Wrestling is the ultimate form of modern entertainment. Combining soap opera-like storylines with pure athleticism there's a reason it's one of the biggest sports in the world. The independent scene is as healthy as it's ever been but World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) still rules the wrestling world. The only thing better than watching is being involved. But if you're like me, possessing little sporting prowess or ability to actually get in the ring, the next best way of competing is through video games.
Since the 80s when wrestling became a cultural phenomenon there have been dozens of video games created for fans to enjoy. During the 90s the battle for supremacy between WWE (then called the World Wrestling Federation) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was also reflected in the number of video games created by both companies. The WWE eventually claimed the crown and went on to purchase their rivals and continued to release new wrestling games every year, improving on previous efforts with new features and control systems. But just like wrestling itself, sometimes the product isn't all it's cracked up to be. For every quality release such as WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain there's a terrible adaptation like WWE Crush Hour or WWF Royal Rumble.
With nostalgia at an all-time high people are forking out their cash for classic wrestling games along with the latest adaptations, but how do you know if you're getting the real deal or a stinker? To help we've picked out the 20 worst and 10 best WWE games (plus a couple of WCW releases) on the market to her you lay the smackdown!
30 Worst: WWE All Stars
Unlike the usual lifelike simulation based wrestling games THQ has become famous for, WWE All Stars is a cartoon style arcade game pitting wrestlers from different eras against each other. It sounds like a great idea, with players able to create dream matches pitting the likes of Macho Man Randy Savage against CM Punk or Ultimate Warrior versus John Cena.
Sadly WWE All Stars fails to live up to the hype.
The wrestler's entrances are fantastic to watch but once the action gets underway it's quite underwhelming. The two-button control system is way too easy to master and the reliance on silly combos (button mashing) lets the game down big time. The nostalgic factor is high with WWE All Stars but there just isn't enough action to keep gamers interested for longer than a couple hours.
29 Worst: WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game
Wrestlemania is known as the showcase of the immortals but WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game is as far away from wrestling's much-praised showcase as humanly possible. Developed by Midway in 1995 the game features wrestlers in a fighting game based on the Mortal Kombat game engine. It's supposed to be a fast-paced fighting experience but comes off as a poor imitation of the games it's trying to emulate.
Think Mortal Kombat with WWF wrestlers.
The graphics don't hold up well and the characters do this strange thing where they ooze objects, such as dumbbells flying out of Lex Luger when he's hit. It's one of the strangest things I've seen in a wrestling game. Even the addition of Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawyer on commentary can't save this one.
28 Best: WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2007
During the 2000s THQ released a series of WWE games under the WWE Smackdown vs Raw banner, each receiving varying critical reactions. The thing that makes this alliteration of the game stand out is the high number of new in-game features. For one, there is an actual weight class, so if you play as the diminutive Rey Mysterio Jr. and try to power slam The Big Show, it just won't work because like real life, there's no way someone as small as Mysterio could lift such weight. This adds an element of realism to the game that's also helped by a new analog control system making grappling easier and fighting more fluid. But the best thing about WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2007 is the career mode which enables locker room involvement with other superstars, allowing you to read text messages, make phone calls and enter into backstage rivalries.
27 Worst: WWE Crush Hour
Whoever came up with the idea for WWE Crush Hour must have been on the wacky stuff. The game isn't even a wrestling simulation, instead, it's a vehicle combat game similar to Twisted Metal. The premise involves the evil Vince McMahon taking control of all the television networks in America and wanting them filled with WWE content. His latest idea is "Crush Hour," a show where WWE superstars are pitted against each other in vehicles instead of the squared circle.
Players choose from a variety of cars based on famous wrestlers.
They then battle it out in various arenas using special moves and power-ups to take each other out. Fans expecting a traditional wrestling game were let down by this creation, with WWE Crush Hour failing to match the standard of similar car games. This one's a stinker best left to rust.
