These days, sports-focused video games still have a huge foothold in pop culture thanks to the massive success of series such as Madden NFL and NBA 2K, but 30 years ago, one legendary football title made its way into arcades around the world. That game would be none other than Tecmo Bowl, a title developed by Tecmo originally as an arcade cabinet in 1987 before an equally-successful port was made for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989.
The original arcade cabinet was pretty significant, featuring a two-monitor setup and the ability for up to four people to play at once. However, it only featured two fictional teams, the Wildcats and the Bulldogs. The arcade version of Tecmo Bowl did, however, look a little better than the eventual home port; the arcade setup allowed for a larger color palette as well as some more advanced sprites for the players.
The home port was able to expand on a few things – notably, having multiple teams to actually choose from. While Tecmo didn’t actually have the permission from the NFL to use team names, they were able to choose respective cities from the AFC and NFC to make up the 12 teams featured in the game. These cities were Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Miami, Denver, Seattle and Cleveland for the AFC, and Washington, San Francisco, Dallas, New York, Chicago and Minnesota for the NFC.
The game also mimicked real players, and the most notable of which was Bo Jackson (who also happens to be celebrating his birthday this week). The video game iteration of Jackson, colloquially known as “Tecmo Bo,” was absolutely, completely unstoppable in Tecmo Bowl to the point where it was almost cheating to use him. Players could have him run the ball up and down the entire length of the field with total ease thanks to his unmatched speed.
Tecmo Bowl, though simplistic in many ways, has managed to hold up over the last three decades and today is considered one of the most influential games of all time. Whether players were struggling to catch Bo Jackson or not, Tecmo Bowl proved to be a fun football experience that has largely stood the test of time.