When it comes to quality wrestling games with the exception of a few, the original PlayStation’s range was lackluster at best. However, what it did have was choice and there were several to choose from offering different gaming styles.
Today’s wrestling title range is even smaller this generation, with only one mainstream wrestling series available in the WWE 2K series and the more niche Fire Pro Wrestling: World on the PlayStation 4 and Steam.
There is some hope for wrestling fans now that Yukes have moved on from the WWE 2K series to work on something new. Whether that is an AEW game or if they’ll go back to their Japanese-based Wrestle Kingdom roots things are definitely looking promising for fans of grappling. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 of the best wrestling games the original PlayStation had to offer.
10 WCW Nitro
WCW Nitro was released and published by THQ in 1997 but it wasn’t developed by the same team Asmik Ace that worked on its predecessor WCW vs. The World. Instead, it was developed by Inland Productions whose only game prior to Nitro was a fishing game, and their lack of experience in the genre was evident here.
The wrestlers came in two categories high flyers or heavyweights which meant there was nothing unique about any of the wrestlers. Inland clearly had no idea about what made a wrestling game work and this was evident in this release. Its sequel WCW Thunder played and felt like exactly the same game as Nitro and the decline in quality from the AKI-developed titles was a huge blow to fans of the WCW brand.
9 WCW Backstage Assault
WCW Backstage Assault was released and developed by Electronic Arts in 2000. The entire game works like the Backstage Brawls that’s in the current WWE 2K games. Unfortunately, the novelty of fighting backstage in hardcore brawls wears thin very quickly and most wrestling fans found themselves wanting to take the action back into the ring.
Backstage Assault showed a lack of understanding by EA about what a wrestling fan wants from a grappling game. Furthermore, despite having interesting looking animations the character models were hideous and many of its marquee stars were unrecognizable.
8 ECW Hardcore Revolution
ECW Hardcore Revolution was released by Acclaim in 2000 and was their first wrestling game since losing the WWE license to THQ. Despite being a game based on the most hardcore mainstream wrestling promotion on television there was a surprising lack of hardcore wrestling mechanics.
ECW Hardcore Revolution played identically to WWF Warzone and WWF Attitude with the exception of a few underutilized match types like the Barbed Wire match. Furthermore, the graphics looked worse than Acclaim’s previous wrestling titles.
7 ECW Anarchy Rulz
ECW Anarchy Rulz was released in 2000 just six months after its predecessor ECW Hardcore Revolution. The game was once again developed by Acclaim and very little had changed from their previous efforts in the wrestling genre.
Anarchy Rulz did introduce some interesting features like stable creations, Backlot brawls, and several other new arenas to wrestle in. Unfortunately, the most important aspects of a wrestling game were missing from this game. The controls were unresponsive, the targetting was horrible and the moves required complicated button presses and combinations. It did, however, feature some improvements to the artificial intelligence in single-player matches.
6 WWF Warzone
Released in 1998 WWF Warzone was Acclaim’s answer to the far superior WCW vs. nWo titles on the Nintendo 64. The game featured the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bret The Hitman Hart, Owen Hart, The Undertaker, and Kane.
While the game still plays better than its ECW successors the controls were still needlessly complicated. The game's fighting system was more arcade-like than a wrestling sim and had no tactical or timing-based mechanics but it was the best WWE wrestling game on the PS1 at the time.
5 WCW Mayhem
WCW Mayhem was released in 1999 and was developed by Electronic Arts. It was EA’s first game for the WCW brand since THQ moved on to the WWF games with the Smackdown and AKI series. It was a better game than EA’s second effort with WCW Backstage Assault and didn’t come close to what Asmik Ace and AKI developed.
WCW Mayhem had some strong points like wrestling introductions and impressive commentary for the time. However, it was the use of a momentum meter which helped add some authenticity to the wrestling matches and a similar mechanic is still used in today’s WWE 2K games.
4 WWF Attitude
WWF Attitude was the 1999 sequel to WWF Attitude developed again by Acclaim. From a mechanics standpoint, very little had changed from the previous entry the wrestlers still moved and looked the same as they did in WWF Attitude.
What had improved, however, was there was more emphasis on reversals seemingly taking cues from the AKI-developed WCW wrestling games. Crowd noise felt more natural and reactive adding to the arena's atmosphere and the commentary - which still puts the current WWE 2K series to shame - was a great improvement.
3 Power Move Pro Wrestling
Power Move Pro Wrestling was released in 1995 and was developed by Yukes the same team responsible for nineteen Smackdown and WWE 2K titles. Those familiar with the Yukes developed wrestling game will instantly recognize wrestling mechanics at play here.
Unfortunately, the character models resemble hot dogs in tights and the wrestlers skate rather than walking across the ring. Regardless of the janky controls, the old-school wrestling mechanics provides gamers with a technical Japanese style wrestling in the game. Interestingly, Power Move Pro Wrestling was originally an NJPW title called Toukon Retsuden in Japan. However, despite retaining their move sets all Japanese wrestlers were replaced with fictional characters.
2 WWF Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role
WWF Smackdown! 2 Know Your Role was released less than a year after its predecessor in 2000 and improved on nearly everything in the first game. Developed by Yukes, the game pushed the PlayStation 1 to its limits and is easily the best looking and animated wrestling game on the system.
Smackdown! 2’s gameplay wasn’t anywhere near as good or as technical as WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64 but the presentation captured the Attitude Era perfectly. The game featured more storylines, a multiplayer season mode, and the entrances were top-notch at the time. Additionally, it featured several create modes like create a wrestler, create a manager, create a stable, and create a taunt.
1 WCW Vs. The World
WCW vs. the World (Virtual Pro Wrestling in Japan) was released in 1996 and was developed by The Man Breeze who would later become known as AKI the developers responsible for WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64. Being the predecessor to what many consider to be some of the greatest wrestling games ever developed WCW vs the World perfectly captured what a wrestling game is supposed to be.
The character models aren’t very impressive compared to the Smackdown series but the gameplay is far superior. Just like the AKI-developed N64 titles, matches were determined by a character's spirit/momentum and there was a big focus on reversals and counters for strikes and grapples. The wrestling felt more like a sim than a fighting game.
Outside of the ring, the game featured a create a championship mode, something which at the time of writing is missing from WWE 2K20. Furthermore, the game featured a variety of game modes including League, League Challenge, Best of Seven, Tournament, and Double Title matches.