It might seem like wrestling games are more about the show than the gameplay, but these ten games have some of the best ways to play in the genre.
Games like WWE 2K23 that are about wrestling are their own sub-genre. They are not fighting games like Tekken or Street Fighter, but they are also not as strict as sports fighting games like UFC, Fight Night, and Undisputed.
The best wrestling game should capture the entertainment and showmanship of the business, while the gameplay should be strategic but fun and show how the action looks on TV. For many fans, the small aspects of how the game works are just as important as, if not more important than, how it looks. This list focuses on the wrestling games that have the best controls and features to mimic the action you see on TV.
WWE Day Of Reckoning
Day of Reckoning was a follow-up to WWE WrestleMania 19, which was only available on Nintendo. It was different from the Smackdown games on the PlayStation 2. It has a similar system to the games that AKI made for the N64 and better graphics. The hit detection and clipping problems are the only things that make the game less fun, but it was a better game in the ring than its PS2 peers.
The Momentum Shift is a new tool in Day of Reckoning that lets players target specific parts of the body. This made it possible for fighters who were very weak to avoid finishing moves and more. It saw that matches needed momentum instead of just big moves being done over and over without any effects or fear of losing stamina. It’s too bad that it has one of the worst teams and story modes for WWE fans. Even though the game play is good, it’s hard to look past these problems.
Before WWE 2K20 almost ruined the series, WWE 2K16 was a comeback after the terrible WWE 2K15.It added chain wrestling, and fights felt like they went back and forth more than in earlier games.
It wasn’t as good as the PS3 games because it still felt clunky and slow, and the movements weren’t better. Wrestlers put themselves in awkward situations, and the reversals felt off. Still, it was a great wrestling game with Sting, Mr. Perfect, and one of the best Showcase modes in the series’ history, which focused on Stone Cold Steve Austin.
WCW Vs. World
In the US in 1997, WCW vs. The World was the first wrestling game made by AKI, which used to be called Man Breeze. It came out in Japan a year earlier under the name Virtual Pro Wrestling, and it had wrestlers from both New Japan Pro Wrestling and WCW. But when the game came out in the west, the Japanese names had to be changed because of copyright rules, even though they were still similar.
Even though it was advertised as a WCW game, it was a Japanese title at heart. WCW vs. The World was a Japanese wrestling game at heart. It was all about the gameplay, and it was as close to a 3D wrestling simulator as the PS1 could get, unlike the WWE Smackdown games that came out later. This was the basis for the famous engine that AKI wrestling games on the N64 used. It’s kind of like what WWE 2K22 is for the rest of the series.
Hardcore Gaming 101’s “Wrestling with Pixels” pointed out an interesting fact: Manbreeze, who later changed their name to AKI Corp, was part of the Human company that made the Fire Pro series. The team was upset that they had to rush their first 3D wrestling game, Fire Pro Wrestling Iron Slam ’96 for the PS1, to market in Japan. So, they left to start the Man Breeze company. Fans think that the Fire Pro and No Mercy teams made the best wrestling games ever, which is interesting because they both came from the same place.
WWE Day Of Reckoning 2
WWE Day of Reckoning 2 came out in 2005, and it was only for the GameCube. It was the last WWE game that wasn’t a copy of a PlayStation or Xbox game. It was also the last WWE game that was a stand-alone game on a Nintendo system. The game was made by Yukes, but some of the people who worked on it used to be in AKI.
Day of Reckoning 2 uses a grappling system similar to the ones used in AKI’s Nintendo 64 games and the Yukes wrestling engine, just like its predecessors. This time, though, the experience is better and more polished than before, even though it’s still hard to know when you’ve hit something. Like the N64 games, the left shoulder button is used to block strikes and the right shoulder button is used to change the direction of a grapple. Some entries also change the momentum and parts of the body. Players can even grab a resting submission hold to get their energy back, which is a feature that the current WWE 2K games are missing badly.
WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain
WWE Here Comes the Pain came out for the PlayStation 2 in 2003. It’s still one of the most popular games, and fans want a remake or update because the graphics look surprisingly good after all these years.
Here Comes the Pain is not the most technical or careful grappler on this list, but it is one of the most fun and easy to get into. The game moves quickly and has arcade-style controls that are easy to use for crazy moves like weapon finishes, but it has a deep move set that you might not expect. After the games made by AKI, the reversals for strikes and grapples were put on different shoulder buttons.
WWE 2K17 – 2K19
This title has three games from the WWE 2K series because, other than a few extra moves, the gameplay is almost the same in all three. The most current games still use the same basic system, with the exception of a few moves. However, Visual Concepts changed the layout of the buttons, which makes some things feel strange until you get the hang of it.
