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Review: ‘WrestleQuest’ deftly mixes RPG and wrestling to become 2023’s uncontested indie sleeper hit

'WrestleQuest' laid the smackdown on my soul and left me emotionally raw.

Before I booted up WrestleQuest for the first time, I’d had one of my worst days in a long while. I’m one of those “people-pleasing” sorts, and it was clear that my cup was empty — a cup I try to keep full by being a little more giving than perhaps I should allow. Many people in my life depend on me in various ways, and that day, I had been totally, unambiguously sapped of the energy that made me… well, me. After work, after a few errands, after dealing with people acting crazy on the road while driving back home from running said errands, I plopped down on my couch and wanted to just disappear and not feel like a “useful tool” to be wielded by others.

Utterly dejected and remembering that I had an RPG to review that would probably take me a little while to complete, I (against my better judgment) decided to begin WrestleQuest. The first thing I saw was an action figurine of Macho Man Randy Savage coming down to the ring to confront “Stone Age Cotton” — a dinosaur in a singlet standing on top of a mountain of explosives. Macho, not missing a single beat, cuts a magnetic promo before dropping his signature Diving Elbow Drop on Stone Age Cotton. The ring explodes, yet somehow, the Master of Macho Madness survives and prevails to the elation of the ravenous crowd.

Even if you’re not a wrestling fan, how could you not smile at such absurdity? Needless to say, that frustration I initially felt turned into a familiar warmth I hadn’t been attuned to in years. That wonderful feeling would follow me through every solitary second of WrestleQuest, being equal parts delightfully campy, mechanically dense, and uniquely earnest in a way most games could only dream of. If you came here expecting a reviewer who won’t use a bunch of personal anecdotes, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. This game deserves a full bouquet, and I intend on getting into all of it.

WrestleQuest Screenshot
Screenshot via Skybound Entertainment

From the opening featuring Mr. Macho himself, we’re then introduced to “Randy Santos,” a man obviously inspired by the legend as his wrestling moniker leaves no room for interpretation: Muchacho Man. He’s a wholesome fellow wrestling out of a gym with dreams of one day making it to the big leagues (in this universe, that would be PAW). Whenever Muchacho catches a whiff of anyone implying that wrestling is scripted, that makes him mad. How dare these pretenders believe that wrestling is anything but a well-rounded competition where the better person wins without any scripts or choreography!

Without spoilers, Muchacho is such an endearing character to follow on his journey to emulate the success of his idol. But, unfortunately, the world is rife with malevolent action figures who want nothing more than to “secure the business” by any means necessary — even if that entails screwing over those with pure intentions. The story goes to some incredibly unexpected places, and I wasn’t ready to be as emotionally invested as I ended up being. Joining Muchacho’s crusade are “people” with their own stakes and motivations within the plot, and the game even takes the time to develop many of your party members rather than them being mere “companions” you collect as they lose all sense of agency and self-preservation.

WrestleQuest also combines action figures/toys and wrestling seamlessly, spliced into many of the game’s jokes and locations. If it isn’t a “junkyard” full of children’s blocks and scattered toy parts, it’s a battlefield with burning model planes players will have to maneuver around. You can even make pilgrimages to see statues of some of wrestling’s most iconic grapplers, some of which can kickstart side quests to earn the favor of some recognizable faces who may decide to assist you in taking down your foes.

WrestleQuest Screenshot
Screenshot via Skybound Entertainment

The side quests? Amazing. This isn’t your garden-variety “Go here and do this” busywork some RPGs like to utilize to pad out their runtime. No, these side quests would make Geralt proud — sending players through entire dungeons separate from the main game or introducing fun mini-games and activities that yield tantalizing gear to upgrade your party members. I had to out-perform a broccoli man because he was offended that I was apparently upstaging him on the dance floor. That’s the energy of most of the game’s side offerings.

And who would I be if I neglected to talk about the actual gameplay? So, you’ve got your classic turn-based system with an added twist: you need to press a specific face button to maximize the full force of your fury or risk a counterattack. When you’ve hurt an enemy unit enough, they’re done. …Unless they’re human or human enough, in which case, you’ll have to do things the old-fashioned way with a quick timing-based pin. Or, if you’re a little too impatient for that, you can unlock “finishers” as you level your characters up and expand your abilities to knock human enemies out completely.

As characters work together, you can even come across stylish team-based attacks to dish out pain (or inflict crucial status effects). If you tend to suffer from decision paralysis, this game may throw you for a major loop with all the synergies you can create. You can choose “Hype Types,” which are essentially classes (Powerhouse, Showman, Sidekick, etc.) that come with pros and cons, depending on your preference per character. But be warned: WrestleQuest is sneaky with its difficulty. You’ll be mowing down enemies left and right in one area, but when you travel somewhere new, typically, that comes with new strategies and priorities as you learn and adapt to new enemy types. This difficulty ebb and flow was perfect for me as it prevented the game from ever being too easy while forcing me to carefully consider what moves to do next.

