September is Arcade Month, where we present tons of unique columns, reviews and features about wrestling video games.
For nearly 40 years, wrestling video games have been a great outlet for wrestling fans and gaming fans alike to simulate the action of the squared circle on consoles, computers and at the arcade. And despite hundreds and hundreds of titles being made available over the years, how does one determine which are the very best?
In our case, we recruited our resident Grappling Gamer, a/k/a Adam Zimmerman, to help us come up with a list that's reflective of Arcade Month. Check out Adam's Grappling Gamer page for more than 70 in-depth reviews.
In counting down the Top 50 Pro Wrestling Video Games, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories considered the following criteria:
How memorable is the title, years or even decades later?
What kind of impact did it make on the industry?
How innovative was the title compared to previous iterations, or even competing game lines?
How much did it help wrestling fans gain a deeper appreciation for the sport?
Note that some titles from the early days of video gaming aren't nearly as advanced as some titles today, but for this list, Adam and I made some changes to If you'd like to be a part of this conversation, Tweet us at @canadianbulldog using the hashtag #Top50, or leave a comment below.
Ready? Here we go!
ECW Anarchy Rulz
ECW Anarchy Rulz was released in 2000 and was the second (and final) video game release by Extreme Championship Wrestling. Available on PlayStation and DreamCast, the game used a similar engine to WWF War Zone, adding in several violent match types to replicate the rowdy fun of ECW.
World Championship Wrestling
World Championship Wrestling was the first console game for NWA/WCW, released in 1990 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Featuring NWA stars such as Ric Flair, Sting and The Road Warriors, the game allowed players to choose their own movesets and introduced us to the dreaded WCW Master.
WWF Raw was released in 1994 for Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Game Boy and Game Gear, and was the final WWF title of the 16-bit era. Unlike previous games, Raw had an arcade-like grappling system, over-the-top finishing moves and even featured a female competitor (Luna Vachon).
Tecmo World Wrestling
Tecmo World Wrestling was released in 1989 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The roster was based entirely on fictional characters such as El Tigre, Jackie Lee and Boris Chekov. The lower-third of the screen featured the commentary of Tom Talker and cut scenes were shown when a wrestler performed their finisher.
WCW SuperBrawl Wrestling
WCW SuperBrawl Wrestling was released in 1994 for Super Nintendo and was a vast improvement over previous WCW titles. In addition to having a memorable character-select screen, the game introduced news characters to the gaming world, including Vader, Johnny B. Badd, Ron Simmons and Brian Pillman.
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 was released in 2009 for a variety of gaming consoles. While it was the latest in a long series of SmackDown vs. Raw titles, this edition introduced a third brand (ECW) to the mix and an innovative Create a Storyline mode -- as well as half a dozen new or retooled match type options.
WWE WrestleMania XIX
WWE WrestleMania XIX was released in 2003 for Nintendo GameCube. A departure from some of the other wrestling games available at the time, WrestleMania XIX replaced the traditional Story Mode with something called Revenge Mode, with players fighting off wrestlers and security guards until finally facing Vince McMahon at WrestleMania.
WWF War Zone
WWF War Zone was released in 1998 for PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Game Boy. The title was revolutionary at the time as many of the 18-wrestler roster hadn't appeared in video games previously. In addition, there was a first-ever Create A Wrestler function, unlockable characters and alternate outfits for each wrestler.
WWE SmackDown!: Shut Your Mouth
WWE SmackDown!: Shut Your Mouth was released in 2002 for PlayStation 2 (and is actually the first "WWE" title in history). Building on previous SmackDown titles, this game has an extensive story mode, two different brands (Raw and SmackDown), and marks the first video game appearances of Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton, among others.
WCW Nitro was released in 1998 for PlayStation and Nintendo 64. In addition to 16 playable characters, Nitro had another 48 that could be unlocked, including Bobby Heenan, Mean Gene Okerlund and the staff from game developer THQ. Nitro's graphics were a vast improvement over previous WCW titles.
TNA Impact! was released in 2008 for a variety of gaming consoles (and re-released two years later for handheld consoles) and was the first and only title for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. This title marked the gaming debuts of Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and others, while introducing us to the character Suicide.
The Main Event
The Main Event was released in 1988 as an arcade cabinet. Featuring a wide variety of moves (especially for the time), the game had advanced graphics and look-alike characters for Hulk Hogan, Ricky Steamboat, King Kong Bundy and Andre The Giant, all of whom competed in a tag team mode.
WCW vs. The World
WCW vs. The World was released in 1997 for PlayStation, and was WCW's first title in several years. The game pitted several established WCW stars, including Hulk Hogan, Sting and The Steiner Brothers, against international competitors (lookalikes of The Great Muta, Tatsumi Fujinami, Sabu, Ken Shamrock and others.
WWE Day Of Reckoning
WWE Day of Reckoning was released in 2004 for GameCube. The title was a departure from the SmackDown vs. Raw series in terms of overall gameplay and its comprehensive story mode, the latter of which continued on into the 2005 sequel Day of Reckoning 2.
