Do you ever wonder to yourself how many fighting games are out there in the world? Which ones are good? Which ones are bad, and which ones are absolutely mind-boggling game changers? Well, the answer is HUNDREDS! We can’t even come up with an accurate number there are so many.
That hasn’t stopped us from making it our mission to get out there and play as many as we can. Why? Because we want to know. Our minds are driven by curiosity and a love of video games. And since we love our readers so much, we will impart some of the more exciting findings we have made on to you. Don’t worry, it won’t stop here. This list is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll continue to keep you in the loop on what is new, what is exciting, and what hidden gems may have passed under your radar.
Without further ado, and in no particularly grand order…
Developer: Reverge Labs/Lab Zero Games
Release: 2012 (initial); 2015 (2nd Encore)
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, iOS, Android, Vita, Arcade
I’m kicking things off with this title because it is not on the main list of marquee titles for most major tournaments. But don’t worry, it will be. As of right now, EVO hosts a yearly Skullgirls side tournament to its main events. This game is a wonderful specimen in fluidity and elegance. The Guinness Book of World Records: Gamer Edition awarded it “Most Frames of Animation Per Character in a Fighting Game,” with characters topping 11,515 total frames of animation for its initial eight characters, and averaging 1,439 frames per fighter. Can you say “buttery-smooth”?
Skullgirls takes a lot of inspiration from Marvel vs. Capcom 2, using a tag system, assists, and delayed hyper-combos. In addition to its sleek character animation, its frenetic combat stands above many of its peers for sheer beauty in motion.
Set in Canopy Kingdom, the backdrop is reminiscent of a 40’s post-war America. The game has a lovely, cartoonish “Steamboat Mickey” appeal to it, while also being insanely detailed. The art direction alone is enough to warrant checking out this impressive fighting game.
Platforms: Arcade, PC, PS4
The Street Fighter franchise is the granddaddy of all fighting games. Like Rocky Balboa or John Rambo, it’s still kicking ass to this very day! Though the series went through something of a dry spell before 2008, it made a massive comeback with Street Fighter IV. Some have even claimed that SFIV saved the commercial viability of Fighting Games in esports as a whole. It wasn’t without its flaws, though. Balance issues and the ability to cancel/block certain moves with button mashing light attacks was a common complaint. These issues and many others were seemingly addressed with the launch of Street Fighter V. Sadly, however, the new release proved to have its own set of issues.
Shortly after being released to positive, yet not glowing reviews, Capcom decided to revamp the whole game. After rebalancing fighters, adding not one, but six arcade modes and a slew of other amazing features, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition released to incredible fanfare, and will be a staple of the fighting game community for years to come.
Personally, my favourite aspect of SFV/SFV:AE is the “crush counter system.” A hard or normal attack “crushes” an opponent’s “weaker” attack at the same time, completely doing away with much of the cheapness of the previous title.
Platforms: PS3, PS4, Playstation Vita, PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One
You know what I love? Capcom. Seriously. Mega Man, Strider, Resident Evil, Ghosts and Goblins… the list of awesomeness goes on. You know what else I love? Comic books! Yep, I remember getting Maximum Carnage as a kid, and just being sold on the medium for life. Don’t even get me started on the brilliance that was the Maximum Carnage SNES game! (Which sadly, was not made by Capcom).
What could possibly be better than mixing the worlds of Capcom and Marvel IP? Not bloody much, I say. And the series has been running strong for a good few decades now. When Marvel vs. Capcom was released, it was loved and praised. However, it wasn’t perfect. Hard Hitters like Lady Hulk were OP AF and just owned the game. This caused ranged characters to be somewhat nerfed by comparison. In addition to that, there was little incentive to do team aerial combos.
The release of Ultimate focused on rebalancing and adding ranged characters and projectile firing characters. This really shook things up and made more characters into viable choices. Team aerial combos got a solid push by granting the player random bonus perks. Essentially, the entire game was rebalanced to be fabulously versatile and less predictable.
But really, Mega Man in a fighting game, need I say more?
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Arcade, PC, PS4, Xbox One
The original Tekken was the first game I owned for my Playstation One, and boy howdy, did I ever enjoy it! It separated itself from other fighting games by existing as a fully polygonal world. Not only that, but fighters were capable of sidestepping, moving into the foreground and background of the fighting area. Tekken Tag (released shortly after Tekken 3) brought tag team mechanics to fighting games… which was a real game changer! (pun intended)
Tekken 7 is probably the most technically impressive game within the entire franchise, and not just because it is running on modern hardware. This game, unlike some of Capcom’s fighters, got it right on release. The characters are especially well balanced, and the fighting is considerably technical and stunning to watch. Successful, weighty hits make for the most physical and satisfying combat gameplay since Rockstar released The Warriors on PS2.
More than anything though, I love the customization. This game has got insane options! Outfits, colours, top and bottom swapping, hats, avatars. It’s crazy. Go into an online match 100 times over and it’s doubtful that you’ll ever see the same two fighters going up against each other.
My Hwoarang wears shiny chaps and a keropi/frog hat, and he’s a masterpiece!
Developer: Nintendo/Hal Laboratory
Platform: Nintendo Gamecube
When Nintendo decided to enter the fighting game arena, I don’t think anyone took them seriously. When they completely threw all 2D fighting game conventions out the window and launched their gameplay like a battle-royale brawler, I think people were downright confused. But it worked! Oh, my cotton socks, did it ever work!
