Not “of all time” of the past 2 decades, I try to be P.C. about writing a list like this and I decided to shift the tide in a more personal sense instead of coming off as pretentious the “End all be all” “My opinion is better than yours” of fighting games. The fighting genre is my favorite genre in gaming next to Hack/Slash games so I wanted to make a list of the games that have graced our consoles and if EVO was around in the early 90′s most of the pick of this list would’ve made it too. I was also pretty bored. Special credentials to make this list: Only games that implement strategy and technique, Only games that give both players a fair chance at winning, No games with one kill combos or moves, One entry per franchise, Only games I’ve played. No games based on crap you see on television so no WWE, UFC, or Anime cash grab fighting games. You could say this is to commemorate the first fighting game of this new gen: Killer Instinct.
11: Samurai Shodown 2
Often regarded as the best in the series because of its polished and refined gameplay mechanics from the first one. Samurai Shodown is Soul Calibur set in feudal Japan and it’s on a 2D plane. You probably think I’m just nostalgia bombing because even though 3,4,5 implemented combos and more characters and yet, I look at 2 as the best. To be honest my favorite of the series is Samurai Shodown 5 Special though. I’m the kind of guy who loves to credit where it’s due. I find it very responsive and crisp control fit the game perfectly. Thanks to the simple (yet sharp) mechanics, the character roster ends up being pretty balanced as well. Every character in the game has their clear strengths & weaknesses, and each of them can definitely be used effectively. This game also put SNK on the map as a legit competitor to Capcom as this franchise wasn’t treated as a cheap Street Fighter 2 clone.
10: The Rumble Fish 2:
Hands down the rarest fighting game ever as it was never released in consoles, it’s only available in Arcades and just by the fact I mentioned Arcade in context of the United States means that you will probably never find it. It’s a great 2D fighter from Dimps. (The same guys who helped developed all of the recent Street Fighter 4 games) It’s an insanely combo heavy 2D fighter but it never feels unbalanced as It plays a lot like its predecessor but the Offense and Defense gauges have been divided into three sections, allowing for more usage of Offensive and Defensive Arts, as well as techniques tied to each gauge. An addition to the system is the Boost Dive, which puts each character into a powered-up state according to their style. Each round the characters has two life bars but it keeps the traditional two round trope of other fighting games. Another neat feature and possibly a future staple in the genre is battle damage. A lot like Mortal Kombat 9, the character’s attire goes to shreds as the battle goes on. I played this for a few months at Chinatown Fair before it got shutdown and I never beat it because it was so hard though I was pretty close. The reason it is so low on the list though, because it’s really rare and really hard to master. I can’t recommend a game that is hard to get a hold of to anybody if they can’t play it. You can’t find it through conventional means; it’s not on Xbox live/PlayStation Network, it was never released to consoles, a lot of people have never heard of it and think it’s a random title I pulled outta my ass.
9: Tekken 3
My personal pick for Tekken’s best was difficult well…All of the game were exceptionally good. I mean besides minor balancing issues, was there ever really a bad Tekken game? I mean Tekken 4 and Tekken 6 are looked at as the franchises weakest. And nobody ever talks about the first 2 Tekken games. I would cave to peer -pressure and say Tekken Tag Tournament 2 but I won’t for 2 reasons. That’s not who I am and again “Only games I’ve played” Tekken 3 was the pivotal 3D fighter and the pivotal entry in the franchise. It not only help boosts the sales of the PlayStation. Tekken 3 also introduced juggling combos, new characters that would be faces of the franchise. But finally, Tekken 3 was the first of the franchise to become more strategically implement sidestepping for the purpose of whiffing opponents and finding openings through conventional means of button mashing face to face. After that every game did the game exact thing.
8: Soul Calibur 2:
The widely popular franchise famous for its misspelling of the word “Caliber” It’s in your face fan service and its weapon-based mechanics has gone down in quality lately with SC 5 being lazy as all hell and SC4 being easily beaten by just pressing the throw button over and over again. But at a time the series was actually really, really good and to me every game just went downhill after my number 8 pick. I would give it to the OG Soul Calibur for all the accolades it received but I’m giving it to its follow-up Soul Calibur 2. Why? It’s one of the best fighting games of that generation as well as one of the best GameCube games (Yes, I know it was also for PS2 and Xbox but let’s be honest here, when people think SC2, they are always thinking about the version with Link in it.) On the casual gamer side of things, this game was filled to the brim with game modes and extra modes since it allowed you to level up and unlock extra weapons for your fighter, you know, back when it actually mattered. Weapons all had different abilities from healing you gradually, to penetrating guards for massive damage at the cost of range actually forcing the player to be strategic in a 3D fighter for once in their lives. This also bodes well in a fighting game stand point. THIS was the highest the series reached before every other one after it. And this was one of the best 3D fighters that showed you can only win by using a great strategy with your character and not button mashing like crazy as the common approach to 3D fighters. The graphics are so good that and HD remake would seem uneccassary….Well…
Also Link was in it, HA!
