Whether you don’t know the difference between a mark and a bump or you can name the main event of every WrestleMania, you’re probably aware of at least some of the absolute best wrestling games of all-time. Titles like SmackDown: Here Comes the Pain, WWF No Mercy, and WCW/NWO Revenge have transcended the popularity of professional wrestling itself and have become a part of many gamers’ fondest memories.
Yet, there are some forgotten wrestling games that are still worth remembering. While it’s true that there are well-defined tops and bottoms in the wrestling game hierarchy, there are also a few titles somewhere near the middle that have been unfairly lumped together even though some of them deserve a spot near the top of the card with the undisputed legends of the wrestling game scene.
So join us as we look at 20 of the most underrated wrestling games of all-time:
20. Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special
1994 | Human Entertainment | Super Famicom
Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special’s status as one of the earliest wrestling games with a substantial story mode is noteworthy enough. However, what really makes this one special is the fact that one of the game’s scenarios writers was Suda51: the legendary game director known for some of the weirdest games ever made.
True to form, this game is weirder than you could ever imagine. I can’t think of another wrestling game that ends with the protagonist killing themselves after realizing that their championship win is hollow due to the pain and losses they suffered along the way, and while I’m grateful no other game has tried something like that, this title’s dark and bizarre story should at least make it more talked about than it typically is.
19. Natsume Championship Wrestling
1994 | Natsume | SNES
This is hardly the best wrestling game on this list (clearly), but it does represent a fascinating turning point for wrestling video games that is sometimes overlooked.
This game combined two eras of wrestling games by featuring the more simplistic arcade style of many early console wrestling titles with a few concepts (such as an advanced fatigue system) that would go on to help shape the more complex wrestling games that would define the years to come. If you like that classic style of wrestling game, this is one of the best ways to revisit it.
18. Wrestling Revolution 3D
2014 | MDickie | Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Mac, Ouya
Let’s be clear: this is a very bad game. It’d go so far as to call it objectively bad in many ways. However, it’s the fact that the game is so bad that makes it so much fun.
Considered by many to be maybe the only example of a “So bad, it’s good” wrestling game, Wrestling Revolution is slow, awkward, broken, and clearly made with love. At a time when so many of the recent yearly WWE games end up being glitchy messes anyway, there’s something to be said for a game that embraces its glitchiness and usually leads to a lot of laughs.
17. WWE ‘13
2012 | Yuke’s | PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
As suggested above, there’s a point where it’s hard for all but the most hardcore WWE game fans to distinguish recent WWE titles from one another. Maybe that’s why WWE ‘13 is sometimes forgotten when we’re talking about the best relatively modern wrestling games.
This game’s best feature has to be its “Attitude Era” story modes which let you relive some of the best moments from WWE’s most beloved period. More importantly, this game benefited from pretty good animations and a hit detection system that made it feel good to play years before the clutter of this series’ engine would drag these titles down.
16. WCW vs. The World
Given that PlayStation gamers spent years lamenting that N64 owners got to play WCW/NWO Revenge and WWF No Mercy (two of the best wrestling games ever), I’m shocked that we don’t hear more people praise WCW vs. The World.
Essentially the predecessor to those brilliant N64 games made by AKI, WCW vs. The World is by far the closest PlayStation gamers came to getting a wrestling game on the level of the best N64 titles. It’s pretty rough compared to those titles, but I can’t help but think of the years I spent missing out on this true gem.
15. WWF War Zone
1998 | Sculptured Software, Acclaim | PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy
Granted, it’s not nearly as good as the best wrestling games of its era, but at a time when WWE (then WWF) was enjoying an incredible popularity resurgence, WWF War Zone allowed fans to live out a truly special era of wrestling.
War Zone’s roster is a time capsule of that era that includes a fascinating blend of big-name stars and notable novelty acts. Its gameplay could have been much smoother, but the game’s presentation and graphics made it feel special. It’s still one of the better PS1 wrestling games of its era and is sure to invoke a strong sense of nostalgia.