WrestleQuest Screenshot
Screenshot via Skybound Entertainment

There are many small nuances I wouldn’t dare spoil about this game (like all its clever puzzles), even though I could write a novelette going over everything I absolutely adored about it. What I do want to focus on toward the end now, however, is how much it seemed to fundamentally understand me — as a gamer and as a person. For transparency’s sake, I’m a lapsed wrestling “fan.” I used to love watching wrestling back in the early 2000s. My very first memory of anything wrestling is watching Batista hit the Batista Bomb on some poor bastard while I was flipping through channels and just so happened to find Friday Night Smackdown. I remember hearing the roar of the crowd, the excitable commentary, the ferocity of the Animal unleashed, and that was all it took.

That was 2005. Eddie Guerrero would pass within a month of me becoming hooked on wrestling, and even though I was a new fan, I bawled my eyes out. Just hearing how other wrestlers talked about him and seeing clips of his lying, cheating, and stealing, I knew Eddie was a man dedicated to his craft. In my teenage ignorance, I thought that was the heart and soul of wrestling. That it was this artful, physical soap opera/play where wrestlers simply did what they loved with no egos or backstage politics. Hahaha. How foolish of me.

Over the next decade or so, I began seeing what was going on behind the curtain. I saw how some wrestlers were devalued and rejected through no fault of their own. It didn’t matter how good they were or could’ve been — if the powers that be decided they didn’t like someone, that was it. Gradually (to me, anyway), wrestling became less of a “joyful spectacle” and more of a “corporate interest exploiting human bodies to make millions of dollars.” I fell out of love with it. Sure, I watch the occasional clip on YouTube if a storyline strikes me (*cough*THEBLOODLINE*cough*), but otherwise, I couldn’t convince myself to support the “business” of wrestling.

WrestleQuest Screenshot
Screenshot via Skybound Entertainment

WrestleQuest changed all of that for me. As I was playing, a revelation struck me like lightning. This game feels like watching that first Batista Bomb all those years ago, stretching out over the hours I spent playing it rather than being relegated to a single moment. On top of being an exceptional RPG, this is indeed the perfect homage to those small, fleeting instances where wrestling was a pure shot of dopamine without all those dark corners and shadows.

You’ll be able to have gimmick matches outside of “regular” bouts, adding more depth to the gameplay. You’ll cut promos against jabronis to hype the crowd up and get the advantage going into a big match. You can even customize your entrance — lights, music, pyrotechnics, and all! You want to know how the crowd showed their appreciation for my Muchacho Man? They threw chairs at him. Come on. If that’s not awesome, then I don’t know what else I can say to sell you!

There’s so much charm, care, and detail packed into this wild ride that I firmly believe it’s impossible for any one reviewer to write a review about it without going way over their expected word count. Its nostalgia is honest, respecting the insane, exhilarating, often heartfelt mural that is professional wrestling in all its glory. Some games are technical marvels, crafted by the best the gaming industry has to offer. But as wrestling itself can be that thing you mention to people and have them roll their eyes or politely say, “…Oh! You like that fake stuff?” WrestleQuest will inevitably be that thing causing many gamers to roll their eyes and rudely say, “Pfft, if it’s not Tears of the Kingdom, I don’t care.” (And that’s a charitable comment on the internet.)

WrestleQuest, more so than any other game in recent memory, reminded me that I was human. Where it’s easy to succumb to powerlessness, this experience somehow inspires me to fight back against the ills of society, like Muchacho Man fought against those who would see him fail — yet, he persisted. There are plenty of reasons to play this game over and over again (I was a Face the first go-round and am curious to see how things shake out as a dastardly Heel), but one thing’s for sure: this is a must-play for any gamer looking to laugh, hit a backbreaker on some fools, and triumph over insurmountable forces that will bend to your machismo.

“And that’s the bottom thread, because Stone Age said so!”

This review is based on the PlayStation 5 version of the game. A copy was provided for review by Skybound Entertainment.

Top Honors

WrestleQuest takes everything that’s great about both turn-based RPGs and the fabled art of wrestling to create one of the most compelling, memorable adventures the gaming medium has to offer -- flush with endearing characters, deep gameplay, and fun surprises around every corner.


Dwayne Jenkins
About the author

Dwayne Jenkins

Dwayne approaches every situation with an active ear, open mind, and willful heart. He’s always been a staunch critic of whatever show, movie, game, or comic fell into his lap, deepening his adoration for the fabled art of storytelling. With two years of official games journalism under his belt and a lifelong love for the medium and industry, owning every console from the PS1 era and beyond, Dwayne does what he’s always wanted to do: plays and talks about video games with a critical, nuanced eye to give audiences the perspectives and views he’d missed earlier in his life.