Back in the "old days" wrestling games were simple. Entertaining to be sure, but simple. When you played Mat Mania in the arcades or WWF Wrestlemania on the NES, you had two buttons in which to execute a number of moves. These days, Wrestling games have grown quite a bit with the inclusion of systems to make opponents submit, reversals, signature "finishing moves" to win the match and so on. Last year, THQ had managed to reach the brass ring with its WWE 13 simulation, one that is closer than ever to the type of sports entertainment product the World Wrestling Entertainment group is making.
This year should bring an even bigger and better product from 2K Sports (who picked up the license from THQ) with WWE 2K14, which we should know more about in a couple of months at E3. In the meantime, let's go back into the past and revisit some of the best wrestling games ever made. Put on your Luchador mask and grab a steel chair, this is going to be a fight to the finish.
Rumble Roses (Konami, PlayStation 2)
Basically all Konami had to say was "hot girls wrestling in mud" and our interest would've been piqued, but with Rumble Roses the developers actually implemented some cool wrestling moves to go with the sexy models. Not only did they look great but they wrestled great as well, executing suplexes and other crazy moves (like a drop kick off the top rope) to secure the win. The fact they did so in hot costumes (for instance, a nurse's costume) certainly didn't hurt. A sequel, Rumble Roses XX, was also released for Xbox 360, but many fans prefer the "down and dirty" action of the first.
WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game (Acclaim, Sega Genesis/Sony PlayStation)
Hot on the heels of its souped-up success with NBA Jam, Midway turned to the World Wrestling Federation for its next arcade effort that combined the versus tactics of a fighting game with in-game wrestling action. The results were surprisingly well done, complete with plenty of comical effects (mostly coming from one of the game's stars, Doink the Clown) and running play-by-play by Jerry "The King" Lawler and the owner of the company, Vince McMahon. The game was released on various platforms afterwards by Acclaim, but the two versions stand out are for the Sega Genesis and the Sony PlayStation. Both match the quality of the original coin-op and include all the wrestlers that made it great to begin with. If you're nostalgic, you can always pit Bret "The Hitman" Hart against Shawn Michaels. Those were the days…
WCW vs. NWO World Tour (THQ, Nintendo 64)
Back in the 90's, wrestling games really began evolving from simple push-button affairs to much greater experiences. THQ led the charge with the release of this N64 grappler, featuring such greats as The Giant, Hulk Hogan (in his villainous "Hollywood" persona) and many more. This game is always fun to revisit, not only because it's so easily accessible with the N64 controller but also because it's one of the first wrestling games to support four players at once for tag team matches or all-out brawls. This one's well worth tracking down and you might want to also find WCW vs. NWO: Revenge, which was just as good. Avoid WCW Nitro and WCW Backstage Assault though... you've been warned.
WWF No Mercy (Acclaim, Nintendo 64)
Another classic Nintendo 64 game that managed to hold its own against WCW, WWF No Mercy worked in the same vein as those games with its own superstars, including "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock and a number of others. With so many modes to choose from, there was literally no shortage of chaos you could cause in the ring, whether it was slamming someone into a steel cage wall or climbing up a ladder to secure a victory. Just like those WCW games, you could do it with multiple players at once. It's still a great game to this very day.
Def Jam Vendetta (Electronic Arts, Xbox/PlayStation 2/GameCube)
Back before it would become the go-to team for the WWE franchise, Yukes worked with EA to bring a different kind of wrestling experience to consoles, featuring such rap superstars as Redman, Ghostface Killah, Scarface and a number of others. Def Jam Vendetta was born as a result and it introduced a level of heated combat that few games could match. Throw in a superstar hip-hop soundtrack on top as well as various wrestlers to unlock over the course of the campaign, and you have a game that still continues to be a party favorite. We wouldn't mind hopping into the Def Jam ring again.
WWE All Stars (THQ, Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/Wii)
THQ was quite serious when it came to producing some of the best wrestling simulations out there, but it also had a playful side manifested in WWE All Stars. Featuring over-the-top character models (Andre the Giant could have doubled for the Incredible Hulk) and unique gameplay that channeled some of Midway's earlier arcade sports efforts, the game was quite fun to play. Especially great was the dream match-ups mode, where CM Punk would face off against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and the late Eddie Guerrero would go high-flying again versus Rey Mysterio. Though the possibility of seeing a sequel is very unlikely, there plenty of still current wrestlers with a crop of stars from the past. It's great to slam the 400+ pound Big Show into the ground with ease using a smaller guy. Nothing beats a David and Goliath match-up!
What are your favorite wrestling games?