14. Legends of Wrestling II
2002 | Sculptured Software, Acclaim | PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance
Legends of Wrestling II’s appeal was (and always will be) its roster. This game’s roster of legendary wrestlers includes some names that still haven’t been included in modern WWE titles. The list of superstars in this game includes Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Mil Mascaras, Bam Bam Bigelow, and many more legends.
The game’s appeal goes beyond its roster, though. The game’s territory-based story mode, which lovingly recreates the structure of ‘80s wrestling, is one of the most inventive ever featured in a wrestling game. It even lets you recreate the famous feud between Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman.
13. TNA Impact!
2008 | Midway Games | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Nintendo DS
TNA Impact was not a great game. Its roster was thin, its gameplay needed a few more months in development, and it just didn’t have nearly enough modes and features to compete with WWE titles. However, the one thing TNA Impact did have was the benefits of the TNA name.
It turns out that counts for quite a lot. Developed during the arguable peak of TNA’s talent level, Impact allowed you to play as everyone, from Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe to AJ Styles and Abyss. On top of that, the game benefited from its impressive presentation and a surprisingly deep story mode. It was far from perfect, but it was and is a must-have for any TNA fans.
12. MicroLeague Wrestling
1987 | MicroLeague | Commodore 64, Amiga, DOS, Atari ST, AmigaOS
MicroLeague Wrestling is arguably the most obscure, odd, and fascinating game on this list. Released for Commodore 64, Amiga, DOS, and Atari ST, MicroLeague was actually a professional wrestling strategy game that allowed you to decide matches and careers through a series of turn-based commands.
It may feel hopelessly outdated today, but MicroLeague Wrestling was a surprisingly advanced concept at a time when wrestling games were dirt simple. It would be fascinating to revisit this concept through some kind of modern wrestling management game.
11. The Main Event
1988| Konami | Arcade
You’d think that a wrestling game released by Konami in 1988 would be better known, but The Main Event has somehow managed to mostly escape the scrutinizing lens of history. That might have something to do with its unlicensed roster that was only vaguely (and hilariously) based on actual wrestlers.
Still, The Main Event should have been a stepping stone for bigger Konami arcade wrestling games to come. It featured deep wrestling gameplay (for the time) that served as a preview of some more notable wrestling games to come.
10. WCW Wrestling
1989| Nihon Bussan | NES
The NES wasn’t exactly known as a haven for great wrestling games, but WCW Wrestling still deserves to be remembered above most of its console contemporaries. Somehow, though, memories of it remain relegated to the few that played it and are not always as fond as they should be.
WCW Wrestling not only offered WCW fans the chance to play as some of their favorite wrestlers of the era, but it included features such as an expanded ringside area and customizable move sets that were ahead of their time. This game certainly remains one of the most playable of its generation.
9. WCW Mayhem
1999| EA | PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy
It’s generally agreed that the N64 got better overall wrestling games than the PS1, but it’s simply a fact that the N64’s WCW games were better than those featured on the PlayStation. However, WCW Mayhem did offer PS1 gamers a taste of something pretty good (especially if they missed out on WCW vs. The World).
Granted, Mayhem was a poor man’s version of the WCW N64 wrestling games (its canceled sequel was going to be developed by the same team that made those N64 games), but it was unfairly overlooked by many PS1 gamers who were burned by too many bad wrestling games over the years. Of course, the game’s N64 version was less impressive in comparison to its direct competition.
8. Power Move Pro Wrestling
1996| Yuke’s | PlayStation
Power Move Pro Wrestling was originally based on the NJPW promotion, but it seems that fears over the international popularity of that promotion (at the time) caused the NJPW stars to be replaced with generic wrestlers with NJPW move sets. That decision stands as this game’s most glaring weakness.
Otherwise, this is a solid wrestling title for its era. Power Move Pro Wrestling was released on the cusp of an incredible generation of wrestling titles, but even though it lacks some of the refinement and features of those games, it does boast some admirable 3D gameplay that was head and shoulders above many other wrestling games at the time.
