FELIPE CRESPO: Recently a big gaming site made a top ten wrestling games list. It sucked. We’re here to rectify that travesty with a Travisty, ain’t we, Moody? But, before I continue, you will not see the any of those old arcade games on my list. They were barely wrestling games and were just brawlers with wrestler sprites. I feel we sunk quarters into them because we had nothing better available. If you’re into them, cool, but they won’t be on here.
TRAVIS MOODY: And I’m allllll about them. I wasn’t much of a retro gamer until my visit to Japan earlier this year, and even there I discovered a retro wrestling game that stole my heart (and zero yen, since the arcade was a mod– aye!!). After growing up pretty much only loving pro wrestling games, I fell off them hard in my mid-20s. Yup. That means I hardly played any of the 600 Smackdown vs. Raw games. I didn’t return to the squared circle up until much later with THQ’s WWE ’12. This should be fun.
FELIPE: 10.) WWF Royal Rumble (Dreamcast) – This game was not great. And it’s features? Bare-bones. The one thing that made it mind-blowing? That first time you see a whopping nine wrestlers in the ring at once. It was its only gimmick, but damn if it wasn’t memorable and fun. – 3/5
MOODY: 10.) Pro Wrestling (NES) – If it wasn’t for Starman, Kin Korn Karn, Fighter Hayabusa, Giant Panther and The Amazon, who knows where my wrestling video game interests would lay? I know a lot of early WWF and WCW titles on NES don’t ever make any of these lists, but Pro Wrestling is def the game that paved the way for interest in those that elevated the SvR‘s, 2K’s and Fire Pro’s of today. And how infectiously ridiculous was that in-ring song? – 3.25-3.5/5
FELIPE: 9.) WWE Superstars (3DS) – Probably the most arcadey entrant on my list, the game had a limited roster and a basic CAW mode that felt thrown in together. What made it stand out was the awesome action figure art style and combination of fast combos, over-the-top finishers, and solid grappling mechanics; I loved how technicians could link moves together. – 3.25/5
MOODY: 9.) *TRIPLE THREAT TIE* WCW vs. The World (PS1) / WCW vs. nWo: World Tour (N64) / WCW World Championship Wrestling (NES) – I fucking love classic WCW games; so much so, that I can’t between any of these. The earliest, known as Super Star Pro Wrestling in Japan, had Eddie Fucking Gilbert in it. Now you can have the Rick Steiner vs. Michael P.S. match of your dreams! I even begged my mom to take me to the downtown library to dig into any rare video game tip book (remember them paperbacks?) that listed rosters profiles and any additional info, and will never forget the final boss who looked like Evil Uno but was really just supposed to be Andre The Giant in an snuff movie mask. Sick.
(cont.) As for WCW vs. The World, I’m not sure I ever played a wrestling video game more than that one. Like, actually played and not just spent days creating a Universe Mode or hours downloading CAW’s in Creation Suite. Just look at these modes, though, bro: League Challenge, Best of Seven, Exhibition, Elimination, Tournament, League, and Double Title. It had only 13 WCW characters, but an insane list of Japanese talent (everyone from “fictional” Liger to Kensuke Sasake to Bruiser Brody to Karl Gotch to Giant Baba even fuckin’ Sabu!). This is when my love for international wrestling really started to roll. World Tour took things even a step further with handicap matches, battle royals and the inclusion of the nWo that boosted the talent numbers. Thankfully, the fictional Japanese wrestlers remained. – 3.5-3.75/strong>/5
FELIPE: 8.) WWF No Mercy (N64) – It’s on my list pretty much be default and because at the time, I loved it as much as all of you. Everyone gushes over this one. I’ll give you a bit of a reality check. Look, I had a ton of fun with this game when it came out too. The ladder matches? So much fun! That satisfying crunch of moves landed on the ladder? So good… But that was ages ago. Far superior games have come and gone. Not only has it aged badly (don’t @ me; be objective), but a lot of you also need to take off the nostalgia glasses. – 3.5/5
MOODY: 8.) Toukon Retsuden 4 (Dreamcast) – This would be much higher on the list.. but I only played it one night. That happened earlier this year, on one very lucky, late as hell Wednesday night in Shinjuku, Tokyo, when my pals sent screenshots of this ’99 Yuke’s New Japan wrestling gem to our Wrestle Kingdom trip WhatsApp chat. I immediately rushed my Domino’s devouring, comfortably Dynamite-watching ass from my hotel down onto the train to get there to play it. Toukon Retsuden 4 has over 35 New Japan legends — including those from MMA (i.e. Don Frye) and CMLL (i.e. The Great Sasuke) — that just expands on an already plentiful roster: Jushin Liger, Keiji Mutoh, Riki Choshu, Antonio Inoki, etc etc. The game plays better than Fire Pro when it comes to full contact, but def felt far more dated and laggy. Still, I wish I had a PS4 port with all the modes. – 3.75/5
