Years of Pigskins Past

Apart from those rare diamond-in-the-rough classics that have enough replay value to pay for themselves 10 times over, video games aren’t usually known for having a very long shelf life.

Apart from those rare diamond-in-the-rough classics that have enough replay value to pay for themselves 10 times over, video games aren’t usually known for having a very long shelf life.

The genre that falls victim to immediate obsolescence the most is sports—just ask any armchair quarterback or mid-field runner about how long you can expect to play any good sports title before having to shell out another $60 for next season’s installment.

Keeping up with changes between seasons—critical game elements like stats, records and player and roster switch ups—seems like it’d be far easier to keep track of now that consoles have made the jump to online play, but instead the sporting heavy-hitters like EA and 2K Sports just end up having to shut down the previous season’s servers on a
regular basis.

But perhaps the biggest complaint that’s long been leveled at the Maddens, FIFAs and Tiger Woods of the video game sports world is that their hardcore fanbase is more often than not essentially forced into getting gouged the price of a new game annually for what’s little more than a cosmetic upgrade.

What’s a sports gamer to do? Few games offer new seasons as downloadable content (kudos to Capcom for doing just that with Moto GP 09–10), so more likely than not you’re going to get the financial screws put to you one way or the other to follow your favorite team.

However, there’s another solution—one that thousands of the most dedicated and savvy gamers have decided to undertake with each new season—at least if you’re a fan of football. Enter Tecmo Super Bowl, one of the most archaic (yet longest lasting) sports games on the planet, having first seen its debut in 1991 for the 8-bit NES.

In its heyday, Tecmo Super Bowl was one of the most lauded sports games to grace any system, complete with a then-revolutionary mode that let you follow your team for a whole season. Legions of gamers still play the game, only now, thanks to the digital age, they’re able to play against each other online, using modded ROMs (computer ports) of the original game.

You might be surprised to learn how many of these modders there are out there—I heard rumblings of Super Bowl elite in the past, but never investigated just how substantial the game still was in some gaming circles.

Similar to the millions of people that still obsessively play Starcraft and Diablo (there are still annual televised tournaments held for the now 12-year-old Starcraft in South Korea), groups of Super Bowl modders painstakingly go through and update the Tecmo coding—whether its graphics, text, or player and team data—to reflect current NFL standings for the current season.

How does this work? Using software emulation, you can download the original Tecmo Super Bowl ROM (sized at just over a fifth of a megabyte), or if you just want to play some current NES-era football, a mod of the current season. The next step, editing, is as simple as downloading the proper editing tools, and having a hell of a lot of patience (I’ll spare you the technical misery that follows).

Once you’re ready to go, all you have to do is host an IP server and share it with your opponent, and before you know it you’ve merged early nineties tech with contemporary stats.

It might surprise you to find out just how many people still like playing the nearly two-decade old Super Bowl online. Even just a quick Google search will yield numerous hits for all manner of forums (one forum had over 50 thousand comments), community pages, fantasy and player leagues and stat recording sites. There are even some mods for other Tecmo sports titles like NBA Basketball.

Although I don’t make a habit of playing many sports games, it’s interesting to see another side of a company that’s now only remembered for its ninja bloodbaths and meticulously detailed bouncing breast physics.

Tecmo may have sucked at naming their sports games during their heyday, but that hasn’t stopped untold numbers of Super Bowl fans from remembering the days when Tecmo still made a difference for gamers.

For more information on Tecmo Super Bowl modding and online matches, visit