I always thought Street Fighter meets Thriller/Monster Mash when this game pops up in my head. My first ever fighting game was the original Darkstalkers and what drew me in were the unusual art style and the cool concept of monsters fighting each other and coming from a guy who grew up on Kung-Fu movies; this was a breath of fresh air. The entry on this list goes to Darkstalkers 3 or Vampire Savior. Vampire Savior has vastly improved graphics and gameplay. It’s one of Capcom’s most unique fighting games as Vampire Savior eschews the traditional round-based system in favor of what is dubbed as the “Damage Gauge System”, in which battles take place during a period of one round, with each fighter having two “life markers” or two life bars by default, which diminish after one character runs out of vitality. So now you know where Injustice got its one round set –up. Also I never liked Morrigan mostly because of what she represents. I don’t know about you but for me a character that is famous solely on sex appeal and not for her fighting prowess isn’t my idea of mascot for a fighting game. I mean Street Fighter has Ryu, Mortal Kombat has Scorpion…or Sub-Zero but most of the time it’s Scorpion. For Marvel vs. Capcom is usually Ryu with Wolverine, Spider-man, or Cyclops. KOF doesn’t count. Mai can actually fight worth a damn. For me, my go to Darkstalkers girl was and still is Hsien-Ko. Mostly because her fighting style is uniquely awesome, I love using her in the games and her sex appeal isn’t in your face like Morrigan’s or Felicia’s. Less is more, people. And also Hsien-Ko is way better in this than she is in UMvC3.
6: Project Justice:
You know every video game website or clown with an internet blog who writes about their top 10 fighting games all claim to be unique and different from others. But all of their lists all stem from games being put on a pedestal because it’s either super gimmicky or super popular. And for some reason they always pad out the list by putting Anime fighting games on the list. But almost no so called Top 10 list ever includes Rival Schools. The entire Rival Schools franchise has been in Capcom’s back burner for years while only Batsu would go on to appear in crossovers. But the games he hails from are so much fun in itself. I love Rival Schools and its sequel equally as they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Capcom can and has the capability of making great fighting games in 3D and with less than 6 buttons. Rival Schools is a two-on-two fighting game and before you call Marvel vs. Capcom clone, the actual fights, are one-on-one fights, with the partner only participating by being called in when a player has enough ‘vigor’ for a Team Up attack, done by pressing a punch and kick button of the same pressure. After the round is over the player has the choice to switch between characters. Since I have to pick, I give it to the sequel: Project Justice as it improves on the previous game in every way, graphics, characters, story, gameplay etc. It the only fighting game where the single player is most incredible aspect of the game what I mean is Project Justice is a game where how you fight actually impacts the plot of the game whether you win, lose, win using a certain move, certain character as opposed to other fighting games where the story comes to a screeching halt when you lose. Next to its innovating and intuitive gameplay and controls it never comes off as too overwhelming and it’s something anyone can play.
5: Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves:
Let’s set the record for those who don’t know. “Garou” or “Garou Densetsu” is the Japanese title of Fatal Fury series. So I’m using the title right. It’s Fatal Fury through and through. Secondly, Fatal Fury is a one-on-one fighting series and it’s most notable characters would be drafted to the King of Fighters games. King of Fighters is a crossover fighting game series that combines characters from SNK’s intellectual properties as well as coming up with characters of their own so I’m not cheating. Widely regarded as one of SNK’s greatest fighting games ever, Garou does everything right. Garou: Mark of the Wolves introduces the “Tactical Offense Position” (T.O.P.) which is that yellow section on the life gauge. When the gauge reaches this area, the character enters the T.O.P. mode, granting the player character the ability to use T.O.P. attack, gradual life recovery, and increased attack damage. The game plays more rush-down heavy like the KOF games before it with the short jump and super jump mechanics. The game was build and made for the best of the best in the fighting game community boasts tactical features as “feints, command normal, option selects, Kara cancels, just defend etc. all of the cool mechanics you would want out a great fighting game and this is it. The overall feel of Garou is far more in line with Capcom’s fighters than any of SNK’s other fighting games but doesn’t ever feel like a complete rip-off like the community as dubbed the past entries of Fatal Fury. The game is widely recommended to Capcom fans looking for an SNK game to try as a gateway to the company’s long catalogue of games. You want to read something pretty disheartening? During the fan event 2005 KOF-party, illustrator Falcoon mentioned that the game’s sequel was around seventy percent complete for the Neo Geo by the SNK team.
