Ah, pro wrestling. One of the most far-fetched, but immersive forms of entertainment known to man. The drama, the excitement, and the athleticism – what’s not to love?
So what better way to give you the complete interactive brawling experience than in a video game? Wrestling fans and gamers alike will tell you that some of the best releases of the genre include Here Comes the Pain, Fire Pro Wrestling, WrestleMania: The Arcade Game, and the almost godlike No Mercy. They’d be right too. Fluid controls, on-point presentation, and stellar pacing are just a few of the things these classic games had going for them.
But not all grappling games match No Mercy when it comes to quality. In fact, the ‘90s in particular were overloaded with misguided wrestling games, all looking to thrive off of a profitable brand. Some with good intentions, some with the sole purpose of piggybacking on wrestling’s increasing popularity. And that’s where this list comes into play.
From horrible graphics, to crippling mechanics – there’s certainly been no shortage of turgid wrestling titles. Some of you may look at these games through rose-tinted glasses, but when it comes down to it, these titles just don’t cut it anymore. So without further ado, here are fifteen absolutely terrible wrestling games that don’t deserve your time.
15 TNA Impact!
When developers Midway announced that they were creating a game for the wrestling promotion TNA, gamers were intrigued. THQ were producing the stale SmackDown Vs Raw titles, so it was seen as a breath of fresh air. In execution, however, what looked good on paper didn’t exactly manifest itself in reality.
Now that’s not to say that the game doesn’t do anything right, in fact, some elements of the gameplay are pretty slick. It’s the lack of effort that’s gone into move variety and the reversal system that really brings it down. Almost every wrestler has identical movesets to each other, barring their finishers. And the less said about the grating A.I. the better.
If you can pick it up in a bargain bin for cheap, then by all means do. However, don’t expect there to be much in the way of longevity. Once you’ve played through a few matches, you’ve pretty much seen everything it has to offer.
14 MicroLeague Wrestling
Okay, so it’s common for RPG or Strategy games to be turn-based, but surely not a wrestling game! Well try telling that to the makers of MicroLeague Wrestling, a failed early attempt at bringing the sports/entertainment hybrid to the masses.
Originally released in 1987 for the Commodore 64 and the Atari ST, the game’s strategic gameplay was incredibly slow and laborious for a wrestling title. Even the 8-bit style loses its charm after waiting on a simple elbow drop to be simulated for the tenth time. On top of that, successful attacks just seemed to be a 50/50 toss-up between the combatants, meaning the strategy elements weren’t even reliable.
It’s tough to be too critical of MicroLeague Wrestling, considering that it was released when gaming was much more limited than it is now. However, there’s no excuse for the flawed concepts that lie at the heart of it.
13 ECW Hardcore Revolution
Defunct game developers Acclaim were incredibly hit-or-miss with many of its wrestling titles. One of their biggest bombs was on the WWF Attitude clone ECW Hardcore Revolution.
Commentator Joey Styles is hard enough to listen to in real-life, but when put on a repeated loop like he is here, he becomes almost unbearable. With controls as stiff as the punches thrown in the promotion and graphics as grotesque as The Blue Meanie, Hardcore Revolution brings the extreme, but forgets to actually bring the fun.
While it did emulate WWF Attitude, it lacked the variety and polish that underpinned that game. What we were left with instead was an empty shell of a wrestling game, one that missed the mark in terms fluidity and playability. You know, the stuff that actually matters in a video game.
12 WWF In Your House
It should be a minimum requirement that if you’re going to make a wrestling game, you should know something about wrestling. Well, meet WWF In Your House, a game that was made by people who didn’t have a clue about sports entertainment.
In a blatant attempt at jumping on the Mortal Kombat craze of the time, this bizarre game is incredibly confused with what it wants to be. But it’s the movesets that are just simply baffling, to say the least. Wrestlers like The British Bulldog and The Undertaker use silly moves that don’t reflect their wrestling personas, and it’s so sloppily slapped together that the madcap nature of it doesn’t succeed. Oh, and there’s no pin button!
We get that they were going for the surreal, but serving as a sequel to the super fun WrestleMania: The Arcade Game, this one was a huge step down. Unfortunately, this game should be anywhere other than in your house.
