Wrestling video games have been around for a long time. Like a really, long time, you guys.
Now before you go on dismissing video games as something losers and loners do, consider that the industry is projected to generate over $100 billion in sales this year, at a time when revenue for music and movies are both trending downward. The fifth Grand Theft Auto made nearly a billion dollars in sales in the first 24 hours, making it the biggest launch day in the history of entertainment, so obviously, more than “loners and losers” are playing video games.
Anyway, wrestling games. What better way to simulate the Saturday morning and Monday night battles of our lives than grabbing a controller and going to town with your friends, amirite? You know I’m right on this. I mean it’s either that or this.
Seriously, you’re better off picking up a controller. Don’t try that at home, or you too can be a future Darwin Award winner. Since wrestling games have been around forever, one question must naturally be asked:
What is the greatest wrestling game ever?
Earlier this week, we asked you, the Cagesiders, that very question. And surely enough, you’ve come with many games. Many, many games. But before we count them down, here are…
11 honorable mentions, or 11 games that are worth your time too.
1. Considered superior to Pro Wrestling on the NES, Tecmo World Wrestling offered commentary, an-on screen referee, cut scenes, and different and more diverse movesets. And a momentum meter. The game was far ahead of its time.
2. WWF’s Smackdown 2: Know Your Role released just eight months after the original was the wrestling games Playstation 1 fans were waiting for. One that was fun, exciting, and didn’t have complicated controls. It also began the company’s annual release schedule of their big game, a schedule it keeps to this very day. But the Season mode… no. Just… no.
3. The name Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 may be unfamiliar to American audiences, but the Japanese-exclusive title that featured over 100 wrestlers from most every Japanese promotion does have its place in American gaming history. The game’s engine spawned many other games on this list, and even 15 years later, it’s still one of the deeper wrestling games ever.
4. WCW vs. nWo World Tour had an outdated roster and even stripped away some of the features that its parent game, Virtual Pro Wrestling 64, had. But for its time, the game was revolutionary with a new grappling system, plus, let’s be honest, the world was kind of clamoring for a good WCW game at the time.
5. The last major title published by THQ, WWE ’13‘s hook was its trip back to the WWE’s most recent glory days, the Attitude Era. It’s perfect mix of sim and arcade play, plus its deep customization suite made this one of the most celebrated titles in the history of the franchise.
6. Speaking of arcadey, WWE All-Stars is a hidden gem in their gaming library. A throwback to the days of Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game, players could take a wrestler from a past era or the era of its time and have fun, crazy, over-the-top, fighting-game style matchups. Unfortunately, WWE’s gaming reputation hindered sales (just 1.33 million copies sold; by comparison, the disappointing WWE ’12 sold over 3 million) of this game, so we’ll never get the sequel this game deserves.
7. Smackdown vs. RAW 2006 is in the eyes of many the best title of the SvR series. Emphasizing simulation over arcade gameplay, the game was loaded with match types, a superior creator suite, and a brand new season and GM mode.
8. The game was preceded by the original Smackdown vs. RAW, released just a year earlier. The game introduced a face/heel dynamic that allowed players to build their momentum faster according to how they act. The game also brought back create a PPV and introduced create a championship. Plus the game had its own challenge mode that kept players quite busy.
9. A combination of wrestling and Street Fighter II, Saturday Night Slam Masters pits you as one of eight wrestlers in a fighting-game style wrestling match. The SNES and Genesis title would be would get a pair of sequels in Japan, including a tag-team only version.
10. A quarter of a century later, WWF’s Wrestlefest is often regarded as the greatest wrestling arcade game of all time. The game had two modes: a tag team mode where you or you and a buddy can take work your way to the tag titles against the all-powerful Legion of Doom, and the fun as all-hell every man-for-himself Royal Rumble mode. The game sucked up many a quarter in its heyday.
11. And speaking of arcade games, WWF’s Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game was a different approach to wrestling games at the time. It combined the New Generation with NBA Jam, and seriously, it wasn’t bad. It was hard as hell, but it was a fun game. I mean, the Undertaker hits you with actual tombstones. ACTUAL TOMBSTONES, PEOPLE.
These games are pretty good, but if these aren’t top ten worthy, what is? Well, plug in and get ready, Cagesiders. Here they are, as decided by you…
The ten best wrestling games of all time.
