Gaming Flashback: Sega Genesis Wrestling Games
World Wrestling Entertainment has had a long and storied history on gaming consoles datingway back to 1987. While wrestling games have come a long way in the last thirty years, today I wanted to look back at some of the games from the early years, when developers were still feeling things out with unfamiliar hardware. WrestleMania month rolls on as Gaming Flashback sets the "Way-Back Dial" to the golden years of wrestling on the Sega Genesis.
WWE Super WrestleMania
At first glance it's very obvious this is an early Geneiss title. WWE Super WrestleMania is very bear bones, offering only four different game modes and a puny roster of only eight wrestlers. The controls are stiff and sadly, the game came out prior to the six button Genesis controller, so the lack of buttons on the Genesis controller doesn't help matters. When your wrestling game requires you to push two different face buttons to perform a pin, you know there's something wrong. Adding to the game's frustration is the lack of any kind of submission system leaves you with only pinfalls and count-outs for match outcomes.
The game isn't all bad however. The digitized versions of each of the wrestler's theme sound quite good on the Genesis' sound card and they even put WWE Hall of Famer Howard Finkel into the game for introductions and to declare the winner of each match. The roster may be tiny but they did manage to include some of the greats of the era, though the inclusion of Papa Shango seemed very strange to me. Super WrestleMania isn't a terrible game, but there are better options for WWE games on the Genesis and I wouldn't recommend bothering with this one unless you want to own all of them.
WWE WrestleMania: The Arcade Game
WrestleMania: The Arcade Game is one of the wrestling games I spent a lot of time with when I was younger. A notable improvement from Super WrestleMania, but it also isn't a traditional wrestling game. Borrowing inspiration from the Mortal Kombat series, WrestleMania: The Arcade Game uses digitized graphics and a one-on-one fighting engine. While this may sound like a good fit for a wrestling game, I find that the fantasy setting of Netherrealm Studios' WWE Immortals fits this genre much better than the more cartoony take offered by this title. Outlandish attacks, like Undertaker hitting his opponent with a tombstone or Shawn Micheals using a baseball bat, are offered in addition to traditional wrestling holds. Despite the inclusion of traditional wrestling, none of the characters have access to any of their signature or finishing maneuvers, which feels like a huge omission.
The Genesis version once again suffers from its aging hardware, as the system had been on the market for six years at the time of this release. Most of the commentary recorded by Vince McMahon was removed from the game, as were certain sound effects. Surprisingly, unlike Super WrestleMania, there were no characters cut from the roster, and the game plays largely the same as its arcade counterpart, though controls can feel a little stiff at times. WrestleMania: The Arcade Game is a pretty fun title to mess around with from time to time, and its roster represents the "New Generation" era of WWE. One of the better wrestling games on the Genesis, that isn't really a wrestling game, but if you're looking for a fighter you'd be better off with Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat.
WWE Raw, represents the time when WWE was beginning its transition from the "New Generation" to the "Attitude Era". WWE Raw uses the same game engine as Super WrestleMania, so the game play remains largely the same. Thankfully two years in between the two games helped it to be a much more solid experience. The game's controls feel much more responsive than it's predecessor and the game offers more game modes to give you a little more to do. The game also features the wrestler's signature maneuvers from the time and even has some submissions holds, like the Sharpshooter.
The roster here is great for its time and really highlights some of the best from the WWE at the time. Once again, the Genesis version features the same roster as the SNES, the only notable change between versions on the 16 bit consoles would be the inclusion of Kwang (aka Savio Vega) on the 32X port of the game. Based on the games I've played on the Genesis and Super Nintendo, I think this is among the best on either platform. These two consoles aren't going to go down in history for having the greatest WWE games on them, but that doesn't mean these games aren't still enjoyable, even two decades later.