In the middle of lockdown, I had some time on my hands, so I spent some quality time playing every wrestling game ever released on the Sega Genesis video game console (or the Sega Mega Drive as it was called outside of North America). For good measure, I played every wrestling release on Genesis’s predecessor, the Master System, and the 32X and Sega CD systems that followed, too.
I give my honest take on each of the eleven wrestling video games, compare the differences between the games that were released across multiple Sega platforms while also adding some interesting factoids about each game’s development process. For instance, did you know there was a wrestling game set in the same universe as Street Fighter?
Join us on a nostalgic journey to the late ’80s and early ’90s as we bring back to life every wrestling game ever released on the Sega Genesis gaming system!
Replaying Every Wrestling Game on Sega Genesis
If you were a kid in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and you’re reading this website, there is a high chance you were once caught in a school break debate between what was better: WWF or WCW.
Likewise, if you were a child of that era, you probably took a side with one of the day’s big gaming companies, Nintendo or Sega. Allegiances would tend to come from which console your parents bought you. I was a Genesis lad, or Mega Drive as it was known over here in the UK.
Back then, video games were as expensive, if not more so, than they are now. A lot of the time, you found yourself renting games from video shops to gain some variety.
My most rented game of all time was probably WWF Raw, as I couldn’t find it to purchase anywhere, or any other wrestling game for that matter! But thanks to Apollo Video Film Hire, I spent many a happy weekend sat cross-legged in front of my TV beating up Shawn Michaels as The Undertaker in glorious pixelated vision.
So during the last lockdown, I decided to relive those happy lazy Saturday afternoon memories by playing a few Sega Genesis classics. Then I thought, “Hang on, Tim! Why don’t you play EVERY Sega Genesis wrestling game ever released?” Then I thought, “Hang on, hang on, Tim! Why don’t you play EVERY Sega Genesis wrestling game ever released and log it for the pro wrestling website you write for?” Then I thought, “Hang on, hang on, hang on, Tim! If you want meatballs for dinner tonight, you better take them out of the freezer now so that they can unthaw!” But that’s beside the point…
So without further ado, let us play every wrestling game released on Sega Genesis!
Actually, let’s have a little further ado first, as we start with two games from the Sega Master System! Think of this as the Sunday Night Heat before the pay-per-view.
1. Pro Wrestling (Sega Master System, 1986)
For a game with such a straightforward title, the beheaded man grappling what is presumably his own head on the cover art for the Pro Wrestling video game release on the Sega Master System somehow becomes even more baffling. Still, Pro Wrestling is what it says on the tin. Well, it’s Tag Team Pro Wrestling if you want to be more specific.
The title screen seems standard at first, but after a couple of bloops, a fist rips through the title, and a happy-faced man appears and throws up a peace sign.
Being a non-licensed game, your tag team options are no one famous, just your basic fictional wrestling stereotypes. You can choose from the likes of The Mad Soldiers, The Great Masked, The Crush Brothers, and, hang on, The Orient Express!?
Before you get too excited, no, this isn’t the team of Pat Tanaka and Akio Sato led by Mr. Fuji, which in fairness would be quite a feat seeing as the game came out four years before their conception.
I pick not-Sato and not-Tanaka and end up battling the Mad Soldiers. The show starts with a tiny entrance sequence, with each team getting a theme song.
1 and 2 buttons are punch and kick, and pressing both down makes my character run. After throwing a few straight jabs, I try to tag in my partner but end up leaping over the top rope to the outside area. My opponent follows, but in typical heel fashion, I jump back in.
Sick of my nonsense, the enemy grabs a chair and caves my skull in but isn’t DQ’d despite clearly breaking the rules in front of the official! This ref should be fired. 1-2-3. It’s over.
The second match goes far more smoothly, as thanks to the magic of button bashing, I finally learn to tag (I believe it’s up and 2). The graphics are a cartoony, big head affair, but this allows each character to have their own personality, which is nice. Also, there are plenty of other small neat touches, especially for a game of this era, such as the ring ropes bouncing when you run into them.
Another cool feature is the move names popping up as text boxes, even though there’s nothing wrong with the animation. In one instance, I was even on the receiving end of a Cesaro-esque giant swing!
