WWF Wrestlemania is the first professional wrestling game that I remember playing. Is it as good as I remember it being? No, it isn’t, but I think it is a product of its time.
The game is more like an arcade beat’em up or a prototype for a fighting game. You have a limited move set, a small selection of characters, and the game feels unbalanced. Specifically, I think Ted DiBiase was done dirty in this game. He is awful!
When I was a kid, this was an awesome game! It was like an extension of the WWF shows that I rarely got to see because I was six and had no concept of how television schedules worked. I remember having a lot of fun playing with my friends.
TLDR: WWF Wrestlemania is a Nostalgic Game, but disappointing to Play Today.
WWF Wrestlemania was released in 1989 in North America and Europe. This would suggest that the developers worked off the 1988 WWF roster.
This was the first WWF game released for the NES and marked the beginning of the WWF’s relationship with Akklaim. This would last ten years and would see many WWF games released across several consoles. LJN was used as a publisher for some of the NES games, and several developers worked on them.
A Game Boy version of the game was being developed, but it was canceled.
This is one of the NES games that Rare developed. It is one of their better games from this era. They would go on to make more memorable games before hitting their stride with the N64.
There isn’t too much information on this game. I was hoping to find out why there were only six characters, but I couldn’t find it. It was probably memory restrictions, but I can’t be sure.
There is no story mode in this game. While that sounds odd for a character and storyline drive product like pro wrestling, it was typical for wrestling games at this time. This was still the era of the arcades.
Most arcade games didn’t care about putting a story in the game, and home consoles followed this example as they were more interested in bringing the arcade experience into your living room. It would be a while before we got a pro-wrestling game with a story.
I don’t think this is a problem for the game. It has other issues that are more glaring.
The game has a tiny roster of WWF wrestlers. I think the developers used the 1988 WWF roster but could have also used the 1989 roster. Either way, there are only wrestlers in the game. Here they are:
- Hulk Hogan
- Randy Savage
- Andre, the Giant
- Honky Tonk Man
- Ted DiBiase
- Bam Bam Bigalo
When I looked at the WWF roster, I think there were 57 wrestlers on it, but I could be off by a few as they included managers, referees, and announcers. Either way, there were a lot more people that could have been added to the game.
I also wasn’t sure if these were the most popular WWF wrestlers at the time. The Ultimate Warrior and Demolition were left out of the game, and I would have included them. The limited roster is most likely due to a combination of memory constraints and licensing.
WWF Wrestlemania has only two modes. You can play a single match or a tournament. There are no tag team matches, or stipulation matches. You also can’t challenge for a championship. However, if you had some imagination, you and your friends could make things up to fill in the blanks.
There are a few moves that you can perform, but for the most part, you’ll be punching and kicking each other. You can perform some variety in the moves, but good luck doing them.
Here is a table of the different attacks:
|Back to Opponent||Facing Opponent||Running|
|Wrestler||B||A||B+Up or Down||A+Up or Down||B||A||A||B||Turnbuckle|
|Hulk Hogan||Upper Cut||Kick||Headbutt||Pin||Back Elbow||Body slam||Drop Kick||N/A||Leg Drop|
|Andre||Punch||Kick||Headbutt||Pin||Back Punch||Body Slam||Barge(?)||N/A||N/A|
|Honky Tonk Man||Punch||Kick||Headbutt||Pin||Back Elbow||N/A||Drop Kick||N/A||Elbow Drop|
|Randy Savage||Elbow Smash||Kick||Headbutt||Pin||Back Elbow||Body slam||Drop Kick||N/A||Elbow Drop|
|Ted DiBiase||Punch||Eye Gouge||Pin||N/A||Back Elbow||Body Slam||Drop Kick||N/A||Flying Nothing|
|Bam Bam||Headbutt||Spin Kick||Pin||Eye Gouge||Back Punch||N/A||Drop Kick||Cart Wheel||N/A|
The running moves, body slam, and turnbuckle moves were infuriating to try and pull off. For whatever reason, I couldn’t do a body slam. The game kept thinking that I had my back to my opponent, which meant I was doing either a back elbow or a back punch. At no point did I get into position to do a turnbuckle move, and for my life, I couldn’t get a dropkick to hit the other character.
The gameplay devolved into punching and kicking the other wrestler until they collapsed on the mat. This was fine for the time but compared to the wrestling games of the mid to late-90s, this was awful.
Most of what you do in the game is stumble around the ring and try to hit your opponent. It can sometimes be frustrating, and the computer can lock you in one of the corners. It can be a very cheap game at times.
There are some power-ups in the game. They’re specific to each wrestler and only replenish your energy/health. Here is a list of the power-ups and who gets them:
- Ted DiBiase – Dollar Sign
- Randy Savage – Sunglasses
- Bam Bam Bigalo – Flame
- Honky Tonk Man – Guitar
- Andre, the Giant – Foot (Why?)
- Hulk Hogan – Cross (Makes more sense than steroids)
The game will start randomly throwing these in the ring when one wrestler gets beaten up. It is an interesting idea, but it is so random that I wonder why they bothered with it.
When one wrestler gets beat up, they will start to flash red for a few seconds. This doesn’t mean they’re half-dead like in other NES games. It means the wrestler is angry, and this doubles their damage. Great, my damage is doubled; I still can’t hit my opponent because the controls aren’t good. I like this, but it wasn’t all that useful.
When I was six, these problems didn’t matter. I was getting to play a game with my friends. It didn’t matter that the controls were rough and the characters weren’t balanced. It also didn’t have my favorite wrestlers, but that didn’t matter much to me.
The graphics for the ring and wrestlers are okay. The graphics would have been good at the time, but Pro Wrestling has better graphics.
The Ring is sitting in a black void. There is no crowd, no referee, and no managers bringing the characters to the ring. There were several managers in WWF at this time, so not seeing them is a little strange.
The top of the ring has pictures of the wrestlers, energy bars, time, and the ring bell. When one wrestler is pinned, a hammer will hit the bell. This is the best part of every match.
The character sprites bare some resemblance to their real-life counterparts. I wasn’t expecting much from the NES, and the game does deliver as far as graphics.
There isn’t anything amazing here. Each match is going to look the same. The win screens are the same for each character, and I wish there had been a taunt screen, but that didn’t seem to be in the cards.
7/10. This is still a game that I have a lot of fond memories of playing. It is better than most other wrestling games on the NES, but it has numerous flaws and isn’t nearly as good as Pro Wrestling.
- Pick-up and Play
- It is fun with other people
- Bad Controls
- Cheap gameplay
- Limited roster
Revisiting this game was a ton of fun. While I don’t think it holds up as well today, I still think it can be a fun game. It is more of an arcade game than a simulation of pro wrestling.
I remember this game as a multiplayer game. I would get together with friends and play. I only remember playing this with my friends Joey and Eric. There were other people there, and we would also get together to watch WWF pay-per-views in the late 90s and early 2000s.
WWF was something I knew about at the time. I knew who some of these wrestlers were and others I would learn about as I watched the WWF in the 90s. I wish there were more wrestlers in this game, like the Ultimate Warrior, Brett Hart, Rick Rude, and Shawn Michaels. All of whom were under contract with the WWF at the time.
I’ll look at some more wrestling games at some point. There were several of them released for the NES, some good and some abysmal. This is one of the better ones, even if it isn’t all that great.