The announcement of Brock Lesnar's inclusion in THQ's latest pro wrestling offering, WWE '12, has been the talk of the wrestling world over the past week. WWE has a storied history of video games dating back to 1987's MicroLeague Wrestling on the Amiga and Commodore 64.
MicroLeague was a largely simulation, turn-based strategy based game it was the first game to carry the WWE license. Players chose a move from their wrestler's move set, and depending on the situation, either yours or the opponents move will be successful.
MicroLeague is actually a stellar game for its time, featuring ring introductions, interview segments with Mean Gene Okerlund and text commentary throughout the match.
MicroLeague set the standard for WWE games to come. While there was a lull period, most notably most of the non-PC based home console systems, the majority of WWE games have been above average to good.
With a catalog over 49 games deep, it was very difficult to trim this list to just 10 games, but these are the true standouts in my mind. Of course, this list is a matter of opinion; however, a majority of these titles are renowned and regarded as some of the top professional wrestling and WWE games.
WWF Raw published by LJN and Acclaim Entertainment was released in 1994 with a robust rosters of WWE wrestlers at the time including Bret Hart, Yokozuna, Luna Vachon, 1-2-3 Kid, Undertaker, Razor Ramon, Lex Luger, Doink, Shawn Michaels and Diesel.
Game modes included One-on-One, Tag Team, Bedlam, Survivor Series, Royal Rumble and lastly a Raw Endurance. Bedlam was essentially a tornado tag team match with both team members allowed in the ring at the same time.
One of the biggest aspects of WWF Raw was wrestlers for the first time having not only their signature moves but entirely different move sets. Many of the earlier WWE titles had signature moves but not completely different move sets.
WWF Raw allowed Yokozuna to be Yokozuna and Doink to be Doink. More over each wrestler had attributes like speed and strength meaning each character truly felt like their real-life counterpart.
WWF Raw's game play is arcade and not unlike LJN's first two 16-bit WWE titles. Largely punch and kick based, it also featured a grapple system predicated on button smashing to bring the meter in your favor.
Once your opponents energy was low enough you could performer your signature move. WWF Raw also featured mega moves for example Diesel or Yokozuna would toss a wrestler up 15 feet in the air as opposed to a normal body slam. A small addition but gave WWF Raw an over the top aspect.
One of the funnier aspects of WWF Raw was the ability to not only punch the ref but cause him to completely give up on the match allowing you to having a no-DQ contest.
WWF Raw wasn't an entirely deep game but it was the pinnacle of 16-bit WWE gaming. Other versions were released on Nintendo Game Boy, Game Gear and Sega 32X (featuring Kwang—yes, Kwang—as a hidden character).
WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 was released October 20, 2009 and was one of the most revolutionary wrestling video games ever with its ground-breaking Story Designer.
Story Designer allowed players to create their own playable WWE story lines and share them online. It was a fantasy booker's dream and an awesome feature for any veteran of PC wrestling simulations like Total Extreme Wrestling/Extreme Warfare Revenge.
WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 had an updated create-a-superstar features including new apparel featured that finally made shirts, pants, jackets and robes 3D and rendered with the player model. Thus instead of a shirt seemingly resting on top of the character it now moved with the character for unmatched realism.
The roster included over 67 superstars broken into six divisions: Raw, Smackdown, ECW, WCW, legends and free agents. Stone Cold Steve Austin was featured as a downloadable character.
Game modes included a majority of the gimmick matches featured in the WWE at the time including Championship Scramble, First Blood, Hell in a Cell and Elimination Chamber.
On the game play side, Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 stayed the course for the Smackdown games featuring a similar grapple-based engine with strong and weak grapples.
One of the variations in the 2010 edition was done to the Royal Rumble, which now had a button/Quick-Time Event for eliminations, which added an element of randomness to the Royal Rumble eliminations.
Likewise, while in a pin attempt the player could hold a button or button mash to fill up a meter and kick out of the pinfall.
Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 was well reviewed in comparison to its predecessors receiving a MetaCritic aggregated 82/100 on Playstation 3 and 80/100 on Xbox 360. Other versions including a specially created Nintendo DS version as well as the first WWE game to be featured on Apple's iPhone.
WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game was released in 1995 by famed arcade developer Midway. With its over the top moves and largely kick and punch based offense WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game is more fighting game than wrestling game.
The roster was not deep but each character felt different enough to give a great variance. You could use from eight wrestlers including Bam Bam Bigelow, Bret Hart, Doink the Clown, Lex Luger, Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and Yokozuna.
Despite essentially being Mortal Kombat in a wrestling ring, WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Gameis still a great game. The action is predicated less on grapples than an average WWE game instead relying on special attacks and character-specific combos.
These combos range from Doink hitting you with a mallet or shocking you with a joy buzzer to Undertaker casting a spirit.
As a fighting game, one pinfall or knockout is not enough, every match is best two out of three. There were two single player game modes: Intercontinental Championship and WWF Championships.
Each are pretty self explanatory you must win X amount of matches to win the title. There are variance in opponents but also in how many opponents. One the way to the title you have to win numerous two-on-one matches and even a three-on-one.
