When I was a kid, my brother and I had a gigantic box of wrestling action figures. I didn’t know who most of them were, but that didn’t stop me from pitting them against one another or any other figures lying around my toybox. Spider-Man, Stretch Armstrong, Baby Sinclair from Dinosaurs — everyone became a player in my absurd wrestling promotion. And that’s exactly the kind of childhood energy WrestleQuest aims to deliver.
Set to launch on August 8, WrestleQuest is a wrestling-themed RPG that pays tribute to the golden age of WWF (before it got the “F out”). Nostalgic 80s kids will recognize real-life icons like André the Giant and Jake the Snake, but this isn’t a grounded adaptation of wrestling’s illustrious history. Instead, it’s a wacky turn-based adventure where muscular athletes face off against toy tanks, garbage pail monsters, and more. It’s as if somebody turned my play sessions into a full video game.
Ahead of its release, I went hands-on with WrestleQuestplaying through its opening for hours. While its silly story has yet to hook me, its battle system finds some creative ways to translate the fast and fluid nature of wrestling into a suitable turn-based RPG formula. For kids who grew up worshiping “Macho Man” Randy Savage, it’s the kind of goofy blast from the past that’s sure to dig up some old memories.
Cream of the crop
Developed by Mega Cat Studios, WrestleQuest follows an amateur wrestler named Muchacho Man who is looking to win his world’s most prestigious championship. To achieve that, he sets out on an unpredictable, often absurd adventure full of big muscles and even bigger personalities. That journey starts with an extra narrative twist too, as players jump between two different lead characters seemingly on a collision course.
Based on its earliest few hours, storytelling isn’t so much where WrestleQuest shines. It’s clearly going for childlike silliness, down to its toy-themed presentation. So far, I’ve been shuffled between biomes with very little narrative setup or cohesion. One minute I’m in a junkyard avoiding wrecking balls and fire-spewing cars, the next I’m traversing icy mountains. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason, but I suppose that’s exactly what my own stories were like as a kid.
What I’m more engaged by so far, though, is a creative RPG setup that feels wholly original. Naturally, all battles take place in a ring and are presented like a wrestling match. Each turn, party members can choose between four different actions: Strike, Taunt, Item, and a list of character-specific special moves that use up AP. The basic attack system isn’t too far off from the Mario and Luigi RPG series, where players need to nail button presses to get more damage from strikes. It’s a little more active than just choosing a move from a menu, which adds more stakes and tension to even the simplest strikes. I can even counter certain enemy attacks by landing a correct button press at times, a clever way to emulate reversals.
Special moves mix things up further. Each recruitable character comes with its own suite of moves, from stunners to multi-target hockey slapshots (in the case of my deer pal Stag Logan). Though what’s particularly neat is its approach to combo attacks, finding a fun way to integrate tag team and trio moves. One character can spend a turn to set up a tag maneuver, allowing another in the party to unleash a powerful tandem attack. It’s a smart system that twists a standard RPG party system into something that makes sense in a wrestling game.
As any wrestling fan will tell you, a great match isn’t just about big moves. There’s an art to keeping a crowd entertained that goes beyond moves. To replicate that, WrestleQuest has a unique hype system that players have to manage too. Every action either raises or decreases a hype meter at the bottom of the screen. Taunting, for instance, will add more hype as the wrestler showboats to the crowd. The higher the meter goes, the more passive bonuses the party gets during a match, like increased attack power or AP regeneration. On the flip side, low hype can stack debuffs on the party, even cutting how much experience is earned at the end. That idea creates a thoughtful battle system that doesn’t just encourage players to spam their most powerful moves over and over. They need to think about the “flow” of a match to really maximize the rewards earned for completing one.
Of course, most wrestling matches don’t end by beating an opponent to death. As such, many enemies in WrestleQuest need to be defeated via pinfall. When an enemy’s health is low enough, they lay down on the mat. A character then needs to select a pin from their special move menu and complete three well-timed button presses within 10 seconds to get a “three count.” It’s another clever system, though one that can get old fast — especially when you botch a pin and your opponent springs back to life with a bit of health. Fortunately, there’s a way to enable auto-pins in the main menu for anyone who finds that mechanic a little too gimmicky for its own good.
There’s a lot more I’ve yet to see too. I’ve barely gotten to experiment with managers, who grant passive boosts during battles and have their own special buff moves, and there’s a heel/face morality system that promises impactful choices down the line. Players can even customize Muchacho Man’s entrance or cut promos before big fights, adding some extra details that make it feel like a wrestling game rather than a standard turn-based RPG. Each system pays tribute to wrestling’s nuances in fun ways that I’m eager to dig into later in the adventure. I just hope all of those ideas can stay fresh throughout a promised 50+ hours of content, which sounds like a tall order for a game potentially lacking a strong story hook.
In a year that’s seen a war between WWE 2K23 and AEW: Fight Together, WrestleQuest feels like the third man running to ringside with a steel chair. It’s a completely different approach to a wrestling game that brings a silly, childlike innocence to it. Though I’ll have to get deeper before I can find out if the cream will truly rise to the top.
WrestleQuest launches on August 8 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC. It’ll also come to mobile devices in August via Netflix.