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NFL Challenge

DOS - 1985

Also available on: Mac

Year 1985
Platform DOS
Released in United States
Genre Sports
Theme Football (American), Licensed Title
Publisher XOR Corporation
Developer XOR Corporation
Perspective Top-Down
4 / 5 - 23 votes

Description of NFL Challenge

Read Full Description

One of the oldest football games ever made, XOR's NFL Challenge remain to this day one of the most ambitious simulations of its kind, containing over 30,000 lines of C and Assembly source codes after over 10 man-years in the making. The result is a very thorough and realistic simulation of football that was impressive enough to win endorsement from the NFL.

The game comprises of 2 modules: macro and micro. The macro model computes and records various statistical averages to model the entire NFL season, while the micro model calculates the outcome of a single match. The game boasts of having several NFL experts help create in-game offensive and defensive playbooks, and it shows: there are dozens of plays you can choose from, and penalties and injuries are handled realistically.

Graphics is not much to speak off-- it's either all text (you see a red triangle, representing a ball, moving back on forth on the screen), or some graphics where X's and O's represent players. Still, for a game that focuses on the simulation aspect of a sport as opposed to the action, it's more than enough.

There are many coaching options available, many of which became standard in later football games: in addition to calling plays, you can call a time out, and even use a neat "two-minute" mode, which is modeled after the "hurry up" offense often seen in real football games. In this mode, all ball carriers on that team will make an extra effort to get out of bounds and stop the clock. The quarterback will make more and longer passes, resulting in longer completions but much higher risk of interception.

The computer AI is quite good, as it will take advantage of this "two-minute" mode, as well as constantly change playbooks. Each player is rated in different skill categories, which affect the outcome of the game. You can play against a friend, the computer, or even watch the computer play itself.

Overall, NFL Challenge is a great simulation that definitely sets a high standard for other games to follow. It's the granddaddy of games such as Tom Landry Strategy Football, and the level of thoroughness, fun, and realistic outcome is excellent even by today's standard. Two thumbs up!

Review By HOTUD

Note: several additional team disks exists, if you have some, please contact us !

External links

Comments and reviews

girman39 2022-10-27 2 points DOS version

Struggling to get this to work under DosBox. I have mounted the drive/folder containing the program files to c:. The program starts, teams are selected and coin is flipped. Getting the error message "Can't Open". So I mounted e: to the drive/folder containing the program files. Still getting same error message. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Did the following:
Within that file it should have the following lines -
Drive Color Delay Special
d: 2 100 0

That should allow the game to find the file. Check if you actually have the file to begin with as well.

I CANNOT find the file anywhere.

Any help would be appreciated.

zonecadet 2021-08-31 2 points

G'day Tom III, apologies if you know all this but when you first run the NFL application to install the game it should ask you to designate the drive and here you would put c:. Having done that it will create a config file. Within that file it should have the following lines -
Drive Color Delay Special
d: 2 100 0

That should allow the game to find the file. Check if you actually have the file to begin with as well. email me at if needs be

Tom III 2021-08-30 2 points

Struggling to get this to work under DosBox. I have mounted the drive/folder containing the program files to c:. The program starts, teams are selected and coin is flipped. Getting the error message "Can't Open". So I mounted e: to the drive/folder containing the program files. Still getting same error message. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

zonecadet 2021-03-07 0 point

Hey Utah Mike,

I am indeed in the NAXFL. I have both the Chicago Blues and Thunder Bay Giants. Both Commissioner Joe and I have been messing around with stuff like you have I figure. Team creation and player ratings is the thing that we can mostly alter although we have had some success with altering the file. For instance I have lessened the number and length of field goal attempts to suit the 80s era play.

UtahMike 2021-02-11 0 point

Zone Cadet

I did not know you are in my NAFL Football League I am the Philadelphia Brawlers

UtahMike 2021-02-10 0 point

Hey Zonecast

My Name is Mike Email me at i would love to pick your brain on NFL Challenge . I been playing it since it first came out and still love to open the game engine and play around with the ratings etc

You can follow my NFL on Challenge on Youtube Sports Time Machine
and hope to see you at my games I am using your 1981 season and going through and re doing rating and rosters and getting them up to snuff for the season i am replaying

Thanks Zonecast
your awesome for the all the old Files and seasons


zonecadet 2021-01-20 0 point

Current VFL Champ, Ok, that's cool. I guess I misread your post a little, I thought you guys had maybe messed with code a little. As I mentioned, I too am in a long running fictional league with salary caps and drafts and the like. In my private tinkering I have altered some of the curve files to suit my needs but really wish we had an answer to the 20yd limit on QB runs. For an old game it still delivers though don't it?