26 Worst: WWF Steel Cage Challenge
As wrestling games started to take off in the early 90s developers were looking for an edge, and like wrestling itself, they often used gimmicks to attract players. WWF Steel Cage Challenge for the NES was no different. The use of a steel cage during matches was the games big selling point but proves to be the only highlight. With a roster consisting only 10 wrestlers (including Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Brett Hart, and The Undertaker) there isn't much variety and the move set of each competitor is just as slim, with around 5 or 6 different moves available for all the characters. There's also no finishing moves in WWF Steel Cage Challenge, which annoyed many fans as dropping your opponent with a Tombstone from The Undertaker is one of the best things about playing wrestling games.
25 Best: WWF Wrestlefest
The sequel to arcade game WWF Superstars, WWF Wrestlefest captures the over-the-top vibe of late 80s and early 90s wrestling to a tee. The cartoon graphics are bright and vibrant and the button mashing fighting style perfectly suited to the arcade-style gameplay. Although the game only features 10 top tier WWF stars from that period, including Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Hulk Hogan, and Ultimate Warrior, each wrestler is able to perform their trademark finishing or signature move. The game even includes a Royal Rumble game mode that's tons of fun to play and I still remember dropping quarter after quarter into WWF Wrestlefest at my local video game arcade during my youth.
24 Worst: WWF Betrayal
Another non-traditional wrestling release, WWE Betrayal is a Game Boy only platform scrolling game in the mold of Streets Of Rage and Double Dragon. The game revolves around one of the most ludicrous storylines from the Attitude Era, Stephanie McMahon being kidnaped and Vince McMahon offering a title shot to anyone who can rescue her. You have the ability to play as either Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, or The Undertaker and must navigate a series of side-scrolling levels to save Stephanie.
It's another creative idea that fails in the execution.
The game is quite repetitive as the levels hardly vary and mashing the same buttons over and over is the only way to defeat opponents. The graphics are poor even for the Game Boy so you're better off firing up the WWE Network and playing re-runs of RAW in 1999 and watching the events of the game take place in an actual wrestling ring.
23 Worst: WWE Aftershock
The N-Gage is a portable game system and mobile phone released by Nokia in 2003. If it doesn't sound familiar that's because the N-Gage was a huge disaster and only lasted two years before production ceased. During that time one of the games to get an exclusive release on the hybrid communication device was WWE Aftershock.
Very similar to the N-Gage itself, WWE Aftershock is a mess of a game.
The graphic capabilities of the N-Gage aren't on par with the Game Boy Advance, it's the main competitor, with the pixilated wrestlers hard to define. There's only a small number of moves each wrestler can perform and the lack of a story mode or campaign means longevity is not an option. If there's one redeeming feature it's the sound, with the wrestler's entrance themes coming through the handheld devices speakers crystal clear. Just a pity everything else is horrible.
22 Best: WCW/nWo Revenge
Ok, so this isn't strictly a WWE game but considering everything WCW related is now owned by WWE I think we can squeeze a couple into this list, especially when the game is so good. Released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64 WCW/nWo Revenge is widely recognized as one of the all-time great wrestling games. It features a massive cast of characters, with players able to control over 60 different wrestlers including big-time stars Goldberg, Hollywood Hogan, and Diamond Dallas Page. The game also integrates famous storylines from the previous year, including the rise of the nWo and Goldberg's undefeated streak. The control system is easy to navigate although the combo system a tad frustrating. Each wrestler's finishing move is clearly defined with WCW/nWo Revenge is the first wrestling game to include actual arenas into the game, such as Starrcade, Bash At The Beach, and Halloween Havoc. This is one of the few wrestling games I still enjoy playing and says a lot about how good wrestling was in the late 90s.
21 Worst: WWE Wrestlemania X8
The Nintendo GameCube didn't have much luck when it came to wrestling games, with WWE Wrestlemania X8 another horrible effort. The game includes the usual array of assorted match types (Steel Cage, TLC, Ladder) and story modes (Path of a Champion, Battle for the Belts) but looks more like a game that should have been on the SNES due to the terrible graphics and dull gameplay. The sound effects and music also don't vibe well and the fact only two wrestlers could be in the ring at the same time meant multiple wrestling matches such as the Royal Rumble just don't work. Unfortunately, things didn't get any better with the next game in the series, WWE Wrestlemania XIX, being just as bad as it's predecessor.
