WWE has delivered on video games for the past two dozen years, attempting every possible idea imaginable to this point in order to entertain the fans. Wrestling fans swear that they know what should be happening and WWE's video games now can allow their ideas to become a somewhat reality. Games have vastly improved in the last 24 years to allow just about anything to be altered and customized.
Here is a timeline featuring every WWE game ever created, featuring some highlights of some features, some omissions, some praises and some problems. All in all, it helps to complete the timeline to where we are today and what the next step is when WWE '12 is released two weeks from today.
It was 1987, and video games were hardly very impressive. MicroLeague Wrestling was the first game to ever have the WWF license attached to it. It was basically a bunch of moves listed for you and your opponent and would almost play like a game of war. If your move was more powerful than your opponent's, your move would work. Riveting stuff.
Only a handful of superstars were available for this game. Ideas like create-a-superstar or moveset weren't even thoughts in the minds of developers yet. This game hardly belongs on this timeline, but it was the first part to a long line of games.
It was released on Commodore 64 and Atari ST, but would be released for Amiga and PC two years later. If you have no idea what any of those systems are, don't worry about it.
WWF would release a game with Acclaim the following year with WWF WrestleMania for the NES. This was a decent first try for an actual wrestling video game by WWE. There were multiple characters able to be used, but many of the moves were similar.
Even with the similarities, the game built in certain unique abilities for each superstar. Some stars would move slightly different than others. Bigger guys could not perform moves from the two near turnbuckles, which were the only two capable of moves.
There was no going out of the ring at all, but it was the action in the ring that was so interesting. For instance, only Hulk Hogan could perform a body slam against Andre the Giant. There were also icons which appeared in the ring at certain times with energy for a specific superstar if they picked it up.
A big jump in terms of graphics came with WWF Superstars in 1989 as an arcade game, the first of its kind for WWF. Only six superstars were available to be used by the player as tag teams were the focus of this game.
There were basic grapples and attacks by superstars in the game. A referee in present in the ring, but you can't attack him if you wanted to. Even still, progress is being made and the arcade graphics are a bright spot in this baby step.
The NES gets its second game in 1990 with WWF WrestleMania Challenge. The game had nine different stars in it and was the first to feature more than a standard tag team match. This game had a three-on-three Survivor Series-type match in it as well. It also showed early signs of a created wrestler aspect, as players were able to play as "yourself".
That was about as much personality as that character received. Literally, it was a generic character that could fight each of the superstars in the game to win the title. You could even have two versions of "yourself" try to be tag team champions.
Even though the versions of "yourself" sucked, it started the ball rolling on the create-a-wrestler idea that would soon turn into one of more notable modes to a wrestling game.
WWF WrestleMania was a popular computer game in 1991 for multiple platforms. The game played like and looked similar to WWF Superstars. A player must choose between Hulk Hogan, British Bulldog and The Ultimate Warrior as a superstar to play as. In order to become WWF Champion, the superstar must beat all five of their opponents. Gameplay is pretty standard in this game, but the other bells and whistles show the progression in this game.
Your opponent tries to taunt you before the match, which gives you choices for what to say in return. It also featured a practice mode against a superstar that won't fight back. The superstar can be played by a second player, but the character is always Mr. Perfect. This was the early signs of an exhibition mode.
The name WWF Superstars returned in 1991 to be placed on the first-ever game produced on Game Boy. It was produced in black and white, but had some of the better graphics to date, for both the system and for WWE games as a whole. The game features five superstars. Upon choosing one, you must defeat the other four in order to become WWF Champion.
WWF WrestleFest was developed in 1991 as an arcade game to be a sequel of WWF Superstars. In all, there are ten selectable superstars, as well as the Legion of Doom, who are a boss tag team that is unplayable by the player. The game uses its arcade style to its advantage, allowing players to add more coins during a match in order to boost their health suddenly.
WWF Steel Cage Challenge in 1992 was available on the NES, but also made its debuts on the Sega Master System and Sega Game Gear. This game, as the title suggests, was the first console-based game to have a steel cage match as a possibility. It also had a unique feature with the superstars available. In both the Sega and NES versions, there were 10 superstars. However, there were slight tweaks in the rosters depending on the game, making some stars exclusive to a specific console. This seems like something petty, but it was actually a unique trait to this game.
WWF Superstars had a sequel in 1992 for the Game Boy, which showed much faster graphics and much smoother gameplay. The movesets were more limited in this game than in the original, but the pace of the game was much more fluid. Only six superstars were playable in this game, which would normally be a step back for a game like this. Again, this advance in play was about the pace of the play improving.
