What Is Tecmo Bowl? The Iconic NFL Game That Shaped a Generation

Tecmo Bowl changed football video games forever with the ability to use the names of actual NFL players.

Before Madden arrived as a video game, Tecmo Bowl was the standard for football games. Tecmo Bowl changed the way people played football on their gaming systems and provided some real-life touches to make the game feel more authentic.

Tecmo Bowl still ends up in some rankings of the best video games of all time. The game was originally released as an arcade game before being available on Nintendo. The Madden franchise was still two years away from being released for Nintendo.

What Is Tecmo Bowl, and When Did It Debut?

Tecmo Bowl is a video game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989. The game changed football video games because it was the first console game to use real player names after agreeing to a licensing agreement with the NFL Players Association.

Tecmo Bowl featured 12 NFL teams but used only city names because there was no deal with the NFL to use team nicknames. There were nine players on each side instead of 11 during the actual game.

Game players had four offensive and four defensive plays to select for each team. Most teams had two running plays and two passing plays, but San Francisco with Joe Montana and Miami with Dan Marino had three pass plays and only one run play. If the defensive side picked the same play as the offensive, it would usually create a negative-yardage play.

The gameplay and animation of Tecmo Bowl can be seen here.

Tecmo Super Bowl, a sequel to the game, was released in 1991, shortly after the first Madden game was released for Nintendo. This version featured all 28 NFL teams with nicknames and continued to feature real player names. The game featured 11 players on each side and had expanded playbooks.

Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel talked last summer about playing with Atlanta and Deion Sanders. McDaniel’s strategy would be to drop Sanders into coverage, grab an interception, and return it for a touchdown.

There were more versions released in the future for new generations of Nintendo, and the game was eventually made for the Xbox and PlayStation consoles. The first two versions remain the standard for the franchise.

Some fans still play the game with current players using the old video format.

Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl

Bo Jackson was an outfielder for the Kansas City Royals during the baseball season and a running back for the Los Angeles Raiders during football season. He won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 1985 but decided to also pursue a baseball career. Jackson hit a leadoff home run and was named MVP for the 1989 MLB All-Star Game.

Jackson started his NFL career with the Raiders in 1987 and was second in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting despite playing in about half as many games as the winner. He had runs of 88, 91, and 92 yards during his four NFL seasons.

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Tecmo Bowl players were never concerned with having to endure a long drive for a touchdown with Jackson on the field, and several even preferred it.

Jackson’s NFL career ended after he suffered a hip injury in the 1990 NFL playoffs, but he is considered one of the greatest video game athletes of all time. Here’s Bo in Super Tecmo Bowl.

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