20 Worst: WWE Wrestlemania XIX
Many of the worst WWE wrestling games on this list are one-off releases for new consoles, as is the case with WWE Wrestlemania XIX. Released for the Nintendo GameCube the game consists of almost 70 wrestlers but fails miserably when it comes to career mode.
Instead of following your path to stardom at Wrestlemania the game involves you fighting outside the ring.
You have to achieve certain goals fighting normal people, security guards and WWE personal outside of the ring in urban settings such as warehouses, arenas, and office buildings. Naming a game after the biggest pay per view in the sport and then not actually using it is absolutely ridiculous. Avoid this one at all costs.
19 Best: WWE 2K17
Although the results have been mixed since 2K Sports took over the development of WWE titles you have to give the studio credit for continually improving and working on the game engine. WWE 2K17 is without a doubt the franchises best release yet. There are a range of new and improved options available and a roster of over 130 past and present superstars.
The gamely is improved and WWE 2K17 is one of the few games that feels like you're watching an actual wrestling match.
The career mode is wonderfully engaging too as you take your chosen wrestler all the way to the grandest stage of them all for a showdown wiht current champion Brock Lesnar. While reviews from critics are mixed, WWE 2K17 is everything you want from a wrestling game and a much better alternative than the disappointing WWE 2K18.
18 Worst: WWE Wrestlemania 21
WWE Wrestlemania 21 was a successor to the Xbox's WWE Raw but fails to capture the excitement of the previous title. The graphics are decent and the storyline enjoyable but the control system is a real downer. Instead of just upgrading the previous game engine THQ rebuilt it from the ground up creating an entirely new fighting system that's sluggish and hard to master. The game is also full of glitches and the online component terrible. There's a range of specialty match options available but you can only play them during one-on-one matches, so no fun tag team matches. It's certainly not the worst Wrestlemania themed game on this list but one you could do without adding to your collection.
17 Worst: WWF In Your House
Similar to WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game, the 1996 release WWF In Your House is a platform style fighting game akin to Mortal Kombat. There are only 10 wrestlers to choose from (Vader, Goldust, Ahmed Johnson, Bret Hart etc...) and each has a number of over-the-top special movies and abilities, with players able to perform finishing moves after defeating their opponent. Each wrestler also has their own unique location where fights can take place, such as Stu Hart's Dungeon for Bret Hart, a nightclub for Shawn Michaels, and a crypt for The Undertaker. Like its predecessor, WWF In Your House has some unique features and sounds like an interesting take on the wrestling genre, but turns out being a repetitious and boring game not worth your money or time.
16 Best: WWE Day Of Reckoning
Compared to the first WWE affiliated GameCube release, WWE Wrestlemania XIX, 2004s WWE Day Of Reckoning is an absolute joy to play. Combining all the best bits of previous wrestling games from the N64, such as a dynamic and easy to use control system, an engaging storyline, and impressive gameplay engine, WWE Day Of Reckoning is an absolute delight.
The career mode is fantastic as it allows you to choose which brand to wrestle for.
If you go with Raw you become part of Triple H's Evolution stable but if you go with the blue brand Smackdown you become part of The Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness. If there's one disappointing thing about the game it's the lack of wrestlers to choose from, but that's a small price to pay for such a fun romp.
15 Worst: WWF Royal Rumble
Another one of WWE's big pay per view events The Royal Rumble involves 30 men battling it out in a battle royal where the last man standing gets a title shot at Wrestlemania. Released across multiple consoles WWF Royal Rumble is just a port of the Royal Rumble arcade game. There are only two game modes available; competing in the actual Royal Rumble or having singles matches. The game was criticised for having few superstars to choose from, with only 20 being made available. This might sound like a lot but when you consider the Royal Rumble consists of 30 men, it means the same characters would often be involved in the match, just in a different color clothing. WWF Royal Rumble fails to live up to expectations and is another disappointing effort.
14 Worst: WWF European Rampage Tour
Aimed squarely at the European market WWF European Rampage Tour involves players forming a tag team and fighting opponents in arenas across Europe for the tag team championships. The final match takes place against The Legion Of Doom in Madison Square Gardens.
The biggest problem with the game is there's no single player option, so if you don't like tag team wrestling you've got a problem.
