The All-Time Greatest Wrestling Games
Remember in the late 90’s when professional wrestling became extremely popular again? I do. I was a big fan of the WWF back then, now called the WWE. My favorite wrestler was The Rock. He was powerful, yet agile. Although I loved watching Raw every Monday and eventually Smackdown on Thursdays, the main reason why I was into wrestling was the games. Although at the time I focused on the WWF titles, I grew curious and not much later I tried the WCW games. Both companies made incredible games and their respective developers did a good job to distinguish the two; however I will say that THQ is the king of wrestling games. There’s a reason that they’ve made every WWE game for over a decade. Regardless of developer, wrestling games are an important segment of video game history and was a new genre for the medium. Some say wrestling games are fighting games or sports games. I think they’ve created their own genre.
Here are five of the greatest wrestling games the genre has to offer. These are in no particular order; they’re just five great games you all should at least try.
This is the game that truly got me into wrestling games. The presentation was incredible and the gameplay was complex, in that it used command inputs to do the various slams, grapples and holds. It may be a little slow, especially when compared to current wrestling games, but it made the matches more methodical and strategic, especially when you factor in the terms of the match. There were so many different type of matches. One on Three, Hardcore, Cage, First Blood, Tornado Tag and the list goes on. You also had the option to change different cosmetic items of the ring, such as the ropes, the banners on the side of the ring and even the gels on the lights. In fact the best aspect of this game is the amount of customization. The create a wrestler feature from the previous game, WWF War Zone, was greatly expanded and you can now customize your move list, a wonderful feature that can suck up lots of your time. I remember creating different wrestlers with different personas, move lists and entrances just for fun. You don’t mess with Dirk Montana, Jabroni!
WCW/ nWo Revenge
The last WCW game I played back when wrestling was at its peak, I was late to the party when it came to WCW / nWo Revenge. I had heard great things about this game and I had recently enjoyed WCW vs. nWo: World Tour. This game was a refinement of the previous WCW game and a precursor to WWF Smackdown on the PlayStation. Sure it’s been improved upon by its later N64 contemporaries, WWF Wrestlemania 2000 and WWF No Mercy, but Revenge is just such a sublime game with outstanding gameplay. The graphics are pretty good and sound is bone crushing, the ability to customize each wrestler’s outfit is cool, and there’s more to do in single player than in the previous game. However, the game is just so much fun. It has great playability and great a cast of wrestlers. This is the best WCW game ever released and unfortunately, this would be due to THQ moving on to the WWF. Bad for WCW but great for the WWF as seen in this next game.
WWF Smackdown 2
WWF Smackdown for the original PlayStation was my first introduction to THQ’s style of wrestling games and I was blown away. It had style, excitement and outstanding presentation. The gameplay was fast and responsive and I had a lot of fun with it. However, I always felt it was lacking features, especially since it was the follow up to WWF Attitude. There were only 30 or so wrestlers, a few special matches and the create a wrestler was lacking. Know Your Role fixed all of that and more. It improved the Career Mode to be more fleshed out as well as a focus on the title belts. Everything was tracked and documented, making it easy to set out personal goals. Also, this game has the Rock n’ Sock Connection, the weirdest and best tag team ever! I remember still playing this game well after the PS2 was released and it remains my favorite wrestling game to date. However, when it comes to wrestling games, I typically play them on the N64; this next game is one of the best reasons why.
WWF No Mercy
I may like WCW/nWo Revenge more but that’s not to say that WWF No Mercy isn’t the pinnacle of wrestling games on the N64. There are so many features and things to do in this game. As always, the gameplay is rock solid, as it uses the same engine that Revenge uses. As a matter of fact, that is oddly enough the only reason I prefer Revenge to No Mercy. By this point, the gameplay felt too similar to Revenge and I felt that even the N64 couldn’t quite pull off everything this game was trying to do. I know however than many gamers would disagree with me and I can’t argue that despite my reservations about this game, it’s still fun. The big roster of characters and various single player belts to win gave you lots to enjoy. As with all the N64 THQ wrestling games, multiplayer is a lot of fun and holds up to this day. I should mention that I played this game rather late, way after the PS2 was released and even after I played Revenge. I was busy with Know Your Role when this was released but I finally tried it while waiting for a great wrestling game on the PS2.
WWE Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain
The Smackdown series hasn’t been the same since the original PlayStation. Although they remain competent games, no longer are wrestling games outstanding titles we can rely on being one of the best games every year like in the genre’s late 90’s heyday. I personally don’t play the newer wrestling games anymore as they all tend to run together. However, I still had hope that the PS2 would yield a great wrestling game and it finally in 2003 it did. After the abysmal Just Bring It and the average Shut Your Mouth, WWE Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain is a great title for those who wanted a next generation Know Your Role like myself. After this installment, the Smackdown vs Raw series would start and send the franchise into a Madden like yearly installment that had good gameplay but only minor improvements. Here Comes The Pain shows the last great improvement in the grapple system, extending it to 16 different moves available.
WWE 2K15 is the latest wrestling game to be released later this year. However, memories of the epic battle between Ken Shamrock and Steve Blackman will keep my heart with WWF Attitude, Know Your Role and the great collection of wrestling games the N64 and PlayStation gave us.