Prior to 1977, a football game was something a kid could only experience as an outdoor group activity. Can’t find enough kids to play? Weather uncooperative? Tough luck. It would take the advent of hand-held electronics games to bring the pigskin into the bedroom, the school bus and anywhere else where tackling each other was probably a bad idea. Today, we take a look at the game that started it all, Mattel Electronics Football.
When Mattel Toys introduced their electronic football game in the late 70s, they had a sure winner on their hands. It was simple to learn, could be taken anywhere, and when an opponent couldn’t be found, one could simply play themselves. And play they did; there were few places to be found that were void of the distinctive sing-song sounds made when a touchdown occurred. Mattel would eventually release other sports games, such as baseball and hockey, but none managed to win the hearts of little armchair athletes like this iconic football game.
For the most part, the game followed the basic rules of professional football, although simplified considerably – basically there were four downs and ten yards to a down. Using a combination of up, down and side-to-side directional buttons, players would make their way across the playing field. A kick option was available; the ability to pass was not. Various difficulty settings could be selected and “Score” and “Status” buttons helped players keep track of their progress.
Thanks to the astounding success of Mattel Electronic Football, the toy company would release a sequel the following year – Football II. To the delight of fans everywhere, this one had a new button, the long-desired “Pass” function. Mattel scored another winner in the world of electronic games – a success that would survive until the advent of Mattel’s Intellivision, which would kick off the era of video game console play, offering more options than were ever possible in the hand-held units.
For anyone who ever picked up one of these iconic games, the memories linger forever of the fun that often lasted until the wee hours of morning. We’d love to hear your own memories of playing Mattel Electronics Football. Did you bring the game to school, or play under the covers when you were supposed to be sleeping? Still long to hear those distinctive beeps? Share your thoughts and recollections with us in our comments section, as we pay tribute to this well-remembered game.