Pining for the Days of Weird Video Game Football

Let’s remember back to when Madden NFL had competition. No, not just 2K. Before Sony’s NFL Gameday too. Let’s roll back to the wild football grounds of 16-bit, and dabble a little in 8-bit as well.

You didn’t always need a license to sell your football game. It was merely a bonus to see logos, teams, and players. You could be Capcom for instance and release a football game with your namesake, ignoring the NFL license you carried with Capcom MVP Football. Maybe you could ignore most of the team and just sell your game on a position: Pro Quarterback. The latter didn’t work so well, so it was upgraded to Troy Aikman Football which made an appearance as the Atari Jaguar’s only true football title, in addition the usual SNES and Genesis arenas.

ESPN Sunday Night Football

The single player licensing must have worked. John ElwayEmmit Smith, and Sterling Sharpe all had their moments of cover honor in video games.

What of the outliers who had nothing? Sammy tried appeasing kids with the simple Football Fury (great music in that one) and SNK arcade’d it up with Football Frenzy. Sega pumped out a great NFL series that began with Joe Montana, and even Nintendo had to try with three iterations of Play Action Football (NES,Game BoySNES). Sports Illustrated decided football wasn’t enough, and crammed their game with baseball as a two-fer.

NFL Quarterback Club 98

This still doesn’t scratch the surface. Mike Ditka Football (oh dear), Super High Impact (a predecessor toNFL Blitz), Konami NFL Football (an unplayable mess), NFL Quarterback Club (Acclaim’s flashy contender against Madden), the Tecmo Bowl series (which greatly expanded on 16-bit), ABC Monday Night Football (a mode 7 nightmare), or ESPN Sunday Night Football (all tech, no style) all had their own approaches to the sport… and that’s off the top of my head.

Mike Ditka Ultimate Football

The point is each of those titles stood out. Whether they had a license or not, they all tried something. Some took advantage of the hardware, some took some goofy chances, and a handful were uniquely identified by their quirks. Whether or not they were good didn’t matter (most weren’t); they all brought something to the table to influence the others.

Super Playaction Football

Now we only have a few outliers. Backbreaker Football and BCFX (to a lesser extent, the enjoyable Backyard Football series as well) are effectively it for this generation. Publishers avoid anything sans license, and thus, we’re stuck with only a handful of options. While few would want to relive the likes of the SNES Monday Night Football, doing so reveals an interesting mechanic that lets players break free for huge gains in a 2D, button mashing mode. Mike Ditka tried stopping gameplay while the QB selected a receiver. Pro Quarterback gave a shot in the arm to visuals via digitized sprites.

Capcom's MVP Football

Each time you put one of these outliers in, you ended up with something different. While most would try a third-person, behind-the-QB view after Madden took off, most did something weird with the passing game. Maybe they toyed with the perspective, or became creative in their presentation. Whatever the case may be, each time you plunked a cart into the system, the experience was certain to be unexpected.

ABC Monday Night Football

When was the last time we could say that about our modern licensed sports games? The start of the PS2/Xbox generation saw Gameday collapse and Microsoft give up their underrated NFL Fever franchise to draw EA onto Xbox Live. Sega tried with NFL 2K, and I assume we all know how that turned out. It’s hard to remember anyone else trying to give the football genre a shot in the arm. The few times it has happened recently, the results were obvious: Backbreaker added physics, 2K created the presentation standard.Madden has since upgraded both.

Imagine if Madden was taking heed from all comers. Where would the core NFL franchise be today?

The Top 5 Sega Genesis Accessories

The Sega MegaDrive - The First Genesis

The Sega MegaDrive – The First Genesis

The rise and rule of the Genesis system led to some nifty accessories.  Here’s five of the coolest accessories that gamers could add to their Sega Genesis:

EA Sports 4-Way Play

EA Sports 4-Way Play

4-Way Play
EA Sports have been making sports-related games for decades, and back in the day Sega Genesis titles were where you went to get your Madden or NHL fix.  But many sports are team games, so Electronic Arts developed the 4-Way Play accessory. This handy little device allowed up to 4 players to play their favourite EA Sports games, so you could have a gamer Super Bowl party, complete with a little pre-game Genesis warm-up!

The Genesis Game Genie by Galoob

The Genesis Game Genie by Galoob

Game Genie
Some Genesis games were hard to beat.  Really hard.  (And some ridiculously easy, but I digress.)  Game Genie by Camerica/Galoob to the rescue!  All you had to do is pop the Genie into the Genesis and insert your game cartridge into it, enter the right code for whatever cheat you wanted, and the game suddenly became a lot easier!  (And you could use the Genie as a country converter cartridge for most games, too – but not officially…)


The Sega Channel by General Instrument

The Sega Channel by General Instrument

Sega Channel
Long before Internet online games, Sega came up with the idea to offer games by download.  This little box attached to the Genesis and to the cablevision line.  Players paid a monthly service fee to get access to unlimited access to 50 or so games, plus limited previews of new releases, as well as special versions of fan favorites.  The service is long gone, but still remembered fondly!


The Sega Power Base Converter

The Sega Power Base Converter

Power Base Converter
Before the Sega Genesis was a hit, there was the Sega Master System.  Although it never reached the market share dominance that the Genesis did, there were quite a few games and consoles sold.  Rather than tossing out the old games (like Phantasy Star!) gamers could pick up the Power Base Converter, which attached to the Genesis and allowed those SMS games to be played on their new Genesis.  8-bit gaming goodness on their new 16-bit gamer powerhouse!  Gamergasm!

Sega CD Accessory - Top and Side Mounts


Sega CD Accessory – Top and Side Mounts

Sega CD
If you had the cash, the Sega CD was a must-have accessory.  It came in two designs, a CD-player style for the older Genesis systems, which stacked on top of each other, and a top-loading style for the new Genesis systems, which acted as a base and the Genesis inserted into its side.  (The Nomad would be released later.) Some of the best games for the Genesis were released on CD-format, including Lunar: The Silver Star, Sonic the Hedgehog CD, The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, and Earthworm Jim.  Now that’s quality retro gaming!