The form of entertainment certainly has its share of detractors and critics for numerous reasons, but even those people would be silly to deny that professional wrestling has, at different points, been a significant part of our society. It should thus be no surprise to anybody that pro wrestling titles have made for popular video games among fans of the genre and also among gamers who just like the idea of being able to play a fighting simulation alongside of some friends or against a computer opponent. These types of games continue to be pumped out on a yearly basis because they remain popular among consumers who are willing to splash cash on these titles.
There are many factors that would affect what would be your list of the 10 greatest wrestling video games of all time. Age, nostalgia and how much or how little you have followed the wrestling and video game industries over the past several decades will have play roles in the games that make your list and also how you rank those titles. Perhaps, as an example, those who prefer graphics and new titles would heavily concentrate on games that are playable on current-generation systems. As good as some of those titles may be, however, they fail to have the legacies of many wrestling games that came years before them.
Honorable Mention: WCW Wrestling (1990)
Those who fancied the National Wrestling Alliance/World Championship Wrestling over World Wrestling Entertainment and who also owned a Nintendo may remember this title, but that alone is not why it gets an honorable mention in this piece. WCW Wrestling allowed players to customize moves per wrestler prior to every match, a unique trait for such titles at that time. Wrestlers also had their own finishing moves that could be used to win matches. It may not be remembered with fondness by all gamers, but WCW Wrestling was better than any WWF game available on the original NES.
10. WWF Attitude (1999)
WWF War Zone made for a fantastic wrestling video game, but WWF Attitude took that ball and ran with it all the way to pay dirt. Along with the standard game play one would get in a wrestling title, Attitude featured the best overall wrestler entrances of its time. The Career Mode feature was revolutionary for the late 1990s, finishers could be executed both in and outside of grapples, and gamers were able to even form their own stables at a time when such groups were mainstays of weekly Monday night wrestling shows. Attitude was the best WWF title to ever be produced until the company put pen to paper on a deal with THQ.
9. Def Jam Vendetta (2003)
The WWF was standing tall atop the pro wrestling mountaintop after defeating WCW in the “Monday Night Wars,” and this left AKI/EA Sports without a wrestling company to work with for a new game. This resulted in a ridiculous wrestling title that remains downright fun to play. Method Man, Ludacris, DMX, Redman and even singer Christina Milian were represented in this classic wrestling video game. The action is entertaining and the graphics are pretty good for the time, and Def Jam Vendetta continues to hold up as a game that can offer hours of entertainment for those into older titles.
8. WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game
What you have to remember about WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game is that it saw the light of day at a time when fighting games such as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter were dominating the genre. WrestleMania was a wacky WWF arcade game unlike anything before it, one that worked to combine “power-up” fighting moves along with finishing maneuvers such as the “Sharpshooter.” The graphics transitioned just fine onto home consoles, but it was on the original arcade model that one could truly appreciate both the game’s look and also the moves executed during matches.
7. WWE ’13 (2012)
Just as American Football titles have been looking to recreate the greatness of NFL 2k5, wrestling franchises have been attempting to match all-time great titles from prior generations. Say what you will about the WWE games that have been released on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. THQ got it right before the company’s demise that occurred in 2013. Along with the graphics one would expect to see from a game released in 2012, WWE ’13 struck gold with the popular option of allowing gamers to relive portions of the Attitude Era through the game. WWE ’13 is the standard for wrestling games released this decade.
6. Pro Wrestling (1987)
Name any other pro wrestling video game that has maintained a legacy for nearly three decades all because of a four-word phrase that would appear on the screen after you won a match. You can’t, as Pro Wrestling is what was responsible for delivering fans with the iconic “A Winner is You!” message. Outside of that comedy, Pro Wrestling is widely perceived to be the best wrestling game ever available for NES players even though the title was filled with made-up characters who were (allegedly) molded after actual wrestlers. This title will live on so long as people continue to modify newer systems so that they can play older games.
5. WWF WrestleFest (1991)
WWF Superstars was the best arcade wrestling video game that many gamers and supposed experts could remember seeing; at least it was until sequel WWF WrestleFest came onto the scene in 1991. Those who can recall dumping quarter after quarter into machines will agree that the point of the arcade game was more so to make money than it was to build on the legacy of the franchise. While that was the case, the title’s phenomenal graphics, movesets and roster were all ahead of any title before it. You can still find this popular title in classic arcades/Barcades. Load up on quarters before you start playing.
4. WCW/nWo Revenge (1998)
It would be inaccurate to refer to WCW/nWo Revenge as the great-grandfather of the franchise since it was a sequel, but one could make an argument that Revenge helped create the standard by which all other North American pro wrestling video games are compared. A simple and yet overwhelmingly popular grappling system. Five different championships to be won. Actual arenas based off of Nitro and WCW pay-per-views. A deep roster filled with wrestlers who had accurate movesets. Revenge was ahead of its time in many ways, and it set records in sales.
3. WWE SmackDown: Here Comes The Pain (2003)
There were concerns following the demise of organizations WCW and Extreme Championship Wrestling that companies utilizing the WWE roster would be able to “phone-in” titles for some time. WWE SmackDown: Here Comes The Pain put such worries to bed. The quicker gameplay that had been featured in prior editions of this franchise were matched by improved graphics and also a roster that would have made any WWE fan of the time overjoyed. Those of you still enjoying a Playstation 2 can have fun playing this title 12 years after it was released.
2. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns (2007)
Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is, to this day, a polarizing title among groups of gamers who play pro wrestling video games. Those who want legitimate WWE rosters, WWE storylines and familiar gameplay could be left wondering what it is they got into upon experimenting with what can be a frustrating title. Fans who are up for a challenge and who are also big on deep rosters and on create-a-wrestler mode may, however, find that Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is an all-time favorite game, one that provides as realistic a wrestling simulation as you would get from a game of the time considering that the action that occurs during actual matches is — you know– fake.
1. WWF No Mercy (2000)
Everything great about titles such as WCW/nWo Revenge and WrestleMania 2000 was improved upon for WWF No Mercy, which was the final WWF title made for the Nintendo 64. Have no doubt that AKI/THQ saved the best for last. While grappling and reversals were smooth and easy to execute, No Mercy provided gamers with the best wrestling roster of its time and also a deep create-a-wrestler mode that could take hours to complete for a single character. Add in top-tier championship modes for multiple titles and match options such as “ladder match” and “special referee match,” and No Mercy stands on its own as the greatest wrestling game ever made.