Joe Montana Football

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a game by Sega, and BlueSky Software, Inc.
Genre: Sports
Platforms: Sega GenesisGenesis, Sega Master SystemSega Master System, GameGear
Editor Rating: 8.2/10, based on 12 reviews
User Rating: 8.7/10 - 3 votes
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See also: Sport Games, Sports Management Games, Football Video Games, Joe Montana Games
Joe Montana Football
Joe Montana Football
Joe Montana Football
Joe Montana Football

It's been a regular pigskin smorgasbord these past couple of months. There's been major football releases for every game system: TV Sports Football for the Turbo-Grafx-16, NES Play Action Football for the NES and the Game Boy, and John Madden Football for the Genesis.

And now comes Joe Montana Football, the long awaited Sega football simulation for the Genesis. Joe told us (via TV commercial) that the Sega programmers were taking their time with this one -- wanted to do it right. What he didn't tell us was that this game has undergone a complete facelift since it first reared its head at the 1990 Summer Consumer Electronics Show.

Joe Goes Genesis

Sega took their time producing Genesis Joe and the quality shows. A crisp, clear digitized voice welcomes you to the game as soon as you turn on the game and images of Joe flash across the screen.

Joe Montana Football features a realistic offense -- your running backs have to hit the holes and follow their blockers, you must "lead" your receivers (throw the ball ahead of them) to avoid interceptions.

On defense you can lay a bone-crunching hit on an opponent to jar the ball loose. You can also be called for pass interference if you hit a receiver before the ball gets there.

There are 16 teams to choose from, based on the playing abilities of their 1989 NFL counterparts. You can also choose the length of the game (from 10 to 60 minutes), whether there will be penalties, and the type of game you'll be competing in (regular season, Sega Bowl, or two minute drill).

Left on the Cutting Room Floor

Joe Montana Football started out with a horizontal screen layout so you could see a larger portion of the field at one time.

The PC and the Sega Master System versions kept their side-to-side perspectives, but this plan was scrapped for the Genesis.

ProTip: If you're a beginner, select a strong team such as Los Angeles (Raiders, not Rams), San Francisco, New York, or Buffalo.

Other features that were in the original plan but never saw the light of day were: a League Play and "Save League" feature, two- player cooperative play, audibles at the line of scrimmage, instant replay, and the computer's ability to learn your playcalling tendencies.

Some of these features just didn't fit into the program, others were scrapped because of impracticality. But Joe Montana Football probably looks the way it does because John Madden Football was so great.

John Madden Football, for those of you who haven't seen it, uses a vertically scrolling field, and it works well. Joe Montana Football now uses this same view.

Joe vs. John

So which is better, Joe or John? If you're a football fanatic, both games will score a touchdown with you. Some key differences between the two: John lets you see all three receivers at once on offense, in Joe you have to hit a button to view one of your other receivers. John's manual is full of valuable gameplaying info (e.g. every player is rated in four categories). Joe's passing plays are more exciting because tipped passes can often be caught by other players. In a regular game the Joe Montana computer is easier to defeat than a similar game against the John Madden brain, but the Sega Bowl final game on Joe Montana is the toughest of all (because it cheats, but more about that later).

The Niner Massacre

One of the grueling tests we subjected Joe Montana to was the obligatory "How good is the computer" trial. This is something you probably go through when you get any sports game. The more challenging the computer player is, the more life you'll get out of the game.

  • Block a punt by selecting the player in the middle of your front five. Move him slightly to the right before the computer team snaps the ball, this way the computer blocker will miss your charging player. When the ball is hiked, charge forward and hit the B button to put your player's arms in the air. If you line up with the punter, you'll often block his kick.

  • If you have a speedy left linebacker (tike LA does), your best defense against the computer is Nickel formation, double coverage. When the ball is snapped blitz in through the middle and hit B to put your player's arms in the air. You will often tip the pass or sack the quarterback.

We decided to take on the world champion 49ers with the Los Angeles Raiders. To say this game was a blowout would be an incredible understatement. After one quarter, the Raiders led the Niners 44 to 0, and it got a lot worse! After a 60 minute game, the Raiders whipped the Niners 200 to 25. Yes, you read that right, 200 points and a total of 1,349 yards on offense... scary! However, during the Sega Bowl it was a different story.