The graphics are standard for a game released in 1991 and the lack of wrestlers to choose from hurts the longevity of WWF European Rampage Tour. Strangely the Commodore 64 version of the game features only single player matches and no tag teams, with the final main event featuring a battle for the championship against Animal from The Legion Of Doom.
13 Best: WWE 2K14
Before last year's WWE 2K17 took the crown as the best wrestling game in the 2K franchise the title was held by WWE 2K14. The first game in the 2K franchise, it's basically an updated version of WWE '13 with better graphics and more fluid player movement.
The best thing about the game is the 30 Years Of Wrestlemania campaign.
This game mode allows you to compete in 45 classic WWE matches and features footage from actual matches and legendary wrestlers from the 80s, 90s, and 00s. You can play as Hulk Hogan and take part in his career-defining 80s Wrestlemania matches, play the classic series of matches between Brett Hart and Shawn Michaels for the WWE championship in the 90s, or take Randy Orton to the top in a series of great matches he had in the 00s. Another great feature allows you to continue The Undertaker's streak (this game was released before Brock Lesnar put an end to the streak) or try and break it. This one is for wrestling fans who enjoy the old and new of the sport.
12 Worst: WWE Legends Of Wrestlemania
Released to cash in on Wrestlemania XXV, WWE Legends Of Wrestlemania is far from legendary as the title suggests. The new arcade style control system isn't great, the gameplay simple and unoriginal, and the majority of wrestlers in the game look like they've been taking steroids due to their over muscular frames. The Wrestlemania Tour is an interesting game mode, allowing you to relive, rewrite, or redefine well known Wrestlemania matches. There's also a good selection of legends and modern superstars available to play, but when compared to WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2008 (released just six months earlier) you're better off passing on this one and playing the earlier released game.
11 Worst: WCW Backstage
You can't have a list of bad wrestling games without including WCW Backstage Assault. Following on from the classic WCW/nWo Revenge in 1998, WCW Backstage Assault is an absolute disaster. The matches in the game take place outside of the ring, something that didn't go down well with fans upothe game's releasese.
WCW Backstage Assault apparently only sold 200,000 copies worldwide and was another nail in the coffin of WCW.
The company was brought out by the WWF just months after the games release. WCW Backstage Assault quickly becomes repetitive and the graphics are subpar, with the only redeeming feature being commentary from Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Stay away from this one at all costs.
10 Best: WWF Wrestlemania 2000
The first game THQ created for the WWE, WWF Wrestlemania 2000 uses the same game engine as WCW/nWo Revenge, so it was always going to be decent. The game features over 50 superstars and is the first to allow players to edit existing wrestlers, so you can put Edge in The Undertaker's trunks and use the Tombstone as his finisher. The create-a-wrestler mode also allows you to custom your favourite wrestlers that don't actually appear in the game, such as Hulk Hogan and The Road Warriors.
The career mode is excellent as you start from a nobody and slowly progress to the top of the mountain.
You're even able to hold all the title belts in the game at one time. Another clever addition is the ability to taunt wrestlers, and there's nothing I love more than playing as Stone Cold Steve Austin and giving my opponent the middle finger salute.
9 Worst: WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2009
If WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2007 is the highlight of the series than the 2009 edition is the low point. The game does include some new game modes, including the first wrestling game to feature an inferno match and the Road To Wrestlemania story mode, where you choose from Triple H, John Cena, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, or The Undertaker and take them on a custom-made journey towards winning the WWE championship. However, the gameplay hasn't improved form previous releases and the emphasis on tag team matches, while a great idea, isn't implemented well, with a lack of tag teams and general poor tag team gameplay making the option irrelevant. There's also a lack of classic superstars available to play, making this game one to miss.
8 Worst: WWE Raw
As the first WWE wrestling game released on the Xbox you'd think designers THQ would want to impress fans but that's not the way things turned out with WWE Raw. The game looks good, sounds good, and gives you the option of choosing a great variety of characters, but the game engine is horrible.
The grappling system just doesn't work.
If you're a fraction too early or late with your punches, kicks or grapples, you miss your opponent completely and will find yourself at the end of sidewalk slam. There's little room for error when attempting to wrestle an opponent in this one, leading to many stressful games and screaming of obscenities at the screen. This one isn't good for the blood pressure.
