#642 – Tecmo Bowl


                                                                  We can’t all be winners. But I’m pretty sure this guy is.



                                                                                              Perhaps today is my birthday.


PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous



GENRE: Sports

RELEASE DATE: February 1989


Tecmo Bowl is the quintessential NES football game for casuals and die-hards alike. If you’re a pro amateur like me, you can toss the pigskin around without knowing much about plays, downs or stats (or “scrimmage” – what is that, a brunch plate?). But if you manage your own FFL (Fantasy Football League), enjoy the Supreme Mucho Delux-o DirectTV Football Package, and wear your favorite player’s jerseys until the pit stains bleed through, Tecmo Bowl will complement your religion.


Pick a team (I chose Seattle – go Space Needles*!), get on the field, and let’s get to downing*. When you’re playing offense, you can choose between four different formations; the formations are different, depending on which team you choose. If you pick a running play, it’s up to the quarterback to make a touchdown. If you pick a passing play, you’ll throw the ball to a receiver and complete the play. Never throw it to a receiver near the opposing team, as they’re likely to intercept it. When playing defense, watch the opposing team’s quarterback to see if he’s going to run or pass it to a receiver. In my (admittedly limited) experience, when the quarterbacks run, it’s much easier to tackle them without them making a down. But if they pass, the receiver will give them their precious down and then some. When switching sides, you’ll have an option to “Field Goal,” or “Punt Kick.” Select either/or to kick the ball as far away from the opposing team’s goal as possible. Each game represents a week. Say your team is San Francisco and you pummel Denver. The week ends, San Francisco automatically moves on to the second week and the next team, and it continues like this until you’ve beaten all the teams.



                                                                             The “Bro Five” was alive and well in ’89.


For what it’s worth in 2013, Tecmo Bowl has the official 1988 NFL roster. Kurt Warner? John Elway? The Walter Payton? Pfft, please, do not make me think you carry a mental disease. Despite the accurate roster, Tecmo only paid out the NFLPA to use character names, so you’ll be pitting cities (Indianapolis v. New York for example) instead of official NFL teams against each other instead. No bother, since the cities represent the appropriate teams, but strange that Tecmo would pay for one and not the other. Twenty-five years later, though, nobody cares because the gameplay (what matters most) remains strong.


Tecmo Bowl has endearing cartoony sprites, surprisingly great sound effects, and most importantly, fantastic controls. Passing, tackling, and switching between players is as smooth and responsive as one would hope from a football game. Play with a friend for maximum awesome, or if you’re tired of being on the field, gain forty pounds, buy a clipboard and a hat, and play the ‘Coaching’ mode. If there’s a virtual pigskin-sized hole in your heart (preferably in the shape of an NES cartridge), I’m confident Tecmo Bowl can fill it. Long live Tecmo Bowl.




*I am aware Space Needles aren’t actually a team, and “downing” is not a legitimate football term.


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  • dan

    Knowing how much you “love” sports games I was curious to see how you were going to review this one. Glad you liked it! Hope you like Tecmo Super Bowl as well.

  • Walters

    Also as a child, all of my friends and I would call “bullshit” if someone tried to pick the Raiders. Because Bo Jackson is unstoppable in that game. Not to mention Walter Payton. I'm been reading this blog for months, checking daily for new posts. Keep up the good work.

    • DylanCornelius

      Thanks Walters! Much appreciated.

  • Tecmo paid to get a license from the NFLPA to use player names, but they didn't pay the NFL to use team names and logos. The NFL can't trademark the names of cities (yet).

    • DylanCornelius

      Fair enough. Thanks!

  • ben m

    A real classic like the jumping high five they do after a touchdown!! Who does a jumping high five anymore? Lol!

  • FieryReign

    Don't forget about LT on the Giants. Basically Bo on defense, I could pretty much eliminate any attempted field goal/extra point.

    I couldn't understand your second paragraph though? Not a football fan?

    • DylanCornelius

      Well, no, I'm not a football fan.

      What couldn't you understand about it?

  • I really loved this game when it first came out, even though I didn't have my Lions as one of the playable teams. Of course, when the season-long Super version came out, I was beyond hooked.