Hulk Hogan. Macho Man Randy Savage. Mr. Perfect. Ted Dibiase, the Million Dollar Man. The Ultimate Warrior. In the early 90s, these were some of the biggest names in the world of professional wrestling. They were superstars. They were loud, brash, full of swagger (and steroids), and for years they were my idols.
At about nine years old, I decided it was my destiny to join their ranks. In successive years, I dressed up as a professional wrestler for Halloween (World Championship Wrestling’s Sting one year, and the World Wrestling Federation’s mysterious Papa Shango the next). I watched WWF Superstars and collected WWF (and to a lesser extent WCW) trading cards and action figures. My friends and I held wrestling matches in the front yard, arguing over who got to be the Ultimate Warrior. We had tag team battles. I made up my own wrestling persona, complete with signature moves. I even went to a WWF event, where I got to see wrestling icons like the Undertaker and Jake the Snake Roberts in action.
When the game WWF Superstars came out for the Nintendo Game Boy in 1991, it became one of my prized possessions. In it, you chose from one of five wrestlers (Hogan, Savage, Dibiase, Mr. Perfect, or the Ultimate Warrior) and then battle the other four to earn the title of World Heavyweight Champion. You could set bouts to be best of one or three falls, and then choose whether or not you wanted matches to have a time limit.
As a fan of the sport (God help you if you tried to tell me it was fake) it had just about everything that I could have wanted. Each match started out with a cut scene of the wrestlers taunting each other. In addition to your basic kick and punch moves, you could hammer your opponents with moves like the piledriver, suplex, and clothesline. You could even throw your opponent out of the ring. After each match, Vince McMahon offered a bit of commentary. If you managed to become World Heavyweight Champion you received the slightly underwhelming reward of a close up portrait of your wrestler.
The game was developed by Rare, a British video game developer, and published by Acclaim Entertainment. David Wise composed the music, which included each wrestler’s signature song. Wise would later go on to compose music for games like the Donkey Kong Country series, working for Rare until 2009, when he set out on his own as a freelance composer. His most recent contribution to the world of video games came when he supplied the soundtrack to the 2017 title Yooka-Laylee for Playtonic.
It was a simple game that was easy to master. After a little practice, you could pretty much guarantee yourself a championship title with each playthrough. If you were like me, you then decided to trying beating the game with each character. In retrospect, it probably would have been more effective to have a wider range of wrestlers to choose from, making total gameplay last longer and providing a more difficult journey to the championship belt. Still, at nine years old, this never occurred to me. All I knew was that it let me participate in the world of professional wrestling, prepping for the day when I would take my rightful place in the ring.