The Best and Worst Wrestling Games Ever Made

Henry Gilbert

The newest WWE game has made its annual debut in stores. WWE 2K17 features one of the biggest rosters in franchise history, including a number of great wrestlers debuting in the series. The reviews are fairly nice, but it has some stiff competition to be considered the best wrestling game ever. (On the plus side, it’s nowhere near the worst wrestling game ever.)

 the actual best and worst wrestling games ever made?

Sports Entertainment games have been around as long as the medium of gaming, so it’s tough to determine the actual best and worst wrestling games ever made. But using our vast knowledge of both professional wrasslin’ and gaming, we narrowed the list down to the five best to ever lace up their boots. Plus, just to give some context on how bad it can get, we found the three worst wrestling games, all worthy of Botchamania showcases. We’ll begin with…

The Five Best Wrestling Games

Saturday Night Slam Masters

A sports entertainment game doesn’t need real life fighters to be great. That’s especially true if that wrasslin’ game is from fighting game experts Capcom. This SNES release uses one-on-one grappling as its base, but it takes more inspiration from over-the-top anime action than real life wrestlers. Saturday Night Slam Masters has simple three button commands that get more complex the deeper you dig in. The game also features an impressive roster designed by Tetsuo Hara, the artist behind the iconic fighting manga Fist of the North Star. All that plus an appearance by Final Fight’s Mike Haggar makes Saturday Night Slam Masters a 16-bit grappler worth revisiting.

WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain

Current WWE games are still the best (and sometimes only) wrestling games on the market, but current WWE titles have trouble capturing the feel of the best WWE game this century. WWE SmackDown!: Here Comes the Pain is the important PS2 game that struck a proper balance for the series. You had the distinct WWE feel and superstars alongside an engaging arcade-style approach to grappling and strikes. Unlike the more simulation approach of today’s WWE games, this more simplified method cuts through the BS and goes to straight wrestling action with a deep roster. Even as its graphics age, the gameplay is still unforgettable even as fancier WWE games come out.

WWF No Mercy

For gamers of a certain age, wrestling action has never been better than it is on the N64. Developer AKI and publisher THQ released multiple wrestling titles that had the deepest move sets, incredibly compelling gameplay, and pioneered Create-A-Wrestler modes in games. Entries like WCW/nWO: Revenge and Virtual Pro Wrestling have their fans, but for most, WWF No Mercy is the cream of the crop. No Mercy has the richest roster and strongest extra features. The game remains so popular that fans are still modding and updating No Mercy with new wrestlers to this day.

Ultimate Muscle: Legends Vs. New Generation

Sadly, AKI stopped making WWF games once the N64 went out to pasture. But the gameplay made a triumphant return on the GameCube with Ultimate Muscle: Legends Vs. New Generation. Based on the anime of the same name, this brawler took the core AKI gameplay and then embellished it with anime visual flourishes. Ultimate Muscle: Legends Vs. New Generation‘s gameplay isn’t as serious as previous AKI games, but that’s compensated by the over-the-top attacks and silly characters. What other game on this list features a character named Dik-Dik Van-Dik?

Fire Pro Wrestling Returns

Do you want a wrestling game with a deep roster? The most customization? Superstars borrowed from every league in the world? How about just about every attack ever done in the ring? The Fire Pro series has always been the home for that, particularly in Fire Pro Wrestling Returns. This PlayStation 2 entry is the strongest around, with hard-hitting action pioneered in Japan. Technically, Fire Pro Wrestling Returns doesn’t include any official promotions, but the roster looks full of famous faces if you squint. Knock-offs of icons like The Undertaker, John Cena, Sting, and more are all in the game, and they’re just as true to form as they are in the “real” games. Developer Spike teased a possible revival given enough fan interest, so maybe we’ll be adding to this list shortly.

The Three Worst Wrestling Games

WCW/nWo Thunder

It was the best of times and the worst of times for WCW fans in the late ’90s. While they were getting great WCW games on Nintendo 64, they were getting total trash on the PlayStation. WCW/nWo Thunder looked ugly then and has hideous visuals by today’s standards. The in-ring action stutters terribly and good luck figuring out how to complete a finishing move. The only positive about WCW/nWo Thunder is the “so bad it’s good” wrestler cutscenes ever. Take a look at the above video for a good laugh.

ECW: Anarchy Rulz

We’d be tempted to put the any of the WWF Attitude series on this list, but it’d be redundant thanks to this entry. ECW: Anarchy Rulz reskins the Attitude series, somehow makes it worse, and then spells “rules” with a “Z” in te title. The gameplay is a mess, with every wrestler on the roster looking like a fan creation and not something a professional designed. The late ’90s Hot Topic aesthetic doesn’t help either. Yet, ECW: Anarchy Rulz’s greatest sin is that it helped kill ECW. According to ECW boss Paul Heyman, publisher Acclaim never paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars for the game. Acclaim wouldn’t give the cash and ECW officially folded in early 2001.

Simpsons Wrestling

Surprisingly, the worst wrestling game of all time doesn’t even feature any actual wrestlers. Instead, it’s a PSOne game set in Springfield and stars everyone’s favorite family. Simpsons Wrestling is technically a fighting game, but you spend much more of it flailing around and not doing any actual moves. Though who really wanted a game where Lisa Simpsons could fight Ned Flanders? Simpsons Wrestling ugly, buggy, and full of repetitive voice clips. Whether you love Simpsons, wrestling, or both, something this bad is a real shame to such just about any conceivable audience.

Henry Gilbert
Henry Gilbert is Senior Games Editor at Fandom. He's worked in the gaming press since 2008, writing for sites as diverse as GamesRadar, IGN, and Paste Magazine. He's also been known to record a podcast or two with Laser Time. Follow him on Twitter @henereyg.
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