Tecmo Super Bowl (1991)

Released in 1991, Tecmo Super Bowl – along with its predecessor Tecmo Bowl (released in 1987) – have become an iconic depiction of an American sports game, particularly American football, yet was created and developed by Japanese video games company, Tecmo. Granted, Japanese corporations have developed the most successful video game franchises and consoles in history from Nintendo’s Mario and Legend of Zelda to Sony’s Playstation consoles. But it is different when it comes to sports games, particularly American sports, as close to every single largely successful sports game franchise was created and developed by an American video game company. The most popular sports games on the market, NBA 2K, FIFA (the most popular with over 100 million copies sold), Madden, NHL, and NASCAR have always been created and developed by the American video games company Electronic Arts under their sports brand EA Sports. Their slogan, “It’s in the game!” has become iconic amongst the North American sports video gamimg community. Even the lesser successful titles such as NBA Jam and NFL Blitz were created by American video game company Midway Games. And the fact that Tecmo Super Bowl has had such an impact on sports games now, and it’s fans – with a continued devoted following after all of these years, is quite something.

Tecmo created, developed, and released the first very commercially successful American football game. Even with John Madden Football being released on PC in 1988 – along with the fact that players were moving over to console especially more with the release of the NES, Tecmo Super Bowl was the first ever sports game to have both the real NFL players along with their statistics at the same time due to an agreed license between both the NFL and the NFLPA. They had planned to have the same in the previous, just as successful, arcade version Tecmo Bowl but had run into difficulties getting a license with the NFL due to another arrangement the league had made with a different game titled NFL. Unlike some of its other American football video game predecessors that often played with under eleven players on each team, Tecmo Super Bowl played with a roster of 30 different players on each team and 11 players on each side of the ball – while also allowing six substitutes for the offensive side. In the original Tecmo Bowl arcade version it was allowed for four players to play at a time but changed to only allowing two players at a time when Tecmo released the NES console version of the game, and it stayed that way with Tecmo Super Bowl. Tecmo Super Bowl has almost all of the same gameplay as the original arcade game. On offense, you select one of four plays and, if playing two player, the opponent attempts to chose the best defensive play that will counter the offense’s hopefully ending up in either an interception or a sack on the quarterback. Tecmo did add a few new features though after Tecmo Bowl including but not limited to timeouts, fumbles, and stat tracking. Both Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl feature twelve teams but in the ladder, due to licensing agreements, they were able to use the full and real names and cities of the teams.

Both games have become famous for their extremely highly rated, unable to be tackled version of Bo Jackson, Tecmo Bo, the “best athlete in the history of video games,” and ironically the same year (1991) a hip injury ended his short yet illustrious career. The game, in a sense, became a corner stone to American sports video games, and of course to American football games. Several sequels have been released while there is still a relatively large fan base that continues to play Tecmo Super Bowl and hold tournaments to this day, with the game easily modded there have been different versions released. Tecmo made an earlier and potentially larger impact on sports games than some American companies, such as Midway, ever could.    

Works Cited:

Tecmo 1991, Tecmo Super Bowl, video game, NES.

Tecmo 1987, Tecmo Bowl, video game, console/NES.


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