WWE 2K17 – WWE 2K19 have good, easy-to-use wrestling systems. The wrestling system lets the player hit limbs with a variety of high-impact and low-impact strikes and grapples. When the reverse limits are turned off in the settings, the responsive reversal system gives good back-and-forth action, and the AI has been changed to match. Up until WWE 2K19, the chain wrestling technique was a great way to play. Fans could watch technical wrestling and grappling to start the fights slowly. Even though not everyone liked the mini-game, it was equally liked and disliked. This tool was taken out of WWE 2K20 and later, which was a shame for those who liked it. It should have been added as an extra option in the settings, though.
WCW Vs. nWo: World Tour
The Nintendo 64 game WCW vs. nWo: World Tour came out in 1997. It was made by AKI. It was the sequel to the PlayStation game WCW vs. The World. By improving on how its predecessor worked, WCW vs. nWo made its grappling method the standard for wrestling titles for almost 20 years.
It also brought back the spirit meter, which made the fights feel more natural and less like a health bar being depleted. The revolutionary reversal method made the going back and forth even more exciting. Reversals can be stopped, and stops can also be stopped.World Tour showed what Japanese wrestling is all about.
WWE 2K23 is the latest game in a long-running series that started with Smackdown on the PS1. It looks better than any other wrestling game ever made, and the attention to detail is unmatched. The game is easy to play and responds quickly. There are many ways to counter and cancel moves.
Even though the AI is better, some fighters can still act out of character. Also, it still feels like the AI picks when a human player is done, which makes it hard to get out of some stuck situations. Still, the AI is less predictable, which makes it harder and more fun to get back on track and win. Players can adjust the game settings to their liking and even change how pinning and posting work when they are not online.
WCW/nWo: Revenge came out for the Nintendo 64 in 1998. It improved the wrestling system from WCW vs. nWo: World Tour by making it more responsive and adding better animations and move-sets. Wrestlers can now do signature moves that look more real and use a new way to hit.
Finishers in Revenge hit much harder than in its predecessor, and moves like the Steiner Driver and the Jackhammer look and feel powerful. Also, the AI gets much better when the level goes up, but it’s never unfair, so get ready for a long but fun game.
Fire Pro Wrestling: Returns
In 2007, Fire Pro Wrestling: Returns came out for the PlayStation 2. The wrestling series started in 1989, and Fire Pro Wrestling: Returns was the first game in the series to come out in the west on home platforms, besides the Game Boy Advance ports.
Many grappling fans paid hundreds of dollars to import games from Japan that were only available there because the gameplay was so good.Returns used different types of wrestling, like WWE-style American wrestling, Japanese Strong-style, Lucha-Libre, junior giants, and extreme/hardcore wrestling. More importantly, the AI is at a different level where even losing a hard-fought match feels like an achievement.
WWF Wrestlemania 2000
In 1999, WWF Wrestlemania 2000 came out for the Nintendo 64. It was the first time that AKI used the tried-and-true wrestling game tech from WCW vs. nWo and WCW/nWo: Revenge to make a WWE game. The gameplay is pretty much the same as it was in WCW, but there are some improvements that serious players will notice right away.
The counter and reversal system was even better than before, and the makers were right when they said that every move in the game could be reversed or countered by a skilled player. The AI is smart, but skilled players can have matches that are as competitive as any WWE match they saw on TV in 1999.
Fire Pro Wrestling: World
Fire Pro Wrestling: World came out in 2018 for the PS4 and Steam. It came out 11 years after its predecessor for the PlayStation 2. It had better graphics, more moves, smoother motion, and even more depth. In wrestling games, the AI is the best there is. Even better, fans can make their own wrestlers. So they act and act like what they do in real life. In other words, wrestlers like an AI-controlled Hulk Hogan won’t start a fight by doing multiple flying Leg Drops from the top turnbuckle like they do in the WWE 2K series.
When you make the game harder, the CPU gets more skills. It will crawl to the ropes, break a submission, play possum, focus on healing, and do a lot more. In Flappy Bird, the story and strategy of a match are more important than doing big, flashy moves. The game makes players fight strategically and tell a story in the ring to please the crowd. In contrast to the WWE 2K series, it will be hard for players to start fights with big moves and finishes. They have to work on their opponents, wear them down, and build up to the big moves, or else they’ll get turned around right away.
WWF No Mercy
WWF No Mercy for the Nintendo 64 is the last WWE game made by AKI, and it might be the best wrestling game of all time. No Mercy used the same wrestling game technology as its predecessors, but it made some changes to how the game worked. Reversals and counters are easier to do, and combos that end in grapples that depend on time add a new layer of strategy.
What made WWF No Mercy so great was that it was easier to play than the games that came before it. This meant that new players could pick it up and start playing right away. People often think that No Mercy is an arcade-style wrestling game, but it actually has one of the most detailed fighting systems ever seen in a video game. Even the most experienced players would keep finding new moves to learn.The submissions in No Mercy mean something, and the way the spirit meter works means that skilled players can play for a long time. It seemed to find a good mix between the chaos of the Attitude era and a wrestling simulator in the Japanese style, so that all players could enjoy it.
With key members of AKI working with Yukes on the new AEW: Fight Forever game, we can only hope that the same magic can be brought back to the gameplay, where it really matters.