The final battle or "WrestleMania Challenge" forces the player to defeat every wrestler in the game, starting with a three-on-one. It is not easy, but a very rewarding challenge.
WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game isn't a great game by any means but like many of us, we all have childhood games and this one was it. I spent many summers at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL. When I was not swimming in one of its many pools, I was in their arcade room pouring quarters in WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game.
WWE Smackdown!: Shut Your Mouth was not a vast improvement over its predecessor Just Bring It! was still one of the better games in the Smackdown! lineage.
Released on Halloween 2002, WWE Smackdown!: Shut Your Mouth featured a robust roster and season mode that allowed the player to relive WWE storylines from the previous year including the famed nWo return.
Season mode was also the first WWE game to feature the brand extension as Vince McMahon's Smackdown did battle with Ric Flair's Raw.
WWE Smackdown!: Shut Your Mouth improved gameplay slightly over Just Bring It! by adding a more intuitive grappling and counter system/ Shut Your Mouth also slightly slowed overall game play, a necessity after an erratic showing in Just Bring It!
I'm nearly positive I'll have people upset about this pick and let me explain. I never owned a GameCube so my time playing WWE Day of Reckoning was very short. I played at a few friends’ houses as well as in store but never sat down and played it nearly as much as other members of the list.
What should be most telling is how high on the list WWE Day of Reckoning is for the limited gameplay I had. It was undeniable one of the better WWE games in the 2000s.
Relased August 30, 2004 the GameCube exclusive featured a control system similar to AKI's fantastic (spoiler: you will be seeing these games soon) Nintendo 64 wrestling games.
Gameplay is predicated on weak and strong grapples, strikes and a counter system based off timed button press.
The storyline different from the usual "season" mode seen on its Smackdown! counterparts and instead went with a rags to riches type story where your new created wrestler signs a WWE development deal and worked your way to Raw or Smackdown.
Despite a limited roster, WWE Day of Reckoning works for one reason; its game play is awesome.
Where Smackdown! games feel extremely quick based and unrealistic, the AKI engine that was so successful on the Nintendo 64 remains the most fluid wrestling engine in the 2000s.
WWE Legends of WrestleMania is a trip down memory lane and one of the best WWE games of the current generation.
Released in late March 2009 in anticipation of WrestleMania XXV, WWE Legends of WrestleMania did a fantastic job of getting you in the WrestleMania mood.
The WrestleMania Tour mode may be my favorite wrestling game mode ever. Left with three options: relive, rewrite and redefine, the player was given objectives to either reenact a famed WrestleMania moment or change that moment by taking the role of a WrestleMania loser in the rewrite portion.
The best part of this game mode are the video packages before each match detailing the feud leading up the historic match as well as highlights from the actual match.
WWE Legends of WrestleMania also featured a Legend Killer mode where the player chooses a current WWE superstar and attempts to defeat numerous WWE legends.
Simplified arcade-style gameplay differentiated WWE Legends of WrestleMania from the Smackdown! series and while the game lacked a ton of moves, the simplified gameplay fit with the overall tone of the game.
This was not a simulation style game like Smackdown! Player models were beefed up, entrances over-the-top; this was all about a trip down memory lane, which it most certainly did.
While repetitive overall, WWE Legends of WrestleMania was a fantastic game to lead up to WrestleMania, no it did not have the replay value of your standard Smackdown! game but it accomplished exactly what it intended and by and large did it very successfully.
If I thought Day of Reckoning's ranking was get me in hot water, I'm for sure screwed with this one. There is a good chance every reader over 27 years old wants to punch me and that is fair.
Don't get me wrong, WWF WrestleFest is a lot of fun, it's a great arcade game. The Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, IL recently added a WrestleFest cabinent and it has received a lot of my attention in recent months.
Overall, though, it is only fourth best. Sorry! WWF WrestleFest was released in arcades in June 1991 and blew every WWE game before it out of the water.
WWF WrestleFest's Royal Rumble mode was revolutionary with its ability for four-player simultaneous play, ring announcements and cut scenes featuring Mean Gene Okerlund.
Gameplay is vastly improved over its predecessor WWF Superstars as each wrestler has their own move set. Earthquake has different combination than Hulk Hogan.
The moves are largely randomized and depend on the energy level of the opponent. This way you won't see Ted DiBiase put the Million Dollar Dream on a minute into the match. We take it for granted now but early wrestling games had not really fleshed this out.
One hilarious feature of WWF WrestleFest is the ability to buy energy in the game via inserting more credits. Losing the match? Throw a few quarters in and jump right back in.
WWF WrestleFest WAS the game for a large generation of wrestling fans and is remember fondly for its release during the WWE's heyday in the late 80s-early 90s. While I cannot say the game has aged very well, it is still an amazingly good game that can be enjoyed by any generation.
Simply put, WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain was the pinnacle of the Smackdown! series. Intuitive gameplay, top-notch story mode and an unprecedented roster, there is a reason this is the highest regarded PS2 WWE game.
Game play wise 2003's WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain switched the Smackdown! standard of four moves and instead added power, technical, speed and submissions stances. This not only made more sense but allowed for a greatly increased number of moves.
