ScreenCritics Shaun takes a long look across the WWE spectrum of games and ranks them worst to best. Where does your favorite come?
WWE games have taken many forms over the years. From spin-offs to Mortal Kombat clones – there’s always been variety in following the biggest sports entertainment brand. I figured it was a good time to look back at the best, worst and questionable entries that have come to define the WWE gaming experience. Let us know which games you loved and hated across the many, many years of wrestling games and spin-offs!
36. WWE Presents Rockpocalypse (iOS, Android, 2014) – WWE spent years tempting Rock back into the squared circle but this game plays like it was rushed out in an afternoon. Rockpocalypse is a cataclysmic mess of awful parts, clunky combat an some of the most dire gameplay you can imagine. If the repetitive music doesn’t drive you insane, Dwayne Johnson’s almost laughably poor quips will send you screaming. Terrible, terrible god awful.
35, WWE Rush Hour (PS2, GC, 2003) – When you think of the WWE product, there’s a good chance monster trucks don’t cross your mind. Sadly for everyone, the decision was made to experiment with this awful disaster of a spin-off game that played like bricks sliding across a frozen lake. The game looked awful, sounded terrible and controlled with all the grace of an elephant dancing through a fine china shop. It was magnificent in its terribleness and thanks to the limited cars on offer – there wasn’t much in the way of variety for the gamer to sink their teeth into. A true disaster.
34. WWF Royal Rumble (Dreamcast, 2000) – Let’s talk about WWF Royal Rumble for a second – the game that Yukes (Current developers of the WWE game) decided would be the way to celebrate Sega’s new gaming machine. To the games credit it looked amazing back in the day, way ahead of the PS1 and N64 offerings elsewhere. You could also have up to 9 wrestlers in the ring at any one time – a feat not repeated by the franchise since. Sadly this is where the good news ends – the game played like ass and came packing a whopping two game modes (Exhibition and Royal Rumble). On top of this the total roster measured in at around 20 wrestlers – effectively ruining the Royal Rumble. It was a tragically poor effort by all involved.
33. WWE Wrestlemania 21 (Xbox, 2005) – Perhaps the most bizarre of the “serious” WWE games. Development was handed off to Studio Gigante who opted to refresh everything with a new engine – it was a terrible idea. The game chugs along like watching two rocks fall on top of each other – with plenty of bugs and glitches to keep gamers amused. There was a huge selection of match types on offer but half of them were too awkward to experience thanks to a camera that was too interested in pointing at the crowd. The game also came boasting online gameplay – although this was limited to single player matches. Overall a terrible ending to the original Xbox’s terrible run of terrible WWE games.
32. WWF The Arcade Game (PSX, 1997) – Attempting to cash in on the popularity of the Mortal Kombat franchise – Acclaim opted to turn the wrestling experience into a more beat-em-up offering. The big problem with this however is that it isn’t nearly as good as that game; instead coming off like a pretender. The game tries to compensate for this by offering some wacky over-the-top moves (Undertakers fireball being a highlight) but the reality is this wasn’t a strong WWE game.
31. Raw 2 (Xbox, 2003) – Anchor’s final stab at a WWE game would also prove to be their worst. The game looked amazing but played like two slabs of meat bumping into each other. The game’s engine was a car-crash from the word go, causing issues and glitches galore as the game struggled to gain momentum. In this game you could win Championships by DQ. In this game your wrestler could be swallowed whole by the ring if you tried to tax the engine too much. In this game you could stand outside during the Royal Rumble and run in at 30 to bag the victory. So many bad decisions, so little attention to detail. It’s no wonder that Anchor were booted from the WWE license after this game. Tragically bad.
30. WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 (PS3/2, Xbox 360, 2007) – The bottom fell out of the SvR series here, with some incredibly poor additions to the franchise weighing it down like a Big Show main event. The most pressing of these was the introduction of wrestling styles – a decision that fundamentally changed the way the game operated. Yukes also decided to experiment with a new grappling system – although going off the results it wasn’t a very successful experiment. The introduction of 24/7 mode will either excite or bore you to death while the General Manager Mode is suffocated beneath horrible UI. A sign of how poorly thought out this game was – it was the first WWE game to feature the new ECW brand. Yet for some reason Yukes only decided to put 3 ECW wrestlers in the game. Awkward.
