Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game was an instant classic when it arrived in the mid-90s, arriving on home-consoles amid, arguably, the most fun and light-heart time in professional wrestling, where everyone seemed to have a silly, over-the-top gimmick, and it felt like comic-book superheroes and villains come to life.
The Arcade Game, which made it on a plethora of consoles (ones I’ve taken into account include the PlayStation, Super NES, and Sega Genesis), embraced the charming absurdity of its subject-matter with its own cartoonish, light-heart approach, receiving a positive reception from critics and audiences alike.
Off the bat (see what I did there?), Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game has colorful, zany, but detailed graphics, especially for its time, along-side sound-effects and music that honestly and truly is almost enough to sell oneself on the experience alone. Similar in a way to WCW Thunder, where, more than the actual game-play itself, I find myself nostalgically reminiscing over the little“pick me” speeches everyone on the roster did in the selection menus. Luckily, unlike WCW Thunder, however, Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game won’t have the player thumbing through theinstruction booklet in-order to perform a simple atomic drop, but, instead, presents itself as easily accessible. It had been years since I’d played, but I found myself picking up the controller and enjoying myself as if no time had passed.
The Arcade Game is not without its faults. The limited selection of characters is a glaring disappointment. Provided are eight characters to choose from, ranging from main-eventers like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, to mid-to-lower card competitors such as Doink the Clown and Bam Bam Bigelow (Doink the Clown is my personal favorite to play as), it is a small, but good selection (the Super NES omits Bam Bam Bigelow and Yokozuna, however). Also, although it provides an easy-to-master playability, it can easily be argued as shallow and simplified.
The Arcade Game provides multiplayer, at a time when local multiplayer wasn’t mistreated like a novelty, and a ladder mode that allows the player to challenge for the WWE Intercontinental Championship or the WWE Championship, with difficulty varying, depending on user-preference and which ladder mode one chooses. Commentary from Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler is apparent, with them chiming in every now and again. Overall, it’s also worth acknowledging it tends to feel a lot more like a Mortal Kombat fighting-game experience than it does a conventional wrestling game experience.
The general consensus is that the PlayStation and Sega Saturn ports provide the best overall experience, with the other versions tending to have weaker graphics and sound, or slowing-down as a result of too many enemies in the ring at the same time.
Although Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game may not be a great game as far as the sum of its parts are concerned or even the best wrestling game on the original PlayStation (I’m thinking WWF SmackDown! or SmackDown! 2), it is a fun, memorable arcade-style game that’s rightfully remembered and coveted by many. Maybe one day the WWE will break from their simulation-approach again for another Arcade style approach (another WWE All-Stars?), or remaster Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game with improved graphics and an updated cast of characters? Time will only tell…