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Top 10 Pro Wrestling Video Games

wrestling-video-gamesWritten by Roger Malcolm

One of the most unfortunate drawbacks of being a pro wrestling fan is the absolutely awful video games that have been made that we wrestling fans force ourselves to play trying to achieve the smallest amount of fun in all the layers of bad programming throughout the years.  Knowing this to be true, I have spent years tormenting myself with bad game after bad game, finally coming to a point where I feel I couldn’t be used and abused by all these horrible games anymore than I already have.  These days I still play the occasional pro wrestling game, only I am much more specific on which I spend my time.  I started with 8-bit graphics going through 16-bit to 3-D polygons all the way to text-based and back to 2-D sprites!  That’s right, I’ve went from the 80’s 8-bit graphics on the Nintendo Entertainment System through all the flashy 16-bit button-mashers on Super Nintendo and 3-D graphics of the Playstation, Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube.  Only to end up playing a text-based pro wrestling game on the PC (with the only visual art being the animated stills of the wrestlers, belts, and logos) and a 2-D sprite-based graphic engine on the PS2/PSN/Dreamcast.

s_MatManiaChallenge_1 Perhaps it shouldn’t have come to such a surprise that the best isn’t always the flashiest – especially in the world of video games.  An example off the top of my mind is EA Sports FIFA compared to Konami’s Winning Eleven (Pro Evolution Soccer).   EA promotes all the leagues, teams and players yet if you want solid gameplay, you want Konami.  At least this use to be true some years back.  Another example is EA Sports Madden Football compared to Sega’s NFL 2K series.  EA was out-developed so they eventually secured the sole rights to the NFL license to continue producing the same iteration for years to come.  Perhaps this isn’t true, though, I hear competition is healthy.  Regardless of my distaste of EA’s gameplay and business tactics they do seem to have an effective M.O.  Plus EA does have the distinction of releasing what I consider the finest simulation of professional boxing ever conceived in Fight Night Champion (PS3).b3e1c0d40ea777c5b1db1dac67574b4cTag_Team_Wrestling-2

Back to wrestling, I don’t keep up on the new WWE games anymore, having found certain reiterations far too dumbed down for any fun to be had for me. I have found everything I desire in a wrestling game resides in two separate games.  This isn’t to say I will “only” play these two games but rather that I will “always” play these two games.  So after 20+ years of playing pro wrestling video games I have chosen to create a list of my favorites.  This isn’t a best-of list either.  As I said before some of these games are awful and not that enjoyable.  Yet, they still contain the greatest spectacle of all pro wrestling.  When I first played them as a child it was just an honour to hold a controller that gave me the ability to play as a wrestler.  I would rarely secure a win and that seems to never have changed much when playing certain titles to this day.  Losing constantly was what I felt being a kid was all about.  I hardly  ever secured a win or beat any game as a child.  I do remember celebrating the first time I beat my cousin Nat at a game of RBI Baseball II on NES and that was when I was a teenager (and I have a small suspicion he might have let me have that one).   I always felt horrible at video games but I played them anyway with conviction.  However, whenever I did get a win it was always so much sweeter.  Today’s gaming generations have developers designing for ease of use and not eye-gouging, hair-pulling, insanity-inducing button-mashing mind-benders which makes all the difference.

So here are Roger Malcolm’s Top 10 favorite professional wrestling video games.

