Totally Biased Presents: The Best Sports Game Ever

In this Totally Biased feature, Grover looks back fondly on Tecmo Super Bowl.

Tecmo Super Bowl, the follow-up to the wildly popular Tecmo Bowl was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System on December 13, 1991. Little did we know what a gift the people at Tecmo were giving us. I received the game for Christmas that year and wore this game out. Simply put, it’s the greatest video game ever created on any system. It still has fantastic playability 20 years later, either on the original NES or as a ROM. I decided that there would be no better second article to write for Totally Biased other than that one that illustrates the greatness that is Tecmo Super Bowl. Reading on, you will find a list of five reasons why this 8-bit masterpiece is better than Madden or anything else EA Sports or others have produced over the last two decades.

Without further ado, here’s five reasons why Tecmo Super Bowl trumps them all.

Well hello there.

5. Halftime Shows
I’m willing to bet you’re thinking ‘why the hell do I need a half-time show in a video game?’ Well, honestly, you don’t, but Tecmo put one in and it’s cheesy, funny and if you were playing this game as a kid, maybe a little exciting. There’s a woman landing on the field in a parachute, cheerleaders can-canning and even the cheerleader who would wink directly at you at the end of the show. That 8-bit cheerleader wants you, go get it. There’s also a marching band and a Tecmo Super Bowl blimp! Not to mention that other cheerleader who ends the half-time show by jumping in the air and you get an up-skirt shot.

However, the true coup-de-grace of the halftime show is the one you get to witness if you’re lucky enough to play in the Super Bowl. The Mighty Bombjacks. The Bombjacks are three people, creatures(?), I’m not quite sure of what they really are, but they’re entertaining. They dance, they fly around and in the big finale the three of them turn into one giant Bombjack and fly off into the sky. Sure beats wardrobe malfunctions and consistently bad musical acts year after year. Hey Goodell, hire the Bombjacks.

The mysterious QB Eagles

QB Eagles

4. QB Eagles
Not every player had the in the game had a name. Some of those players were a bit greedy and wanted more money for their namesakes to be included in Tecmo Super Bowl. All three of them happened to be quarterbacks, two of them were very good, the third was nearly unstoppable. The Buffalo Bills were the cream of the AFC crop in TSB, led by #0 QB Bills, also known as Jim Kelly. The Cleveland Browns were led by #0 QB Browns, also known as Bernie Kosar.

With those two, there is one more and he was the most unstoppable of the three: #0 QB Eagles, also known as Randall Cunningham. The Michael Vick before Michael Vick. QB Eagles could terrify any player controlled defense at any time. He had his own run play, a sweep right that would be devastating if you didn’t call that play. (Note: if you called the correct offensive play while on defense, you would in effect “blitz” the offense.) QB Eagles had speed on par with many of the game’s running backs and if he got outside the pocket he was gone. Not to mention he was a pretty good passer as well. It’s a shame that Randall wanted too much money for his name to be in this game, but because of this the legend of QB Eagles will forever live on.

3. Superstars And Players Who Seemed Like It
Tecmo Super Bowl was loaded with superstars. Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Lawrence Taylor, Howie Long, Derrick Thomas, Art Monk, Deion Sanders, Dan Marino, Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas just to name a few. It wasn’t always necessarily the superstars that made the game what it was. There were players who were very good NFL players who became legends because of Tecmo Super Bowl. The Chiefs running tandem of Christian Okoye and Barry Word were nearly impossible to tackle, Okoye shedding tacklers like my dog Silas sheds his hair. As a kid, trying to tackle Okoye would result in the controller being thrown in absolute frustration. The same could be said for Bears RB Neal Anderson and Giants RB Ottis Anderson, these two had a combination of speed and power that could torch and demolish a defense.

Warren Moon and his group of receivers could torture secondaries because they always had five receivers going and someone was ALWAYS open. Falcons QB Chris Miller could huck one up for Andre Rison and he would leap 30 feet into the air and come down with it every time. Phil Simms had Mark Ingram. Seahawks QB Dave Kreig was the most accurate passer in the game. It was these players who helped make Tecmo what it was. Those frustrating good NFL players that suddenly became Hall of Fame talent because of TSB.

My favorite Tecmo plays

2. Customizable Playbooks
Yes, there were only eight plays to choose from, four rushing and four passing plays, but you could go into the Team Data option and change them. That’s right, the playbook was customizable to your own needs. Each of the four rushing plays that could be changed had a completely different set of plays beneath them. You had to choose a play for up, down, left and right A and B, with each play having eight choices. That means Tecmo Super Bowl had a total of 64 available plays, 32 rushing and 32 passing. For a game released on the NES in 1991, it was way ahead of it’s time. You could tailor your playbook to get the best out of the players at your disposal. In fact, I had a series of plays that I would run on every single team I controlled. They were my favorites and booting up this game 20 years later, I still knew exactly what those plays were.

For those of you that may be tempted to try a ROM of this after reading the article here are my preferred plays:

Up + A: T Fake Sweep Right – the hand-off would be faked up the gut, drawing the defense out of position and then tossed to the second back sweeping to the right (bottom) side of the defense.

Left + A: FB Off Tackle L – A simple play that sends the back off-tackle to the left side of the defense. Assuming you’re not playing a team with a beat at ROLB or RDE you could scoot between the two and crack off a big game.

