By In Football

Tecmo Super Bowl

OK, first thing we have to get out of the way is the difference between “Tecmo Bowl” and “Tecmo Super Bowl.” The focus of this piece is Tecmo Super Bowl, the greatest football video game ever made, the second greatest sports video game ever made*. I’m going to hold firm to this opinion even though it’s incredibly stupid considering I have not played a sports video game in probably 15 years. I’m going to hold on to this opinion even though I realize it’s much like saying, “The greatest hip hop song ever is ‘Fight the Power’ and I have not heard a single hip-hop song in the last 22 years.

*Behind Sega hockey.

But see here’s the thing — I was talking about this with my pal Chardon Jimmy. We are the same age and dexterity and because of that, Tecmo Super Bowl and Sega hockey HAVE to be the greatest sports games for us. We have no choice in the matter. Those games literally stretched our technological limits as gamers. Our parents could not program a VCR. Their parents could not quite grasp this rock and roll music. We were limited by the A and B buttons. That was as much as we could handle.* Two buttons. A. B. When video games started introducing X and Y buttons, then various other ways to input, then added a million different features, we asked for the check and left an 18% tip. We had gone as far as we could go.

*I am speaking, here, only of Jim and myself. You may be older than either of us and perfectly facile with 25 different buttons all at once. To this we both say: Congratulations.

All of which is a way of saying that if you love more recent games, you are right and I’ll read about them on your blog.

Tecmo Bowl for Nintendo — that’s the first version of the game — came out in 1989. It was pretty great. It was like the first couple of seasons of Seinfeld. The premise was in place, and it was a great one. I won’t go into too much detail here — I would hope if you’ve read this far you have played the game or are familiar with it — but basically there were 12 NFL teams. You would choose one. If you were playing against someone, then your opponent would also choose a team. For simplicity, this whole piece will assume you are a single player against the computer.

So, game play: You got to choose one of four plays on offense and defense (if the defensive coach chose the same play as the offensive coach, the defense would then swarm like crazy, blowing up almost every kind of play). Most teams had two running plays and two passing plays (I seem to recall that Miami had three pass plays, but don’t quote me on it). On offense you would have actual control of whoever had the ball. On defense, you could choose which player you controlled (editor’s note: I originally thought you could switch during play; that was hockey).

That was it. Simple. Play football. Tecmo Bowl also had some wonderful quirks. For instance, there were a couple of offensive plays that were impossible to stop no matter what the defense did. They were like blips in the game.. One of the blips was a quick pass from Dan Marino to Mark Duper (unless it was Mark Clayton — I get them confused). It worked every time, even if the defense called the right play. This made some sense because in real like Marino to Duper (or Clayton) was all but unstoppable. But the other blip was this little bloopy pass play to Cap Boso, a tight end for the Bears. There was no reason for this play to be unbeatable, but it was. If you type “Cap Boso” into Google, it will offer as a search suggestion “Tecmo.” His Tecmo greatness, I can only assume, had something to do with the awe-inspiring name “Cap Boso.” In real life, Cap Boso caught 54 passes in his career. You could get him that in two or three games in Tecmo Bowl.

So that’s Tecmo, the original version.

Here, though, we are talking about Tecmo Super Bowl. That was the second version. And this game was a brave new world. Rosters were expanded. Playbooks were expanded. You could set up a gameplan. Now you could play an entire season. Now players on offense could be injured. For every game — and this was genius — players would have different health “conditions.” Take a typical running back — say Tampa Bay’s Gary Anderson. In “good condition” Gary Anderson was a serious threat. In “bad condition” he ran more or less like Ray Nitschke in that famous video of him limping home after an interception.

There were many different features to the game that would be fun to discuss but … we need to get to the player rankings. That’s the point here. So: Here are in my view five best Tecmo Super Bowl players at each position.

* * *

Position: Deity
1. Bo Jackson, Los Angeles Raiders
2. No one.

Comment: Bo Jackson was not only the best player in Tecmo Super Bowl, he was the best player in any sport in any time in every single fictional and non-fictional dimension. Bo Jackson was to Tecmo Super Bowl as Shakespeare was to literature, but only if you combined Shakespeare with Tolstoy, Dickens, Alice Munro, and the author of the Book of Job. Bo Jackson was to Tecmo Super Bowl as Mozart was to music if you combined him with Springsteen, the Beatles, B.B. King and Ray Charles. If you gave the ball to Bo Jackson (in good condition) and you DID NOT score, it was a comment on your own imperfections as a human being.