10 – WWF Wrestlemania (NES) 1989

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gfs_45521_2_2The opening title screen features Hulk Hogan in his shirt ripping pose before going to the next screen displaying WWF WRESTLEMANIA BIGGER BETTER BADDER in ever changing colours.  I sure do agree with “BADDER” as this is definitely the worst game on my list but it is also the first wrestling game I ever played.  The roster consists of 6 wrestlers: Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, Bam Bam Bigelow and Honky Tonk Man.  For some reason Hogan wrestled in red trunks and boots even though being advertised in his yellow trunks on the game cover and title screen.  I am talking about ACCLAIM after all.  Match options consist of single matches for up to only two players and a tournament with up to 6 participants for a chance to become the Champion.  For the most part all you can do is (A) punch and (B) kick with varying degrees of differences between wrestlers such as Savage’s elbow or headbutts depending on the wrestler.  Pressing the (A) button while moving left to right will cause your wrestler to run, which you can use to bounce off the ropes for additional attacks (such as Bigelow’s cartwheel kick).  Also (A)(B) pressed together can do body slams depending on your wrestler’s ability.  For example, Randy Savage can’t body slam Andre but that isn’t to say that no one can, brother!  During the match special health replenishing items pertaining to the individual wrestlers bounce across the top of the apron underneath the bottom rope, such as Hogan’s crucifix or Dibiase’s gold dollar sign.  The special items remind me of Kinnikuman – aka Ultimate Muscle – only it was a floating orb for anyone to get to first which makes more sense actually.  The theme music for each wrestler is played in a repetitious loop alternating between the current wrestlers in the ring.  I find the 8-bit themes to be the most enjoyable part of the game nowadays.  The hardest part was always pinning and I still find this to be the case.  Also as much as I attempt to climb the turnbuckles I fail, but I seem to remember doing this from the top posts as a child.
As a consequence of the difficulty of this game as a child I would just play using both controllers so I could choose who would win – little did I know I was just being a little Vince McMahon myself.  It sure is hard to recommend such an archaic video game nowadays but for nostalgia purposes it is tremendously effective for me.  If someone wanted to experience what it was like for a child in the 80’s to play a wrestling game that wasn’t a blast, such as my next pick, yet not the absolutely-worst, unplayable piece of garbage either, then this is what I’d recommend over any others such as M.U.S.C.L.E. (1986) or Tag Team Wrestling (1986).
wrestle_jam_titlewrestle_jam_ram_jam_6That’s the fact, Jack:  this game was used as the inspiration for the NES game Wrestle Jam! 88 –  the NES video game Mickey Rourke’s character Randy “The Ram” Robinson plays in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.   It was a fully-playable demo created by brother-and-sister team of programmer Randall Furino and motion-graphics artist Kristyn Hume.  Why they didn’t choose my next pick is pretty clear as to make a point of Randy “The Ram” Robinson’s career.  It gives the film such a poignant moment when we discover he still plays such an outdated game.  In that regard, it makes the scene seem even more depressing though I don’t want to play “Call it duty for?” (Call of Duty 4) or any of them myself.  There’s a lot being said in that scene too about a child in today’s society talking about playing a violent war game set in Iraq and saying “So it’s pretty cool.” and sighing when referring to Wrestle Jam! commenting “This game is so old.”  I’d still rather kick it with The Ram, taking control of The Ayatollah in Wrestle Jam!  Hel[sic], I’d be begging “The Ram” to train me as a pro wrestler even, though this might prove I too am an out-of-his-time dinosaur soon to be passed by as the world moves on – or not, depending on how you view the paradigm shift…

9 – Pro Wrestling (NES) 1987

000wlg-nes-prowrestling03pro-wrestling-nesPro Wrestling-1The first time I played this was at my childhood best friend Chris’s house who lived three houses down on the other side of the street.  We were between the ages of 6-8 I’d guess around this time.  His dad kept two gold NES cartridges in a drawer that we were strictly informed we weren’t allowed to play.  Though I do wonder now what they both were it never mattered to me at the time.  I only wanted to play this game.  Though one day I went down to his house to play and was told his younger brother Jeremy had traded it to a neighborhood hustler for something that was nowhere near worth the value.  It was so insignificant in fact I don’t remember what it was anymore.  I just remember being devastated.  He hadn’t even asked permission either and the disappointment was on Chris’s face as well as he informed me.  Regardless they were the ones that introduced it to me and I will always be grateful for that. Talk about a best friend.G51014098926514
The game was developed by Masato Masuda, who would go on to work for Human Entertainment, which in turn would be responsible for my #1 pick.  The colours, characters and gameplay blew me away.  This game included all four sides of the ring too, plus an outside area with a roaming cameraman.  The roster consists of only 6 wrestlers, fictional yet very colourful!  My favorites were Star Man and The Amazon, of course.  The others were Fighter Hayabusa (based on Japanese legend Antonio Inoki, even using his signature enzuigiri which he is known to have innovated, called Back Brain Kick – also known as Bad News Brown’s Ghetto Blaster as Bad News had been trained by Inoki in Japan), Kin Corn Karn, Giant Panther (appearance based on American legend Hulk Hogan and at least this character had yellow trunks and boots) and King Slender (appearance based on American legend Ric Flair).  I never knew at the time that some of the characters were based on real-life wrestlers but this is a trend through all Japanese-developed pro wrestling video games, I would eventually come to discover.  There is also a hidden boss but do you think I ever faced him? Ha!  His name is Great Puma but he remains a mystery to me.  I’ve read he can perform every move in the game but he’s a non-playable character.  You could play for the the championship through the single player mode to reach Great Puma or take on a friend in a best 2-out-of-3 falls match.
Great PumaThe game only consisted of single matches, though you could exit the ring starting a 20-count before being disqualified, and there was even a referee moving around with you inside the ring to count the pinfall.  Plus you could pick your opponent up off the mat and Irish whip him into the ropes, or even toss him over the top rope where by holding (A) while running you could perform a diving splash onto your opponent outside of the ring.  Simply amazing!  The move sets were rather simple but much more exciting to perform than anything I had ever seen, with each wrestler having his own unique signature moves.  After clinching in a grapple, different directions pressed on the d-pad combined with (A) or (B) would perform different moves, depending on the wrestler, making the game seem extremely complex to a child of the eighties.  You could climb the turnbuckle with extreme ease and your opponent could even roll out of the way at the last moment, creating the memorable spot I always remembered happening to the Blue Blazer (Owen Hart) where he would land on his knees.  It’s a button-mashing classic always remembered for its iconic “A Winner Is You” quote after securing a pinfall (yet my copy just says “Winner Is You” as if it were a PAL copy).  A much easier game to recommend as it is still an immense amount of fun to play today, especially if an NES happens to be your only option.

