Many wrestling games have come and gone since the creation of video games. There was WWF WrestleMania, WCW Revenge, WWF Royal Rumble, WCW Mayhem, WWF In Your House, WWF Attitude, Fire Pro Wrestling and the prolific SmackDown series, just to name a few. All of those games had their pros and cons, but none were perfect.
Except for one.
Debuting on November 17, 2000 on the Nintendo 64, WWF No Mercy quickly became a fan favorite. It had it all. A great story mode that stayed refreshing, in addition to visually stunning graphics. Oh, and most importantly, the gameplay. No Mercy also benefited from one of the greatest eras in all of professional wrestling, the Attitude Era.
Why It Was So Good
Obviously, games from your childhood can give off a wave of nostalgia that often skews an opinion. But in this case, I think it goes without saying that No Mercy remains at the top of the wrestling video game plateau.
The roster was huge, and consisted of 74 of the WWF’s top wrestlers including: Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, the three faces of Foley, DX, the Nation of Domination, Steve Blackman, Al Snow, Hardcore Holly, and many, many more.
Like most wrestling games, there were lots of game modes to enjoy. Ladder matches were introduced, and backstage brawls made their wrestling video game debut — and with these new endeavors came trial and error. These modes were not perfect, but it was a breath of fresh air from previous installments.
And then there was Championship mode, which was without a doubt the best part of WWF No Mercy. Each belt had its own storyline, which had several different twists and turns. Users would come back time and time again to watch the title change hands and see what cool new cutscene would appear. Sure, the actual dialogue may have been weak, but overall it remains one of the best story modes in a wrestling game.
Lastly, the gameplay. It was such a simple concept developed by AKI and the folks at THQ. Strong grapple, weak grapple, move the joystick in different directions. It was so simple, yet it played so well. Gone were the days of having to hit a five-button combo in a timely fashion to execute a finisher. Simply strong grapple and toggle the analog stick. This is what made the Nintendo 64 video games so remarkable.
Where Today’s Wrestling Games Fall Short
Obviously, the graphics of today’s video games are night and day to those on the Nintendo 64. And the same can be said about the create-a-wrestler and other game modes in today’s wrestling games. So what features keep No Mercy at the forefront of the “best wrestling video game” discussion? Why can’t developers nowadays figure out a way to dethrone the king of kings?
Today, more time is spent on fancy graphics and other aspects of the game. For me, the one big difference between the two — and I mentioned it above — is the Championship mode. This mode was near perfect and managed to replicate its real-life counterpart.
It would be unfair not to point out the wrestling era in which No Mercy was created. The Attitude era is arguably the greatest era in wrestling history, so that definitely helped factor into the game’s favor as well. Wrestling at that point was part of a cultural zeitgeist that we may never see again.
Will We Ever See A Wrestling Game As Good As No Mercy?
As each new wrestling installment gets released, the margin between No Mercy and the rest of the crop continues to narrow. Fire Pro Wrestling is a perfect example of a near-perfect representation of the sport, as is WWE 2K19. Both games have continued to improve since their previous installments, but fall short of defeating No Mercy as the king of the virtual ring. Will there ever be a better wrestling video game? Maybe someday it will happen, but 19 years later and No Mercy remains the game to beat.