Home Gaming A not at all brief history of WWE wrasslin' games

A not at all brief history of WWE wrasslin' games

20 min read

WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game – 1995

WWF Wrestlemania The Arcade Game

Ask anyone to name their first WWE game, and this would most likely be it. Taking a few cues from Mortal Kombat in much the same way that TNA stable Aces and Eights has blatantly ripped off Sons of Anarchy, superstars had all manner of strange attacks, finishers and gimmicks.

Which meant that for once, Doink the clown actually stood a chance in the ring with the Undertaker.

WWF In Your House – 1996

WWF In Your House 1996 game

Look, if you’re going to allow Shawn Michaels or the Undertaker to redesign your home with choke-slams and german suplexes, you’ve got to expect some collateral damage to your material possessions. Despite some impressive graphics for the time, and more unique arenas within which to battle, opinions were divided on this title, thanks to some poor gameplay and a sparse roster of superstars.

WWF Warzone – 1998

WWF Warzone

This was the WWE game that didn’t just break the mold, it gave it a Stone Cold Stunner, poured beer over those remains and then proceeded to take the sister of said mold out for a nice dinner date afterwards.

Wrestlers that were more three-dimensional than their real life counterparts, creation options that set a new benchmark and a multiplayer mode that would have you performing sweet chin music on your buddies resulted in one of the greatest wrestling games of the time.

WWF Wrestlemania 2000 – 1999


With a gameplay engine taken from former rivals WCW, the next WWF game kicked things up a notch in the grandest stage of them all, Wrestlemania. 50 wrestlers, more options to create an in-ring champion or an abomination of Eugene proportions and combat that made reversals a key skill to learn kept the torch burning brightly for the WWF, before that damn panda started litigating the hell out of them.

WWF Attitude – 1999

WWF Attitude

A direct sequel to the well received Warzone, Acclaim didn’t need to do much to improve on that classic game. More gameplay options, customization, full entrance themes and improved visuals kept the WWF coffers in Million Man Dibiase mode that quarter.

The final WWF game from Acclaim, the franchise was then handed over to THQ that continued until that publishing giant finally went bankrupt last year.

WWF Royal Rumble – 2000


It had been a while since the Royal Rumble had been in the spotlight, and thanks to this latest version of that time-honoured tradition of muscled men knocking the stuffing out of one another, that spotlight would continue to shine one better entrants.

A terrible and limited selection of superstars, even less gameplay modes and visuals that were uglier than Vickie Guerrero’s voice were some of the low-points of this game which went straight over the top rope and into the bargain bin.

WWF No Mercy – 2000

No Mercy

If WWF Warzone was a wake-up call the wrestling genre, then No Mercy was like pedigreed into a flaming table that had been covered in smelling salts.

Streamlined combat, a massive stable of characters to choose from, even more options in the create-a-wrestler mode and story options that really sold the WWF experience resulted in lone game that is still well received to this day.

WWF Smackdown! – 2000

 WWF Smackdown 2000 video game

If there’s one thing that The Rock is good for, besides asking you to guess what’s for supper by using only one sense, it’s catch-phrases. The first WWF game from Yukes wasn’t a smash hit thanks to light content and a detachment from the source material, but the solid combat and visuals helped sell it at the end of the day.

WWF Smackdown! Know your Role – 2000

WWF Smackdown 2 know your role

With a sophomore effort that was more of a jobber than the Brooklyn Brawler himself, Yukes stepped up to the plate and knocked out a version of the WWF on consoles that was a definite improvement. With a more comprehensive season mode, storylines and action over some refined gameplay, things were looking up for the WWF franchise at the end of the day.

WWF Smackdown! Just bring it – 2001

WWF Smackdown Just bring it 

The catchphrases just kept on coming, and like sands in the hour glass, so were the Five Star Frog Splashes of our games. Yukes made just such a splash on the PS2 with this game, that features some fast and furious action, as well as a core gameplay experience that didn’t just look good, it was damn fun as well.

WWF Road to Wrestlemania (Gameboy Advance) – 2001


It was the WWF, but once again in your hands, as the franchise returned to Nintendo, debuting on the then-generation Gameboy Advance.

WWF Betrayal (Gameboy) – 2001

WWF Betrayal

But the Gameboy Colour had not been forgotten! The final title to appear on that aging platform, Betrayal kept the action in new territory, by charging players with the rescue of Stephanie McMahon over several side-scrolling stages.