Watch Gameplay of Pro Wrestling for the Sega Mega System:
The Japanese version of the game entitled “Gokuaku Doumei Dump Matsumoto” is all-female, and in the last match, you fight aliens (see for yourself below). I totally wish that was the game I was playing.
Watch Gameplay of Gokuaku Doumei Dump Matsumoto for the Sega Master System:
All in all, Pro Wrestling was quite fun. More fun than expected anyway.
2. WWF WrestleMania: Steel Cage Challenge (Sega Master System, 1992)
I remember playing the original WWF WrestleMania game on the NES with my cousin. If memory serves me correctly, it wasn’t anything too special. Still, it was the only wrestling game we had, so I played it religiously when stuck around my auntie’s dull house on a Sunday afternoon. One thing this game can boast against its predecessor is that it is the first home console wrestling game to feature a steel cage!
WWF WrestleMania: Steel Cage Challenge opens with a screen of copyrights and trademarks, including Marvel Entertainment which makes me chuckle. (You can read why here!)
The title screen is plain, just the name of the game, with no peace-loving hippies trying to break free from its grasp.
There is a variety of match types, such as single, tag, and the titular steel cage option. That may not seem like much, but compared to Pro Wrestling’s “PRESS START AND FIGHT!” system, it might as well include GM Mode in terms of longevity comparisons.
Watch Gameplay of WWF WrestleMania: Steel Cage Challenge for the Sega Master System:
We see various wrestler’s 8-bit passport photos with their 8-bit themes blaring in the background in character selection. I chose Ric Flair, and my opponent is the Hulkster himself. After a quick introduction from Howard Finkle, it’s bell time.
I try utilizing the buttons from Pro Wrestling, and it works, to an extent. Punch, kick, run, I genuinely bring the fight to Hogan, making him wish he listened to those butterflies in his stomach before he stepped into the ring with the REAL World’s Champion!
That is until Hogan slams me on my head and jobs me out with literally ONE move. It wasn’t even a leg drop.
My second match is a steel cage fight, and I chose Bret Hart to slap the taste out of the Million Dollar Man‘s mouth. No messing about this time, I pull off my executions with excellence, but after pushing me over once, Ted DiBiase sprints up the cage wall like a squirrel with hot nuts and pulls a pose at the top, signifying his win.
Time to quit, methinks.
And now, onto our feature presentation: The Sega Genesis!
3. Cutie Suzuki’s No Ringside Angel (Sega Genesis, 1990)
Based on the legendary Japanese wrestler, Cutie Suzuki’s No Ringside Ange is a woman’s only fighting game and, as such, is credited as playing a substantial pioneering role in gaming by having a female protagonist as the title character.
However, after the title screen, we are presented with a Playboy Bunny pointing at the various options, including a “watch” mode.
Cutie Suzuki may be a real competitor, but no one else in the game is. Nevertheless, I pick Megadeath Saito as she gives me Bull Nakano vibes. My opponent is Gun Oyama, and the single-player mode takes us into tournament brackets, which is kind of cool.
The bell sounds. There is an awful lot of 16-bit detail on the fighter’s crouch, butt crack, cleavage, and sideboob area, plus every lock and hold seems to feature a lot of unnecessary hip thrusting. The tall mustached ref and the male commentators leering from the corner help add to the seediness.
Watch Gameplay of Cutie Suzuki’s No Ringside Angel for the Sega Genesis:
However, underneath the creepy hentai vibes lies a fun game. Matches are epic and long with a lot of back and forth. The action is fluid, and believe it or not, I won! I recommend giving this game a play but probably best not to have a go in front of judgemental eyes.
4. Wrestle War (Sega Genesis, 1991)
Wrestle War has nothing to do with the WCW event. Rather, it is a port of the arcade game of the same name, and bah gawd does it feel it.
Loading up the game, there’s a title screen, the option of 1 or 2 players, and boom, you’re straight into the action.
There are lots of wrestlers based on real-life performers here. Sledge Hammer is based on Bruiser Brody, and Titan Morgan is based on Hulk Hogan. According to what I’ve read, Mr. J is based on cinematic stabber Jason Vorhees, but I don’t see why he couldn’t be based on Jason The Terrible, Lord Humongous, or any pre-’70s NHL goaltender for that matter.