8 – WCW Wrestling (NES) 1990

tumblr_mh6xyezbXv1r5a8gvo6_400 wcwwrestling1wcw-rosteraI first played this at my neighbor’s house.  In one of the worst forms of video game organization I had ever seen, they had a large cardboard box full of games.  It was exciting to see the amount of cartridges, even though it was a nightmare searching through them. Once during a sleepover I found this title and seeing The Road Warriors Hawk and Animal staring at me from the cover I couldn’t believe what I had discovered.  I immediately inserted it into the Nintendo.  A one or two-player option exists (one-player matches have a 5-minute time limit for single or a 10-minute time limit for tag and two-player has a 15 minute for single and 30 for tag)  consisting of single matches and to my surprise I could for the first time participate in a TAG-TEAM MATCH!  The single player tag-team matches consist of a round robin tournament with a 3-round series where the two-player matches are a best 2-out-of-3 falls match.  Your tag partner could even fly in to make saves.  A roster of 12 wrestlers featuring “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, Lex Luger, Mike Rotunda, Kevin Sullivan, Sting, Rick Steiner, Ricky Steamboat, Eddie Gilbert, Michael Hayes, Hawk and Animal.  This was the most wrestler options I had ever seen in a game at that point.  Though the most impressive feature is the move set selection ability before each match, allowing you to select 4 specific moves from a list of 8 depending on the wrestler. Each was assigned to a different position on the directional pad to be used in correspondence with (A) during a grapple.  The gameplay consists mainly of punching (B) or kicking (A) until your opponent collapses to his knees where you can then initiate a grapple utilizing one of your 4 pre-selected moves with (A) or the preset moves with (B).  A power bar appears while pressing the button allowing you to increase the amount of damage performed as you release.  The preset moves are Irish whips (standing next to the ropes will toss your opponent to the outside) using left or right on the d-pad or up (B) for a body slam or down (B) to headbutt.   Pressing left or right and both (B)(A) simultaneously will cause you to run and then, depending on the wrestler, you can perform headbutts, lariats, big boots, knees or dropkicks.  You can climb any of the four ring posts for a splashing pin (A) or flying knee drop (B).  Once a wrestler is worn down enough you can perform a finisher by grappling and pressing (B)(A) simultaneously, causing the screen to flash red.  Real exciting, especially at the time I discovered the game.  You can win/lose by pinfall, submission or count-out.  Pins are simple enough – just pressing (A) – and you can lift your opponent as well with (B).  You can exit the ring for a 20 count and even use a wrench as a weapon that comes from the crowd.
wcw-5The biggest downside to the game is… it is hard as shit.  As you progress through the singles campaign the game does reward you with an occasional password for your progress.  After defeating every opponent in singles campaign you become the WCW Minor Champion and then must defend it against all of them again to face the WCW Master (the only unplayable wrestler) for the WCW World Title.  The identity of the WCW Master is unknown simply because he wears a mask to protect his identity.  Though after talks with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Big John Studd, I have the suspicion it is none other than “The 8th Wonder of the World” himself Andre the Giant (or more appropriately under the mask as Giant Machine).  Once I reach the WCW Master he either chokes me until I “Give Up!”  or until he squashes me with his huge ass for the 1, 2, 3 each and every time regardless of my tactics.  It’s like facing Mike Tyson in Punch-Out!!, because I can’t seem to pull off a win.  So I guess that means Andre will forever be World Champion in my universe and that’s something with which I can definitely live.

