Pro wrestling games for the Sony Playstation have ranged from joyrides to putrid time-wasters and have featured the rosters of WWE, WCW and ECW.
Travel back to when WWE and WCW fought over fans' attention, to when The Rock and Austin traded fists, when the NWO made villainy cool. The Playstation's peak coincided with the Monday Night Wars and video games became another component of that rivalry.
Acclaim, THQ and EA Sports all attempted to cash in on wrestling's popularity.
WWF SmackDown! represented the best of what was capable with the Playstation while the ECW games would have stunk it up regardless of the console.
Based on the quality of graphics, controls, options and how much gameplay resembled what we saw on TV every week, the following are the all the pro wrestling games for the PS1 from worst to first.
Note: This list exclude Japanese-only releases.
Fox Interactive, 2001
As popular as wrestling was in 2001 and as popular as The Simpsons has been maybe it was inevitable for those two dissimilar worlds to come together.
It's clear from the opening bell that the creators knew plenty about Homer, Bart and friends and very little about pro wrestling.
The Simpsons Wrestling is essentially a simplistic, cartoony fighting game set in an oversized wrestling ring. Whether gamers play as Barney Gumble or Krusty the Clown, they won't be doing a single wrestling move.
The characters smash each other with bombs, rakes or beer mugs. In between these object strikes, the "wrestlers" leap higher than Kofi Kingston straight into the air.
A pin occurs with the opponent on his stomach whille the attacker counts to three for himself. Imagine if Brad Maddox was allowed to do that in his matches.
A poor man's WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game, this game feels tossed together without much thought. There is little incentive to play. Bashing various familiar characters in repetitive fashion only holds even a diehard Simpsons fan's attention briefly.
With its lack of options and lack of focus, it’s easy to see why Doug Perry of ign.com rated the game a 1 out of 10. Perry wrote that "shame should hang like a noose on everyone who worked on this title."
Everything that about ECW that made it revolutionary, that garnered such a rabid following is stripped from the video game version.
Players will see digital versions of Rob Van Dam, New Jack, Mike Awesome and Tommy Dreamer, but there is little else that resembles the edgy product that was ECW. Acclaim clearly reused the template for WWF Attitude and just slapped on new faces.
There are no tables to be smashed, no chairs to whack folks with.
Wrestlers are confined to the ring where they can frustrate gamers with awkward animations and less-than-crisp graphics.
Select Mike Awesome and you'll soon see with walking with rubber limbs, mimicking the gait of a pregnant woman. Once the bell rings, the frustrating controls lead to long, drawn-out matches.
ECW Hardcore Revolution remains one of the worst wrestling games ever made, one that doesn't seem to try to appeal to anyone in particular.
The sequel for ECW Hardcore Revolution learned from some of its predecessor's mistakes, but didn't make the overhaul that would have been required to make it an enjoyable game.
Added features include a barbed wire match, tables match and brimstone match. It offers more variety in general, especially since its roster is bulked up to 30 wrestlers.
Too bad it's not fun to play as any of them.
Acclaim also did well to add a create-a-wrestler mode, but the company didn't appear to tinker with the controls at all. Unresponsive controls are a hallmark of an ECW Anarchy Rulz match.
David Smith of ign.com wrote, "The move execution is rife with uncertainty, which kills the fun of building your way through a match."
The ECW wrestlers are colorful and appear large on the screen, but lack details. Players likely would forgive less than impressive visuals if the gameplay was more enjoyable.
Instead, playing this game is assured dissatisfaction.
Electronic Arts, 2000
If you ever wanted to beat up on Disco Inferno in a parking lot, Electronic Arts had you in mind with WCW Backstage Assault.
The game strips wrestling down to just its backstage confrontations, having men like Buff Bagwell, Lance Storm, Hulk Hogan, Booker T and Sting duke it out in a bathroom.
A wrestling game that purposely rids itself of wrestling begs to repel its audience.
Had they rocked this odd concept, maybe fans would have embraced it anyway, but the game is ugly and repetitive.
The wrestlers sport oddly-shaped bodies. Many men from the WCW roster look like something that might crawl out of the shadows in Silent Hill. They twist around their pasta arms as they fight everywhere but a wrestling ring.
The Hardcore Challenge where players have to achieve specific objectives like making their opponents blood is a welcome addition, but it's just not enough to overcome the limited scope of the game.
For every one thing that WCW Nitro got right, it featured a handful of missteps to go with it.
The graphics are among the good things about this game. The wrestler models look realistic and distinct for the time period.
The potential roster is a plus as well, but THQ makes you go through a pixelated odyssey in order to unlock everyone.
Players start with 16 characters, all of whom try to entice you to select them with short videos. Kevin Nash’s apathy here is actually one of the more memorable parts of the game.
If you want to play as Chris Jericho, Konnan and Ultimo Dragon, you're going to have to beat the game over and over again. Some of the other hidden characters aren't worth unlocking at all.