4: Mortal Kombat:
I love Mortal Kombat 9 I really do, I love how it gave back Mortal Kombat the respect it deserves, I love in depth strategy and techniques, and I love how it’s the first Mortal Kombat game in a long ass time where I came for the fighting and stayed for the fighting and not the fatalities. But to be fair, Mortal Kombat 2 did it first. I just feel that Mortal Kombat 2 set the stage and showed the world that it’s not just another generic Street Fighter 2 clone. It can do its own thing and it can do it so well that it rivals Street Fighter 2. It also promised a bright future that the franchise never could achieve. MK9 as much as I love it to me comes off as a nostalgic cop-out for those who just wanted another MK2 to stop complaining on internet forums and the fact that it’s a “reboot” makes everything all the more insulting to me anyway. I also see it as a desperate apology letter “Sorry for the last 5 years of Mortal Kombat, You can now put our game in EVO right?…..please?” Despite the negative stuff I said, I give it to MK9.
3: Tatsunoko vs. Capcom:
The highly underrated Wii exclusive. The more technical entry in the versus series. Allowing more emphasis on strategy instead of constantly rushing down as opposed like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The mega crash is the game’s biggest godsend. Preventing it from being another fighting game where you sit on your ass for about a minute watching your character die. As well as baroque to either cancel out of moves, cover your ass when you make mistakes or, extend combos for more damage. Adding on to the fact that you needed meter to do these things make the game more technical and more fun and less of a combo/infinite fest like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. In fact, a significant number of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 players actually prefer this game over the Xbox 360/PS3 Marvel update. That’s not to say that this game is perfect, after all, this is a Capcom crossover we’re dealing with here. As showed by Marn, Zero is essentially S rank tier meaning, his combos will go on and kill the entire cast, Capcom’s lack of balancing mechanics is apparent here and it seems no more evident than the fact the new characters have longer combos and stronger moves than the old characters. What I mean is that, Capcom seemingly made the newbies stronger than the rest of the cast. PTX-40A is arguably the second cheapest character in the game along with Zero and Tekkaman Blade. The game died out for the sole fact that it was on the Wii. Some could argue that it was a testament to show the console exclusive fighting games will never thrive in the fight game community, I think it’ just more crap smeared against the Wii by the “hardcore” crowd. Despite that, the game is still being played to this day online and is somewhat sought after despite the fact that Capcom is legally no longer affiliated with it making it the second rarest game on this list and the Fighting Game Community abandoned it after EVO 2010. Friendly warning watch out for M~TRNL he is currently the best in the world at TvC right now.
2: King of Fighters 13
Just like with Tekken, there are way too many good games in this franchise to single one out. I love King of Fighters 97, 98, 99, 2002. At the risk of causing controversy, King of Fighters 13 is my pick for the franchise’s best. Not because it was the latest, because it was the first of the series that implemented technical feedback from the fans to finally give them the KOF game they deserve. Just like with Soul Calibur 2, This entry in the franchise adheres to whatever the consumer wants from it. Meaty content from heavy story mode to arcade for the casual. To the most robust training modes teaching you everything you need to know for the hardcore player. It’s also the most precise to the games making timing and combos the most fluid as it can be. It’s also another game that take a lot of dedication of master as the majority of the cast is insanely difficult to play as. It’s also not a game for button mashers.
1 Tie: Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown and Super Street Fighter 4: It’s a tie. I’m torn between these two games. They both exude everything right about fighting games. Implementing complex and tactical gameplay elements to the fighting genre, No one character is better than others, high replay ability for a certain character often result in them being easy to use. A lot of people will pick up Sagat and go the distance while, it’ll take a lot of hard work to do the same for Hakan. The same can almost be said for Virtua Fighter 5 because you can only pick up and play like 3 characters while the majority of the cast is difficult to master. These games aren’t 100% combo oriented and that’s why I love them.
While the former isn’t exactly pick up and play, they both can be mastered given time of dedication and practice. Both games are fun to watch and play when they are played by high level players. While Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown will not be headlining EVO anytime soon, it’s still a widely popular and played game in the genre. The game seems to be only played online, Walnut, CA, and here in New York and played much more in Japan and the most recent SoCal Regionals a few months ago. Let’s implement some real talk while most people will use the blanket excuse that the characters are dull and boring and the voice acting turns them off, the truth is Virtua Fighter 5 is insanely difficult to play, at least with Tekken and Dead or Alive you have a semblance of a chance on getting major damage by button mashing combinations. But, here button mashing will get you nowhere. Virtua Fighter 5 is the video game equivalent of learning a Martial Art in real life.
Super Street Fighter IV reclaims its title as the best in the world. It’s the most technical fighter Capcom has ever produced and they seem to be on a roll with Ultra Street Fighter IV next year. Just like Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, this update to an already incredible game. Great characters, fluid controls, chess like mentality of play for character matchups. Granted there are minor balancing issues but it never comes off as completely broken. It’s one of the few games on this list that greatly benefits from fan input. I can’t say anything about this game that hasn’t been said by everyone else and the pros. This is the best fighting game ever (In my opinion)