Growing up, wrestling games were my favorite. I was extremely invested in professional wrestling. Especially the WWF/WWE. So much so that I would constantly find myself thinking about what would happen next when I was supposed to be paying attention in class.
YOU MEAN TO TELL ME A CHILD WASN’T PAYING ATTENTION AT SCHOOL?
Whoa. Sorry, America. I know you’re sensitive right now but….cool it down a bit.
So this is my top 10 wresting games of all time. From memory. Meaning a lot of these games have nostalgia attached to them. Or I haven’t played them in a while. Keep in mind that I haven’t played a lot of wresting games out there, even though I have played A LOT of wresting games in my lifetime. There are just tons out there.
Don’t worry–I play to play more! YEEEEEEE
10. WWE 2K14
You could almost add 2k16 here as well, but 2k14 gets the nudge over 16 due to its roster, and the fact that it was my first entire into the series. However, expect to see many comparisons to 2k15 and 2k16 being that they’re apart of the same series and, being produced from year to year, are fairly iterative of each other. I know most people seem to favor 2k13, or even 2k12, but I’ve only played these three–I’m sure I’ll get the chance to play the other ones sometime soon.
This was my first new wrestling game after getting back into wrestling. See, after years of not watching or caring about professional wrestling, a coworker woke my interest, and I began watching once again. It was exciting and weird to see what had happened during my absence. And while I missed a lot of good things, I think I missed A LOT of terrible things as well. So I’m glad–with Lucha Underground, New Japan Pro Wrestling, NXT, and WWE’s Network, this is certainly the best time to be into professional wrestling for better or worse.
Anyway, this isn’t about professional wrestling! It’s about video games based on professional wrestling.
WWE 2k14 has an amazing roster–perhaps the best ever. The showcase mode, which I will get to in a second, focuses on the greatest matches of every Wrestlemania. Except no Chris Benoit. But of course there’s no Chris Benoit. There’s no Kurt Angle either but anyway–you get a great representation from every era, as well as some WcW stars. And if there’s someone missing (Like…you know…Chris Benoit) you can always go online and download CAWs (That’s Create a Wrestler. They’re created wrestlers you dig?).
The ability to go online and download other people’s created shit was amazing. It was the first time I had experienced that in a wrestling game, and it was the reason I signed up for Xbox Gold after months of leaving that subscription in expiration. I had a ton of WcW and ECW superstars fighting it out in my own custom universe mode complete with custom entrances, arenas, and championship belts. The creative suite in this game is deep. There’s even a Create-a-Story mode, where you create your own cut-scenes and dialogue. I never messed with that feature…but I should have! I think if any of the newer 2k games come out with this mode in, I’m going to abuse so many earth hours putting people into idiotic storylines. And it WON’T be a waste of time because I WILL BE HAVING FUN DAMNIT.
Now the gameplay as far as the in-ring wrestling is considered is…serviceable. It’s alright. I had fun at times but everything was just so chunky and slow. I’m absolutely too used to the quicker, arcade-pace of games like No Mercy and the early Smackdown games, but I also think those games controlled much better than any of the 2k games I’ve played thusfar. Wrestling games have always been fairly complex video games to control. You have strikes, grapples, special moves, and taunts. But you can also irish whip opponents, enter and exit the ring, run at opponents, turn opponents around while standing, flip them while lying, pick them up while lying, sit them up while laying, climb and jump off turnbuckle, irish whip into turn buckle, throw opponent out of ring, dive from the ring, lie opponent on table, climb table and put opponent through table, climb ladders and cages, retrieve weapons from underneath the ring (or from the crowd like the old AKI games), so on and so forth. None of this accounts for movesets, or how each individual game treats said movesets. Grapples all have individual levels, as well as strikes, and there are multiple moves in each level. These are very complex games–and it needs to work smoothly when it comes to the controls. If you’re constantly forgetting how to do things that signifies the game’s lack of thought in designing the controls. There’s also a problem of buttons doing too many functions, leading to you performing a completely different function than was intended. I seem to do this extremely often in the 2k games. OR MAYBE I JUST NEED TO GET GOOD.