* * *

Position: Quarterback
1. QB Eagles, Philadelphia
2. Joe Montana, San Francisco
3. Dan Marino, Miami
4. QB Bills, Buffalo
5. Warren Moon, Houston

Comment: Certain players — like Randall Cunningham — apparently refused to allow their name to be used in Tecmo Super Bowl. I never really looked into it, and it didn’t matter because QB Eagles was SO MUCH BETTER than seeing Randall Cunningham anyway. QB Eagles was a super-human. He was like one of The Avengers. He was the fastest guy on the field, he had this ridiculously strong arm, and he you could make these preposterous moves with him. He was a one-man show which was good because the Eagles best running back was, I think, Keith Byars and he was terrible.

Montana never missed a pass. Marino too. Warren Moon had a ridiculously high rating but for some reason I could never get him to live up to his potential. QB Bills was, of course, Jim Kelly.

Over the years, I played full seasons with Jay Schroeder (Raiders), Billy Joe Tolliver (San Diego) and Steve De Berg (Kansas City) and let me just say, that taught me all about the frustration coaches must feel when they have a limited quarterback. Those guys will get you screaming like Steve Spurrier pretty fast. I remember once having a perfect season going with the Chargers — I had worked with Tolliver, calmed down his inconsistencies, built a nice conservative Marion Butts based offense where all Tolliver had to do was just not make mistakes. Late in the year, he basically fell apart. For a while, I would literally have nightmares — actual nightmares — about Billy Joe Tolliver.

* * *

Position: Running back
1. Barry Sanders, Detroit
2. Thurman Thomas, Buffalo
3. Marion Butts, San Diego
4. Neal Anderson, Chicago
5. Christian Okoye, Kansas City
Special mention: Dave Meggett, New York Giants

Comment: Obviously, nobody was like Bo. But Sanders was awfully fun to play with too. Marion Butts was my favorite — he was the guy I kept hammering at defenses as I tried to turn Billy Joe Tolliver into a winner. Okoye was in his Nigerian Nightmare phase as a player, and his character just seemed bigger than all the other. He would just “BOOM” and “BOOM” and “BOOM” — the house would shake when little Okoye ran on Tecmo Super Bowl.

I must make special mention of Meggett because when you were playing against the computer as the Giants, Meggett would sometimes, without any warning, turn into this, dare-I-say-it Bo Jackson like force. He wasn’t really that good most of the time. I mean he was good, but on third down, when the computer needed 12 yards or something, Meggett would suddenly be way faster than anyone you had on defense, and he would snap through tackles, and you would think: “Wait a minute, Dave Meggett’s not that good.” I think someone at the Tecmo Corporation just liked the guy.

By the way, his fellow Giants running back — Ottis Anderson — had the distinction of being the most realistic player in the game. Ottis Anderson in real life (in the Giants portion of his career) would never gain more than 8 yards, never gain less than three. That was the video game version as well. Smash. Smash. Smash. He’d never gain any yards and yet you could never quite stop him either.

Did I happen to mention how much I loved Tecmo Super Bowl?

* * *

Position: Wide receiver
1. Jerry Rice, San Francisco
2. Doesn’t even matter.

Comment: There were some good wide receivers in the game — Drew Hill was fantastic for Houston, Anthony Carter was good, Andre Reed and Andre Rison were good — but receivers always felt kind of interchangeable in the game. The one who was not interchangeable was Rice, and this was because you could actually put him at running back where he would become a supreme being while running the ball, catching screen passes, going long. The only trouble with this was that Rice’s condition would go bad pretty quickly if you put him at running back. Which, in retrospect, is probably how it should be.

* * *

Position: Defensive line
1. Reggie White, Philadelphia
2. Bruce Smith, Buffalo
3. Howie Long, Los Angeles Raiders
4. Jerry Ball, Detroit
5. Chris Doleman, Minnesota

Comment: Howie Long was a special player in Tecmo because the Raiders defense was TERRIBLE. I mean awful. Basically, when you played with the Raiders — and I did often, obviously, because of Bo — you would need to take control of Howie Long and then have him play every single position on the field. I would drop him to linebacker. I would put him in coverage. I would whip him around to sack the quarterback. If, say, Ernest Givens or Ricky Sanders happened to catch a deep ball, I would need Howie Long to run them down. White and Smith were probably a little better, but they had defensive help all around them. Howie Long was on his own.

Jerry Ball, if you used him right, could get eight to 10 sacks a game. He would just overpower centers.

