It seemed to take a long time for wrestling games to really find their footing with gaming fans. In the early days of the 8-bit systems, wrestling fans had the likes of Sega’s Pro Wrestling on the Sega Master System and Nintendo’s Pro Wrestling on the NES both of which arrived in 1986. Neither title was particularly great but it was the best that wrestling fans had at the time.
Moving on to the 90s, the quality of wrestling titles improved a great deal with some entertaining classics in arcades with the likes of Wrestle War and WWE Wrestlefest. The 16-bit home consoles started catching up too and the SNES, in particular, had some great licensed and non-licensed wrestling titles. Unfortunately, there were as many bad wrestling games on the system as there were good in the US. Here are the SNES' best and worst had to offer wrestling fans.
8 Worst: Hammerlock Wrestling
Hammerlock Wrestling was released on the Super Nintendo in 1994. It was released in Japan under the name Tenryu Genichiro no Pro Wrestling Revolution. Tenryu Genichiro is a legendary Japanese wrestler that performed for All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Hammerlock Wrestling had some good points and it at least tried to be innovative by using simultaneous camera angles to get the player closer to the action. Unfortunately, the close-up shots made it difficult to see the action going on in the ring.
7 Best: WWF Royal Rumble
WWF Royal Rumble was released in 1993 for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive and the Super Nintendo. The game was a notable improvement over its predecessor WWF Super Wrestlemania and featured more accurate looking wrestlers, improved sound, and bigger and bolder graphics.
The game also featured a grapple meter which allowed players to see how effective their button mashing is. In addition, players can now knock down the referee and perform illegal techniques while he is down momentarily. Wrestlers are also able to perform signature taunts and poses in the ring which is a standard now but was a great feature back then.
6 Worst: WWF Super Wrestlemania
WWF Super Wrestlemania was released in 1992 on the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis/Megadrive. Despite being on the worst category here Super Wrestlemania was still enjoyable for the time. The game featured Survivor Series Elimination matches along with regular singles and tag team matches.
Unfortunately, despite boasting a better roster than the Genesis/Megadrive that featured Jake the Snake and Legion of Doom, the SNES version lacked the wrestler’s signature and finishing moves. The gameplay was also lacking in other areas on both systems and pulling off moves was unresponsive and delayed.
5 Best: WWF RAW
WWF Raw was released in 1994 on the Super Nintendo, The Sega Genesis/Megadrive, Sega 32X, Nintendo Game Boy and the Sega Game Gear. It was the third in the series of Acclaim-published wrestling games developed by Sculptured Software for the 16-bit systems after WWF Super Wrestlemania and WWF Royal Rumble.
WWF Raw was a big improvement over its predecessors and featured the new Bedlam match – which is the same as the Tornado Tag match in the WWE 2K series – the 12-Man Royal Rumble, Survivor Series, and regular singles and tag matches. More importantly, each wrestler felt more authentic and had their own signature finishing and “Mega Moves” which can knock their opponents out of the ring.
4 Worst: WCW Superbrawl Wrestling
WCW Superbrawl Wrestling was released on the Super Nintendo in 1994 and was developed by Beam House the studio responsible for the well-received Transformers on the PlayStation 2. The game featured popular WCW stars like Sting, Big Van Vader, Scott Steiner, Ricky Steamboat, Rick Rude, Ric Flair and more.
Visually, WCW Superbrawl doesn’t look too bad in still images thanks to the use of digitized imagery. However, in motion, the animation was awful, the character movement was stiff and targetting was so bad that trying to pull off a move or a strike was a chore.
3 Best: Saturday Night Slam Masters
Saturday Night Slam Masters was released on the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis/Megadrive, and the FM Towns Marty in 1993. The game’s characters were designed Fist of the North Star manga artist Tetsuo Hara. Slam Masters was published by Capcom starring Mike Haggar from Final Fight as a supporting character.
Saturday Night Slam Masters was originally an arcade beat-em-up in the vein of Street Fighter with some wrestling and submission mechanics. Despite not being a true wrestling game players were able to initiate finishers when their opponent’s health meter reached zero and go for the pin. Additionally, the game supported up to four players with the use of a Super Multitap and features Fire Pro Wrestling style barbed wire landmine matches.
2 Worst: WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game
WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game was developed by Acclaim and was released on the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis/Megadrive, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and PC in 1995. Instead of building on the success of WWF Raw Acclaim chose to use the Mortal Kombat series as an inspiration to create an arcade beat-em-up and one of the worst WWE games ever developed.
However, unlike Capcom’s Saturday Slam Masters which successfully worked wrestling mechanics into a 2D fighter, WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade was a disaster on all fronts. Other than featuring the likes of Bret Hart, Lex Luger, Yokozuna, and Razor Ramon there was nothing about this game that resembled a wrestling title.
1 Best: Natsume Championship Wrestling
Natsume Championship Wrestling was released exclusively for the Super Nintendo in 1994 and was developed by Natsume. It was an unlicensed wrestling game in the west but in Japan featured wrestlers from AJPW and was called Zen-Nippon Pro Wrestling.
Unlike other wrestling games in the 16-bit era, Natsume Championship Wrestling was a real wrestling game where players got involved in long drawn out back and forth matches. Just like the Fire Pro Wrestling series, Natsume uses a weak, medium, and strong grappling system and had over fifty moves to learn. Even for its time, the game had surprisingly tough AI opponents that are challenging in ways that won’t feel cheap.