Arcade football games – my top 5

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An American football game

Were you the type of person to survey the arcade for football games before inserting any of your coins? If so, you will appreciate this set of rankings. Strap-on your helmet and lace up your cleats, today I am going to bring you into the huddle for my favorite Arcade Football Games. Alright, the boys are ready: let’s go!

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5. Football Frenzy (developed and published by SNK in 1992)

Football Frenzy arcade version

Another fun sports title included in the Neo Geo Mini International lineup. Please check my review for the whole game list

Football Frenzy is a solid, realistic simulation of gridiron action. Massive stadiums get filled to the brim with loud fans to watch you play on the football field. You can play either a one or two-player game, and the controls are pretty straightforward.

You need to rapidly tap the turbo button in this game to increase your chances of getting the win. This is going to be necessary since all the players sprint like they are playing on a quicksand field. So, get very comfortable with the A button, because you will need it a lot. The A button is also used for kicking. The other buttons are for passing, blocking, tackling, and switching defenders.

There are ten teams to choose from in Football Frenzy. The Wolves, Scuds, Pitbulls, Cobras, Bullets, Bisons, Rhinos, Vipers, Crushers, and Hit Men are your options. Everyone involved profoundly cares about what is happening on the field. The players, coaches, and cheerleaders have some type of reaction to every play.

The graphics, sound effects and animations do make this game stand out. Cut-scenes for first downs and touchdowns are simply fantastic. Why at number 5, then? Well, unfortunately the gameplay has its flaws, and a not-so-bright AI keeps it from ranking higher on this list. Despite this, there is still a lot to like about this title.

4. Pigskin 621 A.D (developed and published by Bally Midway in 1990)

Pigskin 621 A.D. arcade version

Tip: there are some weapons laid around the field. Pick them up to temporarily knock out the next opponent who tries to fight you

When Midway dropped Pigskin 621 A. D machines in arcades, it was pandemonium. These “Ancient arch rivals on a rampage” go crazy. Playing this game was like jumping onto the pages of a comic book.

The maximum number of players for this title is two, and you are the leader of a renegade band of warriors with a bad attitude. In a one-player game, you control Thor Akenbok, a rogue pigskinner and former all-star grunt back. You cannot switch players because you have to lead by example.

This game is a riot! There are no first downs, penalties, or rules whatsoever. After selecting your skill level, you will pass, punch, and punt your way past your opponent’s end zone.

Obstacles are abundantly featured in all the action. You have to contend with bottomless pits scattered across the field, bonfires, and bushes that can knock you silly. The holes have trap doors, and you never know when they are going to fly open. When the game is nearing its end, and the score hangs in the balance, you hear “Send in the Troll”. That is when a green goblin character joins the losing team and starts wreaking havoc.

The graphics and animations are legendary, but it must be the sound effects that make me like this game so much. Whenever someone falls in a pit, they scream, “Aaaaahhhhh!”

3. Rushing Heroes (developed and published by Konami in 1997)

Rushing Heroes for the arcade

I will be honest: with an NFL license, RH would have probably been my number 1 pick…

Rushing Heroes was released 23 years ago and it is still a joy to play. The animations and gameplay are smooth and fluid, the 3D graphics are breathtaking. The music and sound effects are great. Whoever the commentator is deserves props too.

You get to select a team one of the 30 teams available (all cities with NFL franchises) and you, along with another player, compete against the computer or two other players. Each team has four ratings to consider before picking one. Those ratings include Passing, Rushing, Blocking, and Tackling.

Setting up your blocks and finding your seams is immensely pleasurable. The artificial intelligence of all computer controlled players was masterfully done. You can tell linemen, and even special teams players want to create gaps so you can hit holes with authority.

The team you pick is thrust into a playoff bracket, so Rushing Heroes is not for the faint of heart. Everybody is out to win that trophy, and it will take hard work to get it!

2. Tournament Cyberball 2072 (developed and published by Atari in 1989)

Cyberball 2072 arcade version

Its predecessor – simply called Cyberball – was released in 1988

This may be an accurate representation of what football will look like in 2072. The games are set in the year 2022, however. I am not sure if robots will take over that soon, but who knows?

The standard Cyberball 2072 machine had two monitors with each cabinet consisting of two sets of controls. The teams have seven players occupying the field at all times. All of the players in the game are robot avatars. Linemen are equipped with Caterpillar tracks (wheels you would see on a tank), and quarterbacks and skill players have hoverboards. They all have arms but no legs.

