Headbutts, eye rakes, body slams, suplexes, arm drags, dropkicks, and steel chairs - pro wrestling has it all. While the outcomes may be predetermined, that hasn't stopped millions across the globe from falling in love with the "sport." While many got their introduction to the fun via television programming, others were introduced to Hulk Hogan, Undertaker, Ric Flair, and John Cena via video games. With WWE 2K22 making its big debut this week, we figured we'd ask our staff to speak about their favorite wrestling video games.
Question: What is your favorite wrestling video game?
WWF No Mercy - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor who still says "IT'S STILL REAL TO ME, DAMMIT!"
To think there's a whole generation of wrestling fans who have never seen a really good wrestling video game in action. WWF No Mercy was released all the way back in the year 2000, which someone might argue was the last time Vince McMahon's promotion was truly great. It was the tail end of the Attitude Era and the latter end of the Nintendo 64's life cycle. This was the end of the line for the games from the makers of WCW vs. nWo: World Tour and they went out on a high note, trotting out a fabulous roster, robust customization features, backstage brawls, the Royal Rumble match, and the first (and definitely not the last) ladder match. They even had a Championship Mode that offered the peak of pro wrestling storytelling in video games at that time.
Over 20 years later, we still haven't had a game like this since. Lord knows that All Elite Wrestling is about to give it a shot, pulling in No Mercy director Hideyuki "Geta" Iwashita for their upcoming video game. Whether they can recapture the magic or not remains to be seen, but I miss games like No Mercy. They're a lot better than the glitchfests we have now.
Smackdown vs Raw 2007 - Donovan Erskine, Ray Mysterio fan
I was never big into wrestling, but damn did I love me some Smackdown vs Raw 2007. It was one of those games that me and my siblings would boot up on the GameCube on an early Saturday afternoon and just play until the sun went down. Creating our own characters, coming up with funny narratives, and seeing how long we could survive in Royal Rumble, that game was just a bottomless well of fun. I’ve got fond memories of darting around the ring with Ray Mysterio, hitting my brothers with a 619 while we jumped around the basement laughing and shouting. Good times!
WWF Wrestlefest - Blake Morse, Ultimate Warrior
I’m an old and grew up loving the wrestlers of the late 80s and early 90s and that’s the era that I still look back on fondly. I also love arcades, so it should come as no surprise that I loved the crap out of WWF Wrestlefest. First off, it looked so good for that era of games and many of the characters' designs fit their body type and look. Sgt. Slaughter and the Bossman both had paunches and the Ultimate Warrior looked jacked AF. And while you could opt to play through a tag-team gauntlet that featured the hottest wrasslin’ stars of the time, the real fun was in the Royal Rumble mode where you could literally be thrown out of the ring as soon as you got in only to have to feed the machine even more quarters. It was pure chaos and a hell of a lot of fun to participate in. After Wrestlefest a lot of wrestling games lost their spark for me as that was sort of the peak for me and, dare I say, my generation.
WCW/nWo Revenge - Sam Chandler, Looks great in spandex tights
It might not be the iconic WWE or WWF franchise, but what stands out for me is the old-school WCW/nWo title from the Nintendo 64. This was my first legit wrestling game and one that I would spend hours playing. I’d even switch on the extra gore and blood setting and relish seeing a bit of pixelated blood. I fondly recall grabbing weapons from the audience until I got the bat. Fantastic game.
WWE: Day of Reckoning - Chris Jarrard, Mark for Mr. Perfect
While I will acknowledge the greatness of AKI’s wrestling games on the Nintendo 64, my favorite wrestling game actually came a few years later from the folks at Yuke’s, who were responsible for the Smackdown games on the PlayStation consoles. WWE: Day of Reckoning was a Gamecube exclusive that was released opposite the Smackdown titles and closely mimicked the gameplay and design from the AKI N64 classics.
Day of Reckoning was easy to pick up and play while offering the ability to have television-style matches. The in-ring combat was fluid and intuitive. The game allowed collisions between players doing moves so you could suplex one wrestler into a pile of others (something that has been missing from these games for years). The Gamecube made 4-player couch battles easy and the character creation utilities were top-flight at the time of release. It got a sequel a year later that added blood effects and greatly improved the graphics, but the in-ring action just wasn’t quite the same.
