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Video game football has come a long way over the years, but there's still something to be said for the back-to-basics formula that Tecmo Bowl employed. It stripped the football game down to its basic elements and created a fun arcade experience around it all.
Tecmo Bowl is still great fun, and especially enjoyable as a two-player experience – it's easy to see why this game was the Madden of its day. That said, though, there are a couple of caveats to any positive praise. First is the lack of player names – Tecmo Bowl never did have the real NFL teams in it, but you could fake it in your imagination when you saw "Bo Jackson" scroll across your screen. Now even that is gone. And, second, this is Tecmo Bowl. Not Tecmo Super Bowl. It's an important distinction, because most people's fond memories actually apply to the latter, which was the 1991 sequel to this 1989 game. Tecmo Super Bowl added much more to the experience. More teams, more plays, and, most important, the actual NFL license, allowing for the real logos and team names. Don't discount this game, as this first NES Tecmo Bowl has a lot to offer.
Video Game Generation
On the Virtual Console, Tecmo Bowl is a difficult call despite being one of the most important sports titles in video game history. On one hand, it’s still a fun game of arcade football, particularly when two players are involved, and well worth $5 when considering only that fact. However, the missing player names do take something away from the experience, and the far-superior Tecmo Super Bowl is destined to arrive on the Virtual Console eventually. As a result, I can only really recommend Tecmo Bowl to gamers with nostalgic ties to the franchise (such as myself) that don’t want to wait on Tecmo Super Bowl. Everyone else should probably punt on this release.