11 WCW Nitro
Booting this one up and seeing clips from the weekly show is enough to get any grapple fan excited. Then reality hits. This isn’t the game. This sense of foreboding is compounded once in a match, which is where the illusions of grandeur inevitably break.
The annoying camera angle used is the first sign that Nitro’s not going to live up to expectations. From there it’s just downhill, as the broken gameplay begins to reveal itself. Pulling off moves is extremely difficult thanks to the decision to have the player perform button combinations. Add to that delayed button input, sub-par graphics, and terrible pacing, and you’ve got a game that fails to deliver the goods.
Aesthetically, Nitro does have some merit. The game’s large roster and slick cutscenes were much welcomed in 1998, but cosmetic qualities aren’t what make a game. As far as the rest of it goes, it’s not worth your time.
10 Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood
As bad as the original Backyard Wrestling game was, the second in the series makes our list. Not just because they should’ve learned their lesson from the turgid original, but because in some ways it was actually worse.
Clearly aimed at the more ‘bloodthirsty’ of wrestling fans, Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood is one of those games that just lacks any form of redemptive quality. From the graphical ugliness to the benign premise – there’s really not much going for it. Even a more robust create-a-character mode isn’t enough to save it from the clutches of its own terrible gameplay.
I guess if you just want to see blood splattered everywhere there might be something here to enjoy. For the rest of you however, avoid at all costs.
9 WWE Aftershock
Remember the N-Gage? That huge handheld device that had the smallest screen known to man? If not, you’re lucky. And you’re particularly fortunate if you missed WWE Aftershock, a game that doesn’t even let you do the moves you want to.
Yes, thanks to a flawed idea to map the grapple and strike moves to one button, you’ll spend your time flailing around with no control over what’s being performed. If you think that’s bad, well just check out the horrible A.I. which sees your opponent getting stuck behind ring posts and other obstacles.
In fact, there’s really not much to praise. Tag matches are almost unplayable, the graphics are pretty atrocious, and the hit detection system is wonky. Aftershock is shockingly bad.
8 WCW/nWo Thunder
Released as a sequel to Nitro, WCW/nWo Thunder was the video game equivalent to the TV show, in that it was just as poor. THQ would go on to be the handpicked choice for WWE gaming, but not before dropping these turkeys on us.
It’s probably not wise to have a game-breaking bug that allows you to win bouts in 30 seconds. It’s also probably not wise to have real motion clips used for wrestler entrances, as it only serves to highlight how bad the in-game visuals are. You’re brought back down to earth once matches get going, with it quickly becoming apparent that this hasn’t been improved in the slightest from its predecessor. Dizzying camera angles, over complicated controls and horrible movement are just some of the problems that weren’t addressed from Nitro.
Any reason at all to boot this one up? The character selection promos are fantastic.
7 WWF Royal Rumble
The prospect of any new wrestling game in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s was met with fevered anticipation, mainly because the grapple game was peaking at that time. Even more exciting was the advent of a much-loved wrestling match type making its way onto the next generation of consoles – the Royal Rumble.
Sega’s Dreamcast seemed like the perfect system to show off wrestling games’ newfound capabilities. Sadly, it was more like the royal fumble. Gone were the lofty expectations of this being a revolutionary title, replaced instead with the sinking feeling of missed opportunity. Problems include a limited roster (an unforgivable sin for a game based on 30-men matches), annoying timed menus, inconsistent presentation, and dull gameplay.
One area where it deserves props is in the amount of combatants that can be in the ring simultaneously. Nine is the maximum, a number which beats even current WWE games. Nonetheless, this promised so much, yet delivered so little.
6 5 Star Wrestling: ReGenesis
Ding, ding, ding! We have a new contender for worst wrestling game ever made! Released just last year, 5 Star Wrestling: ReGenesis is the video game equivalent of a jobber.
We get that their budget was probably scant, but we don’t get why they would charge $20 for a title with such limited replay value. Eight wrestlers to choose from, no special match types, no career modes, all adding up to make a game that gives you no incentive to play. And if you do decide to return to this one, you’ll have to get past the extremely glitchy and tedious gameplay.
