With the next installment of the WWE franchise due in just a few short months, WWE 2K18 is promising fans a lot of improvements to the gameplay system, the Universe, and career modes. Even the awful commentary may actually get the much-needed and long overdue improvements it so desperately needs.
How WWE 2K18 will turn out remains to be seen, but if the incredibly long history of WWE games — which extend much further back than the 17-year history of their current best-selling franchise -- is anything to go by, it could be either be a huge hit or a terrible failure, so let’s hope it’s the former rather than latter.
Vince McMahon’s ambitions of dominating the entirety of the entertainment landscape seem to know no bounds. Some of his experiments have proven to be a massive hit like the WWE Network, some middling such as his WWE movies, while others have been a catastrophic disaster like the XFL and the WBF. Ironically, the WWE video game landscape seems to show the same Vinnie Mac level of experimentation, but the result of such experimentation can often lead to disasters. So, with that in mind, here are 15 of the worst WWE games ever released.
15 WWF WrestleMania X8
WrestleMania X8 on the Nintendo GameCube raised many gamers hopes that the WWE series would somehow reach the heights of the AKI developed wrestling games on the Nintendo 64. Those games had perfected the counter and reversal system that separated them from the silly arcade-style wrestling games, and they haven't been matched since, although the 2K wrestling games seem to be slowly moving in that direction with the recent (fully patched) WWE 2K17.
Where WrestleMania X8 failed was that it tried to have a middle ground between the arcade style seen in the older Smackdown and Raw games and the AKI WWE games, but unfortunately, it lacked the fun and strategic element required to be a success.
14 WWE 2K15
When the WWE games became a part of the 2K Sports family, gamers were expecting the series to see the same level of quality and presentation as the NBA 2K series. While the series maintained most of the core gameplay of the previous games, a lot of what fans came to love about the series was stripped bare. Popular play modes in the exhibition were missing and the Create-a-Wrestler was a huge step back for the series too, not least because it lacked the ability create any female wrestlers at all.
Counters and reversals were tweaked to prevent gamers from overusing them, but in doing so they spoiled one of better elements of the game. Even worse the pinning system was nearly impossible to pull off, leading to some potential game pad breaking moments. Thankfully, even though the series still has some way to go, many of these issues have since been addressed.
13 WWE All Stars
In fairness to the developers at THQ San Diego, WWE All Stars was never intended to be a serious wrestling simulation but an action arcade title that was supposed to be silly, in your face and outrageous. In that respect, it succeeded and more, as a quick blast of multiplayer fun with some friends around the TV it was the perfect solution to a fun night in.
However, the fun doesn’t extend to the single player mode and the gameplay becomes very repetitive and shallow in a short space of time. The presentation is great and the gameplay was likely the only wrestling game to perfect an arcade style battle system since the days of Wrestlewar and Wrestlefest. However, like all arcade games, the fun is best suited for short bursts rather extended over a career mode.
12 WWF Raw 2
The Anchor developed WWE Raw 2 continued exclusive wrestling series for the Xbox and was released in 2003. It was an improvement over the original game in terms of its customization options. The Create a Superstar mode offered a wide range of options not previously seen in other wrestling games, such as character alignments and whether they would be a heel or a face. You had a choice of referees, all of whom had their own individual characteristics, and you could even use your own music in the game.
Unfortunately, the improvements to the game's options and settings mean very little if hardly anything had changed in regard to the dull gameplay. The stiff arcade-like controls remained and the frustrating momentum system during in-ring matches was still a tedious affair to work through.
11 WWE Legends Of WrestleMania
Since the WWE games started featuring the 'Legends' characters of yesteryear, such as The Ultimate Warrior, the Legion of Doom, or Jake the Snake, old school fans of wrestling have been hoping for a full game dedicated solely to these characters, so they could relive their favorite childhood wrestling memories.
To a certain extent, WWE Legends of WrestleMania fulfilled that wish by focusing on great matches like Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III. However, where the game fell apart was its arcade-style gameplay, an over reliance on a very stupid quick-time mechanic and an over simplification in the controls of the game. The silly beefed up action figure character models didn’t go over very well with fans either.
10 WWF Raw
WWF Raw was meant to be the Xbox’s answer to the then-exclusive SmackDown video game series. The game was developed by Anchor, who was responsible for the Ultimate Fighting Championships game on the Dreamcast and as a result was a completely different engine to what has been seen in the previous games seen in the wrestling franchise.
The visuals were hit-and-miss because only certain characters looked like there was any real effort put into their characters models. So while The Rock looked near perfect, the female wrestlers looked like strange mannequins at best, not helped by the awkward and wonky animations.
WWF Raw is also lacking a story mode, and the Voltage gameplay mechanic was a good idea, but the execution was frustrating especially when the prerequisites to gain momentum were so badly executed.
9 WWE WrestleMania XXI
WWE Wrestlemania XXII was an exclusive game for the original Xbox console and was a vast improvement in visuals and sound to the SmackDown series on the PlayStation 2. The WrestleMania title was intended to replace the Raw series, which was also exclusive to the Xbox.
