It’s time to smell what the Rock is cooking as we check out the best N64 wrestling games of the year!
Wrestling was absolutely enormous in the late 90s, thanks mainly to the ascent of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and the competition it provided for the seemingly untouchable World Wrestling Federation (WWF – who became World Wrestling Entertainment in 2002, due to a legal dispute with the World Wildlife Fund).
Not only were these two wrestling promotions arguably never more popular during the final years of the 20th century, but the popularity of wrestling saw a true golden age for sports entertainment when it came to video games.
Technology was in a place where 3D was just starting to be properly utilized and this added so much appeal to wrestling titles, which could finally free themselves from the restrictions of 2D rings and arenas, bringing impressive, high flying stunts and drama to consoles in three dimensions for the first time.
You’ll find wrestling games in our best Nintendo Wii fighting games, best PS1 fighting games and best Sega Mega Drive games lists too, proving that wrestling is an extremely popular and highly regarded game type on many consoles!
There was an impressive number of wrestling games released for the cartridge based N64 – many of them exclusive – and despite the limited space afforded by the format, several are still highly regarded as the best wrestling games ever made.
Which are the very best though?
Let’s find out, as we check out the best N64 wrestling games!
10. ECW Hardcore Revolution (2000)
Upstart wrestling promotion ECW gained a lot of success and notoriety during the late 90s/early 2000s wrestling boom, establishing itself as a viable and popular third brand after WCW and the then-WWF.
It was positioned very differently to either of the two bigger promotions – with the clue being in the name: Extreme Championship Wrestling.
ECW was a promotion that highlighted a much more hardcore style of wrestling than its bigger competitors, with the use of various weapons, gore and even adult-oriented storylines being very common.
Which is what makes ECW Hardcore Revolution such a disappointment.
Though built on solid ground, the fact that it’s a reskin of WWF Attitude – with no extra ‘extreme’ or hardcore elements added in to differentiate it – makes it a lazy and uninspired game to play.
It’s unusual in that it only has one commentator – Joey Styles – and his contribution is one of the game’s few bright spots.
It’s also good to get a roster away from the better known superstars of the time, though again their moves are simply imported and renamed from WWF Attitude, again showing just how lazy this game’s development was!
Don’t get me wrong, It’s certainly not a bad game (especially if you haven’t played WWF Attitude) and if you were a fan of ECW during its heyday, you’ll get a kick out of seeing their wrestlers represented here.
It’s just a shame that it’s not extreme or distinctive enough to have actually felt like a proper ECW game, which is why it occupies the number ten spot on our list of the best N64 wrestling games!
9. WCW Backstage Assault (2000)
It’s weird that, in many ways, WCW Backstage Assault feels a lot more hardcore than ECW Hardcore Revolution!
That’s because WCW Backstage Assault is set entirely outside the wrestling ring and in the titular backstage areas and even feature a mode in which causing your opponent to bleed is the actual objective!
It does feel very strange to have a wrestling game that doesn’t feature any ring-based action, however – with WCW Backstage Assault feeling much more like a standard fighting game than one based on wrestling.
It’s also a bit of a disappointment that matches are restricted to one on one fighting only, again, reinforcing that fighting game feel. It means that traditional wrestling game features like tag teams and other group based matches are entirely absent.
It does feature commentary from wrestling legends Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan and Tony Schiavone (who’s still in the business today, providing commentary and other backstage duties for WWE’s biggest rival, AEW), which is perhaps WCW Backstage Assault’s strongest feature.
Though it’s an admirable attempt to do something a bit different to usual wrestling games, it strays so far from the ring that WCW Backstage Assault ends up being far from a crowd pleaser.
8. WCW Mayhem (1999)
Though WCW were entering a period of unprecedented popularity at the time of WCW Mayhem’s release – keeping pace with WWF and even taking first place in TV ratings for an impressive amount of time – the video game adaptations of the on screen wrestling action weren’t always in the same league of quality as their biggest competitor.
Certainly not in the case of WCW Mayhem, unfortunately.
Electronic Arts held the WCW licence at the time – and the quality of the games, presentation aside, seemed to take a noticeable dip in comparison to the AKI/THQ titles WCW vs nWo: World Tour and WCW/nWo: Revenge.
Gone was the excellent grappling system, which was much missed.
However, the aforementioned presentation and the roster of wrestlers was excellent – with numerous stables and factions very well represented across the 50 playable wrestlers available in game.
