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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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The History of Wrestling Video Games


One of the biggest money earners for the professional wrestling business has been the video game market. From the very beginning, with the older graphics, limited amount of characters, and slower gameplay, fans have always ate up the wrestling videos and enjoyed them. Today, with the impending release of WWE 2K15 on XboxOne and PS4(furthering the technology), I wanted to take a look at the history of video games in wrestling and even list some of the best and worst.

Early on, with games such as "WWF Wrestlemania", "WWF Wrestlefest" and more, fans had to chance to play as their favorite characters from the WWF programs. WCW even got into the business with their "WCW Wrestling" video game, and sold around 100,000 copies, which for the early 90s, I'd suspect was successful. The graphics were as well crafted for the times as they could have been, and the gameplay also fit where technology was at the time. After that first era however from about 1989-1992, wrestling video games did seem to take a slight hit, which could be considered an indicator of where the business was at the time anyways. However, in between 1992-1996(the second wave of the wrestling video game era began in 1996 IMO), there are a few notable games.

Those were just a few of the games that were released between 1992-1996. I actually really enjoyed "WWF Royal Rumble" as it was one of my first wrestling games period. I remember getting it on Super Nintendo and playing it as much as I could. I also had "WCW Superbrawl", but I didn't enjoy it as much. I played a few other games during this time(Blockbuster video game rentals were a thing of greatness), including the "WWF Wrestlemania Arcade Game", which was so outrageous yet extremely fun. The period in wrestling from 1992-1996 was pretty animated as far as TV and PPVs go, and the games were definitely a reflection of that as well. As that animated era slowly started to wind down, we got ONE last game that really reflected how strange the period was......


Now before you judge me, I will say that as a kid, I enjoyed the hell out of "WWF In Your House" on Playstation. I played this game faithfully and thought it was one of the greatest things ever. But, I was young, and didn't look at the details that we see now as adults when judging game quality. However, this game was absolutely ridiculous. Overblown moves, strange locations to fight in, and more, everything just seemed to be a bit off with it despite being pretty fun. To me, this game marked the ending of the overly animated era and started up a pretty interesting era in wrestling video game history. We might still be in that era somewhat to be honest, as the games haven't really had a HUGE fall in quality or promotion/sales. However, I'll break this down to what I consider was the greatest period in wrestling games, which coincides with what some people considering the greatest period in wrestling history.... 1997 to 1999/2000. Here are some of the games that were quality, and a few that stand as some of the best wrestling games of all time.


There's no surprise at the two listed right here I'm sure, right? WWF No Mercy, in most circles is considered the greatest wrestling video games of all time, with good reason. The game still holds up to this day, as does WCW/NWO Revenge. N64 was knocking games out of the park with solid gameplay, innovative ideas, and just all around great. When speaking of some of the best games of all time, these two are definitely on the list. However.... without talking about them too much, there were a few clunkers in this era..... such as....


"WWF War Zone" and "WCW/NWO Thunder" were terrible. Not much more can be said outside of that really, but to elaborate, the gameplay on both was atrocious. Both of the WCW games(the other being Nitro) were hilarious despite having pretty good graphics, and Thunder takes the cake with their hilarious "Pick Me" videos that you got before choosing your character(Alex Wright FTW). Some games like "WWF Smackdown 1 and 2", "WCW vs The World", and others were in between as far as quality, but they definitely sold well and made their mark. That's why that era is looked at as the best, despite some missteps. With the Playstation 2 era, there are a few great games to be talked about as well. WWE was really the main dance in town for Playstation 2, and here are the two best games that came out of that era.



Those Smackdown games on Playstation 2 are some of the greatest games of all time. Both of those games had great stories, gameplay, and a stacked roster of characters that had me up late hours playing them. They still hold up to this day even a full decade later. However..... during the Playstation 2 era(Xbox and Gamecube included) there were a few clunkers.... which ones you say?


These two were absolutely terrible. "Wrestlemania XIX" video game had wrestlers fighting security guards in the storyline and getting thrown out by Stephanie McMahon. It's terrible. "WWE RAW 2" was just doomed to be bad... I mean look at the damn cover. Goldberg, Triple H, and Scott Steiner? Talk about setting yourself up for failure. Now, there's one game that's probably the WORST of all time, and I'll just leave this here without saying ONE word.


Now, let's not forget that are some NON-WWE licensed games, as well. Some good, some bad, but there have been some.


To be fair, "Fire Pro Wrestling Returns" is looked at as one of the greatest games ever, while the TNA game and "Legends of Wrestling" series are not looked favorably. I believe the TNA game had amazing graphics, and was nearly flawless in that respect, it's just the gameplay completely sucked. "Legends of Wrestling" was a great concept, but with Acclaim behind the game, it was destined to be a dud, and it was. As we moved forward into the most recent era, the Playstation 3/Xbox 360 era, the WWE games started to be more and more similar, with not much of a difference, especially in the "Smackdown vs RAW" series. The "Smackdown vs RAW" became very popular and sold great, almost being the "2K" or "Madden" series for wrestling in some respect. I did enjoy a few of the "Smackdown vs RAW" games, and I'll list those that I did below.

Those games above were either decent or pretty good, but it was obvious the WWE franchise was in need of a reboot. And coincidentally, after "Smackdown vs RAW 2011", they would have a big change actually with "WWE '12" debuting. The game was designed to be different from the previous "Smackdown vs RAW" series, BUT it really didn't hit its stride until we arrived at "WWE '13", which innovated with its epic Attitude Era mode.

"WWE '13" really kicked off the next wave for WWE games, and this was evident when 2K took over the WWE gaming license shortly after. What was spawned from that was the very enjoyable "WWE 2K14", which featured the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode. Now, to be honest, while "WWE 2K14" was enjoyable, it still lacked a HUGE mark for staying power. This has become the issue with WWE games overall, and as well gear up for the release of "WWE 2K15", one has to wonder what will be done to increase hours of gameplay as well as staying power. There's rumors of a WCW mode, a NXT mode, and more to come. The biggest news so far for "WWE 2K15"

That's right, the man they call Sting will be a part of the game, which only furthers the speculation of a WCW mode in the game. After decades of games, it almost seems that we are at a crossroads with wrestling video games. It is still a market full of profit for the business, and people will continue to pump money into the games every year(myself included usually), but can we on the verge of a new era starting for wrestling video games? I've heard rumors of a ROH game at one point, and I would honestly LOVE that, and be in line to buy it if it came out. That remains to be seen, but one can only hope that WWE and 2K put on something epic that will stand out as a classic game. Wrestling video games will always be viable and always be fun for the moment, I just hope we get something like those classic Playstation, Playstation 2, and N64 games that we will be talking about a decade later....

Time will tell, right?

-True
@truegodimmortal 

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