World Cup Italia ’90 – Review

I was seven during World Cup Italia ’90, and sadly I don’t remember much about it, other than my father jumping off the sofa in celebreation as England scored. I don’t recall the match but I have a feeling it may have been England v Belgium, and the goal in question was David Platt’s volley.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Released for the Sega Mega Drive in 1990, and the Sega Master System in 1991, this football game was developed and published by Sega, and can be played in one and two-player modes. To review, I revisisted the Sega Mega Drive version


You can choose from 24 teams in the World Cup, all with varying degrees of stats, to guide to World Cup glory and immortality. Brazil, Argentina, West Germany, Holland and England are the best rated teams for the era, but sadly, they do not use names of real players.

You view the game from a top down perspective, changing only during corners, penalties and goal kicks, when it changes to a more detailed, close up view. Also, when you score a goal, a picture of a player celebrating appears upon the screen for a few seconds before kick-off resumes.

In-game action (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The gameplay is superior to European Club Soccer (1992). For instance, there is a clear distinction between shoot, pass and cross funtions. You can tackle and head the ball, and the overall ball control is better. You also need tactics to score goals. For example, in the first half, you need to diagonally cross ball into the penalty box to head the ball over the goalkeeper. In the second half, the goalkeeper tends to stay on his goal line, and so long shots diagonally across the penalty box into the corners of the goal are best.

There are a few things wrong with this game however. Firstly, there are no fouls, so you can just hack away to your heart’s content. What really lets this game down though, is the length of each match. There is no way to shorten the match time, and each game seems unnecessarily long. This wouldn’t be so bad, but the simplicity of the gameplay soon becomes tiresome over such a long period of time. I achieved such a high level of skill at the game that I was scoring 20 goals per match because they are so long.

The more detailed set piece animation (screenshot taken by the author)


The graphics are basic but they are colourful, clear and crisp. The added illustrations and animations during set pieces are a nice touch as the game would seem rather plain otherwise.


The music is great.l! It has a very South American Latin feel to it which I’d be more than happy to listen to. The only annoyance is that every time to ball goes off for a throw-in or corner or when a goal is scored, the music restarts from the beginning.

The detailed stills are a nice touch (screenshot taken by the author)

Personal Memories

This game received poor reviews, but I seem to have a soft spot for it. I must confess that I love the music. Once it’s in your head, it never leaves. You’ll certainly find yourself dancing in your seat to the Latin beat.

This was also one of the first Mega Drive games I owned and completed. I felt such a sense of pride because I was only about nine years old and had often made it to the final only to be defeated.

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, I have led the teams of Brazil and England to World Cup glory numerous times.

What The Critics Said:

Sega Power: “…this soccer game is a disappointment. Tired old gameplay and average graphics make this one for soccer fans only. Overall 2/5”.[1]

Sega Power: “This soccer game is, to put it mildly, very poor. Tired old gameplay and average graphics make this a soccer fan game only. Overall 2/5.[2]

Raze: “Smooth scrolling pitch, good animation, lots of great set-piece screens and two-player mode is great fun. Poor title tune and corny during game, feeble whistles and strange groans, doesn’t always pick the nearest player. Overall 82%.[3]

My Verdict:Although you may get bored with the formulaic ways of scoring, the music will help ease the lengthy game time. I still prefer this to European Club Soccer.”


What are your memories of World Cup Italia ’90? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.

[1] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – World Cup Italia ‘90’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:55.

[2] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – World Cup Italia ‘90’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:99.

[3] ‘Reviews: Mega Drive – World Cup Italia ‘90’. Raze. (March 1991). Issue 5:44-45.