Even back in 1992, WWE was trying to market themselves to the European market. WWF European Rampage Tour had tag matches in multiple European venues. At the end, your controlled tag team faced The Legion of Doom at Madison Square Garden. This was one of the rare games of its time to not have a time limit during matches. It would also be the final PC-based game produced by the WWF for another nine years.
WWF Super WrestleMania came out in 1992 on Sega Mega Drive and the first-ever WWE game on the SNES. It is considered to be the first game of an unofficial trilogy and continued the differences between competiting consoles. SNES's version did not have superstars doing signature moves, but had a larger roster than the Sega version of the game. It also featured four-on-four Survivor Series matches. The gameplay debuted a "tug-of-war" grappling style, forcing players to lock out and out-tap their opponent to execute a move.
The NES and Gameboy had exclusive rights to 1993's WWF King of the Ring. It would be the final WWE game on the NES system. Players could compete in an eight-man tournament to become King of the Ring. The NES game had a whopping 11 superstars on its roster, while the Game Boy version had just nine. The generic wrestler of "You" was back in this game, but attributes could be adjusted for him and his name could be changed. This game didn't have signature moves, but the speed, strength and stamina of each wrestler was different.
WWF Royal Rumble came out in 1993 on Super Nintendo and made its Sega Genesis debut. This game took the "tug-of-war" grappling system from Super WrestleMania and improved on it, putting icons on the screens to show who had the advantage. The game, as the title suggests, debuted the idea of the Royal Rumble match in the games series. Up to six superstars were allowed in the ring at one time. There were also signature finishing moves for each superstar. The game was also the first to allow attacking the referee, which would allow the use of weapons and dirty tactics, such as an eye poke.
1993's Rage in the Cage was the best game of its kind up to this point, but wasn't featured on a big console. Instead, it came out on Sega CD, making it the first WWE game on CD-ROM. The game had an incredible 20 superstars on it, a number that would not be surpassed for another six years. The game kept much of the same gameplay tendencies of WWF Royal Rumble. It also used the CD-ROM to its advantage, including actual video throughout the game. However, the music was not done in the same aspect, marring what was almost a perfect game back in 1993.
WWF RAW was the only game to come out in 1994 and was the first game to feature the flagship TV show in the game title. Stars have their own movesets and even have over-the-top "mega moves". The game debuted certain moves, like the DDT, as capable moves for superstars. Multiple new game modes were featured in this game, including the Bedlam match and the RAW Endurance match. The Bedlam match is essentially a Tornado Tag Team match, while the RAW Endurance has the ability to have up to a six-on-one handicap match.
Unfortunately, there were some big problems with this game. Despite showing differences with speed, stamina, strength and weight. However, the weight didn't really show. For example, the wrestler picking up his opponent in this picture is actually Yokozuna. A spinning image, don't you think?
This 1995 arcade game had a feel just like a Mortal Kombat game. That's because this was a game created by the same people who put together the popular fighting game series. There weren't death sequences like the Mortal Kombat games, but there were unique and over-the-top combos. These combos include The Undertaker casting spirits. Also, instead of bleeding blood, superstars bleed their own unique substance. Bam Bam Bigelow bleeds flames (seriously) and Yokozuna bleeds food. At least that wasn't inappropriate.
WWF In Your House was the first game to be solely featured on newer platforms as the 1996 game was on the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn systems. The game was about as well received as the Sega Saturn console was. This game was basically the previous WrestleMania arcade game, but actually more over-the-top. Instead of regular rings, matches could take place in superstars' "home field", such as a club for Shawn Michaels and Stu Hart's Dungeon.
WWE games returned in 1998 with WWF War Zone. The game was featured on Sony PlayStation, Game Boy and Nintendo 64. It was the first-ever 3D WWF title and the first game released under what was officially considered the "Attitude Era". Motion capturing, full motion video and accurate music was used in this game. This game also featured a limited, but very popular, create-a-superstar feature.
WWF Attitude came out in 1999 on four different game systems: Game Boy Color, Nintendo 64, PlayStation and, later in the year, Dreamcast. The game would feature an actual schedule with house shows accounted for. Instead of entrances like War Zone, Attitude would have superstars appear in the ring and taunt one another before the match began. Attitude also had a Create-A-Stable mode, as well as the ability to create your own pay-per-view. The roster featured a then-record 30 playable superstars.
WrestleMania 2000 came out in 1999 on Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color. It was the first game with WWF associated with THQ, who had created a great game with WCW. The existing pay-per-view modes were more extensive, but also had some hiccups. Every title is intended to be defended at each pay-per-view, so a superstar with multiple championships is placed in multiple championship matches at each pay-per-view. There was also an ability to create up to 10 championship belts.