7 Best: WWF No Mercy
It was always going to be hard following WWF Wrestlemania 2000 on the N64 but somehow THQ managed to do it with WWF No Mercy.
There are so many great things about this game it's hard to encapsulate its brilliance in a short paragraph.
The create-a-wrestler mode offers heaps of options to customize your wrestler, the story mode features different plots for each of the title belts you can claim, and the roster of wrestlers includes over 65 characters along with hidden and unlockable superstars. The game manages to balance the expectations of die-hard wrestling fanatics with casual fans who just enjoy beating each other up on their favourite console.
6 Worst: WCW: The Main Event
One of the few wrestling games released on the Game Boy WCW: The Main Event fails largely due to the lack of options available for players. There's only two types of matches and a set number of falls (best of one, three, or five) and a set time limit (five, ten, or fifteen minutes) for both. The game has less than 10 playable characters, with the likes of Sting, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Rick Rude featuring. The lack of options also extends to the characters, with only a handful of moves available to each. Considering the capabilities of the Game Boy and the year (1994) it's not a huge shock the game is so basic, but as a wrestling fan, you expect a little more variation.
5 Worst: WWF King Of The Ring
The King Of The Ring tournament made household names out of many wrestlers during its existence, specifically Stone Cold Steve Austin who delivered his infamous 3:16 promo and quickly went on to become the biggest superstar in the company.
Unlike Stone Cold, WWF King Of The Ring is another sad attempt at recreating a wrestling pay per view as a video game.
Only 11 wrestlers can be chosen in the game and they all possess the same moves, with a lack of special moves or finishers a big drawback. The gameplay and game modes are limited and the actual design of the wrestlers pretty ugly. Interestingly, Hulk Hogan didn't approve of his characters hairline, so developers gave him a full head of hair. While this made the Hulk happy, his depiction in the game looks nothing like him in real life.
4 Best: WWE '13
The first wrestling game released for the next generation of consoles, WWE '13 was a smash hit on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The new consoles allowed for a great improvement in graphics and gameplay, with WWE '13 giving players the opportunity to customize just about everything you could think of from the smallest match details to the facial hair on your own wrestling creation.
The Attitude Story mode is a call back to the 90s and features 65 matches spread across two years of storylines involving the biggest talent from that era.
The game also has some great downloadable content and a decent online component along with a stacked roster of old and new stars. The fact CM Punk is on the cover is a sign of just how confident WWE were in the success of this game.
3 Worst: WCW SuperBrawl Wrestling
WCW SuperBrawl Wrestling is at the only WCW wrestling game to be released on the Super NES and it's easy to see why. Unlike the majority of popular wrestling games with in-ring combat based around a grappling system, WCW SuperBrawl Wrestling only features moves such as dropkicks, suplexes, and standard punches and kicks. The roster only includes 12 wrestlers (including Brain Pillman, Rick Flair, Ron Simmons, and Vader) with so-so graphics and poor animation quality. The best thing about the game is the mini videos that screen before matches, adding a touch of realism to the game and making you feel like you're actually there front of the ring.
2 Worst: WWE 2K15
The majority of WWE 2K game are decent but WWE 2K15 is a bit of a dog's breakfast. Promising so much after the great reception WWE 2K14 received, this latest version fails to build on the positives of the previous release. Many of the customizable options are gone, such as Create-An-Arena and Create-A-Finisher, the My Career mode fails to offer anything new or exciting, and the visual aspect of the game is extremely poor. The soundtrack is a positive and includes the Wiz Khalifa and John Cena banger "Breaks," but you're much better off sticking with WWE 2K14.
1 Best: WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain
My personal favourite wrestling game of all time, WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain does everything you want from a wrestling game. A new grappling system is introduced and works wonders, new gimmick matches (Elimination Chamber and Bra And Panties match) give longevity, and a choice of over 50 new and old superstars creates one of the best rosters any wrestling game has had.
Even legends such as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka are induced, meaning you'll be coming back for more.
Visually gorgeous with an entertaining story mode and a combat system that's both technical and easy to master, WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain is as close to actually being a wrestler as most of us will ever get.