Pity that it stunk worse than Rikishi’s finishing move though.

WWF With Authority! – 2001

With Authoritah

RESPECT MAH AUTHORITAH! Mr Perfect, AKA PC gamers hadn’t received a WWEF game in years, but that all changed with the release of With Authority. Except that is was less sports entertainment, and more collectible card-battling that asked gamers to pay a premium for some of the better cards on offer.

Sounds oddly familiar, doesn’t it?

WWE Smackdown! Shut your mouth – 2002

Shut yo mouf

Having been successfully forced to tap out in court thanks to a panda wanting people to not be confused about wildlife conservation and men in tights power-bombing one another, came the first wrestling game to be released under the WWE banner. Having got the F out, the latest WWE gamekept the action fast, and the controls smooth.

WWE RAW – 2002

Raw 2002     

RAW may not have had a decent gameplay mode, varied selection of wrestlers, stages, modes or any real class, but uh…

Oh hell, just count me out already, this game was worse than that time the Big Show tried to stop the Big Boss Man from crashing the funeral for his father.

WWE Wrestlemania X8 – 2002

Wrestlemania X8

The 18th Wrestlemania may be one of my all-time favourite events thanks to a Hardcore Championship match that took “falls count anywhere” to ridiculous new heights, but the video game tie-in on the GameCube was less than perfect. Collision detection from hell, characters models that should have been euthanised at birth and some stiff animation made this one wrestling game to avoid.

WWE Road to Wrestlemania X8 – 2002


A fact which was made abundantly clear when the Gameboy Advance version of the game did so with less graphics, input and sound, putting the Gamecube version to shame.

WWE Smackdown! Here comes the pain – 2003


Quite honestly, one of the very best WWE games to ever hit consoles. Capitalising on the monstrous success of Brock Lesnar, Her Comes The Pain brought with it fluid graphics, tight action and gameplay that was more heavenly than being leg-locked by the WWE Divas division.

It would be quite a while until a better champion of a game could wrestle that title away from this gem.

WWE Wrestlemania XIX – 2003

road to wrestlemania 19

And it wasn’t going to be the Wrestlemania tie-in that would do so. Keeping the core gameplay intact, this latest iteration of the annual event was a decent game on it’s own, and despite the Revenge Mode adding an interesting wrinkle, it still couldn’t even touch Here Comes The Pain when it came to quality.

WWE RAW 2 – 2003


A sequel that no one asked for, RAW 2 was far from a bad game, but the cracks were beginning to creep in on a franchise that was starting to feel tired. Season mode was for once, a highlight, and the detailed quest to become champion helped hide those flaws to newcomers.

WWE Crush Hour – 2003

Crush hour     

You think that there are too many zombie games these days? Jon SNow, you know nothin’ and your opinion does not matter according to Hollywood heavyweight champion actor Dwayne Johnson. Carting games were all the rage, with everyone from Crash Bandicoot to Star Wars joining in on the fad.

And the WWE was no different, in this average release of a genre that had quickly overstayed it’s welcome.

WWE Survivor Series (Gameboy Advance) – 2004

SUrvivor series

Two years in the WWE has the same amount of impact as it does on the internet. With heels becoming faces, good guys going bad and John Cena realizing that he just might be the whitest rapper since Vanilla Ice, out came this brand new Gameboy Advance title, to take advantage of the success that previous portable titles had generated.

And man, it dropped that good will faster than Brian Daniel vs Seamus at Wrestlemania 28 with some of the worst and most archaic gameplay this side of an announce table.

WWE Day of Reckoning – 2004

Day of reckoning 1

WWE games had always been about assuming control of a legend and bulldozing a way to victory with steel chairs and snappy promos, but Day of Reckoning twisted the formula by asking players to start their career as a nobody, and work their way up the ranks.

Despite a limited selection of Superstars, a recurring issue with these games, the improved gameplay and visuals were spotted immediately, resulting in Day of Reckoning to be a title that was both fresh and exciting.

WWE Smackdown! vs RAW – 2004

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2004

With RAW and Smackdown hating each other more than that time we found the fellas from G3AR stealing our office cake, the time was ripe to create a bold new franchise that asked gamers to question their brand allegiance and settle all differences, preferably through the Spanish commentary table at ringside.

