In the gaming industry, it’s often said that fans and critics alike can tell when a game is going to be a success with the first few moments of play.
For fans of the realm of wrestling video games, that’s not always the case. Sometimes it takes a while to realize how great a game really is. Other times, however, it just clicks from the moment you step inside the virtual ring.
The genre has seen its share of ups and downs throughout the last few decades, but for every terrible game like WCW Backstage Assault there is a gem that still gets played and cherished years later. But what are the best of the best? Well, that’s where we come in.
Here are Fightful’s Best Wrestling Games Ever that don’t feature the WWE.
**NOTE: This list contains no games under the WWE license. Fightful’s best WWE Video Games ever can be found here**
Pro Wrestling (NES)
For its time – and please keep that in mind – Pro Wrestling for the NES was praised for its visuals and gameplay. After all, up until then, there was nothing like it ever released.
It was the first time that friends could just sit together on the couch, floor or whatever it may be, step inside a wrestling ring, and just pummel each other. It made for hours of fun, and though it doesn’t hold up much today, it was still one of the best wrestling games ever.
Def Jam Vendetta (PS2 and Nintendo GameCube)
I know what you’re thinking: “There's no way this is a wrestling game.” To that I say, have you ever played the game?
When WCW went down and all that was left was WWE, EA/AKI had no where to go in terms of wrestling games. Enter Def Jam Vendetta, an over-the-top title that featured the likes of Ludacris, DMX and Method Man, among others.
The game continued to showcase the impressive mechanics of the AKI engine – that will get mentioned more throughout – and brought along a new way to play with friends. Screw fighting with pro wrestlers, it's better with celebrities. If only Celebrity Death Match could've used the AKI engine.
WCW/NWO World Tour (N64)
Before there was WWF No Mercy and Wrestlemania 2000 on the Nintendo 64, there was WCW/NWO World Tour. This is the game that brought the popular AKI Engine to the forefront of the wrestling games industry, changing everything that came about thereafter.
The engine provided the building block of the best gameplay engine the genre has ever seen, and is still widely praised as being one of the best in-game engines in video game history. This game brought WCW to life for the first time for fans, and still is just has fun as it was nearly 20 years ago.
Fire Pro Wrestling Returns (PS2)
For fans that love customization, look no further than Fire Pro Wrestling Returns on the PlayStation 2.
If you wanted a game with authentic rosters, arenas and familiar gameplay, you were left out in the cold with FPW Returns. However, fans into creating a dream federation from scratch to play with would absolutely fall in love with this game.
The wrestlers were clearly based off of real-life superstars, but there was just so much more to do that you never really paid attention to that. Hell, there was even the Barbed Wire Deathmatch to enjoy. How badass is that?
WCW/NWO Revenge (N64)
It’s the third and final appearance of the AKI Engine on this list, and it’s just as deserving as the first two. The follow up to World Tour, Revenge featured more stable gameplay, improved graphics, more moves, and a larger roster.
It wasn’t as revolutionary to gameplay as its predecessor, but it was a great game in many other aspects. It featured a larger roster, a championship mode, wrestler entrances, more expansive multiplayer and was the best third-party game on the N64 at the time. If you haven’t played one of the two – World Tour or Revenge – yet, it’s about time you find a way to do so.
Total Extreme Wrestling Franchise (PC)
Total Extreme Wrestling, or TEW as it’s more commonly known, may very well be the least-known game on this list, but it’s by far one of the best.
It’s a text-based title like those of the Out of the Park Baseball and Franchise Hockey Manager style of games that allows players to take control as a booker, president or whatever title you can think of at your very own wrestling organization. The game comes preloaded with generic federations and rosters, but there are mods that feature real-life companies and wrestlers.
It’s a game that allows you to live out a wrestling fan’s dream: run an organization. Take a small, no name promotion and build it towards competing with the big dogs. Or, if you so choose, take control of the top promotion in the industry and separate yourself from the competition even more. If you can think of it, you can do it in TEW.