You need to play the most thrilling retro sports game for free ASAP

Satisfying sports action wrapped in 8-bit nostalgia.

A screenshot from the most thrilling retro sports game, Retro Bowl

Winning isn’t everything, but it’s better than the alternative. Humans have been competing for sport for as long as we’ve been running and swimming and throwing things. Sports provide order in a world of chaos. They do the same in video games. New sports games drop annually like clockwork, no delays and no apologies. Unfortunately, this brutal dev cycle doesn’t leave much room for creativity. Isn’t there a sports game that’s different? That still makes us feel like winners?

Yes and yes. Retro Bowl from New Star Games is a simplified take on video game sports wrapped in a love letter to a bygone era. It’s got a Tecmo Bowl feel on the surface, but a number of streamlined gameplay choices give it a compelling twist.

Retro Bowl is equal parts football game and franchise sim. Players act as head coach for any number of unlicensed, generic city teams. Familiar color schemes and league divisions walk the line tightly enough so that there’s no licensing issues but players still feel like they’re rocking the home team. Your job is to manage players, coaches and fans during an 18-game season. You’ll need to keep an eye on morale, player health and that nagging salary cap.

Games are a blast to play. Instead of the typical hours-long slog through playbooks and time management, Retro Bowl only lets you play offense. This may be a dealbreaker for purists, but it’s perfect for casual sports fans looking for a fun distraction. A typical game takes 10-15 minutes, but you can grind away for hours.

You’ll need a solid coaching staff to earn the coveted 5-star ratings.

New Star Games

It’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in the gameplay loop of snappy, big play-driven football. Controls are simple, but with enough nuance that you can still make miracles happen. Throwing is the most difficult to master, but also the most satisfying. Once you get the hang of the mechanics things start to feel streaky. You’ll win a bunch in a row but, as they say, winning isn’t everything. Monetizing is.

There is an in-game currency, Coach Credits, available to purchase. You earn it by winning games (and keeping fans happy) but play for a few hours and you’ll see the limitations. If you win all 18 games with a maximum fan rating you’ll earn 64 coins a season. If you want to extend your salary cap, that’s 100 credits. Sign a great free agent? About 25 or 30. Coach credits are super important and you want a lot of them.

Nostalgia + dopamine + mobile = take my money

New Star Games

This gives you the immersive NFL owner experience of deciding to spend recklessly for talent. You also want to spend the money, because the game is fun. If you play on mobile you get hit with the guilty feeling of “this free game is fun and I’m using it a lot maybe I should give them a couple bucks.” If you buy on Switch it’s $5, and comes with a nice cache of credits to start. This isn’t a predatory gatcha game, either. Drop $10 and you’ll have more than you need to build a contender.

The joy of Retro Bowl is in getting to experience all the thrill of a sports game in about 1/4th the time. Wrack up some victories, get a few championship rings, and feel like a goddamn winner.

Retro Bowl is available free for Apple and Android devices, and can be purchased on Nintendo Switch.

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