Def Jam Vendetta and Fight for NY still stand up as two of the best wrestling video games ever.
June 29 is AEW Fight Forever Day. The All Elite Wrestling video game has finally hit stores and digital shelves. Reviews put the game in the mid-range of scores, which should have been expected as the company looks to launch a new series behind a completely new engine. But as fans clamor for a call back to the days of WWE No Mercy, pro wrestling video game fans should really look to what is the sleeper hit and perhaps the best wrestling series of all time, the Def Jam wrestling series of the early 2000s.
The Def Jam video game series was one of the most shocking amalgamations in video games when the first game was dropped in 2003. The series order is Def Jam Vendetta, followed by Fight for NY, then Def Jam Icon which is more of a fighting game but less focus on professional wrestling. The first two, Vendetta and Fight for NY, deserve consideration as the top professional wrestling video games of all time.
One of the things that made the wrestling games of that generation so beloved is the engine developed by AKI. This is one that AEW Fight Forever is attempting to recreate because fans raved about its ease of play and overall enjoyability. Now take that element and combine it with a roster that is basically a Hall of Fame of Hip Hop. Across both games rappers the likes of Redman, Scarface, DMX, Ludacris, Lil Kim, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Method Man, Flavor Flav, and many more show in the game.
And the roster itself wasn’t the only strength. Both Vendetta and Fight for NY featured interesting storylines that made players want to complete the story. Jumping in to pit their favorite rappers against each other was one thing, but the themes that were wrapped up in the culture kept this game at the front of mind. It was rare, and is still rare, to see Hip Hop captured in video gaming in a unique way, which both games achieved.
Def Jam Vendetta and Fight for NY were both well-reviewed. Metacritic scores range from an 80 to an 84, with major outlets scoring the game around an 8 across the board. Gamespot awarded Def Jam Vendetta the top PlayStation 2 game of 2003.
Professional wrestling fans are rejoicing today, as they should when a new entry joins the video game space. With so many people talking about the glory days of No Mercy, let’s not forget about the greatness that was the first two entries in the Def Jam series – perhaps the best wrestling video games of all time.