Before WWE 13: The History of Wrestling Video Games

Just as WWE has its eras, so too do its video games

David Pustansky


In the beginning Vince McMahon created the WWE and Sports Entertainment, and with it came merchandising agreements for t-shirts, toys and ah yes, the video game. This year comes THQ’s WWE 13, the latest wrestling game which promises an updated roster, lots of Attitude era features and appearances, the ability to break the ring Big Show style and much, much more.

Yes, the wrestling sim sure has come a long way since its early days. In this article we’ll take a look back at the history of the wrestling video game, their evolution and how they went from the poor alternative to Street Fighter and Double Dragon, to being big annual releases which even get their own angles on WWE TV.


The Federation Years

Just as WWE has its eras, so too do its video games. The genesis of the WWE video game came in the form of Acclaim’s WWF WrestleMania title on the NES. Boasting a roster of just six wrestlers, players could take control of the likes of Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Bam Bam Bigelow and Randy Savage (A sad piece of trivia being that two thirds of the game’s roster are now dead).

The graphics were terrible, with the wrestlers looking constipated as they walked towards the screen. Still, bad graphics didn’t stop Pac Man or Super Mario being great games, but unfortunately unlike those games WWF Wrestlemania’s game play match it’s graphics. Kick, punch, clothesline, and slam made up the majority of the available moves.

Later releases in the 8-bit era included Wrestlemania Challenge, Wreslemania Steel Cage Challenge (you can see how imaginative their names were) and King of the Ring. It can’t be said any of these games were any good, and literally no one is begging for them to see virtual console releases in the same way a certain N64 game we’ll come to later is always begged for, but that doesn’t mean these games were without merit.

WWF Challenge gave you the opportunity to play as ‘Yourself’, a generic wrestler not based on anyone in the WWF. This idea long predated the create-a-wrestler feature which became so important a few years later. Steel Cage Challenge introduced radically different games on the different consoles it was released on. The reason for this may have been that Nintendo didn’t allow exact versions of games released on the NES to appear on rival consoles, but it would be a trend that would continue well into the noughties.


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