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Top 10 Wrestling Games of All Time

Posted on Friday, September 4 @ 03:35:04 PST by

6. WWF Raw (SNES, Genesis, 1994, LJN / Acclaim Entertainment)

WWF Raw, not to be confused with WWF/E Raw for Xbox and PC, is the last in the trilogy of SNES and Sega Genesis titles with the WWF name: WWF Super Wrestlemania and WWF Royal Rumble. And like most third and final acts in trilogies, WWF Raw is the best of them all, polishing the tug-of-war grappling system unique to the series and boasting fluid and vivid animations, notably the distinctive finishing moves for each wrestler. But the best “feature” hands-down is being able to knock out the ref and start choking, eye raking, and gleefully bashing the opponent with a steel chair hidden underneath the squared circle.

The roster, however, is split down the middle with five exclusive characters going to each platform, which either shows the limitations of the software or a lack of forethought as to what fans want, or both. Not having Hulk Hogan, Papa Shango, or Jim Duggan in the SNES version and not having Yokozuna, Ric Flair, and Mr. Perfect in the Genesis version is near-unacceptable. But apart from that, WWF Raw is solidly produced, had strong multiplayer modes (Tag Team and Royal Rumble), and best represented the brand for its time.

5. WWF Wrestlemania 2000 (N64, 1999, THQ)

Cementing the now lasting relationship between THQ and the WWF/E, WWF Wrestlemania 2000 with The Rock emblazoned on the front of the cover fine-tuned the engine used in WCW/nWo Revenge, another worthy contender that probably would have made the list if AKI hadn’t made two impressive sequels. The game’s impressive roster of 50 WWF wrestlers, complete with authentic moves and entrances, and almost exhaustive Create-A-Wrestler mode complemented its linear season mode, which went through all of the pay-per-views in the Wrestlemania season. You could even change the attire of any of the superstars, a feature I hope will return in the upcoming WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW 2010 through its Superstars Threads mode. Best of all, you could recreate wrestlers like Goldberg and Macho Man Randy Savage from the clothing and moves parts given in CAW mode to fill out the roster with more of your fan favorites.

4. WWF Smackdown! (PS, 2000, THQ)

The influence of the first WWE Smackdown! title is undeniable and obvious. It established one-button grapples so that you don’t have to enter a series of complex hand gesticulations just to pull off a basic scoop-up slam, a month-to-month, event-to-event career mode that doesn’t stop at simply winning the belt, and pre- and post-match cut-scenes to match the brawny, lycra-clad man-dramas on TV. The main highlight, apart from the special referee variant and hardcore matches where you could move from the arena to backstage, was the “I Quit” match where you forced your opponent to say those two dreaded words into a microphone for the whole world to hear (though I always thought that "I Suck" would have been even better). It also set a new standard for production values – all the wrestlers’ theme songs, great 3D collision detection and physics for its time, finishers that are spot-on, and relatively short loading times. Combat became less about button-mashing and more about action based on technique and power, elevating the genre to a new level of gameplay and widening the fanbase for skill-based players.

3. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns (PS2, 2007, Agetec / Spike)

Fans waited for two long years before Fire Pro Wrestling Returns made it from Japan to the States in 2007, with Spike finally making its comeback after their announced end to the 2D-sprite-happy Fire Pro Wrestling series in 2003. For it is the ultimate wet dream for obsessive fans to live out their M.U.G.E.N.-esque fantasy match-ups between the 327 brawlers in the roster and fiddle with the extensive creation editor for up to 500 additional characters and custom rings, belts, logos, and refs. And even if there are no equivalents to favorite wrestlers in more popular brands like the WWE, the nearly overwhelming number of parts for heads, bodies, clothes, and accessories allows players to recreate them down to their names and fighting style, A.I. behavior, and moveset from a list of 1,649 maneuvers.

Beyond that, there’s nothing like whipping opponents into exploding barbed wire ropes, pinning their bloodied body for the win, and then kicking them when they’re down while your mouth shapes an evil grin. The only concern is that this game – and the Fire Pro Wrestling series in general – is strictly for the hardcore audience, with Fire Pro Wrestling Returns being either at the top of the list for fans of the wrestling genre or not on their list at all, a fact that can be debated in forum wars starting… now.

2. WWF Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain (PS2, 2003, THQ)

With Brock Lesnar muscling his way onto the cover, back before he was strong-arming his opponents in the UFC octagon, WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain brought the house down in 2003 with its powerhouse modes and features. Its new grappling system allowed players to choose their wrestler’s moves freely from multiple select categories, each with their own flavor and strengths. With a Season mode written by actual WWE writers, new modes like First Blood, Elimination Chamber, and Bra and Panties, and a simple but effective (and should be revived) progression for stats (rated 1-10 for Strength, Submission, Stamina, Technique, and Speed), getting into the ring for a year’s worth of show-stopping events was never easier or more enticing.

The only substantial disappointment was a roster that forgot to include the likes of Shan McMahon, Farooq, Maven, and Bradshaw, and then lost The Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Jeff Hardy, and others during its production. But even with these gaping holes, this fifth installment remains the most critically successful and fan-favorite outing in the WWE Smackdown! franchise thus far.

1. WWF No Mercy (N64, 2000, THQ)

One of the few games in history that split game critics and fans, WWF No Mercy stands the test of time and should be heralded as the best example of what the wrestling genre has to offer. More than just a follow-up to WWF Wrestemania 2000, it still sets the bar for all wrestling games to follow, with a storyline that branched depending on whether you won or lost and a comprehensive Create-A-Wrestler mode that rivals similar modes of today's games in design. Just being able to copy select attributes of a wrestler to another – a moveset or appearance but not both – has yet to grace any wrestling titles today (It sounds minor, but without it, it would be like having to eat everything on the menu rather than ordering just the items you want). The long list of unlockables in the Smackdown Mall also put it ahead of its time in terms of replay, and the dark, sinister color palette made for a great style.

Refining the system brought by WWF Wrestlemania 2000, it capitalized on reversals, rising ground attacks, damage that could be focused on specific body parts (a damaged leg actually meant less speed), and a ladder match where you can climb up the ladder, slam poor souls into the ladder, or just whack them with the ladder - all features that every wrestling title henceforth needed to have if it wanted to be anywhere close to greatness. It did have some issues with slowdown, pixilated FMVs, and wrestler-erasing bugs, but with the lack of competition in the wrestling genre since WWE absorbed both WCW and ECW, it set a standard that not many, if any, have reached thus far. Befitting its name, WWF No Mercy is just about the complete package and remains historically at the top of the wrestling genre without compromise.


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