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Tecmo Bowl


Company: Tecmo
Year: 1989
Platform: Nintendo NES
Controller: Default of the console


First and ten

If you want to sell sports videogames in North America you need in your catalog titles about American Football, the company Tecmo tries at early 1989 with a game which became a legend. Tecmo Bowl is the first game of this sport having the license and approval of the NFL Players Association, however, it did not get the license of the NFL itself (we have to remember that in those years, there was a conflict between the league and the players) so, the rosters are available, also the colors of the uniforms (well, most of them) and cities of the teams, you can not see the nicknames of the teams themselves, or the helmets at the time, so some of the helmets are funny at best.


This is a playbook I can understand

As the norm at the time, the game uses a side-view perspective, in this case, with nine virtual footballers at the field per team, instead of the traditional eleven. Even at offense or defense, the player can choose between four different formations, different for each team, generally with pass or run plays, same at defense, defending against pass or run. If the formations are the same, you can expect at the offense a really short advance, ussualy not far from the scrimmage line. However, if they are different, well, the results can be devastating for the defense.

When you are playing at offense, the play will start when the player does the “hut” (where the quarterback asks the ball) and according to which formation was selected can happen anyone of the following situations:

  1. If a run was selected, the quarterback will give the ball to a runner, and then the player controls the runner.
  2. If a pass was selected, the virtual quarterback will get the ball, and using the B button will choose between 3 or 4 receivers, and with the A button tries the pass. If a defensive players happens to be stick like glue to the receiver, is an almost automatic interception.
Forget weird celebrations at the goal line.

If you are at defense, the player will have the option to search for the virtual footballer controlled pressing the B button. It is done to select the best player according to the rival offense.

The A button will make the defensive player to dive trying to tackle the rival, but be careful, because if it fails, will get some precious time to get up. There are many situation different from real-life match of American Football:

  1. There are no fumbles.
  2. The game clock always stop when the player with the ball is tackled, so, there is no need for timeouts.
  3. No penalties, so you can hit an already down rival with no fear of consequences.
This image will appears frequently if you choose the Los Angeles team

Where the game really shines is when played between two human players, however, one player game against the AI game is really solid and incredibly fun.

In this mode, you have to win seven games before advancing to the playoffs where you face three more games.

If you win, you’ll get a password to use at the beginning of each match; otherwise, you must face again the same AI controlled team until winning.

I concede this can be a bit frustrating at first, but it’s good to improve your tactics and strategy.


As mentioned, there are 12 teams available for the player, very loosely based on skills and rosters of 1987 and 1988 seasons (Walter Payton, of Chicago did not play the same season with Tim Brown of Los Angeles). These are the teams, followed by brief descriptions of skills and weaknesses.

IndianapolisIt has the best kicker at the game with Dean Biasucci, also a very competent running back being either Eric Dickerson o Albert Bentley according the version, but no more. The defense is really weak, and the quarterback does not help. If you can play a solid running game, it’s possible to get a chance at winning the match.
MiamiIt has Dan Marino, with a bazooka as arm. But also with null mobility, add mediocre receivers, and a barely acceptable running back at best, also a paper defense, so you have to play at scoring more than the rival literally. One of the worst teams of the game.
ClevelandKosar and Mack are the backbone of a fearful offense, although the defense is slightly better than the two previous teams.
DenverJohn Elway at his peak, relying in a Tony Dorsett with still some skills. The receivers are elite, but the defense… the best of all the mentioned, but it’s not exactly a compliment. If someone please can explain to me what the hell is drawn at the helmet…
SeattleSteve Largent is one of the best receivers in the game, the quarterback is good enough, and Brian Bosworth can be a lethal weapon if propperly used at defense. Recomended team.
Los AngelesThe programmers considered the potencial of the team, which was very high, because in real life, was really dissapointing: Two fearful running backs in Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson, Tim Brown is a great receiver and the defense is really spectacular lead by Howie Long. One of the best teams in the game, even if the quarterback is not very good.
WashingtonProbably the best team overall with two awesome receivers (Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders) one for each side of the field, so covering both of them is hard, Mark Rypien being a more than capable quarterback, and having a really good running back. The defense do not shine, but also not lacking in any department, so is competent enough.
San FranciscoJoe Montana with receiver Jerry Rice, and Roger Craig as running back, what more do you want? Defense is weak against runners, but incredibly good againt passing.
DallasThe worst team in the game, by far. Ideal for expert gamers who want a good challenge. Herschell Walker, the running back is the best player on the team.
New YorkPhil Simms carries the team with an awesome arm, and with Mark Bavaro (according to some, the template for the current version of Wolverine of the X-Men) as a reliable tight end, also the monster at defense called Lawrence Taylor stopping the rival offense, you have a more than competent team.
ChicagoThe best defense of the game, by far with Singletary, Perry, Dent and McMichael, gave plenty of room to compensate quarterback McMahon’s funny antics. Walter Payton must be the main offensive weapon.
MinnesotaHas Anthony Carter, the best receiver in the game, which gives the team a fighting chance because he can be used as a competent running back. The defense, its main weaknesses also in real-life, because they are particulary weak against good running teams.

Recomendation for rookies: begin playing with either Los Angeles, Washington, Denver or San Francisco, in that order. Chicago, New York, Seattle or Cleveland can be nice options to gradually rise the challenge. The other teams are for expert players in this videogame.

Other Platforms

Nintendo Game Boy

In all its monochromatic glory.

This adaptation came two years later, in 1991, and I had this cartridge for Nintendo’s main handheld at the time. The game is practically the same for the NES, with the same teams and rosters… well, the same game, except for the colors for obvious reasons.

In this mode I used to play almost exclusively with Denver, being Chicago the other option. It does not matter the team chosen by the player, the human controlled will have a lighter tone than the AI controlled.

I was amazed at how the game was almost identical to the NES original, not like other NES games ported to Game Boy that lost many features.


The first game with the name on its title was made by Tecmo in 1987, and for Arcade. But it was so different, that for the blog criteria, it is considered a different game.


One of the best sports videogames made for the Nintendo NES. The most interesting thing is that a few years later came a sequel when practically nobody expected. Well, that game has its own entry.


The game was a commercial hit, and in my hometown, it was frequently rented. My friends and me ussually spent good times playing against each other because it had the teams we cheered for.


Sport Icon designed by Smashicons of FlatIcon licensed by CC 3.0 BY.

Console Icons taken from Retroarch.

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