This game was fun in that each superstar was completely customizable, except for their movesets. Essentially, any superstar can be redressed with someone else's gear. Reversals and counters were more common than in other games and even improved on the WCW games.
A brand new series began in 2000 with WWF Smackdown!, the first game to ever feature the Smackdown show. This game began a trend of stepping away from the combination of buttons just to produce a basic move. Strikes became a lot simpler to occur and grapples were a lot less complex. This was also the first WWF game and just the second game ever to allow wrestlers to brawl anywhere. From the entrance ramp to the locker room and even boiler rooms, the hardcore matches were the main focus in this game.
WWF Royal Rumble came out in 2000 and was the last arcade game produced by the company. It was also featured on Dreamcast. The game focused mostly around the Royal Rumble match. A superstar would have to eliminate a certain amount of opponents in a time limit. There were a lot of problems with the game. Characters could be forced against their will to go backstage. There were also only 20 playable characters. With 30 stars needed for the Royal Rumble match, the possibility of a character being seen in the same match twice was possible. Not only was it possible, but it was also likely that a controlled superstar could face themselves as an opponent.
WWF No Mercy came out in 2000 exclusive to the Nintendo 64. It would be the very last on that platform. The game is still well-received by fans and is still played often by those who still use the console. No Mercy had a great create-a-wrestler mode and extensive storylines in the game. In fact, in order to complete 100% of the game, players would often have to start back at the beginning and lose on purpose. There was even money given after victories, which could unlock superstars, attires and much more than that.
The second game of the Smackdown! series was also the last game produced for the PlayStation console. The story mode in this game was revamped and much improved, but also had problems for players. Details were added to authenticate storylines, but loading screens dragged on for a while. The not-so-popular Create-A-Taunt mode was in this game, but wouldn't survive beyond it. The first sliver of featuring titantrons began with this game as a star would walk to the ring with their titantron playing behind them.
This game was not quite in the same idea as the ones before it. WWF Betrayal was the company's way to create different types of games with their superstars. This was basically a kidnapping storyline that had four possible heroes. The three men not chosen would become the villains. This Game Boy game isn't worth the five dollars it is worth on eBay. If you want to see what this game is about, watch someone play it on a video on the Internet. This game doesn't even take 45 minutes to complete.
Smackdown! Just Bring It is the first game to be featured on PlayStation 2. This game was the first to feature commentary during matches. It also had eight-man tag team matches, something the current games have not had. This was also the first game to feature full ring entrances with the titantrons on the screen and resembling the actual product. The changes made in this game set the bar that every game since has had to already begin with.
Nintendo GameCube had a good game on their system with 2002's WWF WreslteMania X8. Two unique modes in this game were the Path of a Champion mode and Battle for the Belts mode. Path of a Champion put a player on a path to one of multiple championships. Certain unlockables are attainable upon completion with specific superstars, making for many hours of gameplay. Battle for the Belts featured 51 different championship belts, all which can be awarded or won by your controlled superstar. Even the names of the belts and the colors of the belts can be changed.
Create-A-Wrestler also improved in this game, giving more freedom than ever before. With all of this, the game got average scores by critics and wasn't played often due to GameCube's lack of fans in comparison to PlayStation 2.
WWF With Authority! was a 2002 PC game that was truly one-of-a-kind. It was the first game solely distributed for PC in ten years and has been the only one not put on a console since. Essentially, the game was a card collecting game done electronically. Imagine the Topps Attax game, but done online. It doesn't sound too riveting, especially with some of these other games, but the genre does have fans. It is still played to this day by some people overseas and the premise has been used on multiple Facebook games as well. Support on the servers has been down for years, but they are still running and still being used today.
WWE RAW in 2002 was the first game to use the WWE name after the company had lost its lawsuit with the World Wildlife Fund. It was also the first game on Xbox. While also being the last one to date developed for the PC, it was also the first WWE game to ever be made for mobile phones. Even though it was marketed as WWE RAW, there were still some copies to feature the old WWF name. The WWF logo is featured throughout the game, including on the turnbuckles.
2002's WWE Road to WrestleMania X8 was the first-ever game developed for the Game Boy Advance console. Improved gameplay and grappling was the main story with this game. It looks pretty good for a Game Boy game.
WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth came out on Halloween 2002 to PlayStation 2 exclusively. This was the first game after the brand extension and included WCW and ECW stars for the very first time. The game had great reviews as the draft feature and the improved Create-A-Wrestler improved vastly. The little details, including things like The Rock carrying the title like he does in real life, makes this game a good bargain bin pick for those who still can dust off their old PlayStation 2 systems.
