its top 100 NES games of all time.[9] GamesRadar also included it in its list of the best NES games ever made, at #22). The staff commented that it may be the only football game from the NES still played today.[10] PC Magazine ranked the game #10 in its list of the ten most-influential video games of all time.[11] ESPN named Tecmo Super Bowl the greatest sports video game of all time.[12]

Cult following[edit]

With the advent of modern console emulation on computers, Tecmo Super Bowl may be one of the most hacked and modified NES games in existence. This has contributed greatly to the game's cult following, as the game can be constantly modified and updated. There exist numerous websites for pickup games, online leagues and message boards dedicated not only to the original Tecmo Super Bowl but also to ROMs that contain current-day rosters while maintaining the original gameplay. There is also a mod that has NCAA football rosters from 1990 as well as a regularly updated 32-team ROM image with present-day rosters.[13]

A number of tournaments are held, including an annual tournament in Madison, Wisconsin.[14] This tournament was the centerpiece of an episode of NFL Films Presents, which documented the video game and its cult following. The episode included interviews with NFL greats such as Emmitt Smith and Christian Okoye who were featured in the original game, as well modern NFL players such as Philip Rivers who discuss their passion for the game.[15]


Tecmo produced several direct sequels to Tecmo Super Bowl as well as other games that had origins in the original Tecmo Bowl engine.

Tecmo Super Bowl: Super NES and Genesis versions of Tecmo Super Bowl were released in 1993, which fixed many bugs and added some new features. New features include: improved game graphics and sound; official NFL team logos in the end zones; user-controlled touchbacks; the ability to control a player to attempt a punt block; the in-game option to change plays in a team's playbook during games; a running back "dive play" option; a designated return team that includes defensive backs; statistical achievements during games; three weather conditions (sunny, rain and snow), which can occur randomly in Season mode. Accelerated fifteen-minute and ten-minute quarters can only be used for Exhibition and Pro Bowl games. The game also provided the ability to play three consecutive seasons (1991–1993).

Tecmo Super Bowl II: Special Edition: Released in 1994 for the Super NES and Genesis, this game was a limited release. In its February 1995 issue, Nintendo Power magazine mentioned that approximately 15,000 units were shipped to North America. This was the first game in the series to depart from the true 2-D view and utilize an isometric view.

Tecmo Super Bowl III: Final Edition: Released in 1995 for the Super NES and Genesis.

Tecmo Super Bowl: Released in 1996 for the PlayStation, this was the last Tecmo Super Bowl to contain real NFL teams and players. A new player editor gave the user the freedom to make unlimited amounts of unrestricted trades, change jersey numbers, edit names, modify player attributes and swap player portraits. A play-by-play announcer can be heard during games. Now offenses had to pick a formation before selecting a particular play. Also new to the game were alternate camera angles, instant replay and the option to adjust AI difficulty in regular season games. As with all previous versions, penalties were excluded.

Tecmo Bowl: Released in 2003 for mobile devices, this was a partial remake of the NES version of Tecmo Bowl. The game featured just four teams, named only by city, and no real players.

Tecmo Classic Arcade: Released in 2005 for the Xbox, this game anthology had a port of the original Tecmo Bowl arcade version as its headline game.

Tecmo Bowl: Released for the Virtual Console, the Wii and Nintendo 3DS versions had a remake of the original NES version of Tecmo Bowl while the Wii also had the original Tecmo Bowl arcade version. Because of Electronic Arts' exclusive licensing rights with the NFL and NFLPA, the Tecmo Bowl NES remakes were unable to use the real player names and likenesses that were originally represented in the 1989 game.

Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff: This Nintendo DS adaptation of the original Tecmo Bowl game was released in the fall of 2008.[16] The game retains many of the features and play style of its predecessors, especially the original Tecmo Super Bowl for the Super NES and Genesis. Because of Electronic Arts' exclusive licensing rights with the NFL and NFLPA, Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff was unable to use real players or real NFL teams. However, the game did permit some modification of the game, allowing users to create a somewhat accurate representation of modern NFL teams and players. A team from Los Angeles replaces one of the New York teams.

Tecmo Bowl Throwback: This downloadable version of Tecmo Bowl was issued on the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in 2010. The game features an updated graphics engine and new features, including online play, but also has the option of playing the game in 16-bit Super NES-style graphics. Again, the game featured generic players and teams but retained the editor to allow for modifications. A default Los Angeles team again replaced one of the New York teams.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b IGN's top 100 Games (ranked 24) retrieved 2006-10-31
  2. ^ Release Date retrieved 2009-08-25
  3. ^ NFL Football retrieved 2009-08-25
  4. ^ NFL History 1991–2000 retrieved 2009-08-25
  5. ^ NFL History 2001– retrieved 2009-08-25
  6. ^ In the first game, each team had eight players on the field.
  7. ^ Jim Kelly, Randall Cunningham, and Bernie Kosar were represented by generic names: QB Bills, QB Eagles, and QB Browns, respectively. This was because the players were not members of the National Football League Players Association's marketing agreement. This prevented the NFLPA from licensing the players' likenesses.
  8. ^ Tecmo Bowl had four plays in the play book while Tecmo Super Bowl had eight
  9. ^ IGN Top 100 NES
  10. ^ "Best NES Games of all time". GamesRadar. 2012-04-16. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  11. ^ Wilson, Jeffrey L. (June 11, 2010). "The 10 Most Influential Video Games of All Time". PC Magazine. Retrieved 2012-04-19. 
  12. ^ ESPN Top Sports Games retrieved 2011-08-31
  13. ^ "TecmoBowl.org – Online Home of Tecmo Super Bowl – Home of Tecmo Bowl Fans". tecmobowl.org. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  14. ^ "Tecmo Madison – Official Site of the Madison Tecmo Super Bowl Tournament". tecmomadison.com. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  15. ^ Good, Owen (October 24, 2012). "The NFL's Greatest Players Revere Tecmo Bowl Too". Kotaku. Gawker Media. Retrieved 2012-10-26. 
  16. ^ Harris, Craig (2008-05-01). "Tecmo Bowl Returns". IGN.