Watch Gameplay of Wrestle War for the Sega Genesis:
Lovely prominent chunky characters and animation, but the lack of move variety gets boring quickly. Lock up, button bash to slam, punch, and kick; that’s about it. If there are more moves, I couldn’t discover them, and neither could my opponent as he kicked my teeth in.
Another annoying factor is the camera. With certain slams and Irish whips, it flips for what appears to be no reason whatsoever, causing a slight pause in the gameplay, which gets bothersome.
After multiple attempts, I have yet to win or lose a match, thanks to the short time limit. This game was designed to keep punters pumping in the quarters, and there may be an option to adjust it, but honestly, I have no genuine desire to explore any further.
5. Thunder Pro Wrestling Retsuden (Sega Genesis, 1992)
One of the games I was looking forward to the most, Thunder Pro Wrestling Retsuden, is a part of the Fire Pro series of games.
It was to be converted into Jesse The Body Ventura’s Wrestling Superstars for western audiences, but it somehow fell through and was never released in the States.
With most of the text written in Japanese, I chose “Excite” mode, as I like to be excited. I decided to go with a blue Jushin Thunder Liger to do exciting things with.
Western superstars such as Vader, Bam Bam Bigelow, Stan Hansen, and Hulk Hogan are all apart of this game, but I had no idea as I am unable to read Japanese, and the character drawings look nothing like their real-life counterparts. It is like the ’90s gaming version of being catfished. Even Hogan, one of the most recognizable wrestlers in history due to mustache and brotherness, looks more like an irate Freddie Blassie.
The gameplay is a lot more grounded in realism than anything else I have played thus far, featuring moves such as lock-ups and drop-toe holds.
Watch Gameplay of Thunder Pro Wrestling Retsuden for the Sega Genesis:
After playing for a bit, I found the game to be incredibly dull. The controls felt slow and unresponsive, and the graphics were bland. Challenging but not in a fun way. Perhaps if I had more time to work out the gameplay’s subtleties and learned to read Japanese, I would have more fun, but I’ll be honest, I turned it off after one match.
6. WWF Super WrestleMania (Sega Genesis, 1992)
Next in line is WWF Super WrestleMania, which was released in 1992.
Well, there’s nothing particularly flashy about the intro for this game, but the choice in matches is interesting. One-on-one, tag team, and SURVIVOR SERIES! There are 8 characters to choose from, and their music plays when you stop on their head for a while, but nothing plays for their ring introductions. This game’s sound is pretty dreadful, sounding more like a game of the 8-bit era than the Genesis super duper blast processing 16-bit generation.
It’s also kind of strange to have a Sega game with the word Super in the title, as that is usually an enhanced moniker of Super Nintendo games (which Super WrestleMania was also released on).
I pick the Ultimate Warrior to battle IRS one-on-one. Graphics are OK, but nothing incredible. The animation is pretty, but everything else has a speckled dot thing going on for shading. Warrior’s makeup, in particular, looks like someone just slapped a pizza on his face.
Not knowing what I’m doing, I eventually best that rat tax man Schyster by punching and headbutting him like a hooligan. Not a Meltzer five-star classic, but it got the job done.
Next, I try Survivor Series. It’s four-on-four, so that takes up the entire playable roster. My face team of Warrior, Hogan, Savage, and Bulldog face the diabolical allegiance of Ted DiBiase, Shawn Michaels, IRS, and Papa Shango.
There is only one other character waiting in your corner as you fight, which, to be fair, is more than I thought it would be. For some reason, I just suspected one-on-one elimination bouts.
Sadly, I still don’t know what I’m doing. Every time I attempted to get Warrior to give Hogan the hot tag, he jumped out of the ring or scurried to the top turnbuckle.
As the villains know how to play the game, they chip away at Warrior until he is pinned, then they take out Hogan. I cackled hard as the camera followed the loser take their walk of shame to the back, letting you know what a pathetic loser they are as a fresh-faced fighter replaces them.
By the time I got to Macho, I figure out that buttons A and B are tags, and the comeback of the century begins! Savage and Davey Boy Smith headbutt and ball kick their way to victory!
Watch Gameplay of WWF Super WrestleMania for the Sega Genesis:
Super WrestleMania is a very average game that became more fun as I got used to its clunky controls. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I wouldn’t condemn it either.
