25 Years of Tecmo Super Bowl

25 years ago today, Tecmo Super Bowl hit American stores. Video games would never be the same. It’s no understatement to say TSB is one of the most influential video games of all time. Tecmo Super Bowl stands beside Super Mario Bros. 3 as a title that defined the Nintendo Entertainment System. It sold hundreds of thousands of cartridges. Tecmo Super Bowl was the first sports title to feature a full license from a sports league and its players. It paved the way for juggernauts like Madden and shifted relations between the NFL and its Players Union.

And still, the game endures. “Tecmo” has worked its way into popular vernacular, shorthand for athletes who seem to defy what is possible. The yearly Tecmo Super Bowl World Championships in Madison, Wisconsin draw players from all over the globe, not to mention coverage from the likes of CBS and ESPN. The fact I’m even writing this column is a testament to the lasting impact of Tecmo Super Bowl. You didn’t see any 25th Anniversary celebrations for John Elway’s Quarterback or Clu Clu Land, did you?

Tecmo Super Bowl is more than bytes of code on a game cartridge. To a great many people, it has meant friendship, fun, and memories that stand tall 25 years later.

JJ Birden – WR, Kansas City Chiefs

I think it’s pretty awesome to be associated with the game. I can recall being with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1991 when the game was released. The season before was a breakout year for me. I caught quite of few long passes and touchdowns demonstrating my world class speed. Fortunately, the designers of the game took note and gave me some nice skills. As players, we spent many off-season days, training camp lunch-breaks and the day before games having Tecmo Bowl tournaments.  To think 25 years later the game is still around and going strong!

I haven’t played for some time, yet I was not bad back in the day. Coincidentally I just found my original game and Nintendo in my garage. It will certainly be a keepsake item. I only had one complaint with the game. If you threw me the ball too many times in one game, I was known to get injured! I always blamed it on a programming glitch.

Christian Okoye – RB, Kansas City Chiefs

I was aware of Tecmo Super Bowl when it came out, but was surprised when I found out how I was in the game a few years after that.

I think I am still associated with the game because of the role, or the Legend, of Christian Okoye. Watch out for me.

Owen Good – Journalist, Polygon

Tecmo Super Bowl is a landmark work in video gaming. It is the first title licensed by both a professional sports league and its player’s union to launch in the United States on a console. It created the most fundamental expectation we have today of sports video games — every player, under his own name, on every team, wearing their own uniforms. In that sense, Tecmo Super Bowl is a father of today’s billion-dollar family of FIFA, Madden, NBA 2K, NHL, and all the rest.

Yet Tecmo Super Bowl is my favorite video game of all time not for these historical distinctions or for any grand claim of lineage. It’s not because I play it that much, or even play it well when I do. It is my favorite video game for what it has meant and still means to the happiness and friendship of so many.

That counts for something. It has to.

Keiji Yamagishi – Sound Designer and Composer, Tecmo Super Bowl

I’m shocked at the fact that there’s still people in the 21st century who continue to enjoy the games of the past. And at the same time, I’m really happy and honored. Of course, it wasn’t only my effort, but also the efforts of those programmers and artists who spared their sleeping hours in order to devote themselves to the development process.

Josh Holzbauer – Co-founder, Tecmo Madison

25 years ago, I loved it as a game. 15 years ago, I loved it as a party. 5 years ago, I loved it as a tournament. Today, I love it as a community.

Lou Raguse – Reporter, KARE 11 TV (Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN)

For me, TSB has always been about growing people closer. When I got the game as a 10-year-old, I got to play against my older cousins whom I all looked up to. They were star high school athletes and I couldn’t keep up in a pickup basketball game, but with TSB, we were on a level playing field and we all loved it and had so much fun. Then when I moved to Buffalo in ’12, I was able to make several good friends there through the local TSB tourneys held.

In Fall ’99 and Spring ’00, I was an HS senior and started TSB tourneys in our study hall for last day of the semester. Was so much fun we still talk about it. And it started a tradition that continued at least until 06-07 when finally the HS kids were too young to have ever played the game.

**And in case you haven’t already, Lou’s interview with TSB director Shinichiro Tomie and lead programmer Akihiko Shimoji is an absolute must read.**

 Matt Knobbe – Founder, TecmoBowl.org

That 25 years later we’re still seeing interest in the game is a testament to Tecmo Super Bowl’s cumulative greatness in the pantheon of sports and NES games. To this day, we’re still trying to piece together how it was done.

Here is a story I don’t know that I’ve ever told: Back in 1995 during my first year of college I purchased a used guitar because I thought it would be cool to play some songs on the guitar. It turns out that you actually need to try and practice a lot if you want to be good, which I did not. At the end of the year, I ended up trading that guitar that I had spent my time practicing on to my college roommate for an NES and a Tecmo Super Bowl cartridge . It’s quite possible I don’t start a Tecmo Super Bowl fan site if I had been more musically inclined.

Chad Mazzola – Founder, TecmoGeek.com

What’s so great about Tecmo, both when I first started playing and still today, is that it’s simple enough to learn right away, but complex enough to keep you interested for years to come. As a kid, after each season was done, I’d type up all the stats for my team and keep them in a big binder. At one point I was able to recite from memory every player on every team in the game. Needless to say, I was hooked.

It’s great to see the continued obsessive level of interest in the game, as people continue to track down every last mystery about how the game works.

 Keith Good – Editor, Tecmo Bowlers

Tecmo Super Bowl, to me, is beautiful simplicity. It’s a game that demands no special skill. It’s just two buttons and a D-pad. It’s an emblem of a simpler time, of riding my bike down the street, leaning it on a tree, and playing a magical season where me and my friends could finally watch the Browns win it all.