Current VFL Champ, Lancaster Amish 2021-01-19 -1 point

Zone Cadet, when I wrote my comment, I doubted anyone would actually be interested that my friends and I have taken NFL Challenge to a new level. The plays remain the same, but we have rosters that we keep over time. The players age, skills deteriorate, but there is a salary cap and a draft to replenish teams. It's literally a project that's existed for over 30 years, and anyone who loves NFL Challenge or coaching simulations would love.

zonecadet 2020-12-28 0 point

After too long a delay I have completed the 1985 USFL season. All the files you need to run a season are in the folder and I highly recommend you read the Injuries.xlsx file AND the readme.txt files before commencing your season replay. Enjoy.

ASUfool 2020-11-21 0 point DOS version

It seems has shut down. That means I cannot find the Game Situation Development System anywhere. Is it out there somewhere? I'd appreciate it.

Thank you.

zonecadet 2020-08-05 0 point DOS version

Current VFL Champ, would love to talk NFL Challenge with you. I too am in an online League, the NAXFL (game film on youtube) but have also been tinkering with game files and various league sims (WLAF, USFL and my own NAFL)... been looking for the larger NLF.exe file that came with later releases of the game (also a different Curves file). would like to know what changes you guys have made to the game and so on.

dosdog 2020-06-12 0 point DOS version

Some additional teams disks (85, 88, 90, 91) and the Game Situation Development System are available for download from the first post here:

Current VFL Champ, Lancaster Amish 2020-06-04 0 point

My friends from college and I have played NFL Challenge for 25 years. We have our own teams, drafts based on skill level numbers (attaching fictional names), and a salary cap function that includes training camp and the ability to improve players using your resources.
The game has become so evolved that we actually have a bylaws document exeeding 65 pages. 10 years ago, we purchased the website We have a password protected site, and an intricate infrastructure that has been perfected over a quarter of a decade.
Even 25 years after college, we have a league with Doctors, Lawyers, and all kinds of professionals. We love the game and you would be blown away to see what we've done if you are a fan of NFL Challenge.

Joe 2020-05-09 1 point

How do I buy nfl challenge 1985

spuck20 2020-04-28 1 point DOS version

Loved this game back in the day. Summer of '86 after my freshman year of college, a group of us let ourselves into a locked computer lab, (one of those old 5 or 6 number button punch locks that only has a few dozen possible combinations) and were playing when we heard a security guard come into the building. We all dove under the lab tables and would probably have gotten away with it as he had already gone past the lab door when the game blew the whistle for a delay of game penalty. Guard came back and we all got our "names taken," warned, and kicked out of the building. Last time I played the game.

BKBROILER 2019-11-16 1 point DOS version

Anyone used the Editor that comes with download? I got the game to run perfectly using DOSbox but the Team Editor has stymied me so far. Thanks!

nicey 2019-02-04 0 point

When I play this on real hardware, the team menu is corrupt... Anyone have a fix?

Raven 2018-09-20 1 point Mac version

Loved this game to death. Played great on my Mac Plus in 1982 or 83. Then it went away as I upgraded to bigger Macs. If I was sure it wouldn't screw things up on my iMac I'd try this download. Best football game EVER! Just Xs and Os. Not dorking little characters.

GRUNT 2018-02-04 2 points DOS version

To get it to work in Dosbox, you'll need to copy the contents of one of the subdirectories (84, 89, or "greats") into the main NFL challenge directory (wherever you have NFL.EXE).

Shoxlynx 2017-12-24 0 point DOS version

Hi, I have DOSbox and Nfl challenge downloaded and I added the file to my DOSbox but I'm not sure how to get it running. Any help would be appreciated.

oldarmy94 2017-02-14 -1 point DOS version

Bought this game at ComputerLand on 5.25 floppies and played the heck out of it. I loved it!

