How AEW: Fight Forever Could Change Everything

It’s the year 2000.

Fresh off a week at school, you and your mates prepare for a fire weekend. The menu: Copious amounts of Doritos, Mountain Dew, and Little Caesars. The entertainment: The Matrix or Fight Club on DVD. The main event: WWF No Mercy on Nintendo 64.

Or perhaps it was Fire Pro Wrestling or Giant Gram 2000 on Dreamcast. If you had a Playstation it might have been Smackdown! Just Bring It!

Or if you were a nerd like me with access to all of these: All of the above.

For adolescents and teenagers in the American culture, games like these bring back fond and nostalgic memories of a much simpler time. The United States was in a pre-9/11 state-of-mind. President Clinton had (by 2000) left a $237 Billion surplus in a very good economy, with low inflation and a low unemployment rate.

MTV dominated popular culture, politics wasn’t remotely as divisive as it is now, and The New England Patriots had won zero Super Bowls at that point and time. Consumers still largely bought CDs (though Napster would soon change this), and Netflix offered subscription DVD rentals through the mail. Though most of us still preferred the immersive rental experience of Blockbuster Video or Hollywood Video.

Nu-metal, Gushers, cassette mix-tapes, the X-Files, and waiting for your time to jump on AOL on the family computer. As much as I appreciate advances in technology and social issues — a part of me will always miss the 90s.

As a society, we have been yearning for the nostalgic past for sometime now. And in today’s wrestling fans, it especially shows. We still talk about the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars with a certain warmness and joy. But what if there was a way to capture those nostalgic feelings, yet stay hip to the modern wrestling world?

Why Are People Still Playing Old Video Games?

Dig dig diggity, dig diggity dawg. Break it. Dig dig diggity, dig diggity dawg…

The retro gaming industry to this day is still alive and well. From the use of emulators and roms to pre-loaded emulation consoles, anyone can get a quick fix of gaming reminiscence. There are also plenty of remastered titles from the 80s and 90s that regularly appear on Steam, GoG, Xbox or Playstation.

Emulation communities for WWF No Mercy, NFL2K5, and even Mortal Kombat exist, where players can download updated rosters/characters for their choice of emulator.  One of the most popular gaming celebrities is none other than James Rolfe, (The Angry Video Game Nerd), who pulls in millions of views per (bad) retro gaming review on YouTube. In short, in 2023, a lot of people still love to play old video games.

So why is this sector of the gamingsphere still quite active?


These games are fun. The simple notion that any gamer, from casual to hardcore, can pick up a controller and lose themselves into a virtual landscape for a few hours is just that — fun.

Most important, it forces gamers to use imagination to fill in the extra pixels. Thus, a more immersive experience. I’m going to find myself more immersed in a world like Disco Elysium compared to a world like The Elder Scrolls. Both games are subjectively good, but the latter looks like every other Dark Souls and fantasy game out there. It doesn’t necessarily stand out. So at the end of the day, why do great old games stand the test of time?


Gameplay > Graphics

Did you download your latest roster update for NFL 2K5 yet?

To this day, modern Madden installments receive extremely low reviews by fans. Madden 23 pulled in a 1.4 from Metacritic (fans), 3/10 from Xbox Tavern, and 1.7/5 via Google reviews. To many, the pinnacle of football gaming was NFL 2K5, which dropped in 2004.

2K5 was the perfect embodiment of simulation football, from the physics, presentation, and gameplay. While Madden 23 looks amazing graphics-wise, the gameplay can still be glitchy, physics unrealistic, and attention to detail in popular game modes like Franchise is severely lacking. It’s why many still turn to 2K5, or even Madden 08 (the last great Madden) for their virtual football fix.

Deus Ex (2000), Shadowman, Undertale, and even Minecraft are considered great games with below average graphics. Of course, great, immersive games exist that look amazing (Ghostwire: Tokyo as an example). However, to any logical and educated gamer, gameplay will always supersede graphics — especially if aesthetically presented as such on purpose.

While primitive to today’s gaming standards, it’s why games like Super Mario 3, The Legend of Zelda, Sonic, and Earthbound hold up so well. The aesthetics is what hooked you as a kid on these games, and the gameplay itself sealed the deal…

Aesthetics > Graphics

Disco Elysium. One of the best RPG’s of all time.

A great aesthetic will help absorb you into whatever gaming world you are jumping into. There are plenty of modern games that favor an artistic style and story over simply pumping out the most realistic looking graphics as possible.