7 – Tecmo World Wrestling (NES) 1990

tecmo-world-wrestlinggfs_39814_1_6 252682-tecmo_world_wrestling_screenshotI found this title at K-Mart back when they use to release refurbished titles in clear packaging without manuals.  It was another wrestling game and I would have bought it even if it had been M.U.S.C.L.E. or Tag Team Wrestling but thankfully for me it wasn’t either of them.  I was able to go home to discover TECMO didn’t only make my favorite football video game in Tecmo Bowl and favorite basketball video game in Tecmo NBA Basketball (both for NES) but an awesome wrestling title as well.  Tecmo World Wrestling consisted of similar controls and single matches for up to two players much like Pro Wrestling on NES.  With a roster of 10 fictional wrestlers, I actually recognized certain traits and started to figure out the practice of basing them on the real-life counterparts.  Akira Dragon based off Antonio Inoki, El Tigre based off Tiger Mask, Pat Gordon based off Lou Thesz, Rex Beat based off the Road Warriors, Boris Chekov – a Russian Stan Hansen, Jackie Lee (Jackie Chan/Bruce Lee name mixture) based off Riki Choshu, Mark Rose with his Ric Flair resemblance, Julio Falcon with perhaps a Hulk Hogan resemblance, Randy Gomez looking like Harley Race, Dr. Guildo looking like Big Van Vader and  the unplayable boss Blue King based off Super Strong Machine.
G520194291927005TecmoWW05 This title has the claim of being the first wrestling video game with commentary.   It’s only onscreen and readable like in a comic bubble though.  The commentary does provide additional entertainment for anyone viewing the action, though it’s rather a tad-bit difficult to play and read at the same time.  The move sets were much more expansive than any game I had played before with each wrestler having specialties, and the game would even cut to close-ups when certain moves were performed.  I always loved doing the giant swing which could have the potential of throwing your opponent outside the ring to the floor.  There is also a training session during the single player mode which allows you to gain additional damage for your moves by performing pushups, situps or squats.  It was always extremely difficult as it is based on button-mashing.  Actually the game itself is extremely difficult in single player mode leading me to always experiment with both players using both controllers.  During two-player matches the game presents a momentum meter which determines the advantage during a grapple.  Overall, this was somewhat of an overlooked title back in the day but a much loved pro wrestling title to me still.

6 – WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game (PC) 1995

WWF_Wrestlemania_arcade_flyer_display_imagegfs_26192_2_2_midScreen-shot-2009-12-09-at-1.09.02-PM As for picking this game, I played it to a point where I can still hear the sounds of the game long after years of letting the dust collect on it.  The sound effects were certainly a highlight to me along with the commentary, comprised of Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler.  It only had eight wrestler choices; however, with the style in which the game depicts them it never seemed that limited to me.  This wasn’t the most realistic for its wrestling but it was for the depiction of the wrestlers themselves, which looked exactly like they should.  I remember loving to use the choices of Razor Ramon, Bam Bam Bigelow, The Undertaker, Yokozuna, Lex Luger and Shawn Michaels.  My favorite for his kicks was Bret “The Hitman” Hart, yet I did loathe playing against the hand-buzzing Doink the Clown.  The non-stop action in the ring was what made me continually come back again and again.  There’s something special about Yokozuna’s clotheslines and slams, Bam Bam Bigelow off the turnbuckle blazing through someone setting them on fire or Razor Ramon pulling a 2×4 out to whack an opponent.  Matches consist of best-out-of-3 rounds where you either compete in a quest for the Intercontinental Championship or the World Wrestling Federation Champion.  The Intercontinental matches have four one-on-one matches, two handicap 2-on-1 matches, and one handicap 3-on-1 match to win the Championhsip. In the WWF Championship mode, the player must win four handicap 2-on-1 matches, two handicap 3-on-1 matches, and finally a “WrestleMania Challenge,” where the player must defeat every wrestler in the game in a gauntlet, starting with a three-on-one setup, with each eliminated opponent being replaced with another until all eight have been defeated.  There is also a two-player option allowing one-on-one head-to-head matches or a cooperative mode where you attempt to become the Tag Team Champions.  My cousin Nat and I would compete as a tag team by using a computer keyboard.  He would use the left side and I would utilize the right side – the things you’re willing to do as a child!  When multiple versions of a wrestler appear they have an altered colour scheme to prevent confusion allowing for The Undertaker to appear in his traditional black and gray, or black and purple, as well as other unconventional combinations like black and green.  Instead of bleeding the wrestlers would have objects pertaining to their character fall out of them much like the health replenishing items in WWF Wrestlemania (NES).  You could perform signature moves unique to all, much like Mortal Kombat, such as The Undertaker releasing spirits and even a fatality where a coffin rises taking your opponent back under with a tombstone returning in its place.  I don’t recall ever doing this but I certainly saw it done.  The game has high risk moves, throws, combos, reversals and second winds which actually add an extra level of excitement just when you thought it was over.
gfs_51646_2_10 wwf_Wrestlemania_arcade_1 imagesimageswMIDWAY took a wrestling game and attempted to appeal to fans of the fighting genre by making it similar to Mortal Kombat.  This game receives all sorts of hate.  None from me though, seeing as how I never cared for fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat all too much.  So I simply didn’t feel the travesty in trying to recreate that into a wrestling game.  I just took it for what it was and spent so many hours in the mid-nineties kicking the shit out of the competition.  It’s an arcade game, folks, not a simulation of wrestling.  So when the haters always attack its arcade-style elements, it just boggles my mind.  The collective consciousness of the ignorant masses are utterly awe-inspiring to the intellect of a critically-thinking individual.  I simply loved this game on PC.  However, the same cannot be said for the SNES version which only included 6 of the wrestlers, dropping Bam Bam Bigelow and Yokozuna.

