In the video game world, World Wrestling Entertainment has been a consistent presence ever since the release of MicroLeague Wrestling on the Commodore 64 in 1987. The 2000s saw WWE games become an annual affair just like every other sports game, with each new iteration of its main series — now known as WWE 2K — providing players with an updated roster of competitors and some new innovations, for better or worse.
The 2010s were a particularly interesting time for WWE games, as the series experienced a number of changes and some fun additions over the years, as well as one unmitigated disaster. Now that the decade is over, let’s take a look at what fans should know about the WWE video games of the 2010s.
10 The Series Changed Names In 2012
With the year 2004 came the release of SmackDown vs. raw, WWE’s main video game series. Named to reflect the brand split that gift raw and SmackDownshow-exclusive rosters, SmackDown vs. raw was an annual event for players, and proved to be pretty popular. In 2011, WWE put an end to the brand split, and thus the video game series needed to be renamed. SmackDown vs. raw 2011, which dropped in October 2010, was the last game to carry that name, and the following games were simply named WWE ’12 and WWE ’13.
9 Switched To 2K Games From THQ
Since 1999, WWE games had been published by the California-based THQ, including not only the whole SmackDown vs. raw series, but also the Nintendo 64 classic WWF No Mercy. WWE ’13 was the last of the WWE games put out by THQ, as the company unfortunately filed for bankruptcy in 2012. From there, 2K Sports — owned by Take Two Interactive — acquired the license to make WWE video games, resulting in the games being named an annual variation on WWE 2K. The games themselves were still being made by Japanese developer Yuke’s, so the quality remained fairly consistent.
8 WWE All Stars Deviated From The Format
Among the WWE games of the 2010s is an odd little outlier. Released in 2011 on multiple platforms including PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and even portable systems, WWE All Stars offered a different kind of wrestling game from the norm.
Rather than attempt to simulate pro wrestling as accurately as possible like the main series, WWE All Stars opted for an exaggerated, arcade fighting game approach to pro wrestling. Additionally, the roster features a healthy number of legendary talent alongside the current WWE stars — appropriate, given the name of the game.
7 The Canceled Online Game
In 2011, WWE and THQ attempted to get on the online PC gaming train with a free-to-play game that was meant to be called SmackDown vs. Raw Online to reflect the name of the main series at the time. Developed by South Korea-based Vertigo Games specifically for the Korean PC gaming market, SmackDown vs. Raw Online would have had players compete in online play as well as interact to trade items.. While some trailers were made for E3, unfortunately fans wouldn’t be able to see the game come to fruition, as THQ canceled it in 2011.
6 Nostalgia Modes
WWE spent much of the 2010s milking nostalgia for old wrestling with appearances from “WWE Legends,” and the video games were no different. Rosters for many WWE games have been heavy on retired legends, including not only icons like Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin but also random inclusions like Virgil and Colonel Robert Parker. Several games of this era feature story modes that allow fans to recreate matches and even specific moments of the past, with WWE ’13 focusing on the Attitude Era while WWE 2K14 delved into the history of WrestleMania.
5 2K Showcase
Starting with WWE 2K15, the WWE 2K games featured a mode called 2K Showcase, a story mode that had players fighting through past wrestling storylines but weren’t always beholden to long-tenured classics. While 2K15’s Showcase covered the CM Punk/John Cena rivalry and the Triple H/Shawn Michaels rivalry, other games covered entire careers, with 2K16 focusing on Steve Austin or 2K19 on Daniel Bryan. Then there’s the controversial (see below) WWE 2K20which delved into recent history by focusing on the rise of the Four Horsewomen of NXT.
In addition to the nostalgic single player story modes, WWE 2K games also feature a single player mode called MyCareer, which debuted with WWE 2K15. Rather than play as a WWE star of the past, here players use the create-a-character function to build their own wrestler, and work through a fictional WWE career, going from the Performance Center all the way to WrestleMania and even a retirement match.
Following games in the series have expanded on MyCareer mode, making it a pretty involved affair where a player’s choices — not only winning and losing matches, but also alignments and interactions with other wrestlers — affect how the story plays out.
3 Original Stories
With more recent interactions of the series — particularly 2K20 — the WWE 2K games have featured increasing amounts of original stories in addition to the nostalgia simulator aspect of the games. WWE 2K20 includes a female-exclusive MyCareer story mode that’s set in the near future, but the game also featured DLC expansions to the game called “WWE 2K Originals,” featuring new story modes as well as special items, arenas, and costumes. There were four in total: a post-apocalyptic story, a horror story, a futuristic story, and one based on Southpaw Regional Wrestling.
2 WWE 2K19 Was Yuke’s Swan Song
Starting in 2000, WWE’s main series of games were produced by Japanese developer Yuke’s, the 2000 PlayStation game SmackDown! and going into the SmackDown vs. raw series and into the 2010s. However, WWE 2K19 was the final game Yuke’s would develop with the WWE license, with 2K20 being handled by a different developer, Visual Concepts, which had worked with Yuke’s on previous WWE games. After nearly two decades of WWE games, Yuke’s went out with a bang, as WWE 2K19 was one of the best-received games in the series, and looked even better to fans considering the game that followed.
1 WWE 2K20 Was A Disaster
Released in October 2019, WWE 2K20 could not have gone worse. The change in developer didn’t bode well, and fan expectations were met by one of the most high-profile video gaming failures in recent years. The game itself was considered a weak follow-up to the well-loved WWE 2K19, with poorer graphics, worse gameplay, and missing many of the innovations fans had become used to in the Yuke’s era. On top of that, the thing barely functioned when it came out, as it was plagued by bugs and glitches.