Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. One is a franchise known for rural brawls and fireballs, and the other is an American IP known for flying spears and "Get-Over-Heres." Both are huge franchises, spanning many spin-offs and re-imaginings, but when you compare them in a head-to-head battle, which one comes out with the most life bar left?
Best Retro Outing: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
One of the most enduring qualities of the MK games are their inclusion of secrets, and boy did Ultimate Mortal Kombat come packing them. There's plenty of secret characters to unlock, hidden opponents to face, and stages to duke it out on. The core gameplay mechanics are solid, but, as with any MK game, the big draw are the -alities. The classic fatalities are there, allowing you to brutally kill your opponents once they're defeated. There's also babalities (which turns them into harmless wee infants), and friendships, where you extend friendship to your beaten foe rather than beating them to death with their spinal columns.
Best Modern Outing: Mortal Kombat 9
In 2011, it'd been a while since a Mortal Kombat game had come out, and even longer since a really good one had come out. Enter Mortal Kombat 9, which presented top notch visuals and hordes of unlockables, all wrapped around a tournament-worthy fighting game. Long-time fans of the series can find plenty to love in MK9, and newbies can appreciate the understandable mechanics and dramatic ultra-violence. It also marks a first for an MK game: the inclusion of "guest" characters from other franchises. Kratos, who is a natural fit for a game so violent, and ... Freddy Kreuger? Well, sure, he fits, but seeing him in a fighting game is still a little odd. Doubly so given that his voice actor seemed to emulate Jackie Earl Haley's great, but ultimately forgotten performance from 2010's Nightmare on Elm Street remake rather than Robert England's iconic tones.
Most Shameful Outing: Mortal Kombat Special Forces
Sometimes, drastically re-imagining a franchise can be a good thing (Metroid Prime). Other times, your new game is a juvenile piece of trash that doesn't understand what made the franchise so great in the first place and spits in the face of its devoted fanbase (DmC: Devil May Cry). MK: Special Forces definitely falls into the latter category. The game is a sluggish, boring affair, one that was caught in development hell for so long that it came out as a twisted mutant of what it was originally supposed to be. As a platforming action game, it's terrible. As a Mortal Kombat game, it's a badge of shame.
Best Retro Outing: Street Fighter III Third Strike: Fight for the Future
Before anyone decries the categorization of SFIII as a "retro" game, it should be pointed out that the game came out in 1999. That's right, it's nearly fifteen years old. While we all sit back and revel in how ancient we feel, let's discuss what a hadok-ing good time SFIII: Third Strike is. Fighting game fans are notoriously picky when it comes to their games -- some preferring previous iterations or rulesets, others wanting to ban certain characters or stages -- but nearly everyone can agree that Third Strike is fighting game perfection. There's a huge roster of original characters (and several returning favorites), all rendered with gorgeous 2D animation. They're well balanced, too, meaning that, no matter which character a player chooses, they will probably be able to play as them and have a good time. Plus the system allows for plenty of flash while still focusing on a technical depth to give the fighting game grand masters something to perfect. In essence, it's one of the best examples of, "easy to pick up, difficult to master".
Best Modern Outing: Street Fighter IV
Fighting games were relegated to the shadows circa 2008. Sure, there was still a devoted fanbase there, but most of them were playing the same games they'd been playing for nearly a decade -- Street Fighter III, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, etc. When Street Fighter IV finally arrived, it reinvigorated the genre it helped create. It brought some new gameplay mechanics to keep things exciting, classic characters for the nostalgia factor, and some new characters for an extra bit of flavor. SFIV (and its follow-up, Super Street Fighter IV), have a mastery curve high enough that they belonged at major fighting game tournaments like EVO, but weren't so technical as to be inaccessible to casual newcomers. Since SFIV hit the scene we've seen an explosion of new fighting games stateside, and much of that can be attributed to this game's success.
Most Shameful Outing: Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game
Look at that title. Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game. That should tell you everything you need to know about how idiotic this "game" is. Based on the so-bad-it's-good Raul Julia/Jean-Claude Van Damme flick, SF:TM:TG combines Mortal Kombat's style of digitally rendering real actors with a bastardized form of Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo's gameplay, without any semblance of balance or fun. There are characters with infinite combos so easy nearly anyone can do them. Some special moves are so overpowered it borders on ludicrous, while others are close to unusable. Capcom didn't develop this game in-house, and the lack of polish or love really shows.
Winner: Street Fighter!
Mortal Kombat has had a lasting impact on the gaming industry and created a die-hard legion of fans whose dying words will probably be "Fatality." However, Street Fighter's impact on the fighting genre is exponentially larger. It not only helped create it, it has breathed new life into it time and time again. Plus its had more good games than Mortal Kombat, like the Street Fighter Alpha trilogy and a whole slew of titles that crossed over with other franchises. In the battle of "Get Over Here!" versus "Shinkuu Hadoken!", the way of the world warrior is the clear winner.