The following is a part of my list of my Top 10 All-Time Favorite Games. There may be spoilers ahead, so read with caution. Please make note that I rated these games not out of quality relative to other titles but in the order of how much fun I had with each of them and how important they are to my personal gaming history.
Wrestling games were always hit-or-miss back in the day. Too many different developers worked on the many iterations of World Wrestling Federation-licensed games and most of them presented the combat more in the vein of fighters or brawlers. Sure, it worked fine, but it never really captured the right feel of what I was seeing on the television.
See, I was a on again/off again fan of “sports entertainment” for a long time in my childhood. I was maybe seven or eight years old when I saw my first wrestling Pay-Per-View, and I remember loving every minute of it. A couple years later, The Undertaker debuted at a Survivor Series and I was captivated. The guy had presence, mystique, and he somehow instilled a fear in me that nothing had at the time. It was a turning point in my interest level, for sure.
Fast forward to the late 90s, when the nWo storyline began in World Championship Wrestling. Former WWF greats were leaving that company and heading over to Ted Turner’s promotion, but the angle was that they were intending to overthrow everything that WCW was. They cut promos like they were truly rebellious of the system, pissed off the right “good guys,” and even turned a few over to their cause. The movement was infectious.
The WWF also began what is know as “The Attitude Era” during this time in response to the competition. This saw the beginning of Degeneration X, the growth of Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the rocket-like rise to power of Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock. It was a grand time, and I grew to appreciate the medium for what it is; a display of charisma mixed with physical prowess.
But the games never reflected this, and it was difficult to deal with. There were a couple titles that got close, but didn’t quite get it right. Then, out of nowhere, a miracle happened…
The Nintendo 64 ushered in a new era of wrestling game thanks to publisher THQ; one that was unmatched in quality and customization while doing a wonderful job of capturing the atmosphere. Graphically, not very impressive, but it was the wrestler creators in the latter titles that I fell in love with. After setting up the basics, diving into the move list was worth the effort. So many of the roster’s signature moves were available and I loved being able to pick the best that fit my character. Nothing was better than beating my opponents down and putting them out with the Outsider’s Edge; a move pioneered by the great Scott Hall.
There were a few games made of this type. The original was WCW/nWo World Tour which was great, but featured a roster filled with fictional characters. It would be its follow-up, WCW/nWo Revenge, where the games found their stride. A roster consisting entirely of real grapplers, the ability to build custom characters, real theme songs… everything just came together perfectly to make for the greatest games to feature the wars within the squared circle.
Which takes us to the in-ring action. The devs of these games did such a fine job of making them easy to pick up and play. Reversals were a simple button press as long as you timed it just right, and the grappling system was perfectly designed. Press A for light, hold for strong, and then a direction plus A or B to execute a move. This gave each wrestler 16 basic grappling moves, not to mention strikes, turnbuckle, and special moves. I had many a battle against friends and never hated a second of it.
When the WWF regained their supremacy among the companies, THQ moved over to them for the final two games of this style, but Revenge will always be the one that I consider my favorite. If you have an N64 and any interest in the “sport,” I implore you to check out this game. It’s a total blast and, as Diamond Dallas Page would say, you’ll certainly feel…the…BANG!!!
I just wish they had made a proper kickass Extreme Championship Wrestling game. That would’ve been sweet.