10 Best Wrestling Video Games Ever
With the Survivor Series just around the corner, we’ve been feeling rather nostalgic about our wrestling game past and some of the best wrestling video games ever.
Whether it was an arcade classic or the latest console game to put us in the boots of our favorite grapplers, there have been a handful of wrestling video games over the past three decades that have stuck with us.
We’ve whittled the competition down, and these are the last ten games standing in the ring. Someone get a championship strap because we're about to crown the best wrestling video game ever.
WWF Superstars kicks off our list of the best wrestling video games ever. A precursor to WWF WrestleFest, WWF Superstars was an incredibly solid arcade wrestler featuring a decent selection of the late 80s pros fans couldn’t get enough of. Character sprites were cartoonish, but still resembled the real life superstars like Sgt. Slaughter and Demolition with surprising accuracy. The game controlled well, and provided arcade-goers plenty of in-ring action to keep them pumping quarters in the machine. Add in signature moves, taunts, and the ability to play with up to four people, and you have a classic that still draws attention whenever you can find it in an arcade today.
Saturday Night Slam Masters may not have the wrestling pedigree of some of its licensed competition, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable to play. The action was fast and loose, but the character models and animations were incredible for the time. Even the home versions of SNSM were a blast to play, and resulted in more than a few heated rivalries between friends. It didn’t have the recognizable names, or even that robust of a roster, but to this day, Saturday Night Slam Masters is recognized as one of the premiere wrestling games of the 16-bit era and it deserves a spot on our list of the best video games ever.
The latest entry in THQ’s long-running WWE franchise, WWE 13 has a lot of great things going for it. The series’ trademark controls and presentation return, slightly sharper than the year before. Additionally, the customization options are as deep and robust as they’ve ever been. But the real draw of WWE 13 lies in the Attitude Era mode. A call back to the Monday Night Wars era, you get to relive the iconic moments of WWE superstars like Stone Cold, Shawn Michaels, Mankind, and the Undertaker as the WWE ascended to the dominant sports entertainment programming machine it is today.
WWF Royal Rumble makes the cut for being the first console title to include the actual Royal Rumble as a playable game mode. While Royal Rumble did have decent graphics and gameplay, the deep roster and multiplayer factor are what really set this game apart at the time. Subsequent WWF titles surpassed Royal Rumble in quality, but as one of the early 16-bit titles to put the WWF’s stars like Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect in your hands, it’s tough not to get nostalgic about one of the best wrestling video games ever.
Here Comes the Pain completely revolutionized the way WWE games were played at home on consoles. This entry in THQ’s long-running series debuted such memorable match types as First Blood, Elimination Chamber, and the less than awesome Bra and Panties match. HCTP included a deep creation mode (which even came with toolsets to make unique wrestlers like Spider-Man), and a season mode written by actual WWE writers. The action in the ring was fast and furious, but control remained tight, giving players endless exciting matches. It was also the first time we could play as Brock Lesnar in a video game, and his character has never been so destructive or imposing as it was in HCTP.
The follow-up to WCW/NWO World Tour, Revenge was one of the greatest wrestling video games ever developed. Even now, nearly a decade-and-a-half later, Revenge remains highly playable. The roster was huge. There were plenty of customization options. The coup de grace though was Revenge’s grappling controls, which remained the basis for all future wrestling games. Endless match types, with the ability to play along with three other friends made Revenge a stalwart of many a teen’s formative years during the late 90s, and there are still plenty of die-hard fans who swear by this title today.
One of the all-time classic arcade wrestling titles, WWE WrestleFest was not only fun to play, but had some really great production values for the time. With the ability to play with up to five other people, WrestleFest provided endless opportunities to step into the shoes of the era’s biggest stars (Utlimate Warrior, Jake “The Snake,” Hulk Hogan). There was a pretty interesting grappling system and decent commentary, but the real draw of this favorite was the Battle Royale. A Royal Rumble-lite of sorts, WrestleFest’s most hectic gameplay mode allowed you to earn bragging rights over everyone else playing, cementing its place on this list of the best wrestling video games ever.
Like many of the 16-bit wrestling games of the 90s, WWF Raw didn’t offer quite the same amount of finesse and control as the modern titles, but that doesn’t make it any less of a classic. WWF Raw included one of the greatest features in a wrestling game to that point by allowing players to get a steel chair from beneath the ring. Sure, you had to knock out the ref first, but after that simple task, you could cheat to your heart’s content by choking and eye-raking as well. Multiplayer was key for weekend sleepovers, and both the SNES and Genesis versions had solid offerings.
It may have taken a while for Fire Pro Wrestling Returns to make it stateside, but that just made finally getting the game in your hands that much sweeter. With one of the largest rosters (over 300 characters) in any game period, let alone just a wrestling game, FPWR offered virtually limitless match making opportunities. Did we mention you could also create as many wrestlers as your heart desired (provided you had the memory card space), as well as promotions, belts, and arenas? The simplistic controls harkened back to a different era, as did the game’s overall look and style, but that was all part of Fire Pro’s charm. To this day, Fire Pro Wrestling is tough to beat from an all-around perspective, and remains one of the most treasured and respected wrestling video games ever made.
The final Nintendo 64 WWF game, No Mercy was the successor to WWF 2000 and WCW/NWO Revenge. Building on everything its predecessors had implemented, No Mercy perfected the in-home wrestling experience just as a new millennium was beginning. Adding in a deep and branching story mode, along with comprehensive create-a-wrestler features helped establish No Mercy as the go-to wrestling game for quite a few years. No Mercy also included ladder matches for the first time in the series’ history, and also further refined many of the in-ring actions still used today like specific body part damage, reversals, recovering attacks, and a beefy list of unlockable content. Few games even today can match the offerings No Mercy had for its generation, and that’s why it’s still one of the most-played wrestling titles around.