2k14 does feel better to control than both 2k15 or 16, for what that’s worth. And I do have a lot of fun with these games. They’re often not very satisfying to play.
My primary reason for going back to this series is the Universe mode. The Universe mode has been with the series since the later Smackdown vs Raw games and in the 2k games they are pretty damn good. It takes a lot of work getting everything together, and for what it’s worth I’m doing a lot of extra work by writing storylines and planning storylines and events, so I’m putting a lot into this mode that makes it fulfilling and fun for me. But there’s something to be said for games that allow this. Take Minecraft for example. A lot of that game’s charm is in how you go about building stuff. You could build a hut made out of wood and dirt, or you could build a city complete with restaurants, monuments, and complex railway transportation. You harvest significance in a game that hands you tools to create.
Players can choose to keep the same roster on Raw and Smackdown, or remove both shows and replace them with something new. I choose to create WcW Nitro instead of Smackdown, and then I had NXT full of random stars from NJPW and ECW. It’s great that this game has the options available to do this kind of thing, and it’s something that the older game’s really lack. Even now, while I go back and play some of my favorite wresting games, I find myself longing for a Universe mode. Sure, I could do similar things with PPV modes, or just exhibition and REALLY put my imagination to work. But the toolsets available in Universe mode, like the ability to program your own rivalries OR let the game do it for you, make this mode really special. There are even cutscenes that play out story beats during rivalries that you get if you play or watch a match. Wrestlers get injured, stables break up, and unexpected champions are crowned. It’s by far the primary reason I am into these games.
The Showcase mode is pointless to me. I don’t really care about recreating moments that have happened because the moments will always look and feel like shit compared to how they look actually watching the thing, so usually I play a couple matches, get fed up, and purchase the five dollar cheat code that unlocks everything without having to play the showcase mode. Is that lame? It’s fucking lame. But I’d rather get everything upfront so that I can use it all in Universe mode.
9. WWF Smackdown 2: Know Your Role
I didn’t play Playstation much until 2. I got one shortly before I got my PS2, and when I got that thing (must have been around 2002 or 3) I got Smackdown 2: Know Your Role purely because I played it at a friend’s house and I thought it was fucking awesome! Everyone controlled so well, you moved around the ring so fast, it was like nothing I had played before. After the grueling and tedious matches in WWF Warzone and Attitude, and the impactful meaty confrontations of WWF No Mercy and WcW/nWo Revenge, Smackdown 2 was a real breathe of fresh air.
When the fucking game wasn’t loading.
This game is famous for having some of the longest and most frequent loading times in human history. Load times would last minutes. MINUTES. Of just staring at random pictures of dudes with their signature. And they occurred so frequently that you had to sit through two loading screens when changing options. WHAT THE FUCK?
Now if that didn’t handicap this game enough, the season mode had this terrible feature where you couldn’t simply skip over every other match that you didn’t have a stake in. Although cool, the season mode forces players to watch this awful, nonsensical “cutscene,” if you can call it that, where the avatars of every wrestler involved hover over bars that successively drain in order to symbolize the match. It’s an attempt to create drama even though YOU ARE TRYING TO SKIP THE MATCH. So you can, you know, get to your character’s next match. That’s the whole point of playing the fucking season mode, right?
If I seem overly angry it’s only because the gameplay here is so good. The roster is so good, and it was very up to date for when the game came out. It even included unlockable Stone Cold and Shawn Michaels, who were both not on TV when the game came out. You had matches that hadn’t been seen on wrestling games prior to that point, like the Hell in a Cell. EVERYTHING felt like butter control wise, and actions were easy to learn, easy to master, easy to perform. It was a great wrestling game that is a chore to play only because of what seems like hardware limitations. The game even had really cool entrances that showed the superstar’s titantron movie as the wrestler walked around–they couldn’t show the guy entering into the arena, but they found a way around that without failing to include entrances. It’s kinda hard to explain so I may include a video link here in case you’re curious.
