During the early to mid-1990s, fighting games swept through arcades, becoming the go-to machines for many gamers around the world. There were dozens of great fighting games coming out, but few gained as much attention as Mortal Kombat. Its fast-paced action, digitized graphics and over the top violence made it an instant classic, and the franchise continues to this day. Tons of games tried copying Mortal Kombat but only one featured WWF (now known as WWE) superstars like The Undertaker and Bret “The Hitman” Hart. This game, of course, is WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game.
Wrestling fans and fighting game enthusiasts were pleasantly surprised when WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game debuted in 1995. Although it was technically a wrestling game, it played like an arcade fighter. Everything from the digitized graphics to the control layout screamed Mortal Kombat. Somehow, the game managed to successfully mix the fighting and wrestling game genres into one bizarre yet entertaining video game.
Video game developer Midway was on fire back in the 90s. The company proved to be one of the best in the business after releasing great arcade classics like Smash TV and NBA Jam. After Mortal Kombat became one of the most popular games in arcades, Midway wanted to capitalize on that game’s success. The company decided it would make another arcade fighter, but one that wouldn’t take attention away from Mortal Kombat. Midway hoped that by incorporating wrestling into a game with some of Mortal Kombat‘s mechanics, it could appeal to both fan bases. The WWF agreed to the game, and Midway got to work.
The WWF sent over eight of its superstars to help Midway capture the digitized graphics as well as each wrestler’s move sets. Midway used nearly all the same development techniques in WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game as it did in Mortal Kombat. The game’s speedy and exaggerated nature can be clearly seen in WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game, leading many to label the game as a Mortal Kombat clone.
Midway did dim down the violence and gore to appeal to the more PG-oriented wrestling audience. Blood was replaced by random items associated with each wrestler. For example, when an attack landed on Bret Heart, a Valentine’s Day heart falls from him. When a punch landed on Lex Lugar, a dumbbell would discharge from his character. Each wrestler had their own “blood replacement,” making the game stand out from other wrestling and fighting games at the time.
WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game featured the single-player modes most would expect from a mid-90s arcade wrestling game. Players could choose from either the Intercontinental Championship or the WWF Championship mode, both of which consist of players fighting different wrestlers as they climb up the ranks of the WWF. The game contained a mix of one-on-one and handicap matches.
WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game built up a reputation for having some of the strangest endings in any wrestling game. Each wrestler has their own unique ending, many of which are tragic or incredibly dark. If you beat the game with Razor Ramon, he ends up getting stabbed in his home country of Cuba. In Donk the Clown’s ending, a freak accident ends up killing most of the audience. If Midway made these endings dark just to create a buzz around the arcade, it definitely worked. These endings are still talked about on gaming message boards and videos across the internet.
WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game was a strange Mortal Kombat clone that surprisingly worked. The game’s arcade fighting style made it a one of a kind wrestling experience. While it may not be the best game of its kind out there, it is still fondly remembered by many gamers. The unique and often bizarre experience is unlike any wrestling game before or since, and it’s a must-play for anyone looking to dive deep into the world of obscure arcade fighters.
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WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade game was a unique Mortal Kombat clone with a zany, over-the-top nature that made it a one-of-a-kind experience.