I shiver to think about this game. 2003's WWE Crush Hour had little to do with the wrestlers themselves. Each superstar had their own car design and it was basically a demolition derby game. Grenade launchers and unusual courses to play on, Crush Hour tried to cut in on the genre made popular by games like Twisted Metal. It was yet another thing that WWE tried to think out of the box about and it didn't lead to something great. Now, it is more known as a novelty game and something worthy of jokes by wrestling fans.
WWE WrestleMania XIX was another GameCube game developed in 2003. The game had one unique mode called Revenge Mode. You start as a superstar who gets thrown out on the street and align with Stephanie McMahon. The plan is to get back at Vince McMahon by destroying his ultimate show: WrestleMania. The journey takes you to multiple places and has you fight many security guards.
This also occurs in multiple odd venues, including shipyards and construction sites. In one mission, you have 20 minutes to throw all security guards into the ocean. Seriously.
WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain is revered by wrestling video game fans as one of the best games ever. Not only was the game the most realistic yet and had one of the deepest rosters in history, but this game was about two guys: Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. Lesnar's tag line was put onto the game, while Goldberg's WWE game debut was felt throughout the wrestling world. There was no sequel to this game as WWE started a new series after this game, but that is probably better off. It was going to be hard to build off this game without starting brand new with a new series.
The sequel to RAW from the year before, 2003's WWE RAW 2 for the Xbox was praised by critics. Create-A-Superstar allowed players to alter a guy's friends and foes, even being able to set the character as face or heel. Music was now easier than ever to sync into the game for entrance themes. There were, however, some flaws in this game. Some of the funniest flaws center around the world titles. If two men are competing for a world title and someone interferes, they have the capability to win the match and win the title. Divas can also win the world title. There were also issues with the Royal Rumble match where people could climb out of the ring and stay alive in the match, which goes against the rules of the match.
WWE Day of Reckoning was a big hit with those who had the GameCube console. The control system defaulted back to the old Nintendo 64 system of weak and strong grappling and strikes. The exhibition mode was solid, but it was the Story Mode that is the big talk of this game. A created superstar goes through the ranks on Sunday Night Heat and Velocity (embraced in the game as a show put together on Tuesdays). Upon moving through those shows, a superstar can choose between RAW and Smackdown, but will join a faction on the show they choose. On RAW, you join Triple H's Evolution, while Smackdown puts you in The Undertaker's New Ministry.
Regardless of the brand you choose, the leader of your faction wins the brand's world championship and begins kicking people out of the group for multiple reasons. Your character becomes a threat to the world title and gets kicked out, but a match is made at WrestleMania XX between you and your former leader.
WWE Survivor Series in 2004 was the final game on the Game Boy Advance platform and would be the final WWE game on a Nintendo handheld console for another three years. It was the first game in two years on Game Boy Advance, meaning a different roster and the Brand Extension being embraced in this game. Eight stars from each brand were playable in the game. Matches were awarded for being more entertaining. A one-sided match or a quick ending wasn't awarded as many points as a close bout with a variety of exciting moments.
The match actually featured a lumberjack match, a rarity in a WWE video game.
2004 began a brand new series with WWE Smackdown vs. RAW. An increased polygon count made for even better graphics than the Smackdown series. Pre-match and in-match mini games were put in, but many of them would not survive long. The only true exception to that are the mini games in the Royal Rumble match and submission holds. Rope breaks and keeping a hold on despite a rope break was added in this game. It was the building blocks for the rest of the Smackdown vs. RAW series, but there were other important additions, such as the voice overs for other superstars.
WrestleMania 21 was a finale in multiple aspects for WWE games in 2005. It was the final game produced for the original Xbox. It was also the final game named after a specific WrestleMania. The game, which should have been more supported by fans, was bashed by many for trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead of building on the games before it, the gameplay engines were pretty much from scratch, which did not go well with people.
I'm actually upset that I have to include this game on the list, but I have to. WWE has always looked to bring games to new and promising consoles. One of these promising consoles was not N-Gage. The N-Gage was Nokia's attempt at combining the cellular phone with the handheld game console. It sounded like an intriguing idea, but there wasn't much that could be supported by the new console.
There was no Create-A-Superstar mode, no story mode, no signature matches, such as the Hell in a Cell match, poor graphics, and a lack of authentic titantrons and entrance music. Basically, it was one of those games that set a video game company back about a decade or so. It was that bad.
Day of Reckoning was such a big hit that WWE Day of Reckoning 2 seemed like it was just a matter of time. This was the first game to feature both Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock as legend characters and was the final GameCube game produced by WWE. The story mode picks up where the original Day of Reckoning left off, but only features the story as if the player went on the RAW side of the story in the original game. The game itself featured new momentum shifts and stamina bars.