Honorable mentions for WCW/nWo Revenge for having the greatest intro in video game history, Saturday Night Slam Masters simply for being dope, and Def Jam: Fight for NY for being a real game that existed.
WWF Smackdown - Bill Lavoy, Co-EIC
Since I’ve only ever played one wrestling video game, I’m going with that. WWF Smackdown for the PlayStation was the lone wrestling video game that I ever owned and, in hindsight, it wasn’t a great one. I mean, it was, but by today’s standards, it’s definitely wearing its age.
3 Count Bout - TJ Denzer, Senior News Editor
I do like a lot of wrestling games, from classic to modern times. Smackdown Vs. Raw 2007 was a highlight, as was WCW Vs. NWO. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the recent Retro Mania Wrestling either. But one game from my days in the arcades still holds the championship belt in my heart. I feel like it was the first time a wrestling game actually and properly captured the pageantry of professional wrestling alongside the fighting. The characters walking down the ramp to their own music with their personalized entrances while the crowd roared was goosebump city before the fight.
Not only that, but 3 Count Bout had characters that oozed personality. They were straight-up ripoffs of existing legends and that was okay. You had Roy Wilson based on Bruiser Brodie, Terry Rogers who was a stand-in for Terry Funk, Master Barnes based off the Road Warriors, and Red Dragon, based on Great Muta and complete with the poison mist. The game even included alternative hardcore where you fight in parking lots till your opponent is down for 10 seconds and death matches set in electric roped rings.
3 Count Bout was arcade hard, which is the only thing I can count against it. The CPU would beat you in most grapples late in the game, but everything else was magnificent. Many wrestling games have come and gone, but 3 Count Bout is the perfect mix of fighting and pageantry that makes it the World Heavyweight Champion of my wrestling game pantheon.
WWF Wrestlefest - Steve Tyminski, Stevetendo show host, Arcade Guy!
What is my favorite wrestling video game of all time? That is a tough question as I don’t play too many wrestling video games and didn’t play that many growing up. That being said I remember playing WWF Wrestlefest at the arcade when I felt like playing something different. It felt like it was trying to do things that wrestling games had been doing as well as be different. It tried to be so over the top and still take itself seriously; it worked on both levels thus making it one of the best. While I’m here as the anime fan I am, I’m giving Ultimate Muscle: Legends VS Next Generation as a shout-out. The game, based on the anime, Ultimate Muscle, had interesting characters as well as interesting storylines and plot points. It felt like it was trying to be like what wrestling used to be and it worked.
WWF War Zone - Asif Khan, Shacknews Luminary/Lola’s Assistant
I played WWF War Zone more than any other wrestling video game in history. While it wasn’t the best WWF game to ship during the N64 era, I really enjoyed the create-a-wrestler feature. My avatar Earl Divx was born in this game, and for that reason, it will always be my favorite rasslin’ video game.
WWF SmackDown! - Morgan Shaver, still laughs at how bad the CGI for The Rock was in The Mummy Returns
I don’t have a whole lot of experience with wrestling games, but I do have a soft spot for WWF SmackDown. It was the first wrestling game I was able to play, though I didn’t own a copy. I was 8 at the time, and my mother used to drop me off at a babysitter’s house, and that babysitter had teenage boys with a PS1 and WWF SmackDown. Any time I had the opportunity to play it I would, and I absolutely loved it. I really wanted a copy of my own, unfortunately, those weren’t the types of games I was allowed to have at home, but you better believe I got as much time with the game as I could at that babysitter’s house. My go-to was The Rock. And similar to how bad The Rock’s character model looked in WWF SmackDown, if you haven’t seen The Mummy Returns, check out the bad CGI scene of The Rock as the Scorpion King, you’ll get a good laugh out of it, I promise.
There you have it, folks. Pro wrestling video games have a storied history in this business. Which titles did we miss here? Which virtual grappler was a staple of your childhood? Let us know in the comment section below.
Shack Staff posted a new article, Shack Chat: What is your favorite wrestling video game?
Pro Wrestling for the NES. It all went downhill from there.
Starman was the best
I think it was like WCW on the N64. We had a blast playing 4 player back in the 90s.
Data East / Technos Japan: Tag-Team / The Big Pro Wrestling (Arcade 1984 / 1983)
Loud scratchy sound.
Fire Pro Wrestling World. Nothing else comes close. I love the idea of emphasizing putting on a great show for the audience instead of just trying to "win".