7. Saturday Night Slam Masters (Sega Genesis, 1993)
Saturday Night Slam Masters was another game I was looking forward to, as I am a huge Street Fighter mark. Like the Final Fight series, SNSM is set in the same universe as the legendary fighting game.
From the second the Capcom logo appeared, it’s all but confirmed that yes, this is Street Fighter wrestling!
The intro takes what I’m guessing is our lead character and puts him on top of a black background getting struck by lightning, then a smash cut to the title, reminding me of Ryu in the opening of Super Street Fighter 2.
The menus, the character select screen, the music stings and noises, even the font is the same as Street Fighter. I pick Biff as he seems to be the hero in a headband, so it would be rude not to. It even does that annoying thing like home versions of Street Fighter when you select a character with start and their attire changes to a random color scheme.
Watch Gameplay of Saturday Night Slam Masters for the Sega Genesis:
The match starts up, and we are shown entrances, including lights and pyro! I didn’t know such a thing existed in this generation of gaming! The bell rings while still having that Street Fighter look, although it is a very different game. It’s a fun one, too, with punching grappling, double-tap running, and smooth animation and movement.
It didn’t matter that my opponent beat me in less than a minute; I had a smile on my face even though I was starring at the lights. This game was super fun, and I look forward to playing more of it. Best one so far.
8. WWF Royal Rumble (Sega Genesis, 1993)
Well, the intro for WWF Royal Rumble is a lot better than Super WrestleMania, as it has one for starters.
The game greets us with a passport photo of each of our TWELVE playable characters flashing past the screen.
There’s no music on the character select screen or intros. Other than that, everything is the same as Super WrestleMania but better, as if the previous game was a tech demo for this one. The movement is faster and more responsive, the graphics are the same but with added detail, and there is an addition of a fancy new power bar so you can see how well you are bashing the buttons in a lock-up.
The sound is excellent. The ring mat sounds like a ring mat when the bodies hit the canvas. On top of that, at the end of a battle, you finally hear theme music! My first fight as Bret Hart saw me shamefully do the job for Jim Duggan, but Hacksaw’s song sounded epic at least.
Now onto the Royal Rumble. Six characters in the ring at once, with one player taking the place of another after every elimination. As there are only 12 characters in total, it is more of a snack-size rumble than a royal one. Playing as The Undertaker, I Irish whip every fool around me, hoping for the best until eventually, Hogan yeets me out of the ring like yesterday’s garbage.
You can hang around to see who goes on to win, but if you think I’m that sad to waste my time like that, then I have news for you. You are right.
Papa Shango was the last man standing, and as he poses with arms raised in celebration, Howard Finkel enters the ring to point at him. It was quite emotional.
Watch Gameplay of WWF Royal Rumble for the Sega Genesis:
9. WWF Raw (Sega Genesis, 32x, 1994)
WWF Raw was the game that made me start this list in the first place.
It fires up and gives us possibly the best Genesis intro of all time, a faithful recreation of the Raw intro, music, and all. Hear it below in all its greatness:
I cannot state how great the music is. We get a glorious rendition of everyone’s ditty on the character select screen. I pick Razor Ramon to take on Bam Bam Bigelow.
You know how we moan nowadays that all the WWE 2K games are the same every year with minor modifications? It’s weird, but it seems it was the same back in the day, too.
I guess I didn’t notice it so much with my younger eyes, but most of the Acclaim WWF games are just small improvements over the previous entry. I guess that is because they, too, were going for the one per year release, like 2K, until the disastrous WWE 2K20 forced them to take a year out and get their act together.
WWF Raw still feels like Super WrestleMania at its core, but a lot faster, smoother and responsive.
Commentators have been replaced with Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon. I can tell it’s Jerry because of the crown, and I can tell it’s Vince because of the hair, although he does bear a striking resemblance to 48 Hours star Nick Nolte.
Bam Bam Bigelow destroys me. At one point, he punches out the ref but doesn’t use it as an opportunity to grab a weapon, so I’m guessing it’s some kind of weird flex.
After slapping me about for a couple of minutes, he pins me down by sitting on my chest, and the ref counts three. His victory screen is so gnarly, theme pumping to his photo sliding past his logo on a loop that I’m not even mad!