29. Legends of Wrestlemania (Xbox 360, PS3, 2008) – Legends of Wrestlemania is what happens when WWE and THQ get greedy for money. Having removed the entire Legends roster from SvR2009, they all magically turned up in this full priced retail game. Sadly this doesn’t play anywhere nearly as well as that game, instead opting for a bizarre throwback to the earlier PS1 style games. Button commands are heavily simplified while the Wrestlemania Highlights see you playing through some of the companies most storied moments and trying not to mess up the quick-time button prompts. I’d like to say this game was worth hunting down – but I’d be lying incredibly.
28. Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 (PS3, Xbox 360, 2010) – The wheels fall off the franchise again – as Yukes experimentation leads to a game that battles against its own mediocrity. The introduction of the Havok physics engine was terribly realized – causing glitches and bugs galore. The gameplay was awkwardly sluggish thanks to the introduction of the grappling system Yukes would go on to use over and over – which robbed the matches of any sense of speed. Yet it’s the introduction of Universe Mode 1.0 where things truly take a turn for the worst. Acting as an overbearing mother figure – it that ripped the fun out of exhibition mode. Now in order to enjoy matches against friends you had to use Universe Mode – which at this point was a fiddly mess if you didn’t play along with what the game wanted.
27. WWE Wrestlemania X8 (GC, 2002) – After their disastrous Royal Rumble outing – Yukes were handed the development reigns over on the Nintendo side of things – which probably explains why Wrestlemania X8 plays like garbage. No seriously, the controls in this game were so bogglingly bad that I ended up returning it the next day out of sheer boredom. Not that I was missing much – the game only allows two wrestlers in the ring at once. The trade-off is that you can chase up to 50 championship belts – but because so many of them are just exhibition towers there’s little incentive for gamers to stay the course. Even graphically the game looked lacking next to PlayStation 2 offerings. Awful.
26. WWE Raw (Xbox, 2002) – Microsoft’s Xbox finally joined the WWE party with the introduction of Anchors Raw series of games – they’ll wish they hadn’t bothered. While the game looked amazing thanks to the Xbox’s graphical grunt – the game played like two action figures smashing into each other. The engine that underpins the game was so tragically bad – so woefully inadequate that matches didn’t flow at all. The game mechanics are also tied to what I would say is the worst momentum system ever dreamed up for a WWE game. The limited career mode and poor create-a-wrestler options weren’t helped by a shallow selection of match types that felt laughable next to Smackdown!’s immense offerings. To add insult to injury – this would be the last PC version of a WWE game until WWE2K15 – almost 13 years later. What a way to go out.
25. WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 (PS3, Xbox 360, 2009) – With one hand THQ gave gamers the deepest create-a-superstar mode ever seen in a WWE game; allowing you to take your created star into any mode and gain attributes through organic growth. With the other they removed a large section of the moves you could give your custom superstars – resulting in an army of custom superstars using the same 4-5 strikes. The Rivals aspect was fun though, with the game organically throwing rivalries at you even if you weren’t actively seeking them. This leads to a pre-Universe vibe that greatly adds to the games appeal. There were some nice ideas here, let down by lack of depth.
24. WWF In Your House (PSX, 1996) – One of the earlier PlayStation WWE games would also turn out to be one of the strangest. The limited roster (10 wrestlers only) combined with the small pool of match types means that there’s little variety on offer here. Yet the gameplay is solid, the animations well designed and the sense of fun that emanates throughout is evident. That plus the fact every Superstar has their own super-finisher – from Bret Hart dropping a Championship belt onto his opponent’s head through to Undertaker raising the dead to finish off his opponent. It’s a mixed bag for sure – but a lot of fun regardless.
23. WWE Wrestlemania XIX (GC, 2002) – Notably better than the X8 offering – Wrestlemania XIX focused more on a Revenge Mode that lent the game a unique sense of purpose. Sadly this takes the focus away from the actual wrestling and instead sees you wandering around building sites beating up workmen, blowing up skyscrapers and crashing barges. If you’re wondering “what the hell?!?” you’re not alone, gamers weren’t too impressed either. It’s a good thing that the mechanics for the actual wrestling part of the game was beefed up considerably. Here you could have 4 wrestlers in the ring at once, have more than just singles matches and play as a fair few of the company’s top stars. But it’s hard to get over the feeling that this game was really awkward and trying too hard to be different.
