It’s Wrestlemania’s season again, which means that millions of wrestling fans around the world are preparing for the biggest show in sports entertainment. It’s time to put on the leotards, put on the mask and shine the championship belt.
For those diehard fans who are not ready to enter the ring or jump off the top rope, there have always been fighting games, those digital experiences that allow them to step on the boots of their favorite superstar, be it the Hulkster or the People’s. Champion or Stone Cold.
1WWF No Mercy
Almost two decades later, there has not yet been a fighting game that surpasses No Mercy. AKI was at the top of his game here, creating an accessible and perfectly rhythmic game with a depth that fans still dominate. Seriously, there are many mods for players looking to include current WWE and NXT superstars on the list. But even without those modes, No Mercy remains infinitely rejuvenable, with a large list, tons of match types and the deepest way to create a fighter ever created. It’s hard to pin down anything that makes No Mercy the best fighting game ever made, but Yuke’s developers should advise them to spend time while working on the next WWE game.
Part of what made the transition from the WWE franchise to the current generation so disastrous is that the series had almost reached perfection with WWE 2K14. The story mode featured more than 40 of the best WrestleMania games of all time. That meant the inclusion of Big John Studd fighters through Goldberg for the WWE final list. Even the majority of the main NWO members were available through DLC. Add a more fluid gameplay than ever and a Streak mode that allows you to conquer or defend the legendary Undertaker WrestleMania streak, and you’ll easily have the best fighting game in years.
3 WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain
A common criticism of current WWE games is how they inflict arbitrary rules on the player in the name of realism, or to maintain the PG image of WWE. The oldest WWE games used to allow games between genres, and they had more options for hardcore options. They included things like hell matches, where the goal was, literally, to set your opponent on fire. In Here comes the pain, you can actually pull your opponent out of a building, hit a ride in a helicopter, and then make an elbow drop in the helicopter. It’s the kind of ridiculousness with which Broken Matt Hardy could only dream, and easily makes this one of the best fighting games of all time.
4 Def Jam: Fight for New York
AKI Corporation was working on a WCW game in early 2001 when WWE bought the promotion. Coincidentally, around that time EA was looking for a partner for a fighting game based on the Def Jam Recordings label. While the first game is excellent, the continuation, Fight for New York, is superior in every way. The game plays as a faster and more caricatural version of the N64 fighting games, but with a group of rappers. Danny Trejo and Carmen Electra are also there for some reason. Sadly, the third game in the series (not developed by AKI), Def Jam: Icon, did not reach the same heights, but I think almost everyone would welcome a new entry in the franchise developed by AKI.
5 Fire Pro Wrestling Returns
There is a considerable amount of players out there that would say that Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is the best fighting game ever made. While WWE games have recently deciphered the list of 100 wrestlers, Fire Pro Wrestling Returns features more than 300 promotions wrestlers around the world. And you can create another 500 fighters besides that. The forums on the web are full of suggestions to create the perfect versions of your favorites. Then you can see how they will be fair in their own promotion or in legendary Japanese death games. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns may not have the brilliance of other fighting games, and the depth may be too much for some, but for the hardcore hardcore wrestler, it’s the only title they’ll need.