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Retro Bowl Review: A Mobile Game That Transcends the Platform

Retro Bowl

Retro Bowl Review: A Mobile Game That Transcends the Platform

Since I first found out about Retro Bowl, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to play it. I was a big fan of New Star Soccer, which helped me get through my years of culinary school. So, when I found out the studio would be releasing a football game, my interest was immediately piqued. I also knew I had to do the Retro Bowl review.

I’ve played a lot of football games over the last 12 months. From text-based simulations like Draft Day: Pro Football 2020, to lesser-known commodities like Doug Flutie’s Maximum Football and Axis Football 2019. Oh, and I’ve also played this little indie game called Madden NFL 20. I’ve played just about every football game that has hit the market over the last 365 days, and Retro Bowl is the best of the bunch.

What I Like

retro bowl review


If you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance you played Tecmo Super Bowl at some point in your life. So, the first thing I appreciated when diving into Retro Bowl were the old-school graphics. These graphics are created by those at Pixel NFL and are unique to the game.

Some players may have similar likenesses or names to those in the NFL, but they are completely fictional and exclusive to the game. Everything from the menus and players to the field stands out in all of its 16-bit glory. Perhaps the nostalgia of the graphics helps mask some of the game’s imperfections. But to me, Retro Bowl wouldn’t be the same game if it were lacking retro graphics.

Getting Started

“Less is more” is certainly a motto that applies to Retro Bowl. It’s a game that is simple yet refined. The game starts with you naming your coach and selecting your favorite team. However, you must know beforehand that choosing your favorite team does not mean you will begin with them. I’ve yet to take over the Miami Dolphins (my favorite team), and I’m in year four of my franchise. So, if you must start your franchise with your favorite football team, you must choose another “favorite” and continue to restart until you land on your magical side. It is my understanding that after you win a Super Bowl or playoff game, you will then have the opportunity to pick another franchise to control.

Beyond that caveat, each team has 10 players, and the salary cap increases as the years progress. There is a free agency period and a draft, which consists of three rounds. Teams will offer you trades, and you can put players on the block as well. Building a team with the salary cap can be challenging, but that’s part of the lore behind New Star Games’ latest title.

Players have “morale” as do the fans, which is very similar to New Star Soccer for those of you who have played. After each game, you will have the opportunity to make critical decisions that will impact a player’s morale. For example, praise the player or the coach? By doing one, you gain experience for your coach and his confidence will go up. Choose the player, and the opposite occurs. There are times when the media may want to meet with you, as well as the owner. Choose the media, and your fan rating will increase. Choose the owner, and you will earn coins that you can use to upgrade coaches, players and the facilities.


As for the gameplay, you only have to worry about controlling the offense, which believe it or not, is excellent. Sure, you’d probably like to have a bit more control on defense when a team is driving late in a critical game with playoff implications, but that’s okay. When you’re on defense, the game will simulate each play and update you with the latest happenings. Once you have the ball on offense, this is where the game truly shines.

On offense, you don’t need to worry about run or pass because you can choose pre-snap before every play. The game decides which routes the WRs are going to run and that changes from play to play. Before the ball is snapped, you will have the opportunity to click on the running back to turn the play into a run.

Alternatively, dropping back with the quarterback, which is triggered by dragging your finger backward from the QB, will result in a pass play. On pass plays, an arc will appear, which you can adjust by sliding your finger accordingly. Pull back further for deep passes, and let off a bit on underneath crossers. It doesn’t take much time to perfect this, and when you do the game becomes second nature.

retro bowl review

While you’re the ball carrier, there is no juking or spin moves to help you elude oncoming defenders. You can slide your finger up and down the screen to try and avoid getting tackled, but being taken to the ground is inevitable. Ball carriers will stiff-arm defenders based on their strength rating and, at times, hurdle over defenders.

As for the game itself, each quarter is two minutes long, but the game progresses quickly, especially on defense. Every season runs a full 17 games, and divisions are accurate to the NFL — same goes for the playoffs. There might not be any NFL licenses or official team names, but make no mistake about it, this is an NFL game.

The Little Things

I already mentioned how nostalgic the graphics can make me feel, and the gameplay is as fun as any football video game I’ve played over the last year. One of the other things Retro Bowl does better than its big brothers is it takes some of the stuff that makes the NFL (or any sport) unique and ties it into the game in a very light manner. For example, you will have decisions to make on players throughout the season when they miss practice, don’t play well, or even have a little run-in with the law.

