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Tecmo Bowl






Genre: Sports

Publisher: Tecmo

Total time played: 5 hours

Short review: Considered to be the first great sports game on the NES and the first to feature real teams and players. Fast paced arcade action that is easy to learn and hard to master.

Interesting links related to Tecmo Bowl

All I know about Football…

Growing up I was a huge baseball fan and got into basketball during the Dream Team NBA/Olympics era but I was never really into football.  I put off playing Tecmo Bowl for a long time and when I finally did I was blown away.

What I realized playing through the game this week is that almost all I know about football I learned from this game. I understand  the down system, the extra point, the punt return, the field goals and the kickoff. I have picked up a few other football rules over the years watching the Super Bowl (which I usually watch for the commercials) but 90% of my football knowledge comes from Tecmo Bowl.

Tecmo Bowl is probably my favorite sports game on the system (not counting Mike Tyson’s Punch Out as a sports game since it is more of a rhythm game). When I played Tecmo Bowl it was usually with friends and I usually lost but it was so much fun I didn’t care. If I did play the game 1-player I would play a game or two and turn it off. It wasn’t until now that I actually played through the entire game where you must beat each team once to win the Tecmo Bowl.

Pick A Team

Anyone who has ever played this game knows one team is better than all the others, the L.A. Raiders. Bo Jackson is the best player in the game and also one of the most impressive athletes in human history. Seriously, the 30 for 30 ESPN film on him is jaw dropping.

At first I felt like I was cheating because if Bo broke through the defense he could pretty much run for a touchdown every time. But, as I got farther in the game the defense got better, stronger and faster and I realized if it weren’t for Bo Jackson I wouldn’t have been able to beat the game.

How to Play

Tecmo Bowl is to football what NBA Jam is to basketball. Some of the rules are there but anything that may slow the game down was not added.

  • There is no pre-game coin toss, the human player always receives the kickoff in the first quarter and the CPU player always receives it in the 3rd quarter.
  • There are no fumbles
  • There is no 2-point conversion.
  • There are only 9 players on each team and whichever you select before each play is the only one you can control during the play.
  • The clock stops after each play which leads the 1:30 quarters last for up to 5 minutes. Some plays only last 1 second.

After each play you are taken to a screen with 4 plays, usually 2 running plays and 2 passing plays


Select the button combination for the play you want.

When both teams have selected the play the action begins. The offensive team will hike the ball with the A button and the team will automatically move into formation of whichever play was selected. If the computer team picks the same play as you do they will get through the defense and sack the quarterback. Since there are only 4 plays that means the defense has a 25% chance for a sack on each play.

While running with the ball if you tap the A button it will help ward off would be tacklers. Bo Jackson can always push a defensive player off that tries to tackle him, he will only go down if two or more players tackle him at once.

My Strategy

Since there are no fumbles in the game I used running plays about 95% of the time. The other 5% I would try a passing play which almost always ended in throwing an interception. So, instead of the 4 plays you have to choose from I only ran the 2 running plays. A human player would have easily figured this out giving them a 50% chance to blitz my quarterback each play, but the computer player never caught onto my strategy. Of the dozens of touchdowns I scored I would guess Bo Jackson scored all but 3-4, which were scored by Marcus Allen.

On defense I almost always selected a passing play so my team would be in formation to sack the quarterback if he tried to pass and if not I could use the one player I controlled to hunt down and tackle whoever held the ball. I didn’t figure this strategy out until mid-way through the season and when I did the game got a lot easier. As there are no fumbles the only chance to  stop the opposing team was to blitz them 4 times before they made it 10 yards to get a first down or to intercept the ball.  Using my strategy I would get 3-4 interceptions per game and as I never used passing plays I never gave up any interceptions.

I also never kicked a field goal and the only time I did a punt kick is when I selected “UP+A” for my Bo Jackson running play on 4th down before selecting “cancel” on the field goal/punt options.

As far as kicking extra points I probably only missed 3 the entire game, and the reason was that the defense broke through and stopped me. I actually think it may be impossible to miss the kick otherwise.  I never did get a handle on stopping the other team from kicking an extra point. I always would select a player in the back of the defensive formation and had no issue breaking through and reaching the kicker but most of the time he still kicked the ball and scored the point. Luckily, these extra points never decided a game for me.


The first few games were a piece of cake and then the computer players all got faster, dove and slid longer distances and seemed to pick the same play as me more than the 25% chance that should have been.

I found teams that had 3 passing plays were easier to defeat as I had a chance to intercept a pass 75% of the time. I lost a few games but unlimited continues and a password system made progressing forward much less time consuming. If I were forced to win all games in a row without losing a single game you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now, if ever, as I would have given up.

The two teams that gave me the most trouble were Denver and New York. I’m not sure if it was due to the point in the season I faced them, if I played them before solidifying my strategy or if they were just good teams.

Interesting Observations

I think of the NES as a very kid/family friendly system. Somehow the provocative shots of cheerleaders shown during halftime made it through the censors.

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 12.11.50 PM.pnge691b4b7e3f868a00f0bf968d67c82fb.jpgtecmo-bowl-cheerleader-3.png

Since I spent so much time scoring touchdowns with Bo Jackson I saw the short animation of two players high giving after scoring. Why wouldn’t they show the guy who scored the touchdown celebrating?


Final Thoughts

Personally, I like this game more than its superior sequel, Tecmo Super Bowl. Because this game has fewer plays to select and features less authentic action I find it easier to play. You won’t find a male from 30-40 years old who doesn’t have fond memories of playing this game. It is one of the few games that can be liked by sports fans and non-sports fans alike.

A look at each game of the season (minus the Tecmo Bowl which I won 40-20 against the Miami Dolphins. The score flashed so quick I didn’t get to snap a photo):






Tecmo Bowl.JPG


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