The best there is, the best there was.
So you’re looking for the best wrestling games of all time, huh? Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve rounded up the greatest grapplers from a bygone era, shined them up real nice, and compiled them into a handy list for you to read.
So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, let me present to you the best wrestling games of all time. And if you don’t agree with my selection, I’ve got two words for you.
10. WWF Attitude (PlayStation, N64, Dreamcast)
Complex controls, hilarious sound bytes, and surprisingly pleasing graphics, WWF Attitude was the go-to wrestling game for the original PlayStation.
Building upon the success of its predecessor, WWF Warzone, Attitude introduced full superstar ring entrances and a slew of new modes, many of which were unique at the time.
Along with a comprehensive list of superstars to choose from, including the late Owen Hart who died shortly before the game’s release, WWF Attitude included an extensive Create-a-Wrestler mode. You could even create your own entrance routines.
Each wrestler would spout their famous one-liners, and their constant posturing was complemented by commentary from Shaun McMahon and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler. This helped WWF Attitude maintain a certain sense of charm and off-the-wall silliness that was lost on other titles, but summed up the attitude era of the WWF perfectly.
9. WWE Wrestlemania XIX (GameCube)
After a string of terrible wrestling games on the Nintendo GameCube, all of which were exclusive, I might add – fans finally got something worth shouting about with WWE Wrestlemania XIX.
WWE Wrestlemania XIX took the successful grappling formula established by AKI Corporation and made a few noticeable tweaks. It was a much quicker game – more akin to SmackDown! – resulting in fast and frenetic matches that would turn into a blur of last-second reversals and special moves.
Playing with a group of friends was easily the best way to enjoy WWE Wrestlemania XIX thanks to the crazy amount of special moves the game gave players access to, and the fact you could reverse those all important, game-defining finishers.
Honestly, I had so much fun with this game that my friends and I nearly missed a GCSE exam because of it. Whoops!
8. WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw: 2006 (PS2)
Although the idea of SmackDown! vs. Raw wasn’t welcomed by many wrestling fans, including myself, the first game during this era was one of the best.
WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw: 2006 was the first time developer Yuke’s actively tried to make a more realistic and authentic wrestling game, and the results were impressive. WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw: 2006 introduced a momentum meter and all new grapple system, which gave the game far more depth and tactical nuance than previous games.
WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw: 2006 was typically bolstered by a plethora of gameplay modes, which had been refined over many years, and a career mode that let you play as either brand, SmackDown! or Raw, depending on your preference.
7. WWF Royal Rumble (Mega Drive, SNES)
A golden oldie, but well worth a spot on the list, WWF Royal Rumble represents a nostalgic throwback for many wrestling fans.
The game featured a tug-of-war style grappling system, and plenty of illegal tactics for players to exploit. You could choke and eye gouge your opponent or even use a steel chair.
The main event was the newly included Royal Rumble mode, where six players could face-off in the ring at the same time. Once the fight was over you could see how long each wrestler lasted in the ring, along with a list of the opponents they eliminated, which was a real nice touch.
WWF Royal Rumble offered exclusive characters on Nintendo and Sega’s console, which was divisive at the time. Sega arguably had the better line-up, however, mostly due to Hulk Hogan’s inclusion.
6. Fire Pro Wrestling (Game Boy Advance)
Previously exclusive to Japan, the Fire Pro Wrestling games were always the envy of every wrestling fan in the west. Why? Well, because Fire Pro games basically use an even better engine than the AKI Corporation’s exceptional engine. And that’s no easy feat.
A surprising release, Fire Pro Wrestling for the Game Boy Advance felt like playing WWF Wrestlemania 2000 on the go. And if that sentence doesn’t get your blood pumping, I don’t know what will.
Most of the Fire Pro Wrestling games feature a fleeting likeness of real-life wrestlers due to licensing issues. Kind of like how Pro Evolution Soccer used to include whimsical player names. Still, that didn’t stop Pro Evo and ISS stomping all over FIFA, did it?
Fire Pro Wrestling was never released in Europe, which means I’m all the more thankful I got the chance to experience the pinnacle of handheld wrestling games.
5. Def Jam Vendetta (GameCube, PS2)
Def Jam Vendetta was – and still is – an unthinkable concept for a video game. Whoever came up with the idea to pit famous rappers against each other and make them wrestle deserves a statue built in their honour.