TheSchwami 2017-01-08 2 points DOS version

You have no idea how good a sim this was. Bought the original for $100, best money I ever spent on a "game". The rapid sim mode allowed you to play 100 games in a matter of minutes. Just one example, the 1988 Scab Bowl, Skins vs Buncos, it predicted Skins would blow out Denver with a 94% probability. I laid down heavy. Denver jumped out 10-0, didn't sweat at all. So confident, I doubled down with my bookie and got more points, (Den was -7 to start the game) the 2nd quarter was history. Called him at half and gave -7 points, doubled down again. The bookies hated me. The "Game" paid for itself thousands of times over. Not even Madden has been able to come close. If that Madden file conversion earlier in this string works, I hope I can contact my new best friend GJ059 to thank him. Enjoy.

Biff 2016-12-30 -3 points Mac version

Hey, great to find this game again after so many years! Would someone please post how to get this game running on my Macbook Pro (OS X 10.10.5)? I don't know what to do with the files that come in the zip file. Thanks!

Sean 2016-11-09 4 points

Awesome game. a "coach mode" type of game, but more realistic than any other game to this day. Makes you wonder "what if" if this game could have transcended over the years like Madden. Oh, what if?...

cubfan22 2016-09-12 3 points Mac version

Is the Mac version of this working at all? I see that everyone seems to be using the DOS version. I had this game back in the 80s and can still access it on my old IBM PC Jr, but I want to try it on my Mac laptop. It downloads, but nothing seems to open.

YearZeroNIN 2016-02-19 0 point DOS version


Thanks for that download. Has recent NFL 32-team rosters, so you can simulate games based on this current decade. Do these rosters already include the Madden modifications? It sure seems like it, which is great.

Doesn't look like anyone added a season/playoff feature, so I'll just simulate it by sequencing games according to an NFL full-year schedule. Then create my own standings system and use whatever stats the game saves to try to create a rankings system. For some reason, I really want to do this.

YearZeroNIN 2016-02-16 1 point DOS version

Trying to figure out the the "" or "" part. It appears you can only get computer vs. computer simulation of a user-defined season?

I was hoping you could play a full NFL season/playoffs, but it appears this game doesn't have that feature. You know, when you could select an NFL team to play all its season/playoff games according to a typical NFL weekly schedule while the computer simulates all other games.

That's the only downfall. It's the only thing missing. Imagine playing a season and tracking team standings/rankings and individual stat rankings and all that stuff. But I guess at the time it was kind of unheard of and didn't really come into full effect until the 90s. It would seem this would be the same for all pro sports games.

If this game could be extended to include full season play and playoffs play (not just individual games), it would be perfect. I wonder if anyone already has done this? Will have to "google" to see.

YearZeroNIN 2016-02-16 0 point DOS version

Lately, I had been thinking about this particular game, for some reason. I remember being in 1st or 2nd or 3rd grade when playing this game? I recall the simulation aspect as being very unique and very cool. I recall a "screen pass" that could catch the opposition by surprise and you'd score a long-reception TD? We probably threw it away since the 80s, I think, but it's beyond genius excellence that, nowadays, with broadband internet, you can find some of these real old-school classics. I noticed "4th and Inches" which rings a bell; I think I may have played that one also when I was a little kid.

da HOOK 2015-10-26 -1 point DOS version

Left keypad uses F1 through F10 (you may notice YZ Streak is 10 for Left Keypad, 0 for Right Keypad). On some laptops, that is actually easier.

dalmar 2015-05-11 1 point DOS version

thank you for your assist to play this game

Slim 2015-01-09 0 point DOS version

I'm having some success using DOSBox, but haven't quite worked out settings that will keep it from kicking out when the program goes to the play animation.

Gooddog 2014-10-26 0 point DOS version

I had this game when I was using my first computers, a Mac Plus. It's the bestl football game ever. Just Xs and Os but it's the strategy and movement of this little Xs and Os. Let's you imagination do the graphics.

SpectreOfDoom 2014-09-07 0 point DOS version

Where can I download the "add-on disks download which includes team disks for 1985, 1988, 1990, and 1991, plus the Game Situation Development System"?

DJW 2014-05-04 0 point DOS version

I have all of the game components with the 1987 Team Disk.

gjo59 2014-02-21 -4 points DOS version

For Android run it in DosBox.

gjo59 2014-02-12 1 point DOS version

Using Madden roster files, here is a quick and dirty program to covert the same into a form usable by the old XOR NFL Challenge program.