Bombs away! The computer team is heavily susceptible to the long pass during a regular game.

We said earlier that this game "cheats" during the Sega Bowl and we meant it. If the computer decides it wants to score, there is very little you can do about it, no matter how good you are. Seven of your men won't be able to bring down their ball carrier.

Beating the computer during the finale is almost impossible. The only way to succeed is to outscore the computer, and then not leave it enough time to march down the field for a final score. He who has the ball last is usually the winner.

The Final Scope

If John Madden Football from Electronic Arts didn't exist, we'd probably be singing the praises of this game, calling it the best football game ever made for the home. But Madden got there first, setting the mark for everyone else to shoot at. Joe Montana comes close to hitting it, and even has some features that are better than Madden. But the two extreme levels of play (too simple and too hard) and the lack of team charts in the manual really detract from the overall quality of the game. Let's call Joe Montana Football for the Genesis a definite playoff contender, but with limited Superbowl possibilities.

Download Joe Montana Football


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
  • Game modes: Single game mode

Player controls:

  • Up, Down, Left, Right - Arrow keys
  • Start - Enter (Pause, Menu select, Skip intro, Inventory)
  • "A" Gamepad button - Ctrl (usually Jump or Change weapon)
  • "B" button - Space (Jump, Fire, Menu select)
  • "C" button - Left Shift (Item select)

Use the F12 key to toggle mouse capture / release when using the mouse as a controller.

Sega Master System

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

Sega's new football game, with the endorsement of Joe Montana, appears to be one of the best simulations of the game ever made! Offering a wide variety of both offensive and defensive plays to choose from, insert close-up digitized photographs of the play action, full screen digitized images of field goals, extra points and the like are but a few of the spectacular effects in this outstanding game.

  • Manufacturer: Sega
  • # of players: 1 or 2
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Available: October 1993
  • Theme: Sports

Get ready for some serious gridiron madness Sega CD-style. It's Joe Montana's NFL Football! Where else could you get awesome game play along with lots of special effects, real sounds, and the live-action graphic capabilities of a CD-ROM?

You can pick from any of the 28 NFL teams as well as three difficulty levels. There are even different game types such as full season, exhibition, and saved games that you can recall at your command. In addition, there are tons of great plays that made Joe Montana a household word! If you're into football, do yourself a favor and check this one out. Hike!

In an effort to create a realistic, yet fun game of football, Sega has created Joe Montana CD. This CD title has digitized cinemas, real voice, and scaling built in. Pick your plays from a gigantic playbook, and take to the field.

Joe Montana CD has above average graphics, and takes Genesis football games to new heights. The playability is better than previous incarnations, and anyone who is a sports fan will like its realism. There are more plays than ever before, and if you need help, Joe Montana himself will clue you in on some, via cinematic display. If you have a Sega CD, Joe Montana CD will be hard to pass up. This is the best Sega football game. One can only wonder how Sega will top this CD next time around. Until then, this is on top.

Joe Montana is making an appearance on the Master System 2. Features a wide variety of offensive and defensive plays you play like the pros.

  • Theme: Sports
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Available: Spring '92

Take Joe on the go...

Football games appear to be on the rise and there is no better way to enjoy fast paced football action then the portable way with Joe Montana Football for the Sega Game Gear.

This translation of the popular console title employs many of the same features found in the original Joe Montana, but has been scaled down in scope to accommodate the smaller proportions of the Game Gear display.

The game starts with a coin toss and your decision of fielding options. The team selection screen is completely menu driven and allows your choice of many different franchises, each with their own style of play.

While it does have some rough edges, Joe Montana is a great addition to tne Sega line-up of games for the ever expanding Game Gear hand-held.

Team selection!

The team selection screen allows you to choose the from the available teams that you wish to play as and against. The game allows you to choose from many different types of offense and defense by providing specific characteristics to each team.

Coin toss!

Play begins with the coin toss! Pick either heads or tails to determine whether you will elect to receive or kick at the start of the game. Highly detailed graphics are used to represent the coin as it spins and ultimately falls on one side! There are a number of special touches such as these scattered throughout Joe Montana Football for the Game Gear, providing many unique features not found in most football entries!