5 – Power Move Pro Wrestling (PS1) 1996

198335_97534_frontThumb_Power_Move_Pro_Wrestling_-_1996_-_Activisionpowermov_screen002This game came to me in somewhat of a strange way.  I saw it sitting on a friend’s desk in 7th grade shop class and swiped it to play a trick.  However class started and I forgot all about it and it wasn’t until the next day that I was able to give it back to him, telling him I forgot to let him know I took it.  He said, “I don’t care, you can have it, I’m buying WCW vs. the World tonight.” and thus the reason no alarms were rang getting me placed in handcuffs as a thief since he simply didn’t care.  It was an innocent prank from my point of view at least.  I didn’t even own a PlayStation and had no use for the game myself but it was a wrestling game nonetheless.  So I gave it to my cousin Mike since he was the only person I knew who had one.  I remember he was like “why do I want this” but took it anyway.  I would do this trick again in high school to a elementary-school friend by swiping his calculator because he was being a dick to me in biology.  Only I didn’t realize the level of importance of the calculator to this guy.  He broke down over it and started crying to the school dean.  I was called down to the office and asked if I had taken his calculator and I replied, “Yes.” and got it out of my bag, handing it over.  The dean was surprised I had admitted to it and said, puzzled, “I appreciate your honesty.” yet still kicked me out of school for 3 days.  See, I didn’t mean to do it to actually be malicious or anything. I had planned to make him sweat a little and then return it but it was a calculator he had to also share with his sister.  Plus he had broke down because he was going to have to tell his father he had lost it.  I didn’t take any of this into consideration at the time as a freshman since I didn’t know, but looking back I completely understand.  His dad was a mean farmer that would sometimes help coach in elementary for our basketball team and this kid was scared to death of him at practices, always being near tears when he was around.  So I can’t imagine what his home life was like – but regardless this has nothing to do with this game. I  would end up getting my first job shortly thereafter during freshman year and the first thing I bought was a PlayStation.
609501211901ss3This is the only game on my list that I am not able to play as the game is still in my original PlayStation holding the little metal bearings in place after the plastic cracked in the disc tray, and the PlayStation is in storage at my mom’s.  I was with my mom the day I bought my PlayStation and she took me over to my cousin Mike’s house because he was going to give me back the wrestling game and let me borrow Resident Evil 2, since I didn’t have enough money to buy any games.  Now I’ve played many other games for the PS but this one was just so special to me that I somehow ended up leaving it in the PlayStation.  Some really poor forethought and I have to believe it’s some kind of curse linked to my actions of yesteryear.  I do still have the case and manual though.  It was the first 3D wrestling game I ever played and featured colourful characters such as Agent Orange, Area 51, Chaingang, The Commandant, Da’ Judge, Danny McGee, The Egyptian Conniption, El Temblor, Lance Dewlock, Malibu Mike Swanson, Zombie, and my favorite King Og.  Plus it had 3 hidden wrestlers you could unlock with codes that signal a bell sound when entered correctly: Gorgon the ring announcer pressing select on Agent Orange, Sallie the referee pressing select on El Temblor, and pressing select on The Commandant got you a hidden wrestler named Sparrow who could spit a green mist ala The Great Muta.  The game is based off NJPW’s Toukon Retsuden.  The ring announcer is simply amazing.  The gameplay was what impressed me the most as it had a rock/paper/scissors system where a strength move overrode a submission hold, a submission hold overrode a strike and a strike overrode a strength move.  In addition it had a hit-point system where you could concentrate on the head,body, arms or legs of an opponent to wear him down and get a pin or submission victory.  It perhaps seemed a little slow but it was this methodical approach which made it so much fun.  I was learning true ring psychology just like Bret “The Hitman” Hart always executed before my eyes without me ever truly understanding at the time.  Power Move Pro Wrestling only has single matches up to two players.  It does consist of a 12-man gauntlet, a league mode, a tournament, even a championship match option and a demo mode where you can just watch the computer go at it.  So this was the first wrestling game where I would select two wrestlers on Wow! difficulty just to see what the AI would perform – something that is easily taken for granted nowadays.