Download link at

I included some sample XOR data files derived from one of ropshag's.

- G -

n12e 2013-12-17 -1 point DOS version

Please help! I would love to play in two-player mode but currently I can't get the left-side controls to work, so I can only play using the number pad vs the CPU. Any suggestions? Thanks!

rus 2013-09-25 0 point DOS version

does not run on my computer..just keeps saying error

Gamecock 2013-09-19 0 point DOS version

This is and always will be my favorite game. I got it in the late 1980's.I still have the box, the two books, the program disk, the college alumni team disk, the 66 - 89 greatest teams disk (Go '66 Packers!), 1987 team disk, and a utility disk. I am still trying to figure out how to play the game on my laptop. Any help is appreciated.

Fthurricane 2013-08-18 1 point DOS version

Someone please turn this into an iPad or android app. This was the best football simulation game by far. 2013-08-12 0 point DOS version

MrMack I forgot to leave my email address it is
I have the 84-85, 98, 89, 90, 91 and the GREAT team disk. Is anyone able to get this to run with windows 7 64 bit?

MrMack 2013-08-12 0 point DOS version

I am getting bids to get it rewritten for the web. I will also see about getting a ipad version and a andriod version written 2013-02-06 0 point DOS version

I've never heard of the college teams add-on pack ...
It would make my century (too) if someone would advise
where/how to find that! 2013-01-25 0 point DOS version

Hey Everyone

Played this game in college

I still update and make a greatest teams disk
so when the super bowl is played i look at the current
teams that made it far and ask my self.. are they worthy to bethe best ever for their franchise. i say no this year. I have 31 teams now in my game as i have added teams to the game engine.. i also have made my own college teams using the nfl plays. plays well. wish i had college football plays

i listed my email as my user name. any one interested please contact me for more information about my Nfl challeng teams and i can send them off if they wish..


Talb 2012-10-15 0 point DOS version

Someone needs to update this game and make it an Ipad app.

Probably one of my favorite games growing up. The add-on pack for college teams made my century I think.

Widder 2012-08-29 0 point DOS version

Can somebody please make this in app form???

tom 2011-12-21 0 point DOS version

What is the "main directory"? Please help.

Tom 2011-12-20 0 point DOS version

Same problem as Don. What are the solutions?

kidagain 2011-08-14 0 point DOS version

Copy the team files to the main directory and it works fine. You can only have one set of team files loaded at a team since they are identically named.

kenzo 2011-08-05 -1 point DOS version

Having same issue, but I get no responses after coin toss, system just crashes, any ideas? This sim looks great! I was 15 in 85, can't believe I never heard of this...(I was a Avalon Hill "Paydirt: guy off my c64, and a Microleague2 guy on it! Thanks!

admin 2011-03-21 0 point DOS version

Ferno, you need to add a disk drive in Boxer, launch the game then add a drive (A: for example) in the game configuration (button on the left bottom corner). Then add the 84, 89 or Great folder to use an existing team.
Same thing to do with DFend or other DosBox front ends.

Ferno 2011-03-18 -1 point DOS version

Had the original XOR game back in the PC days. Downloaded but after the coin toss crashes with "Can't Open" error on Mac OS 10.5 using Boxer v1.0RC2

DON 2010-12-13 0 point DOS version

My game c;loses after you choose teams, coin flip, kick or receive...then it says DATA DISK...but how do I make a data disk???

Helms 2009-05-12 1 point DOS version

One of the best sports simulation games and THE BEST football (NFL) simulation game Ever PERIOD!!!

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Download NFL Challenge

We may have multiple downloads for few games when different versions are available. Also, we try to upload manuals and extra documentation when possible. If you have additional files to contribute or have the game in another language, please contact us!

DOS Version

DownloadEnglish version 486 KB DownloadThe Complete Edition by stratonascar
June 2020 English version 15 MB
Downloadzonecadet's release
1985 USFL season English version 211 KB

Game Extras

Various files to help you run NFL Challenge, apply patches, fixes, maps or miscellaneous utilities.

MiscAdd-On Disks #1 English version 443 KB MiscAdd-On Disks #2 English version 4 MB

Mac Version

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