Admittedly, I’m not a huge football guy. Never have been. Baseball and basketball are my go-to sports. But I always make it a point to catch the Super Bowl each year. Last night, which saw the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons battle for football supremacy in Houston, was one of the best damn games I’ve ever seen. An incredible 31 unanswered points and the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, Tom Brady captured his unprecedented fifth Super Bowl Championship (more than any other quarterback in the history of the NFL). Whether you love or hate him, you have to respect the track record. Watching the game last night inspired me to break out Tecmo Super Bowl, AKA the best football game on the Super Nintendo. Let’s stroll down memory lane…
TECMO BOWL MANIA
Tecmo Bowl was unleashed February 1989. This month marks its 28th birthday. My brother was obsessed with this game. Tecmo Bowl mania swept the nation as kids everywhere were glued to their TV monitors night and day. I wasn’t a football fan at the time so the game never appealed to me, but I remember the many nights that my brother stayed up late playing this game. It became something of a religion for him and countless others all across America.
Two years later, the (superior) sequel landed and despite the SNES having just been released, Tecmo Super Bowl caused many NES owners to keep their old friend plugged in. My brother played this game to death. Tecmo finally converted this game over to the SNES in November of 1993. It never made the big splash its little NES brothers did, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of your time.
LET’S PLAY SOME FOOTBALL!
Here is the beauty of Tecmo Super Bowl: it’s simple and instantly accessible to all. Even if you don’t know a whole lot about football, like me, you can still have a lot of fun with this one. You get eight plays to pick from. Four passing, four running. Then the opponent tries to guess which one you picked. If they guess right then it’ll be a lot easier for them to stop you. You have to look at the game situation and guess whether your rival will run or pass. After that you have a 1 in 4 chance. Good stuff.
Passing in the pocket? Try not to force the ball where there are defenders. Switch off to an open teammate like you see here and throw the ball his way.
Always satisfying to see that FIRST DOWN! flashing.
Speaking of satisfying, throwing a bullet to a wide open receiver and seeing him haul it in for a big gain was simply the best. I also like the white X marker and knowing your guy is about to make a huge catch. It’s the little things!
Seeing your guy sprint into the opponent’s end zone never gets old. The SNES version gets these cool detailed end zones while the NES versions were a bit plain Jane. It’s not a deal breaker or anything, but I prefer the presentation of this game over the NES ones. Plus, that TOUCHDOWN! graphic is gold.
Taunting time! It’s also kind of fun to see old names from the past.
Bouncing the ball off the field goal post and through always led to a sigh of relief.
INTERCEPTION! Depending on which side of the coin you are, it can either pump new life into your team or completely demoralize it. Especially when you see the ball sail just past the outstretched arms of your receiver.
Likewise, these moments can mean the difference between victory and defeat. As they say: football is a game of inches… [And so is dating -Ed.]
Bizarre and nonsensical. At any rate, the Patriots lead 7-3 at the half.
Falcons open the second half in stellar fashion. It’s so sweet when your guy has a wide open field like this. Unless of course, if it’s happening against you!
Atlanta jumps on top, 10-7. I really like how this game received the Super Mario All-Stars treatment. It’s essentially the NES version but with 1993 rosters and much improved visuals. Love those end zones.
Seeing one of your receivers break free and make himself wide open for a bullet pass is another part I take great pleasure in.
Running it into the end zone like a boss. 14-10 Patriots!
Certain big plays, like a quarterback sack, triggers a cinematic shot.
Hitting a streaking player for a big gain never failed to get you pumped. Even better is the visual of 10 savages trailing you like a pack of hungry wolves eyeing a piece of meat. Oh, and barely running past two diving defenders. Epic.
Punch it in the end zone and kick the extra point. 21-17 Patriots.
Offensive and defensive accomplishments are treated dramatically.
Almost as dramatic as last night’s Super Bowl! Down 4 points with under a minute to go, Miller tries to connect with Williams during the most important drive of his career. Miller spots his target and throws a bullet pass. It looks like Williams is about to make an amazing diving catch to save the game but alas, INTERCEPTION! You can imagine how intense 2 player games can get…
Similar to last night’s insane Super Bowl game, the Patriots barely squeak ahead. A final stats screen is shown at the end.
“WEATHER” IT’S RAINY OR SNOWY…
The NES versions didn’t have this cool feature. OK, so it doesn’t affect gameplay (too bad, it should have). But hey, more options never hurt even if it’s just cosmetic. And quite frankly, I love the rain in particular. It lends Tecmo Super Bowl a lovely little atmosphere!
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past rain this is not. But it’s not shabby!
Check out how the rain splatters against the grass. It’s a really nice effect and makes playing this game during a rainy Sunday morning extra fun. Hell, you even see rain in the cut scenes. Neat!
Sometimes a play will be spliced in with a cut scene and only adds to the drama of the whole thing. These moments are handled perfectly. They’re seamless rather than intrusive. And let’s face it, they’re just plain fun.
Gorgeous! Gotta love that heavy rain. What could have been if only the Falcons kicked a field goal last night… tsk tsk…
Giving the snow some love too, although it’s not as impressive.
Definitely adds a nice flair, especially if you play this while it’s actually snowing outside.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Most fans tend to cite NES Tecmo Super Bowl as the definitive version, but there are a handful that vouch for the SNES version. EGM gave it scores of 8, 7, 7, 6 and 6. Some were a bit disappointed that you still can’t switch defenders once a play is live. Or the fact that you can’t grab the ball out of the air on a booted pass. And speaking of missed opportunities, there’s no sound effect for the rain. Imagine how much better it would have been if you could hear the pitter-patter of the rain drops. I suppose one can’t have it all, eh?
Tecmo Super Bowl is the best SNES football game you can play. It’s got fast and crisp gameplay, a playbook to customize your own set of plays, a battery backed season mode (I love how you can play a season in literally a single weekend), improved 16-bit visuals, and a couple new options the NES version never had. These include a diving play (handy for when you’re half a yard short of a touchdown or first down) and a touchback option. I’m not the biggest football fan but I love this game and would probably rate it even higher if I were a complete football nut.
It’s the kind of game you can pick up and play whenever, then forget about for a while but months or even years later come roaring back and find yourself spending a weekend or two with. There’s something magical about that. I also like that the games don’t take long; you can sneak in a quick game before bed. Also, injuries can occur if you play the season mode. When a player is healthy to return, you get an amusing cut scene of said player leaving the hospital (Tecmo Hospital, naturally) waving to his doctor and nurses. He’s armed with a bouquet of flowers and is decked out in his full football uniform, as if these guys wear their jerseys while recovering in the hospital. This scene never fails to make me smile. That and it’s always great to get an injured star player back!
Tecmo Super Bowl has earned its legend for a good reason. I think the SNES version is awesome and easily the best football title on the Super Nintendo. The Tecmo Super Bowl sequels weren’t as great and some of the Madden games are very good but it’s tough to beat the arcade action of a Tecmo Super Bowl. Sorry — this game definitely scores a touchdown!
Few games have infiltrated pop culture like Tecmo (Super) Bowl.
And because it’s football, and it’s awesome:
Damn that theme never gets old. Timeless! Just like Tecmo Super Bowl