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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #43: Joe Montana Football

Following yesterday's relatively unimportant football game, today we'll discuss a relatively unimportant football video game. There are two reasons I include Joe Montana Football on this list. The first is because there's actually an quasi-interesting inside baseball (inside football?) story behind its development. In the late 1980s, both SEGA and Electronic Arts were hard at work building NFL video games. EA was partnering with John Madden on what would become the juggernaut of sports games, the industry-defining Madden series that we'll cover later. SEGA was in harness with then-GOAT quarterback Joe Montana, fresh off his fourth Super Bowl win and face of pro football. Unfortunately, that was the extent of the investment SEGA made in the game. They failed to secure any licensing deals with the NFL or its players, so the teams were known only by their city, and players only by number. Knowing they were in over their head, SEGA reached out to EA's Trip Hawkins, architect of the Madden game. Hawkins agreed to help and promptly made the game worse on purpose, including such touches as reducing the number of offensive play calls from 113 to 13 and making the field visuals look terrible. It was like Pepsi asking Coke for a little help and Coke mixing rat poison into the already-awful Pepsi formula.

So, Joe Montana Football was doomed from the start. And yet, here's the second reason it's on this list: there was a time I played this a lot. In the mid-90s when I was in college and I'd visit my older brother at his house, this was our game of choice. He had a SEGA Genesis, and we'd play this sucker for hours. It was a deeply flawed piece of technology, including such memorable programming errors as declaring a safety whenever the defense made an interception in the end zone. It was initially galling when your defense made a drive-killing pick only for two points and the ball to be awarded to the other team, but eventually it became hilarious, and to this day when something goes stupidly wrong, we'll cry out "!" You have to love something that brutally bad. Oh, and you also had to love the intro music to this thing. It featured this slapping bass guitar that was funky an catchy and ten times better than the rest of the game.

Poor Joe Montana. He deserved better.

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