Tecmo Bowl (NES)

Game Review

Tecmo Bowl Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Corbie Dillard

Watch that 3DS hinge on the snap

Before video game football became just as complex as real-life football, there was Tecmo Bowl. There weren't hundreds of plays with varying formations or special spin moves to worry about, in fact you didn't actually have to know much about the game of football to enjoy and play it. It was this simplicity that made the game such a huge success during the 8-bit era, and it's one of the main reasons that classic gamers still hold this unique arcade football title in such high regard, even two decades later; now — courtesy of the 3DS Virtual Console — this simple pick up and play football is yours to play on the go.

There are three modes in Tecmo Bowl: Single Player, Two Player, and Coaching mode. They're all pretty self-explanatory, with Coaching mode allowing you to call plays and manage your team while letting the CPU carry out your instructions. Since this is an arcade-style football game, there's not much to it. You're given the choice of 4 plays while on offence and defence, and they're the same for both sides of the ball.

On offence you can choose either a running play or passing play, you then hike the ball by pressing one action button and then execute the toss or pass using the other action button. Whichever player currently has the ball is the player you'll be controlling; from there it's just a matter of running. You can press the buttons rapidly to try to break tackles, but other than that there's not much you can do other than run as fast as you can. On defence it's quite similar. You get to choose one of the four plays that the offence is choosing from. If you're lucky, you might guess the same play the offence calls and for that you'll normally score a loss on the play. This guessing game can be particularly good fun in the two player mode, meanwhile, which is easily accessible with a friend courtesy of Download Play; that's a very welcome inclusion.

Otherwise it's every man for himself and you just try to run to the ball and make the tackles; there are no fumbles or trick plays, it's just straight-ahead arcade football at its best. The simple and responsive controls work perfectly within the framework of the game, but gamers who are used to a more advanced and realistic game of football might find this game entirely too simplistic in its execution.

Visually this is what you'd expect from an 8-bit football game and doesn't feature much in the way of realism. While this can make it difficult to distinguish between the various offensive and defensive positions, it doesn't take much away from the overall experience in the end. We've all become a bit spoiled with recent video game football titles, but there's something to be said for the simple visual presentation of Tecmo Bowl.

The music, meanwhile, has always been its strong point. Anyone that spent any time at all playing this game during the 8-bit era will easily be able to hum the Tecmo Bowl theme song at a moment's notice; the sound effects were also fairly impressive for the time period. You can even hear the quarterback saying "hut-hut" just before the snap of the ball. It's little nuances like this that made Tecmo Bowl such an instant classic.


Video game football has come a long way over the years, but there's still something to be said for the back-to-basics formula that Tecmo Bowl employed. It stripped football down to its basic elements and created a fun arcade experience around it all. If you're one who enjoyed this game back in the day, it goes without saying that you'll still get a kick out of it today, especially as you can get a match played when out and about. But be forewarned, if you're expecting a more in-depth football gaming experience with Tecmo Bowl, you're probably going to be in for quite a disappointment; that's just not what this game is about.

From the web

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User Comments (22)



idork99 said:

This game holds high nostalgia value to me!

It's interesting how 20+ years later, I still enjoy this game. I bought it from the eShop the day it came out, and I was shocked on how when I started playing it, I simply could not put the game down! A personal Classic!

As was the case for (Mike Tyson's) Punch-Out!!, Tecmo no longer has the right to use any NFL players' names without consent. Still, I like that the number of the players are still there. NFL fans will immediately recognize the team and players in the game. Personally, I always pick Los Angeles (Raiders) and hand the ball off to #34 (Bo Jackson)!! He's unstoppable!



Captain_Toad said:

I gonna need to buy this because my younger nephew keeps forcing me to play Madden 09 on the Wii and he says quote on quote "one of the easiest games in the world." Son, you haven't seen tecmo Bowl.



Kirby3ds said:

NO RAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT! oh well i love how the players fly unnecessarily high on the kickofffs.



Darth_Pascal said:

Did they leave the real names in the game? They were taken out in the Wii VC release. It makes a big difference. You should have talked about in your review and you should have used screenshots from the altered game. Otherwise, great review as usual.



KnightRider666 said:

This is a great game if you're not into plays and all the advanced tactics today's football games bring. I don't know much that stuff, so w/ limited football knowledge; I still can play and enjoy this game.



Tasuki said:

@Darth_Pascal: Sadly no. Tecmo lost the rights to the players names (which EA has) so any rerelease of Tecmo Bowl will not have the players names.

One of my favorite games on the NES for me it was all about Chicago and Walter Payton.



chiefeagle02 said:

Get the updated version of this (for free) at www.tecmobowl.org. Same 8-bit graphics and sound, but with 2014 rosters.




Relias said:

Great Game.. I hated playing as Miami(If I remember correctly) they had three passes and only one running play...Ouch... I do hope that we will see Tecmo Superbowl sometime ..



MIDP said:

Im surprised this only got a 7 out of 10, reading the review it felt like an 8 atleast



cyrus_zuo said:

"As was the case for (Mike Tyson's) Punch-Out!!, Tecmo no longer has the right to use any NFL players' names without consent."
Wait, there were NFL player in Punch-Out originally!?

Just picked up Madden for WiiU, I was surprised how little it's changed in the last 10 years. The off the field stuff is MUCH more complex, but the gameplay itself feels very much the same as 12 years ago.



Mystemo said:

I'm European and basically don't know anything about American Football but this game and NFL Blitz are still among my favorite sports games ever.



8bitforever said:

@DarkEdi I would go with this version. The arcade is similar in play, but the feel of this game is so much better. Plus, you do get real NFL teams even though you can't see their names, and these are some of the best teams ever. Chicago with Walter Payton, San Francisco with Joe Montanna and LA Raiders with Bo Jackson are just a few. This game kills Madden any day of the week.



Tecmo-Player said:

Nice review. Still my favorite game to this day. The original Tecmo Bowl surprisingly has A LOT of tactics and strategies you can use despite only having 4 plays to work with. For a slew of tutorials on how to dominate your friends in Tecmo check out the strategy pages here..... http://www.tecmobowl-vs-rbi.com/tecmo-strategy.html

That covers the basics...there are also more indepth strategy pages as well breaking down the pass defense coverages to get help stop guys like Jerry Rice and Steve Largent from being open, and calls you can make to short circuit the run blocking schemes, so you can wreak havoc with a middle LB like Karl Mecklenberg.

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