I’ve spent a significant portion of my life playing wrestling video games, and it’s probably one of the main reasons why my social and romantic lives are both in the state they are. The majority of the many, many hours I have sunk into these grappling games were spent playing story modes – career modes, roads to Wrestlemanias, season modes, whatever name they were under, I was obsessed with them. Over the years, I’ve played plenty of fantastic story modes (click here for a list on those), but I’ve also wasted plenty of hours on some absolute stinkers that left me feeling bored, and at times, angry. So, with many years of experience sitting alone in my house having nothing better to do than create CAWs and play through their wrestling journeys, I’ve put my knowledge to good use by ranking the worst of the worst. Here are my Top 10 Worst Story Modes in Wrestling Video Games.
For this list, I’m ranking each entry purely on how bad the main game mode involved in each respective game is, meaning that just because a game is higher up than another does not mean it is worse overall, however gameplay quality will be taken into account as playing through a bad story mode is only made worse by bad quality gameplay. With that being said, let’s get on with the list.
- WWF Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role – Season Mode
Although this entry did feature on my list of the best story modes, I can’t deny that having to simulate every single match on the card with the same ten seconds of music looping repeatedly does get rather frustrating from time to time. Plus, those pesky PS1 loading screens don’t help matters either. The actual wrestling content of this story mode is great, it’s just everything else that brings it down.
- ECW Anarchy Rulz – Career Mode
In ECW Anarchy Rulz, a game where the requirements to win one of the gimmick matches is to literally throw them into molten lava, the Career Mode is essentially just a downgrade from the company’s previous instalment, Hardcore Revolution. Using a member of the ECW roster or your own created wrestler, you play through a calendar of house shows and TV tapings around the US. It’s fine I guess, it’s just not all too interesting. The mode is considerably shorter compared to Hardcore Revolution’s, and it lacks a lot of the humour featured in its the predecessor, in which you regularly faced jobbers such as ‘Nurse’ (literally just a random nurse), and even ‘The Sound Guy’. What’s more, this 2000 video game was using the slow, robotic engine from 1998’s WWF Attitude, which just could not compete with the gameplay of WWF Smackdown! or any of the fantastic N64 AKI games. The one big plus side though is you can play Career Mode with up to four players, which could potentially be a lot of fun, especially if it was implemented in a greater game. Basically, it’s not the worst, but there was just so much better available to choose from at the time.
- Showdown: Legends of Wrestling – Showdown Challenge
The final entry in the Legends of Wrestling series had one of the biggest rosters in grappling games history. Showdown: Legends of Wrestling boasted about having possibly the most impressive collection of legends available at the time, enough to entice any pro wrestling fan. Unfortunately though, nothing else was worth sticking around for. Limited gameplay modes, bad controls, and of course, a boring story mode. Taking a huge step down from the interesting, territory-based modes of the previous two games, Showdown Challenge has you playing through the 70s, 80s and 90s, with each decade having six matches included in total. Once you’ve cleared those eras, you face the biggest brother of them all, Hulk Hogan, in the final battle. And that’s literally it, nowhere else to go from there. There’s no structure to it, no given reason why you’re fighting anybody, you’re just there battling through the decades. Realistically, you can complete this in about two hours, and then let it collect dust on your shelf, never to be revisited again.
- WWE 2K15 – MyCareer Mode
When 2K made the leap to the eighth generation of consoles with the WWE series, it wasn’t exactly a smooth transition. At first, things were promising, with gorgeous visuals and the promise of the company’s signature MyCareer Mode, famous for how in-depth it was in their NBA games, however, what we got may have looked good, but when it came down to what’s most important, it was missing so much.
MyCareer has you start in NXT, the first time the developmental brand had been included in a game. This was a really interesting idea, and I’m glad that’s something they’ve kept in the series entries’ since, but much like former NXT Tag Team Champions The Ascension, everything went downhill as soon as you reached the main roster. The biggest problem with this mode is that it lacked so much content. Throughout the entire mode, I was involved in around three storylines. Most weeks I was greeted with the message, “We have nothing for you this week”, so I’d either have to just skip the show completely, or face a random person on the roster. And this wasn’t just at the start of my career mode, it was a constant theme throughout. At one point, I won the World Heavyweight Championship, and I thought, “I must have a place on the card now!” But my optimism was crushed when on the first week after winning the title at a pay-per-view, Vicky Guerrero informed me that she had nothing for me. Nothing for me?! I was their world champion! If there’s one person you should have something for, it’s your most important title holder! Thankfully, 2K’s MyCareer Mode has improved each year, and hopefully 2K18 will have the best one yet.
