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Transformation of Wrestling Video Games Pt. 3: 5th Generation

Fifth generation consoles refer to the 32-bit and 64-bit gaming systems such as the Nintendo 64, PlayStation 1, and other handheld devices. It’s also known as the 3D era. So, that’s fitting that the revolutionary attitude infused era of professional wrestling received a serious face lift in the video game industry. The time of the older and much simpler WWF wrestling games was officially over. In 1999, wrestling video games had already become cemented in the gaming industry. While they were not necessarily the best games on their respective platforms, their popularity grew more and more each year.

The following title brought unique, never before seen features. The 1997 Mayhem was the first wrestling game to let players fight in all twelve WCW pay-per-view venues. It also featured their three major WCW TV shows: Nitro, Thunder, and Saturday Night. The game was also the first to include backstage areas.

WCW Mayhem
Mayhem may have been buggy compared to other wrestling video games. But, we were just glad to have a 3d game at the time!

Electronic Arts, in a time when they weren’t synonymous with all things evil and wrong with the video game industry, released a few WCW wrestling games. Their best one to this day is still WCW Mayhem. It was the first professional wrestling game produced by EA. EA released Mayhem for the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and a gimped version on the Game Boy Color in 2000. Many felt disappointed by  WCW Mayhem due to the subpar gameplay compared to the earlier WCW vs NWO: World Tour and WCW Nitro. These older games offered far superior gameplay. But, some features of Mayhem really impressed me when I first played it.

The game was originally going to be the first among the story-based wrestling video games. Unfortunately, this feature was scrapped from development due to time restraints. It would have consisted of more dialogue and more commentary from Bobby Heenan and Tony Schiavone. Only Tony Schiavone’s audio commentary remains available on the N64 version which is kind of confusing. Some of the lines that you can hear are directly towards Heenan.

It received average reviews from critics. I remember not being overly thrilled with the physics (or lack there of) and repetitive move sets. The gameplay was somewhat smooth (though not as smooth as the late games on the SNES and Genesis). However, what really blew me away were the graphics and sound. Nowadays, the stuff here is pretty unsophisticated and rudimentary. But back then, seeing Goldberg and Sting’s likeness in (heavily pixilated 3D) was pretty cool. I considered it top notch although some things were a serious step back from the 2D games.

Mayhem was supposed to go places, but the publishers rushed the developers too much. What resulted was a mediocre and buggy game. Compared to later games, the create-a-wrestler mode felt disappointing. Although, it was pretty cool being able to make wrestlers from scratch for the first time. Plus, the game somewhat made up for unfulfilled features with a huge selection of wrestlers. With over 50 wrestlers to choose from and a huge selection of stages to in, it seemed like this game would make the genre stand-out.

Wrestling Video Games
Although Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 never saw a release outside of Japan, it’s one of the pinnacle games for the era!

Moving on to other publishers and gaming systems. Do you remember the N64 wrestling games? The most successful third party title of this time period had to be WWF WrestleMania 2000. Many consider this game as the bonafide master of the genre. I personally felt it was one of the best games on the Nintendo 64. I’m sure you all pretty much know how great WrestleMania is. So, instead, I want to focus on a lesser known (but still great) game that came out around the same time. I’m talking about its N64 clone of WrestleMania, Virtual Pro Wrestling 2.

VPW2 (and the first VPW for that matter) used the same engine as WrestleMania. This allowed players an incredible amount of customization (although, the game regrettably limited one’s custom wrestler slots). It doesn’t have any WWF licensing. Some western audiences viewed this as a deal breaker and it was never released in North America. However, the roster is massive (over 100) and the game includes over 1000 different movesets. The roster primarily consists of various Japanese wrestlers from All Japan and New Japan Pro Wrestling among other federations. Hardcore wrestling fans may recognize fighters like Kamala the Ugandan Giant, Mike Awesome, and Vader. Each of these stars subsequently appeared in WWF. This game is perfect those of you who like to customize your game by creating your own content.