This isn’t over the top, and it still gives you full control over the decisions that can impact the game in a variety of different manners. Retro Bowl also becomes quite difficult over time. So, for anyone who thinks the game is a bit too easy at first, keep playing through seasons and the challenge will increase.

What I Don’t Like

Replay Value

It is difficult for me to find anything to gripe about with Retro Bowl. After downloading the game, users will have the opportunity to play four games before being prompted to pay $1 for the full version. I’ve had Retro Bowl for a week now and could not be happier with the purchase.

However, like with any video game, the replay value is what ultimately brings consumers back again and again. I’m in my fourth season and have yet to get sick of the simplistic nature of the game. But four or five seasons down the road? It’s hard for me to say I’ll still be as invested by then. But again, for $1 and the amount of time many of us spend on our phones, having a game like Retro Bowl to kill time with is a real treat.

Bottom Line

In the end, Retro Bowl is quite possibly the most fun mobile game I have ever played. Sure, there’s only so much you can do before you’re just playing tirelessly through each season with hopes of winning back-to-back titles. But for a game that seems so simple, it’s anything but simple. As you progress deeper into a season, the game seems to get much harder, and you will need to prioritize the players you sign via free agency and the draft. After spending the last week with the game, it has lived up to the hype and much more.

I’m not sure what New Star Games has planned for future updates with Retro Bowl. Maybe they add a “college season” with different teams and a four-game playoff. Or perhaps they keep tweaking the little things and continue to make Retro Bowl the cult classic it’s slowly starting to become. As I said at the beginning of this review, I’ve played many football games over the last 365 days. Heck, I’ve played a ton of football video games throughout my lifetime. With that being said, very few games have left a lasting impression like Retro Bowl.

I believe this game belongs on the Mount Rushmore of football video games.


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  1. Love this game and been playing it non-stop since it came out..
    But, I ultimately want a couple tweaks eventually, even if they involve IAP, especially if it’s going to be long term enjoyable.
    1. I do want to play defense eventually, even if it’s simplistic. It’s not fun to have the game come down to “needing a stop” and you have nothing to do with it and you just “lose” while watching the game tell you what happened. That sucks and happens a lot.
    2. Play selection. I don’t need it for every down, but on 4th downs I’d like to have 3 plays to choose from (or something similar). It’s too critical. To their credit, you can see what the 4th down play will be before choosing to run a play or kick (punt or FG), but it’d be even better to have 2 or 3 options for the play.
    3. I’d like to be able to kick a FG anytime I want. Sometimes you’d like to kick a FG on a 1st or 2nd down when in range to get the points and go kickoff and hopefully get the ball back while preserving clock (when coming back from 2 scores down).
    4. I’d like optional controller support. The Dev tells me that’s possibly likely since they are making a PC port anyhow.
    5. It’d be nice if you could call timeouts. Maybe you want to stop the clock or maybe you changed your mind on a FG/Punt/4th down going for it decision...who knows..
    6. I’ve played a few seasons now and I do wish the AI had a bit more learning and variety. Far too often I can sit there and just throw endlessly to a RB out of the backfield who’s always wide open, for an entire game, and the defense never adjusts.
    It’s a phenomenal base game that all should purchase and enjoy (you will love it) - I really hope they keep adding to it.
    No you can't choose your team.  You get a team and you'll eventually get offers from the other teams as you perform.  I started with the Jets (New York J) and eventually made my way to my favorite team San Francisco.  I lost a Retro Bowl with the Jets but then won it in my second season as, San Francisco's head coach. I'm in year 8 now.
    My season got deleted as addition to the buying the game....i also lost $3.50 in extra money
    Sent from my LM-V405 using Tapatalk
    What did you guys do after you 100%’ed the achievements? I’m 1 RB away from doing it in Y17 between my initial team of CIN and CAR.
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    This game is incredibly addicting. I've played 5 seasons now, won 2 Retro Bowls. I thought I would win every season once I got my roster going, but it's tough to keep your great players together with the cap and their salary demands.
    I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I play probably 4-5 games throughout a day
    I absolutely love this game. I don't know if they plan to make a follow up, but having a playable defense and editable controller options would be great. Add that and it could probably make for a great Switch/Ps4/Xbox port.
    I edited one of my saves to create all college teams. The customization, although limiting, is good enough to make decent looking college teams. I don't play mobile games for the most part, but this is the one game on my phone.

I like video games and the miami dolphins.

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