WWF Superstars was released in 1988 as an arcade cabinet. Players could choose between six top WWF stars and create a dream tag team, going through other teams on the roster until facing the boss characters of Andre The Giant and The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase.
Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium
Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium was released in 1996 for the Super Famicom (Japan's Super Nintendo) and was easily the most advanced wrestling video game of that era. In addition to a complex series of submission moves, the title included lookalikes of Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, The Great Muta, Jushin Liger and others.
WWE All Stars
WWE All Stars was released in 2011 on a variety of gaming consoles. Graphically, the title was a huge change from the traditional SmackDown vs. Raw series, with a more cartoony, arcade feel and pitting current WWE stars against legends including Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage.
Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generation
Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generation was released in 2002 on the Nintendo GameCube. Based loosely on the M.U.S.C.L.E. series of toys and anime series, the title was a hybrid wrestling and fighting game, marrying cartoonish yet realistic wrestling action into a 3D format.
WWE 2K17 was released in 2016 on a variety of console platforms. The title was the fourth WWE game released by 2K Sports and featured the video game return of Bill Goldberg, improved customization options for characters, arenas and titles and better AI for multi-person matches.
Def Jam: Fight For NY
Def Jam: Fight For NY was released in 2004 for PlayStation 2, XBox and GameCube. The sequel to the aforementioned Def Jam Vendetta, Fight For NY adds different disciplines of fighting (including MMA) into the mix and adds the likes of Snoop Doog, L'il Kim and Carmen Electra into the mix.
WWE SmackDown!: Here Comes The Pain
WWE SmackDown!: Here Comes The Pain was released in 2003 for PlayStation 2. The sequel to the aforementioned Shut Your Mouth game, this title introduced the Elimination Chamber, boasted a playable roster of more than 50 wrestlers, and gave the gaming world its first looks at John Cena and Batista.
WrestleMania: The Arcade Game
WrestleMania: The Arcade Game was released in 1995 for (duh) arcade cabinets, although quickly released on several consoles as well. Borrowing its fight mode from Mortal Kombat, eight WWF superstars compete in over-the-top, cartoonish fighting action in pursuit of the WWF World or Intercontinental Championships.
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2006
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2006 was released in 2005 for PlayStation 2. The second title in the SmackDown vs. Raw series, this game introduced a General Manager mode, as well as the ability to create your own entrance. In addition, the title added more realism to match play and added 20 superstars to the roster.
WWF WrestleFest was released in 1991 for arcade cabinets. The sequel to the aforementioned WWF Superstars, this game featured enhanced graphics, cut scenes between matches, tag team and Royal Rumble mode and The Legion Of Doom as unplayable boss characters.
WWE 2K14 was released in 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and XBox 360. The title was the first to be created by 2K Sports and was a complete overhaul of the popular SmackDown vs. Raw series. New features for 2K14 included a 30 Years of WrestleMania story mode that captures more than 45 matches, and an opportunity to replicate The Undertaker's entire WrestleMania streak to that point.
WWF Super WrestleMania
WWF Super WrestleMania was released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis systems. The console game featured a roster of eight to ten wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan, Ted DiBiase and Randy Savage, and included for the first time a Survivor Series elimination match feature.
WWF Royal Rumble
WWF Royal Rumble was released in 1993 for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis systems. The sequel to the aforementioned WWF Super WrestleMania, this game featured a Royal Rumble with a roster of a dozen top WWF stars. Players could use steel chairs as weapons and knock the referee out.
Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes The Neighborhood
Backyard Wrestling 2 was released in 2004 on PlayStation and XBox. The title had an underground feel to it, battling with plunder in people's backyards and featuring a roster that included The Insane Clown Posse, New Jack, The Sandman, Vampiro, Sonjay Dutt and yes, several female adult film stars.
Legends Of Wrestling II
Legends of Wrestling II was released in 2002 for PlayStation 2, GameCube and XBox. The game featured a variety of unsigned (by WWE at the time) legends, including Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Bret Hart and Bruno Sammartino. While the gameplay lagged the WWF/E titles at the time, it still boasted a huge roster.
WWE Survivor Series
WWE Survivor Series was released in 2004 for the Game Boy Advance. Unlike previous handheld console games, Survivor Series boasted different match types and a story mode, plus a roster of 16 wrestlers including John Cena, The Undertaker, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels split between dual rosters.
WWE Legends of WrestleMania
WWE Legends Of WrestleMania was released in 2009 for the PlayStation 3 and XBox 360. It was a departure from the SmackDown vs. Raw series in that it focused on WWE Legends and main eventers in dream match scenarios. You could also receive interference from legendary managers and reinvent history.
WWF In Your House
WWF In Your House was released in 1996 for PlayStation, Sega Saturn and, believe it or not, MS-Dos. Unlike traditional wrestling games, this title had a cartoony, arcade-like feel to it, in which a roster of 10 wrestlers including The Undertaker and The British Bulldog battled in customized rings/arenas and had Mortal Kombat-esque finishing maneuvers.