Fast-forward 19 years and Smash is so popular that EVO (one of the biggest fighting tournaments in the world) features not one, but TWO Smash titles in its yearly lineup. Firstly, Melee, which debuted on the Gamecube as a launch title featuring an impressive roster of characters compared to its predecessor, in addition to levels, music, and a slew of single-player modes.
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
Smash U is superior to Melee in many ways but different enough for the two to actually feel like completely different games. Eight player mode brings absolute chaos to the relatively manageable 4-player mode of the past. Smash U brings a bevy of characters from outside of the Nintendo Universe as well. Sonic, Mega Man, Snake, and Bayonetta all make appearances. They each bring their own dedicated stages, themes, and toolsets to create a truly unique experience compared to past Smash titles. Snake (Metal Gear Solid) and Bayonetta, in particular, are notable due to their M-rated origins, contrasting the perceived kiddy image that Nintendo had coddled for so many years.
Both Smash Melee and Smash U offer something rarely found in the world of fighting games: fun in the form of frenzied gameplay and reckless abandon. It’s a madhouse that’s mad in all the right places.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS
Marvel vs. Capcom may have thought it had the market cornered for superhero fighting games, but DC Comics weren’t about to stand idly by while snotty little brats like Spiderman showed them up! So… in swooped Injustice. A ruthless fighting game from the creators of none other than Mortal Kombat, one of the most brutal fighting games to ever exist, and certainly the bloodiest. Injustice: Gods Among Us envisions a world ruled by Superman turned evil after the Joker murders a pregnant Lois Lane.
Injustice 2 picks up where the initial game failed, addressing complaints about speed and character balance, and it feels like a smoother game in many ways. One of the things I loved the most about this series (aside from the sexy dark style and the merciless violence) is the ability to juggle your opponent Devil May Cry-style. Bouncing a foe off of the ground or the walls with a tremendous strike results in them bounding into the air, ready for you to smack them around and keep them afloat as long as you are able. Give it a try, it’s mighty satisfying. And it doesn’t hurt that the game also has characters from Mortal Kombat, as well as other comic book series like Ninja Turtles and Hellboy… it doesn’t hurt at all.
Developer: Arc System Works
Platforms: Arcade, PC, PS3, PS4
Guilty Gear has always been at the top of the heap for anime, over-the-top, six-button arcade fighters. Xrd, though using cel-shaded graphics this time around, does a wonderful job of maintaining the feel of the previous entries’ cartoonish good looks. There was never a moment while playing this game that I noticed a difference between controlling its now 3D rendered characters, versus its past 2D sprites.
Believe it or not, this is the sixteenth game in the Guilty Gear series! That has got to be a record. Other franchises seem to keep it under ten iterations unless you include the multitude of re-releases of Capcom’s fighters, sporting multiple new titles like EX or GG EX, Double Whammy Edition… you get the idea. Guilty Gear has always been especially neat to me as it incorporates a lot more focus on story than many other fighters, often including elaborate anime cutscenes. Xrd is no different. The game even features a mode in which you can watch the story as an uninterrupted feature-film. Sure, it is extremely confusing and complex, but that doesn’t stop it from being extremely fun!
Developer: Arc System Works
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC
Arc System Works makes a lot of great games. And I mean, a lot. Persona stole my heart and never gave it back years ago. Atlus, French Bread, and Rooster Teeth all make a lot of great games, too. So, what happens when you take characters from across these several game developer’s IP and put them all in a very precisely balanced tag system fighting game? You get BlazBlue, one of the prettiest, strangest, and most fluid fighting games on the market.
The tag mechanic isn’t altogether that different from titles like Marvel vs. Capcom, or Tekken Tag Tournament 2. It uses 2v2 player matches and assist characters to fill the screen with an assemblage of faces, familiar to fans of the many franchises included in the title’s rich roster.
Cross Tag Battle is the first BlazBlue title to feature some major changes allowing ease of entry for newcomers, while still catering to the technical prowess of series veterans. The tag mechanic is new for this title, as are the simplified controls and auto-combos. If you are relatively new to the world of fighting games, and you want something to test the waters, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle might just be your cup of tea.
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch
Remember the Neo Geo Pocket Colour? If you do, you’d know that it was home to the world’s most impressive fighting games to ever grace a handheld device. SNK put out a number of intense and inspired titles for the spiffy little trinket, and Pocket Rumble from Chucklefish looks to pay homage to that generation of games.
What makes Pocket Rumble really stand out from other titles is its pure simplicity. Despite being released for modern consoles and PC, it utilizes only two buttons for the majority of its combat. For better or worse, the combos, special moves, and light and heavy attacks are all mapped to the same two buttons. Inputting different directionals or directional combos with a d-pad will change the attack or combo. This may seem simple at first, but this small-scale fighter has surprising depth for those who dedicate the time to learning every move and combo. There is even a training mode with a frame counter to learn the perfect timing for your favourite fighter.
While the graphics could fool you into thinking that this title was released in the 80s or 90s, it is very much a modern fighting game in a lot of subtle ways. I doubt this particular title is going to be headlining EVO any time soon, but don’t let that stop you from whipping it out to get your nostalgia on, teach your kids about fighting games, or go head-to-head in an online battle to brush up on your d-pad carving skills.
And there you have it, folks. Some of these fighters are recognizable and world-famous brawlers, while some are up-and-comers to keep a keen eye on. All are worth your time and attention if you are serious about delving further into the complex world of fighting games.
Give us a share on social media, and tell us what you might add to the list. Perhaps you’ll even inspire a lovely little write-up in our next game profile article.