Combat sports are arguably some of the most popular types of games on the market. Even if you’re not entirely into the history of the wrestling and MMA profession, combat sports can still provide barrels of harmless fun to anybody looking for a change of pace. And, let’s not forget that some of the most respected eSports domains often fall under the likes of EA’s UFC saga, too. Okay, so they might not be as well travelled as Fortnite or any battle royale game for that matter, but they are a popular choice when it comes to competitive gaming.
Of course, trying to compile this list with a whole bundle of fighting games screaming from the ringside isn’t going to make this any easier. In fact, picking just five might be a rather overwhelming challenge — one of which might cause a mixed response. Therefore, it would only make sense to throw down five of the many greats. From MMA to WWE — here are some of our all-time favourite combat sports games. Now, cue the bell!
5. Def Jam: Fight For New York
During the popularity spike over the wrestling world back in the early noughties, a spool of developers started looking to create the next big thing on the fighting scene. One of these, of course, was the Def Jam franchise, which clashes iconic rappers with outrageous fight scenarios. And, while that may seem like a ludicrous (or should I say Ludacris?) concept, it just so happens that Def Jam went on to become one of the most favoured games in the fighting community. Go figure.
Sure, the premise might be somewhat basic in terms of having to claw your way through a sheet of rap legends with very little subplot — but the heart is definitely there. It’s the suburban backdrops and hip-hop influences that draw you to the starting point of the Def Jam platform. Though, sadly, the follow-up sequence never really managed to recapture the essence of the New York charm. Even still, Def Jam still finds sanctuary between both fighting fanatics and hip-hop influencers even today. Now that’s how you merge two worlds together. Well played, EA.
4. UFC 4
If you’re a die-hard fan of MMA — then you’re going to want to pick up EA’s 2020 follow-up to their renowned UFC division. After spending several years scraping the barrel for the fine details and ideal fighting elements, the fighting kingpin has finally sculpted the ultimate experience. As with any UFC entry, players are able to step into the underworld of MMA fighting and ascend the career ladder. From stranger to hero — every fight along the way affects your legacy and alters your path.
With enhanced tutorials spread over wrestling, kickboxing and jujitsu — EA’s UFC 4 aims to not only give the player a more in-depth experience to the MMA empire — but also throw down a memorable lesson for any fan of the sport. So, all in all, you can expect a full-on package where no stone is left unturned. Although, if you’re after something a little different in the mixed martial arts category, then stick around until the end. There are still a few extra cards up our sleeve for this one.
3. Fight Night: Round 4
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a major part in an iconic boxing match between two legends — then this is your chance. Whether you’re simply watching over the fight between two other players, or just throwing in the belt yourself — Fight Night: Round 4 delivers some of the most immersive qualities that we’ve ever seen in the boxing category. Although Round 4 dates back to 2009 — all of the elements published in this chapter still very much hold a special presence in today’s market.
Similar to most fighting games, players are given free rein over their character development over the course of their career paths. As a wannabe boxer in the underbelly of the competitive sport, you must climb your way through the ranks and showcase your skill and perception. Or, if you’re not ready to join the ranks — then you could always sit back and watch Tyson and Ali thrash out their differences over a tub of popcorn? Either way, you’re in for a seriously entertaining show. Plus, it makes for a great movie alternative. Who needs Netflix when you’ve got Fight Night, right?
2. WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain
During the 2003 period of TV’s wrestling entertainment, almost every child around the world aspired to be the next Kane or Steve Austin. There was a level of fantasy that bolted to the sport that almost every follower of the show wanted to indulge in. The memorable outfits stuck with us for years even after the wrestlers drifted away from the ring. The iconic soundtrack that echoed through the stadium as we watched our favourite fighters appear from the shadows. Everything was there — and we wanted to experience it and be as close as the referee himself.
Sadly, millions of us never quite made it to the show, and were only left to settle for the next best thing. Here Comes the Pain, thankfully, was the consolation prize nobody knew they needed until they had it. Thanks to Yuke’s keen eye for detail, this PlayStation 2 smash-hit went on to become an absolute gem in the community. Even today, as wrestling games have passed on by with forgettable twists and turns — this SmackDown chapter is still proudly wearing the crown as the fan favourite. In fact, it’s partly the reason why most PlayStation 2 owners kept a firm hold of the hardware post-PS3 launch.
1. UFC Undisputed 3
There’s no denying the fact that Yuke’s is probably one of the best firms in the industry when it comes to developing fully-fledged fighting games. Not only is the Japanese-based developer celebrated for the WWE and WWF franchises — but also the UFC series as well. Though, with many fantastic titles under their belt, we’ve still yet to find something anywhere near as well-crafted as the 2012 UFC Undisputed 3 chapter.
While EA might’ve stripped down the mechanics and polished a few nooks and crannies since the 2012 takeover, nothing quite compares to the UFC titles pre-purchase. There was something both Yuke’s and THQ managed to bring to the table that EA never quite explored — and that, unfortunately, led to the downfall of the once-cherished franchise. Undisputed 3 is still very much considered to be the original G.O.A.T. Ask any fan of the series and they’ll probably tell you the same thing. If only Yuke’s could take the wheel for one more spin, eh?