Before we get into the list, there are a few notable mentions worth covering. SVR 2011 wasn’t the best game, yet it may have had one of the best modes. Creating your own stories was extremely fun and something that needs to make a comeback. In fact, they need to find a way to incorporate created storylines into Universe mode. WWE 2K14 is one of the only top-tier 2K games, having the most stacked roster of all time. Defeat the Streak mode was a phenomenal idea, and the showcase mode was one of the best in the series. 2K14 is likely one of the best wrestling games for the simulation aspect. WWE Raw 2 is never making it into anyone’s list. Though, it did have some unique fun features like being able to go under the ropes in a Royal Rumble and simply sit outside until the final person is in the ring. Okay, let’s get into it.
Reasons Why These 5 Wrestling Games Are the Best
5 – Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth
Recently, 2K made it so that you can have eight wrestlers in a ring at the same time. Newer players might be shocked to hear that you could have eight in SYM as well. It was mayhem. The most memorable thing about this game was the season mode. You had full reign to do anything you wanted, including running around backstage and starting fights in boiler rooms. If you messed about too much backstage, you could miss the match you were booked in. Many fans consider this to be one of the best career modes a wrestling game produced and for good reason. The gameplay was good, and for some reason, reversing moves with the square button still stands out to me.
4 – Smackdown vs Raw 2007
This is the game with that soundtrack. Across any game, this soundtrack is up there with the best. SVR06 and SVR07, whoever worked on choosing the songs for these games did a fantastic job. There is a tonne of cut scenes and exposition building the stories. It shows that a lot of effort went into the season mode. There are quite a few twists, and just like Steve Austin would say, DTA. Though for good or bad, the wand storyline is unforgettable. The controls at this point had become intricate with how many options you have to maim someone, yet it kept the fun arcade feel to it.
The GM mode here was the same as 06 but it felt more polished in some areas. Adding writers was a miss for me as I felt this mode was supposed to be fully sandbox. I am God in this mode, I am thee who makes the rules, you don’t give me rules that I must abide by. Also, I’m not a fan of them tying the power25 to championship shots. If I want Mark Henry to have a title shot, then he should have one.
3 – Day of Reckoning 2
A less popular dark horse due to its release on the GameCube. But do not be fooled, this keeps up with the best of the best wrestling games. It had a different flavor but not in the zany WWE Raw way. The gameplay veered on the arcade side, not even having commentators for matches, replacing it with a fighting theme. The controls were complex but when mastered made the game fast and fluid. The most impressive part of it all is how they made the game genuinely hard, and it was still fun, I couldn’t wait to get back into a match after losing.
I can’t put my finger on how they did it. Wrestling games typically feel the same, the hardest mode means reversals non-stop until someone finally gets theirs off. That can be extremely annoying. Day of Reckoning 2 never felt frustrating or boring even when you were losing. I enjoyed playing on the hardest difficulty and would get engrossed in the fights wanting to get revenge against the AI. And that’s what this game feels like, it feels like you’re having a fight. Though, it doesn’t ever lose the feeling of being a wrestling game.
Despite the style being an arcade fighting game. The story mode felt serious. This was the most believable set of characters I’ve seen. It was linear but this showed me that a compelling story can override my need for having choices.
2 – Smackdown vs Raw 2006
Still, to this day I play the old GM modes, that’s how fun they were, they were absolutely timeless. I rate this one slightly over 07 simply because I had fewer restrictions. As for why they’re better than the modern GM modes, they had a lot more depth to them. PPVs actually existed. You book the Royal Rumble, and you can use an actual Royal Rumble instead of a table match as the main event. You had b shows like Velocity and Heat meaning you don’t have people sitting on their hands losing their popularity. Best of all, you would go head-to-head at Survivor Series against your opponent. Also, the free agency was far better than this random rotational version in modern games. Overall, GM mode might be the best mode in any game I’ve ever played.
The season mode stands tall, too. Each storyline was filled with fan favorites which is always a plus. There are a few too many career modes involving wrestlers that no one cares about. The writers did a great job of creating compelling storylines filled with heels you love to hate. The only issue was the length, it was short but sweet. I remember completing the story mode in one sitting, but it was a fun ride with memorable whodunnit stories. I can’t believe Rikishi ran over Teddy Long for The Rock!
1 – Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain
We all knew what number one would be. Here Comes the Pain will continue to top wrestling lists until the majority of wrestling fans haven’t actually played it. Much in the way that Hulk Hogan over time is losing his place on the Mount Rushmore of wrestling, Here Comes the Pain will eventually follow the same path. So, for anyone who hasn’t played it and wants to know why it is the best, here it is.
First off, the career mode is top tier. Being able to make choices like this throughout the game gives a sense of you, the player, actually mattering. Before anyone says, “But we have choices on all the 2K games.” Well, yes and no. You have choices that come across as meaningful, though in reality, they’re superficial. In HCTP, you can request title shots and ask to transfer shows. And it isn’t only the world title you can go for, you can choose to chase the tag titles, or a mid-card title if you wish.
In career mode, there is a feeling of spontaneity. Some weeks you aren’t booked and don’t have a match. Also, some storylines simply won’t happen if you don’t do specific things. As a kid, it blew my mind to have a feud with The Undertaker. After doing five years of the career and never having seen it before, it felt exciting to stumble upon it. Another cool little detail is this career mode keeps track of title winners and their history. The building your own faction storyline in HCTP might be my favorite part of any wrestling game. They tried to re-do this in 2K23 but it just didn’t hit the same.
The gameplay is a mix of arcade and sim. The animations are clean, the moves pack a nice punch, and there is no shortage of areas to fight in. We may use “PS2 graphics” as a punchline now. Though, for its time, HCTP looked fantastic. Its roster could be considered as one of the best with it boasting some of the sport’s biggest names and the next generation’s legends.
If you’re a fan of the 2K series you might want to check out the WWE 2K community creations highlight reel.
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