One impressive feature was a Pay-Per-View mode, which allowed players to enter a code and unlock real Pay-Per-View match cards. Codes would be shared on the WCW Nitro TV show a week before a Pay-Per-VIew aired, allowing players to recreate real-life events pretty much as they happened!
WCW Mayhem also marked the first time that backstage areas had been included in a US wrestling game, though it didn’t go as far with these areas as its sequel – WCW Backstage Assault – did, of course!
7. WWF War Zone (1998)
Though basic by today’s standards, I do remember WWF War Zone’s wrestlers looking incredibly impressive upon release, thanks to the use of ‘soft skin’ technology – which eliminated the blocky visuals of separate polygon elements, giving the superstars a much more natural look.
It wasn’t just the more naturalistic visuals that made WWF War Zone an excellent wrestling game, however.
WWF War Zone also featured a robust create-a-wrestler mode (which has become a staple of pretty much all wrestling games) as well as four player simultaneous multiplayer matches!
It was a huge commercial success too, selling over a million copies upon release.
A large variety of match types also made WWF War Zone an impressive early entry for Nintendo’s N64 console.
Audio-wise it was strong too – with commentary by Vince McMahon and the peerless Jim Ross also included, WWF War Zone heralded the start of a phenomenal era for wrestling fans on the N64; an era that many say has never been bettered.
Yet this was just the beginning – there are many more wrestling titles to come on our best N64 wrestling games list!
6. WWF Attitude (1999)
Acclaim were a big deal in the 90s, releasing some absolutely huge titles on the 16-bit and 32-bit consoles of the era.
That included ten years of wrestling titles, as they held the WWF licence from 1989 onwards – Acclaim’s WWF Wrestlemania on the NES having the distinction of being the first ever WWF console game – with WWF Attitude marking the end of their relationship with the promotion.
They went out on a high note, however – as WWF Attitude, despite being heavily based on WWF War Zone, had numerous extra features that elevated it above its predecessor.
Create-A-Stable mode and Pay-Per-View mode were both new additions – and were both excellent.
The latter mode allowed players to build their own wrestling event, which included which matches to feature, the event’s name and even customising the arena itself, right down to the colour of lights and ring ropes!
Full entrances, theme music and one of the most recognisable rosters (even today!) from one of the most beloved eras in wrestling marks WWF Attitude out as an excellent game and a fitting swansong for Acclaim’s decade long series of wrestling titles.
However, it’s up against some very stiff competition, as you’ll see when we make our way even further up the list of the best N64 wrestling games!
5. WCW vs nWo: World Tour (1997)
The second best-selling wrestling game for the N64 overall – an N64 exclusive – WCW vs nWo: World Tour also introduced developer Aki’s superb grappling system, which became the foundation which publisher THQ based their subsequent wrestling games on for many years.
Though not met with universal critical acclaim upon release, WCW vs nWo: World Tour has definitely proven to be much more popular – and better – than its review scores would have had you believe back in 1997.
Released at the peak of WCW’s dominance against the WWF, it was also perfectly timed for commercial success too!
Being the first N64 WCW game, it’s definitely lacking in a few areas: there’s no create-a-wrestler mode, no story mode and even a lack of ring entrances – all three of which would soon be staples of the genre featured in every wrestling game.
It also features a somewhat limited roster compared to the wrestling games that would follow – with just 20 from WCW or the nWo and all others being more generic wrestlers with completely made up names (though this does evoke the classic wrestling style of superstars taking on ‘jobbers’ – aka wrestlers destined to lose against the more well known personalities!).
However, along with the fantastic gameplay – which means WCW vs nWo: World Tour has it where it counts – which is why it’s sat proudly in the middle of our best N64 wrestling games list!
4. WCW/nWo: Revenge (1998)
Just to prove my repeated point about how huge wrestling was back in the late 90s, WCW/nWo Revenge ended up being the highest selling third-party game on the N64 – with 1.8m copies sold!
To put that in perspective, WCW/nWo: Revenge sold more copies overall than the beloved Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and even first party titles such as Mario Golf and Pilotwings 64.
So yes, it’s fair to say that wrestling was a big deal – and the superb wrestling games on N64, of which this was another exclusive to the console – helped to truly elevate the video game genre too.
WCW/nWo: Revenge – which featured WCW and the supposed bad guys of the New World Order/nWo (who of course were much of the reason for WCW’s incredible popularity at the time) – was the pinnacle of WCW games for the N64.
