Induction: King of the Ring for NES – Throne in the garbage

39 Submitted by on Thu, 17 May 2018, 20:00

Video game, 1993

I have to admit that when it comes to video game consoles, I’ve never been an early adopter. Growing up, we always clung to our old systems well past the point when game developers stopped supporting it. We were a Super Nintendo household until Christmas 1997, and resisted upgrading from a Playstation to a Playstation 2 until Christmas 2003. I still haven’t gotten around to whatever came after Playstation 2, and it’s the year after 2017, for Pete’s sake!

So I have to respect LJN for creating a new wrestling game for the NES in November 1993, two entire years after the Super Nintendo was first released and rendered the old console obsolete.

But I don’t have to respect them for putting out the most hideous wrestling game the world has ever seen.

I mean, look at this thing.

King of the Ring‘s badly-proportioned sprites, which appear to have been drawn free-hand, are far and away the most grotesque character models in any wrestling game I’ve seen…

…and that includes WCW Vs. The World’s floating torsos.

And if you think the game looks bad standing still, you won’t know the half of it until you’ve see these barrel-chested brawlers in “motion”.

Granted, I, like many wrestling fans, have always wanted to see Bam Bam work those traps and wiggle that pert little ass of his in video game form, but it ends up looking completely silly in practice.

The action looks no better. Every single time a wrestler drops to the mat, he has to fall sideways and land with his feet to the hard cam. As a consequence, every vertical suplex looks like an F5…

…and every body slam requires your opponent to perform a sky twister press.

At no point during the animation process did any of the artists wonder why in the world they’d need to draw a wrestler crouched like a frog in mid-air during a simple scoop slam?

I mean, every move got, like, four frames of animation, and this one made the cut?

You don’t need to be a member of Kai En Tai to realize this game is choppy, choppy.

Speaking of which, another downside to the wrestlers always landing spread eagle is that the player gets up close and personal with the entire roster’s junk, as the animators made sure to include a pixelated penis outline on every character.

The only conceivable payoff to this series of bizarre animation choices is that, with their downed opponents perpendicular to them at all times, players get to press (A+→) to pin them instead of (A+↓). I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Even though all wrestlers start out the same height…

…they warp and contort throughout the course of the game, growing an extra foot or two whenever they’re punched…

…or lean into a grapple.

Plus, wrestlers throb on the mat like a piece of bacon sizzling on the griddle.

All of these graphical anomalies could perhaps be forgiven if the gameplay were any good, but instead it’s yet another button-masher that can be easily conquered with an electric toothbrush or personal massager… um, I imagine.

It is possible to win matches without even touching the D-Pad until it’s time to pin your opponent. In the following Hulk Hogan fantasy, the Hulkster stands in place as Shawn Michaels bumps for him un-ironically, ending with Hogan celebrating both his victory and his full head of hair.

(Rumor has it Hogan personally lobbied the game developers to pretend he wasn’t bald)

The game’s physics leave a lot to be desired, as well. The digital equivalent of Neville, this is the game that gravity forgot. While one typically doesn’t expect his opponent to end up behind him after a hip toss, in King of the Ring the wrestlers float around every which way…

…and even enjoy luxurious, one-frame elbow drops.

While the contemporary 16-bit Royal Rumble games all at least included wrestlers’ finishers, everybody on King Of The Ring’s roster has the exact same move set. Within that standard move set, though, it is possible for Randy Savage to pull off his patented flying elbow drop, just like in real life.

Just like in real life.

It is not possible, however, to perform an Irish whip.

The roster at least looks decent on paper, with players getting to choose from Hogan, Taker, Luger, Ramon, Hart, Michaels, Bigelow, Yokozuna, Savage, and Perfect.

If you had ever wanted to pit Hulk Hogan against Bret Hart, you’re in luck, provided that the computer happens to select the correct opponent at random – you never, ever get to pick your own opponent in this game.

Not wanting to waste precious bytes on bitmapped photos like Steel Cage Challenge…

…the developers just kind of winged it with the wrestlers’ pictures.

I don’t know how Mr. Perfect’s avatar can look so dejected with such a lustrous mane.

At least Razor Ramon’s avatar has reason to be upset, sporting the biggest jowls this side of American Dad.

This picture of Rev. James Mitchell, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable.

Yokozuna looks cartoony enough in his pic…

…but once the gameplay starts, he appears to have taken the phrase “losing face” literally.

And I suppose that since the WWF was already paying Marvel for “Hulk”, they figured they might as well shell out a few more bucks for Cyclops.

