In case you missed it, I recently started a top 10 list of my all time favourite wrestling games in honour of WrestleMania 35 this Sunday!
To check out entries 10-6 click here. All up to date? Let’s get on with the show..
5. Def Jam: Vendetta
Safe to say this is the only game on this list that does not include any wrestlers! Released in 2003 on PS2 and GameCube by EA Sports BIG, this seemed to come out of nowhere like a quick-fire RKO. With EA rightly getting critically destroyed for their last attempt at a wrestling game – WCW Backstage Assault, they went for something out of left field with a wrestling game that pitted famous rappers against one another. The game featured some massive names such as Ludacris, DMX, Method Man, Redman and way more. Okay, so the good idea is in place but how well did it play? Absolutely incredible as it happens! EA were smart here and looked at what had worked before, with AKI having the best reputation for making wrestling games, they just used a more simplified version of that famous engine and it was enough to satisfy most fans. With fresh yet famous characters, a tried and trusted gameplay engine, a decent story mode as well as a killer soundtrack – Def Jam proved to be a major player in the wrestling video game market and its sequel, Def Jam: Fight for NY was arguably even better but I’m going to give this spot to Vendetta for daring to be different and succeeding massively.
4. Smackdown vs Raw 2006
THQ’s Smackdown vs Raw series was a bit hit & miss throughout the years but it was the 2006 release on PS2 that has always stuck with me as being my favourite for one massive reason… The introduction of GM Mode! As a fan of wrestling and video games, I can’t explain how excited I was for this new mode. Me and my friends would spend hours and hours fantasy booking wrestling shows, even going as far as to do so by using older games and nothing more than a piece of paper and our imaginations. But here came Smackdown vs Raw 2006, the first game that actually let the player take control of a brand (Either Smackdown or Raw funnily enough) and compete against an opposition General Manager, either player or CPU to see who would have the most fan support come the end of the wrestling year. It included the ability to do a draft, set up feuds, manage wrestlers contracts and even steal wrestlers from your rival promotion. It’s a mode that ticked all the boxes for me and a mode that is still frequently requested to this day! Doubt the popularity of GM Mode? Just take a look on YouTube at current WWE wrestler – Xavier Woods’ gaming channel where he and fellow wrestler Tyler Breeze still play 2006’s GM Mode to this day!
3. WCW/nWo Revenge
It’ll be no surprise to many of you to see the first AKI developed game debut so high on this list. AKI are famed for having the best game engine when it comes to pro wrestling video games, even to this day. Many have tried to replicate it (See earlier entries, Def Jam and Fire Pro) but none have quite captured the magic of games such as WCW/nWo Revenge. This was actually the second WCW game released by the developer as it was a sequel to 1997’s WCW vs nWo: World Tour. But it was WCW/nWo: Revenge a year later that took the headlines as it managed to build upon it’s predecessor to make what was heralded as a near perfect game. The weight behind every grapple, the realistic feel to every move as well as easy to pick up controls made this a truly spectacular game for wrestling fans of all ages. This was backed up by the sales of the game as this was reportedly the best-selling third-party game on the N64 console up until that point. This was probably helped by the massive popularity of WCW at the time thanks to it’s nWo storyline throughout the late 90’s, meaning putting nWo in the titles was probably an incredibly smart move by all involved.
2. WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain
You’ll often find that the debate over which wrestling game is the best ever made often comes down to arcade vs realism. Those who want a beat-em-up style game more in line with something like Fire Pro vs those who want a game that more reflects the wrestling they see on their TV which is more what 2K aim to do. I believe that 2003’s Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain – Released exclusively to the PS2 by Yukes and THQ was the first and only wrestling game to achieve both. The visuals for it’s time were fantastic, making the whole presentation the closest thing to real life WWE we had seen up until that point. The gameplay had also been completely revamped from it’s prequel meaning that when Goldberg would lift his opponent up for his Jackhammer finisher or The Rock would raise his rival high for a Rock-Bottom, it would feel more realistic than ever. That was until you decided to take the fight backstage… This is where the chaos would ensue as all of a sudden it felt like realism was out the door and left in the ring. Once backstage you could throw your opponent off lorries, buildings and anything else ridiculously high! You could Tombstone piledrive your enemy off a ledge and through a table, hell you could even go outside and jump onto a helicopter and dive off it! That was the beauty of Here Comes The Pain, the game had you covered no matter what you wanted from a wrestling game. Sure, put it on today and those once impressive visuals may no longer be all that great but for it’s time it was untouchable.
1. WWF No Mercy
Was this number one spot ever in doubt? Yes it’s the most obvious pick for a list like this but there’s a reason for that! Much like the above mentioned WCW/nWo: Revenge, WWF No Mercy was developed by AKI (Published by THQ) and was the last wrestling game they would develop for the N64 and what a way to go out this was! To put into perspective just how well-loved these AKI games were, the top 4 of this list could have easily been the four games they made for N64 and not many fans would argue with that. Released in 2000, a year after it’s predecessor Wrestlemania 2000 in 1999, No Mercy was the crowning achievement of wrestling games. The gameplay and controls were flawless and once you and your friends had mastered it, there wasn’t many mulitplayer games in any genre that could match it for pure entertainment. It wasn’t just the gameplay and mechanics that it nailed, it also set the standard for customisation in wrestling games for years to come, allowing an (at the time) unheard of amount of options for creating your own wrestler. Me and my friends would lose the majority of our summer holidays just creating our own custom characters with their own custom move sets to fight each other over and over again without it ever getting boring. No Mercy is so good that it’s even managed to stand the test of time. It managed to keep me busy for a good few years, even after other wrestling games came out, it would usually be a case of playing them for a little while before going back to No Mercy for the rest of the year – A trend that would pretty much continue until the release of the runner-up in this list, Here Comes The Pain. It’s also worth pointing out that using the creation tools provided with the game, players have managed to create the more modern-day wrestlers which means that WWF No Mercy is even played by fans to this very day and that isn’t surprising given that many still see it as superior to any wrestling game that has followed it since and to be honest, I think I might agree with them.
Enjoy this list? Want to watch it in video form? Check out the YouTube video covering all this below!
Agree with this list? Did I miss your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.