In an age where we see games like The Witcher 3 and The Last Of Us, 5 Star Wrestling: ReGenesis takes us back about twenty years, and not in a lovable way. It’s simply not good enough for the standard set by the current-gen consoles.
5 WWE WrestleMania 21
WrestleMania 21 is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover. Graphically, this one is beautiful. But that seems to be the only area that was given much attention, since the rest of the game is pretty shoddy.
Following up on the average Raw games for the Xbox, you would think WrestleMania 21 would be a continuation and improvement on the foundations laid down by those titles. Weirdly though, it strips away all of that and replaces it with a broken game engine. Fighting is incredibly sluggish, button input lags severely, and the less said about the slowdown on ref counts the better.
The animations look good, but the sheen becomes rusty by way of the infuriating gameplay. The matches lack coherent flow, the A.I. is constantly determined on submitting you, and the collision system is temperamental at best. Avoid!
4 WWF Super Wrestlemania
First thing’s first: there’s nothing super about WWF Super WrestleMania. Released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo and the Sega Mega Drive, Nintendo players got a slap in the face due to no finishers being included.
Yes, that’s right. The coolest aspect of wrestling games was excluded. However, there’s plenty more to hate on here. Despite the slick sprites that make up the wrestlers, the action is pretty stale. There’s nothing downright awful about it, but its simplicity becomes tiring after about the third match. The tug-of-war mechanics that underpin it were done so much better in games like WWF Raw and WWF Royal Rumble (not the Dreamcast game). The lack of options just puts the icing on top of this particularly bland cake.
I guess if you’re nostalgic about the golden days of wrestling, this might be a viable choice. However, don’t expect to get much enjoyment out of it. Pick up WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game instead.
3 ECW Anarchy Rulz
Couldn’t get enough of ECW Hardcore Revolution? Oh, you could? Well it didn’t stop Acclaim from quickly whipping up a sequel anyway.
Entitled ECW Anarchy Rulz, the game promised to be a much improved experience to that of its predecessor. Sadly, Acclaim’s way of improving it was to just throw a whole smattering of bloody match types at the player, despite the awful fundamentals of the previous game remaining. So while it may be cool to be able to do a table match, in execution it’s just plain awful. The stiff controls, ugly visuals, and irritating sounds were kept intact. Yay…
After two failed ECW video games, the developers would go on to make the passable Legends of Wrestling. On ECW Anarchy Rulz though, it’s anything but passable. Anarchy doesn’t rule it would seem.
2 The Simpsons Wrestling
You know something’s reached a new level of cultural significance whenever The Simpsons chooses to adopt it. In 2001, wrestling was that something.
Following in a line of spin-off games from the successful TV show, The Simpsons Wrestling was an attempt at capturing younger audiences with its colorful graphics and show authenticity. Sadly, those were the only two aspects that worked in the game.
As far as the rest of it goes, it was a failed experiment. It falls somewhere in-between a beat-‘em up and a grappler, which is problematic from the off. Excessive button-mashing, poor performance rates and repetitive gameplay will have you scrambling for your nearest copy of WWF War Zone.
Even if you love The Simpsons and wrestling, chances are you’ll be left with a bitter taste in your mouth after playing this well-intentioned, but poorly executed release. Doh!
1 WCW Backstage Assault
It’s fair to say that wrestling fans love nothing more than a good backstage brawl, something which is evidenced by WWE 2K17’s reintroduction of the feature. But back in 2000, they were probably sickened by the premise after playing WCW Backstage Assault.
So, where’s the ring I hear you ask? Well, there isn’t one. In fact, the developers place the matches exclusively backstage and boy are they brutal to look at. Aside from the stomach churning graphics, the gameplay simply sucks. It takes the good things from WCW Mayhem and drives them headfirst into a brick wall. It’s clumsy, buggy, and just downright frustrating. Options wise it’s a huge let down too. Singles matches are the only match types available and the main challenge mode is just countless boring backstage bouts thrown at you so that you can unlock some horribly rendered wrestlers.
Several wrestling games put out under the WCW umbrella have stunk, but none reek with the same putrid stench that emanates from this completely misguided release.