I've not had the greatest of times with video games of American Football on this list so far, but Tecmo Super Bowl for the NES is said to be the pinnacle of the sport's representation on home consoles, to the point where there is still a dedicated following 25 years later.
That must mean it's pretty good, right? Being continually hacked with current roster updates, played in worldwide tournaments, included in a list of 1001 must play video games... Just what am I waiting for?
Hut hut hut and all that.
Tecmo Super Bowl lays claim to fully licensed teams and players, simulating a complete seasons worth of games that can be played in a number of ways. For the experts, there is full control over the plays and the movements of the selected player, but for those who want things a little less hands on, there is a coaching mode, of sorts, where you select the plays and watch the computer complete them on the field (or try to at least).
Starting with the coaching mode allows you to see what happens on the field when you select such and such a play. While there are only eight plays to choose from, four running and four passing plays, you can get a feel of how each of them unfold in-game without having to worry about timing your passes or selecting the right player.
They won't always work, of course. The computer is just as likely to miss passes, fumble the ball or get sacked as you are, but even watching the action is engaging, especially with the inclusion of brief cutscenes for key moments of the action.
They're often blink-and-you'll-miss it moments, but they're some of the first steps towards TV-like presentation in an American Football game, and that's pretty much all the modern Madden titles are these days.
After switching over to full manual control, I was surprised at how well I was doing. Maybe it was the team selection, maybe luck, but whatever it was, I was having a good time - more so on offence, but then I've never gotten used to defence in American Football. Don't know why.
Anyway, in-game controls are simple, with the A button starting your play and then switching between available targets, the B button passes the ball - preferably towards your target, but there were a fair few times when it went straight out of bounds, and I don't know why - and the D-pad moves whichever player is selected, handily highlighted with a giant number above their head.
That's all there is to it, really. Run in the direction you need to go and stop your opponent running in the other direction. Most points win. You know all of this.
If there are frustrations with Tecmo Super Bowl, they're pretty minor. Flickering sprites was an issue, sometimes to the point where waiting for the play to end was the easiest way to find out what happened. Knowing where the ball is should be obvious too, what with giant numbers floating above a players head, but I managed to lose that on the odd occasion too.
The other gripes come more from not playing enough of the game to be great at it, or not knowing enough of the rules to American Football, neither of which I can really blame on the game.
I went into Tecmo Super Bowl thinking I'd be in for a tough time, but it just wasn't the case. It's an easy game to get into, especially with the Coaching mode, and feels snappy enough for you to not be too put off by failure, knowing that getting another chance is generally only a few seconds away (unless you're that bad on defence and absolutely nothing is going your way).
Impressed by what I saw I quickly checked out the SNES port, which updates the graphics, as you'd expect, but also adds some sound, weather options, a longer season mode and more, and there are a few sequels to that port too, so I've plenty of potential favourites to check out.
However, it would appear that there's only one winner. It's not the SNES ports and sequels that get all the attention these days, but that charming little NES offering that packs quite a punch. You really should try it out, whether a fan of the sport or not.
While games had licensed players or teams before, Tecmo Super Bowl was the first game to be able to license them both at the same time - and just look at how far licensing deals have come since...
Tecmo Super Bowl, developed by Tecmo, first released in 1991.
Version played: NES, 1991, via emulation.