* * *

Position: Linebacker
1. Lawrence Taylor, New York Giants
2. Mike Singletary, Chicago
3. Derrick Thomas, Kansas City
4. Kevin Greene, Los Angeles rams
5. Greg Lloyd, Pittsburgh

Comment: If you were having a draft of players — just players, not teams — you would obviously take Bo Jackson No. 1. Then, I think, you would have a difficult call to make: You could take QB Eagles or Lawrence Taylor. It’s not enough to say that Taylor could not be blocked. He was the one guy fast enough to run down any non-Bo player on the field.

Singletary was a lot like the real player — he did not miss tackles.

* * *

Position: Defensive back
1. Rod Woodson, corner, Pittsburgh
2. David Fulcher, safety, Cincinnati
3. Joey Browner, safety, Minnesota
4. Mark Carrier, safety, Chicago
5. Deion Sanders, corner, Atlanta
Special mention: Wayne Haddix, corner, Tampa Bay

Comment: My buddy Chardon Jimmy would always play with the Bengals, and David Fulcher would basically make every single tackle. It was a lot like Howie Long with the Raiders except Fulcher was a safety so it actually made more sense to move him around the field.

Woodson was a freak. Deion Sanders was really, really fast and so you could do a lot of things with him defensively.

Wayne Haddix gets a special mention because, honestly, I had never heard of him. He kind of came out of nowhere in 1990 for Tampa Bay — for the first and only time in his career, he started 16 games, and he made the Pro Bowl. He had seven interceptions, three of them he returned for touchdowns. Yeah. Three returns for touchdowns.

He was out of football two years later, but he happened to have his one Mark Fidrych season just when Tecmo Super Bowl came out. And his Tecmo character was fantastic and a complete surprise. One day we were just playing the with Bucs for no apparent reason — that team was both terrible and thoroughly uninteresting — and suddenly we’re watching Haddix running entirely across the field while the ball is in the air and make interceptions. It was like discovering gold in the local river.

* * *

Position: Returners
1. Leo Lewis, Minnesota
2. Dwight Stone, Pittsburgh

One day our buddy Andy decided to put Leo Lewis back to return kicks for the Vikings. Lewis was something like 59 years old at the time. I cannot remember if he was the default kick returner or if this was Andy’s genius as a coach. Whatever the case, Lewis returned like three kicks for touchdowns. From that point on, we realized Leo Lewis was one of the game’s great unknown weapons.

* * *

It is both possible and likely that I got some of these rankings wrong. I am working, after all, off a long ago memory — and I’m at the age where sometimes I will go on an errand, arrive at the store, get one of those little baskets and then realize I have absolutely no idea why I came.

But the memories from Tecmo Super Bowl are different, stronger. The kids today have a huge advantage when it comes to their deftness, their connection to technology, their acumen with the most complicated games. But there was an advantage to our time too — we were not only free to use our imagines, we were basically forced to use them. Tecmo Bo Jackson didn’t look anything like Bo Jackson. QB Eagles didn’t even have the real name. These were cartoon blips of light, laughably crude when you look back. But we connected them to life.

I remember playing a season with the Cleveland Browns. They were the most frustrating of teams. First of all, they were terrible. They had some decent players — QB Browns was fairly accurate (Bernie Kosar) and Kevin Mack could bowl over defenders as a runner and Mike Johnson wasn’t a dreadful linebacker. But, in general, they were absurdly limited. And even if you could coach them up, it took them FOREVER to score. There wasn’t a big play anywhere to be found on that team. To win game, you needed to just control the clock, control the clock, control the clock. It was less video game and more rock hammering.

But I did take them to the Super Bowl against the computer somehow. And we won it. I’m not going to tell you that it made any dent on my cursed life as a Cleveland Browns fan. But I will say it’s the closest my Browns have ever come to a championship. Hey. It’s something.

72 Responses to Tecmo Super Bowl

  1. The Dangerous Mabry says:

    I was more of a Tecmo Bowl man than a Tecmo Super Bowl man. And that game was Mark Bavaro all day long.

  2. adam says:

    Fantastic post. I barely played Super Tecmo Bowl, but in the original Tecmo Bowl I loved playing as the Giants so I could control LT on defense. He was so fast, I could usually stop field goal attempts in their tracks by having him tackle the holder before the ball was kicked.

  3. It’s been awhile but if memory serves Joe Montana was not on the Chargers.

  4. I fully expect a lengthy post on Sega Hockey after this great piece, because that actually *WAS* the best video game of all time.

