Patreon button  Steam curated reviews  Discord button  Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | PC | PS4 | PS5 | SWITCH | VITA | XB1 | XSX | All

WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game (Genesis) artwork

WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game (Genesis) review

"What was it WWF used to say about accepting cheap imitations? "

1995: it was time for what was then called WWF to evolve. However, the strides it took in that evolution proved bumpy at best, resulting in a transitional period they referred to as “The New Generation.” Professional wrestling as a whole saw its landscape shift, with audiences growing tired of Hulk Hogan's antics and “superstar” wrestling as a whole. They tuned out big, dumb wrestlers with minimal move sets and started paying closer attention to dudes like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, who preferred either more technical wrestling or smooth, speedy moves.

However, WWF remained stuck in the “live-action Saturday morning cartoon” mindset, and thus continued to push lackluster content and gradually weakening matches and events. Sure, they had some great performers such as the aforementioned men, Undertaker, Razor Ramon, and Mr. Perfect. However, they also introduced cringe-inducing characters to their carnival-like cast, including an evil dentist, a deranged hockey player, a couple of insufferable fitness instructors, and a minotaur.

Yes, a minotaur. Named “Mantaur.”

Attendances and buy rates declined, and WWF struggled to find someone to fill Hogan's shoes. They tried pushing Lex Luger as the new Hogan, but fans couldn't take their eyes of Bret Hart. Then they tried pushing Diesel (Kevin Nash) as their next big thing, except everyone seemed to be fixated on Shawn Michaels. It was weird because despite being a “new” generation, it seemed like the company suffered from an identity crisis where the couldn't quite commit to material that appealed to older audiences while trying to cater to a new, young audience that mostly didn't give a damn about them.

Similarly, their games went through a short-lived transitional phase; an awkward time that filled the gap between WWF Raw and WWF Warzone, which kicked off with a coin-op title that aped Mortal Kombat: WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game. Yes, Sculptured Software moved from pure wrestling titles to versus-style fighting games that emphasized button-mashing strikes and combos over throws, slams, and submission holds. Sure, you could still grapple and execute some classic movies, like piledrivers and suplexes. However, a vast portion of a wrestler's repertoire consisted of punches and kicks.

...and projectiles.

Oh, and their arms and legs morphed into objects like razor blades and spiked maces, all while apparently bleeding items like fish and bowling pins. Because, you know, everyone was pining for a “WWF via Looney Tunes” tournament fighter...

Yeah, therein lies part of Wrestlemania's problem: as with its source material, it suffered an identity crisis. If you went in it expecting a pure wrestling experience, you were going to be sorely disappointed. The game's mechanics revolved heavily around mashing punch and kick buttons and stringing together combination attacks in the hopes of preventing the opposition from getting a blow in. You could change things up with a grapple maneuver, but even then such moves felt tacked on and unnecessary. Worse, your opponents can counter your moves, rendering such gambits ineffective.

I will admit that the game provides a little bit of light entertainment when you first play it. It's easy enough to pick up and figure out, even though the Genesis version forces you to awkwardly combine buttons to perform actions like run or grapple. Even with having to reposition your fingers, it isn't difficult to get the mechanics down and figure out which moves work the best on various wrestlers.

However, it also never feels like a fully formed fighting experience, mostly because the game relies so heavily on button mashing and strikes without much consideration for strategy, placement, or watching your opponent. Seriously, one of the most effective tactics involves finding a cheap, nearly unblockable move that'll take your opponent off his feet, then follow that up with repeated blows while he's down on the ground, and signature maneuvers be damned.

At the same time, the wrestling aspects never fully warm up, either. I mentioned grapples earlier, but even simple concepts as pin attempts or submission holds become phoned in. The latter only happens when you've fully depleted your foe's health, and even then you don't get a three count. You simply clock the opposition until Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler repeatedly yell, “Pin him!” At that point, you press a button and make a cover, the round concluding anticlimactically. As for submission holds, they're little more than standard maneuvers that deal damage. For instance, you can execute Hart's Sharpshooter by grabbing a downed opponent's legs, though he'll never tap out.

I'm going to guess you read correctly into that: finishers aren't really finishers. Razor Ramon can hit the Razor's Edge at any point, and Yokozuna's Banzai Drop occurs any time you hop off the ropes. They deal decent amounts of damage, but connecting with one of them isn't going to end the match like it might on television. Hell, the Razor's Edge was one of the most protected moves. Supposedly, Scott Hall wouldn't even perform it if he was scripted to lose.

Okay, so the game's mechanics are doable, albeit bland. You're probably thinking this could still work out with a solid enough roster, but that's the final nail in Wrestlemania's coffin. Back in 1995, the roster was disappointing to say the least. Granted, most of the wrestlers I mentioned above were good picks, except that Lex Luger was already out of the company by the time the game hit consoles, and Doink the Clown perpetually served as glorified enhancement talent (meaning he existed to make other wrestlers look better, particularly villains). Yes, we all knew the development cycle for this title began well before its release, but even still it felt painfully outdated at the time. Where was Diesel, whom Vince McMahon was allegedly betting on being the next big thing? What about Sycho Sid or King Mabel, who were prominent heels in 1995? Hell, Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart contributed to the program well enough to be featured, but where are they?

The lackluster lineup becomes all the more obvious when you take on the single player campaign and run out of opponents. That's when the game thrusts you into handicap matches against two or three wrestlers, which further reinforces just how dull and repetitive the experience can be. A larger roster would've offered greater variety of opponents, rather than rehashing those you've already trounced. If nothing else, this was what the game's successor, WWF In Your House got right.

Honestly, despite being pretty harsh towards Sculptured Software's pre-Wrestlemania games, I admit they at least felt like actual wrestling titles. Granted, they didn't age entirely well, but that was always meant to be their fate. Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game may stand out as a WWF/E product that tried to step outside of its license's comfort zone, but it didn't stop to question if maybe that comfort zone is what its fans want. Spare players your fighting games, brawlers, and Twisted Metal clones and just give us wrestling. That's really all we expect from this brand. It's not rocket science.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (September 18, 2023)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

More Reviews by Joseph Shaffer [+]
Teddy Gangs (Switch) artwork
Teddy Gangs (Switch)

Who knew beating the stuffing out of bears could be so teddy-ous?
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) artwork
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

Including an all new feature: chicken abuse
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES) artwork
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)

At least it's better than Simon's Quest...


If you enjoyed this WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

User Help | Contact | Ethics | Sponsor Guide | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998 - 2023 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.