- Hulk Hogan’s Main Event – Career Mode
Hulk Hogan had his own game on the Xbox 360, and just like every other product available for the Kinect, it was broken, disappointing, and unnecessary. Oh, and by the way, you can’t even play as the Hulkster himself at any point in the game.
So in Career Mode, you create your own character from an extremely limited CAW selection, and fight your way from the bottom to the top. Literally starting from someone’s backyard, Hogan shouts out instructions at you during some of the slowest and most broken gameplay ever in a wrestling game. Like with any game for the Kinect, the novelty of being able to control your character with your body certainly wears away quickly, especially when you spam the same move repeatedly because the camera refuses to pick up your movements properly. The concept of starting from the very bottom to the top is an interesting one, but the fact you have no choice but to stand up and move your body throughout the entire mode, coupled with the bad gameplay and quite frankly sickening visuals, this has got to be the worst story mode of its console generation.
- Rumble Roses – Story Mode
So in Rumble Roses’ Story Mode, an all-female wrestling game, each character has their own unique storyline, and each wrestler even has a heel and face persona to choose from to add even more diversity to the content available. Sounds interesting, right? Well, it would be if the game wasn’t just one big perverted mess. Despite the illusion of a wealth of different content, no matter which of the roses you choose, no matter what issue they are trying to resolve, no matter what quest they are on or who their rival is, their adventure always without fail has to involve a bikini wrestling match taking place on a sandy volleyball court. Yep, regardless of the character’s motives, personality, persona or morals, they still love to get half naked and roll around in some sand. You may buy this game innocently thinking it’s a standard wrestling game (as I did with the game’s sequel back in 2006 as there were no WWE games available for the Xbox 360 at the time), but when you see how the game takes advantage of every opportunity to remove even more clothing or have the competitors wrestle in mud, you suddenly feel bad playing it. For me, the line was drawn when I discovered a dedicated mode for taking swimsuit and lingerie photos of the virtual women in a variety of locations, and then being able to look through the photos afterwards. Just avoid this series entirely.
- WCW Backstage Assault: Hardcore Challenge/WCW Mayhem: Quest for the Best
I’m lumping these two awful games together since their story modes have essentially the same structure – face random contender after random contender until you fight the champion, except one game takes place inside a ring, and in the other there isn’t a squared circle in sight. There’s no structure or reason to who you’re facing, any random member of the roster can just appear in any order. Perhaps a stream of contenders is not the worst idea for a story mode, taking into account the PS1’s limitations, but it’s the actual in-game action that makes them so horrendous. After all, WCW/NWO: Revenge’s Championship Mode had a similar formula, but it was still entertaining due to the fantastic AKI engine. Thanks to unimaginative story modes and some of the worst controls and gameplay ever featured in wrestling video games, playing either Hardcore Challenge or Quest for the Best is a torturous experience to endure.
- WWF European Rampage Tour – Tag Team Contest
Released in 1992 for various home computer platforms, WWF European Rampage Tour involved one or two players forming a tag team from just four selectable superstars – Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Bret Hart. Once your tag team has been created, you must first defeat The Nasty Boys, The Natural Disasters and Money Inc.in three stadiums located across three European cities (London, Berlin and Paris). The only problem is that you have to face each of these teams three separate times – that’s right, the same three matches repeated three times in a row (there’s a lot of threes going on in this game…..wait……it’s even my number three on this list! I swear, that wasn’t intentional). Once you’ve defeated your plucky opponents on three occasions, you then face The Legion of Doom in New York City’s Madison Square Garden for the championships. That’s right, the final match in WWF European Rampage Tour, a game set in Europe and marketed primarily at European audiences, ends in the United States. Even worse is that the Commodore 64 version featured only singles matches, but instead of facing main-event solo stars, you faced one representative from each of the same tag teams! That’s somehow even worse!
Perhaps this game should be given some leeway because of it is the earliest release out of all of these entries, but my argument would be, if you weren’t able to put together a decent story mode, don’t bother putting one together in the first place. Not only was there a very limited selection of wrestlers available, the biggest crime of this mode is that so much of the exact same content is repeated. The only thing worse than a boring game is a boring, repetitive game that makes you play the same fights three times in a row.
