Being that both are heavily targeted to the young, wrestling and video games seem to go hand in hand. Over the years we have been subject to many crappy games in the genre but, when done right, the joy one gets from it is almost second to none. Here is a list of the 10 best that I’m sure won’t disappoint.
10. Pro Wrestling (NES, 1987)
Some tend to think that this is the first wrestling game ever created, and they are most certainly wrong. It is, however, the first good wrestling video created, so I can see why it gets labeled as such. Pro Wrestling may not have the best gameplay, but what it lacks in that department, it makes up with character. The characters/wrestlers are some of the most memorable in video game history. Whether it be the Ric Flair-inspired King Slender, the super-cool (at the time) fan favorite, Starman, or any of the other four combatants, you are sure to be charmed by this 8-bit brawler.
9. WWF Royal Rumble (Sega Genesis/SNES, 1993)
In WWF Royal Rumble, you have the first good console game WWF/E ever made. Yes, it took four years for us to get a WWF/WWE licensed console wrestling game worth anything. Could be worse, as it took WCW seven years to finally put a good one out (WCW vs. The World). The game features a great roster, nice graphics, and decent, but sometimes frustrating, gameplay. The bread and butter of this game was the inclusion of the match that this game is named after for the first time on consoles. While not as fun and exciting as the one featured in WWF Wrestlefest (Arcade), it was a good enough alternative until you had enough quarters to go waste an hour playing that one.
8. WWF Superstars (Arcade, 1989)
After suffering from the abomination of the first WWF/WWE licensed game called WWF WrestleMania (NES) earlier that year, this jewel was released in arcades four months later and made you forget the former ever existed. This game had all you could ask for; with its tight controls, solid gameplay, good graphics, slick presentation and a great roster that featured all the wrestlers’ signature moves, taunts, and mannerisms for the first time. WWF fans finally had a winner.
7. Saturday Night Slam Masters (Arcade/Sega Genesis/SNES, 1993)
If you ever wondered what it would be like if you combined the classic arcade beat-’em-up, Final Fight, and wrestling, then here is your answer. Yes, this is more of an arcade fighting game at heart, but it’s not too ridiculously over-the-top like WWF’s WrestleMania: The Arcade Game (1995), as it retains just enough pro wrestling elements to feel authentic to the sport. Even without an official license, the game is super fun, and a must play.
6. WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain (PS2, 2003)
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the Smackdown series. I always liked the presentation, graphics, and story/career modes, but always felt that it was too fast paced and unrealistic. When HCTP was released, all that changed. Yes, there were still a couple things in there that made me cringe, but it was all outweighed by the good. This game is the most balanced of the series, where it’s still a bit arcade-y, but not too much to ruin the experience. This game features an awesomely deep roster, tight controls, a plethora of match types, and a good season mode. Sadly, I was expecting them to build upon this great game with the Smackdown vs. Raw series, but was let down time after time.
5. King of Colosseum II (PS2 Japan, 2004)
A lot of people probably never played or even heard of this game, but if you are fan of Puroresu (Japanese wrestling,) you have to give this one a shot. This was a Japanese release only, so if you don’t have a Japanese PS2, or a PS2 modified so that you can play import games, you are out of luck. Just like Puroresu, the gameplay is paced and methodical, building up to a satisfying climax in each match. The game features an unparalleled grappling system, impressive roster (150+ wrestlers), and the best game when it comes to actually working a match, and recreating the drama of a great bout.
4. WWF WrestleFest (Arcade, 1991)
Improving on the engine from #8’s WWF Superstars in every way, WWF Wrestlefest is still the most fun of all wrestling games after all these years. It may not do everything that other games can do, but all the things it does, from the vibrant cartoon graphics that reel you in, to the simple-yet-effective control scheme, to the flawlessly executed presentation, it does perfectly. I can rave about this game forever, but I’d much rather play it.
3. Total Extreme Wrestling 2010 (PC, 2009)
With this entry, we have the perfect case of “one is not like the others.” The main reason for that is that you don’t get to see any in-ring action with this one. What TEW 2010 does give you is the chance to book and/or own your own wrestling company. The only graphics you will see here are pictures of the grapplers, and words to describe what’s going on. That’s right, TEW 2010 is a text-based wrestling sim, and it is simply amazing.