FELIPE: 7.) WWF Smackdown! Just Bring It (PS2) – Take Dreamcast’s RR, take away one wrestler from the max number of people in the ring, and add in a ton more features and modes, better gameplay, and you’ll get JBI. It was the first to introduce 6-man tag matches, 8-man battle royales (which wouldn’t return until 2K18), the ability to edit everyone’s movesets, and the ability to set two different finishers. – 3.5/5
MOODY: 7.) *TIE* WWE ’13 / WWE 2K14 (PS3/Xbox 360) – WWF/WWE wrestling games sure came along way from the cheese of NES’s WWF WrestleMania Challenge (which deserves mention on this list as the best WWF game ever on Nintendo) to THQ/Yuke’s WWE series. Back in 2012, I only gave WWE ’13 a 3-bible score. Looking back, it’s arguably the second or third best 2K game, without even having been published by 2K at all. Why? Universe Mode. Maybe I reviewed the game way too fast, since that awe-inspiring simulation took months to develop. You know how each 2K wrestling game fucked up/eliminated/made false promises about “1000’s of new cutscenes” in sequential Universe modes and never followed through? WWE ’13 had the best Universe cutscene algorithm ever. My Universe was so on-the-money and unbelievably awesome that year I live-blogged it on the Operation Sports Forums almost daily. Just ask our Apostle, Anthony. With 2K14, 2K Games made a seamless transition from THQ, giving us even more CAWs, an awesome 30 Years of WrestleMania mode, a chance to relive The Dead Man’s Undefeated Streak, an incredible Creation Suite, nWo DLC and a cover with who else but “The Great One”. – 3.75-4/5
FELIPE: 6.) WWE ’13 – The last THQ title before the 2K takeover. This one holds a special place in my heart because of a small, but amazing detail. It had what is probably the best responding fast finishers in any wrestling game. The transitions from one to the other were almost seamless. My favorite example: while nearing the end of a triple threat between Punk, Orton, and Cena, I’m getting up outside, Cena ducks under a kick from Punk, picks him up for the AA (I’m running into the ring), hits it, I start running towards Cena and hit the running RKO right as he starts getting up… Pin him for the win. Wrestling fans know that details like this make or break a game. – 3.75/5
MOODY: 6.) Fire Pro Wrestling World (PS4) – Fire Pro is robust with customization, designed as a pick-up-and-play arcade shell deep in simulation; that said, it’s been quite the adjustment from my years with WWE 2K. You can’t just mash buttons and spam reversals. But what separates this juicy international retro dish from the aforementioned is the ability to have every wrestling move ever, the ability to create — and keep! — every pro wrestler ever, and almost every damned near wrestling match type ever. Now with Fire Promoter, tons of New Japan and Stardom characters and the ability to import theme music via USB (“Yes! Yes! Yes!”), there’s no doubt that this will be the game on this list that doesn’t ever look to age. – 4/5
FELIPE: 5.) WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain (PS2) – Another near perfect blend of arcade accessibility and wrestling goodness. This gem has one of my favorite rosters ever. Angle, GOLDBUUURRRGG, Austin, Lesnar, Edge, RVD, and.. Chris Fucking Benoit (not here to discuss what happened, his in-ring work is forever God-tier). This game also has some of my favorite animations before everything went mo-cap; some moves just looked better hand-animated with some exaggeration. And last but not least: Five Star Frog Splash off the SmackDown fist and the KOTR electric chair. Magnifique! – 3.75-4/5
MOODY: 5.) WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain (PS2) – I never had a PlayStation 2, but this was, by far, my biggest regret not owning that console. I hated all of my friends who owned it, and even begged many of them to let me join their “season.” Damn, where did all my allowance money go to? What I also remembered was how amazing Here Comes The Pain kept track of records, title reigns, win-loss record, and every other stat that helped the Son of a Bi..llionaire Tony Khan create what is now known as All Elite Wrestling. 16.5 years ago, this game was pretty fucking elite. – 4-4.25/5
FELIPE: 4.) SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 (PS2) – To this day, it’s still the best game for hardcore and specialty matches. Carrying moves worked perfectly and chair moves –grapple and ground– looked and sounded great. Conchairtos always looked flawless… Feels like after this one, you can still do these things, but they always just look “off”. Favorite spot I’ve yet to recreate and have it look as good: RKO to Edge off the top of the ladder through two stacked tables. The tables were too close to the ropes and I landed outside. Orton got up first, but both took forever to get up. Such good shit. – 4/5