Maybe the first Smackdown was better, and I hope to see soon since I don’t remember anything about that game, but I still have fond memories of this game. Those memories are what put it above the more recent offerings. Even if that fondness contains disgusting load times.
8. Def Jam Vendetta
A video game about wresting rappers.
At this point, I’ve said all I need to say. But allow me to elaborate:
You take rappers from the Def Jam label, like DMX and Ludacris for example, and you compete against other rappers from Def Jam as well as original characters that seem to not be rappers. I guess they just wrestle people? The action is intense and brutal, with some of the most satisfying and unrealistic moves. DMX was always my favorite character to play being that he was extremely fast and strong and his moves were awesome. But my favorite finishing move in the game came from this giant guy who would just pick dudes up by the head and snap their neck. It was so good!
Feature wise you don’t have much here. Create-a-Wrestler was completely missing and match types were very limited–the game was really focused around it’s story mode. And it was a pretty good and lengthy story mode. What sucked was you had to play through this long story mode to unlock all the good characters, making it difficult to play with friends unless you had played through this game OR knew the cheat codes. I like it when games have unlockable characters, but this game had too many unlockable characters in the face of not enough starting characters.
The best thing about this game besides its weirdness is the fact it was made by the AKI Corporation. So the game plays just like those amazing N64 games (Revenge, Wrestlemania, No Mercy, World Tour), except with a few added things. You have to mash to submit, and get out of submissions, for example.
I never played Def Jam Fight for New York. From all accounts it is a much better game. That’s saying a lot considering this game I remember so fondly. It’s only really missing creative features–but in a game of its type, I don’t really think it needs one. It’s just an insane experiment in time that worked out really well.
Well, at least better than games like BMX XXX.
7. WcW vs nWo Revenge
SPEAKING OF AKI CORPORATION.
This game is hugely important. Coming out in 1998, when WcW was really hitting the peak of its hotness, WcW vs nWo Revenge boasted an amazing roster of talent and a bunch of weirdos based on Asian and Mexican wrestlers. I mean look at this guy:
See, I actually broke out this game last week and played a ton of it. In Championship Mode I used this Ming Chee guy and went after the World Heavyweight Champion. I was on the last match against Roddy Piper, and I hit the table too hard my Nintendo 64 was sitting on causing the damn thing to freeze! Fucking Nintendo 64!
Roaster aside, the gameplay is absolutely fantastic in this game. If you played any of these N64 games you will likely know exactly how they are played. You’ve got strikes and grapples, B and A respectively. Tapping gives you weak versions of strikes and grapples, holding strong. When grappling you’re locked up and you push A or B with or without directional inputs giving you a lot of different moves. There’s reversals of strikes and grapples, as well as taunts. Taunts are important because they build your Spirit gauge quickly, and when that’s full you can execute your special move. To do that, strong grapple either from the front or the back and flick the analogue stick. If you hit A plus B you will steal the opponent’s special move, and when taunting you can steal opponent’s taunts by spinning the analogue stick counter-clockwise.
The game is pretty easy to pick up, but the AI in these games like to spam the fuck out of reversals. And that’s annoying. So I put the game on Easy almost every time. Am I a bitch for doing so? Probably. I just don’t want to break my controllers after the fifteenth reversal! Get off my back.
And my lawn.
This game was still quite primitive as far as feature list. You have a limited number of matches (although to give them credit there is a battle royal mode). You have no real season mode. There’s just championship mode, which requires players to play through several wrestlers like a fighting game’s arcade ladder. And then you face the champion. Beat the champion and you unlock that belt for exhibition mode AND you unlock the carrier of that belt, since they’re always hidden/unlockable characters. While the mode is easy, which I appreciate, it leaves much to be desired. I also don’t like wrestling several dudes in a row without the ability to save my progress and quit.
The created suite is barely in this game. While you can’t create your own wrestler, you can alter the appearances of wrestlers and change their name. So you’d pick a wrestler with an adequate moveset and body type and then change their name to create someone new. It’s certainly not enough but at least they were trying.
