One of the very best thing about growing up when I did was the arcade experience. Being able to pop in to the local arcade and kill an hour or two for only a few bucks was magical. Arcades had something for everyone. FIghters, shooters, action, sports, simulations, everything you could want. On top of the variety, what made the arcade special was the multiplayer aspect. Co-op and versus multiplayer, sometimes with friends, sometimes with strangers, was a key component to the overall experience. And not just the standard two player affair. Arcades started to get four and six player machines after a time. And it is one of those four player machines that is our focus for today.
Released in 1991 by Technos, WWF Wrestlefest was an up to four player wrestling simulation. It was the sequel to WWF Superstars and it was awesome. Superstars was good, Wrestlefest was better. Better graphics, better sound, better gameplay, better everything. One of the things that drew me to it initially was the colorfulness of the graphics. As a die hard wrestling fan who grew up in the 80’s, I was used to bright, colorful wrestling. But the home releases never seemed to quite capture the feeling of pro wrestling. Wrestlefest really upped the ante with its presentation. It stood out among the other titles in the arcade. It was vividly bright. It had ring announcers. It had commentary, basic as it was. And then there was the roster. Here was a game where I could be Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Earthquake. Or Mr. Perfect. Or The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. It was a dream come true.
The game itself had two modes. In the Saturday Night’s Main Event mode, you selected two wrestlers from the provided roster, or the pre-made team of Demolition, to fight your way through five matches to face the Legion of Doom for the Tag Team titles. Once you won the belts, you job was to defend them another five times including a rematch with the L.O.D. The other mode was a Royal Rumble mode where you had to pin, submit, or throw an opponent over the top rope to win. It was a one and done thing though and the real meat of the game was the tag team mode. There were a ton of moves each wrestler could perform including their signature finishers. Double team moves were available as well as outside the rings moves. It was a surprisingly deep game for being in the arcades and allowed for team building and strategy among players. It was an amazing way to kill some time and proved popular enough to warrant a remake for iOS in 2012. Sadly, the game never saw a proper home port. Hope is not lost however as MAME exists. If you’ve got a computer, you have access to Wrestlefest depending on how high up on your horse you sit. If you’ve never played it, you owe it to yourself to gather some friends and spend some time with it. I promise you’ll have a blast. If you were a fan, I encourage you to jump back in the ring and get that nostalgia fix. It’s one of the best.