Stylish graphics, and outrageous finishers, Def Jam Vendetta was proof of concept that AKI Corporation’s technical grappling engine was still top of its class. Unfortunately, the spirit meter was removed in favour of a more arcade-like health bar and submissions were almost impossible to pull off, making the gameplay shallower than it needed to be.
Despite a truly excellent story mode, where you rise through the ranks and unlock sexy pictures of your girlfriend of choice, Def Jam Vendetta was bereft of gameplay modes. Nevertheless, it was blessed with a terrific soundtrack – as you’d expect – and each rapper oozed personality. The AI was particularly difficult, too, especially the final fight against D-Mob.
4. WWE SmackDown!: Here Comes the Pain (PS2)
Accessible, fast and a lot of fun, developer Yuke’s SmackDown! series was a runaway success with it’s more arcade-style gameplay. It quickly became the gold standard in gameplay variety – whether you were looking for ladder matches, TLC or even hell in the cell, the SmackDown! games had you covered.
The pinnacle of the series was arguably SmackDown!: Here Comes the Pain. The game introduced a number of new additions, such as a damage display (so you could focus on individual body parts), submission meters, a more complicated grappling system and it even took wrestlers’ weight into account.
3. WCW/nWo Revenge (N64)
The second of four outstanding titles published by THQ and developed by AKI Corporation, WCW/nWo Revenge paved the way for a golden era of wrestling games on the N64.
Building upon AKI’s incredible wrestling engine, WCW/nWo Revenge was an improvement over its predecessor in almost every way. Wrestlers now had full ring entrances, instant replays were added, and you could attack player managers, and even grab weapons from the crowd. The roster was expanded upon, and each wrestler felt a lot more unique and authentic this time around.
WCW/nWo Revenge went on to become one of the top-selling third-party Nintendo games and was the perfect swansong for WCW fans before the company’s unfortunate demise.
2. WWF No Mercy (N64)
Make no mistake: were it not for one horrendous, rage-inducing bug, WWF No Mercy would sit proudly at the top of this list. Unfortunately, however, WWF No Mercy contained a debilitating save bug that would ruthlessly wipe all your progress and unlockables without a moment’s notice.
At a time before developers could easily release a downloadable patch, a new WWF No Mercy cartridge was eventually re-released. However, with the internet only in its infancy, it was difficult to determine which cartridges were free of the dreaded bug. That didn’t stop wrestling fans from enjoying one of the finest games ever created, if not the best, but it certainly soured an almost perfect package.
An improvement over WWF Wrestlemania 2000 in so many ways, WWF No Mercy was the culmination of so many great wrestling games on the N64. Incredible graphics, extremely satisfying gameplay – a pure masterpiece. Why a developer hasn’t tried to recreate WWF No Mercy’s winning formula is anyone’s guess.
1. WWF Wrestlemania 2000 (N64)
WWF Wrestlemania 2000 was THQ’s first game on the N64 using the far more popular WWF licence. And perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, it proved to be a monumental success.
Using the same engine from the sublime WCW/nWo Revenge, WWF Wrestlemania 2000 featured over 50 superstars, all with their signature moves and ring entrances. The game also included a comprehensive Create-a-Wrestler mode, and it was possible to create existing superstars that were missing from the game such as The Dudley Boyz and more.
I can’t even begin to comprehend the amount of time me and my brother sunk into this game. Whether it was setting up a Royal Rumble, or competing for the Tag Team Championship, we simply couldn’t put WWF Wrestlemania 2000 down.
A timeless classic, and worthy of the number one spot, WWF Wrestlemania 2000 is a game every wrestling fan should attempt to play at least once in their lives.
Honourable mentions: ECW: Anarchy Rulz (Dreamcast, PlayStation), WWF Royal Rumble (Dreamcast), WCW vs NwO: World Tour (N64).
Do You Smell What We’re Cookin’?
So there you have it, folks. The 10 best wrestling games of all time – in my humble opinion, of course. But what do you think? Do you love wrestling games? Have you got a suggestion you’re dying to make? Let us know your favourites in the comments below, jabroni.
But for every great wrestling game, there’s a terrible one. Come and see the 10 worst wrestling games of all time.