The minute after the two teams to play in the Super Bowl are selected, fans instantly begin speculating who will win, and by how much. Everyone has their own prediction. Some are saying the Packers will win with a huge margin. Others say the Steelers will just barely pull off the win. They cite stats and big plays to back up their assertions, but others like to use simulators, computer programs that literally play out the game to arrive at a certain score. EA Sports’ Madden engine correctly picked the winner in last year’s Super Bowl, the Saints over the Colts. But some retro fans use a different game to make their Super Bowl XLV predictions.
Tecmo Super Bowl was a video game released in 1991 on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was ground breaking for the fact that is was the first game to get a license from the NFL and the Players’ Association to use team logos and players’ names as well as attributes, making it a precursor to Madden. It was an instant classic, blending just enough realism as well as crazy action to keep players hooked.
Let’s fast forward to recent times. EA Sports now holds exclusive licenses on both the NFL and the Players’ Association. On April 30, 2010, the last active player featured in the original 1991 game, Jeff Feagles, hung up his jersey. Many media outlets called this the “end of the Tecmo Super Bowl era.” But if you peek into the world of console emulation, you can see that’s not the case. The game has maintained a cult following over the past two decades. People with the technical know-how have created “rom hacks,” or modifications of the original game’s code, to keep the game up-to-date, since Tecmo no longer can. This makes the game (as well as its next iteration on the Super Nintendo) one of the most modified games in video game history. It’s a cult following, yet prominent enough that TSB simulations have been featured this week on ESPN, Comedy Central’s tosh.0, and a host of other mainstream media outlets.
The primary selling point of the game from the beginning was playing as your favorite NFL team, but it also included a mode that let the computer play both sides. Thus, these Tecmo enthusiasts can run their own simulations using these updated rosters to see how virtually every game in the league will play out, especially the Super Bowl. I recently ran my own simulation using the updated Super Nintendo version of the game and it produced a score of Green Bay: 38/Pittsburgh: 14. One of the cool things with a Tecmo simulation (as well as the Madden simulations) is that you can see the full game, big plays included. Some big plays from my simulation included a fumble recovery by B.J. Raji which led to a touchdown, (pictured above) a 4th and 14 conversion nimbly pulled off by Ben Rothlesberger, and a 61-yard touchdown pass by Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings to seal the deal.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing if this is exactly how it’s going to go until Super Bowl XLV kicks off this Sunday. With limitless amounts of possible variables, any simulation is going to produce different results if executed a second, third, or 5,000th time. Also, if this postseason has taught us anything, it’s that stats don’t matter. The Seahawks, with a losing record in the regular season, beat the defending Super Bowl champion Saints this year. And while Big Ben has seen more Super Bowls than younger gun Aaron Rodgers, many believe this underdog will have his day. When you’ve got the two greatest teams of the season facing off, anything can happen. That’s what keeps people looking forward to this game, especially when they make predictions on how they think it’s all going to happen.