That’s the thing about this game–with all of these negatives there’s always a counter. No season mode but you get to unlock wrestlers and defend unlocked belts in exhibition. No create a wrestler but you can kinda create an alternative appearance of a wrestler and name them after your own. Well, the limited match selection still might be a huge negative. Unless you have friends around. This game is amazing when played with friends–quite enough so to forgive its limited selection of matches.
There are little touches that really go a long way in making this game awesome. Like Sting always starts a match with his bat. When he appears in a battle royal, as long as he’s not one of the first four, he will enter the ring from the ceiling like he was want to do. La Parka always starts the match with a chair. I didn’t watch much WcW so I have no idea why. One of my favorite features is the soundtrack–the matches all play out to original music and in general it all sounds good. There are absolutely no entrance theme songs, which I sourly dislike. Instead you get the same two songs during every entrance. BUT, you get the amazing Nitro theme after every match as the game shows your score. So at least there’s that.
As successful as World Tour was, Revenge really killed it. It won best fighting game of the year, it earned enough to be called one of the highest selling N64 games, and it opened the door for the future AKI titles that really expanded on the features of Revenge. To put it into context, Revenge’s major competitor that year as a wrestling game on the N64 was WWF Warzone. Yeah. No wonder WcW was winning. Soon, WWF would make a smart move. Under the awareness that their games couldn’t compete. Maybe those games will make the list…
6. WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2006
I only started playing this game recently, so I have no nostalgia for it. Except for seeing guys I love that aren’t in the WWE anymore. Like Kurt Angle.
Who is a God in this game.
But I never played the Smackdown vs Raw games. They came out while I was taking a break away from wrestling. I think I would have appreciated this game if I had played it back then even though it gets away from that arcade style I mostly prefer. The gameplay is strategic in this one, containing a stamina bar the player must recharge from time to time by holding the select button. This really makes the action seem more realistic while shaking up the way I play these games, since I tend to just run at people and hit them as soon as the bell rings and keep up with a dominant flurry of moves that prevent my opponent from action.
Well, I can still do that in this game. I just have to hold select sometimes. And put the game on Easy.
The real reason this ranks relatively high on my list when being a newer game is the extremely impressive season mode. This game has a giant story that contains actual voice acting that is well done. And the story changes depending on who you pick, giving this game an insane amount of replay value.
There are a ton of matches available as well as a creative suite that is very impressive. I really haven’t touched most of these options as I’ve been so busy taking Kurt Angle through the story mode. When one mode alone gives me reason to put this game on this countdown, you may rest assured that it is quite a special mode.
I also have to bring up the graphics. They’re really good for PS2. Especially the models of the wrestlers. I swear some of them look better than they do in WWE 2k16.
Eh. Not that one.
5. WWE Allstars
While the Smackdown vs Raw series was going strong and providing realistic gameplay, this game came out in 2011 and gave players the most arcade experience they could have ever wanted. The game puts then-current superstars against ones from the past, like Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin, in giant exaggerated combat. Everyone looks like a monster. Every move requires jumping several stories into the air and earthquake-like impacts, and you can juggle people. You can fucking juggle people.
I always thought this game was more relatable to WWF In Your House for the Playstation. That game was Mortal Kombat with a wrestling skin, so everything was absolutely ridiculous.
There’s little more satisfying than watching The Undertaker pick someone up, jump thirty feet in the air, and deliver an earth shaking tombstone piledriver. It really gives you that “I just fucking killed this guy!” feeling. It’s looks so brutal but it’s also so cartoonish that it remains fun. Everything is stylized with yellow and blue shadows following your wrestler as they perform giant moves. Everyone and everything’s got that exaggerated appearance. WWE Allstars brings the fun out of wrestling; a breathe of fresh air after so many years of edgy, try-hard, teenage angst that was the Attitude and Ruthless Agression eras.
The game has single players modes about going after The Undertaker, or going after Randy Orton. For tag team action you can also choose to go against DX. There’s also a cool mode called Fantasy Warfare, which matches then-current wrestlers with legendary wrestlers based on certain kinds of similarities. As a Stone Cold guy growing up, my favorite was Stone Cold vs CM Punk. Why were they matched up? Well, CM Punk was straight edge and…Stone Cold drinks a lot of beer.