Not officially in the game is Tatanka, although there is a loincloth-clad character in the game who resembles a palette-swapped version of the Native American. That character? None other than TIME Magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year: 

Thanks to this slightly-customizable player stand-in, any Tom, Dick, or Harry can get his name in the game…

…as long as that name has only three letters. So, more like Tom, Dck, or Hry.

Of course, with a three-letter maximum, the game designers were just asking for trouble. Here, I have paid tribute to 1999 King of the Ring winner, “Mr. Ass” Billy Gunn.

If you play it straight and don’t rename the “You” character, you’re rewarded with this special post-match message… 

…provided, of course, that you wins.

What’s most astonishing about King of the Ring is how much worse it is in every way than not only the 16-bit games of the time, but even the previous 8-bit wrestling game, Wrestlemania: Steel Cage Challenge.

That includes not just graphics, but game modes, as well. Gone is the cage match…

…(as well as the Irish whip and half the frames of animation)…

…although King of the Ring at least adds the eponymous tournament feature. That’s nothing to get excited over, however, as your chosen wrestler simply takes on three consecutive opponents in what is ostensibly a three-round, eight-man elimination tournament.

There’s also the standard so-called “Tournament” mode, where you wrestle nine consecutive opponents in what, logically, ought to be a nine-round, five-hundred-twelve-man elimination tournament.

But the game’s most perversely amusing match type of all is the tag team mode, where your ghostly grey tag partner stands perfectly still outside the ring until you press Select…

…at which point the action abruptly stops so a tag can be made.

Seriously, all you have to do is press Select, and your opponent, whatever he’s doing at the moment, will wait patiently as you walk across the ring to make the hot tag. The result is the most polite tag team matches the wrestling world has ever seen.

Imagine how much more successful The Rock n’ Roll Express would have been if the Midnights had just let Ricky Morton tag out whenever he asked to.

‘Atta boy, Stan!

After playing King of the Ring, I will never utter another harsh word about WWF Superstars 2 for Game Boy…

…which, compared to King of the Ring for NES, looks like WWE 2K18…

…or maybe 2K17…

…or, uh, whatever the most recent WWE game was that didn’t have those sickening glitches and zombie characters.

But more importantly, after seeing what LJN put out in 1993, I will never again call Mabel the worst King of the Ring ever.

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
39 Responses to "Induction: King of the Ring for NES – Throne in the garbage"
  1. Andy says:

    I was so excited about Steel Cage Challenge because – absolute truth – I COULD PLAY AS THE MOUNTIE.

  2. Christopher Haydu says:

    I guess the only good thing you could say about this game is that at least the characters matched up with the roster of the time. Hogan, Yoko, Bret, Bam Bam and Mr. Perfect we’re all featured in the 1993 tournament, and Macho Man was a former king, so it was almost like having a classic character even though he was still on the roster. The only character missing was Mr. Hughes with Undertaker’s stolen urn!

    Did it annoy anybody (who was young at the time) that Mr. Hughes and Undertaker never wrestled? They set it up like they’d have a match after Hughes stole the urn, but they never fought. This bothered me for years. When Mr. Hughes came back as Jericho’s bodyguard in late 1999, I was hoping that he’d finally face ‘Taker so that they could finish this aborted storyline…. But then Undertaker disappeared until returning with the biker gimmick. Drat.

    • Dave says:

      Taker and Hughes did wrestle each other on the house show circuit. I saw one of their matches filmed by a fan and posted on YouTube; it was awful.

  3. RD Reynolds says:

    Been way, waaaaaaaaaaaaay too long since we’ve had a video game induction! Well done, Art!

  4. The Doctor of Style says:

    As soon as I saw the 8-bit banner on the homepage, I knew I was in for a fun induction. Then “Throne in the Garbage” sealed the deal!

  5. Raging_Demons says:

    The Angry Video Game Nerd has always called LJN “Laughin’ Jokin’ Numbnuts” for years and now you know why.

  6. #OPC says:

    I remember playing this game on an emulator in 1999. Even then it was bad.

  7. "The Immortal" Mr. Bagofdonuts says:

    King of The Ding-a-Ling

  8. Sean Bateman says:

    The Laughing Joking Numbnuts strike again

  9. RockWarriorWolf says:

    Don’t worry, Art! I didn’t get my PS2 until Christmas 2003, either!
    Not counting my Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance, it was the first video game system I ever got! (My parents were slow to finally get me one, though they did wind up making the right choice. They still haven’t upgraded to Blu-Ray yet…or Netflix for that matter. Hell, I don’t have any game consoles newer than the original Nintendo DS!)

  10. RockWarriorWolf says:

    Also, I’m surprised you never talked about the Legends of Wrestling games, since those were mediocre-to-bad…especially the last game in that series!

