As you may have seen from a previous feature, we at Gaming Respawn are not reviewing WWE 2K20 because, well, you can check the article for the full story, but in a nutshell, it’s because it is a broken pile of crap, and I refuse to put money into Vince McMahon’s pocket anymore.
If you do want to try out the latest “effort” from 2K, then please do. I am not here to demand you boycott WWE like I have chosen to do. You may have a good experience with WWE 2K20, and I truly hope you do. Many wrestling and gaming fans look forward to this time of year for the latest wrestling title from WWE, so I do not want to take that excitement/joy away. However, if you are like me and the previews, reviews and constant negative backlash on social media have put you completely off, here are five wrestling games to play through instead.
The last game on the 7th gen consoles, and I would argue the last best wrestling game. WWE 2K14 was an incredible entry into the WWE gaming franchise. It was also the first game published by 2K after THQ filed for bankruptcy. Furthermore, it was the last game to feature the Attitude Era-style WWE logo. What made 2K14 such a great entry into the WWE video game franchise is the same reason why I enjoyed 2K19 compared to the last few previous entries; the gameplay was sped up ever-so-slightly to make it a far more enjoyable experience. However, it wasn’t the better gameplay or the small but decent roster that make 2K14 a standout game, it is the 30 years of WrestleMania story mode. There are 45 matches taken from WrestleMania 1 to WrestleMania 29, and they work much like the showcase mode in that you’ll have specific objectives to complete, resulting in small cutscenes that are historical moments from these matches. Showcase mode is great, but it might be rather monotonous for you as you’ll be in control of just one wrestler. In 2K14 you’ll be in control of numerous and legendary wrestlers from Steve Austin to Ric Flair. There was also an extremely challenging mode where you’d be competing against The Undertaker as you try and defeat the streak. Taker here is like some sort of demi-god. It is exceedingly tough, but it is fun to try and beat Taker with different wrestlers.
Total Extreme Warfare 2016
If you haven’t heard of Total Extreme Warfare (TEW), then simply put, it is the wrestling equivalent of Football Manager. You won’t be controlling wrestlers during matches here, you make the matches.If you enjoy the Universe mode in the 2K games then TEW could be a great replacement for WWE 2K2O for you. Setting a game up and actually playing the game can be extremely daunting as there is A LOT to do in TEW. Luckily, there are many decent tutorial videos, and there is also a forum on the Grey Dog (the developers) website. Once you familiarise yourself with how TEW works though, you can lose hours, days, and weeks playing it. You have two choices in what “world” you want to play in: the “Cornellverse” or the real world, which does require some extra work to play. Because TEW isn’t officially licenced, they cannot use real-world companies, such as WWE or NJPW. Instead, the developers created the Cornellverse, which is full of fictional promotions and workers, etc. Jumping straight into this will feel totally alien as this world is well established over TEW’s history, so again, you’ll have to find some videos explaining the history of this fictional wrestling world to help you get started. If you have no interest in that side, good news everyone! You can run companies like WWE, but it does require you to download created databases. This is a simple process, and the instructions to do so are found on the Grey Dog forums. Once you have everything set up, you are only hindered by your imagination. Want to own WWE and bring in the likes of Omega and Okada and turn it back into a promotion that values wrestling first? Go ahead. Fancy creating your own promotion and watch it rise through the Independent wrestling ranks? Yep, you can do that too. You can even download historical/fictional databases so you could go back to 1997 and stop the Montreal Screwjob or start from April 2001 where WCW didn’t get sold to Vince McMahon. TEW is a game that will reward you for your patience. It will take you days, weeks, perhaps months to get comfortable with it, but once you are completely in tune with it, you will have the time of your life.