It featured the same grappling system seen in the previous title (also developed by AKI and published by THQ), which was easy to learn and incredibly satisfying in gameplay terms.
WCW/nWo: Revenge also had improved visuals in comparison to its predecessor, WCW vs nWo: World Tour, along with a bigger roster of wrestlers (though again, some were fictional) and a proper championship mode, the latter of which was a bit of an oversight in the first game.
A truly legendary game, WCW/nWo: Revenge would likely top the list of any other console’s list of wrestling games – but the list of the best N64 wrestling games features a few more absolute classics that just about pip it to the three count!
3. Wrestlemania 2000 (1999)
With THQ picking up the WWF licence (and WCW moving to EA), it was pretty much a given that the grapple-based wrestling system found in the AKI-developed WCW titles would now form the basis of the WWF games.
Which of course, it did.
In fact, Wrestlemania 2000 used the exact same engine found in 1998’s WCW/nWo: Revenge.
Yet of course now, there was a roster of 50 WWF wrestlers to choose from – and an extensive create-a-wrestler mode, along with a massive amount of customisation options for existing wrestlers, gave Wrestlemania 2000 a lot of depth and appeal.
Interestingly, many of the options included in create-a-wrestler mode could allow players to create wrestlers who were, at the time, signed to WCW – thus creating the possibility of an unofficial crossover!
WWF-specific events also featured in Wrestlemania 2000, such as King of the Ring and Royal Rumble.
Naturally, a Road to Wrestlemania story mode – leading up to the titular pay-per-view event – was included too.
Four player simultaneous multiplayer, though not unique to Wrestlemania 2000, also proved to be a brilliant inclusion.
It’s yet another unmissable wrestling game on the best N64 wrestling games list – despite the horrendous cover ‘art’ – yet there’s still two more games that we here at Retro Dodo consider to be the very best on the console!
2. Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 (2000)
Though American wrestling often leans into the silliness and theatrics of the form, Japanese wrestling – at least in its ‘puroresu’ form – tends to err on the side of presenting wrestling as legitimate combat.
Virtual Pro Wrestling 2, which was a Japan-only release, featuring a massive roster of more than 100 wrestlers, also takes this approach.
Though developed by AKI and based on the same engine as that used in WWF game Wrestlemania 2000, Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 is a very different game to its US counterpart.
Interestingly, it features numerous moves that are banned in US wrestling for being too dangerous – as well as an expanded create-a-wrestler mode with impressively detailed mask editing options too!
The inclusion of truly iconic wrestling legends – yes, even non-Japanese ones such as Andre the Giant, Terry Gordy and ‘Dr Death’ Steve Williams – made Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 fantastic game for long-term wrestling fans, but it’s a shame that it never made it out of its native Japan.
These days, however, fan translations do exist – and if you’re interested in the best N64 wrestling games, it’s definitely worth tracking one of these down!
1. WWF: No Mercy (2000)
To this day, you’ll hear wrestling fans waxing lyrical about the absolute masterpiece that is WWF: No Mercy.
It’s proven so influential and highly regarded, in fact, that the actual wrestlers involved with the development of – upcoming wrestling game – AEW: Fight Forever have cited WWF: No Mercy as the game they most want to evoke the spirit of.
Interestingly – and impressively, given the passage of time – AEW: Fight Forever’s Director is Hideyuki ‘Geta’ Iwashita, who also directed WWF: No Mercy and WCW/nWo Revenge!
So what makes WWF: No Mercy so beloved?
Well, it was the final wrestling game from AKI and THQ on the N64 – yet another that was exclusive to the console too – and represented the pinnacle of the superb grappling system; which the developers had successfully implemented and iterated on ever since WCW vs nWo: World Tour.
Championship mode, a story mode with branching paths depending on the outcome of matches, ladder matches, backstage areas, an extensive create-a-wrestler mode and a roster of sixty wrestlers – WWF: No Mercy had it all and then some.
Add this to the perfectly tuned, brilliantly refined gameplay and it’s not hard to see why WWF: No Mercy is so revered to this day.
Though modern wrestling games have of course been able to layer on much more flash and flair in terms of presentation and options, few have ever matched up to the brilliant balancing of accessibility and depth that WWF: No Mercy gave its fans.
Which is why its undoubtedly our choice for the top of the best N64 wrestling games list!
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Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.