The gameplay is addicting. Along with looking massive everything feels massive, and wrestlers all come equipped with suitable combat classes–brawler, grappler, big man, and acrobat. These come into play in different ways such as grapplers having the ability to chain grapples together, or brawlers getting more strikes in their combos, or big men being able to fucking bounce people around like basketballs. A create a superstar mode is implemented too, which is nice but extremely lacking to the more realistic games. This is fine, though. This game is obviously no simulator. It’s just a fun time.
This game automatically had to make my list in a high position for the reason that I played it originally when I wasn’t into wrestling anymore. I played it at a friend’s house and thought it looked amazing. Then I played and loved it. I would later buy it on 360, still not into wrestling at the time, and I had a blast. Wrestling games are fun–they’re satisfying ways to let off some steam after a bad day, or just relish in the act of destroying bodies. This is one of the only recent games that makes this act look fun. Nothing about this game is a chore. Nothing feels like work. Nothing feels overly simulated. WWE Allstars is video games, and if you’re a fan of those, check this game out. Even with a limited amount of wrestling knowledge you can have a blast!
4. WWF Wrestlemania 2000
Remember Revenge? This is the Sequel–but about WWF.
3. I was kidding.
Wrestlemania 2000 is quite the amazing wrestling game. For it’s time, and even today, anyone can go back and enjoy this quality video game.
What I said in the opening sentences was accurate. This game is Revenge, but done with WWF instead of WcW. However they did add some substantial improvements. There are more arenas to play in, there’s a full fledged season mode to complete in, there’s a fully featured Create-a-Wrestler mode, and there are many matches to choose from. There’s even an ability to create your own title belt! I think it might be the first Create-a-Championship mode and I remember wanting this mode in every single video game that didn’t include it from then on.
I probably played No Mercy before this game but I always went back and rented this game. I even bought it eventually. It wasn’t as featured as No Mercy and the roster was no where near as current. But it had the wrestlers I was familiar with from the older WWF games like Attitude and Warzone, and it had the mentioned create-a-championship mode. This game also did a wonderful job creating the spirit of the attitude era. From the intro to the season mode it really felt like 1999.
Which means this game jerks off Stone Cold. Seriously, watch the intro sometime. Holy shit.
The gameplay feels like Revenge. There have been some tweaks to the engine surely, such as the improved move animations, but more or less this game plays exactly as Revenge. This is a good thing, because these games are amazing.
There isn’t much else to say. I enjoy playing this game to this day. I’m going to move on–life’s a highway. Pay cray nay jay drey fey stay.
ACTUAL NUMBER THREE. WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain
Well….here comes the pain! /tazz
Remember when Brock Lesner and Goldberg had that match
This is hands down one of the greatest wrestling video games to grace us wrestle nerds. It has an amazing roster with several superstars that made their first or only appearance in a WWE game. For example, Ray Mysterio made his first WWE video game appearance, and Ultimo Dragon made his only WWE appearance! It also featured legends for the first time in Smackdown history. The combat was revolutionized to include more strategic and simulation aspects, but it still had the arcade feel of the early Smackdown games. It really does hit that sweet spot between simulation and arcade.
Gameplay is fast, but unlike games like Smackdown 2 the moves actually feel like they have some weight to them. Controls are flawless. Interacting with the myriad of functions in this game feels painless. The game even has the elimination chamber and it works like a dream!
I played the elimination chamber match on WWE 2k16 last night for the first time. That was a fucking messy nightmare. This game from 2003 got it better. Come on.
The season mode is fantastic as well. You pick a wrestler and go through storyline after storyline on either Raw or Smackdown as you chase the WWE Championship. In between matches you go to different locations backstage in the first person and talk to different superstars or the General Manager. Money is earned completing matches and you spend that money on unlocking things like WWE Legends and more parts/moves for the CAW mode.