  5. steve says:

    Bob Nelson, NT for the Packers, was the best defender I played with. Down-arrow/dive with Bob Nelson (and for most other NT but Nelson and Dan Saleamua (sp) especially) would stop any play– break up run plays at the hand-off, sack the QB, etc. It was really cheating. I got over 100 sacks in a season with Bob Nelson.

  6. That Guy says:

    Joe, I love your stuff, but if you’re going to go to great pains to distinguish between Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl, you can’t put only “Sega hockey” as an aside. Add the year.

  7. wogggs says:

    Joe, this is a testament to your writing. I’ve never heard of this game, and yet I read the whole article. I did used to enjoy Madden on the Nintendo 64 around 1990, though. Circle me first, by the way.

  8. bsg says:

    Thank you Joe, that was awesome.

    Do you have a favorite video baseball game? MLB is reviving RBI Baseball. But the twitter world is arguing between RBI, Bases Loaded and Baseball Stars as the best 8-bit Baseball game.

  9. Moulds33 says:

    You did pretty good going by memory only. There’s a lot of us who still play both online and in live tourneys. You should come to the “super bowl” of Tecmo tourneys in Madison WI on March 8th this year, over 200 entrants. Check out for details!

  10. Johnny says:

    I miss when games had soul. Today it’s all about that dollar. I grew up on Tecmo Bowl, TSB, John Elway’s quarterback, Joe Montana Football, and plenty other NES, SNES & Genesis sports games. I pick up a Madden about once every 5 years (it’s so painful to sift through what amounts to commercials & product endorsements) but I always keep a season of TSB going on the ol’ NES for those times when I just want to play some old school football.

  11. John says:

    I agree about the buttons. At 30, I find I’m just uninterested in learning how to play a new game. I don’t have the muscle memory to hit seven different buttons in the proper sequence, and I don’t have the memory to learn the sequence anyway.

    But I dig Mega Man 2 out of the back of the closet, I find I still have the timing for most the jumps in my thumbs.

  12. Tom says:

    Joe – not sure what you mean by Sega Hockey. Was that for Nintendo also? Or do you mean NHL 94?

  13. Ben Godar says:

    Great post, but you have seriously underrated Christian Okoye. (Taps break-tackle button, wins)

  14. P.A. says:

    A friend of mine and I played hundreds, nay thousands, of SEASONS of TSB and we were always the Chiefs and lost less than .1% of the time (I honestly believe that to be pretty accurate). We’d play seasons in one sitting 2-3 nights per week over the summer. We’d regularly rush for 5,000 yards and 80+ TD’s in a season with Okoye, DeBerg would throw for 4,000 and 40 TD’s with DeBerg. But the key was Derrick Thomas, who would rack up more than 80 sacks a season, 15-20 safeties, 10 fumbles forced. GREATNESS. On excellent, he and Okoye were the best O-D combo in the game. We’d run back to the 1 yard line on kickoffs just to get 99 yards on a 1 play drive. Playing the Computer was a joke as we’d score more than 1,000 points a season. Playing each other was tons of fun, but it was tough to decide who’d get to be the Chiefs. Best. Game. Ever.

    RBI Baseball is distant second, followed closely by USA vs. USSR Hockey.

    • ksbeck76 says:

      A thousand times yes: Derrick Thomas and Christian Okoye made the Chiefs completely unstoppable. Okoye required no skill other than repeatedly tapping the break-tackle button and watching defenders fly off. It was video game poetry.

    • Dolph says:

      P.A. and ksbeck have got it right: I used to play the Chiefs just for Okoye and D.T.

      Joe and several commenters mention individual DTs, but EVERY nose tackle in TSB could get half a dozen sacks a game. Derrick Thomas, though, was so dominant I occasionally played him instead of Dan Saleamua.

      Joe has badly underrated Neal Anderson, maybe the best non-Bo RB in the game. Great post overall.

  15. Yeager says:

    More like this please. You’ll enjoy this, Joe:

  16. SBMcManus says:

    Can’t believe you didn’t mention all the whispers about Techmo Bowl Bo Jackson and steroids. I mean, it’s obvious he was on something.

  17. Gareth Owen says:

    Great article Joe, but the greatest sports video game is “Daley Thompson’s Decathlon” on the ZX spectrum.

  18. Luke says:

    Chris Spielman was unstoppable.

  19. mncharm says:

    1. NHL 94-96
    2. Tecmo Bowl
    3. Baseball Stars


    • jpdg says:

      Yes, yes and yes to baseball stars. Loved that game. You could build your team from scratch and play the Lovely Ladies a billion times to build up your players.