The second game in the Smackdown vs. RAW series was a good advance in the series. The game, made exclusively for PlayStation 2 and debuting on the PlayStation Portable, focused on getting away from arcade-style and looking more realistic. The two main new features on the game was the GM Mode, which let a player attempt to run their own brand, and a Create-an-Entrance mode.
Smackdown vs. RAW 2007 showed off some new possibilities in matches. The PSP and PS2 were joined by the Xbox 360 console with supporting the game. The PS3, which came out around the same time, did not get to work out the capabilities on that new console. This year's edition mainly featured a new analog system to move around with, interactive hotspots, and the ability to fight into the crowd easily.
Showing their support of their Smackdown vs. RAW series, the third consecutive game by WWE in three years was only from the SvR series. This game was able to be played on just about every game console. The game was released for PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP and the Nintendo DS. Three letters were the big inclusion in this match: ECW.
Fighting styles were assigned to different superstars, allowing stars to do specific things in the match. Some stars can power up when they are in trouble. Others can slip out of the ring. Sneaky players can try to surprise their opponent with a quick pin. A struggle submission system was also placed in, allowing players to try and put more or less pressure on their opponents when trying to make them tap out.
Smackdown vs. RAW's main responsibility was to bring importance back to teamwork. Tag team abilities were on full display in Smackdown vs. RAW 2009. Hot tags were placed in to never have a team truly out of a match. Double team moves were more prominent and better designed. It also was the first-ever video game to bring the Inferno match to life. This game is often remembered for what it didn't have, though. This was the first game without the Create-A-Championship, GM Mode or a Create-A-PPV mode. The one popular mode from this game that was included in this game was the Road to WrestleMania mode, as well as the beginnings of a Create-A-Finisher mode.
WWE Legends of WrestleMania was everything you thought it would be. It wasn't built to be just like the Smackdown vs. RAW games, which it wasn't like at all. The game was centered around the idea of recreating legendary moments from past WrestleManias. If you ever wanted to be Hulk Hogan lifting up Andre the Giant, here was your chance. Wish to see The Rock and Stone Cold tear the house down like they could? You got it. It was more about easy controls than anything. It wasn't liked by some, but it was exactly what it was intended to be and nothing more. This was just a one-time game and a side project to the Smackdown vs. RAW series.
Smackdown vs. RAW 2010 was featured on the usual consoles of the previous Smackdown vs. RAW game, but also debuted as an app for iPhone. This game is mostly known as the beginning of Story Designer, where players could create their own storylines. Create-A-Superstar mode was much improved to allow more realistic looks to clothing, as opposed to looking like they were painted onto the star itself. The game's tagline was "Your World Now", but there were still some things you couldn't do. Restrictions were there, but so was the groundwork.
Last year's Smackdown vs. RAW will be the final in the longest-lasting video game series in WWE history. The new physics system allowed for some improved matches. Tables, ladders, chairs and various other weapons can be scattered throughout the ring, but the improved physics allow superstars to be able to shift their direction to inflict the most damage. There is also WWE Universe Mode, allowing matches to play out on the show, as well as random run-ins and each match affecting rankings for title matches. Road to WrestleMania was also modified to allow roaming of the halls and interacting with different superstars.
WWE All Stars was announced around the same time as SvR '11, but was a very different game. WWE brought back the old-school arcade style with larger-than-life stars that were purposely made to look almost cartoonish. Moves were more over-the-top and matchups were more shocking to see. The new met the old as the legends could square off against the current stars in matches that would have never taken place until now. There were also modes for a path to a world title or the tag team titles. The game was well-received by fans who weren't sure what this game was going to become.
This takes us to WWE '12, a rebranding of the entire video game experience and the 50th video game ever produced by WWE. The engine that the game uses makes everything more realistic than ever. Matches will be more realistic to the product on television every week. There is no weak/strong grapple anymore, but rather the capability to perform certain moves only based on the state of their opponent.
Road to WrestleMania mode is rebranded into one long story that lasts more more than a year. The Universe mode is also changed to give more free range to the player. The Create-An-Arena mode returns as just about anything can be adjusted around the ring. Dynamic Comebacks are also a new feature, which also allows "wake up taunts" to get the opponent up before a finishing move. The Breaking Point submission feature also has a throwback to the old mini games of submission moves.
WWE Brawl is another game in development, which will be out in 2012. It will almost be like a Super Smash Bros.-type game for WWE. That's for another time. For now, here is the history of the 50 games WWE has ever helped created.