Joe Montana, in addition to presenting a challenging game of ball, supplements the action with some nicely drawn and animated intermission sequences after each score and at the end of play!

Joe is calling the plays once again but this time he is on the Game Gear. Pick from 28 different teams and fight your way all the way to the Super Bowl.

  • Theme: Sport
  • Players: 1-2
  • Difficulty: Average

The Popular 49ers player has his name on this sports title. From his vast experience, Joe programmed in his playbook for realism and Sega added the graphics and game play.

  • Theme: Sports - Football
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Number of Players: 1 or 2
  • Available: November '90

Fourth and One!

Continuing their support for the Master System, Sega is bringing out a new football game. Replacing Walter Payton Football, which itself was intended to update Great Sports Football, super-star Joe Montana gets the nod for Sega's big name endorsement!

In this version of football you can either play against the computer or a friend. For teams, you can select from any of the 28 'real' professional teams. When you are on offense you have 11 different plays to choose from. The first play which you will see is 'Joe's Play'. This is actually what he would do in the same situation! Use it or pick a one of your own from the visual playbook. After the ball is snapped you can select from any of the eligible receivers or streak across the field on foot. On defense, you can choose from 6 different formations and then control any one of the 9 players. You have 3 time outs for each 20 minute half, and at the end of each successful scoring drive you get the current stats for both teams.

While it won't win awards for being the best grid iron simulation, the eight-bit version of Joe Montana does allow you to star in the role of the super bowl champ!

Choose from 11 Different Offensive Plays

Joe Montana has selected 11 of his best offensive plays for the Master System version of his game. While the names sound strange like "Pray for Rain", Up the Gut' or "Seam Splitter", they do work well when playing against the computer.

Select from 6 Defensive Plays!

Like his offensive plays, Joe has gone to his playbook and picked the most effective defense configurations against the different types of running and passing plays. Some of the names are conventional like "goal line" and "odd zone" but the "sub-dural hematoma" is quite out of the ordinary! Despite the name, it is still one of the better plays to choose!

Airborne Action

This game is definitely for armchair passers: of the 17 offensive plays, 12 air out the ball and running plays seldom produce more than 10 yards -- PASS!

On defense Joe keeps things simple with six plays. The controls are extremely smooth and respond perfectly to the action on the screen.

ProTip: Since some wide receivers run off screen, scroll through your receivers as soon as you hike the ball.

All the action takes place on a side-view, horizontally scrolling football field. The graphics are sharp, even the plays are crystal clear. Although the individual players are small on an already small screen, it's easy to tell them apart.

Always kick off into the comers to force the ball carrier into only one return lane.

Joe Montana Football offers both one and two player games. In the one player mode, diehards may learn to dump the computer consistently.

Listen to Joe's advice. It's usually on the money!

The true challenge is to take a weak team such as New England or Tampa and go against a powerhouse such as San Francisco or New York. Now there's a challenge!

  • Never pass to a receiver that has his defender beat. You usually hit the defender for an interception!
  • Use a pass play to set up a bootleg. The defense spreads out to cover receivers.

Joe Montana features one or two player action and three skill levels. JM includes all the NFL teams, although none of the players are actually named. Each team is styled after its NFL counterpart, although pro football fans won't notice much similarity. The main difference between the teams is the plays they can use on offense.

Take the Field

JM uses a horizontal perspective during game play. This view is similar to the original Master System football game, Great Football. The advantages to this perspective are that it allows you to see far enough up field to check on your receivers, and it also allows you to cover receivers on defense. After selecting your teams, choose heads or tails and flip the on-screen coin. The kicking game for your team is executed automatically. Just tap a button to boot the ball downfield.

Getting Offensive

Once you get the hang of your team's offense, no computer defense will be able to stop you. There's a wide variety of plays to choose from -17 in all. Most of your plays are passing formations, but since executing a successful running play against the computer is difficult, you probably won't miss the run options. Passing is easy in Joe Montana Football. Just call a formation, hike the ball, and look for an open receiver. To pick a receiver hit Button 2. Then hit Button 1 to throw the ball. The ball is automatically launched towards the receiver, and your receiver never has to come back for the ball.