The roster including unlockables features a T-Rex, a ghost and several random dudes from THQ that presumably worked on the game.
Moves aren't wrestler-specific. Everyone is either a power wrestler or a high-flyer. So as little as it makes, Ric Flair and Eddie Guerrero have the same move set.
The camera moves awkwardly as players move their frustrating-to-control wrestlers. Moves require difficult to memorize sequences.
Had it not had such superior competition, WCW Nitro wouldn't look as bad. Seeing how good wrestling could be on this console though Nitro lands itself near the bottom of the pile.
Other than the slightly better graphics, the Playstation version of WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game is essentially the same as the SNES version.
In fact, if you've already played Mortal Kombat, then you've already played this.
Replace Raiden and Sub-Zero with Bret Hart and Undertaker, take away the blood and gore from everyone's favorite ultra-violent fighter and you have WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game.
The game features realistic-looking characters to go with one of the most unrealistic gameplay experiences.
Most complaints stem from the stripped down wrestling that the game is built on. There are far more strikes than grappling moves and the game includes supernatural moves.
Doink's hand enlarges and shocks his opponents. Undertaker does some soul-tossing thing.
Wrestling purists will scoff at the action and find plenty of flaws, but it's a reasonably fun game if one doesn't expect it to be an authentic pro wrestling experience.
Embracing its insanity, WWF In Your House is a trippy, ridiculous experience. Expect an authentic wrestling game and you guarantee yourself disappointment.
The follow-up to WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game strays even further from reality than WrestleMania did with the bonus of slightly crisper graphics and personalized arenas.
Wrestlers mutate. Souls are trapped in perfume bottles.
Choose from 10 wrestlers that include Owen Hart, Vader and in a bit of a surprise, The Ultimate Warrior.
British Bulldog's head morphs into that of a dog. Owen Hart shoots outs a machine gun that fires playing cards.
Gamers fight these surreal battles in the Hart Family Dungeon or a movie theater lobby depending on the wrestler they face.
The game's strength is not a multitude of modes or a ton of moves, but its weirdness. Much like a fatality in Mortal Kombat, players can finish off their opponents in over-the-top fashion.
Bret Hart drops a giant championship belt on his foes. Vader's backside grows to boulder-size proportions and he uses it to squash folks.
Those who embraced the game's weirdness, found plenty to love. Otherwise, its eccentricities are too off-putting.
WCW/NWO Thunder demonstrates the importance of presentation.
Though the gameplay is not much better than WCW Nitro, all the superficial elements make it at least look at lot better. It's as if THQ decided to put Nitro in heels and a ton of make-up.
Video clips are used for wrestler entrances. Jump cuts add to the game as well.
Unfortunately though once gamers get down to playing, they'll discover the wrestlers' rants are more entertaining than the game itself.
There's simply not enough of a variety in moves and for that ones that do exist, they're impossibly hard to pull off.
Doug Perry from ign.com described performing moves on WCW/NWO Thunder as "difficult as a thumbless carpenter removing cancer from a frog."
No amount of video intros and slick presentation can fix that.
Power Move Pro Wrestling exists somewhere above Playstation's worst wrestling games and below the very best on the console.
Jeff Kitts from gamespot.com, "While Powermove's gameplay elements are solid for the most part, the game lacks any real personality or lasting appeal."
The non-licensed game is in some ways oversimplified including its limited move sets and the made-up wrestlers who all like they were made from the same basic template.
Gamers choose from a list of fictional wrestlers like Area 51, Da' Judge and El Temblor. The ring announcer yells his introduction and it's time to start the suplexing.
Though they are overly polygonal, the graphics are decent for the time.
The animations are impressive even if the wrestlers slide in the ring rather than step. Bulldogs and other moves look realistic for the most part.
A few mistakes like the fart sound that a headlock makes aside, Power Move Pro Wrestling is a decent game.
Before THQ nailed it with WWF SmackDown!, WWF War Zone was the best WWE game for the Playstation.
It did well to capture some of the elements of the Attitude Era.
Its roster, though not up to date, had a surplus of stars from the time including Undertaker, The Rock, Ken Shamrock, Goldust and Bret and Owen Hart. Bret had already moved to WCW by the time this game came out.
To match the violence of the era, the game offered up weapons to use in the ring. Steve Austin could nail Kane with a TV. Mankind could knock somebody out with a 2x4.
Many of the wrestlers looked realistic, but most didn't look so hot when up close. Suddenly heads and faces got warped and hands looked like they were made out of cardboard.
While not as frustrating to control as some of the previously mentioned games, WWF Warzone required such lengthy sequences for some moves that many players likely just utilized a small set of moves. For those good at memorization or with enough patience to keep looking up moves at the pause screen, the in-ring action was undoubtedly more varied.
Even with that flaw and the sometimes awkward movements and animations, WWF Warzone is a success.
