A Wrestling Game is a Fighting Game designed to mimic the bouts seen in Professional Wrestling. It lacks the flashy special moves often seen in fighters, and instead emphasizes a system based around grapples, holds, and throws. Most wrestling games are Licensed Games, bearing a license from a real-world wrestling federation and using its wrestlers and storylines.
While a wrestling game usually uses some strikes, the majority of the gameplay is focused on grappling. A player can initiate a grapple either through a button press, or simply getting close to an opponent, depending on the game. From there, each player fights for dominance (generally either through Button Mashing, or timing) to pull off a move. The move can still be countered, especially if one goes for a powerful move too early in the match.
Early wrestling games generally just simulated the matches, and not the general presentation of wrestling. Later games added Cut Scene entrances, to mimic pro wrestling's elaborate entrances, as well as commentary tracks and crowd noise (which, depending on the game, can actually affect the match, as a wrestler may receive a power boost while the crowd is chanting his name), and various Gimmick Matches to change up the gameplay. However, one of the more interesting developments in the genre has been the advent of Create-A-Wrestler (CAW) modes, which allow a player to make a custom character, designing his build, attire, strengths, weaknesses, and moveset from scratch. A game with a suitably extensive CAW mode can have numerous fan sites spring up around it, each of which gives diagrams and formulas on how to create various characters, including wrestlers from other federations, characters from movies and TV shows, etc. These are often supplemented with other creative modes, such as Create-An-Entrance, Create-A-Taunt, etc. Some people take this to the next step, creating their own "Wrestling federations" by recording their caws off the TV screens in matches or backstage segments. These are known as CAW Leagues.
Older wrestling games used a simple, Fighting Game-esque "beat all the other characters" ladder as its single player mode, but newer ones split one of two ways: a Season mode, which plays out like a standard sports game season with a few added storylines, or a Story mode, which is heavily scripted and story-based, usually based on a wrestling federation's storylines over the year in which the game is released.
- The NES classic Pro Wrestling.
- Tag Team Pro Wrestling, which would be utterly forgotten if it weren't for the fact that Strong Bad from Homestar Runner is named after the opposing team in the game.
- Tecmo World Wrestling, which introduced Tecmo's trademark cinema scenes into the action.
- The mostly-Japan-only Fire Pro Wrestling series is one of the major innovators of the genre, having introduced such staples as the Create-A-Wrestler mode (in Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium, for the Super Famicom) and the Story mode (in Fire Pro Wrestling G for PlayStation 1). It still boasts the most extensive CAW mode in the industry, which is saying a lot, given that its 2D, sprite-based style makes animating the various selectable costumes far more difficult than simply swapping out textures. Each game also boasts hundreds upon hundreds of wrestlers, most of them Captain Ersatzes for real-life wrestlers. To date, only three games under the Fire Pro line have made it to the United States: Fire Pro Wrestling Advance and its sequel (both for the Game Boy Advance), and the currently-last game in the series, Fire Pro Wrestling Returns for the PlayStation 2. Fire Pro's Gaiden Game, Blazing Tornado, also had a limited American arcade release, but no home release (unlike in Japan, where it was ported to the Sega Saturn).
- The series has a hardcore following amongst its fans, many of which reside on the Fire Pro Forums (which also has subforums for other non-Fire Pro wrestling games).
- WWF War Zone and its sequel, WWF Attitude, are famous for introducing the CAW mode to American audiences. Sadly, they have not aged well.
- The same engine was used for ECW Hardcore Revolution and ECW Anarchy Rulz. Like their WWF predecessors, they have aged horribly.
- After losing the ECW license, Acclaim went a different direction and put together an All-Star Cast of wrestlers from across the ages to make the Legends Of Wrestling series. It has aged nicely, the second installment in particular, thanks to some innovative gameplay, some gorgeous arena designs and its massive cast.
- Between 1997 and 2000, AKI developed and THQ published a series of highly-regarded licensed WWF and WCW titles for the Nintendo 64. In order, they were WCW vs. nWo World Tour, WCW/nWo Revenge, WWF WrestleMania 2000, and WWF No Mercy. Each game improved on the mechanics and features of the last, and No Mercy still boasts one of the most complex story modes, with branching storylines depending on whether matches are won or lost; it's widely considered the greatest professional wrestling game ever. Revenge still has its loyal fanbase as one of the last ways to relive WCW's glory days.
- An interesting note: when THQ lost the WCW license (due to their new WWF license; WCW didn't want to share a video game company), their stock dropped $8/share. The old AKI/THQ wrestling games were THAT big.
- Also in that timeframe, AKI developed the Japan-only Virtual Pro Wrestling series using the same engine but with Japanese pro wrestlers instead. The first game was based off of World Tour, while the second was based off of WM 2000. The second game also featured licensed wrestlers from All Japan Pro Wrestling, and a fighting style based of Mixed Martial Arts using the AKI engine.
