Pro Wrestling games have come a long way. Now, they have storylines, you can create your own character, and more moves. There is also more to do in each game than there used to be.
These were some of the first wrestling games on the home console. They don’t have all the features you would expect from modern wrestling games and are closer to arcade games. This doesn’t make the games bad, but it is important to keep this in mind when playing them.
There weren’t many wrestling games on the NES, and many can be rough. However, there are some spectacular games to revisit. Here is a list of them from worst to the best.
Tag Team M.U.S.C.L.E.
This isn’t just the worst wrestling game but one of the worst games on the NES. This is a retrospective look at the game, and I think it could’ve been fun to play back in the late 80s. Playing it now, I don’t think it is a good game at all.
When I compared this to the other wrestling games, I found it vastly inferior. The graphics are way behind the other games, the controls could be better, and it was almost impossible to pull off the few wrestling moves in the game. The wrestlers looking similar to some of the figures was the only redeemable part of this game.
There are some excellent wrestling games based on M.U.S.C.L.E. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it out of Japan. It would also be a while before the Manga and Anime would appear in North America. While this would have been okay back in the 80s, it was a disappointment for me to play in 2023.
Tag Team Wrestling
Data East unleashed this lousy port of an arcade game on an unsuspecting population. It is an infuriating game to play. The arcade game was something different, but the NES game was an infuriating mess.
There are only two teams in this game. Those teams are locked on players one and two. The control scheme is awful. You punch the opponent, lock up, and then press the B button 1-7 times to do a move. You wrestle the same opponents repeatedly until you get sick of the game and look for something else to do.
The only thing that saved this game was that it looked better than M.U.S.C.L.E. It is a bad port of an interesting arcade game. Unfortunately, it is still a bad game.
This is a game that I remember playing when I was a kid. I didn’t know much about pro wrestling but I was excited to play a game with my friends. I think this was a weekend rental. My memory of playing this game with my friends is better than actually playing this game.
It isn’t all that bad. There is a roster of characters with a small variety of moves. However, the graphics aren’t great; there are no finishers and only a few modes. There are no stipulation matches, and pinfall is the only way to win. There just isn’t much here.
Because this is an early wrestling game, it can be considered a classic. Not every classic game is a good game. In this case, WWF WrestleMania isn’t that good of a game, but it is much better than Tag Team Wrestling or M.U.S.C.L.E.
WWF Steel Cage Challenge
This was a disappointing game. It had a few things going for it, but this game got boring quickly by recycling character sprites and making each character play the same. It has the Steel Cage, but it isn’t executed well.
Every wrestler is the exact same. The developers made one character, cloned it eight times, and then made minor graphical changes to give the player the illusion of choice. Things get very repetitive and also very dull.
The Steel Cage is the big draw for this game. It isn’t very good and is forced into the single-player mode. All you have to do is climb to the top of the cage, and if your opponent stands up, you fall off the cage. This game barely beats out the others, but not by much.
WWF WrestleMania Challenge
This was an interesting game, not because of what is in the game but because its big gimmick is a Survivor Series match. This makes me wonder why the game wasn’t called Survivor Series Challenge, like how Steel Cage Challenge revolved around the cage match.
The graphics are good, and the game controls well. The wrestlers feel unique when compared to the other games published by LJN. The six-man tag matches are also much more fun to play when compared to the cage matches.
What holds this game back is the camera angle. It comes close to ruining the game. It is hard to line up attacks, and the game feels sluggish overall. It is better than Steel Cage Challenge, but only by a little.
This is a reskin of another game. It creates some interesting quirks, like having Road Warrior Hawk being based on a different wrestler despite also being in the game. This is better than the WWF games.
The game has a decent roster of wrestlers, lists of customizable moves, and a decent selection of game modes. The only downside is the roster. Because this is a reskin of another game, there was a limited number of wrestlers to reskin. Some minor graphical issues keep this game out of the top spot.
Of the licensed game, this is the best one. I wish I had the chance to play this game as a kid. It is much better than the WWF game.
WWF King of the Ring
I only have this game ahead of WCW Wrestling because I had more fun with it. It has better graphics than most games on this list, but it has similar issues as Steel Cage Challenge.
Each wrestler has the same set of moves. There are also no finishers or special moves in this game. However, the game is overall better than Steel Cage Challenge. I also had much more fun with this game because the game controls and looks better.
The King of the Ring tournament is the big draw for this game. It is a nice addition and can be fun if you’re playing with a friend. I think this game looks and plays better than WCW Wrestling, and it is more fun to play.
Tecmo World Wrestling
This game and Pro Wrestling could be interchangeable for the top spot. There is more to this game than Pro Wrestling, but it is very similar to it in terms of gameplay.
You have a great roster, and the gameplay is excellent. There are finishing moves and cutscenes for them. It is great! The roster has excellent characters, the control scheme is great, and the presentation of matches is excellent.
The only bad thing about this game is the limited number of game modes. While the single-player mode is excellent, and it is the one that comes closest to having a story mode, the game lacks other game modes. Despite this, Tecmo World Wrestling is a spectacular game.
This is the best wrestling game on the NES. You could argue for Tecmo World Wrestling, but this is my list, and I had more fun with this game. I liked the roster, the moves looked great, and for an early NES game, there was a lot going on in the game.
While there is no story mode and limited gameplay modes, there is enough in this game to elevate it over the others. The wrestlers have unique moves which are easy to perform, and you have finishing moves. It also looks very good!
I love this game! The gameplay and the graphics are fantastic! I have a limit on the number of exclamation points, so I’ll have to calm down. Some of the wrestlers in this game, namely Starman and Amazon, have been included in other games. This game was fun to discover when I started collecting games.
Going through the NES library has been a ton of fun so far. There are many games that I’ve either changed my mind about or have reinforced my opinion of. There were a few games on this list that I was very impressed by.
Two of these games, Tecmo World Wrestling and WCW Wrestling, can be considered hidden gems for me. As I continue to play through my NES games, I look forward to seeing what else I can find. It will also be fun to see if there are other wrestling games that I’ve missed or if I can find some fighting games.
I wish I had known about several of these games when I was little. There are some great wrestling games on the system, bad ports of arcade games, and bad licensed games. Overall, there is more good than bad on this list.
As I go through other genres of games, I’ll make more lists like this. You also might see some comedy lists as I think of them. Let me know if you have any ideas for future lists or rankings in the comments below!