Is WWF No Mercy for the N64 still the best wrestling game money can buy? (Spoiler: Yes)
In Retro Game Of The Week I pull a game from my collection and write about why it’s important or interesting. Or in some cases, badly dated and rubbish.
Most of the time I rather randomly pick my retro game of the week, based on little more than weekly preference.
But not this week. See, this week I’ve been spending quite a lot of time playing through and reviewing AEW Fight Forever for the PS5, a game that was pitched as an absolute homage to wrestling games of yesteryear — and rather specifically, WWF No Mercy for the N64.
WWF No Mercy for the N64 is often lauded as one of the best wrestling games, sitting as it does as the final form of an engine that went through the PS1 (WCW vs The World) and N64 (WCW World Tour, WCW/NWO Revenge and WWF Wrestlemania 2000).
You put your left leg in…
Developers AKI (now Syn Sophia) have been out of the wrestling game business for years now, having last used that setup for auxiliary titles in the Ultimate Muscle and Def Jam IPs respectively.
Hmm. I must make Def Jam: Fight For NY my retro game of the week at some point. But I digress.
The comparison with AEW Fight Forever has been interesting to see unfold, with a lot of critical dissonance around whether it’s any good or not. I fall in the camp that says it is, but a lot of the criticism I’ve seen has rested on it having old ideas and a lack of content.
So I thought it was time to revisit the classic and see how it compares and if it still stands up. Well, OK, I very much already knew what my answers were going to be there, because in the 23 years since WWF No Mercy for the N64 debuted, I’ve never stopped playing it.
Now, remember to make a wish!
No Edge, you cannot wish for “I wish I wasn’t about to have my groin torn in half”.
This isn’t just simple nostalgia; WWF No Mercy for the N64 is a finely tuned and highly complex game, but it’s one that really does live up to the old “easy to play, hard to master” idea. You 100% can just hit a few buttons and see your chosen WWF superstars fly around the ring… well, except for one guy who I now try to ignore in every instance, if you know who I mean, you know who I mean… but actually getting good at the way that the game handles animations, blocking, moving and optimal play takes time.
Hardcore Holly rushes at Tazz first thing in the Rumble.
We all know how that’s going to end, right?
Jumping back to AEW Fight Forever, while it does have its janky edges and there’s room for polishing, I can’t help but think that some of its critics haven’t quite taken that level of time. I guess the flipside of that is that I’m super-familiar with WWF No Mercy, so it did feel rather more natural to me. But once again, I digress.
WWF No Mercy’s roster (minus one) represents a nicely classic time in the WWF as well, with the likes of The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley and plenty more to choose from, plus its own wrestler creation engine.
The number of wrestlers in this game who are still wrestling today, 23 years later is… surprisingly high.
Though sadly, so too is the number no longer with us at all.
Does it live up to the create a wrestler features you’d find in something like WWE 2K23? No, it is more limited than that, but it favours faster creation so that you get on with gaming, creating your rough analogy to other wrestlers or characters and moving on into the game proper.
WWE 2K23 Review (Digitally Downloaded)
Here there’s only a smattering of real modes to speak of; singles and tag matches, ladder matches, special referee matches and the Royal Rumble in Exhibition mode, and then Championship and Survival modes for single player.
Survival is just an endless Royal Rumble, while Championship mode gives you a branching storyline path for each of the WWF’s then existent titles. Either earns you money that can be used to unlock parts in the game’s shop… sorry, “Smackdown Mall”. There’s not a huge quantity to buy here; honestly these days I don’t worry about the money aspect as I’ve unlocked it all many, many years ago.
Tazz. Totally distinct (for legal reasons) from Taz, well known AEW announcer and singer.
But where WWF No Mercy for the N64 truly shines is with a couple of mates, enough N64 controllers to go around and a suitable acceptance of silliness.
It genuinely is one of the very best multi-person games I’ve ever played, because the possibilities for malarkey are so very wide, whether you’re playing in tags or every wrestler for themselves modes. Or being the special referee and taking your sweet time to measure pins and the like — it all just works so beautifully well.
Fun fact: One of the people in this match once sleazily propositioned a friend of mine. With Australia’s defamation laws in mind, I won’t say who, if you didn’t know…
With one notable bug that only came back to mind when I was writing this up. The PAL release of WWF No Mercy — and that’s the one that I’ve got — had a rather crippling bug on first release that would wipe ALL your progress at a random juncture, often dozens of hours into the game. All your Championship mode progress gone, all your created wrestlers gone… the whole lot.
THQ/AKI did eventually patch that — I say I still have my original cartridge, but it’s actually the third, because the first replacement I got still had the game wiping bug — but also took out the game’s blood, leaving weird vacant animations in their place.
Which is doubly weird when you realise that “First Blood” can be a choice for exhibition matches.
How to play WWF No Mercy N64 now
My boxed copy has had plenty of use. I like it as it is though.
So, my copy is still my copy, and it’s amongst my most treasured gaming possessions, even if the box has seen better days. I do like the fact that Triple H is giving the pedigree to the M15+ rating too.
And before you ask, no, you’re not mistaken, I did pay $114.95 for it back in the day. Easily and absolutely worth it. I’ve paid less than a cent per game for it based on the amount of times it’s given me joy.
But what if I had to replace it?
Hang on, I just need to sit down and cry for a moment… there, it’s passed. I can do this. Be strong, Alex.
What does a copy go for these days?
WWF No Mercy for the N64 sold really, really well back in the day, so it’s still quite common. Copies on eBay appear to go for around $40 or so loose, and about $120 or so boxed — so it’s basically kept its value from my perspective, I guess.
Or if you hate gaming and fun, there are (sigh) graded copies out there, running you about $600. When I’m elected world emperor, having a copy of No Mercy that’s slabbed like this one will be considered a capital crime, just so you know.
Whereas also having a copy of Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 will be the equivalent of having a gold medal… but that’s a game for another week…