- Backyard Wrestling: There Goes the Neighbourhood – Talk Show Mode
Talk Show Mode? What the hell is that?! Well, you’ve got to give Backyard Wrestling points for originality, it’s just a shame that the mode itself is horrendous.
So the game mode begins with a cutscene set in a Jerry Springer-esque talk show, hence where the name comes from. The host introduces a segment about backyard wrestling, as he brings out his first guest, a guy called Wendal wearing an “I Heart Meat” t-shirt, who discusses how much he loves backyard wrestling after a long week working at the pickle factory. And then, the game just starts. You have a few backyard brawls with your chosen wrestler for no apparent reason, and then it just randomly cuts back to the talk show. This is a running theme throughout – random matches, then a random cutscene, without any reason or explanation. The worst part about this whole thing is that regardless of which wrestler you choose, the cutscenes are exactly the same. Your input has absolutely no effect on what happens on that talk show, and none of the actual ‘story’, if you can call it that, relates to anything you’re doing! If the same people are being interviewed regardless of who you are, and it has no relation to your matches, what’s the point of them?!
From a gameplay standpoint, this isn’t the worst entry on the list, although it’s certainly not WWF No Mercy by any means, but it’s the façade of a plotline that makes this game mode such a travesty. They give an illusion of a proper story mode with cutscenes and an actual plot, however you quickly realise that it’s just all nonsense! Nothing relates to anything else! And none of it is good either! Somewhat boring, yet admittedly original, gameplay, coupled with the most unentertaining cutscenes full of immature, poor attempts at humour that don’t correlate with the most important content in the game. Oh, and the whole thing only lasts about an hour anyway, so it’s not even a long façade at that. I know the wrestling takes place in the backyard, but judging by the quality of their Talk Show Mode, the developers must have made the game in their backyard as well.
- WWF Smackdown!: Just Bring It – Season Mode
Literally three matches and it’s over. That’s it. You play three matches, regardless of which wrestler you choose, and you’ve completed it.
As a child, if I was aware of a wrestling video game, I asked for it. I had every WWF/E release available for the Playstation and Playstation 2 growing up, except for one – WWF Smackdown!: Just Bring It. When I first got a PS2 on Christmas Day 2001, I had no idea a wrestling game had already been released for the console as Santa hadn’t delivered it to me. I was seven years old, so the only way I knew about a video game was if I happened to see it advertised on TV, or if my parents bought it for me thinking I would enjoy it. So when I was old enough to go and peruse video game stores, I realised there was a Smackdown game I had actually missed. I so desperately wanted to play it, but my parents refused to buy me it because it was an old game, they didn’t see the point of me owning it when I already had the latest iteration in the series, and they knew fine-well I’d want the next instalment at Christmas time. What’s more, whenever I had my own money from relatives or good school reports, the new, shiny video games in the shops were always top of my priority list, so this was one game I never got to experience.
When I was 18, I decided to re-purchase a good old PS2 (I have an awful habit of selling video games and consoles, and then buying them again later). I wanted to experience all my old video games that brought me so many great childhood memories, and enjoy some old gems I’d missed when I was a kid, which of course meant finally playing Just Bring It. I put the game in the console, headed straight for Season Mode, selected William Regal, played three matches, won a championship, and that was that – the game was over. I was sat in shock. I was genuinely confused. Had I done something wrong? Was it just that specific character or championship path? Nope. That’s just how long the story mode was no matter who you selected. In a quiet state of anger, I ejected the disk from my PS2, put it back into its case, and sold the game as soon as I possibly could because I never wanted to play it again.
I had spent years wanting to play this game, a full decade in fact, but when I finally did, it was a major disappointment. It actually left me feeling annoyed, like my childhood had slightly been crushed. But please don’t take this number one ranking purely as emotional bias – three matches for an entire story mode is absolutely unforgivably bad, especially for a PS2 game. To go from Smackdown 2, which basically had a never ending season mode, to this, which literally ends in around fifteen minutes, is unbelievably bad. Also, the two games that followed it were Shut Your Mouth and the legendary Here Comes the Pain, both of which are praised for their lengthy, creative season modes. When it comes to wrestling story modes, this is as insulting as it gets.
They had the nerve to call the game Just Bring It, yet when it came to the story mode, they barely brought anything.
What do you think is the worst wrestling story modes? Let me know in a comment below or tweet me @HairyWrestling.