      • DrewK says:

        Baseball Stars was the real deal. I remember exactly where and when I bought it (it was at a KMart, and I was looking for another game; they didn’t have it, so I took a flyer on BS).

        Apparently, I think the relative rarity of the game itself has led it to be so under-rated. Not that many people have actually played the game. It’s phenomenal. (Yes, the present tense–I still have my original NES connected and play it regularly.)

        NES Tecmo story: I got Tecmo Bowl on Christmas Eve 1989 (I was 10-years-old). When we got home from Grandma’s house that night, I pretended to fall asleep and sneaked down to the basement to play the game (I was the Bears and quickly IDed the unstoppable TE pass, though Sweetness did most of the damage). About three-quarters of the way through the tourney, I heard a loud *pop* and looked over my shoulder to see water pouring from a burst pipe in the ceiling. Unfazed, I paused the game, lifted the NES off the floor and onto the coffee table, ran upstairs, woke my parents, ran back downstairs, picked up the controller, and continued to play whilst sitting on the coffee table and with the commotion of my father trying to save the basement from flooding in the background.

        Tecmo Bowl literally saved Christmas for us.

  20. Mark Daniel says:

    Ugh, Dave Meggett brings back bad memories. Not football memories, memories of obnoxious friends from college. By the way, we all knew Lawrence Taylor was a future HoFer when he was playing, but did you know that in the late 80s each of the following players was also a future HoFer, at least according to drunk NY Giant fan idiots?
    Phil Simms, Bart Oates, Ottis Anderson (two T’s? Come on!), Carl Banks, Myron Guyton, Sean Landeta, Leonard Marshall, Maurice Carthon, Steve DeOssie, Jeff Hostetler, JUMBO Elliott, Dave Meggett, and, most of all, Mark Bavaro!

  21. […] Lastly, Joe Posnanski wrote up an article on Tecmo Super Bowl today and who he felt were the best players in the game.  Most people wouldn’t take an […]

  22. Reagan says:

    Few games try for best ever and Tecmo Super Bowl is one of those…

    Great column, Joe. I’m in the same boat – sports games (video games of any kind for that matter) peaked with Super Tecmo Bowl. Like you said, two buttons – that’s all that’s needed. Glad you discussed the differences between the original and perfection that followed.

    One small error: once the ball was snapped, you couldn’t change your player on defense in either version. So you had to pick wisely based on the formation and tendencies of your opponent. This is why great safeties such as Fulcher had so much value – they were so far off the line that even if a running play was directed at your side of field, you could usually avoid the blocker and make the tackle. Much different for an inside linebacker.

    Now on the original Tecmo Bowl, the Marino pass to Duper (or Clayton) was stoppable. Just a matter of timing and taking the right angle. Same with the Cap Boso pass. Same with the Montana pass to Roger Craig. The unstoppable pass was the Bavaro curl route. Your only hope was to get the sack at the start of the play with the nose tackle. No matter what angle you took, you could not intercept that curl route to Bavaro when thrown properly.

    As for Tecmo Super Bowl, I must have gone to video game stores twenty times to ask it “Tecmo Bowl 2” (my words at the time) was out yet. And then one day in December of 1991 I got a call from a place where I had left my name. And life was never the same again. Well, eventually, I got it out of my system. But it was a great year or so.

    Now about this reader comment:
    “Bob Nelson, NT for the Packers, was the best defender I played with. Down-arrow/dive with Bob Nelson (and for most other NT but Nelson and Dan Saleamua (sp) especially) would stop any play– break up run plays at the hand-off, sack the QB, etc. It was really cheating.”
    I recall that sweep runs (and sweep play action passes) worked pretty well at neutralizing this technique. Not every time, but enough to encourage the defender to switch tactics.

    Two questions for everyone:
    DId you ever block a punt? I once (or maybe a few times even) had LT (in excellent condition, of course) tackle the punter before he got the punt off. Just flew through the line and did it. Bear in mind that the returning team doesn’t control anyone until the ball is caught by the punt returner. So it’s not like I did it myself. But it was cool.

