A not at all brief history of WWE wrasslin' games

20 min read

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2009 1

I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the WWE. My first date ended in a smashed table, and whenever I see a cake I know that a fight is about to break out. Over three decades and dozens of games taught me the wrasslin’ facts of life, and now, I’m about to share those lessons with you, right before the showcase of the immortals kicks off Wrestlemania 29 this weekend.

WWF Wrestlemania – 1989

WWF Wrestlemania 1989 video game

The road to Wrestlemania may start at the Royal Rumble while Jim Ross blubbers his love for Stone Cold Steve Austin, but the digital version of that tarmac tumble began all the way back in 1989. Debuting on the NES and featuring several 8bit pixels that kind of resembled wrasslin’ greats Hulk Hogan, Andre the giant and the Honky Tonk Man, history was made on this very first WWE stage.

WWF Superstars (Arcade) – 1989

WWF superstars 1989 video game

Well lemme tell ya somethin’ brother! There may have been some other arcade games featuring big men getting sweaty with one another, but did they have authentic cut-scenes, filmed by the superstars themselves? No sirree! And we added finishing moves that were ripped straight from the TV show itself, we became THE wrasslin’ game of the time! BROTHER!

WWF Wrestlemania Challenge – 1990

WWF Wrestlemania challenge 1990

This is where home entertainment took off better than a Jimmy “SuperFly” Snuka top rope splash. It may have only boasted a small amount of superstars, but a comprehensive list of suplexes, strikes, slams and spandex made Wrestlemania Challenge an instant classic.

WWF Wrestlefest – 1991

WWF Wrestlefest 1991

Most wrasslin’ games couldn’t be bothered with accurately depicting their men in tights, but WWE Wrestlefest showed the good with the bad in this 1991 debut. From too tight spandex of Earthquake to the bizarra face paint of the Road Warriors, man this game WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS A RUSH!

WWF Superstars (Gameboy) – 1991


Ever wanted to have a WWE superstar in the palm of your hand? While such a thought was most likely illegal back in 1991, it was also far from impossible as sports entertainment broke on through to the Gameboy for some shirt-rippin’ action. While the GB version only featured five wrestlers, it also had match commentary, promos and taunts, adding some digital HGH to the final product. Just like real life WWE.

WWF Super Wrestlemania – 1992

wwf super wrestlemania 1992 game

A championship mode, ten entire superstars and a then revolutionary tug of war lock system were just some of the features that made this particular WWF stand out amongst the others in 1992, much like Hulk Hogan’s continuing loss of hair that he was denial about.

WWF Superstars 2 (Gameboy) – 1992

superstars 2

When it came to making games, LJN was the Lancia of its time. Filled with duds, but with the occasional genius title from time to time, they were contracted with making a sequel to the first WWF Gameboy game.

And guess what? It was a dud! Blame that on a more limited move set, cheap gameplay and even cheaper workmanship.

WWF Wrestlemania: Steel Cage Challenge – 1992

Steel cage challenge

Take everything that you know about the WWE, put it in a steel cage, and you’d have much the same product anyway. Only like…steelier. While steel cage matches had been seen in Wrestlefest already, this was the first WWF game to base an entire entry around that oddball match stipulation.

Thankfully, it’s also one of a kind as I’m pretty certain that no one wants to see an iOS WWE game called Vince McMahon’s kiss my ass club released.

WWF European Rampage Tour – 1992

euro rampage

It was the WWF, but on a euro trip! While such a concept would most likely have left an Italian molester on a train superplexed quicker than you can say “scuzi”, the real core concept in this title was that is was aimed at the European PC market. It was also the final WWF PC game made for quite a while, until 2001 at least.

WWF Royal Rumble – 1993

royal rumble

The Royal Rumble was a brand new concept when it was initially televised, and the video game tie-in was no different. While the standard modes were on offer, running the 30 man over-the-top-rope gauntlet proved to be the real draw here, while the addition of steel chairs and auto-erotic asphyxiation choking a superstar helped fine tune the heel and face gameplay for future titles.

WWF King of the Ring – 1993

  King of the ring

Bow down to the, bow down to the king! Another new format of sports entertainment that had emerged during the more creative years in the WWF quickly saw a video game version released, as players competed in a tournament to become the eponymous King of the Ring, as well as the final champ on the NES before the SNES system took over.

WWF Rage in the Cage – 1993

rage in the cage

It was one thing to see Macho Man Randy Savage hit an elbow drop on TV despite having so many muscles, he could barely lift a can of soda to his face, but to see such visuals on a console?

Revolutionary! While the action was more in touch with the LJN series of games, the Gillberg so to speak to the Goldberg of other titles, the key addition of Full Motion Video made this a slobber knocker of a technical demo for then ground-breaking Sega CD technology.

WWF RAW – 1994

Raw 1994 game

RAW is war! With a new weekly TV series, a new opportunity to market the hell out of the brand arrived, much to the glee of Vince McMahon. Which most likely also explains that strut of his. For the first time, wrasslers were actually able to move realistically according to their size and in-ring personas, while also boasting newer finishing moves and signature attacks.

It also meant that Yokozuna wasn’t moving around the ring like Usain Bolt with some junk in the trunk.

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Last Updated: April 5, 2013

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Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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