Right + A: R And S Sweep R – My favorite rush in the entire game. It can be used to deadly effect and you’ll read about why later on in this piece. It’s a flat-out sweep, no deception, no fake hand-offs. The best part about this play, is if the defense doesn’t read it correctly and crash it, one of the lead blockers will go out and throw a diving block, potentially taking out two or three would be tacklers at once. Brilliant.

Down + A: One Set Back Dive – With all the outside rushing in my other three plays, it’s good to have a dive for those one yard touchdowns or when you just need a yard for a first down.

Up + B: R And S Flare C – A pass play with a four receiver set. Of course, that means one RB and the TE act as receivers, but hey. At the bottom of the screen the TE and WR run crossing routes, while at the top the WR runs deep and the RB cuts toward the middle of the field. The second RB from the backfield runs out to the right. Someone is always open.

Left + B: Pro T Flare D – Probably my favorite pass play. The backs run short routes to the bottom and top of the screen and if enough time goes by, they’ll run out, perfect for leading a pass. The TE runs a quick slant to the middle of the field, with the two receivers head down field. This is perfect for “and goal” situations, the TE is virtually open in the end zone every time.

Right + B: Shotgun X Drive – The top receiver and TE run out routes, while the bottom receiver runs a ten yard route and sits. The top RB runs a similar play to the bottom receiver and the RB in the backfield runs into the flat, before running an out. Once again, as with all five receiver sets that I use, someone is bound to be open.

Down + B: Shotgun XY Bomb – I really only need one line to describe this play. It’s a hail mary. Everyone except for the RB in the backfield go deep.

Bo Jackson spiking yet another TD

1. Bo Jackson
There is a reason why that when we played this as kids there was a rule in effect at all times: No Raiders. Simply put, Bo Jackson is the greatest sports video game player of all time. I’ll take it a step further and say that he’s not only the greatest, he’s a sports video game deity. Jackson was a force of nature and the very reason my favorite run play, R And S Sweep R is so deadly. His speed is unparalleled and if you run zig-zag patterns like a three year old that has to pee really badly, he will not be caught. Anyone who has played Tecmo knows that if you run in a straight line, you’ll be run down every single time, whether by the speedy cornerback or the 350lbs defensive tackle. Everyone gets a speed boost.

The Raiders were not a great team in TSB. Jay Schroeder was a serviceable QB at best and receivers Mervyn Fernandez and Willie Gault were definitely good, but Bo Jackson makes this team a Super Bowl contender on his own merit. The defense was solid with Howie Long, Bob Golic and Terry McDaniel, but there’s no better defense than a strong running game to grind the clock and that’s what Jackson could do.

In fact, to research this article, I decided to start a season of Tecmo Super Bowl using the Raiders. The one caveat being that I would only hand the ball off to Bo Jackson. His speed makes him able to do things that other players in the game simply cannot do. I was going to provide a screen shot to prove Bo’s greatness, but Tecmo broke itself statistically after eight games. It won’t count any statistics beyond 255 carries, 4,095 yards and 63 TD. Ah, the wonder of 8-bit technology. As such, I had to write down his carries, yards and touchdowns game by game, here’s the breakdown:

Yes, this is an entire season of Bo Jackson.

There are no typos in that table. None. My argument for Bo Jackson being the greatest sports video game player of all time rests with this table. There can be no doubt.

Not Making The Cut
There are a few other things that make Tecmo the GOAT of sports video gaming, but couldn’t crack this top five list…

The Patriots and Colts are maybe the two worst teams in the game, being led by Steve Grogan and Jeff George respectively. I urge Kris and Yattaw to play a game of this as the Patriots just to see what it was like for Pats fans in the very early 90s before Parcells and Bledsoe.

The Bengals are a good football team! Yes, it’s true, led by Boomer Esiason, James Brooks and Ickey Woods, the Bengals would consistently win their division, of course this was the last year before 2004 that they were any good in real life too. I like living in the past.

The ability to “coach” a team. On the team select screen you could choose to coach the team, that meaning you would call the plays and the computer would do the rest. Another feature that years ahead of it’s time.

The dominance of some defenders. Lawrence Taylor, Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Howie Long, David Fulcher and David Browner were forces. If I played a game as the Giants, I could block every single FG and extra point attempt with Taylor. Bruce Smith would always destroy your left tackle and make passing difficult. In the Raiders season I used as my research Howie Long had 67 sacks!

Tecmo Super Bowl also had fun music, different tunes for whoever had the ball and in the playoffs the music would be even better.

Lastly, the cut scenes. Whether it was a wide receiver jumping 30 feet into the air or diving for a pass, a defender flexing after a sack or the QB fist pump after a TD pass, the cut scenes were awesome.

Tecmo will always be my favorite sports game and I’ll get fun out of it no matter how old I am. I know all the players on all the teams, their strengths and weaknesses. The arcade style of scoring make it beyond fun and like all sports games there will be a measure of frustration because the CPU offense would break tackles or improbably create a pass. This game has hours and hours of enjoyment in it because of every single reason I’ve listed above and many more that you can discover for yourself by playing the game.

Believe it or not, there’s still a devoted community to this game, the wonderful TecmoBowl.org and I give these folks a doff of my cap for helping to keep this beloved game alive. They create ROMs for an NES emulator every single season, providing us all with reasons to keep playing Tecmo Super Bowl. Some of these variations of the game include updated rosters for the most recent NFL season and tweaking the defensive AI so they react better to offensive plays. So if you’ve never played this game, head over there and download the emulator and ROM to experience the greatest sports game ever created.

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