  • Running plays (such as Off Tackle) are more likely to be successful if you maneuver your quarterback behind the running back, let the running back move unfiled past oncoming tacklers, and toss the ban to him (like a screen pass). Trying to run the ball like they do in the NFL (pitching or handing off the ball to a back behind the line) doesn't work In this game.
  • You'll find that every team has a few plays with high success rates. Try the following formations to rack up the yardage: BIG END AROUND -- The QB scrambles to the top of screen as the receiver scrambles to the bottom. When the QB is about to be tackled, toss the ball across the field to the receiver. Good tor 5-15 yards. PRAY FOR RAIN -- Also known in offensive coordinator circles as the Rig Bomb, the Hail Mary, and Going For Broke. Scramble towards the bottom of the screen as you keep an eye on the receiver who's second from the bottom. If the defender is playing behind the receiver, throw the ball for the long completion. If the defender is under the receiver, don't throw, just run up field for a big gain. ORVILLE'S RIGHT -- This play is similar to the Rig End Around. The QB scrambles to the top of the screen, the receiver runs to the bottom. Throw the ball when the defenders get close to the QB. SEAM SPLITTER -- This play nets you 20+ yards if it's executed correctly. Throw the ball only if the receiver is closer to the QB than the guy covering him.

Blitz and Pray

Of the many football games I've played, this is one of the most difficult to play defense in. When the skill level is set to Professional, you'll be lucky if you can stop the computer one time out of three.

Your problems on defense begin with your choice of formations. There are only six standard football video game defenses: Prevent, Goalline, etc. None of them are designed to stop a pass play. There are formations that will give you a better chance against the pass, but when the computer is rolling, it's like trying to stop Joe Montana and the 49ers with a high school football team. Blitzing isn't a very good option because your defender is too slow to catch the QB before he leaves the ball. And your opponent can switch from receiver to receiver too quickly for you to cover them all. Your best bet may be hanging around the line of scrimmage waiting for the QB to run. At least you can switch to another defender by tapping Button 1, so if a pass is thrown you still have a chance to make a play.

Joe Knows Football

Mr. Montana's only contribution to Joe Montana football (other than the applying his name and likeness to the package and the opening game screen) is in the form of play suggestions. Joe, based on the down and the number of yards required for a first down, will suggest a formation to you, both on offense and defense. Joe's suggestions tend to follow logical football rules -- pass on long yardage downs, run for short gains. Unfortunately, going against standard logic tends to work better than being predictable. Joe Montana Football, like many of its counterparts, plays better as a two-player, head-to-head clash. Master System owners who already possess Walter Payton Football (the last SMS pigskin release), will find JM different enough to warrant an investment. Joe Montana Football for the Master System is the first of what will be many Sega games sporting Joe's monikers. Hopefully, they'll improve with practice.

Master System armchair quarterbacks have a new football game to play when there's nothing on TV. Take tips from Montana himself as you go head-to-head with a friend or the machine in an update to the old Walter Payton soft. With 11 different offensive plays to choose from and 6 different defensive formations available, there should be enough variety to keep the opposing team wondering what is coming next.

People say:


This game tries to be something more than it is, but with a lack of good graphics, sound or game play, it falls way short. Like most sports entries, this one works better as a two-player head-to-head because the computer simply stinks. My first play I beat it 93 to 21. No fun, no way.


Walter Payton football wasn't a bad playing simulation for the SMS. Normally you make another sports game better than it's predecessor but Joe Montana football just doesn't seem to offer any significant improvement to warrant buying another version.


Sure its 8-bit but thats no excuse for this game. The graphics are very disappointing and the game play is way too slow. There is very little in terms of excitement or challenge here. The computer doesn't seem to think and 2 player games aren't enough to keep me involved.


This game never gets up and running, much less scores any points. The graphics and execution bomb, with a computer opponent that must be represented by a high school team. Too many shortcomings leave this one in the turf -despite Joe Montana's name!

Snapshots and Media

Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Screenshots

Sega Master System Screenshots

GameGear Screenshots

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