Video games have long centered around fighting in one way or another. Even outside of fighting game classics like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, there are plenty of genres that focus on kicking, punching, and pummelling your way through waves of enemies. Arcade classics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a great example of beat ‘em up games that feature plenty of fighting without being a pure fighting game, though the Turtles would eventually make the leap into the Injustice series of fighting games in 2018.
Wrestling games have always been big business for video game companies, particularly the WWE franchise of games which dates back to 1989 with WWF Superstars in arcades. This trend has continued through to today, with the WWE 2K series set to continue with a 2022 version this year. There are plenty of mobile offerings from the franchise as well. You can find a wrestling-themed slot on Gala Spins, named WWE Legends Link and Win, which uses the branding but doesn’t put you in combat action. Mobile players who want greater control over the action in the ring can try out WWE Mayhem, which combines the over-the-top moves and personalities that the franchise is known for with the freedom to take the game on the move.
Though they have been the biggest name in wrestling for generations now, there are plenty of wrestling-themed video games that don’t use the WWE license and still manage to be brilliant. They don’t always get as much recognition but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth celebrating, so here are a few of our all-time favorite non-WWE wrestling games.
King of Colosseum II (2004)
Many people don’t realize how big professional wrestling is in Japan, but the country has a long and storied history of providing some of the most elaborate characters in the sport’s history. As a result, many of the best wrestling video games never got a Western release, which is a shame because King of Colosseum II is a great game for wrestling fans. It features personalities from various Japanese companies like New Japan Wrestling and Pro Wrestling NOAH and the biggest stars they had to offer. The rosters is huge and varied and the fighting is a fun mix of chaotic action with deep controls and reversals available to players who want more skill from their wrestling games.
WCW Vs. NWO: World Tour (1997)
WCW was the last real challenger to WWE’s dominance of the wrestling world. Other companies may get there soon, but no one has made the big dog sweat quite like WCW did in the 90s. Built with the personalities of so many of the best-known wrestlers of all time, such as Hogan, Sting, and Randy Savage, the company did its best to take the top place from WWE, including putting out some great video games. WCW Vs. NOW: World Tour combines a fast-paced match format with all the iconic moves of some of the sport’s biggest names. The multiplayer feature is especially fun on this one and stands out against many of the other wrestling games of the time.
Def Jam Vendetta (2003)
This wasn’t the first foray into combing professional wrestling with hip hop, but it was certainly one of the best. This is the game that started the Def Jam series of games, which has seen a bit of a comeback in recent years, according to NME. It pits well-known rappers like Ludacris, Method Man, and DMX against the main character, who is looking to make his mark on the world of underground fighting. It plays out like an elaborate rap battle combined with a flurry of wrestling moves, which shouldn’t work but it absolutely does in this case.
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