Blog ♥ My ten most influential NES games: #9 Tecmo Super Bowl

This is the fourth in a series of posts about NES games. As I described in an earlier post, I've decided to share my highly subjective, personal top-ten list of NES games based on how influential they were to me, one at a time and in no particular order. My choice for #9 on the list is a bit out of left field. Or should I say... end... zone? No, I should not. I shan't. Tecmo Super Bowl.

Tecmo Super Bowl

I don't think of myself much of as a sports-game person, but I really ought to. Konami's LCD handheld version of Bottom of the Ninth was the first video game I owned, and I loved it. When I got my second-hand NES and SNES consoles as a teenager, I spent plenty of time with Blades of Steel, Tennis, and Sanrio Smash Ball. Even my adult years had their sports-game moments. I got caught up in the Skate 3 hysteria a few years ago. Even more recently, I began playing through some of the lesser-known tennis games for the NES such as Jimmy Connor's Tennis, the adorable Famicom game Family Tennis, and Jaleco's Racket Attack, a charming tennis game with an approach to scale, camera motion, and the human body that borders on the surreal. Unintentionally.

Racket Attack

I digress. Tecmo Super Bowl. Of all the games on my influential NES games list, it's the one I've played least. Though I do enjoy many sports games, I don't find football video games to be terribly fun. (And I'm a bit opposed to football on the whole, but that's a story for another day.) If I've barely played it, how could Tecmo Super Bowl be so influential?

The answer can be divided into two parts, and the first of these is the amazing technical execution. The cut scenes, especially the intro, are I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E. Having made a few NES games myself, I know the constraints and yet Tecmo Super Bowl seems to defy them. The game's attract mode begins with a view of a city skyline that then pans down to reveal a football stadium in the foreground. There's a vertical parallax effect that's absolutely mesmerizing because, well, the NES can't really do that... at least, not without some clever trickery with scrolling and sprites that act like backgrounds.

Skyline in Tecmo Super Bowl intro

Tecmo reuses this animation in at least two other games that I know of: Tecmo NBA Basketball and Bad News Baseball. You might also recognize this vertical-parallax technique from the intro for Megaman 2, which starts with a tall skyscraper and pans up to reveal Mega Man standing on its roof.

The animation, art, and music in Tecmo Super Bowl are excellent. I don't need to play the game; I can just sit and watch the attract mode play. It's that good. (Fun fact: you can set up Tecmo Super Bowl matches as COM vs. COM, so you really don't have to play.)

The second factor that makes Tecmo Super Bowl influential for me is the incredible fan community that exists around this game. If you didn't already know, hardcore Tecmo Super Bowl enthusiasts have been hacking the game for years to reflect each year's NFL (and now college) team rosters. There are tournaments, leagues, t-shirts, and numerous websites dedicated to Temco Super Bowl and its surrounding culture.

Intro to Tecmo Super Bowl

While I'm not part of the Tecmo Bowl scene, it's pretty inspiring to see what kind of impact a beautifully-crafted sports game can have, even 25 years later. I always return to Tecmo Super Bowl when I need an extra little push to get more out of the NES hardware in my own projects. And, who knows? Maybe someday I'll actually sit down and play all the through it for once.

Posted December 17 at 8:13 AM while watching an infomercial for a pillow...?