So I’m going to throw you a simple question, what makes a good WWE video game?
It doesn’t seem like a hard question to answer and yet we’ve had so many different takes on the WWE video game over the years, I’m convinced even the developers behind the game don’t truly know.
Within WWE’s canon of games, there have been more changes and course corrections than Kane’s entire backstory.
We’ve come a long way from the days of simple pixels staggering around 2D rings. Heck in modern games there are probably more pixels on Triple H’s sweaty chest than there were in those entire games.
But this change has meant a lot of upheaval and, much like a Big Show heel turn, this hasn’t always ended well.
Features come, go, and are re-introduced so much it’s hard to really get a grasp on what is well received and what isn’t.
The yearly grind to get a WWE game on store shelves has left the franchise exhausted of ideas; innovation steadily giving way to an annual update that has yielded diminishing returns.
This reached its peak in late 2019 when, after years of treading water, WWE2K20 landed with all the grace of a pile of manure.
So negative was this critical acid bath that 2K had no alternative but to shelve the series for a while; You won’t be buying a copy of WWE2K21 simply because won’t exist. Instead, gamers will be treated to a more arcadey take on the franchise; ironically the freshest and interesting take on a WWE game since All Stars way back in 2011.
With two years to craft a new mainline WWE game, it’ll be interesting to see how far-reaching the changes end up being from 2K.
In the meantime, it’s a good period for WWE fans to look back across over 30 plus years of games and ask what it is that made these games so appealing in the first place… or at least that would be the ideal.
Unlike many classic games, you can’t simply log in to your digital storefront of choice and buy a copy of Smackdown 2. It simply isn’t an option.
Pesky issues like legal royalties and music rights guarantee that you won’t be seeing those classic games rock up on any digital stores, no matter how lucrative a road that might be for 2K and WWE.
WWE games are usually shackled to the consoles they release on, never to roam in the glory of current generation consoles.
Emulation is the easiest way to overcome this for many but it’s far from optimal. Emulators can be hit and miss with wildly varying results leading to more hiccups than a Nia Jax match.
This means that many gamers simply had the chance to experience what these games were like and why some of them are revered so much.
I figured this would be a good time to do just that. To dust off the old consoles and dive back into WWE video game history. To go back and see which games hold up all these years later and which ones have aged as well as the Attitude Era Divas segments.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey as I revisit the classics and not-so-classics of a video game series that has given me many thousands of hours of entertainment over the years… intentionally or not.