Gameplay also featured body damage meters which allowed you to focus on one part of your opponents body and better set up your finishing move. Think Ric Flair setting up for the figure four by working your opponent's legs.
One of the more underrated features of WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain was its removable of commentary. While this seems like taking away a feature, it was actually a welcome change.
Smackdown! commentary was largely repetitive, boring and nonsensical so the complete removal was perfectly acceptable. Strangly, commentary was added into every future Smackdown! game despite rave reviews of its exclusion.
WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain's greatest feature may be its roster. Coming at a time when the WWE roster itself was bloated, Here Comes the Pain features everyone from The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin to Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, Kevin Nash, John Cena, Rey Mysterio, Booker T, Chris Jericho, the list could go on.
Better yet, this was the first Smackdown! game to feature WWE legends like the Legion of Doom, The Iron Sheik, Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka.
The roster was insane, plain and simple. This was also the first WWE game to feature the Elimination Chamber match.
WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain was also the debut of bra and panties matches in WWE games so fans of pixelized versions of their favorite WWE divas had quite a treat.
WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain has yet to be recreated in this console generation. It still stands out as the finest game of the Smackdown! series and while there's plenty of buzz about WWE '12, it remains to be seen how it stacks up to the standard bearer.
The formula for this Halloween 1999 release was simple. Take an established great game inWCW/nWo Revenge add the most detailed create-a-wrestler mode seen to that point and add a roster featuring the top wrestlers at the peak of WWE's Attitude Era.
Good formula as it gave us WWF WrestleMania 2000, which is undisputed as one of the top wrestling video games of all-time.
Those familiar with the AKI WCW games know the simplistic, yet detailed gameplay featured in WWF WrestleMania 2000.
Strong and weak grapples, finishing moves from the front and back, moves in the corner, dives outside the ring, weapons from the crowd... it's nearly perfect gameplay in every way.
The extensive create-a-wrestler mode really brought WWF WrestleMania 2000 but even more so the ability to edit current wrestlers.
Not only could you create to the best of your abilities WWE legends, current wrestlers not in the game or even WCW competitors, but you could also edit the wrestlers in the game. Want to change The Undertaker's colors? Not a problem at all. More so each wrestle had four different attire choices. Customization, variance... this game had it all.
Surprisingly AKI and THQ kept most of the moves from their previous game WCW/nWo Revenge thus creating your very own Goldberg or Kevin Nash was not difficult at all. This meant if you want to see the much-discussed Golberg vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin dream match, well go right ahead!
The story mode was a fantastically done Road to WrestleMania mode where the player starts a long road towards WrestleMania 2000. Along the way you'll gain WWE titles, participate in tournaments, compete on television and pay-per-view all leading to a main event at WrestleMania.
Better yet, story mode featured various feuds including wrestler run-ins during your match.
Entrances were marked with real-wrestler themes and hardly the highest quality it was still a very nice touch. Your entrance even included a brief snippet of their current Titantron.
Much like WWF WrestleMania 2000 the formula for WWF No Mercy was simple, take an established game that is already great, add some new features and away you go.
WWF No Mercy took everything that made WWF WrestleMania 2000 and improved upon all of it.
The create-a-wrestler mode that was stellar in WWF WrestleMania 2000 is back and even better. Customizable body attributes, clothing titles, a ton more moves, simply put anybody you wanted to create in No Mercy was in some way achievable.
WWF No Mercy also added match types never before seen including guest referee and the long-awaited ladder match. Much like WrestleMania's gameplay No Mercy is based off strong and weak grapples, punches, kicks, moves in the corner, dives, etc.
Weapons can be found outside the ring, in No Mercy you could also break the announcers table by whipping your opponent onto it and performing a strong grapple move. Another addition allowed wrestlers to fight backstage in a bar, backstage in a locker room or any number of environments. Simply put, the gameplay was an another level from anything ever seen.
The story mode is greatly improved over WrestleMania as now each WWE Title featured a unique story. This meant a different crop of wrestlers would battle you for the Hardcore Title or European Title than would the Intercontinental Championship. Better yet, story modes would branch off meaning your wins, losses and decisions during the game actually mattered in how the story progress.
The WWF Championship story mode placed your chosen wrestler in the classic Mankind vs. Triple H fued that was the focal point of the WWE in 2000.
For those of us that love to see that 100 percent completion mark, this meant you'd have to replay each story mode numerous times to see all scenarios. Truly innovative for any previous wrestling game.
Once you have won a title, you can now defend it in exhibition mode against friends of the computer.
WWF No Mercy also featured a SmackDown! Mall which allowed you to spend money earned through matches on unlockable characters like Shawn Michaels, clothing, new moves to be used in create-a-wrestler, props to bring with you during your ring entrance, venues to wrestle in and new weapons SmackDown! Mall was simply another element that gave WWF No Mercy unmatched replay value.
WWF No Mercy is the best WWE game of all time, again there has been much talk of WWE '12 in recent weeks but it will have a long way to go to match the replay value, simplicity and overall revolution that WWF No Mercy had on wrestling games.