Fun awaits those who play it like unlocking both Dude Love and Cactus Jack, hearing Ahmed Johnson abusing the English language and hitting the stunner on everyone in sight.
EA Sports, 1999
A plethora of options helps make WCW Mayhem one of the better games for the now-defunct wrestling promotion.
The game offers a decent create-a-wrestler mode, something only starting to get going with other games. A mode called "Quest for the Best" has gamers attempt to climb up the rankings.
They can choose wrestlers from a roster that includes Rey Mysterio, La Parka, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho and of course guys like Hulk Hogan, Sting and Goldberg. Should things get out of hand, gamers could take the action backstage for an impromptu brawl.
Of all the luchadors and NWO members, some models look just like the real thing while others look more like a surrealist was in charge of graphics.
The momentum meter helps to make matches feel more like wrestling matches, making harder moves easier to perform once a player got rolling.
The controls can be unwieldy at times, but it's the A.I. that is most bothersome. The idiotic A.I. puts the computer-controlled wrestler at such a disadvantage that it sucks the fun out of one-player mode.
It's far better to play with a friend, far easier to enjoy the quality Bobby Heenan and Tony Schiavone commentary and the impressive wrestler entrances.
The sequel to WWF War Zone boasts a number of seemingly small improvements that make a huge difference in the gameplay experience.
The sound is fabulous. The crowd noise is timed right and it mostly feels genuine.
The A.I. is improved, leading computer opponents to make wiser decisions and annoying human players less.
Performing moves still have a steep learning curve. Doug Perry wrote on ign.com that WWF Attitude players "will find that pulling off throws and unique moves are far more susceptible to reversals than ever, adding an extra layer of skill-based play."
Gamers have a number of mode choices in which to learn those skills, to perfect the move system.
The career mode has the player work their way up from house shows, to Sunday Night Heat to Raw and pay-per-views. One of the most fun options is Stable War where one picks a squad to run with and as soon as someone from the team is eliminated, another member runs in, ready to fight.
There are a good number of wrestlers to choose from with a roster of 30-plus that includes Owen Hart, who had died a few months before the game's release and was surprisingly kept in the game. Among the unlockable options is Al Snow's head which is just a floating head with floating hands and feet.
The game has distinct entrances and improved graphics as well, but a few frustrations hold it back some.
Having to manually focus on an opponent who is attacking you from behind is cumbersome. Worse yet, having to change focus in order to make a tag to your partner makes the process overly complicated.
Fans of WCW wrestling and Japanese wrestling have good reason to go retro with their video game system and revisit this.
If players can get past the generic fighting game music and the unspectacular graphics, there's plenty of fun to be had.
The roster is bursting with wrestlers with over 50 guys appearing on the game. Only some of those are WCW stars, while the others are mostly made up wrestlers which may or may not be rip-offs of Japanese stars.
Ric Flair accompanies Hulk Hogan, Dean Malenko and Masahiro Chono. The unlicensed men on the game deliver some of Japan's most dangerous and most exciting moves like the Tiger Driver which adds depth.
The controls aren't something most gamers can pick up right away, but it's rewarding once you get the hang of it.
The action feels impressively real at times, effectively capturing the spirit of the in-ring elements of wrestling.
The grandfather to the modern wrestling video game captured the rawness of WWE at the time and beat out its competitors in terms of wrestling's components beyond the ring.
The drama and the spectacle of WWE is as much as part of the game as the in-ring action.
A part of that is the presentation. Wrestlers get a video entrance that feels authentic. The game is well-paced from the exciting intro and beyond.
Options include an I Quit match, battles in backstage areas like the Boiler Room and a season mode which is a precursor to today's WWE Universe mode.
The variety of modes is one of the reasons the game is so engrossing and offers the most amount of fun of any wrestling game on the Playstation apart from its sequel.
Throw in a rudimentary create-a-wrestler mode and far more intuitive controls than many games and it's easy to name this franchise king.
Jeff Gerstmann of Gamespot wrote of the game, "WWF SmackDown! isn't perfect, but it does a lot of things right and represents the first real step in the right direction the genre has taken in more than two years."
Released not even a full calendar year after its predecessor, WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role went far beyond just updating the roster. It corrected errors from WWF SmackDown! that improved gameplay and made it a deeper, more enjoyable play.
The game features far better creation modes. The level of detail in things like the create-a-taunt are now staples of every WWE game around, but being able to combine movements and make a wrestler do a ballerina pirouette or the Tootsie Roll was revolutionary at the time.
Players can also create a manager and have that person stick with your wrestler. Stables wait to be created as well.
Game modes include matches with a special referee, hardcore matches, King of the Ring tournaments and the Royal Rumble.
Season mode can be clunky, with its painfully long loading times but is entertaining nonetheless.
The game also boasts better graphics than WWF SmackDown! which leaves only poor sound as its biggest flaw.
Unimpressive music choices and a lack of commentary take away from the experience somewhat, but gamers may just turn on their own music and have a blast diving into the game's options.