22. WWE2K15 (PS4/3, Xbox One/360) – The writing was very much on the wall when two weeks before release, 2K released a shopping list of features that had been cut from the game. Out went the entire custom creation suite that 2K14 had brought in, as well as the create-a-diva option. It was a harrowing experience for fans – who were left with a barebones game that felt rushed and incomplete. The career mode for example ends abruptly just as it got going, skipping out all the parts gamers would want to play through. Overall it was a terribly thought out game that robbed fans of what they wanted and signaled an awkwardly brutal culling of the features fans had come to expect from their WWE games.
21. WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 (PS3, Xbox 360, 2008) – Attempting to escape the dumpster fire they’d started with SvR2008 – Yukes pulled everything from the game and started over. This unfortunately leaves Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 feeling exceptionally barebones – with the entire Legends roster, career mode, fighting styles, custom championships and a huge selection of the create-a-wrestler mode being brutally culled. This was the first SvR game to feature the “Road to Wrestlemania” mode – a single player experience that attempted to create the drama of the TV product. Also rather bizarrely the game had a huge focus on tag-teams, yet other than hot-tags there wasn’t anything added to make it feel more exceptional. A weird game for sure.
20. WWF Warzone (PSX/N64, 1998) – The first real attempt to mimic the WWE television product managed to herald in the age of 3D wrestling games rather well. Now you could have up to 4 competitors in the ring at any one time. As well as this the roster ballooned quite nicely to include a large number of the 1997 WWF upper and mid-card – offering fans variety. The inclusion of the Royal Rumble and a career tower added replay-ability to the game – as well as the introduction of create-a-wrestler. Gameplay isn’t the strongest offering; but was certainly a different change of pace for Acclaim and the WWE license.
19. WWF Attitude (PSX/N64/Dreamcast, 1999) – Taking the groundwork laid down by WWF Warzone, Attitude threw in a heap of customisation. Here you could make your own arenas, create detailed custom wrestlers and even set the ring rope colours. The game also threw a heap of new additions into the gameplay side of things – upping the match types to include first blood, King of the Ring and handicap matches. Sadly all this progress was offset by the ageing engine which creaked and groaned under the strain of these new additions. The player focus in particular left a lot to be desired – the game would shift gamers focus without much regard for what was going on during matches. It ultimately set a high bar – but was unable to escape the limitations of Acclaim’s engine.
18. WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 (Xbox 360, PS2, 2006) – The first HD-era entry in the WWE canon of games and also marks the first time a Smackdown! Branded game had been released on non-Sony consoles. The game upped the graphics while barreling down on the realism – introducing weight classes and limiting moves to particular sizes (no more Mysterio body slamming Big Show). The game features an absolute mountain of content – some of which would be heralded down the line as *new* again down the line. With an extensive match selection, a deep custom superstar mode, create-an-entrance, create-a-stable and the ability to spin your little spinner belt as you came out – there was plenty to enjoy here. Sadly the online was dead on arrival – with horribly designed UI and laggy matches putting any dreams of finally having the true WWE online experience to bed.
17. WWE Day of Reckoning 2 (GC, 2005) – There’s nothing notably wrong with Day of Reckoning 2 – it just doesn’t do anything new. The career mode carries on from the ending of the original, except this time around the impressive story lines give way to tedious melodrama. As for everything else – it’s pretty much just a reheat of the original game. This includes the best and worst aspects of that gameplay.
16. WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth! (PS2, 2002) – It was becoming quickly apparent that Yukes had settled into a familiar pattern by this point – Shut Your Mouth repeating many of the beats that Just Bring It! had been beating just a year prior. The biggest change was the way the brand extension affected career mode – now you could leap between brands and define the direction of your career. The graphics were also a notable step-up for the series. Unfortunately it’s hard to get over the feeling of deja vu – Shut Your Mouth! delivering too familiar an experience to truly be considered one of the more memorable Smackdown! games.