MOODY: 4. WWE 2K19 (X1/PS4) – Repetitive commentary, in-match glitches, poor hair physics, questionable superboosts, and pointless Big Head/minecraft stuff aside (“Really?”), this is the best WWE 2K video game since its inception. Everything else about the game was a huge improvement and wowed me with every gameplay session. MyCareer was everything anyone could ask for, Showcase was a warm return to form, and Universe Mode was fucking baller. Throw in a plethora of modes and match types and WWE 2K19 earns its Undisputed presence into the Wrestling Video Game Hall of Fame, Bay Bay! – 4.25/5
FELIPE: 3.) Fire Pro Wrestling 2 (GBA) – FIRE PRO ON THE GO!!! I feel I don’t need to elaborate more. It pisses me the fuck off that this is the last time we had a to-go FPW available to us, at least stateside, so many moons ago. I’ll legit nut if FP arrives on Switch. – 4/5
MOODY: 3.) WCW/nWo Revenge (N64) – I might be the only video game/pro wrestling journalist with four WCW games on their list. Sure, I cheated with the 3-way tie earlier, but at least one game rose above the Dubya See Dubya greats: WCW/nWo Revenge. While I admittedly played far less of this game than the other WCW entries on the list (because that’s the age I was old enough to go to 18+ nightclubs, sleep with high school seniors, etc.), Revenge had a juicy 60+ roster sans Flair (loved the fictional New/All Japan wrestlers soooo much) and, better, any wrestler could alter attire if they went to another faction. Hell, DDP could join nWo Japan, making the fun single player and tournament modes that much more fun. AKI’s grappling system was superior to any other button-masher, too. – 4.5/5
FELIPE: 2.) Fire Pro Wrestling World (PS4) – This was neck and neck with #1. Not enough good things can be said about FPWW. Nearly every wrestling move in existence, the deep NJPW roster (and anyone you want to create or search for), the beautiful stamina-based simulation gameplay. I have some gripes, like the ridiculously oversized ring and chore of landing running moves, but the pros far outweigh the cons. I spread my cheeks over any list that doesn’t have this treasure in its top 5. – 4.5/5
MOODY: 2.) WWF No Mercy (N64) – It pains me to put this on the list, especially so high, when everyone else and their grandma has this #1 and cries every time a 2K wrestling game comes out and isn’t “No Mercy”. It’s annoying AF. That said, there’s no disputing the fact that this is the essential pro wrestling video game. It just has everything. To think that 20-years later we struggle to find a suitable replacement, although many jaded wrestling gamer geeks missed out on The Next Best Thing in 2K19. But damn if No Mercy didn’t open upon its “creation suite” and “backstage arena” doors to every gaming possibility. Hell, we still don’t have special guest referee matches in games. And that story mode. That’s the one. That’s the element almost everyone craves, so organic, with a near limitless trail of story branches. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll ever get that feeling back. – 4.5/5
FELIPE: 1.) WWE 2K19 (PS4, X1) – I can’t believe my #1 went to a 2K title. And at one point, I was going to put it at #2, but 2K19 is that damn good. From the way things are looking, it’s possibly the last great entry in the 2K series. It had near every match type imaginable, every big specialty match (one department in which it readily beat FPWW), and a simply lovely attention to detail. Reactions to 2.5 counts, more than one counter to moves (fuck you, 2K18), tired pins (even crawling over to pin!), actual rope breaks, and certain wrestlers pulling down their straps as special taunt! So much attention to detail, it’s ridiculous…. Though yeah, commentary will forever be grade-A USDA organic basura. – 4.75/5
MOODY: 1.) WWF WrestleFest (Arcade) – ‘Cause I used to get goosebumps whenever this cabinet appeared within 20 feet from me at my local mall movie theater. Bro, it was so special, and after playing it on 3-4 different occasions in the past couple years — thanks to the rise of barcades that all appear smart enough to include it – WrestleFest still is that. Just the opening cinematic promo of Million Dollar Man, Andre and Virgil was enough to sell me on the excitement. Throw in the most colorful characters during that era, fun tag matches, and a battle royal mode with more wrestlers in the ring at one time that any console game for years could ever handle, and this 1991 classic never feels old. If I ever own an arcade cabinet at a future residence, you can bet this will be the first one eating my friends’ quarters. P.S. I know the official sequel, RetroMania, is on its way to Switch, PS4 and Xbox, but, without a WWF license, is it really official? Well, it does has Cobb, Road Warriors and Zack Sabre Junior, so I guess I’ll have no choice but to peep! – 4.75-5/5
-Felipe Crespo & Travis Moody