There are really two eras to consider when choosing the 25 Best Fighting Games. The first era starts shortly after the SNES was introduced and has its roots firmly in the arcades. This era brought us the classics that formed the fighting game genre as we know it. The second era starts about halfway through our current generation, with the revival and perfection of the fighting game formula we know and love. This era took all the random mechanics that were thrown together from the golden age and tried to make sense out of them. When you put both eras together you come up with quite a diverse list of the 25 Best Fighting Games.
Capcom’s Darkstalkers series introduced a lot of mechanics that we just take for granted in current day fighting games. Chain combos, otgs, EX moves, all of these were first elements of the Darkstalkers fighting system. Vampire Savior is widely regarded as the best in the Darkstalkers franchise, and that’s why it takes slot 25 on our list of the 25 Best Fighting Games.
Many of you may be unfamiliar with the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure manga, but know about JJBA the fighting game nonetheless. This game allowed your characters to switch back and forth from versus style chain combos to Street Fighter style links by turning on and off their “stand”. It also had some of the most bizarre character designs we have ever seen.
Rival Schools was a 3D game that felt like you were playing a 2D game. The fighting system featured everything from chain combos to move cancels, yet it also included side stepping and quick dodging. It was an awesome hybrid of the two styles and we haven’t seen anything like it since. Also the game was themeD around after-school clubs, and it’s just too fun to fight against people with volleyballs, violins, and cameras.
Def Jam wasn’t exactly known for its fun versus fighting, but it had one of the best character creation systems we have ever seen. It allowed you to mix, match, and combine different fighting styles to different degrees. You could hit the streets as a pure wrestler, or mix in some martial arts and street fighting into your move-set. It was very open and flexible and went far beyond the, “choose your favorite moves,” style of character creation that we normally see today.
Killer Instinct was an odd fighting game in that it was more fun to play single-player than multi-player. It’s combo system was incredibly intricate, allowing you to execute unique moves with unique properties depending on what moves you have used in your combo so far. Unfortunately, c-c-c-c-ombo breakers were very easy to pull off, making this system become rather shallow in multiplayer. However, showing off your combo skills against the A.I. was still incredibly fun, and that's why it deserves a spot on our 25 Best Fighting Games list.
Samurai Showdown was one of the first fighting games to play around with the notion of the “comeback mechanic.” Its rage meter built as you took damage, and when it was completely filled you got a massive power boost to help you squeeze out an underdog win. It was also pretty violent for 2D sprite based games. It wasn’t quite at Mortal Kombat levels, but characters did get stabbed pretty regularly.
Blazblue: Calamity Trigger was the spiritual successor to Guilty Gear and the first game in the Blazblue series. To many Blabzlue fans, it’s still the best. It not only introduced us to the characters, but also showcased many new hit-stun mechanics including starting move proration, same move proration, and move based decay. It also allowed you to throw opponents in hit-stun, though they would get a bigger tech window. Many people don’t feel that Blazblue is as fun as Guilty Gear, but this was certainly the iteration of the series that appealed most to Guilty Gear’s fans. Maybe the upcoming Blazblue: Chronophantasma will change all that.
Skullgirls is easily one of the best fighting games of all time. It has incredible mechanics that are easy to understand, one of the most balanced rosters in fighting game history, and an dark deco art style that strays far from the standard anime fighting game mold. Unfortunately, its small all-female roster and lack of an in-game move-list caused many people to turn away from this under-appreciated gem. Luckily, a recent Indiegogo campaign has allowed it to pick up steam and begin making new content for its small but devoted fan following.
Tekken 3 was easily one of the best Tekken games ever created. Before the series became obsessed with wall splats and ground bounds, it simply had huge open 3D arenas with massive casts that may or may not have included boxing raptors. This was the first game to introduce Jin Kasama, who would become the series’ protagonist for nearly every other iteration of the franchise. It also introduced Eddie Gordo, the capoeira fighter that made many Tekken fans throw their controller out the window in frustration.
Yes, one of the best fighting games of all time is one that was very recently released. It’s hard to deny that the Street Fighter IV series essentially resurrected the slowly dying fighting game genre. It ushered in a new fighting game renaissance and, of course, everyone else said, “Me too!” and started to flood the market with fighters again. The strength of this game is undeniable, and tournaments are still being held for AE to this day, and they routinely draw more entrants than more recent releases like Injustice: Gods Among Us. SSF IV Arcade Edition fights its way into the #16 slot on our list of the 25 Best Fighting Games.