15. WWE 2K16 (PS4/3, Xbox One/360, 2015) – Realising they’d messed up big-time, 2K went on the charm offensive and employed Steve Austin to be the face of the game’s story mode. It was a great mode and helped to soothe a fair amount of the fan frustration. The re-introduction of the creation suite, custom divas and a fully fledged career mode also improved matters greatly. That being said the games weird focus on pre-match mini-games was tedious and felt wholly unneeded – while the changes to Universe Mode left it feeling sterile and largely unfun. A lot of the dynamic nature was removed in a misguided attempt to add spectacle to cut-scenes.
14. WWF Smackdown! (PS1. 2000) – The first Smackdown game completely shifted focus from all previous outings – opting for a fast and furious arcade style of game that threw emphasis on pace and less on technical ability. The game had a huge roster of Superstars and reveled in the new direction it was heading in. The game also introduced backstage areas (Something that’s being marketed as new in the upcoming 2k17!!!) and allowed gamers to dive into a career mode that was both deep and enjoyable. Sadly for all this good work – the game was riddled with bugs and glitches that regularly saw it crash and experience hefty load times; and came packing one of the worst create-a-wrestler modes offered up in this generation of games. This game was more about laying the groundwork for what came next.
13. WWE2K17 (Xbox One, PS4, 2016) – 2K17 was more of the same – playing it safe and delivering a more cinematic experience. Now gamers could have their Universe’s play out with intros, proper promos and one of the largest rosters ever in the series. Yet despite this, it’s hard to not feel slightly let down by the features removed. With no cinematic showcase, the games single player component is lacking incredibly – while a lot of the commentary within the game is awkwardly outdated.
12. WWE 13′ (PS3, Xbox 360) – The last THQ published WWE game was also one of their best. From a gameplay perspective things were left largely unchanged – the main additions coming in the form of classic campaigns that played heavily on nostalgia. The Attitude Era RTWM was hugely fun and gave the developers reason to bring in a number of classic wrestlers – never a bad excuse. Sadly the Universe Mode went back to being a bit rubbish in this one – lacking the dynamic feel of WWE 12’s mode. But still, it was a marked step forward overall – even if it all felt slightly too familiar.
11. WWE Day of Reckoning (GC, 2004) – Yukes finally get their act together on Gamecube – delivering a surprisingly polished and well thought out WWE package that shone bright. The career mode was engaging, deep and dare we even say better than anything offered up in other WWE games. They also finally got around to giving the Gamecube games a decent match engine – one that worked and felt like a logical way to experience WWE games./ The cost of this was a slightly reduced roster and a removal of game modes – much to the annoyance of fans. But hey – it’s still a great game to this day and heavily underrated to boot.
10. WWE 12′ (PS3, Xbox 360, 2011) – A year of refinement for the franchise. Out went the Smackdown vs. Raw name – in came the streamlined marketing of THQ. The game tightened up a lot of SvR2011’s bigger issues – refining the gameplay experience and finally getting more of a balance between the TV product and fun gameplay. The graphics also enjoyed something of a notable boost. On top of this, Universe Mode actually worked this time around and was relegated to its own menu; freeing up the exhibition mode once again. Sadly it wasn’t all smooth sailing – the game launched with some horrible glitches that required patches and free DLC to sooth angry gamers. There was also some questionable use of DLC – as most of the companies Divas were locked away behind paid DLC.
9. WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 (PS2, PSP, 2006) – The final PS2 exclusive WWE game also happens to feel the most like the beginning of the current crop of “serious” games. Here the arcade focus is heavily toned down in favour of a more faithful recreation of the TV product. The graphics are greatly improved too – polished and hugely impressive for a late PS2 game. The decision to have career mode remain a linear story arc was frustrating – but the introduction of General Manager Mode (a precursor to Universe Mode) helped to soften the blow.
8. WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain! (PS2, 2003) – Here comes the pain was very much the refinement of all that had made the Smackdown! games so popular over the years. It tried to change-up a few of the games mechanics – and updated a heap of the games assets but really it was still very much the exact same game we’d been playing 12 months prior. But it’s the polish and level of detail that sets this game apart. It feels like the culmination of years of progress – the refinement of a formula that was in need of change but knew it was doing well for itself. Here Comes the Pain! is arguably the *best* Smackdown! game – though by this point the series on the whole was in desperate need of fresh blood.
7. WWF Wrestlemania 2000 (N64, 1999) – By this point AKI had made a name for themselves churning out WCW games. It opted to bring that engine over to the WWF license – a real treat for fans. WWF Wrestlemania arguably captures the tempo of wrestling better than most games thanks to its well thought out mechanics and the clever use of ambiance music to signal tension. The career mode was largely forgettable but the fact you could chase Championships, have rivalries that spilled into the exhibition mode and features a stack of match types that were popular among the WWF fanbase at the time. A great package and severely overrated in the WWF canon of videogames.
6. WWE 2K14 (PS3, Xbox 360) – If I had to point to one modern WWE game that I felt captured the spirit of the better wrestling games – it would probably be this one. 2K14 came packing a huge selection of creation suite tools – allowing you to create entrance videos, finishers, Championships and more. Not only this, it managed to do the Wrestlemania RTWM better than the dedicated game from a few years prior. Overall the package was hugely impressive and thanks to a bolstered roster and the ability to allow Divas their own brands – fans had everything they needed to finally craft the WWE experience they wanted.
5. WWE All Stars (PS3, Xbox 360, 2011) – An incredibly fun game that felt more like a classic offering than anything related to the current product. The whole thing was designed to poke fun at wrestling and managed to find a great gameplay spot for itself as a more arcade outing. On top of this the graphics for this game were well realized – the cel-shaded look afforded the over-the-top proceedings a level of intensity that modern games have lacked. Overall an incredibly fun game and one that WWE and 2K should really consider going back to at some stage.
4. WWE Smackdown vs Raw (PS2, 2004) – The first in the long SvR series of games would see a huge amount of changes. Out went the much-loved career mode and deep customization of the previous Smackdown game. In their place however came full voice-acting, hugely improved graphics and the introduction of pre-match mini-games. This was also the first WWE game to include online multiplayer – ruined slightly by the presence of bra and pantie matches being one of the only two modes available.
3. WWF Smackdown! Just Bring It (PS2, 2001) – The first PlayStation 2 WWE game felt more like a refinement of the hugely popular WWF Smackdown 2! than a proper sequel. The graphics were bumped up while the gameplay retained the hugely addictive appeal of its predecessor. The game also went and ejected the career mode – allowing the gamer instead to have open reign on how their career played out by making choices that would define their experience. It’s not a huge step up in quality – but it’s certainly a fun first outing on the PS2.
2. WWF Smackdown 2: Know Your Role! (PS1, 2000) – Without question the WWE game most people remember. Coming out less than a year after its predecessor, KYR! opted to refine and polish the original Smackdown games core experience – delivering a more rounded experience that captured the white-hot popularity of the TV product in late 2000. The backstage area became a labyrinth for gamers to explore – the tweaks to gameplay impressive while the create-a-superstar mode was beefed up massively. Add in more match types, an extended roster and a career mode that mimicked the TV storylines of the time and there was plenty to love in this package. Sadly for all this praise – long load times still dogged the game. But hey – this was by far and away the best WWE game on the original PlayStation and holds a cherished place in many gamers memories – for good reason.
1. WWF No Mercy (N64, 2000) – Many WWE games have come and gone – but none have captured the spirit of the TV product nor the sheer enjoyment of the WWE product as well as WWF No Mercy. The game is stuffed to the ceiling with new match types (TLC, Tables and more), a huge roster of wrestlers to choose from and one of the most compelling career modes the WWE games have ever delivered. Outside of this the level of customisation was impressive – allowing you to edit Superstars or clone them to make your own wild edits. But it doesn’t end there. The game plays with great pace, rewards risks and even came packing a backstage area. There’s so much in this game to enjoy and it was a true treat for WWE fans – who were given plenty to enjoy and plenty of reasons to love the game all these years later. It may not look much by today’s polished WWE game standards – but that doesn’t stop it from being a cut above 2K’s current offerings.