Remembering Tecmo Bowl

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Gamers loved Tecmo Bowl. For a time, it was the only game in town.


Before Madden NFL there was Tecmo Bowl. The game, released in 1987 in arcade format, was successful enough to be released on Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1989.

The game was the first console game to feature real NFL players, but it did not affiliate players with their respective teams. That honor went to LJN’s, NFL, a game that wasn’t as successful as Tecmo Bowl.

Courtesy: YouTube

The arcade version had a two, large-monitor cabinet and support for up to four players. The graphics were good for its time, including a large color palette and good detail on the screen.

A player could choose from two fictional teams–Bulldogs and Wildcats. A prominent game feature was the ability to break tackles.

The NES version allowed only two players instead of the arcade’s four-player version. The gamer could choose among three modes: one-player, two-player, and coach. If you played in the coach mode, then two players would face each other … but … only one of the players could choose plays.

While the game featured real players and statistics from the 1988 NFL season, the gameplay limits how closely the video game players mimic real-life players. Tecmo Bowl didn’t get the NFL’s consent, so it used city or state names for team teams: Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Washington, Miami, Cleveland, Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Dallas, New York, Chicago, and Minnesota.

Bo Jackson, a star player for the Los Angeles Raiders at the time, was unstoppable in the game. If you played as Jackson, then you most likely were able to run through the defense on nearly every play.

The September 1997 issue of Nintendo Power Magazine ranked Tecmo Bowl as the 30th best game of all-time. Time Magazine listed Tecmo Bowl (for NES) one of the top video games.

So there you have a bit of history. Before Madden there was Tecmo.

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About Matthew Paris

I grew up an avid Houston sports fan. After graduating from Texas Tech University in Theater and English Literature I worked as a marketing rep and coach for I9 Sports, coaching baseball, flag football, soccer, and basketball. I’m currently with Austin Sports Academy as a marketing coordinator, baseball and football coach, and coordinator of middle school and high school open play nights. I’ve written three short films for Looknow Productions and have also written articles on film marketing, producing, and directing. I really enjoy writing about sports and being an active contributor to The Sports Column.



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