The 1990s wrestling explosion and the rise of video games meant this was a prime market to expand into for both industries, with many great titles emerging from this era through the end of the 8-bit machines and transition to 16-bit systems like the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. The dawn of 32-bit CD-based consoles like the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation brought voice commentary and real full-motion video footage to add to the experience.
This era also featured a set of games many fans consider even to this day to be the best ever produced in terms of wrestling mechanics and pure playability on the Nintendo 64 by Japanese developer AKI. Historically, 90s game titles are now working relics of eras in wrestling long since transpired. Fans still love to play these games to this day, and recreate the past, or produce new WCW storylines and WWE Attitude Era rivalries on-screen with a controller in hand, or just bash some buttons for nostalgia old school style.
10 WCW Wrestling (1990)
This was WCW’s 8-bit competitor to the LJN series of games as the wrestling war extended all the way back to the dawn of video games itself. Originally developed in Japan as Super Star Pro Wrestling it was taken to North America and converted to make it marketable to WCW audiences by FCI Inc.
It holds the distinction of being the only wrestling game being based on the NWA to this date. Players got to select their moves from a large roster of 12 including WCW greats like Flair, Sting and more obscure names like Mike Rotunda, Michael Hayes and even Kevin Sullivan. Dynamics included Irish whip moves and signature finishers as the video game landscape was beginning to evolve in the early 1990s.
9 WWF King of the RIng (1993)
This was the last of the WWF games released on the 8-bit Nintendo systems by LJN – now with an additional King of the Ring mode to the traditional format of match types to promote the new PPV that only aired earlier that year. The title included all the famous names from the early 90s like Hogan, Yokozuna, Perfect, The Undertaker and many more.
In total, players got eleven wrestlers and a customizable version that could be tweaked in an early “design your own wrestler concept” to play with. Different wrestlers had varying attributes, a bit like a role-playing game to make it stand out. What it lacked in graphics, it made up for in playability.
8 WWF Raw (1994)
This was the pinnacle and evolution of the 16 bit LJN Series, from Super WrestleMania to Royal Rumble and Rage in the Cage that featured the first use of Full Motion Video in WWE games, using the power of the Sega CD. WWE Raw gathered everything together.
“Bedlam” match types and “Tornado” endurance options were added along with signature and mega moves for each character and new standard move sets. This game also featured Diesel and the 1-2-3 Kid making their first appearances in digital form.
7 WWF War Zone (1998)
Acclaim moved into 3D with these Playstation and N64 creations. Finally, with a handheld version gamers could experience the squared circle in a new dimension with the WWE for the very first time in a set of landmark games. The commentary was provided by Vince McMahon and Jim Ross.
Cage matches to grudge matches in an early storyline concept, and many more with training options to practice moves and a detailed “create a wrestler feature” – this was an early precursor of what was to come on many levels. It kind of laid the foundation for the 2K series of games fans see today. It was followed up by an improved sequel, WWE Attitude and a Dreamcast version to enter the 128-bit market later.
6 WWF WrestleMania The Arcade Game and In Your House (1995)
Midway brought the digitized graphics of Mortal Kombat to the world of the WWE with this coin-op deep at the start of the early New Generation period in this 2D brawler. Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Lex Luger and more rounded out a roster. IC and WWE Championship modes were included. It was released across 16 bit and 32 bit consoles and PCs.
An updated game WWE In Your House by Acclaim was released for home consoles. In this new version, each wrestler had some outlandish moves and taunts with 10 playable wrestlers. Fans also got commentary from McMahon and Mr. Perfect.
5 WCW vs the World (1996)
This was the very first WCW game to be released during The Monday Night Wars and was an adaption of AKI’s Virtual Pro Wrestling and is famous for introducing the “spirit-meter” concept to western audiences and a 3D engine. Lots of match types are available, and the roster was deep at 60 wrestlers, meaning this was a great start to the 32-bit wrestling scene, and an upper hand to WCW.
Unfortunately, the majority of WCW games went downhill from here. Next arrived WCW Nitro in 1998, WCW/nWo Thunder in 1999 and finally WCW Mayhem also in 1999, all from western developer THQ – available on Playstation, N64 and PC. These failed to live up to expectations despite some advances in 3D graphics.
4 WWF WrestleFest (1991)
This was an awesome early 90s arcade game released by Technos, only in the coin-op sector with many fans dreaming of it being converted to the 16-bit systems and a sequel to the 1989 arcade game WWF Superstars. Players could participate in a Royal Rumble mode or Saturday Night Main Event with big graphics and bright, outlandish, fun colors.
Ten characters are available in the original, but it was updated for iOS systems by THQ in 2012 with a more contemporary roster with the likes of Stone Cold and The Rock plus John Cena. It is a great button smasher with vivid nostalgia-driven delights for 90s arcade fans, and WWE ones alike.
3 WCW vs NWO World Tour (1997)
This was the first iteration of the WCW nWo franchise and mythic wrestling series of AKI games on N64. It introduced the Nintendo world to the AKI wrestling engine and a unique grappling mechanism, meaning bouts would swing back and forth and could be as deep and nuanced as Street Fighter, with epic matches lasting 20-40 minutes at times.
It really was a paradigm shift for wrestling fans, after the early Acclaim series of games in 2D and incarnations on the 32-bit home consoles. WCW was at the height of its popularity at this time in 1997 as well which helped greatly. The unique features of “taunts” to boost the patented “spirit meter” meant this had everything at the time, including four-player mayhem.
2 WrestleMania 2000 (1999)
AKI acquired the WWE license and went straight at it in producing a new game at the peak of the promotion’s popularity. All the WWE wrestlers were included, and it was a treat for WWE fans after being jealous of the playability of the WCW games for so long. This was the first-ever THQ published WWE game, creating a long partnership.
Using a modified engine from the Japanese Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 by AKI, it was even possible at the time to create WCW wrestlers to feature against WWE counterparts to produce your own dream feuds. The title was followed up in 2000 by an even more advanced game No Mercy that used the N64 Expansion Pack, with that being considered the pinnacle of the WWE-AKI games on the Nintendo console.
1 WCW NWO Revenge (1998)
This is the greatest WCW game of the 1990s or in fact ever. It was released in 1998 during the peak of the nWo “Civil War” as the Wolfpac and Hollywood factions are represented. Again developed by AKI, it featured an amazing intro with Sting, improved graphics, managers and valets, plus real PPV arenas and an expanded roster.
At the time, it was the largest selling third party N64 game ever and received amazing reviews, holding up even to this day compared to modern wrestling games in terms of mechanics. It is the definitive WCW game and unless they somehow make a new one, fans will not get any better. It remains a time capsule to WCW at the peak of its powers, with the game being legendary.
In its prime, WCW was as engaging as WWE and had a wide array of exciting and twisting storylines to follow.
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