Remember, you made this list, so if you disagree, that’s on you.
10. WWE Day of Reckoning.
The 2004 Nintendo Gamecube-exclusive title boasted a small roster: just 40 playable characters total. What made the game stand out was its momentum shift attack, allowing a player fighting from underneath to snatch control of the match in an instant. The standout is its original story, which allowed a created superstar to work his way up the ladder, join a faction, then defeat the faction’s leader in the main event of Wrestlemania XX.
Bonus fact: in a rare bit of continuity, the storyline picks up a year later with its sequel, Day of Reckoning 2.
9. WWF Royal Rumble.
The second of four 16-bit titles, Royal Rumble had the iconic selection screens where you could hear faithful MIDI versions of their entrance themes. Gameplay-wise, it did have the thumb-killing “tug of war” grapple system, the ability to use HEEL TACTICS, and oh yeah, THE ROYAL RUMBLE. While it wasn’t as insane as the real thing, the fact that you could play the ROYAL RUMBLE match was pretty revolutionary. There is another WWF title of the same name in 1999 for the Dreamcast, but it’s not worth your time. Honest.
8. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns.
Lemme ask you: how much do you want out of your wrestling game? You wanna be able to create wrestlers, right? Fully editable movesets, yeah? Fully program how they’re able to fight? Have them fight in MMA-style bouts? Have them fight in deathmatches with lighttubes and mines and barbed wire? Maybe even run your own round-robin tournament?
Fire Pro Wrestling Returns can let you do that.
You can not only set up your own wrestlers, you can pretty much set up your own company. From scratch. And even if you’re not feeling creative, you can choose from one of over 300 wrestlers based on their real-life counterparts from around the world. The controls do take a bit of getting used to, as is the 2.5D movement. But once you figure it all out, you’re off to the races with the deepest wrestling game in the history of ever. And here’s the best part: if you have a Playstation 3 or better, the download is just $10. So it’s also affordable. It’s damn near criminal. If you’re a gamer who really likes their wrestling, you owe it to yourself to give it a look.
7. Def Jam Vendetta.
Quite the fascinating story that is Def Jam Vendetta.
In 1999, EA (yeah, that EA, the people behind the Madden, FIFA, and Need for Speed series) acquired the WCW license after THQ defected to the WWF. They would make a somewhat decent, but generally disappointing Mayhem, then follow it up with the all-time stinker Backstage Assault before WCW got bought out by the WWF in 2001. At the time of the buyout, EA was working on a Mayhem sequel.
But they did finish it, and the result was the first game to combine hip-hop and pro wrestling. And it was pretty awesome. Using the Virtual Pro Wrestling engine and some arcade-style elements, this unique title has the player taking one of four fighters to the top of an underground fight club. If we’re being honest, that’s probably better than climbing to the top of WCW at the time. It didn’t have all the trappings that many wrestling games of the time did (i.e. gimmick match types and create-a-wrestler), it had a killer soundtrack and a fresh approach to the wrestling and fighting game, so a lot of people liked it. I mean, except for the people at Eurogamer. They somehow did not like it.
6. WWF Wrestlemania 2000.
After WWF saw the success that WCW had with WCW/nWo World Tour and its sequel Revenge, WWF gave their longtime publisher Acclaim the old “it’s not you, it’s me, no really, it is you” and shacked up with THQ.
Their first outing did not disappoint.
Wrestlemania 2000 for the Nintendo 64 (my goodness, if you had an N64 at the turn of the century, you pretty much hit the jackpot in the wrestling game department, didn’t ya?) uses the same grappling system used in World Tour and Revenge, which was awesome for those that were used to the controls, but a bit of a culture shock to those that were used to Acclaim’s fighter-game combinations.
The good news is, unlike Acclaim’s games, the controls were easy to understand. You could pick up the basics in a matter of minutes. And once you learned the intricacies of strong attacks and blocking, you were ready to take down the best the WWF had to offer.
Speaking of which, they had quite a bit to offer with Wrestlemania 2000: 55 WWF superstars to choose from. It doesn’t have a true story mode, but it does have a killer create-a-wrestler feature (though not perfect), as well as Royal Rumble, King of the Ring, and create-a-PPV. Wrestlemania 2000 wasn’t the perfect WWF game, but for a first outing, this is pretty good and a sign of things to come.
