There are many theories for what kind of wrestling game 2K Games will make with WWE 2K21 out of the picture. Some expect a return to the arcade stylings of WWE All Stars, some are hoping for an entirely new approach.
But one particular theory is one older fans can't help but get excited for.
A return to Smackdown vs. Raw
NOSTALGIA: The cover for the first Smackdown vs. Raw game
The WWE 2K series has been the biggest follow up to the former annual WWE game series, Smackdown vs. Raw (SVR). It ran from 2004 to 2010, when it was succeeded first by the WWE series, then by the WWE 2K series.
Smackdown vs. Raw is fondly remembered for introducing many popular mechanics to wrestling games.
It's no coincidence that each of the games received strong Metacritic ratings. The only game in the series not to receive around 80% on Metacritic was Smackdown vs. Raw 2008. But this game faced issues introducing the new ECW brand, cutting Season Mode, and was the last game in the series with GM mode. So at least some of the negativity is more of a protest vote.
The Smackdown vs. Raw series had much less of an issue with the bugs and glitches WWE 2K has been under fire for. The games also come with a competitive spirit between the WWE brands Raw and Smackdown. Outside of SVR, fans only get to enjoy that conflict around the WWE pay-per-view Survivor Series.
What could come back in SVR 21?
ALL THE HITS: Could MyCareer become Season Mode again?
Smackdown vs. Raw innovated many popular wrestling game modes and features. The 2K series has kept many, but some noticeable fan favorites are missing.
One big inclusion that even SVR originally cut is GM mode. In GM mode, players could draft superstars to their own show and run it from the ground up. This meant managing budgets, contracts, matchmaking, and everything going into your weekly show.
GM mode was scrapped after the worst received game in the SVR series, Smackdown vs. Raw 2008. But while SVR did destroy its unique game mode, fans have been waiting years for it to come back.
Another missing favorite is Season Mode. Season Mode was a popular inclusion in the early 2000's, removed in 2008. The game mode allowed the player to choose a WWE superstar to play as, experiencing storylines and making decisions that could change everything. With many twists and turns and engaging story telling, this mode kept fans on the edge of their seats. While WWE 2K games have story mode elements, the stories are much less open, and much less decision-driven.
Beyond features, what fans might hope for most of all from a Smackdown vs. Raw return is passion about the games.
WWE 2K20 was one of the biggest steps back in wrestling game history, and the lack of passion was very evident to players. The amount of bugs that made it to release compounded by bad graphics and no real innovations showed a lack of interest.
Should we get an SVR return, we may see the games treated like a priority again rather than another rehash of the same game year to year.