4 – WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain (PS2) 2003

700947-wwe_sd_hctpgfs_120219_2_13 wwe-smackdown-here-comes-the-pain-pcBasically a re-polishing of Power Move Pro Wrestling with a WWE license some 7/8 years later.  Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain is better than Power Move Pro Wrestling by major leaps and bounds yet only lands one spot ahead of it on my list of favorites.  I played all the Smackdowns and this was the one that always stood out to me.  However it took that many years to incorporate a hit-point system similar to Power Move where you could work on individual body parts.  I love the controls, roster and options.  Also all the wrestlers have an overall rating making it clear Triple H was a Main Event guy with a 90 where as Shelton Benjamin is only a 73.  Though there are different categories for each wrestler consisting of strength, submission, endurance, technique and speed, making it even more clear on where their strengths lay.  The grappling system was the best of the series and I still love it today.  It really contains a plethora of options when grappling, allowing for signature, submission, power or quick moves.  So many match options that are to be expected from the king of gimmickry that is WWE.  There are the obvious single, tag, six-man tag, cage, ladder matches, the Royal Rumble and the more recent Elimination Chamber, Hell in a Cell, TLC and 3 Stages of Hell.    Plus it was the first to include Legends consisting of George “The Animal” Steele, Hillbilly Jim, Iron Shiek, Nicholai Volkoff, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Sgt. Slaughter, Old School Undertaker and the Legion of Doom Hawk and Animal – though I would have rather had Demolition.
wwe-smackdown-here-comes-the-pain-53842.449017 _-WWE-Smackdown-Here-Comes-the-Pain-PS2-_There’s an enormous amount of options and fun to be found in this which I feel was being lost with each iteration released after this title where they started to become too much like Madden, with only updated rosters as the developers experimented with the controls and gameplay.  I would rather play the originals on Playstation than the ones released after this title.  Though for anyone reading this has WWE ever included a 4-on-4 elimination-style Survivor Series-type match in any of their new games?  That truly is my favorite match type when done right and not like the old 16-bit versions.  Acclaim did it with Showdown: Legends of Wrestling, which had a wonderful roster, but gameplay that actually made you want to bang your head against the wall –  ironic since the game had licensed Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” for inclusion in the game.  It was as if they were truly trying to cause as much head trauma as possible, perhaps becoming the first video game to be labeled with an explicit concussions warning.  No such thing as bad publicity except for…?  The answer is none.  None more publicity (Spinal Tap joke).  Well, all the jokes can’t be good. You’ve got to expect that once in a while. (Groucho Marx joke).

3 – WCW/nWo Revenge (N64) 1998

wcw-nwo-revenge-cover943782 Hosted at Universal Videogame List www.uvlist.netwcw-nwo-revenge-02It’s a funny thing selecting this game since I despised the company during its existence yet only seem to miss it since its demise.  I didn’t own a Nintendo 64 until many years after its pull from the market yet this game is a true favorite of mine.  I suppose it captures all that was great about WCW before its destruction, besides the biggest omission in Ric Flair.  It’s the only complaint I really have about the game, though he was included in the title released before this, WCW vs. nWo: World Tour, based on the same game engine.  Revenge has a much more polished version of the game engine which makes for a better wrestling experience.  The roster is huge with over 60 wrestlers including big names such as Sting, Randy Savage, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Diamond Dallas Page, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, Kevin Nash, and Hollywood Hogan.  The roster is broken into stables such as the NWO, NWO Wolfpack and Raven’s Flock.  The rest of the WCW roster is broken into 4 divisions basically being Main Eventers in group 1, Mid-carders in group 2, lower mid-carders in group 3 and cruiser weights in group 4.  The game doesn’t consist of many match options only having singles, tag matches, Championship mode, handicap and battle royal to choose from.  However, I love the battle royal that can consist of 4 to 40 participants.  It’s a long match going with 40 and I love the experience.  The Championships are the TV Title, US Title, Cruiserweight Title, Tag Team Title and Heavyweight Title which unlocks hidden wrestlers once capturing.  Once you win the title, the wrestler picked continues to hold the title in the game world as well.
th maxresdefault2There’s always a debate when it comes to these AKI-developed games and which ones are superior between WCW vs. nWo: World Tour, WCW/nWo Revenge, WWF WrestleMania 2000 and WWF No Mercy.  The real debate should be between Revenge vs. No Mercy, WCW vs. WWF.  Though No Mercy is a better game,  I personally choose Revenge since it is the last good WCW game whereas WWF/E continued on with the Smackdown series.  Owning a Playstation and not a Nintendo 64, I didn’t experience Revenge or No Mercy like I did WWF Warzone and Attitude.  I felt the latter Acclaim titles were absolutely terrible except when it came to the create-a-wrestler department, yet I still played them.  I put far too many hours into those Acclaim titles.  Fortunately it was being creative with the CAW mode at least.  Though CAW option shouldn’t be the best part in a wrestling game even if it’s amazing.  What’s the point of having created my own wrestlers if the gameplay is garbage – and just thinking about the gameplay in Warzone makes me cringe.  Revenge has such a smooth engine it’s just too sweet and seems to make up for all the years I tormented myself with the Acclaim titles.

