In a day when sports video games are pushing the boundaries with the latest tech and enhancements, sometimes it’s a blast from the past that can make a game stand out. Enter Legend Bowl: A 16-bit football arcade simulation from creator Super Pixel that may remind you of the first football game you ever played — all while still feeling new and deep.
Legend Bowl has been out for a few years now on Steam. Bob did a review back in September 2021 detailing everything he liked and disliked about the game. But with several years of refining and its recent release on consoles, we thought now was the perfect time to revisit Super Pixel’s football game.
Here’s my Legend Bowl PS5 review.
Legend Bowl Review
What I Like
I know I’ll say it a few times throughout the article, but for a game that looks so simple it packs a punch and keeps you wanting to come back again and again. Each game I’ve played has been challenging and has come down to one or two game-altering plays. I even lost a game with a blocked field goal as time expired. Heartbreaking. And unlike other sports video games, Legend Bowl rarely felt scripted — or that I was destined to lose. The ratings in the game really mattered, and you could see #elite players played like elite players.
Ball carriers were able to perform jukes using the trigger buttons, and stiff arms and hurdles were also at your disposal. But just like any football game, nothing felt more rewarding than bouncing a run to the outside with a speedy back and getting around the edge to daylight. Yes, offensive linemen would look lost at times. And in some instances overlook a defender, leading to a sack or tackle for loss. But overall, I’m happy with the core gameplay. It felt like a hybrid of Tecmo Bowl and Madden. Most anyone could pick up the controls and play. But to truly master the controls and the audibles and all the other tools, it takes time.
The passing game was very reminiscent of other football games. X would snap the ball, and then each receiver would have an icon hovering over them as they ran their route. Playbooks were rather extensive and had a plethora of pass plays. After deciding which receiver you want to throw the ball to, you must hold the icon to determine the velocity of the throw. Madden has implemented this in recent years. It was easy to use and no different than Madden’s kicking meter or the pitching meter in MLB The Show.
It was fun and challenging. Each game felt like a battle, and that’s what I want from a sports video game.
Graphics And Presentation
The game’s overall design and presentation are part of the lore of Legend Bowl. I could hop in a time machine and revisit my earliest memories of going to the video game store with my dad and always renting the latest pixelated football or hockey video game on my OG Nintendo. This took me back to those days, and I think that’s precisely what the developers set out to do. They want you to revisit and completely reinvent your early days of playing sports video games.
For as simplistic as the game may look at times, there’s a lot you could overlook. Watching camera operators and referees run around on the field is a treat. The chain gang coming out to measure a first down. They even show your player lying on the field during an injury before being carted off. All in 16-bit. And the level of presentation pre-snap and after big plays can make things feel important.
I also really enjoy the Mutant League-like dialogue during games. Whether it’s a player trash-talking after a big play or the commentary team making a snarky comment, the quirky dialogue adds to the presentation. If I’m struggling, I look forward to the jokes about my anemic offense — with the corresponding graphic of my running back rushing for one yard per carry.
It’s different, and I mean that in the best way possible.
One of the concerns Bob had in his initial Legend Bowl review was whether or not a bare-bones season mode would be enough to keep gamers interested. I think his concern was valid, but thankfully, we don’t have to worry about whether or not season mode is enough because the console version releases with a deep franchise mode.
The stat tracking is solid, and after a few sims seem realistic. You’re treated with a new newspaper clipping each week recapping your previous week. This felt a lot like the old Madden franchise modes I can remember. Seeing a pixelated image of your coach grace the front page of the newspaper during a winning streak or your quarterback after throwing two picks in a loss adds to the week-to-week storyline. Best of all, franchise mode doesn’t appear to have an end in sight, so you can play for as long as you like building your legacy from one season to the next.
The Draft and free agency weren’t anything to write home about. Players would hit free agency, and you’d have the opportunity to pick them up off waivers. During the draft, you can see each prospect’s ratings and how they’d fit the system. I think having a PC and potentially implementing draft classes would be cool. But overall, they did a great job of building draft classes and making the offseason feel realistic.
With EA still holding a monopoly over the NFL video game market, customization in football games is a necessity nowadays. Legend Bowl has a few stock roster options, but you’ll have to spend some time tweaking the “Pro 24” roster if you want real-life teams. Doing this could be a game-changer, but I can’t pretend like I didn’t enjoy some fictional players, along with their random roster photos. It was unique but still doesn’t compare to full NFL rosters.
In addition to having the tools to customize each team, their mascots, uniforms, and logo, there are several options to choose from when editing players or creating a head coach. It’s not super intense, but there are a ton of options to work with.
What I Dislike
It’s a minor gripe, but not seeing replays after big plays is a little bit of a letdown. A few times, I had a nice pass breakup or felt like I had an open wide receiver and wanted to revisit the play but couldn’t. So, I think adding instant replay would’ve added to the gameplay experience. It also made me realize that I may or may not have taken that feature for granted in other sports games.
But ultimately, I think it speaks volumes to just how good Legend Bowl is if one of the few things I have to gripe about is the inability to see a replay.
It’s nice to have a franchise mode, which gives you the opportunity to build your team the way you intend. But as far as how much I’d like to continue playing Legend Bowl, it kind of reminds me a lot of Retro Bowl in that regard. Retro Bowl is one of my favorite football games in recent memory. It was endless fun and unique. I played it relentlessly for weeks, months, even. But after a few seasons, I felt like I accomplished everything I set out to do. I can see the same thing happening with Legend Bowl. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you may be done playing Legend Bowl by the end of the year.
However, I bet I would feel completely different if I played on a PC and had the opportunity to download some of the user-created content that will inevitably be available.
For those who love playing football video games, at $24.99 I think Legend Bowl is a must-buy. From its quirky dialogue to the adorable little 16-bit football players to everything in between, it’s a game you’ll quickly fall in love with. Sprinkle in its incredibly deep playbooks, extensive customization options, realistic gameplay, and in-depth franchise mode, and Legend Bowl can go toe-to-toe with any football game on the market.
It’s not perfect, but in a day and age when so many games are trying to push the boundaries, Legend Bowl‘s simplistic visual approach and heavy intent on gameplay is a treat. Give Legend Bowl a chance, you won’t be disappointed.