When it comes to wrestling games, there’s been more gobbledy-gookers than there has John Cenas. But why focus on the failures, the games that leave you wanting to smack a steel chair over your head in frustration? Instead, let’s focus on the (Andre the) giants that the wrestling gaming industry has served up over the last nearly thirty years.
5. Tecmo World Wrestling
Tecmo World Wrestling may be a retro classic but it will forever hold a special place in my heart. Tecmo was also the first time wrestling fans were introduced to over the top moves that we were seeing on TV. Before Tecmo, wrestling games had been a basic kick, punch affair with the possibility of a finisher that vaguely resembled the selected superstars. Tecmo had gamers pulling off German suplexes, northern lights and the dreaded over the top rope giant swing.
What made Tecmo so captivating was that there was no WWF license, meaning the entire cast of oddities were made from scratch. Ranging from “The Technician” Dr. Guildo all the way to the overly-effeminate Mark Rose. Tecmo had a completely unique roster, each with their own moveset and distinct style. Tecmo was also home to in-game cutscenes when you’re close to victory, a first for the NES.
Suffice to say, Tecmo was light-years ahead of its time.
4. Def Jam: Fight for NY
FFNY was a follow up to Def Jam Vendetta, a story-driven fighting game. Something that hadn’t really been explored with this level of depth (and no, WWF Betrayal doesn’t count!).
The gameplay here follows the same style laid out by AKI in the N64 WCW series, but adds in different disciplines: Kickboxing, Street Fighting, Martial Arts, Wrestling and Submissions: Each with their own play style and moveset.
What makes it handle so much differently to other wrestling games is the pit-fighter style matches. Players fight inside of crowds, with people shoving and cussing you as you fight and occasionally offering up objects to murder your opponents with. It’s quite reminiscent of early ECW action and although isn’t primarily set in a ring with all the fanfare that comes with pro wrestling, offers some of the best beatdowns you’ll ever come across.
3. WWE Day of Reckoning
The game features a control system akin to that of the N64 wrestling games, in its combination of weak and strong grapples or strikes. It also introduced players to “the momentum shift,” a desperation attack that gives the character the upper hand during a match
On top of a groundbreaking create-a mode, it was also home to a thoroughly enjoyable story mode that saw the user joining Raw or Smackdown and siding with either Triple H’s Evolution stable or Undertaker’s New Ministry and eventually kicking the members out following their uselessness.
It may sound a tad weak and comes off a bit cheesy, but this was the first great wrestling game on the GameCube and the storyline of being a member in one of the biggest groups in pro wrestling, made for a really fascinating experience.
2. WWE All Stars
As wrestling fans, we accept everything the WWE throws at us as fact. We accept that The Undertaker is able to lift 500lb men with one hand around their throat. We accept that jumping off the top rope, spinning a bit, and flattening someone, can lead to a pinfall victory. So when we play a wrestling game, why not have the action mimic the exaggerated performance of the WWE?
WWE All Stars does this flawlessly.
It’s really quite an odd concept but for some reason, having two wrestlers flying into the air, twisting and turning, only to come back down to Earth with Super Saiyan-like speed, actually makes it feel a lot more like what you’re watching Raw on Monday nights.
In terms of gameplay alone, WWE All Stars is one of the most realistic wrestling games of the last ten years.
1. WWF No Mercy
The AKI Corporation were intent on making the best game possible but up to this point hadn’t been able to make the perfect stand out wrestling game. WCW vs the World showed potential and that same potential evolved into WCW vs nWo: World Tour. Each title they were releasing was showing signs of improvement and striving ever closer to perfection.
When WWF Wrestlemania 2000 came out, wrestling enthusiasts were in awe of what had been created; but, despite its greatness, it still lacked the polish expected from a Triple-A title.
That following year, THQ and AKI released WWF No Mercy, the greatest wrestling game ever created.
Moves felt hefty. Finishers felt like they were going to break the ring in half. Graphically, it was gorgeous and vastly improved over its predecessors. The story mode kept players coming back for more. And on top of all this, had one of the best ideas in gaming history.
WWF superstars were constantly changing their look as the years progressed. In No Mercy, you could update the way each of the wrestlers looked. I remember distinctly when the APA’s Bradshaw shaved his beard off, got a wall-street haircut and changed his name to JBL. When this happened, I instantly fired up No Mercy and was able to change my in-game Bradshaw to reflect what the WWE version looked like. This meant my annual wrestling game, which was by far the most fun to play, could be constantly updated and stayed in my life for years after my initial purchase.
WWF No Mercy is, and forever will be the benchmark that all wrestling games have to live up to.