Transformation of Wrestling Games Part 2: the 16 Bit Era
The 16-bit era was a strange and confusing time for video game fans of wrestling. Only a hand-full of wrestling video games worth mentioning were released in the US. In fact, some people may argue that WWE video games/WWF games didn’t really come into their own until the following generation. In fact, some of you may be more accustomed with these latter games rather than the ones from this era. Regardless, despite the small number of wrestling games on the SNES and Genesis, what was being offered at this period was definitely high quality. The games were far and away better than any of the games that came before. This second part of our continuing look at the history of wrestling video games will focus on the early 90’s.
WWF Super Wrestlemania marked the first foray into 16 bit games. The game offered tons of flash and style (for the time, of course). But, the moves were really limited. It was a nice first attempt. But, the game didn’t have much beyond the shallow likeness of the wrestlers’ images. With that being said, SW introduced the tug of war style grappling which the other 16-bit games would use variations of. So, that was pretty cool and innovative I suppose. SNES owners didn’t get the unique finishing moves like the Sega counterpart. However, the SNES version had a larger roster. But, the game was all together mediocre compared to the following games of the era. Things didn’t really heat up until the next game. And, that leads us to…
WWF Royal Rumble serves as an example of one of the best Genesis and SNES wrestling games to leave its mark on the 16-bit era. The controls were tighter and more responsive than any of the other wrestling games for the NES or Sega Master System. The developers knew that they had to make wrestlers move faster and more fluidly in order to appeal to the fans. Everyone was sick and tired of sluggish characters moving on the screen. Royal Rumble brought about a welcome change of fully licensed wrestlers with the individualized moves and appearances of their respective real life counterparts. Check out the video to see just how fluid the movement was for its time.
The game really was impressive. Sculpted Software somehow managed to squeeze 6 wrestlers onscreen at the same time without any noticeable slow down. The number of moves you could pull off per fighter was higher than anything ever seen before. Options were pretty much wide open. Sure, your matches were limited to one-on-one, tag team, triple tag, and Royal Rumble. But, this offered far more options than ever before. I remember being completely blown away playing this game for the first time back in ’93. Never before had wrestling fans seen so much action on the screen at once in a console game. For its time, this was possibly the best wrestling based game to come out in North America.
Graphics for WWF Royal Rumble were top-notch. However, the game strained the 16-bit SNES and Genesis (in all of its blast processing wonder) to their maximum power. The graphics and wrestlers may have looked cartoon-ish. But, I personally see that as part of the whole appeal. 80’s and early 90’s WWF was outlandish and comic book like. My friends and I absolutely loved the way the game looked – it made them feel like they’re watching an interactive cartoon version of the WWF. There were no missing sprites or slowed down animations. Everything ran smooth as butta’. The sound effects in RR were startling. I remember my cousin saying that the sounds didn’t sound too far off from a real WWF match.
Unfortunately, WCW video games weren’t a super huge hit in the 90s. I personally blame Doom and platformers like Sonic. WCW SuperBrawl Wrestling was pretty much it for the SNES and Genesis. Named after the pay-per-view, SuperBrawl bordered on mediocre. Don’t get me wrong, the graphics weren’t too shabby. What bothered me most was the overhead perspective. The perspective was similar to the vastly superior Super Fire Pro Wrestler. But, the controls were pretty crappy compared to the latter game. And, I just couldn’t go gel with such a slow paced game after playing the faster WWF RR. Each wrestler had the same shared moves except for their signature attacks (which really limited the options) – moves included a variety of kicks, diving attacks, an atomic drop, tombstone piledrivers, suplexes, punches, and elbow shots. Again, RR had tons of unique moves depending on your choice of wrestler. Not the case here.
To its credit, the game included some cool modes such as single play, tag team, four team tournaments, and the Ultimate Challenge (where players were tasked with defeating every wrestler in the game’s roster). You also hear commentary from Tony Schiavone. The ‘commentary’ is basic, but at least it’s there.
I personally agree with these WCW video games critics. It offered tons of features, but I just couldn’t overlook the poor controls, sub-par animations, and outright bad gameplay. It was incredibly hard, and sometimes downright impossible to line-up a wrestler perfectly and perform a move. WCW committed the ultimate sin in video games: it wasn’t fun to play. If you want to see the game in action, you can check out some brief game play here.
It was time for WWF games to return to the limelight with WWF Royal Rumble’s sequel: WWF Raw – this game was the last one in LJN’s 16-bit WWF trilogy. Players enjoyed One-on-One matches, Tag Team, Bedlam, Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, or Raw Endurance Matches which were really awesome. The thing that differentiates Raw from other games of the time is the fact that they didn’t sacrifice game play for graphics. Some wrestlers had some shared moves. On the whole, wrestlers had different move sets including mega moves. For the first time, this wrestling game kept track of stats: speed, strength, stamina, and weight.
The player would win a game when his opponent’s energy was depleted. Once his energy was low enough, the wrestler could perform his or her (yes, this is one of the first WWF games to feature female wrestlers) signature move. More energy meant more damage to your enemy.
The thing that I really enjoyed most about WWF Raw is its finishing moves. They were based on the wrestler’s real-life unique moves, and it made the game feel more realistic. They needed to be performed in a specific position by punching in a button combination which was the same for every wrestler.
I loved it. Some people complained that Raw ran off of the same engine as Royal Rumble. But, I also happened to love RR when I first played it. So, my love for this game just made sense to my impressionable kid mind. It was more of the same awesome game! In my opinion, WWF Raw was the perfected version of Royal Rumble. I remember sinking countless hours into this game a kid. Awesome stuff! Check out some of the game play to see what you’ve been missing. This is the precursor to (or cusp of) the attitude era!
- WWF Super Wrestlemania SNES – Carts are going for yard sale prices well under $10. Not very rare so the bargains abound!
- WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game – Same as above. This version includes the aforementioned moves.
- WWF Royal Rumble for SNES and Sega Genesis – The great thing about these licensed wrestling games is that they’re pretty common on eBay and cheap!
- WCW SuperBrawl Wrestling SNES – Not at all rare. But, for whatever reason, these games tend to sell for about $10 more than the superior Royal Rumble. I hated it as a kid. Perhaps you’ll love it…
- WWF Raw SNES Version / Sega Genesis / Gameboy / Game Gear – SNES is pretty common and sells about the same price as WCW. Ditto for Genesis. Graphics and game play are best on SNES version. Game Gear is a stunted version of the console game with two additional wrestlers. The Gameboy version is just terrible. Avoid unless you’re a collector or incredibly nostalgic. Gameboy version is becoming more rare but price remains low under $10.
- WWF Rage in a Cage – Not too familiar with this Sega CD game. But, I’ve heard it’s one of the better WWF games for a Sega system at the time. I believe this is the first game to feature cage matches. Prices are pretty high (between $20 to $50).