There are two types of gameplay: Regulation or “Game Breakers” Situation Cyberball. You are required to choose a coach for your team before starting a game. The coaches are actually animated people. You can select I.M. Payne, Doc Davis, Sky Rodgers, or Grace Savage. They all have big egos, making statements like “My powerful ground game will crush you!”.

You do not move the sticks with traditional first, second downs, and so on. Instead, the ball is either cold, warm, hot, or critical. Displayed at the top of the screen under the scoreboard, it tells you the number of yards needed to “Defuse.” This is the number of yards to the goal line. When the ball is “Critical,” it is essentially either fourth down or a conversion play.

Punting is non-existent. For kickoffs, the ball is launched from a contraption that erects from the field. In addition to the regular score of the game, you are awarded “Team funds” for scoring touchdowns and other plays. The graphics are top-notch, and all the sound effects are digitized – which increase the futuristic atmosphere.

Last but not least, competing against human players is a blast, I lost count of how many tournaments were held at my local arcade, back in the day. Unsurprisingly, many consider Cyberball 2072 one of the most fun Atari arcade games ever.

Honorable Mention:

High Impact Football (developed and published by Williams in 1990)

High Impact Football arcade version

Tip: a good way to avoid being tackled is hop one’s way to the end zone… Not that realistic, but definitely effective

High Impact Football has 15 teams to choose from. They include American cities with NFL franchises and an African and European team. The graphics and sound effects are superb with great cut-scenes. The most memorable one happens to be of a player bashing his head with a clipboard after a loss.

Manic Max is our crazy commentator (some great voice lines here), and you have a roaring crowd to please, unless you want to be soundly booed!  Unfortunately, this is not an easy task, when you can only walk your way to the end zone. For some reason, there is no speed button and you cannot run with the ball, thus becoming an easy target for tackles.

Overall still a fun title, but without that annoying aspect, I would be telling you a different story…

Hey, do not take off your helmet, it is time to meet the baddest boy of them all…

NFL Blitz 99 (developed and published by Midway Games in 1998)

NFL Blitz 99 for the arcade

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NFL Blitz 99 is the second installment to the NFL Blitz series. Many consider it as the sequel to Williams’ (now Midway’s) previously mentioned High Impact Football. The game uses real NFL teams and players with up to four people able to play at a time.

It is highly likely this game was inspired by NBA JAM since the action is over-the-top outrageous. NFL Blitz 99 has a more realistic feel to it actually, but it is a title that was not afraid to make its own rules, that’s for sure. The developers expect greatness from players of the game, with each drive starting as a first and 30.

You can leap and hurdle through opponents on offense. There are also spin moves to use that are basic, albeit effective. Players pick up and body slam ball carriers. Sometimes, the tackler will decide to grab the opponent by the arm, spin him around, and throw him down. This is a good game to play against someone you are mad at, because, after a play, a wrestling match ensues.

Music and sound effects for NFL Blitz are in a league of its own. The players on the field engage in trash talk at every opportunity. These brutes say things like, “You’re going back to your mom in a box” and “I’m going to blank you up!.” Their language is a little more colorful than the words I used, lol. NFL The graphics are extraordinary, and this is an all-time excellent arcade game.

The arcade football genre did not fumble during crunch time for its fans. It may have thrown an interception or two along the way, but still earned an impressive victory. All of these games are good, with varying strengths and qualities.

It is important to me that you enjoyed My Top 5 Arcade Football Games ranking list. If you did, be sure to subscribe to get notifications of future rankings. That being said, what was your favorite, retro folks? Can you think of a title I snubbed? Please let me know in the comments section.

Till next post!


About Andrew A.

Andrew is the founder and owner of RetroGamingLoft. He considers himself a natural-born gamer and is on a mission to keep our gaming memories alive through the medium of Retro Stories. His event recount includes hopes, dreams, broken joysticks, magic, nostalgia and another final boss defeated.

4 thoughts on “Arcade football games – my top 5

  1. Riley

    I have not always been a big fan football or footballing games but this list is not bad at all. I know my brother would seriously love to check this out because he is still a big fan of the game in itself. Atleast I have been able to learn about some of the arcade game makers of the past couple of decades. Nice!

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Riley and thanks for your comment, I am glad you appreciated my list. 🙂
      It would be great if your brother chimed in and – as a fan – shared some memories… He is absolutely welcome here.
      Also happy that you learned something by reading my post, hope you stay tuned for more!

  2. Rick Elie

    There was an arcade in California that I used to play a American football game in 90-92 and the team I used was Europa I believe it would cost between $2-$3 to play an entire game. Any chance you can find the name of that football game


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