WWE: All Stars
Sometimes you just want some exaggerated and over-the-top fun, right? It’s all good and well booking your own wrestling company or playing through the career of one of the best wrestlers of the last two decades, but sometimes you just want to jump 40 feet in the air and land an elbow drop on your opponent. Well, thankfully in 2011, such a game was released when THQ decided to gift us WWE All Stars. There is a small but decent roster of (2011) current wrestlers and legends. Out of exhibition, there are two main game modes to keep you occupied: Path of Champions and Fantasy Warfare. Path of Champions plays much like the Towers from 2K19 and Mortal Kombat where you have to go through 10 opponents to get to the wrestler sitting at the top of whichever one you have chosen. Fantasy Warfare is the real gem of All Stars as you’ll get to play out such dream matches as Randy Orton vs Jake Roberts, Hulk Hogan vs John Cena and CM Punk vs Stone Cold Steve Austin. Each match has a short vignette beforehand to hype you for the upcoming match as well, which is a neat touch. The real reason to pick up All Stars, however, is the insanely fun gameplay. All the wrestlers look like musclehead cartoon characters but do look incredible. The complete OTT gameplay is a joy with wrestlers flying 40 odd feet in the air to hit their finishers. You can also slam your opponent into the mat where they will fly up like a bouncy ball, and if you time it just right, you can hit a combo move. It is really easy to do this thanks to All Stars’ simple yet effective controls. There is also a great port on the 3DS, so if you fancy Rock Bottoming jabronies on the go, you can.
WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain
This was the game that gave me the most conflict in choosing. I spent a good, long while trying to decide between Here Comes the Pain and the fantastic WWE Day of Reckoning 2. In the end, my logic for choosing HCTP is simply because I imagine a lot more people may have a PS2 in a cupboard than a GameCube. Regardless, HCTP is one of the greatest wrestling games ever released. Still to this day, it looks fantastic! And a testament to just how bad the visuals can be on 2K20 this year, look at this picture of The Rock from this year’s “effort” compared to 2003’s HCTP!
The gameplay in HCTP, as well as the graphics, holds up well today. It featured a brand new grapple system, which back in 2003 was well received and a much needed change in the SmackDown series. Today, it is not quite as streamlined as you’d be used to after playing the 2K games, and it will take a few matches to get used to/remember, but once you have, HCTP provides hours of glorious wrestling goodness. There was a vastly improved career (season) mode where you can choose to either use a real or created wrestler. Like most story modes, it doesn’t quite work in the kayfabe sense if you choose someone well established, like Triple H, as it will treat you a bit like a rookie. But it provides hours’ worths of fun, and a personal favourite of mine to use was Goldust, so I could get him the world title he desperately deserved. HCTP was also their first game to feature the Elimination Chamber (and bra and panties matches, buuuut we’ll ignore that) and featured a modest 50 playable wrestlers. It is also the last game to feature The Rock and Steve Austin as active members of the roster and not Legends. Oh, and if we are talking about historical importance, it is also the first game to feature a little known wrestler by the name of John Cena.
WWF: No Mercy
It had to make the list, right? The greatest wrestling game ever created. 19 years later (yes, 19!!!!! Damn, I feel so old) it has never been topped, and it’s hard to imagine if it will ever be topped. There is nothing left to be said about how great this game is. What can be said, however, is how alive and well No Mercy is in 2019 thanks to a dedicated modding community. You can completely re-skin the game with various mods ranging from the golden days of the late 80s/early 90s to the modern era. It is quite the experience being able to change an iconic game like No Mercy like that. If you don’t fancy changing anything, then playing the core game is still so, so good. The graphics are obviously rather old now, but the gameplay is still perfect. No Mercy also features many of the modern greats of wrestling in their prime, and you can take each of them through No Mercy’s absolutely brilliant Championship story mode. Much like the gameplay, No Mercy’s campaign/story mode is one that other games have struggled to replicate. There were unique twists and turns in whichever title you decided to fight for, and they also depended on decisions made backstage or if you win/lose a match. You could also defend your title once you won it, again featuring unique stories. If you still have an N64 lurking in a cupboard, then I implore you to get it out and load up No Mercy.