WWF Wrestlemania title screen

WWF Wrestlemania (NES Review)

Back in the day, there was nothing better on a Saturday afternoon then to devour your own weight in Pick’n’Mix and tuning in to the latest wrestling action from both the UK and the USA. No matter how many warnings appeared to ‘not try what you saw on-screen’ at home, a number of impressionable children were still attempting to piledrive and suplex their siblings into oblivion on their own beds, to the chagrin of parents up and down the country. Imagine the relief when one of the biggest wrestling organisations teamed up with a top games publisher in order to create a video game to recreate what was seen on the television in the safety and comfort of a video game – WWF Wrestlemania on the NES.




There were a few wrestling games released at the time but the opportunity to play as some of the biggest names and faces of professional wrestling was too good an opportunity to pass by. The first ever licensed game by the WWF (as WWE was known back then) was WWF Wrestlemania, so looking back at it now does it deserve a championship belt, or should it be beaten into a painful submission?


WWF Wrestlemania was released on the NES in 1989, developed by those folks at Acclaim and as the name suggests, is a wrestling game that allows you to pick from one of six licenced characters to crash, bang and wallop your opponent. It is limited by the types of matches you can participate in, be it as a one off match or fight in a tournament facing against the other five opponents to be crowned champion. The characters you can select from are: The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Honky Tonk Man, Macho Man Randy Savage, and Andre the Giant. It seems a world away from playing a wrestling game and choosing between Star Man and Fighter Hayabusa


hulk hogan WWF NES


When you power up the game, you get the option of selecting how many players you want to participate. You can either go it alone and play with yourself (oo er – Ed), or, if you’ve got a friend or relative with you on that couch then you can play two players in a singles match or competing in a tournament. If you’re lucky and enough of a social butterfly to have three or more players then you can all compete in a tournament for world dominance…a championship belt.

Within WWF Wrestlemania there isn’t the option to choose tag team matches, ladder matches or any other variance that takes your fancy – it’s just the two of you in the ring battling it out. The other thing to note as well is that you can enter your name up to a limit of 6 characters, which unfortunately doesn’t yield any Easter eggs like if you entered the name “Zelda” on certain Zelda games, but is a nice touch. Having entered your name you choose your wrestler then BAM you’re ready to go.

Normally with these types of reviews, it comes to a certain point where the controls are explained, to explain potentially what the A and B button does. Or if you use a combination of buttons what kind of super move the character does. However, being an early wrestling game then the best advice to give is to just mash the buttons and hope for the best. There’s something so satisfying in mashing anything and everything without worrying about how to do strong grapples, power moves and moves that require hundreds of inputs.


moby vs savage


Moves are restricted in the game but it feels like the developers tried to get a number of moves with the limited control scheme and pushed it as much as possible. The characters have standard punching, kicking and head butt attacks and certain characters from the bottom turnbuckle can perform aerial moves to mix things up. What you may notice in the game as well is icons that scroll along the screen. Collecting them improves your health bar to increase your stamina – if only life was like that. The icons differ depending on your character, Bam Bam Bigalow has a fire across, and these can only be used for that specific character – if Bam Bam was fighting Randy Savage then Randy couldn’t collect Bam Bam’s icons.

In terms of graphics, it’s set on a simple black background where alas there is no crowd to cheer you on and gee you up, but sometimes simple works well. The developers did attempt to recreate the faces of the wrestlers that are shown on-screen but overall the colours are basic and not the most inspiring seen on the console.

The music, well it’s upbeat and funky but doesn’t seem to match the gameplay. On a menu screen this isn’t really an issue but when in a wrestling match it seems out of place and continually loops. Speaking of music, at no point is the entrance music for any of the wrestlers ever played – it’s understandable given the limitation of the console and the game, but would have been a nice touch nonetheless. The sound effects sound dated (more so than other games released as early as 1989) and feel like they belong more on an Atari 2600 game.


million dollar man


All-in-all, WWF Wrestlemania was a forgettable debut on the NES console and not one that lives long in the mind of gamers. Which is a shame as the game had so much potential, drawing on the two things kids loved at the time – Wrestling and Nintendo. Parents would have rushed to the game store to pick this up knowing their offspring could fight safely on a video game with characters seen on the television. But there’s no grace or finesse about the game, it’s a bland button-bashing forgettable title.

It is nice that if you had enough guests, six people could in theory play the one game but if you look two years prior to this game being released, Pro Wrestling was released and overall was a much better effort without the usage of licence characters.

Collectors may want this for nostalgia and to see how the genre has developed in years since its release, but if you’re a casual wrestling fan wanting a fun experience on the NES, pick up Pro Wrestling instead and give this the 1-2-3 pin fall it deserves.




WWF Wrestlemania ratings 50 per cent


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top