Pro Wrestling was released in 1986 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Not affiliated with any wrestling promotion, the graphics are quite advanced for their time. The game features six generic grapplers (including the now-iconic Starman) working their way up to face boss character The Great Puma.
WWF SmackDown: Just Bring It
WWF SmackDown: Just Bring It was released in 2001 for PlayStation 2, and is the predecessor of the aforementioned Shut Your Mouth title. This was the first WWE game to feature running commentary through matches, as well as two finishing moves for each wrestler. Just Bring It also featured the wrestling video game debut of Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst!
Natsume Championship Wrestling
Natsume Championship Wrestling was released in 1994 for Super Nintendo. A variation of the All Japan game Zen-Nippon Pro Wrestling Dash, this game featured 16 ficticious wrestlers based on AJPW counterparts, and was graphically an improvement over many of the 16-bit wrestling titles offered by WWF and WCW at the time.
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 was released in 2006 for PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and Xbox 360. This title improved the grappling system from previous SmackDown generations and featured more than 60 current and vintage playable characters, plus a variety of classic arenas to compete in.
Def Jam Vendetta
Def Jam Vendetta was released in 2003 for PlayStation 2 and GameCube. The game featured a variety of hip-hop artists including Ghostface Killah, Ludacris and DMX battling against your player in a variety of underground wrestling matches. The engine is similar to WWF's No Mercy and features a substantial story mode.
Showdown: Legends of Wrestling
Showdown: Legends of Wrestling was released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2 and XBox. The final chapter in the Legends of Wrestling series, this title added The Ultimate Warrior, Dusty Rhodes Jake The Snake Roberts and many other unsigned legends, battling in dream match scenarios and in legendary arenas from years gone by.
Saturday Night Slam Masters
Saturday Night Slam Masters was released in 1993 as an arcade cabinet, and later re-released for several console platforms. The title is a combination wrestling and streetfighting game, and uses Street Fighter 2-esque characters to enhance the action.
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 was released in 2010 for a variety of game consoles. It was the final installment in the SmackDown vs. Raw series, adding a WWE Universe mode with scenes that created storylines featuring Rey Mysterio, John Cena, Chris Jericho and others.
WWF WrestleMania 2000
WWF WrestleMania 2000 was released in 1999 for the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color. The title featured more than 50 WWF wrestlers, editable movesets, a comprehensive story mode, Steel Cage and First Blood Matches and, for the first time in a WWF game, the ability to swap the outfits from different players.
WCW Mayhem was released in 1999 for the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color. The title was the first wrestling game to prominently feature backstage brawls during the course of regular matches, and included a Pay-Per-View mode in which fans would receive codes to unlock events each week on WCW TV.
Virtual Pro Wrestling 2
Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 was released in 2000 for the Nintendo 64. Using the same engine as the aforementioned WrestleMania 2000, the game features tons of Japanese wrestling and MMA stars, as well as legends such as Bruiser Brody, GIant Baba and The Great Muta.
WWE '13 was released in 2012 for PlayStation 3, Wii and XBox 360. It was the final game to be produced by longtime WWE contributor THQ and incorporated an Attitude Era showcase, in which Stone Cold Steve Austin, DX, The Rock and others were given storylines.
WWE 2K16 was released in 2015 for a variety of gaming consoles. This title boasted the largest roster in WWE history at the time, including different versions of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels, legends including Rick Rude and Sgt. Slaughter and even WWE Hall of Famer Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Fire Pro Wrestling Returns
Fire Pro Wrestling Returns was released in 2005 (in Japan) for the PlayStation 2. By 2007, it received wide distribution in North America as well, introducing many to the Fire Pro universe, which featured more than 300 wrestlers, customization of just about everything and even an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match.
WWF Attitude was released in 1999 for a variety of gaming consoles. The sequel to the aforementioned WWF War Zone, Attitude, featured an expanded roster, the first-ever Career Mode, First Blood and I Quit Matches. This game was also the final WWE title to feature Owen Hart as a playable character - the game is actually dedicated to his tragic passing.
WCW/nWo Revenge was released in 1998 for Nintendo 64. The undisputed top video game in WCW history, Revenge improved on previous titles by adding ring entrances, genuine WCW arenas, a referee, instant replay, more wrestlers, managers and more-realistic looking finishers for the competitors.
Fire Pro Wrestling World
Fire Pro Wrestling World was released for PC in 2017 and PlayStation 4 in 2018. The title is the most comprehensive Fire Pro game to date, featuring realistic and comprehensive wrestling action, increased customization options and an extensive portion of the New Japan roster.
WWF No Mercy
WWF No Mercy was released in 2000 for the Nintendo 64. The title is considered to this day the favorite console game of many wrestling fans. Using an engine developed by AKI Corporation, No Mercy included an improved grappling style, more than 60 playable characters, seven playable storylines and additional customization, changing the game for the wrestling video game genre.