It’s unfortunate then that WrestleMania XXII was all looks with very little substance. Performing attacks and grappling moves were unresponsive and laggy, and even worse the game’s A.I was abysmal. The lackluster A.I even extended to the referees who don’t seem to notice when there was interference or foreign objects being brought into play. Additionally, the game’s menu system was a chore to work through, with its laborious loading times. Perhaps most disappointingly, the career mode only let the player choose a customized character.
8 WWF In Your House
WWF In Your House was released for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and DOS. R rather than making any attempt at being a real wrestling game, In Your House was a weak clone of the Mortal Kombat series. right down to the way the finishing moves were performed and the use of over the top and unrealistic combat.
Although there was some praise for the Mortal Kombat style digitized sprites of the wrestlers. the core gameplay didn’t sit well at all with fans of wrestling. Honestly, fans of true beat-em ups wouldn’t find a lot to enjoy with this game either. One has to wonder why game developers associated with the WWE kept trying to release these strange deviations from the standard wrestling fare when all wrestling fans wanted was a good wrestling game.
7 WWF European Rampage Tour
WWF European Rampage Tour was released on the Amiga, Commodore 64, Atari ST, and MS-DOS in 1992. The game was released to capitalize on the company’s growing popularity in European markets. However, despite having perhaps their most popular European wrestler under contract at the time, the late British Bulldog was noticeably absent from the game.
The game tasked you with picking a tag team and working through a tournament, but the problem with this game is there are only three teams in the game. In addition, there’s no replay value and the gameplay is repetitive because striking rather than grappling is the most effective method to win a match.
6 WWF Royal Rumble
After the fantastic, No Mercy on the Nintendo 64, and the SmackDown series making its mark on the PlayStation, wrestling games were starting to become big business on the home consoles. So when WWF Royal Rumble was announced as an exclusive on the advanced hardware that was the Sega Dreamcast, fan excitement was at an all time high back in 2000.
Although the visuals looked quite decent at the time, the game offered nothing more than an exhibition and a Royal Rumble mode. Additionally, instead of the more strategic reversal based gameplay that was seen in the N64 titles, WWF Royal Rumble instead opted for a more boring arcade style with terrible mechanic.
5 MicroLeague Wrestling
One of the worst WWE games ever made was unfortunately also the very first WWE game ever made as well, and that game was MicroLeague Wrestling. It was released on the Commodore 64, Atari ST, Amiga and the MS DOS in 1987. It was a strange game that probably had more in common with turn based strategy than the modern titles we play with today.
Each character had a preset number of moves to select from and once selected, the game presented the moves in what looks like a slide show. However, it doesn’t seem to matter what strategy is used against the computer, as the moves very rarely worked and the player would be working against a seemingly impossible difficulty.
4 WWF Crush Hour
WWE Crush Hour was a game that had more in common with the likes of the Twisted Metal and the Demolition Derby series. rather than the in-ring action any fan of the wrestling genre would have preferred to play. Each vehicle is customized to represent a specific WWE Superstar, and the goal is to destroy the superstar’s vehicles in WWE themed matches, like the Royal Rumble. Unfortunately, it’s not as fun as it sounds, as there’s no depth and the gameplay is boring and repetitive. Crush Hour’s only slight saving grace may have been that it was a budget release, but even that felt like a waste of money.
Interestingly, the game’s central theme and storyline of WWE inspired programming seemed like a precursor to the current and very popular WWE Network streaming service, with its varied and weird programming.
3 WWF Betrayal
Even though it’s understandable that the Game Boy Color would struggle with complex mechanics, one has to wonder why the developers at THQ thought that WWE Betrayal was a good compromise. The game is a side-scrolling beat-em up in a similar style to games like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage.
Unfortunately for fans, it was a hopeless game in the wrestling genre and it made for an appalling side-scrolling beat-em up too. The game's storyline followed the popular Corporate Ministry storyline from the 90s and placed Stephanie McMahon in the laughable damsel in distress role. Players are given a choice of The Rock, Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Undertaker. However, aside from the characters finishing moves, each wrestler was limited to the same dull and repetitive kicking and punching mechanics.
2 WWF WrestleMania: Steel Cage Challenge
Wrestling games in the 8-bit era struggled to move away from a basic arcade style beat-em up, and the hardware limitations usually resulted in a fiddly mess of a game. Sadly, WWF Steel Cage Challenge on the NES and Sega Master System was no different.
What made WWF Steel Cage Challenge even worse was that aside from their looks, there is no difference from one character to the next. In addition, there are only ten wrestlers on the roster, with around six moves each. At the time, the addition of the steel cage mode was quite unique, but not even that could save the game from the repetitively dull wrestling mechanics.
1 WWE Aftershock
Released in 2005, WWE Aftershock was an attempt at creating some sort of franchise on the struggling N-Gage handheld console. Sadly, the only form of aftershock would be suffered by any wrestling fan or gamer that made the unfortunate decision to try to play through the disastrous handheld game.
If WWE Aftershock could win any awards, it may be for one of the ugliest games in existence. The character models were horrendous, and their limbs looked like they were made to look like large overly pixilated sausages with boots on. The game’s mechanics were simple, yet shallow and dull, and it had a complete lack of a career or basic championship mode. Instead, the game features a rather dull survival mode where you’re forced to fight nine wrestlers in a row with no recovery in between.