The creative suite is massive, with an insanely deep Create-a-Wrestler mode and a CREATE-AN-ANIMATION MODE. You can create moves, taunts, and even stances, taking this as seriously as you want. I tended to make ridiculous looking hilarious animations because WHY NOT.
The game also has a bra and panties match.
Exhibition boosts an amazing amount of matches that are possible to play. Pretty much everything is available here, including the lumberjack match, and everything works well and is fun to play. There are insane backstage areas full of environment interactions. You can fight on a street and jump off a helicopter. Seriously, what else do you need?
I had fun with this game but it came at a difficult time for me to enjoy it in its entirely. I was slowly getting out of wrestling, and the product had become extremely stale. However:
2. WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth
This game came out when I was into wrestling. Probably more so than ever in my life, I couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t wrestling. I played this game, almost daily, for an entire year…basically until I got Here Comes the Pain. I remember being disappointed with Here Comes the Pain (probably because of the more technical focus), and I always thought that Shut Your Mouth was a better game.
Looking back on it now, Here Comes the Pain is probably actually better. But since I’m doing this countdown mostly by memory, which includes a lot of nostalgia, I’d have to say that Shut Your Mouth gets the edge here. Maybe I’ll do a more thorough kind of ranking process with wresting games, and in that event maybe I’d rank Here Comes the Pain higher.
So this game is similar to Here Comes the Pain as far as the features. The roster is a little different, and possibly a little better (even though it hasn’t the legends), but it’s mostly the same. The season mode is different but similar–you go through two years, instead of one, with a picked superstar either on Raw or Smackdown and you go for the WWE Undisputed Championship. You interact with people backstage. You get into storylines. It’s really fun, and I think I might have liked this game’s season mode better than HctP. The Creative Suite is pretty similar as well. Probably less options. It’s been a while since I played HctP so I honestly can’t remember the differences.
I started playing this game again recently since I found a copy at my local old video game store, and it really is a dream to play. I can’t wait to get deeper into it, especially with the create a superstar mode. I’ll be playing more, so you can expect to see some more in-depth conversation about Shut Your Mouth and Here comes the Pain here on the blog of garbage trash.
1. WWF No Mercy
Come on. You saw this coming. And even if you didn’t see this coming, you should have–this game is ranked 8 on my top ten games of all time! Now that I’ve been playing it again, it should probably have ranked higher! It’s a damn good video game.
It came out at the perfect time. I was, similar to Shut Your Mouth, into wrestling, and the AKI Corporation had fine tuned their wrestling engine to perfection. Noteable differences that detract from No Mercy compared to Wrestlemania 2000 are very few. Entrances are only half-done–no one is shown getting into the ring. There is no Create-a-Championship mode.
That’s it. Everything else is better.
The roster is impressive. The Create-a-Superstar mode is fucking incredible. The main single player mode, Championship, is amazing, and offers great storylines. The gameplay is nearly flawless. What more can I say? This game had it all AND it holds up!
The only true knock I can put on this game is that I got a glitched copy. See, this game had the terrible misfortune of being distributed carrying a crippling bug that would randomly delete all data off the cartridge. This was fucking frustrating as a kid, and I was too stupid to try and look up a solution. I wish I had. There was a program where you could contact THQ and get a replacement cartridge (known as version 1.1) that was fixed! I still look for this cartridge to this day anytime I walk into a place selling N64 games. It seems, by all accounts, to be rare and highly sought after.
Other than that I really don’t like how often the AI reverses moves. I often put the game’s difficulty to Beginner or Easy so that I can have some fun, but the championship mode has its own difficulty–that difficulty is called “I’m going to reverse everything you throw at me my name is The Road Dog have a nice day.”
I’ve said more in my top ten games of all time countdown so I recommend looking there if you need more information. No Mercy is my favorite wrestling game of all time because it was the time I was possibly most into wrestling, and because as a wrestling game it was flawless. The graphics are pretty funny to look at today, but the gameplay is still best in class. I highly encourage everyone and anyone to play this game. While most copies on the market contain that terrible glitch they are fairly easy to come by and they’re generally cheap. Uh…emulation is fairly easy these days.
the sock says