18 January 2010
Tecmo Super Bowl III - Super Nintendo
Player trades, upgradeable created players and cumulative franchise modes.
For today’s Madden gamer, all of these features have become standard practice. When you shell out $60 every August for the new version of Madden, being able to craft your franchise with front office expertise is something that gamers have to come expect.
But these features weren’t so routine in 1994. In the days of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, re-arranging your roster or creating a new running back out of thin air wasn’t something you even considered as a possibility. In the days of 16 bit graphics, football games were football games and arm-chair general managers simply didn’t exist.
Yes, there were season modes where you could try and run the table from September into January but after The Super Bowl your roster remained the same. There were no opportunities for trades and players who had a great season weren’t about to see any increase to their speed or tackle break ratings.
At least not before Tecmo Super Bowl III (TSB3) came out.
Building on one of the most historic sports game franchises of all time, TSB3 was the first release that ever allowed gamers to make off-season trades. While trading for draft picks or sending multiple players away wasn’t an option, fair trades were something the computer recognized.
For example, I can still remember trying to repeatedly trade Marshall Faulk (still on the Colts) for Natrone Means (he played for the Chargers) and getting shot down every time because while Faulk is an historically better player, Means was the man in mid-90s.
Outside of trades, TSB3 was also the first game where you could design a player, with a name, number and everything else. If he was a running back and had a 100-yard rushing game, you could expect to have some points waiting after the game to level him up, like an RPG character.
And on top of all this, if you won The Super Bowl three years in a row you unlocked a slew of Hall of Fame players. You couldn’t sign all of them, however, because each one had a certain number of required points for acquisition, like a free agent salary negotiation without dollars.
It’s for all of these reasons that I can say with complete confidence that TSB3 is the greatest football video ever made. This may seem like a silly statement with the sheer beauty and depth put out by Madden games today, but TSB3 didn’t have an Xbox 360 engine. It had SNES capabilities so trying to compare the two side-by-side wouldn’t be fair.
Instead, you have to look at what gamers expected to get at the time. When I cracked open "Madden 10" this summer, I expected it to be visually appealing with smooth player mechanics and, of course, off season roster building capabilities. When I played TSB3 for the first time, I expected it to be Tecmo Bowl, which it was. What I didn’t expect was that after years of crying to the Video Game Gods for some front office control my prayers would finally be answered. What I didn’t expect was that me and my friends would obsessively spend months and even years building and re-building our franchises.
What I didn’t expect was that everything I always wanted out of a football game would actually come to fruition.
By George Morse