The Mutant League Franchise!

The very first time I saw the advertisement for Mutant League Football, I was hooked.

It was a three page spread in Electronic Gaming Monthly, and to this day, it remains one of the most memorable game ads I ever stumbled across. The first page featured a football played making a catch out of bounds, and as soon as you turned the page, BAM! The dude was pretty much exploded all over the field. Limbs here, limbs was pretty graphic stuff for the time frame. Of course, seeing the spot got me super pumped for Mutant League Football, and in many ways, the hype behind the game was even better than the title itself.

I picked up a copy of Game Players Magazine once, and one of the bonuses was a cut out sheet featuring a couple of football cards featuring characters from the game. Right then and there, I knew I was going to end up loving whatever Mutant League turned out to be like: I mean, who in their right mind cannot look at a skeleton running back named Bones Jackson and not crack a smile?

In honor of the Halloween season, I would like to pay homage to three of my lifelong fascinations - horror, sports and the Sega Genesis - by examining a multimedia series that encompasses all three of them. Not a lot of people ever got a chance to play Mutant League Football, but what is REALLY surprising is just HOW massive the Mutant League franchise really got. To most folks, it s just a long forgotten Sega Genesis game, but in reality, it was basically a mini-super franchise consisting of three sports titles, a line of action figures and EVEN a syndicated cartoon series!

Ultimately, franchises really don t get much weirder than Mutant League. . .but by that same token, you can also say that not too many of them get as awesome, either. So without further adieu, let s step out of the Rejuvenator, lace up our cleats and get ready to knock a few heads (completely off our adversaries) as we revisit. . .

1993. . .the year Electronic Arts decided to take its proprietary Madden engine and turn it into the most violent, blood soaked sports game this side of Jerry Glanville s Pigskin Footbrawl. Although hyper violent sports games really were not anything new at the time (lest we forget, this was the same era that gave us titles like Bill Laimbeer s Combat Basketball, Super High Impact Football and the little played Three Count Bout, a Japanese wrestling game that allowed players to literally make each others heads explode with barbed wire-wrapped bats), Mutant League was the first sports game of the 16 bit era to TOTALLY take it to the next level.

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The thing that made Mutant League Football stand out to me was that, in addition to being a really, really awesome (albeit gimmicky idea) for a video game, it was still a very playable football sim. Well, maybe sim is too liberal a word here, but since it did incorporate the Madden engine, you could - if you wanted - play a pretty standard, by-the-numbers game of football with the CPU or a human foe. But hey, where is the fun in that?

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Obviously, Mutant League Football took the horror aspects about as far as you could possibly take them with a 16 bit game. All of the teams were puns on then-current NFL teams (I always picked the Deathskin Razors, for what should be obvious reasons) and assorted monsters - skeletons, trolls, robots, etcetera - comprised the rosters of each football squad. The real fun of the game, of course, came in the form of all of the hilariously violent things you could do on the field - you know, the sort of stuff you would NEVER see the NFL or NCAA allow in one of their endorsed games.

If you hit a ball carrier hard enough, not only did you injure the player, you KILL them. In the world of Mutant League, the idea isn t to put the opposing QB on the sideline - it is to put him in the graveyard.

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There were all sorts of neat trick plays in the game. There was one that turned the ball into a time bomb, so if you did not get to the end zone in a certain amount of time. . .well, you take a guess. One afternoon I discovered that if you run offsides and keep killing the quarterback (which often takes a couple of attempts), the opposing team would eventually run out of QBS and they'd just have to run the ball on every play until the game was over. Even the playing field itself was a death trap - landmines scattered the field, and a lot of times, if you got knocked out of bounds, you got knocked off the planet. There was even an option in the playbook to bribe the referee to incur beneficial penalties. . .which means that this game probably has Roger Goddell's approval already!

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Mutant League Football was the kind of game that you would play every now and then - even though I really liked it, I cannot say that I felt it was a superior title over the more realistic, technical sim sports games released by EA. . .even if you DID have the ability to kill all of the dancers during the halftime celebration ceremony. However, Mutant League Football was so successful that it lead to an immediate sequel. . .and one that I consider to be one of the absolute BEST hidden gems to be found on the Sega Genesis.