It’s no surprise that something as popular as wrestling has so many video games dedicated to it.
With so much choice comes inevitable disappointment. Like so many WWE pay-per-views, not every outing can be a winner and for wrestling fans there have been plenty of let downs over the years.
With WWE 2K19 lumbering to its release, I figured I’d take a look back at the 10 wrestling video games that made me scream in frustration. I might have missed some earlier ones, let me know which games disappointed you.
10. WWE 2K15
WWE 2K15 was an awkward junction for the modern WWE series of games. It came right as the Xbox One and PlayStaton 4 were really taking hold – meaning that 2K had to step up their game. It’s a shame that their first next gen offering was such a bust.
The game came packing a laughable amount of content for the price, cutting out entire feature sets like the custom championships and the ability to make custom female characters. It left the game feeling barebones and kind of felt rushed.
The worst offender came in the much-hyped career mode, which effectively ends the moment you win the WWE Championship. This wouldn’t be an issue if the game didn’t slap a “10 years later” screen on the gamer and force them to jump over a huge slice of the mode. Who needs to see their Superstar actually DEFEND the belt when they can be told about that legendary career?
Not that the gameplay made up for it. THQ’s games had been progressively getting slower but this was the first entry from 2K, wholeaned entirely into the “realistic” nature of the WWE product. Slow, plodding matches punctuated with quick time events make for an unfun experience.
Being honest, the game looks stunning but that’s just not enough to justify going back to experience this one. It’s also the first WWE game released on PC since the original Xbox’s Raw, which in itself wasn’t all that great.
The saddest part in all this? You could get a much better version of the game by sticking with the last-gen Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 outings – which retained all those glorious missing features. Fancy that.
9. WWF Betrayal
When is a WWF game not a WWF game? Betrayal tackles this topic by deciding it’s not a wrestling at all but instead a Streets of Rage knockoff.
That might not sound bad but on the Game Boy Color it doesn’t translate to a fun experience, with gameplay akin to bashing buttons and hoping you survive long enough to make it to the next stage.
The decision to focus more on the story element of wrestling with a weird Stephanie McMahon kidnap plot only further raises eyebrows, although it does lead to a hilariously over the top final boss battle.
The games also awkwardly short – so if you do actually find any enjoyment in this package, it won’t last long.
There are a bunch of great portable WWE games on the market – mostly on the Game Boy Advance. I’d advise you look to those if you’re craving a retro WWE experience.
8. WWF Royal Rumble
There’s something about wrestling games and next-gen consoles that ends in disaster. Take the first (and only) WWE game to pop up on Sega’s ill-fated Royal Rumble.
Developed by Yukes, the same guys making the hugely popular Smackdown games, Royal Rumble had the power of Dreamcast behind it and an eager fan base that wanted to see what next-gen WWE games could be. Oh how they probably wish they could forget this car crash.
Royal Rumble features all of two match types – single player and the Royal Rumble match. Perhaps most shocking of all, there aren’t enough WWF Superstars in the game to fill the titular stipulation, leading to a bizarre situation where Royal Rumble matches will feature 2 or 3 versions of Steve Austin.
Not that the gameplay helps this by any stretch. Everyone moves around like they’re wading through chest-high custard while the controls are twitchy and generally hard to grasp. It’s shocking that this was the way it had to be when Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 1 gamers were being given two brilliantly realised ways to experience WWE.
It’s clear that this game was rushed out to cash in the popularity of the Attitude Era and the hype around Sega’s Dreamcast. It wouldn’t be the last time this kind of thing happened but for anyone who snapped this up back in the day, there’s a feeling of being shortchanged.
7. WCW Backstage Assault
By late 2000 WCW was cratering in product quality and popularity. The ship was sinking fast, a fact not helped by the company allowing their name to appear on garbage like WCW Backstage Assault.
Published by EA (Yes, that EA) this amounts to a shameless cash-in on the few big names WCW still had on their books.
The game is lazily slapped together, taking place entirely in the backstage areas of WCW. This leads to cramped fighting areas that feel out of place with the WCW product on the whole.
It also exposes the clunky controls that underpin the entire experience, with some of the jankiest moves you’ll see this side of a D-Pad. Matches quickly descend into button mashing hellscapes.
There’s a momntum meter that you need ot build up in order to pull off special moves – even these lack the excitement they really should.
There’s no long-term appeal to this game and while the game features the big names like Goldberg and Sting, they play so terribly that you’ll struggle to stick with it for longer than an hour. A poor final showing for WCW, but not the only poor WCW game to make this list…
6. WCW Thunder
Attempting to ride the wave that WWF’s hugely popular Smackdown series unleashed, WCW Thunder arrived to try and offer its own spin on the fast-paced wrestling action.
Things start out positively enough as the game tried to up the immersion ante by giving all of its wrestler’s pre-match entrances. A novel idea for sure, if not almost entirely ruined by the actual gameplay that follows it.
It’s safe to say that the engine running this was laughably poor, slogging along like an old dog waiting to be put out of its misery. Everything in this game runs at a speed that will make you wonder what the hell is going on as wrestlers gallop along at breakneck speed.
This is only compounded by the control issues that make it hard to pull off anything but hopeful grapples. Because everything moves so quickly, it’s hard to take in what’s happening until it’s already occured. This makes matches against the CPU all the more frustrating.
