Just 5 More Minutes: Tecmo Super Bowl

On draft day, a lot of prospects were compared to the great football players of yesteryear. When we talk about the greatest football games of all time, nothing compares to Tecmo Super Bowl, a game released just a little over 20 years ago.

Simple is best

Tecmo Super Bowl Playbook

Playbooks ... simplified.

Tecmo Super Bowl is the gold standard when it comes to simple football games. The pure simplicity of Tecmo Super Bowl is what made this game so popular. Modern football games contain pages and pages of plays to select from. Not to mention that you have to understand how each of the plays work, and the best options given the situation. Tecmo Super Bowl has none of that. Both the offensive team and defensive team select from the same set of plays. When on offense, you select one of eight simple plays. The plays are divided into four running plays and four passing plays. The defense also picks from the same set that the offense does. If the defense selects the same play as the offense, the defense will run an all-out blitz, and the players will have super speed making it almost impossible for your offense to gain any ground. Watching your players on the field have run around possessed while ruining the offense’s play always made me feel like a total bad ass.

Once you snap the ball, the game will run the play on its own, up to a certain point. For example: on a hand off, the play will run itself until the ball is given to the running back. On a passing play, you don’t have full control of the quarterback until he finishes his drop. The game contains no turbo or speed burst for players and forces you to develop your own skills at player control to excel. You have to learn quickly to find open receivers or how to make the right 45 degree cut to get away from a sliding tackler. Some of the receivers and running backs are so good in this game, that they can just out run everyone else on the field. The NFL talent in featured in the game is absolutely classic from Randall Cunningham, Phil Sims, Thurman Thomas, Dan Marino, Barry Sanders, and John Elway just to name a few.

It’s important to point out that yes, Tecmo Bowl was a great game, but did not have the depth that Tecmo Super Bowl contained. Tecmo Super Bowl was the first game I played that captured the true feel of the NFL. Believe it or not, having a game with a dynamic roster with all 28 NFL teams from the time. The NFL license alone was a huge deal.

Tecmo Cut Scene

Thurman Thomas was a beast.

The talent isn’t the only memorable part of this game as the visuals are still burned into my brain. Cut scenes are a very predominant part of Tecmo Super Bowl. Whenever you score a touchdown, you will get a couple of (somewhat) moving images across the screen (think Ninja Gaiden). These images range from a player spiking the ball to one player jumping into another player’s arms. The cut scenes aren’t just limited to touchdowns. You will see them on field goal attempts as well as in the middle of the game for interceptions and the like. The best cut scene is when your receiver jumps three screens into the air to catch a pass. I always felt a sense of awe when your player jumps through the top of the screen, and then spans three images to catch the ball. Conversely, it is devastating to throw a pass in traffic and see the cut scene where ball goes past the defenders, but your receiver drops the pass. It felt like this drop sequence always happened in the most pivotal moments of the game.

Highlight reel

The majority of Tecmo Super Bowl lovers will always mention the 120 yard touchdown pass as the single greatest play in Tecmo Super Bowl history is when you take a snap, run to the back of the opposite end zone, and throw the ball to your receiver in the back of the opposite end zone. I have never played a Madden or NCAA Football title that had quarterbacks talented enough to throw a 120 yard touchdown pass through the air. This is a feat that has yet to be duplicated in a video football game.

Bo Jackson

Bo knows classic football games.

This was also the first game that I personally enjoyed playing a full season, and would play multiple seasons. The depth of the season play kept me coming back for more. The full player roster is important as this is the first game where I remember players getting hurt. When a player comes back from injury, he will run out of the hospital and towards the stadium. There is no better feeling than to have your best player charging back on the field after several long weeks without him.

The season play wasn’t a just a single player experience. You were allowed to play a co-op season. What I mean by that is that you could have users assigned to multiple teams. It would be very common for a buddy and I to each pick a team, and attempt to meet in the Super Bowl. This is the first time I ever shared a season experience in any sports title with another player. This was not duplicated until Madden 2001 was released for Playstation 2.

True champions

My friends and I would always give the other person a hard time when we were playing. For me a group Tecmo Super Bowl experience requires trash talk. The amount of trash talk only increases as more players are added.

Tecmo Super Bowl is such a great game, that my friends and I played this title well into the Playstation era. There was one specific weekend that an epic 8-man Tecmo Super Bowl tournament occurred (side note, this tournament was played on the SNES version). The ultimate reward for winning this tournament was being declared the undisputed “King of Tecmo Super Bowl” and a trophy. This was no ordinary trophy. The trophy was hand-made out of a red solo cup, Sharpie, duct tape, a Band-Aid, a small plastic trophy (I think it came from a gumball machine), and aluminum foil. This trophy carried so much clout and bragging rights in my circle of friends, that the winner took the trophy with him to college.

This classic event started with a blind draw. Every participant was put into a hat and we drew names. From there everyone picked teams, and I remember I did not make it very far in the tournament but that doesn’t matter for this story. Our final was the San Francisco 49ers against the Washington Redskins. The game was an tremendous back and forth shoot out. Trying to stop Young and Rice in this game is nearly impossible. The 49er defense was tasked with stopping Earnest Byner and the crazy motion offense of the Redskins. The title game was probably the most exciting game of football I watched that year. Highlighted immediately after kickoff as my friend controlling the 49ers changed his playbook around catching the other player so off guard the he accused him of cheating. Of course at the time he was just unaware that this was completely legitimate and to this day, he still accuses our champion of cheating. The fact that this particular tournament is still debated and highly revered to this day shows how influential of a title Tecmo Super Bowl is.

Tecmo Super Bowl

This game is responsible for some of my best gaming arguments of all time.

Tecmo Super Bowl is simple and always fun to play. Over time sports games have become much more complicated, but I am able to enjoy them because of the influence of Tecmo Super Bowl. In the days before patches and yearly releases, a sports game had to be perfect, and this game so good that it lasted us for multiple years on end. Tecmo Super Bowl is the best sports title I ever played, and one of the key reasons that I still love sports games to this day.

Just 5 More Minutes – Anecdotes and memories of when we didn’t want to put a specific game down.


Giant Bomb (images)