    • Tempest Fennac says:

      I’ve only played the first one and that’s pretty abysmal due to how awkward the controls are. I assume the final one was even worse?

      • Chris V says:

        I bought the second edition for the Nintendo Game Cube, as it was on sale for $9.99. I really loved that game at the time. The roster is, quite simply, amazing. It’s almost impossible to not love a video game with a roster that amazing.
        I didn’t find the game-play that bad. Maybe the first and third editions were worse, but I was able to learn the game-play on Legends of Wrestling II far better than most of the other button-masher wrestling games.
        Sure, the moves were pretty ludicrous, like Abdullah the Butcher doing a shooting-star press (or whatever), but it added to the fun of the game, I felt.
        Overall, I thought it was a fun game.

        • Tempest Fennac says:

          Gameplay in the first one was largely based around precision timing, which was needed to chain moves together or counter things but it’s so slow it often just looks and feels fake: the match in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBYvDUobt30 starts at 6:30 and it illustrates how it plays pretty well.

  11. JustAGuyGuy says:

    I know what you mean Art, it’s 2018 and I’m just now making plans on how to get a PS4 for Christmas.

  12. Gerard says:

    i am notta hardcore gamer couldn’t tell you the difference between xbox or playstation….but….i did have the simple little nes and later a genesis and enjoyed both never played this game but did play several old time games like WCW and the first wrestlemania game where the wrestlers had to chase powerups across the screen like machos glasses think rd or art has inducted that game already???

  13. UltimateKennedy says:

    This game is bad? Hey it’s not Rick Steiners fault.

  14. Jerry says:

    The first wrestling game, I played, was “WWF European Rampage Tour”. Excuse me for doubting, that this title is actually worse.

  15. El Atomico says:

    Wow, I don’t remember this one at all. I do remember Survivor Series, from around the same time. was pretty decent, though.

    • Art0Donnell says:

      I think you mean Royal Rumble, because there has never been a Survivor Series video game, although if there were, I would buy it and whatever console it came out on.

      • Ricky Ray Ciabatta says:

        There was actually a Survivor Series game…but not until 2004, for the Game Boy Advance. Wasn’t good.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WWE_Survivor_Series_(video_game)

  16. Guest says:

    If you can’t do an Irish whip then how does Hogan do his legdrop?

    Also do more of these I’d like to see the feedback on stuff like Attitude, Royal Rumble for the Dreamcast, or WCW Mayhem.

  17. Chris the Bambikiller says:

    I believe those portraits of the wrestlers were somehow drawn on an Etch-a-Sketch.

  18. Time Lord Soundwave says:

    Eh, still better than WWF WrestleMania for NES.

    Yeah, I said it!

  19. Kareem Ofweet says:

    How long did it take for the game to be made? On Wikipedia, it says it was released for the NES in November 1993. I’m surprised they kept Hogan in there since he had been gone since that summer.

  20. Hulk6785 says:

    Does anyone else find it racist that they made Yokozuna yellow?

  21. AK says:

    My brother had this for the Gameboy. It’s pretty much the same game minus the er..blue colour scheme and a few wrestlers. It was good to pick up and play and being able to take it on the go was a plus but I guess that’s the lower your expectations mindset since it was on the portable handheld.

    I played it more than my brother did but man was he angry when he found out I sold it..12 years after he first got it.

    • Sebastian says:

      I still might have that game plus the Game Boy somewhere burried deep in my closet. I guess it’s time to play it again.

      Back then (must have been 1994/95) I pretty much liked the game. Sure it was sort of rubbish but so where so dame many games (it’s no wonder we got the Angry Video Game Nerd). At least I could stomp on Shawn Micheals endlessly.

  22. Adam says:

    Wow… I think the old WWF Tiger game I had as a kid looked better.

  23. M says:

    Yoko looks like E. Honda’s brother in that pic

  24. Paul S. says:

    How sad is it that the fake NES game they made for “The Wrestler” looks better than any of the actual WWE games on the system?

    • Kareem Ofweet says:

      It’s not like they were working with 1987 graphics in The Wrestler. They had slightly better graphics in 2008 so they could make the “fake” NES game look decent.

  25. ClawsomeMan says:

    This is just as bad as the Gamecube WWE games, IMO.

  26. thepwbposter says:

    I sadly owned this game, hell, I had all the wrestling games Art and this one was really saying “Buy a new game system ya cheap bastard”. This coming from a guy who didn’t cave in until 2007 and owned a Sega (which I do now own again, Sony f’ you)

  27. The Million Cent Man says:

    A well deserved induction. Another terrible thing about it was the music. And you can’t say it was because it was on the NES because WCW Wrestling was on the NES too and the music in that game was great.

leave a comment