Wrestling has gone hand-in-hand with video games for the last three decades. If you’re a fan of one, it’s likely you’re a fan of the other — and there’s plenty of reasons to like both.
While wrestling video games have been in an odd spot over the last few years, the sport still has a long and illustrious history in gaming. Not all titles can be as iconic as WWF No Mercy, but there’s plenty of great gems in the wrestling video games catalogue.
In the spirit of WrestleMania 37, let’s count down some of the biggest and best wrestling games around. If you’re looking to start a fight, these are the games you’ll want to check out first.
7. WWE ’13
WWE ’13 isn’t just great because of its CM Punk cover, it’s also a fantastic wrestling video game. In lieu of the typical ‘Road to WrestleMania’ plot line that featured in past games by Yuke’s/THQ, WWE ’13 featured a brand new Attitude Era mode that saw players travel through iconic moments from this period in wrestling history.
It was a very smart addition, and made the story element of WWE ’13 an absolute blast to play through.
Add in an incredible roster, streamlined controls and tweaks to the in-game engine, and WWE ’13 was one sleek package. It’s just a shame the more modern games haven’t quite reached these heights yet.
6. Def Jam: Fight for NY
Def Jam: Fight for NY is an action-wrestling game featuring famous rappers like Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Kim, Ludacris and Flavor Flav. It also included … Henry Rollins. Yes, the Henry Rollins from Black Flag. Any game that includes Henry Rollins as a playable fighter is a winner, but the second Def Jam is notable regardless for being a very solid game.
It’s a concept that sounds silly, but everything about Fight for NY just worked. The game’s sleek controls, fun gameplay and celebrity cameos are fantastic, and they should absolutely return at some point down the road.
5. Fire Pro Wrestling World
Fire Pro Wrestling World is a simple brawler created by ZEX Corporation and Spike Chunsoft — and if you’re looking to get your retro wrestling fix, this is the game you’ll want to pick up. It looks fairly basic, but it’s buoyed by some fantastic customisation options, and the ability to create your own tourneys with special guests and unique characters (like Geralt and Bob Ross, pictured above).
Really, the wrestling world is your oyster with this game.
4. WWF WrestleMania 2000
WWF WrestleMania 2000 has the distinct advantage of being released at the height of the Attitude Era, when wrestling was at its peak. But rather than being a cheap cash-in for young wrestling fans, it’s actually a pretty killer game. First, the roster is fantastic and filled with enduring stars. Then you’ve got the deep customisation options, the iconic stages, the ability to flip off other wrestlers… it’s great.
They don’t make ’em like they used to anymore, and WrestleMania 2000 is a prime example of just how fun and simple wrestling games used to be. While there’s certainly prettier WWE games around, you can’t go past this classic gem.
3. WWE All Stars
WWE All-Stars was a great experiment by THQ that proved there was was still creativity left in the WWE tank in 2011. Rather than your typical brawler, this title went for a more cartoonish style and simplified moves so that everyone could have fun with the game.
The new style meant hits had more impact, and there was scope for fantasy-level match-ups like CM Punk taking on The Rock in his prime. WWE All Stars recognised the inherent silliness of wrestling video games and embraced it wholeheartedly. It’s whacky, over-the-top and just plain brilliant. We need more games like this.
2. WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain
Ah, Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar. The match everybody loved and hated to see. In Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain, you can put these two through their paces in the match they deserved — or you can take on anyone else you like with the best roster in modern wrestling games. Sure, you can also perform in a Bra and Panties match in Here Comes The Pain, but we won’t talk about that.
Instead, we’ll mention the great advances in wrestler movement and grappling in the game, as well as how it included great story-based Seasons. This was the beginning of wrestling games being taken seriously, and it made a real mark on future THQ/Yuke’s adventures.
1. WWF No Mercy
And now, for the absolute king of the wrestling video game pile: WWF No Mercy.
The reverence with which this game is treated can probably be put down to the fact that so many gamers grew up playing it on Nintendo 64 — but it’s also a great wrestling game to boot, and one that hasn’t yet been topped.
No Mercy included a god-tier roster, a great Championship story mode and excellent action, including the ability to take part in a ladder match. For kids growing up in the 90s, the game was absolutely mind-blowing.
Sometimes, the simplest things in life are the best — and WWF No Mercy remains a shining example of that. Modern wrestling games rarely reach these heights, and they could definitely learn a thing or two from the game’s simple charms.
Agree with our rankings of the best wrestling games of all time? Agree to disagree? Duke it out in the comments below.