5 video games you won't believe existed
Sports-entertainment has a long, storied history within the video game medium. From the arcade heyday of the early ’80s to the advent of mobile gaming today, players have been banging around in the virtual squared circle since the days before WrestleMania even existed.
But not every entry into the annals of wrestling games experienced the popularity, exposure and success of titles like the WWE 2K series and WWE Immortals. Some had the potential and fell disappointingly flat, others tried to focus the entire experience on one match type, while a rare pair went completely off the conceptual rails.
Read on to learn the stories behind five of these titles.
Showdown: Legends of Wrestling, 2004 (PlayStation 2, Xbox)
Imagine a game where the greatest sports-entertainers of all time — from The Von Erichs to Sting — were brought together for the first time to do battle in epic dream matches. Now, imagine that game becoming an unmitigated disaster, and you have Showdown: Legends of Wrestling.
As the final entry in a series that intended to bring grapplers together like never before, Legends of Wrestling had the attention of many a wrestling fan when it released just 11 years ago. It boasted a who’s who of Superstars and managers from the 1970s to the early 1990s that included Ivan Putski, Abdullah the Butcher, Andre the Giant, Killer Kowalski, Eddie Guerrero, The Grand Wizard, “Captain” Lou Albano and yes, even Andy Kaufman.
Sadly, playing it was a nightmare. Riddled with bugs, glitches, crashes and a repetitive commentary system, the game was panned by critics. It performed so poorly that it became the last title former WWE video game developer Acclaim Entertainment published before filing for bankruptcy shortly after the game’s release.
Such an unfortunate fate for a roster that special.
WWE Betrayal, 2001 (Game Boy Color)
In 2001, The Attitude Era was reaching its absolute zenith. With exposure unlike any the company had seen before, the time seemed to take WWE video games outside the ring.
That’s where WWE Betrayal comes in, the first of two attempts at this expansion. The game allowed the player to pick among Triple H, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock and The Undertaker, and play as that Superstar to aid Mr. McMahon on an important quest: Save a kidnapped Stephanie McMahon. The ensuing gameplay consisted of a simple, side-scrolling beat-’em-up where the three Superstars you hadn’t chosen become the game’s bosses.
Though great in concept, the title wasn’t reviewed very favorably. Garnering average scores of 5 out of 10, it would seem that critics found the simplistic gameplay combined with the game’s short duration — lasting approximately a half-hour per character — left them feeling betrayed.
WCW Backstage Assault, 2000 (PlayStation, Nintendo 64)
Remember back in the day when wrestling games allowed for certain matches to sprawl out into the backstage areas of arenas? Taking the fight to the locker rooms, brawling in the halls and throwing opponents into cars in parking lots used to be a hugely popular facet of the WWE and WCW games during the height of The Attitude Era.
It became so popular that Electronic Arts — yes, EA once made wrestling games — and Kodiak Entertainment decided to create a WCW game based solely on fighting backstage. Bad idea.
Not having a ring to start out, finish or hold any portion of the match killed the novelty of battling in the back and pigeonholed gameplay. Reviewers panned the game for its lack of depth and, unfortunately for WCW, it was the company’s final video game release before being bought out by WWE.
Not the best way to end your gaming legacy.
ECW Hardcore Revolution, 2000 (PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, Game Boy Color)
Not many people know this, but ECW had a couple of video games thanks to the wrestling boom of the ’90s.
Paul Heyman had gotten Acclaim, the creators of WWE games in the mid-90s such as WWE Attitude, to sign on and make games for the extreme brand. ECW Hardcore Revolution was the second of these and featured a who’s who of ECW stars, from Rob Van Dam and Sabu to New Jack and Tajiri.
As is becoming a pattern here, the game sounded like a great plan in theory. However, Acclaim never bothered to update its engine from its WWE games or create a new one for ECW. The result was, essentially, an ECW re-skin of WWE Attitude and WWE War Zone.
As one would figure, critics weren’t crazy about this lazy approach from the developer, and the game’s reception ranged from mixed to negative.
WWE Crush Hour, 2003 (PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube)
In the wake of the Twisted Metal franchise’s success, WWE decided that its second attempt at going outside the ring in a video game would involve putting Superstars and Divas in automobiles designed for battle.
Through that concept, WWE Crush Hour was born. The game’s premise was a bit of a Nostradamus-like prediction, foreshadowing WWE Network in a way. Mr. McMahon had purchased all TV networks and could thus make programming focused around the WWE Superstars and Divas 24/7.
One such show was WWE Crush Hour, which is where the gameplay came in. Choosing from a large selection of WWE’s roster, the player would pick a stage to do battle in a four-way dance of bullets, missiles, traps and flying scrap metal.
As you’ve likely deduced, the game received a mixed reaction upon release. Criticized for its lack of depth, poor gameplay as well as audio and sub-par graphics, it only earned a Metacritic score in the mid-50s. Still, this concept, like some of the others found on this list, deserves a second try. Vehicular combat is a lacking genre nowadays, after all.