Out of curiosity, I chose the Bedlam match and turned the difficulty waaaaaay the fudge down. I picked Luna Vachon as her theme music in this slaps, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head up until the time of writing. You can hear Luna Vachon’s entrance music in the game below:
It turns out Bedlam is a two-on-one handicap match, and Doink and Yokozuna make short work of me, which is understandable as Luna’s 140 lbs are battling the combined weight of my opponent’s 832 lbs. Like a game of chicken between a tricycle and a steam train.
Watch Gameplay of WWF Raw on the Sega Genesis:
Next, I play the 32X version, and I am horrified to discover how sucky it is.
I do not recognize the intro music, and the character select is just black screens with no signature tunes or photos. The on-screen graphics are pretty much the same, but everything seems slightly squished. Maybe it was designed for widescreen TVs? Were widescreen TVs prevalent enough in 1994 for us regular TV chumps to suffer through squishiness?
Also, the red is purple, and instead of a chair leaning against the ring, it’s a Raw sign. I start Razor vs. Crush, but rage quit halfway through. Can you imagine spending money on a 32X back in the day and buying another copy of Raw to receive an inferior game? Absolutely sucky.
Watch Gameplay of WWF Raw for Sega 32X:
10. WWF Rage In The Cage (Sega CD, 1994)
Who needs a Hell in a Cell when you can Rage in a Cage?
It’s fantastic that we get a good intro movie with extremely pixelated video in this game. An excellent, extensive roster isn’t really saying much as it is the New Generation Era, but we get a couple of complete tag teams: The Headshrinkers and The Nasty Boys!
It’s a Razor Ramon versus Crush rematch as their last encounter was a no finish thanks to outside interference (me swearing under my breath and flipping the off switch).
Excitingly, Fink introduces the combatants with a real voice clip. Then each of the wrestlers cut a tiny promo, but I have to say Crush is a little suspect.
“Chaka, Brah! I’m like a volcano. I’m gonna erupt all over the ring!”
OK, Crush. Calm down, pal.
Other than that, everything gameplay and graphics-wise seem like a step back into WWF Royal Rumble territory.
Watch Gameplay of WWF Rage in a Cage on Sega CD:
Despite the flashiness, it’s not on par with WWF Raw for the Sega Genesis but miles ahead of the 32X version. At least I completed a match without turning it off. I’m ashamed to say Crush crushed me, brah. Look, I’m tired, OK?
11. WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game (Sega Genesis, 32X, 1995)
WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game brings us to the final game on the list.
Back down to an eight-man roster, everything seems brighter, and the graphics fill me with bittersweet nostalgia as it has that final leap up in visuals and detail that the Sega Genesis produced during the last couple of years. An example of this is looking at the difference between Sonic 2 and 3 or Mortal Kombat and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3.
While on the subject of Mortal Kombat, WrestleMania: The Arcade Game features photo reel digital fighters, like MK and NBA Jam. That’s because it is produced by Midway, who was also responsible for those other arcade classics.
A fun internet rabbit hole to travel down is the making of these games and their production photos. For example, the Undertaker had to wear a red variant of his attire for the capture to work better with the blues screen method they utilized.
My first match is Bret Hart versus Lex Luger. Everything is so fast and furious I don’t know what the heck is even going on! There is no grapple, only punch, kick, and block. Moves are pulled using button combos like regular fighting games.
Watch Gameplay of WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game on Sega Genesis:
The 32X version this time around is far superior. I pick Shawn Michaels to fight Undertaker.
As I bash the buttons to wallop Taker over the head with a baseball bat, and the shadow runs in my general direction, I conclude this is not a wrestling game but a fighting game with wrestlers in it. I don’t get a chance to work anything out as everything is so insanely fast compared to everything else I have played on the list, and I feel the game was designed for the six-button pad rather than the three-button one I possess.
Taker wins and celebrates by pulling an urn out of my crotch with bats flying out along with it. If only Shawn’s WrestleMania retirement ended the same way.
Watch Gameplay of WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game on Sega 32X:
This game isn’t really for me as my tiny brain can’t seem to compete with the action’s speed, but it is nice to play something completely different from the Acclaim series.
It also provided a perfect moment of madness to end this nostalgic marathon!