Sorry, No Mercy Isn’t The Best N64 Wrestling Game

If you’re an American wrestling fan especially, then this may not be what you want to hear – but it’s the truth. No Mercy isn’t the best N64 wrestling game ever made.

This will come to no surprise to the masses who call out Virtual Pro Wrestling 1 & 2 as the best N64 wrestling games (or just wrestling games, period) but this is specific to US-released games. It may, however, come as a surprise to those of us who grew upon these N64 games. It sort of surprised me, if I’m being honest.

I was always a WWF kid growing up. I liked WCW but didn’t get into it until it became readily available via Monday Nitro. Before that, our northeast cable provider didn’t include TBS so I was missing out on a whole other world of wrestling.

Once I did get the chance to start watching WCW, it was… mostly okay. That early chunk wasn’t all that great and I was over Hulk Hogan at that point, but it was the Cruiserweights that eventually caught my attention.

Thanks to a school friend who had a satellite dish, I had already been exposed to ECW so I knew a handful of the names who would soon pop up in WCW: namely Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio Jr, Psicosis, Dean Malenko, and Chris Benoit. These were the guys who had been having amazing matches in ECW and showed me an entirely new side of professional wrestling that I never knew existed from my WWF bubble.

But I digress.

It was possibly my WWF upbringing that caused me to also look back at No Mercy as the greatest wrestling game of all time. It was the one that always came up in conversation the most when talking about fun wrestling games with friends and the game we would default to when getting together for old school game nights.

However, it wasn’t until I started streaming on Twitch that I had to start rethinking everything I thought I knew.

I really only started streaming on Twitch to have something to do when the pandemic and lockdowns started, but I didn’t have a PC and was never much of a PC gamer anyway. Instead, I figured I’d call back to one of my favorite consoles – the Nintendo 64.

And, what better way for a wrestling nerd to relive the glory days of wrestling games than by playing all of the AKI wrestling games released in the US? I eventually ended up modding my N64 and getting VPW 1 & 2, so those will be on the docket once I start streaming again. Stay tuned!

Things progressed as expected with the playthroughs. WCW vs nWo: World Tour is fine, but unremarkable. It doesn’t offer a lot in the way of play modes and the roster is a little slim. It’s the first in this set of games, though, and came out 3 years before No Mercy so it shouldn’t shock anyone that it’s the one with the fewest bells and whistles.

What comes next in the series is what I realized is very likely my favorite wrestling game of all time. Not No Mercy. Not WrestleMania 2000. WCW/nWo Revenge.

From the incredible intro with a truck driver inexplicably happening upon Sting standing in the middle of the road on the path to Atlanta, it delivers everything you could possibly want in a game.

Need a Frankenstein in a leather jacket? We got it! Want a wrestler who shouldn’t realistically even be on the cover, but he’s there anyway? We got Raven for that! Need the kick-ass live sets WCW was famous for, so you could just wrestle at Halloween Havoc every day of your life? That’s here, too!

For my money, Revenge has the best roster of all of these games. It’s got all of the heavy hitters of WCW and the nWo, but Raven’s Flock is also in full effect. A handful of WCW’s greatest Cruiserweights are readily available as are some names who didn’t necessarily do much in WCW, but are otherwise important in wrestling – like Yuji Nagata (by name, though misspelled) and facsimiles of Hayabusa, Onita, Kawada, Kobashi, and others.

Comparatively, WrestleMania 2000 is a solid follow-up to Revenge but lacks the historically significant roster depth. With Revenge, you can go back and relive classic matches with all of those great Cruiserweights I mentioned before which is a huge boon to “workrate” dorks like myself.

With WrestleMania 2000, you can recreate classic matches between… Prince Albert and… Viscera? Chaz and Al Snow? Fucking Meat and Michael Hayes?

There was a lot that I loved at the time of this era of wrestling and, of course, WWF specifically. Looking back on it, though, the roster truly tells the story of a company who never seemed to capitalize on talent and just let them do their damn thing the way WCW did before it got Russo-fied.

This problem persists into No Mercy, but new problems also crop up. The gameplay begins to suffer as they add what could be fun new modes, but actually end up being pure misery.

To date, I don’t think any game has created a fun ladder match. I also don’t think anyone has ever created a fun handicap match. So, when you get stuck in a story mode handicap ladder match? That combination is a thing of nightmares that nobody should have to experience.

While No Mercy aspires to do more, it also seems to do too much. I love that you can go backstage, for instance, and get into all sorts of stupid shenanigans. But, again, when you’re in the story mode and have to fight the APA in a handicap match in the boiler room? Terrible!

And let’s focus on the story mode a bit. As a completionist who made completing all of the modes of the AKI N64 games a part of his stream, completing the seemingly never-ending branching of No Mercy’s story mode was a headache to say the least.

Rather than giving you any sensible view of what you’ve done and may still have to do, No Mercy locks you into this ridiculous tree that may go 8 or 10 columns across depending on the particular title you’re shooting for at the time. It’s really just up to you to figure out when you should lose a match (when you’re able to advance whether you win or lose) to get to a yet unexplored path, which just means you wrestle the same matches over and over and over again to 100% everything.

This is all without mentioning how insanely unbalanced Triple H is in the game, so when you end up in either a handicap match or some other must-win scenario against him, you’re just getting trounced over and over again. I get it, though – Triple H must never look vulnerable!

All of this truly weighs No Mercy down for me. If it’s just a game you want to play with some friends over the weekend to relive some childhood memories, then sure – it’s going to be fun. But in the grand scheme of things, No Mercy is probably the third-best (at best) game out of all of them.

In my rankings, Revenge is an easy #1. #2 would probably have to be WrestleMania 2000 because it’s a lot less frustrating than No Mercy. At #3 we have No Mercy and at #4 we have World Tour – but World Tour really only lands in last place because, since it’s the oldest game, it obviously has the fewest upgrades and features. As a game alone, it’s perfectly fine to play and still very fun.

So, why is No Mercy still looked at with such admiration 21 years after its release? Part of me thinks that it’s just because it was the last US AKI wrestling game released on the 64. It’s freshest in everyone’s memory, it has the most match types, and if you want to just mess around and play against friends then it does the job.

However, if we’re looking at the entire breadth of the games in this series and judging them all against one another then there’s absolutely no question in my mind. While WCW lost the Monday Night War, WCW/nWo: Revenge wins the AKI War hands down.

What do you think? Is No Mercy the greatest US N64 wrestling game of all time, or do you agree that Revenge takes the cake?

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