2 – Total Extreme Wrestling 2007 (PC) 2007

total_extreme_wrestling_2007 total-extreme-wrestling-2007-pc-001_m ExampleOfFixedAttackAngle Total Extreme Wrestling is for any wrestling fan that wants to run a promotion of their own.  You decide the contracts, select the city and venue, choose the angles, book the matches, set up the announcer and colour commentator, rotate refs, work with road agents, manage the managers, build tag teams, organize stables and just about anything you could think of in a real pro wrestling business – and that doesn’t even start to fully explain it.  You’ve got to deal with television networks, PPV carriers, backstage drama, retiring wrestlers, injuries and even the most unfortunate reality of untimely deaths.  Created by British programmer Adam Ryland and based on his fictional world called the CornellVerse, I have found this world perhaps even more intriguing than the real world of professional wrestling.  The name CornellVerse comes from the gaming world’s biggest star Tommy Cornell, who’s considered to be the finest worker of his generation.  At the start of a new game the player has the option to own, book, or both, any of the promotions in the gaming world depending on their choice.  After running every American promotion I attempted into the ground, I decided to take the sandbox approach customizing my own world to be the booker of a Japanese promotion.  I book with a product style of traditional, pure and realistic being my key features and also focusing heavily on hardcore, lucha libre and spot monkeys.  Which means my style is far from the Sports-Entertainment-heavy American style of today’s WWE and closer to the New Japan Pro Wrestling product I love so much.  I don’t deal with promos or angles, rather concentrating on getting the best performances out of my workers in the ring with their athletic abilities, attempting to put on the best matches possible.
tew20051342537253_igry-total-extreme-wrestling-2005-2I’ve read this game is for the most dedicated hardcore wrestling fan and since I see myself as one of these fans then it must be true.  I doubt very much a casual wrestling fan would ever want to spend the countless hours of booking a promotion only to find out they have no idea or business sense to turn a profit or produce a top notch match, let alone a full card.  However this is the closest I have ever gotten to feeling like I am running my own pro wrestling company and even feel I have learned so much while doing it.  There have been several new releases since TEW’07 and I am sure they are all excellent and much better, yet I still find myself fully submerged in this version.  The developers Grey Dog Software even offer a free downloadable full version of the TEW05 and for anyone wanting to get a taste of the action before purchasing they also offer playable demos of all the others.  Plus if you look hard enough, you can even find real world mods since the entire game is fully customizable from the wrestlers to the match types.  Which means you can go back to the early nineties and have Hacksaw Jim Duggan be the WWF Champion feuding with Sgt. Slaughter if you’re like me.  Man, Hacksaw was so over and Slaughter had so much heat at the time.  Why Vince, why? Why didn’t you?