Today, Tecmo Super Bowl continues to be a force of profound connection. TSB has provided me with the opportunity to talk with NFL Pro Bowlers like Wayne Haddix. I’ve picked the brain of master NES composer Keiji Yamagishi. I have the pleasure, through these columns, of talking with a wide Tecmo community. We share our stories, our memories, and together create connections which will hopefully last another 25 years.

Dave “Bruddog” Brude – Tecmo Super Bowl Hacking Genius

Tecmo Super Bowl has and still means a great deal to me over the years. It’s been a way to bond with friends and make new friends.  It’s provided tons of entertainment, puzzles to solve, strategies to explore, and a way for me to express creativity through my ROM hacking and roster edits . Some of my best friendships were created from the simple love of this video game. It’s truly been one of the instrumental parts of my life. My life would be so much different without it.

I remember when my best friend got Tecmo, four of us got together at his house and had our first tourney. I won the tourney on a last second 40-yard pass from Montana to Craig. This moment and the whole game is actually on a VHS tape in my closet. This would be the first of many tourney’s and games we would play together. Then in college, I discovered the Tecmo online community. I found it so cool that people were playing with updated rosters. Then, attending Tecmo Madison for the first time was so cool. It gave me the chance to finally meet so many people who I had only talked to online.

Tony “Garbage Man” Orenga – Tecmo Madison Staff & Original Webmaster

When I was a kid, I played this game mostly for the stat tracking and season simulation. I loved that aspect of the game. Gameplay-wise, I loved the flea-flickers – so that tells you the level of sophistication for this kid.

In my 20s, I found an online community that appeared to love the simulation and stat-tracking aspect as much or more than me. It was awesome to find that world. There are some really passionate people who love volunteering their time to make leagues and websites to help facilitate those experiences. It has been great over the years to meet many of those people.

During that time, I also moved to Madison and found a group of crazies that played the game religiously. I originally felt very out of place, but a shared love of the game kept me coming back. It was great to have a weekend ritual of playing the game with a group for a few hours and then enjoying the evening at the Plaza. Some of that group has become some of my best friends over the years.

More recently, as some of us have matured (not quite sure I can say that for myself), we play the game less and less. However, these guys still remain some of my best friends.

The game and its mythological-like characters have brought me joy and life-long friends.

Also, it was pretty surreal to meet David Fulcher! Even more surreal may have been joining a group of North Dakota folks in the woods for an all-day Tecmo tournament!

Dave Murray – Proprietor, Tecmo Madison XIII & Tecmo Bowlers

Tecmo Bowl means friendship. 25 years later I still play the same game with my friends.

Ten-year-old me was freakin’ pumped when I got TSB. I had basically worn out my copy of Tecmo Bowl by Christmas 1991. I played TB solo 99% of the time. My crew wasn’t that into it. TSB became another story.

Once TSB hit, it changed the ‘game’ for us. Already being on a Bo Jackson & Michael Jordan high, being able to overpower each other with the battle of taps and out thinking the other was the greatest feeling. My brother, my neighbor clan and I would play out seasons, keeping a spiral notebook full of stats and world records that we thought no one could beat. We would spend an obscene amount of time learning and playing football because of TSB. We played touch football in the streets and our sidewalk chalk plays were TSB plays. Sweeps were the favorite and easily the most ridiculous to re-enact in a 3v3 game.

Fast forward 25 years, what do I do with my spare time? Play (or talk about) Tecmo Bowl. I’ve flown across our beautiful country to play in TSB tournaments. I have made lifetime bonds from this game. I’ve been invited to weddings because of this game. I’ve been on ESPN, Fox Sports and in numerous articles because of this game. I’ve been speaking to Bo Jackson because of this game. BO JACKSON! I can actually say that Tecmo has changed my life, for the better. Thanks to the Spring Lake crew and thanks to Knobbe for feeding my obsession. Thanks to Bruddog for all the hacks and becoming one of my best friends. Thanks to Casey for making Madison and Gridiron Heroes realities and for a lifelong friendship. Thanks to Josh and Chet for trusting me to carry the TSB World Championships’ torch and for being super great dudes. No thanks are given to Tony the Garbage Man.

April 8, 2017, I am throwing the greatest Tecmo party that there has ever been – Tecmo Madison XIII. I am excited to show honor and respect to our favorite game in the greatest way possible. I will do my best to make this a lifetime memory for those who attend.

Long live Tecmo.

Tecmo Super Bowl – 1991-2016

I suspect very few of us expected to mark December 12, 1991, one year later, let alone 25. For all the friendships which have lasted these past 25 years, we’d be remiss not to mention those few taken early. Junior Seau. Reggie White. Derrick Thomas. The friends and family we’ve shared controllers with. For them, we play on. Every game, every QB Eagles scramble and Bo Jackson run, keeps the memory alive.

And every time we power on that NES deck, we create more of those memories. Tecmo Super Bowl continues to give us endless hours of fun. The Tecmo family has grown from friends up the street to an online community that spans the globe. Tournaments like Tecmo Madison create new friendships and bonds that defy geography. Every “Ready! Down! Hut!” both calls us back to 1991 and pushes us forward. Because when the NES lights up and that familiar opening song plays, we know, that for at least the next few minutes, we’re in for a treat.

Thanks for 25 great years, Tecmo Super Bowl. Here’s to 25 more.


Tecmo Madison XIII - Tecmo Super Bowl Championships


Keith Good

Keith Good is a future Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and 8-bit game geek. A perpetual optimist, he convinces himself every September that this could finally be the Cleveland Browns' year. He was once told to eff off by one of the Tecmo Browns. You can check out his other work at www.keithisgood.com and follow him on twitter @keithisgood.

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