    And finally, did you ever have a tipped pass intercepted? I’m not talking about where the cinema screens pop up and show the hands of the players or anything like that. I’m talking about how in Super Tecmo sometimes a pass would hit a player in the hands, bounce off, and land on the ground right where a little X symbol appeared after the tip. No matter how many times I saw that X symbol and ran my defender to it, the ball would land on the ground for an incomplete pass. Until one day in the summer of 1993. By this time, I had played so many games and seen so many incompletes on the tipped pass that I concluded that it was a feature the Tecmo people took out at the last minute to reduce the number of interceptions (competitive balance, and all that). Washington against Detroit. It happened. I ran my guy over and intercepted the tipped pass. I had to stop after and ask myself, did I just see what I thought I saw? And why did it happen this time? After a year and a half of incomplete tipped passes. Did I do anything differently when I ran my guy over? I never figured it out. It never happened again for me. Anyone experience this?

    In closing, too bad the Tecmo people could never make a worthy successor to Tecmo Super Bowl. I wanted the Super Nintendo version to be great. I really did. But it was merely good. I even bought the Playstation version. I think it was recalled it was so bad. I’m pretty sure I returned it. The magic was gone.

    • Steve says:

      Sweep plays to stop the NT defense only worked if the defender didn’t call your sweep on every play (which I usually did). Shotgun QB and quick passes sometimes worked, too.

    • John says:

      I’m glad someone mentioned that you couldn’t switch defenders after the play started so I didn’t have to…

  23. adam says:

    I only had the SNES version, so I never got to experience Tecmo Bo, which makes me very sad. In that game the best running back was Emmitt Smith, who would basically take it to the house every single time you called a sweep. Emmitt Smith wasn’t even that fast in real life but in that game he was basically Chris Johnson with power. It was broken. I’m like 90% certain this is why I’m a Cowboys fan. It didn’t have anything to do with the actual team being good (although that was nice), it was that I could dominate everyone in Tecmo Bowl.

  24. I’m from Detroit and I still have nightmares of my buddy using the Chiefs and being forced to use Bill Jones at RB because Christian Okoye and Barry Word both got hurt. Jones ran for almost 200 yards and my buddy killed me. Whenever I come home and run into him Bill Jones name seemingly always comes up.

  25. Josh L says:

    I remember playing the Madden that came out the year after Dante Hall broke out for the Chiefs. I was playing as the Chiefs and my buddy was a Packer. Hall ended up returning three kicks for TDs as part of some ridiculous 85-65 shootout we had. I just remember how ridiculous that seemed.

    Then I saw someone’s Bo run on YouTube after reading this article. Man, that’s entertaining.

  26. Ian says:

    An all time classic. A co worker of mine sponsors an annual tournament:

    A few years back, Tecmo great Craig ‘Ironhead’ Heyward showed up for the festivities.

  27. My favorite aspect of Techmo Super Bowl was utilizing a super slow receiver, someone like Rob Thomas on the Chiefs. You could just wind up, throw a bomb, and when the screen scrolled over to the right as the ball sailed, you’d notice that Rob Thomas was trailing well behind the DB. And lo and behold, he would jump up and snag the ball out of the air for a nice, cheap 60 yard TD catch. It always drove my opponent nuts.

  28. Reagan says:

    Sure, if the sweep was called, it was toast, but there were two sweep plays and two sweep play action passes. I’m not saying they were all equally effective against that technique, but I remember seeing a lot of defensive tackles go flying…

  29. Reagan says:

    This is a reply to Steve’s reply to me. Sorry I put it in the wrong place.

  30. Muster says:

    Neal Anderson and Mike Singletary were so good that it was easy to dominate with the Bears despite Jim Harbaugh being one of the worst starting QBs in the game.

  31. Ericanadian says:

    QB Lions (Rodney Peete) was like QB Eagles lite. Tim Brown had a depp crossing pattern that was pretty much unstoppable as well. On defense, Ronnie Lott was pretty stellar as well. Loved that game.

  32. Dcott says:

    Dexter Manley in the first one….press b+a to activate cocaine rampage. Unstoppable

  33. :-) says:

    I played Tecmo Bowl. Tecmo super was too advanced for me! I used to have a play I could run vs the compute (I think I would use Miami) where it was a QB draw that you would always get 3 or 4 yards per play if the defense had 3 out of the 4 defenses selected. If the defense had the 4th defense selected he would sack the QB, but you could dump off a quick pass to the flat for about 4 yards in this case. So I could basically get 1st down every series (generally needing 4 downs to do it) and march up the field to score every time as long as my finger didn’t slip.

