Bless EA. This company is working hard to extinguish crazy every year, and spends several million in the process. But despite my love for American football, I just… find it hard to care. I keep falling for retro revivals instead.
One such alarm clock that has caught my attention for some time is Retro bowlwhich until now was a mobile-exclusive 8-bit app NFL experience that is functionally quite similar to that of the classic NES Tecmo Bowl.
I wrote about Retro Bowl in 2020, describing it as carrying “the spirit of Blitz” – that is, NFL Blitz, one of the greatest sports games ever made. Retro Bowl’s 8-bit aesthetic means it’s simpler than Blitz, yes – but the heart is there, the energy. And now, Retro Bowl just released on Switch.
Retro Bowl is pretty straightforward, all things considered. It has easy-to-grasp controls that let you perform basic American football actions and streamlines gameplay down to the attacking side of the ball – defense is played by the AI. It’s a solo-only affair, something designed to be played to kill time on your own. When I fell in love with it in 2020 was when I nearly got trapped in a foreign land as the pandemic suddenly forced the borders to close. When I was sitting hungover on the floor of an airport, waiting for a rescue flight, Retro Bowl kept me sane. All of the mechanics that helped it do so have been lovingly replicated on Switch with true button-based controls rather than touchscreens.
The reason this game works is because of the sheer simplicity of its gameplay. It controls smoothly, with the kind of liveliness that defined many arcade sports games of that 80s/90s era. It takes about two seconds to understand. It even seems – slightly frustratingly – to feature the era-defining aggressive rubber band, where if you go too far your opponent will suddenly turn on the gas. I like this piece a little less, but it makes the matches exciting.
Along with the simple yet sublime feeling of coming down as a quarterback and nailing pixel-perfect threaded passes, the game also features off-the-court action to string plays together. It’s a very light layer of coaching and team management, basically.
As the head coach and general manager combined, you have the ability to hire, fire, draft, trade, and even upgrade your facilities to keep the fans and your players happy and healthy. You’ll have to juggle injuries, upset players, salary caps, and more. It’s simple but effective. Between seasons, you can even hop from team to team, accept offers to go to a shitty team to elevate them with your management and play calling skills.
Of the recent retro revivals, it’s fair to say that Legend Bowl, the PC title I recently wrote about as Madden Killer, is the strongest. It has a 16-bit aesthetic and is an early PC release, which means it comes with more complicated wrinkles and a more realistic presentation. However, Retro Bowl remains excellent – addictive, thrilling and the perfect type of game to keep on your Switch for a quick time killer.
Plus, it’s a no-brainer purchase. That’s less than a five! At £4.49/$4.99, it’s an absolute steal and the perfect pick-up for Super Bowl weekend, when NFL fever grips many of us fiercely.
So here is. Retro Bowl is on Switch. It’s always excellent. It’s got a lot of heart – more than big budget NFL titles. And it’s cheap. The holy trinity, if you ask me – and well worth the trip.