VPW2 looks and feels like a clone of WWF WrestleMania 2000. But, it shines in some areas. For example the venues are much better than in Wrestlemania 2000, but VPW2 omitted cage matches, and the newly introduced first blood matches because they were considered unconventional for a Japanese audience. Regrettably, I never had much of a chance to play Virtual Pro Wrestling 2. But, I’ve heard good things. Picking up a copy nowadays is as simple as downloading a ROM file or hitting up eBay. You can check it out in all of its glory here.

WWF SmackDown came at the very end of the fifth generation. It excelled at all the older features but mastered none of them.
WWF SmackDown came at the very end of the fifth generation. It excelled at all the older features but mastered none of them.

WWE wrestling games were still reigning champions at the height of the attitude era. That’s no surprise with icons such as Stone Cold and the Rock. Unfortunately, these WWF wrestling games were buggy and lax. Some people accused the later PS1 games (like WWF SmackDown) of being too derivative and only produced to cash in a quick buck from the success of other games such as WCW Nitro, WWF WrestleMania 2000, and WCW vs NWO: World Tour. Derivative or not, I had a fun time with these games back in the day.

WWF SmackDown was published by THQ in March of 2000, and contained one of the more robust story modes of this console generation. Players could play the procedural generated story mode for ten in-game years in order to unlock everything. Although the game lacks essential features like voice-overs, play-by-play audio commentary, a more compelling story mode (which is common for games with procedural generation), various move sets, and a huge roster, it was well received by fans and critics alike. I give it a thumbs up. Don’t be off put by the ugly, pixilated graphics. The likeness of the wrestlers in WWF SmackDown were considered groundbreaking for its time. And, although the story mode lacked depth, the span of the mode keep me engaged for a long time.

I know we’ve passed over other games such as WWF Attitude (awesome customization, terrible controls). There is only so much space for each article. Check below for a list of definitive games on eBay to build your collection of Wrestling video games from the fifth generation consoles.

CHECK OUT THE 8-BIT WRESTLING VIDEO GAMES

CHECK OUT THE WRESTLING VIDEO GAMES OF THE ‘NEW ERA’

  • WCW Mayhem PS1 / N64 – PS1 prices are reasonable under $10. Most auctions include the manual for the jewel case. N64 are mostly cart only but super cheap.
  • WCW vs. the World – One of the first 3D wrestling games (1996?). PS1 only. Sub par for its time but essential piece of history. Easily less than $10
  • WCW vs. nWo: World Tour – Huge step up from WCW vs World. N64 exclusive. Built the foundation for the controls in wrestling games we play today. It’s also a bargain. $4ish for cart only. $6 to $10 for CIB.

  • WCW Nitro PS1 / N64 – If you don’t have a preference, grab the N64 copy for its additional roster. PS1 Greatest Hits copy is very common and cheap. Non-GH is a bit more rare. Typically costs $10 for complete jewel case. N64 is very cheap. I’ve seen them sell under $5.
  • WWF Attitude – Underrated. Game was passed over for the superior controls of WCW wrestling games. But, the customization here was INSANE! Should be able to pick up complete jewel case for $5.
  • WWF Attitude memory card – Super rare and difficult to find. EB Games offered an exclusive mem card with custom wrestlers for those who preordered and purchased.
  • WWF WrestleMania 2000 / Game Boy Color – N64 version is pretty common and affordable ($5). GBC version is a bit more pricey around the $10 mark.
  • WWF Warzone PS1 / N64 – Vastly overshadowed by the superior WWF Attitude
  • WWF Royal Rumble – Dreamcast exclusive. $10 for the complete jewel case. $6 for disc only. Game is shallow and only offers Royal Rumble and Exhibition modes. Sub par game but allows 9 wrestlers in a match at one time.
  • WWF SmackDown! – PS1 exclusive. Cheap as chips
  • WWF No Mercy – N64 exclusive and sequal to WWF WrestleMania 2000. Widely considered the best of the WWF wrestling games. Game is pricey due to fan following rather than rarity.

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