  34. jpdg says:

    Great post Joe. In the Tecmo Bowl you couldn’t kick against the Giants….I mean other than kicking off, you could stop every kick with LT. Field goals, extra points, punts…all of em. I say “stop” because you never actually blocked anything. You would just tackle the holder or the punter before they get the kicks off. That single handedly made the Giants the second best team in the game behind Bo Jackson’s Raiders. Speaking of the Raiders they were the only team that had a running play for two different players (one for Bo, one for Marcus Allen) though nobody ever used Allen. Also, Kevin Mack was the closest thing to Bo. You could wrap him up, he would just toss you aside.

    One cool thing about Tecmo Superbowl was if you did the season mode, you could always sign Deion Sanders because he was a free agent in the game. They also used this wonky free agent system where each player had a point value and the team had a point cap (like 1500 points or something) and Deion was like 450 points. I remember dumping like 3 or 4 guys at the start of ever season mode to fit Deion on the team.

    Joe you did drop the ball in one regard: How could you not mention the ability to drop back 20 yards and throw bombs that flew 100 yards in the air for TDs? I mean it’s one if the great staples of tecmo bowl and tecmo super bowl.

    • John says:

      You must be thinking of one of the later incarnations for SNES. The 1991 Tecmo Super Bowl Joe’s talking about did not have free agents. Sanders was on the Falcons.

      • jpdg says:

        Good call you’re right, I was confusing it with Tecmo Superbowl on SNES. To be honest, I never knew that Tecmo Super Bowl was on the old NES, which surprises me because I worshipped the original. The version I was referring to was apparently the version they released two years later for SNES.

  35. Just wanted to say thanks for writing this, Joe. It would’ve been worth it for the Bo Jackson lines in here alone, but the whole thing is a fantastic, fun read.
    This game conjures up many fond college memories for me, including a game won on a last-second sack and forced fumble returned for a touchdown by Reggie White while my buddy was trying to run out the clock with Warren Moon. Good times.

  36. Andrew says:

    I regret being too old when video games came out. But if anyone remembers Mattel Talking Football, there were similar emotional highs and lows. My problem was that I dialed up “Gadget Plays” pretty much continuously.

  37. Jeff says:

    Here is one true fact about the real Cap Boso. He was most famous for the time when Darrell Green jumped over his head on a punt return in the January 1988 playoffs.

  38. Trojo says:

    Anyone notice you can move the nose tackle a little off the ball and be able to dive and sack the QB anytime he wasn’t in shotgun?

  39. Max Belz says:

    Great post, Joe. Warmed the cockles of my heart. Did anyone ever play Tecmo Basketball? I had a freakish thing happen once when a player listed as “E” came onto my team and was about 80x faster than anyone. He could only hit layups though. : (

    • Tom says:


      Sure did. I recall there was a quirk in the game where a player could intercept the inbounds pass after scoring, and then immediately dunk. You could do this 10 or 15 times in a row (Charles Barkley was especially good at this) before the inbounder would get frustrated and commit a hard foul.

  40. Matthew K. says:

    I grew up with the SNES version of Tecmo Super Bowl, and though I am a 49ers fan, I remember going 16-0 with the Rodney Peete Lions and scraping to 9-7 with the Patriots, who were truly horrendous.

  41. ChrisC74 says:

    I was in college when the Madden series overtook Tecmo as the dominant football game (mid 90s). And as someone who loved Tecmo, I could never get into Madden like I did Tecmo. It always bothered me too – Madden had such great graphics, it had current players, all my friends were into it, why couldn’t I leave Tecmo for Madden?

    The answer I came up with is that Madden tried to be *too* realistic. Picking plays was no longer fun like Tecmo, it was a chore. Do I play cover 2, do I zone blitz, do I play a nickle or dime defense, etc.? It was all too much. I felt like you had to know the ins and outs of football to get the most out of Madden. And as much as I love football, I wasn’t a student of the game. I just wanted to pick the “Bo Jackson run” or the “Oilers deep pass” and then play the game. And there were huddles and walking to the line of scrimmage and 45 second play clocks…I found myself zoning out during games more times than not. Tecmo had it right, pick a simple play, next screen everyone’s lined up to take the snap…it had a quick pace, like a video game should.

  42. OK…. Going back even further to the late 70s did anyone ever play the arcade video game Atari Football? It was table sized with a large glass display on the table top. There was a play selecter, only a couple of pass plays, and it think maybe a run play. You controlled one offensive and one defensive player with a trackball. Bottom line, you only called for a square out or a long pass. You always had an option to run since you controlled the QB. The trick was to deek the defense, who was controlling the free safety, into moving the wrong way, then pass. If he stayed positioned, then you ran. That strategy was pretty unstoppable. Even if you didn’t get a big gain, you could always pick up first downs. On defense the best strategy was to try to sucker the opponent into making a throw that you could intercept. Without getting a turnover against a good opponent, you really couldn’t stop them. If you got a lead, the best strategy was to go on a long drive and score leaving no time to catchup.