Examples include: Disco Elysium, Undertale, Gone Home, Firewatch, What Remains of Edith Finch, Night in the Woods, just to name a few. As mentioned before, not only do games like these easily bring you into their universe, but what may be lacking in amazing graphics, you can easily make up for in your imagination with story and gameplay. It’s what we all did as kids, be it on the original Nintendo or Sega Master System; or for GenZ’ers, Xbox 360 or PS3. Great art direction and style of a video game, regardless of graphical power, is always more important to the gaming experience.

When the Matrix Awakens demo was released in December of 2021, it featured the newer Unreal Engine 5. The demo looked absolutely stunning. However, the more I played, the more I thought to myself — “is this too realistic?” At what point do I just stop looking at perfectly and realistically created universes and go out into the actual universe myself?

And in my personal opinion, it’s a minor flaw to the current WWE 2K series…

Alternatives to WWE2K Series


Don’t get me wrong: WWE 2K23 is a good game. 

While WWE 2K20 was abysmal due to a boatload of glitches and bad gameplay, by 2023 it improved to a much better showing. However, some have found a level of boredom in the title and compared to a banner offering like Smackdown vs. Raw 2011, still misses some old, yet cherished features.

Features that were for some reason taken out of the game in favor of a more realistic experience. This includes chain wrestling, various match types, some weapons, Universe Mode promos, and an uninspiring MyRise game mode.

Simulation is fine for sports games — but this is professional wrestling. When I played Smackdown: Just Bring It, and took Jeff Hardy and dove off the Smackdown Fist, I didn’t think to myself “this isn’t realistic enough”. I was too busy having a blast in what equates to a jazzed up fighting game.

In other words, if I really cared that much about presentation and graphics for a game like WWE 2K23, I would just simply opt to turn on Raw or Smackdown instead. In my personal opinion, fun and great features should never be sacrificed for graphics.

Setting the Tone

Safer than Mount Everest…

AEW: Fight Forever will set the tone for future wrestling games on levels:

  1. Ensuring that a pick-up-and-play fun factor exists. The game is meant to be easy to play, though “hard to master”.
  2. One game with continued downloadable content a opposed to purchasing a new game every year.

This is the first major pro wrestling game from a non-WWE entity since TNA Impact — and well, that game was hot garbage. The June 29th offering by Yuke’s offers a fun experience that your friends can have a blast with, much like in the days of No Mercy, or SvR.

Beyond the 10 different match types, and loads of weapons to use (Kris Statlander on a skateboard LFG), we have mini-games. Along with the 55 confirmed base and DLC wrestlers, mini-games include a baseball inspired “Shida’s Slugfest” to a Simon-says inspired “Penta Says” game.

While unconfirmed, I can only hope that “Dethrace-X” and “MJF Car Thrash” could be either a Mario Kart like game with AEW wrestlers — or a WWE Crush Hour inspired offering.

Again, we’re having fun here. What better way to bring in casual fans than to offer a slew of non-wrestling games in a (hopefully) solid pro wrestling game? Furthermore, it continues to cement AEW as a solid #2 in the industry. Love em’ or hate em’, fans need AEW to stick around for a long time to prevent a dark period in the industry with another wrestling monopoly.

If you’re a wrestling fan, supporting this game will actually help the industry overall.

Going Home

Here comes the boom…

You’ve likely noticed a trend in this article. Yes, AEW: Fight Forever doesn’t have top-notch graphics like many modern AAA titles. However, if gameplay reviews are anything to go by, graphics will be the least of a player’s concerns. While game developer Yuke’s didn’t create No Mercy, the Director of No Mercy (Hideyuki “Geta” Iwashita) was brought on board for this title.

Creators felt that gameplay was crucial, and more important than focusing solely on graphics. This was also purposely done to bring out a very specific and nostalgic aesthetic.

However, Yuke’s has a long history of creating wrestling video games. It’s what they do. More notable titles include:

-WWF Smackdown Series (Including Just Bring It/Here Comes the Pain)
-Power Move Pro Wrestling (New Japan)
-WWE Day of Reckoning
-WWE Smackdown vs. Raw series
-Rumble Roses
-Wrestle Kingdom (New Japan)
-WWE 12/13 (plus the WWE 2K series through 2019)
-The Dog Island

Okay, that last entry has nothing to do with pro wrestling, but my point is made. This is the company you go to for creating great pro wrestling games. I have faith that Yuke’s will give us their best when it comes to AEW: Fight Forever. As literally the first entry in the AEW video game console library, I don’t expect this to be a perfect title.

However, I do anticipate that this game will be a whole lot of fun. And if we’re being honest, that’s what AEW is at its core. Fun. And furthermore, this is how we should be looking at the entire wresting industry.

Just enjoy pro wrestling, whichever promotion you prefer; and just have fun. Life is too short not to.