5. Pro Wrestling.
Earlier on, I mentioned that Tecmo made a far superior pro wrestling game the year Nintendo’s Pro Wrestling title game out.
So how come most everybody remembers Nintendo’s version over Tecmo’s?
Okay, yes. Engrish may have something to do with it. It also had Star Man. STAR MAN. Star Man was the man, and anybody who played Pro Wrestling knows it. Also, Great Puma. OMG. Great Puma, one of the hardest final bosses in video game history, who can finish you with ANY move in the game. That’s cray-cray.
But yeah, you remember it for “A WINNER IS YOU”. I can’t blame you.
4. WWE 2K14.
Wait… the game with the soul-crushing glitches and the possibility that your game can have its save corrupted at random, thereby rendering all your hard work completely useless?
Because if you can get past that (or if you’re one of the lucky ones not to experience either of these things), you have probably the deepest WWE game ever. The first WWE title under the 2K banner, the hook was the milestone Wrestlemania XXX. Its single-player campaign was a tour of the event’s history. And its new mode that year was the Streak mode; similar to the Slobberknocker mode of the Smackdown games of a decade ago, where you can (as the Undertaker) go through an endless gauntlet of superstars, or try and be the one in 21-1.
Gameplay was pretty much the same as more recent titles, but it had a deep as hell creator suite, including the return of create-a-belt. Adding to the legend of 2K14, which was generally well-liked, was this year’s WWE game, which was seen as a backbreaking disappointment. Here’s hoping 2K16 undoes some of the damage 2K15 did. If you’re still in the 360/PS3 generation and have been holding out on getting this game, you probably should get it right now.
3. WWE Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain.
The best Playstation 2 wrestling game by a wide margin (don’t fight me on this, you know I’m right), the final title in the WWE Smackdown games series is the first to combine the best of the past, present, and future. It also perfectly blends arcade style play and simulation sensibilities. Plus the Elimination Chamber makes its debut, and if you long for the days of the Attitude Era, there’s also a bra and panties match, something I didn’t think would be possible in video games. Showed me, right? The game’s engine is so awesome, Konami used it for their wrestling game, Rumble Roses. And best of all, no Michael Cole on commentary. Huzzah! If you have a PS2 or an early PS3 model, you can probably pick this up for less than $10 at your local Gamestop. You owe it to yourself to add this to your gaming collection, then lament at how fun it used to be to play a WWE game.
2. WCW/nWo Revenge.
The sequel to World Tour and WCW vs. The World, this was the last WCW game published by THQ (we’re not counting Thunder because nobody counts Thunder). The game actually felt like you were playing a WCW game, as you had WCW arenas, most of the WCW roster (the biggest omission is one Richard Morgan Fleihr), all the WCW belts, a slightly tweaked grappling system, and better animation. Plus post-match replays and finishing moves that looked like the finishing moves you saw on TV.
But enough about all that. You just wanna see the intro for the game. So here you go.
The classic is one of the best third-party titles in the history of the console, and the one that made WWF take a look at their games and say… hey, we want a piece of that action.
1. WWF No Mercy.
Released just over a year to the day WCW/nWo Revenge was released, the WWF was finally blessed with a classic of their own on the Nintendo 64. WWF No Mercy is considered by many fans the crown jewel of wrestling games.
It took the best of Wrestlemania 2000 and turned it up to 11. It added an extensive story mode—one that had to be played through multiple times to get 100% completion (and some of the levels are seriously controller-breaking), many more moves, and for the first time in a WWF game, tag team ladder matches, which were the best ladder matches. Plus the in-game currency needed to unlock new moves and characters upped the replay value that much more. Though the console was around until 2003, this was the last wrestling game released on the Nintendo 64, making No Mercy the very definition of a walk-off.
But enough about that, you just wanna see the intro for the game. So here you go.
This is probably the best intro for a wrestling game ever. If you know of a better one, I’d like to see it. The game is still being modded more than a decade later; that alone should tell you the testament this classic has to wrestling fans. That’s why you chose WWF No Mercy as the best wrestling game of all time.
Agree with the list? Something we miss? Give out about it in the comments below or on my Twitter. It’s up there somewhere.
And when you’re doing having a fight about it, check out these past Cageside Countdowns.
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