    This was the first real video football game out there… And you, of course, had to go to an arcade and drop quarters to play. This was actually a much better game than most of the consol/TV or computer football games that came out in the early to mid 80s….maybe longer.

  43. ksbeck76 says:

    I remember running a pass play with the Eagles that had four receivers in patters – two left and two right. Two of the receivers would go deep, and two would run 10-15 yard curls. We would roll QB Eagles out either left or right. If either of the deep receivers was open, you could scramble until they reached the end zone and then throw for the touchdown. If they weren’t open (which you would see very quickly), you could just turn your roll out into a QB sweep with the absurdly fast QB Eagles, usually for an obscenely big gain. Sometimes you would have to throw the curl routes just to keep it interesting.

  44. Kendall says:

    I’m surprised you left out Jerome Brown, LB, Eagles. Every season I played with the Eagles (which I did a lot because of QB Eagles), Brown would end up with 50-60 sacks. I would put him ahead of Greene and Lloyd.

  45. Guest says:

    Meh. For kids like me — who grew up on the wrong side of the train tracks and whose parents couldn’t afford game consoles — the greatest video game of all time were those playing cards that were used for Starting Lineup Talking Baseball. To this day have never put my cards into a reader. Maybe it’s an eBay kind of night.

  46. I’m about 20 years younger than Joe, but my family was always behind on game consoles during my childhood (we got an NES when the SNES had just come out). We never had a Tecmo game, because instead we had Super Play Action Football, which is by all accounts better than Tecmo in zero ways. It had much bigger playbooks, but “shotgun bomb” and “3-4 charge right” were enough to win every game by triple digits. (If you wanted to run instead, “wishbone sweep” was unstoppable in the NFL and “triple option” was unstoppable in college. It was a terrible game where little worked correctly.)

    The best player in the game, which included NFL, college, and high school, was the top Tennessee (college) running back. Barry Sanders was fast enough that if you gave him the ball and didn’t score it meant something went wrong, and that Tennessee back (I think he was #30. Based on when the game was set, it should have been Charlie Garner, but the game didn’t have names.) made him look slow. It was crazy. Speed was the only rating that seemed to have any real in-game effect, so the fastest players were the best. However, offense also didn’t really matter since you could just line up all your linebackers in between the right guard and right tackle and get sacks and backfield interceptions at will. Hell, you could eschew offense and defense and just onside kick every time and if you had the timing down you would always get it and score.

    The biggest challenge the game ever had was playing a college season and getting ranked above “ND” (Notre Dame). Even if you slaughtered them head to head, somehow they would still rank number one. I probably played 1000 seasons of that game, and I only once managed to rank number one . . . with Hawaii, of all teams.

    • invitro says:

      ““ND” (Notre Dame). Even if you slaughtered them head to head, somehow they would still rank number one.”

      So you’re saying it was a ultra-realistic game.

  47. invitro says:

    “For a while, I would literally have nightmares — actual nightmares — about Billy Joe Tolliver.”


  48. unebch says:

    My favorite part of STB was going for interceptions because it was more challenging than racking up offensive stats. In my mind, the ultimate accomplishment was returning an interception for a TD. In the thousands of games I played, I only accomplished it once-with Wayne Haddix of Tampa Bay (it was only a 10 yard return). Anyone care to post their record for most interceptions in a season? I got Haddix to 14 one year. Interceptions all but disappeared after week 10.

  49. Ben says:

    Wow, Joe.

    My brothers and I (in our 20’s-30’s) have been playing Tecmo Super Bowl for almost 20 years and still do….we even keep track of our seasons on an excel spreadsheet, and no, I’m not kidding. We’ve gotten so good at it that the only way we make it a challenge is as follows:at some point, I went through every single position player in the NFC roster and switched the pro bowl team to what we call the “Toilet Bowl team” – we’re talking the likes of Maurice Carthon, Mike Tomczak, and practically the entire T.B. offensive line. This combined with some improved changes on the AFC pro bowl roster (including Saleaumua –> Howie Long [how did THAT happen???], James Brooks –> Christian Okoye, whom we would set to KR and PR) and voila! A challenge. In fact, reading this post has put me in the mood….GO DANNY PEEBLES, GO!

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