From the classic Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown weekly TV episodes, to the ever so popular Wrestle Mania, wrestling has been one of the most popular sports in the world.
Some people have been very critical of wrestling over the years, but contrary to their belief, the numbers favor wrestling fans. Back in 2016, Wrestle Mania practically sold out AT&T Stadium with a recorded attendance of over 101,000. The hype is still real for wresting even after all these years.
Much like any other sports game, from FIFA 20 to NBA 2K21, there’s also a yearly wrestling game produced by 2K Games. 2K Games’ WWE 2K series has become the standout game in the wrestling genre over the last decade or so, but that’s not to say there haven’t been other stand out games beforehand. The series has been running since 2000, and WWE 2K20 is set to release on October 22nd.
For you die-hard wrestling fans who are looking to get some fighting in before you hit the ropes in this year's 2K installment, we’ll take you through the top five wrestling games of all time.
5. WWE 2K17
At the time of its release, WWE 2K17 was praised as one of the all-time great wrestling games. 2K was getting more in-depth with some of the overall physics and mechanics of how a wrestling game should be played.
One of the letdowns of WWE 2K17 was the exclusion of one of the staple game modes that was introduced in WWE 2K14 (don’t worry wrestling fans, we’re going to talk about this one later). The mode was a part of the iconic game mode series, which features Wrestle Mania showcase in previous games but was nowhere to be found this time around.
For the vast majority of players, this didn’t seem to affect their overall feelings about the game. With previous 2K editions being more in your face and not so concerned with the overall combat of the game, 2K17 was the one where they really dove into the nitty-gritty of the game. With a new rotational mechanics system and a more well-balanced feeling from top to bottom, this was 2K’s best crack at wrestling combat ever.
Here's another reason fans thought this game was one of the best: you could play as the Four Horsemen, which made many wrestling fans ecstatic.
4. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007
The SmackDown vs Raw video game series has perhaps some of the longest standing memories with wrestling fans over the years. Ever since this new course of wrestling video games took over the space, many fans have forgotten about some of the classic wrestling video games. But SmackDown vs Raw 2007 was one that should never be forgotten. This was the first time in the series that it took a drastic turn, from the actual gameplay to the way the career mode was laid out for players to tinker with.
During matches, and for the first time ever in this series, players could take the fight outside the ring and into the crowd. This opened the door for an array of new moves and hardcore fights that could happen anywhere in the venue.
The stamina bar for fighters was also introduced in SmackDown vs Raw 2007. This added a new sense of realism for the matches, as we were no longer able to just fight to our heart's content. Wrestlers needed breaks every now and then just like they do in real life.
This has become one of the most iconic games in the wrestling genre, and it’s without a doubt the best SmackDown vs Raw game of all time. Many die-hard fans are still playing it to this day.
3. WWF Wrestlefest
WWF Wrestlefest is the only arcade game that we will mention on this list. The game was released all the way back in 2001. For a game that was produced back then, the graphic style is rather unique and pops out to the player when playing. This was the type of game where you could spend dollars upon dollars in quarters just to keep playing it at your local arcade. The combat was smooth. The animations were so crisp for a game of its time. It’s no wonder it was made available at a majority of arcades.
Another benefits of WWF Wrestlefest was the character roster from which players could choose. With wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Demolition, Jake Roberts and Legion of Boom, Wrestlefest really had one of the best wrestling rosters of the era. A wide variety of household names blended with a few respectable fighters. There were no complaints when it came to the roster.
2. WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain
One of the common criticisms of modern-day wrestling games is the kid-friendly portrait that developers have to put out when they’re planning their next hit title. Many long-time wrestling game players have criticized 2K Games for turning the series into more of a simulator with actual wrestling rules rather than what WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain brought us. Released in 2003, this was one of the original wrestling games to release on the PS2, and it's still widely considered one of the best titles. As the game’s name suggests, you could 100% bring the pain to your enemy in any way possible, something that is far from achievable during recent iterations of 2K Games’ take on the sport.
There was no limit as to what you could or could not do back in 2003, and developer Yuke’s took this concept and ran with it. When you think of a wrestling game, you think of bold, outlandish, and impossible moves, much like the TV versions of the sport. This is what was possible in Here Comes the Pain. Players could literally throw your opponent off of a building. There was even a chance of getting in a helicopter and diving out of it to chest pound your enemy. To this date, WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain is still considered one of the best wrestling games of all time.
1. WWE 2K14
2K Games’ first real take on the series came in 2014 after SmackDown vs Raw developer, THQ, closed doors due to bankruptcy. This opened the door for 2K Games to come in and get their first real shot at the wrestling community. Although 2K Games’ work was done with their NBA 2K series, fans' expectations were sky-high for the upcoming wrestling game. And WWE 2K14 did not disappoint. It’s widely seen as one of, if not, the greatest wrestling games of all time. 2K has yet to replicate a game like it to this date.
The career mode of the game features more than 40 of the best wrestling matches of all time for players to partake in, which was a first for any wrestling game. It was also the last game set to be played on the previous game consoles, as many game developers at the time were transitioning to the newest consoles. The combat is widely considered to be some of the best, with fluid mechanics from top to bottom. Another mode that still draws fans back to WWE 2K14 is the aforementioned Wrestle Mania showcase mode in which we could replicate over 40 of the greatest wrestling matches of all time. There’s no better wrestling game to round off our list, and fans are hopeful for 2K Games to hit a home run with their launch of WWE 2K20.
What are your favorite wrestling games of all time?
Let us know in the comments below!
Top image via GameStop
This article was written by Nick Farrell, an experienced journalist who aims to provide insightful yet proactive articles daily.