- The WWE Day of Reckoning series is interesting here, simply because the CAW mode and the Story mode are so closely intertwined; you are required to play Story mode as a CAW, not one of the wrestlers in the game. As well, WWE Day of Reckoning 2's story mode is a direct sequel to the original game, and not based on the real-life WWE's storylines. The gameplay is noticeably reminiscent of the Nintendo 64 games, which makes a little sense when you realize that the DoR games were both released on the Nintendo GameCube.
- WWF Superstars, a 1989 arcade game from Technos Japan.
- Its sequel, WWF Wrestlefest, is probably the epitome of the old-school arcade wrestling game.
- The game received a Video Game Remake in 2012 for the iPhone and iPad.
- King Of Colosseum, a sort of 3D successor to the Fire Pro Wrestling series, even though Fire Pro Wrestling continued to run strong.
- Lucha Libre AAA: Héroes del Ring
- Natsume Championship Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling's licensed game.
- Wrestle Kingdom, New Japan Pro-Wrestling's licensed game.
- SNK briefly dipped their toes into the genre with 3 Count Bout (or Fire Suplex as it's called in Japan) in 1993, and again with Big Bang Pro Wrestling for the Neo Geo Pocket in 2000.
- Total Extreme Wrestling and its spinoff iDomination
- The WWE (previously SmackDown vs. Raw) series is probably the most popular wrestling franchise today, if just because of the lack of competition and the yearly Madden-esque sequels. It's also introduced many innovations within the genre, including the very first "Create A Finisher" mode (in SvR 2009) and, in the upcoming 2010 edition, the very first "Storyline Editor", where players can create their own shows and angles.
- Its progenitor, WWF SmackDown! (originally released for the PS1), used a simplified version of the Touken Retsuden engine.
- The series is also one that zigs zags on involving a story. The first two games had small cut scenes that would determine allies and enemies, Just Bring It and Shut Your Mouth was a more Wide-Open Sandbox where you could hook up, make enemies, and get involved with matches with other wrestlers, even CAWS. Here Comes the Pain and the original SmackDown vs. Raw had a single brand storyline, the latter removing the ability to play as a diva or Unknown type (HCTP had you get involved with a Diva). SvR 2006 was perhaps the best thought out story of the series, with brand specific storylines and your decisions having an impact on matches and the ending (accuse John Cena of running down Teddy Long and it turns out you were responsible, side with Triple H and an incensed Shelton Benjamin will turn on you). The next two games had stock cutscenes, where by 2009 the focus shifted to a few individual wrestlers and a CAW, no Mickie James story for you (except in 2010).
- The Midway-developed TNA Impact was received marginally well, but plans were in place to produce a sequel that likely would have been a much better game. Midway then went bankrupt and now nobody knows the future of the series.
- Saturday Night Slam Masters is a Capcom-produced hybrid between the Fighting Game and the Wrestling Game. Be on the lookout for expies in the Tetsuo Hara character designs.
- The sequel is a straight up fighting game. You can't even pin people, although characters can still bounce against the ropes during a run.
- The Microleague Wrestling games on Commodore 64 were — I kid you not — turn-based wrestling games.
- This would not be the last of them either. The TNA Wrestling game for the iPhone is in many ways a turn based wrestling game. It's story mode is So Bad, It's Good, so you may have case for it being better than the game that was released on the consoles.
- Def Jam Vendetta, a wrestling game starring rap stars (by the developers of WWF No Mercy, no less, and sharing the same engine). Its sequel, Def Jam: Fight for NY, was a hybrid fighter/wrestler.
- Sumotori Dreams is a wrestling game with Ragdoll Physics. It's exactly as hilarious as it sounds.
- Rumble Roses is an all-female wrestling title. With such things as "humiliation moves" that involve holding your opponent in such a way that the audience can see her goodies better. At least one match in every story mode takes place in a mud pit on a beach. Other than the arguably excessive fanservice it was pretty much a straight pro wrestling game with wrestling rings, pinfalls, submissions, countouts... it was also built on the same engine as the SmackDown vs Raw series.
- Predating the above is the Wrestle Angels series, which began as a wrestling game with some H-Game elements (the loser of certain matches is stripped in early games), and its combat mechanics are basically a Card Battle Game. When they realized that the main draw was the management of the teams, they morphed it into mostly a wrestler management simulator with the player basically playing Vince McMahon for an all-ladies wrestling league.
- WWE All Stars is a 2011 game for the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. It features current wrestlers fighting alongside legends such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and André the Giant. Its style is more over-the-top compared to other recent wrestling games.
- The Data East Arcade Game Mutant Fighter features a cast consisting mostly of mythical monsters grappling with each other in no-holds-barred matches. It hardly pretends to any sort of realistic simulation, but even with the absence of pins and ropes, it's more obviously influenced by Professional Wrestling than anything else.
- Wrestling Mpire, an infamous So Bad, It's Good game by MDickie about making your own wrestler and getting champion belts and promotions.
- AEW Fight Forever, the first full-fledge video game for All Elite Wrestling, developed by Yuke's (formerly of WWE game fame) and supervised by Kenny Omega.