1 – Fire Pro Wrestling Returns/D English Translation (PS2/DC) 2007/2001-13

250px-Fire_Pro_Wrestling_Returnsfire-pro-wrestling-dFire_Pro_Wrestling_D_English_Translation_v0_85Fire Pro Wrestling Returns on Playstation 2 was announced as the last in the series making it the 26th Fire Pro Wrestling release.  It was only the 3rd in the series to be released in North America until the dreadful abomination bastard-child Fire Pro Wrestling on the XBOX360 Live Arcade release.  Did I make it clear you probably shouldn’t waste your time on it, if I didn’t then let me clarify you shouldn’t by any means taint yourself with such blasphemy.  The other two North American releases were only for the Gameboy Advance.  A lot of fun is still to be found in them but nowhere near the console versions.  However, thanks to the efforts of a group of home-brew developers named ReviveDC, the Japanese version of the Dreamcast title Fire Pro Wrestling D has recently been translated into English!  They even include a  rename file stored on the disk to save to your VMU.  This is a gift to the world of wrestling fans as are Thomas Paine’s writings to the world of mankind.  I do not dare say that lightly by any means, as this now allows full access to the Victory Road campaign story lines to the non-Japanese speaking which were ridiculously left out of Fire Pro Wrestling Returns.
600full-fire-pro-wrestling-returns-screenshothqdefaultgruesome254170-160345-2009FireProjpg-620x54170-160345-s33262ps210jpg-620x To take from J. R. R. Tolkien, “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”  This is the closest explanation I can give to warn of the potential peril in discovering this work of art.  The power within is far too great for the professional wrestling-obsessed to behold without the corruption to all they once knew.  With its Japanese origins, Fire Pro Wrestling first debuted in 1989 allowing for many years of polishing.  Originally developed by Human Entertainment, they have designed a wrestling video game for hardcore fans that will own your soul.  Not a button-mashing blister-burner, but rather a sweet science of button-pressed timing.  That will, did I mention, own your soul.  Any and every professional wrestling-obsessed intellectual has been waiting their entire existence to discover this Holy Grail of wrestling games, regardless if they were aware of it or not.  If only I could explain the true essence this digital representation of the greatest spectacle on earth captures within its programming.  Simply put, you must play it for yourself to believe the hype.  I don’t truly mean hype either, though how can I expect someone of the modern generation to accept a 2D-sprite wrestling game over all the fanciful graphics of the ever-groundbreaking technologies of today.  It would be the equivalent of modern audiences never accepting film classics that don’t include the modern CGI in today’s drone-fest blockbusters.  Classics are the films that have compelling stories compared to the films that lack the story, instead focusing on as many computer-generated explosions as possible, not only in the film but every scene possible.  It’s simple to me – if you can’t appreciate Citizen Kane, you are obviously a mindless moronic lame-brain who probably enjoys Michael Bay’s nausea-inducing spin-o-ramas.  I absolutely loathe Bay and yet I always try to find an appreciation in films.  With that said, Fire Pro Wrestling is the equivalent to Orson Welles’ masterpiece Citizen Kane as opposed to all the other wrestling games that wade around in mediocrity on their knees waiting for a Shining Wizard to be delivered by the King of Pro Wrestling video games.  SHINING WIZARD! SHINING WIZARD! SHINING WIZARD! 1! 2! 3!  A WINNER IS YOU, FIRE PRO WRESTLING!

hammerlock-wrestling-06Join me next time as I cover the 16 bit era of pro wrestling video games.

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About Roger Malcolm

Filmmaker by any means neXessary. Writer, director, editor, composer, film critic, professional wrestling obsessed and revolutionary. Truth, Reason & Liberty...

5 responses to “Top 10 Pro Wrestling Video Games

  1. I completely vouch for NWO vs WCW, I was in college when that game came out and I spent more time wrestiling than I did on my studies, I remember some epic 4 man battles and the roster is still the best of any wrestling game I have ever played. Tons of stuff to unlock, awesome replays, everyones signature finishers, it was gold! I own a N64 it is hooked up to the TV in my bedroom and I only have one game, NWO vs WCW!!

    • Thanks for the comment. I wish I had owned a N64 when WCW/nWo Revenge came out, since knowing the joy it still is to play now, it must have been unbelievable at the time with so much less to compare it to.

  2. Oh man, some of my fondest memories as a young teenager is playing the N64 wrestling games. The first time we played WCW vs nWo, we played it for 12 hours straight. I honestly never got sick of those games, especially after the crap of Attitude and such on the PS1.

    I also loved Raw & Royal Rumble on the SNES.

    I’ve heard a lot of great things about FPW. You think it’s on par with No Mercy?

    • Yeah, of course I do. It’s all about the timing. It also has the most incredible AI of any wrestling game. Even when I lose a match it still feels like I had an enjoyable experience. It doesn’t get much better than that. Plus you can fine tune any CAW to behave as close as possible to his real life counterpart. If you call yourself a diehard wrestling fan that longs for that perfect wrestling video game then Fire Pro Wrestling D/Returns are the ones to own. They are unrivaled except for each other. Only D is on Dreamcast and Returns is on PS2 and available online through the Playstation network. For 10-15 bucks it’s really a must buy. Though as I warned in my article there are consequences to owning these games.

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