Okay, before we get too much further here, let me drop the bombshell: I have omitted WWE No Mercy from this list. Before you tell me I should never have an opinion again, let me explain why.
No Mercy was a great game, but its greatest strengths were done better elsewhere. Day of Reckoning, for example, had a better gameplay engine - one of the best of any WWE game. It was fluid, fast-paced and exciting, allowing for chaotic multiplayer and still staying true to WWE’s essentials. -- We'll get into the games that outdid No Mercy with branching story modes a little later.
Not to say that Day of Reckoning's story mode was any slouch. It was more linear, but with a very compelling narrative.
In a precursor of sorts to the WWE 2K series’ career mode, you got to create your own superstar and take him from dark matches all the way to the main event. Along the way, you join either Evolution or the New Ministry, and your career takes off from there. Not to give away too much, but this results in a pretty awesome payoff at one of WWE’s biggest stages.
The satisfaction of taking your superstar through the ranks in such a well-written story, coupled with the consistently fun gameplay, makes Day of Reckoning the game most worth playing outside of WWE’s main series.
Image Source: GameFAQs