7. WWE Raw 2
2003| Anchor Inc. | Xbox
The WWE Raw games for Xbox were generally not as strong as their GameCube and PS2 counterparts, but they have been unfairly swept under the rug by fans that feel that they had very little to offer.
WWE Raw 2 actually boasted a few features that would soon become standard. The most notable of those features is the game’s “Create an Entrance,” which not only let you create custom Titantron videos but even let you import your own music. Raw 2 also featured an interesting RPG-lite story mode that complemented its more arcadey elements.
6. Fire Pro Gaiden: Blazing Tornado
1994| Human Entertainment | Arcade, Sega Saturn
Fire Pro Gaiden: Blazing Tornado was a 1994 Arcade/Sega Saturn game that combined elements of Saturday Night Slam Masters, Street Fighter, and more “traditional” pro wrestling games. It was a strange hybrid that was sadly overlooked by too many gamers.
Blazing Tornado is more of a fighting game than a wrestling game, but the ways that it incorporates grappling and other pro wrestling elements make it one of the more notable games of its kind. Its visuals are also enjoyable in a cartoonish kind of way.
5. WWE WrestleMania XIX
2003| Yuke’s | GameCube, Wii
While WrestleMania X8 and XIX would eventually be spun into the overall superior Day of Reckoning titles, WrestleMania XIX deserves to be remembered both as the forerunner of that series and for its wonderfully absurd story mode.
WrestleMania XIX’s story mode saw you seek revenge on Vince McMahon by fighting regular employees and other wrestlers across construction sites, barges, malls, and other random locations. The goal is to cause enough havoc to ruin WrestleMania. It’s a glorious piece of “who came up with this?” game design.
4. Wrestle Kingdom 2
2007 | Yuke’s | PlayStation 2
Wrestle Kingdom 2’s release date is notable not only because it’s the newest game on this particular list but also because it was released at a time when major wrestling games were veering more into “simulation” territory, a time when wrestling games stopped catering to more casual players.
Well, Wrestle Kingdom 2 happens to be “arcadey” and accessible in all of the right places without sacrificing depth. Its gameplay is deep enough for genre masters, but can also be picked up fairly quickly. The fact that it so happens to feature some brilliant tournament modes along with an impressive collection of Japanese stars is just the bow that tops this gift to wrestling.
3. WWE Smackdown! vs Raw 2006
2005| Yuke’s | PlayStation 2, PSP
“Underrated” might be a bit of a stretch in this instance considering that those who love this game place it alongside the greatest wrestling games ever made, but the fact remains that not enough gamers know that this is an absolutely brilliant wrestling title.
In fact, some believe this to be the perfect middle ground between SmackDown: Here Comes the Pain’s lovably ridiculous gameplay and the more grounded games that would follow in this series. SvR 2006 includes an unbelievable number of match types, a very welcome general manager mode, and pick up and play gameplay that some at the time compared to the timeless WWF No Mercy. It deserves to be remembered as a classic.
2. King of Colosseum II
2004| Spike | PlayStation
While there are quite a few Japan-only wrestling games that would qualify as underrated in the West, many consider King of Colosseum II to be the crown jewel of that particular crowd. With its massive roster, deep grappling system, and incredible create-a-wrestler mode, this game is often thought of as the closest we’ve come to a 3D successor to the Fire Pro Wrestling series (it was made by the same team responsible for many of the early games in that series). It’s a shame that it was never exported to the West.
1. Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generation
2002| AKI Corporation | GameCube
Many people know that AKI Corporation, developers of those classic N64 wrestling games like WWF No Mercy, went on to develop the first two excellent Def Jam titles. What fewer people remember is that AKI also developed this absolute gem of a wrestling game.
Essentially an anime wrestling game, Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generation sees good and evil wrestlers battle across the universe. Bolstered by AKI’s all-time classic grappling gameplay, Ultimate Muscle proves to be a wonderfully over-the-top wrestling game that’s just as fun to watch as it is to play. Imagine if DragonBall FighterZ and WWF No Mercy had a video game child. This is what you’d get, and it’s better than you can imagine.