Being able to fight clean or dirty made a world of difference, while some authentic play by play audio, a focus on newer wrestlers and enhanced create-a-wrestler setups started a brand new era for the franchise.

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Last Updated: April 5, 2013

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  1. Amen brother! AMEN! ‘rasslin made me the man I am today… Raw is War!


    • FoxOneZA

      April 5, 2013 at 16:50



      • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

        April 5, 2013 at 17:00

        RAW is JERICHO!!


  2. Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    April 5, 2013 at 15:38

    Day of Reckoning was actually a mighty fine game, just a pity it was restricted to the GameCube. WWE Raw on the other hand was what WWE games were like between those grim Post-Here Comes the Pain years till just before WWE 10.


    • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

      April 5, 2013 at 15:44

      Amazingly, a drawing tablet delivered the finishing move on THQ… Most of us, had just fallen into this cycle of yearly wrestling games… and now that we’re free, we stare into the deep abyss with sadness.

      Damn you drawing tablet… you killed and saved us all at once.


    • Hadlee Simons

      April 24, 2013 at 07:31

      I still got DoR2 for GC! If you are looking for a game using the same engine, try Wrestle Kingdom 1 and 2 for PS2. 😛


  3. Rincethis: Microsoft President

    April 5, 2013 at 15:50

    Me first piledrive into OVG’s side was
    WWF Wrestlemania Challenge – 1990, What a game!


  4. Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    April 5, 2013 at 16:09

    I always thought All Stars would become a true contender. It just needed more modes, maybe a CAW section, and that over-the-top action would have been awesome.


    • Leon-Ben Lamprecht

      April 8, 2013 at 11:55

      It has a (broken) CAW section. And incomplete. The bare bones of a truly great wrestling game are there. Here’s to hoping…


      • Hadlee Simons

        April 23, 2013 at 08:13

        considering that it was from some of the same team who did the fun but flawed TNA Impact, I’m not surprised. That game looked cool but had like 40 moves shared among everyone.


  5. Anon A Mouse

    April 5, 2013 at 16:13

    My first WWE game was here comes the pain. It was absolutely brilliant, I did get WWE12 (I think) for free but only played about 10 minutes of it before putting it away. Only game I’ve never finished in all my years of gaming.


    • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

      April 5, 2013 at 16:31

      Here Comes the Pain was brilliant. It’s still one of my favourite WWE games. WWE12 on the other hand… wow… I remember leading up to WWE13, I was very vocal that I was done with THQ wrestling games. Fortunately, I was given a review copy, thought that I was going to rip it to shreds and discovered to my shock that It was actually decent. They clearly learnt from their mistakes with WWE12, but I think the damage was done by then.


  6. Ryan Williams

    April 5, 2013 at 16:48

    You forgetting the best of the best – WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game. This was an awesome title with some memorbale quotes
    “You have to give credit to Bret Hart” – Vince
    Bam Bam Bigelow’s BOOOOMSHAKALAKA
    Nobody Messes With The Bad Guy – Razor Ramon
    Thanks for this trip Darren! Cant wait!
    The Attitude Era was the best escpecially Shane O Mac Titontron jump on Steve Blackman!


    • Major Commodore 64 Darryn B

      April 5, 2013 at 17:29

      It’s there, top of page two man. Grud, how I hated that fucking Doink the clown with his special attacks.


  7. Tbone187

    April 8, 2013 at 10:16

    Royal Rumble on megadrive was epic…


  8. Leon-Ben Lamprecht

    April 8, 2013 at 11:54

    I loved All Stars. I’m fully hoping for All Stars 2.0. In making wrestling absurd, it got closer to it’s core than all these “simulations” ever did.

    On a side: did anyone else ever play the bestest wrestling game of all time: Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium on the SNES? Was a thing of beauty.


    • Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      April 8, 2013 at 12:01

      I did! One of the best wrestling games ever made. Unoftunately, human entertainment no longer exists.


      • Leon-Ben Lamprecht

        April 8, 2013 at 12:11

        There is something wrong with me… I still play it on an emulator. You can actually still find ROMs with edits of (mostly) up to date WWE roster.


        • Hadlee Simons

          April 23, 2013 at 07:55

          You can get Fire Pro Wrestling Returns for PS2. Got US version when TakeAlot still did Amazon imports for like R160. 😛 Got myself a decent save too, with MMA fighters, puroresu guys and American wrestlers. 😛


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