Even on a graphical level, the game struggles to keep up with its competition. Everything looks dark and dull, with character models that bland and completely forgettable.
If you want a great WCW game, head over to the N64 were the franchise got the love it deserved.
5. WWE 2K18 (Nintendo Switch)
When Nintendo released its Switch console in 2017, many people were surprised by the success of the device. This probably goes some way in explaining why so many AAA publishers were rushing in the back half of the year to announce ports of their games for the system. Chief among them was 2K and WWE – announcing that the portable console would be getting its own version of WWE 2K18.
Even before the game launched, suspicions were aroused at the state of the project when a number of features were announced for the chopping room floor. No more 8-person matches and a huge graphical downgrade were the order of the day. Add in the fact that the game didn’t release alongside its counterparts, instead being pushed all the way back to an December release, and it’s easy to see why hype for this version of the game disappeared.
When the game did finally release, many probably wish it hadn’t.
The game arrived with a boatload of glitches and game breaking issues. Everything was affected. Entrances regularly de-synced while graphical glitches turned some of the games more cinematic moments into horror moments.
Perhaps the most shocking issue was the slowdown in the game when adding anymore than 2 people to a match. It made 6-person matches unplayable while 3 and 4 competitor matches suffered to a lesser degree. It rendered entire match types unplayable and gated off most of the games content.
2K attempted to remedy the issue by releasing a patch for the game – something that didn’t do much to make it better. When this failed, Switch owners were left high and dry with a version of the game that was effectively broken.
It’s telling that 2K opted not to release a version of its 2K19 game on to the system. A terrible experience that everyone avoid.
4. Celebrity Deathmatch
With wrestlings popularity proving too much for late-90’s culture to ignore, so to came the endless cash-ins on anything remotely related to professional wrestling. Celebrity Deathmatch was one of the biggest successes in this area – sadly its video game offshoot was not.
The game plays like a hastily assembled college project. You have the chance to power up and gain special abilities but there’s so much button mashing to get there that you’ll hardly have chance to use it.
Multiplayer is a drag while the barebones single player offers little for the gamer to get invested in. Because of the poor soundtrack, you’ll find yourself reaching for the mute button more often than not. It also doesn’t help that the games momentum meters are so slow to fill that it drags out matches to an awkward length.
There are plenty of great wrestling games on the PlayStation 1, this isn’t even close to the top of this list.
Avoid like modern MTV.
3. WWE Aftershock
The Nokia N-Gage was an ambitious console that ultimately fell short. It was neither a great phone nor a competent gaming device. With titles like WWF Aftershock in its roster of games – it’s easy to see why.
Aftershock tries to emulate its console cousins with all the success of a Jack Swagger Championship run. Characters are near impossible to make out on the consoles tiny screen, while controls are almost inoperable thanks to the N-Gage’s awful D-Pad
Worse still the multiplayer function was poorly realized, causing insane load times and was effectively unplayable. It is possible to get a small game going but the experience is so tiring and unfun that you’ll hardly want to bother. It’s frustrating enough to want to throw your N-Gage out the nearest window.
I can’t fault the ambition but we can laugh at the absolute shocker THQ Wireless forced out here. It’s telling that barely anyone remembers this game – I suspect that’s for the best.
Blame this one on WWE’s ever-increasing attempt to pander to The Rock’s ever-rising Hollywood star. They can’t keep him all to themselves, but they can certainly license him into oh so crappy spin-offs.
Taking cues from WWF Betrayal, the game sees you fight through various bland locals – beating up workers using touch gestures as prompted.
If this sounds tedious that’s because it is. Rockpocalypse is a car crash of poor ideas being crushed together with minimal effort. Everything looks cheap, feels cheap and sounds cheap, with Dwayne Johnson helpfully barking quotes and motto’s at you like an army sergeant.
This isn’t helped by the game delivering endless repetitive “bouts” that have all the excitement of The Tooth Fairy. The game doesn’t work on any level and because it’s designed entirely for mobile, there’s very little in the way of replay value. There is some variation in the type of combat you’ll see – but it all comes down to simple gestures and quick time events.
If that sounds like your kind of fun then more power to you. But given how heavily WWE pushed this game, it was hard to avoid. The worst game WWE have ever put their name to? I’d say so.
1. Simpsons Wrestling
It’s the early 2000’s and The Simpsons is everywhere. You couldn’t walk down the street without being greeted by some kind of tacky Simpsons merchendise. Around the same time, the Monday Night Wars were raging and audiences loved wrestling.
With two huge trends in their peak, it made sense to marry the pair in a video game and watch the money roll in. Roll in it very much did, but what audiences got may not have been something they really wanted.
Obviously this game was never going to touch the likes of Smackdown or No Mercy, but it’s staggering just how wide of the mark the game actually manages to shoot.
The actual “wrestling” is so awful that you can pretty much describe it as button mashing. See, each character has their own set of “special” moves. Moves like throwing bowling balls and beer jugs at each other. There’s very little in the way of grappling movesets, meaning that matches quickly descend into awkward punch/kick fests.
There are 20 characters to play as but they all move so terribly around the ring that you’ll struggle to find one you really like.
Visually the title looks like a poor fan recreation with assets ripped off the internet – with no attention to detail or attempt to make the graphics work in motion. You may think the game looks bad in screenshots, it only gets worse when motion is added.
If you’ve never played Simpsons Wrestling, you need to experience it. Purely for the shocking value of how poor it is.