Retro Bowl is a free-to-play mobile game phenomenon that makes a triumphant debut on the Nintendo Switch. Do yourself a favor and play Retro Bowl.
Title: Retro Bowl
Release Date: February 10, 2022
Suggested Audience Age: E for Everyone
Time to Play: Less than 8 minutes per game
Availability: iOS, Android, Switch
Recommended for fans of: Tecmo Bowl, simple team management, fast gameplay, wacky sports games, Golazo! 2
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
Retro Bowl is a perfectly crafted video game. This tiny mobile game went free-to-play in March of 2020 and is finally making its way to Switch for just five bucks. It’s a teeny-tiny, retro football game that’s got incredibly basic retro graphics and a longer list of missing features than included ones… and I can’t stop playing it. Because it's great.
What Retro Bowl Isn’t
Retro Bowl is an excellent game, but there’s a lot of stuff that it isn’t, too. Honestly, there’s more missing from this game than there is included, so I want to start by talking about what you shouldn’t look for in this game. (And why that doesn't matter.)
First of all, it’s a football game without multiplayer. There is absolutely no way to play this game with a friend on the couch or online.
It’s got no defensive gameplay. As soon as the other team gets the ball, you just get a few text boxes telling you what happened until they score or turn it over.
There’s no play calling. You can audible a few times a game, but other than that you just see a randomly picked play laid out in front of you and go with it.
Penalties? Nope, we don’t have those here. Everyone follows the rules of football perfectly in this game.
Heck, there’s not even music during the football games! All you hear is the retro sound of pixelated bodies slamming into each other. Beep boop pop booooooop beeeeeep. It's delightful.
Honestly, it’s really kind of shocking how little there is to this game. It’s stripped-down to next to nothing… but just like Snakeybus, the bits that are left are absolutely perfect! Retro Bowl has managed to boil down the essence of a fun football game perfectly.
What Retro Bowl Is and How to Play It
There are two very small, very focused aspects to the gameplay in Retro Bowl. On the field, you control whoever has the ball, and between games, you participate in some tiny management decisions that impact on-field performance.
As the Quarterback, you either hit the B button to snap the ball for a running play or tilt the control stick for a passing play. You throw the ball by tilting the stick to move a cursor around, then throwing either a lob or bullet pass to a receiver as they break for an open part of the field.
Once the ball is on the move, you control the runner by juking up or down and diving… and that’s pretty much it.
It’s stupidly simple, but it works! Everything is fast-paced and fun and engaging, and when you make a bad throw you feel like it’s your fault.
After each game, you go into management mode. There are a few different ways this can play out. Often you’ll get a binary decision, like praising either a specific player or one of your coaches when your defense performs really well during a game or deciding between a meeting with the owner or your players. You get different bonuses depending on what you choose in these decisions.
As a manager, you’ve got “coach points” you can spend to upgrade your stadium, have a morale-boosting chat with your players, or hire new players. Keeping your players, coaches, and fans all happy and excited feeds back into how your team will play on the field.
It really is that simple. That is all there is to Retro Bowl. You take the field, play out your team's offensive performance in four two-minute quarters, then you make a few management decisions and jump back on the field. It's amazingly fun.
As you play out a full season, your team’s stats are stacked against your competitors in the hopes that you’ll make it into the playoffs. Once you get there, it’s time to start working your way through the bracket with the hopes of claiming the Retro Bowl championship.
Whether you win or lose, the end of a season just means the start of a new one, and you go through it all over again. Which is great because that just means you get to play Retro Bowl even more.
I love Retro Bowl. I’ve got a lot of games I’m playing right now that offer big spectacles or amazing characters or heart-wrenching stories… but I keep putting them all down in order to play just one more game of Retro Bowl football. Of course, with how quick and snappy everything in Retro Bowl is, “one more game” usually turns into three or four…or more!
On the surface, there’s not a lot to this game, but that's really what makes Retro Bowl worth playing. It is so easy to pick up that I can’t recommend it enough for anyone with even a passing interest in football games, especially if you can still remember when all games looked like this one.
Plus, it’s still free on mobile platforms, so you should at least give it a shot there. But playing Retro Bowl on the Switch now, I can definitely say it's worth the $5 on the eShop.