I don’t own many sports titles for the Super Nintendo compared to other 8 and 16 bit consoles such as the NES and the Genesis, but the 3 I do own are 3 of my most played games on the system. Prior to EA’s NBA Live franchise, the best basketball game I ever played was Tecmo’s NBA Basketball on the NES. The debut game in the long running franchise, NBA Live ’95 came out in 1994, only a couple of years later than Tecmo’s offering. For me, it was a superlative title the first minute I played it. The gameplay felt exceptionally smooth as jump shots, slam dunks, free throws, defense, rebounding and passing were perfected. The isometric court view point made so much sense that every game before it instantly felt obsolete. There were certain NBA players (e.g. Jordan, Barkley) that weren’t in the game so that was bummer and that instantly made the Bulls and Suns less desirable to choose unless you were a huge Toni Kukoc, Scottie Pippen or Kevin Johnson fan. What made NBA Live ’95 so good besides it’s versus mode was its depth. You could play as a team through a full 82 game schedule or a reduced version all the way through the playoffs. You could trade for players and save all team and player stats over the course of a season. You could even call offensive and defensive plays, which admittedly I never bothered with. But it was there if you wanted that level of control. My college roommates and I would play this particular incarnation of NBA Live routinely, years after its initial release. I loved this game so much I eventually had to buy an updated version in 1996.
NBA Live ‘97 had updated rosters and it even kind of had Jordan and Barkley in the form of nameless characters on their respective teams’ rosters that just so happened to have the same stats and skill sets. At the time, these were good enough reasons for me to buy the game. All the features from NBA Live ’95 remained intact but Live ’97 added the “create a player” feature, which was a pretty darn cool addition. I liked using it to create recently drafted rookies that didn’t make the game. Of course, I usually made them way better than they should have been but it was a fun way to add new life to the game as the years went on. Overall, NBA Live ’97 is more of the same but updated.
Tecmo Super Bowl 3 intrigued me upon its 1995 release thanks to my obsession with Tecmo Super Bowl on the NES several years earlier. I wasn’t disappointed as this game was almost as much fun on the SNES. As with most sports titles, what makes newer editions stand out are updated rosters/teams (Hello Panthers and Jaguars! Rams, welcome to St. Louis!) as well as new features. At this time, the “create a player” function was something new and amazing and like with NBA Live ’97, I used this feature not to create a made up player or a version of myself, but to add recently drafted rookies to their respective teams. What always made the Tecmo series of football games more desirable for me over the Madden franchise during the 16 bit era was the ease to pick up and play. Tecmo’s games didn’t overdo it in the play calling department and didn’t make completing a forward pass or a run for gain so challenging. These games were all about offense if you exhibited enough skill and I always felt like the Madden games were more defensive battles. Because I had played so much Tecmo Super Bowl on both the NES and the Genesis, it was like I was visiting an old friend when I popped Tecmo Super Bowl 3 into my SNES for the first time. Without reading the manual, I immediately knew how to play the game and that is such an underrated quality for a sports title. This was a spectacular final bow for the Tecmo Super Bowl franchise on the SNES.
Currently in my collection:
NBA Live ’95 – game, manual, box A-
NBA Live ’97 – game, manual, box A-
Tecmo Super Bowl 3 – game, manual, box A