Growing up as gamers, we all had that one sports video game that gave us the sports bug and cemented our paths as gamers who played sports games. In our new ThrowBack series, we take a short visit back to the games that we grew up playing.
One of the first football games that I ever got into came courtesy of the Sega Saturn in 1996. My dad bought the Saturn brand new for $180 and he snagged a bunch of sports titles when he did. Some of the games included Daytona USA, Worldwide Soccer 98 and NFL Quarterback Club 96.
QB Club was my first football game and I loved playing it. The game is part of the NFL Quarterback Club series by Acclaim Entertainment, more broadly known for the Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam series.
Originally, the QB Club series started out as just a game of QB challenges on the Nintendo Game Boy in 1993. Later, it was pushed on to the Sega Game Gear and Super Nintendo systems. QB Club 96 was the second game in the series and you might have seen it for Game Boy, Sega Game Gear, the Super Nintendo or the Sega Saturn.
At the time the game supposedly featured over 800 plays with distinct plays for certain quarterbacks. I don’t recall seeing any plays that were specific to any of the quarterbacks. The game did give the option to simulate the preseason, playoffs, the Pro Bowl or a single season that consisted of 18 games.
In 1996, QB Club had an impressive roster that included Brett Favre, Jim Kelly, Barry Sanders and Steve Young, and because it had an NFL license featured the 30 teams in existence at the time. Booting it up on the Saturn is a fun 1990s NFL history lesson. For example, the Tennessee Titans were still the Houston Oilers (the Texans didn’t exist yet) and the Carolina Panthers were in the NFC West with the 49ers, Rams, Saints and Falcons.
Seattle was still a member of the AFC West and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were part of the NFC Central with what is today the NFC North. Weirdly, the NFC East had the Arizona Cardinals. Clearly, someone in the NFL was geographically drunk in the 90s.
One of the mainstays of the QB Club games are the Quarterback Challenges. This mode let players control a quarterback and a number of different competitions that included distance, mobility, obstacle and accuracy. For some reason the Saturn version doesn’t feature the QB Challenges, but I understand the other versions do. It does feature a simulation mode that lets players recreate historic NFL moments and attempt to change them with 50 or so different options available. The game could supposedly support up to 12 players at one time, though I never tried or had enough controllers to even attempt that. The graphics could charitably be called 3D-ish, with the players being portrayed as somewhat 3D on a very flat and long looking field.
Modern players might be used to playing their games with commentary. Between EA’s Madden series and the NCAA Football series, both football games featured a ton of talking commentary.
Even the 2K games had commentary and the later QB Club games featured some kind of talking head. QB Club 96 is surprisingly quiet. Games in the season mode started with a preshow of sorts featuring Thomas Dupree and Bill Evans but they don’t speak.
Instead, a text scroll is placed above a picture of Dupree and Evans where they “discuss” certain matchups to look for in the game. The gameplay is fairly standard. Players could pick from base sets out of Pro Set, Shotgun, Single Back or the Power I. From there, plays broke down into short, medium, and long, or what the game called “Bomb Zone”. Players could then see the standard playbook pages with receiver and running back routes.
The defense is set up similarly but there are far fewer options from the 3-4, “Smart D”, 4-3, Nickel or Dime packages. The defense plays also featured the short, medium and long options. One of the best or funniest portions of the game involves the ref. When the Saturn was released a number of games with FMVs of real people were available with it. For example, you might recall the live action portions of games like Command & Conquer or that infamous stalker game Night Trap on the Sega CD.
For whatever reason, the referee in QB Club is a real guy in a small box doing the motions for various fouls, touchdowns, first downs, or incomplete passes. It’s funny to see and very out of place with the rest of the game.
Check out the ref in this video. The narrator is kind of annoying, so it’s recommended you watch on mute:
It’s especially weird because, as far as I know, no other version of NFL Quarterback Club 96 uses the real ref. Instead they use a more appropriate pixelated referee.
Acclaim’s QB Club series lasted quite awhile and was available on multiple systems including the N64, PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube and the Dreamcast. The last game in the series came out in 2001 as NFL QB Club 2002 for the GameCube and PS2.