Tecmo Super Bowl

By: Will Santana
Posted: June 29, 2012

In 1989 Tecmo released what would soon become a classic NFL football game on the NES. The game was an instant success for sports gamers including soon to be legends like Walter Payton, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Bo Jackson, Steve Largent and John Elway. Although the game was an instant grid-iron sensation, Tecmo Bowl lacked a few things. The game only consisted of 12 NFL teams; the playbook only had 4 plays, making it easy for your opponent to guess which way your routes were intended to go. Lawrence Taylor and Dexter Manley could just about block and field any goals or extra points attended by running down a straight line near the opponent snapping the ball. 

The Game:

It's 2 years later and Tecmo is at it again. This time around it's 1991 and they've renamed the grid-iron game Tecmo Super Bowl. No longer giving fans just 12 teams to play with, we now have every NFL team that were available, which means no Carolina Panthers or Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Raiders are still in Los Angeles. With fans having all 28 teams to choose from, more teams are picked because of things like the popularity of the Buffalo Bills who were currently on their 4 year run to 4 losing Super Bowls. The Dallas Cowboys are loaded with soon to be Hall of Famers like Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. The greatest running back of all-time, Barry Sanders is playable even though he had the worst offensive line in history.

The NFL had yet to reach its peak and baseball was still considered America’s sport, but football was sure on the rise at the setting of this game. Deion ‘Prime Time’ Sanders is another popular player for people to control on defense even though the Atlanta Falcons really only had 1 threat on offense in Andre Rison. Tecmo Super Bowl is locked with so many soon to be legends and so many soon to be NFL busts (yes, I’m calling you out Blair Thomas). There were a few omissions of famous NFL athletes whose names didn’t appear on the game like Jim Kelly and Randall Cunningham due to licensing issues. Compared to the original Tecmo Bowl, Tecmo Super Bowl is a great improvement for fans with all the numerous additions the original game lacked. 

The Game Rating: 9/10

Tecmo Super Bowl Screenshot


The playbook now has 8 plays to choose from, 4 passing and 4 running plays, which opened the door for offensive gamers making it tougher for defensive guys to guess the exact play for the full blitz. The option to import plays from other teams’ playbooks is also available. Classic gimmicks like the flea-flicker and double reverse are fun to mess around with even though they never trick a human opponent. Passing plays now has incomplete passes, defensive deflections and are made a little tougher to intercept. Defensive players can now dive and block passes inside of the pocket which is a great addition I love as a defensive guy.

Offensive players can be substituted when needed or when human controllers don't want to risk a player from getting injured. One thing that always frustrated me though was the way defensive players could not be substituted on special teams. I really wanted to have had Deion Sanders return kickoffs and punts.

Another cool feature is players’ health conditions. A player's health could be injured, bad, average, good or excellent. The healthier the player, the quicker he is and the chances of him breaking a tackle are higher. I felt this was a competitive add on so people couldn’t run Christian Okoye with 100 carries and not risk his health.

Tecmo Super Bowl had both conferences, the AFC and NFC. All 28 teams had a full 17 week schedule including a 12 team playoff race to the Super Bowl. Human players can choose as many teams as they prefer to play in the 16 game schedules. The exhibition and Pro Bowl game play is also available. Unfortunately, the AI difficulty isn't challenging in either mode unless playing in the regular season. Each quarter in play is 5 minutes long but with a quick timer. Overtime is carried out with the traditional sudden death style but also with the possibility of a tie. League leaders’ stats are kept tracked so you could see how your best and favorite players are ranked amongst the other athletes. I always tried to lead the league in rushing yards, sacks and interceptions. Those were the most important stats for me to win each season.

The original Tecmo Bowl only had 9 players on the field at once while Tecmo Super Bowl added the full 11 a team truly needs. Madden wasn’t created yet, so Tecmo had the most realistic football game out at the time. Division rivalries, key matchups, wild card chases, lost fumbles and a speed clock just made football so entertaining to play back in 1991. I personally feel Tecmo Bowl paved the way for Madden, NFL Gameday and other football franchises. It does feel great to take a trip down memory lane with this old remake, Tecmo Super Bowl, and play some vintage grid-iron with so many "new" features like Hall of Famers.

Gameplay Rating:8/10


For the 8-bit console, Tecmo Super Bowl is very impressive. The athletes are smaller than the original but this is actually an improvement. More of the field is visible for deeper plays, more action can be seen and passing plays have more time to develop down the field. The wider field allows us to see the referees, cheerleaders and the crowd for a more authentic appearance. The uniforms match the teams’ true colors from 1991 but lack detail of the teams’ logo, jersey number, jersey name and NFL logo patches. The animation runs smoothly throughout all 4 quarters except when there's a fumble or a huge pile on. During these two situations, the game suffers from a bit of flickering although it's not too distracting. My favorite part of the graphics was the cut scenes during a touchdown celebration, a sack, a diving catch and a potential extra point blocked. These cut scenes gave the gamers a bit more to anticipate and made the game even more thrilling awaiting the outcome from a cut scene.

Graphics Rating:8/10

Tecmo Super Bowl Screenshot


The NES console was released in 1985 in North America having the RCA connector the main way to connect in modern technology, but only the red cable for audio and no white cable capability. For an originally 1991 released game cartridge, I can be quite honest when I say that Tecmo Super Bowl has one of the best audio tracks for a video game released during its era. From the quarterback yelling ‘hut, hut,hut’ non-stop until you hike the ball, the game announcer screaming touchdown, the bone crushing tackles, and Tom Rathman running over helpless defensive players to complete a full action arcade-style sound effects and voice clips. Also the game's musical score fits each of the game's quick styles and end zone celebrations in a unique memorizing way.

Audio Rating: 10/10


With so many organizations, all-star caliber athletes, and different playbooks, the game can be played constantly with different franchises. Competing in different stats depending with what team you got also makes for fun challenges. Recreating old school rivals such as the 49ers vs. the Cowboys is always a throwback vision. Reliving a Joe Montana to Jerry Rice touchdown catch is near impossible in today’s game. Playing with John Elway and laughing at Blair Thomas, playing in Tampa Bay’s ugliest uniform ever brings back memories and some fun replay value. I don’t see any reason why anyone would have enough after one full-length season.

Replay Rating:6/10

Tecmo Super Bowl Screenshot


Tecmo Super Bowl may be 21 years-old, but the game hasn’t lost its touch with the 8-bit system. With hard knocks, long breakout runs, the goats (Greatest of all time) to play with, division rivals and so many other reasons to play football on the NES. Once Tecmo reached the ranks of the sports genre in the NES, they never looked back until technology over looked them. The NES can’t keep up with today’s HD technology and high tech sounds, but a lot of the play value still exists and in some instances, will never be recaptured. Tecmo Super Bowl is a must own for all football fanatics and anyone own owns or plans on owning an NES system.

Overall Rating: 8/10



  • Buffalo Bills
  • Bo Jackson
  • Barry Sanders
  • All 28 1991 NFL Teams
  • Bigger Playbook


  • Easy to guess opponent's plays
  • Blair Thomas & Brian Bosworth
  • Raiders & Rams are still in Los Angeles
  • Blocking XP & Field Goals