The era of wrestling games on Nintendo platforms is back yet again, as 2K Games (and WWE superstar Seth Rollins) have confirmed that WWE 2K18 will release on Nintendo Switch this fall. This means the ability to wrestle a friend locally, as well as take advantage of various features, including the ability to create your own career with a male or female star, as well as choosing from a roster of well over 170 different wrestlers.
It’s big news for Nintendo, who have scored major points with wrestling hits in the past. With that, we’re taking a look at some of the best wrestling games that have released on Nintendo platforms over the past few years. Relax, we won’t waste your time with crud like WCW Backstage Assault (whatever the hell that was) or WWF Wrestlemania on the NES (sorry, it just wasn’t…good). Let’s get to the games that matter, and let’s get ready to rumble!
Most of the WCW stuff that came out for consoles had been pretty forgettable up to this point, but leave it to Asmik Ace Entertainment and AKI to redefine just how fun a wrestling game can be with World Tour. Featuring a who’s who of superstars from WCW and other fictional wrestling leagues (like Dead Or Alive Wrestling!), the game won fans over with its simple but awesome controls, its great visuals (for a 1997 game, anyway) and its multiplayer potential, as up to four people could take part in a match. For that matter, WCW vs. NWO Revenge fared just as well when it came out a year later, featuring a number of new arenas and other great features.
It didn’t take long for World Wrestling Federation to see just how good AKI was when it came to developing quality wrestling video games, and it immediately signed the studio, alongside the publishers at THQ, to create two great games for the Nintendo 64. The first, WWF Wrestlemania 2000, became an instant classic, giving people access to superstars like Triple H and, of course, The Rock. But WWF No Mercy improved on an already good thing one year later, with a new story mode, an expansive Championship mode, and plenty of other cool options. Plus it had a tremendous roster of male and female superstars alike, and it still had that great local multiplayer, making it an instant party favorite. Even today, it’s still highly played, especially at tournaments and any given Heels of Wrestling event at PAX. Can you blame them?
Some people will swear up and down that the WWF games on the NES were top-notch. But I walk a different path alongside the beloved Star Man, with Nintendo’s own Pro Wrestling. For a 1987 title, this managed to capture the mantra of pro wrestling just about perfectly, with good looking visuals, a decent roster of superstars, and fun two-player match-ups that were as good as wrestling could get at the time. Plus, the controls were easy to get into, and you always felt accomplished executing the right power move on someone. And, of course, when you won the championship, there was no better proclamation than “A winner is you!”
Not to be outdone by Nintendo’s take on the sport, Tecmo World Wrestling did a pretty great job in its own right, thanks to some touches that made it a lot more fun to play. First, the controls offer a little bit more diversity, letting you execute everything from power bombs to brain busters, should you feel compelled. The graphics also look a little better, so you can make out stars like Mr. Tattoo and The Iguanaman (yes, that’s a real competitor) a little bit easier. My favorite thing, though? The running text commentary at the bottom of the screen. It’s great fun to read. Just don’t let it distract you from the in-ring action.
Capcom attained true heights in the Super Nintendo era, releasing games like King of Dragons, Captain Commando and Knights of the Round to a highly awaiting crowd of gamers. But Saturday Night Slam Masters is a true sleeper in that release schedule, a game that got minimal attention upon release, but one that managed to grapple attention with it fans. Featuring a number of superstars that stand out, like Mike “Macho” Haggar (yes, he added that), Jumbo Flapjack and King Rasta Man, it delivered with great controls, fun visuals and exciting multiplayer potential. No, it wasn’t Street Fighter II, but it wasn’t meant to be – and Capcom did a superb job capturing the wrestling vibe. We need a follow-up to this something fierce.
It just didn’t make much sense to me that Super Fire Pro Wrestling never got to shine with a U.S. release. Sure, we got games like WCW Superbrawl, WWF Raw and WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game on the SNES…but this topped them all. Featuring a stellar roster of original superstars, a strong moveset that really made proper use of the SNES controller, and exciting action for various players to get into, Super Fire Pro Wrestling really won over fans internationally – as well as a few lucky importers here in the United States. Fortunately, the Fire Pro Wrestling saga looks to live on with a new entry, which will make its way to our shores later this year.
The GameCube saw no shortage of wrestling games, from the enjoyable WWE entries (like Day of Reckoning and WWE Wrestlemania XIX. But it also saw mediocre titles, like whatever the heck the Legends of Wrestling series was. However, AKI, the team behind some of the best N64 wrestling games ever made, proved to be the power factor here, teaming with Electronic Arts to bring us the absolutely stellar Def Jam Vendetta. Featuring a variety of rap superstars and awesome controls, the game redefined wrestling as we knew it, complete with a terrific hip-hop soundtrack and an over-the-top story mode. For that matter, Def Jam: Fight for NY followed suit just a little bit later, complete with even more superstars and power moves – oh, and Snoop Dogg, of course. Now this is a series that deserves a comeback, and not like whatever the hell Def Jam: Icon was.
Finally, let’s wrap this list up with a particular favorite from the Wii era. Even though THQ released enough simulation WWE games to keep fans happy, it was the team’s arcade-style affair, WWE All Stars, that really got my blood pumping. Sure, the superstars look a little more jacked up than normal (John Cena got so bulked up, I’m surprised he didn’t explode), but THQ’s team did an excellent job simplifying the game’s arcade-style controls, as well as packing it with plenty of fun visuals, like watching superstars jump twenty feet in the air to deliver their signature moves. There hasn’t been another game like All Stars since, and we really need one, if only because of “Macho Man” Randy Savage alone. Dig it!