Even if you are not a fan of games in this genre, there is plenty of fun to be had. Seeing as though the game isn’t licensed by any real wrestling company, it comes with a fictional universe that, after playing through it for a bit, you may feel to be real. The true selling point for me though, is the real-life mods you can download online that feature real wrestlers of today or the years past. Want to try and take the TNA or ROH of today to the top of the mountain, and put the WWE out of business in the process? There’s a mod for that. You want to try and save WCW from going out of business by putting on good shows and PPV’s instead of the crap they were churning out? There’s a mod for that. Or maybe you want to book Hulkamania, or raise Hell with the 4 Horsemen all over again? If so, there’s also a mod for that.
The possibilities are endless, as you craft storylines, hire and fire workers to make your company better, deal with the egos and backstage politics of your workers, go to war with rival promotions, and everything else you can think of. Highly recommended!
2. WWF No Mercy (N64, 2000)
Here we have the pinnacle of the AKI wrestling games. No Mercy was damn near perfect for a wrestling game. It had the same top notch control scheme, great roster, a very good Create-A-Wrestler mode, awesome story mode, the ability to defend titles anytime, ladder matches (a first for AKI wrestling games, and still probably the best recreation of it to date), good pacing to the matches, decent enough graphics, and all around great gameplay. Getting three friends together and plugging in four controllers is all you’d ever need for a night of good fun. And believe me, I’ve pulled many all-nighters in that same scenario, so I know what I’m talking about. Sadly, there was never a true sequel released for this, which they could have upgraded the few weak spots it did have, but even still, you can pop it in today, and relive all the glory that is WWF No Mercy.
1. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns (PS2, 2007)
Here is the greatest wrestling game ever released. A lot of people may scratch their head as to how this highly unknown game got the nod over the coveted No Mercy, but trust me, this game is just that damn good. Seeing as though there aren’t many weaknesses to this game, I might as well get them out of the way first. First off, this is a Japanese made game translated for American audiences, so the starting roster (all 327 of them) is a who’s who of Puroresu (Japanese wrestling) under fake names, which you can edit to their real names. Don’t let that turn you off though, as there are saves you can download that have all of them renamed correctly to save you time.
The control scheme, which I consider a plus, may turn a lot of people off if they are used to button mashers, or Smackdown-type controls. It’s hard to get the hang of, but well worth it. What turns most people off are the graphics. The simplistic 2D sprites used here are great to me, but if you are looking for a lifelike 3D experience, you may think this is a 16-bit or kids’ game. Don’t let it deter you though, as you would be missing out on the deepest wrestling game around.
Now on to the good, and there sure is a lot. To make up for the lack of recognizable wrestlers, you can create up to 500 wrestlers in its stellar create-a-wrestler mode. The reason I find it has the best CAW mode is because with all the heads to choose from (most of which belong to familiar US wrestlers not in the game), clothing layers, and so on, it is easy to create a spot-on FPR version of any wrestler you want. With 1649 beautifully animated moves to choose from when creating your wrestler’s moveset, a 100% accurate replication isn’t difficult at all. What makes this CAW system better than any other, bar none, is that addition of logic to the created wrestlers. This means if you want to create a real-life wrestler to behave exactly like himself (going for certain moves more than others at certain times in a match, chaining together certain maneuvers, focusing on wearing down certain parts of their opponent’s body), you can. Again, if all this seems overwhelming to you, there are wonderful saves online to save you the trouble of creating all your favorites.
In addition to that, you have the ability to create up to 8 titles, promotions, logos, rings, and referees. There are a plethora of match types to choose from, and you can even have MMA matches on here with its onset of grappling mechanics, so it’s kinda like two games in one. Overall, the gameplay is amazing once you get the hang of it. As a testament to how incredible it all is, I have just as much fun, if not more, watching the computer-controlled wrestlers go at it in dream matches. In no other game have I had the desire to do that, but with the added logic to every wrestler, you get such joy out of seeing the wrestlers perform just how they would in real life. On the surface this game may not look like much, but under the hood, this game can’t be beat.
Written By Jawone Ray