There have been fighting games for as long as there have been video games. Granted, the first-ever video game might have been called “Pong,” and it may have been a primitive version of tennis, but it wasn’t long before “Pac Man” and “Space Invaders” turned up, and what are those games if they’re not a fight between Pac Man and his ghostly enemies, or human beings and alien attackers?
Over time, the definition of what a fighting game is coming to settle on any game which depicts a one-on-one (or occasionally two-on-one) battle between two characters, usually with an energy bar to let you know how the battle is going, and a series of increasingly complicated special moves you can call upon to give yourself an advantage. That’s the classic format, and it’s been employed to greater or lesser degrees of success by dozens of different video game developers over a period of more than thirty years.
We know that naming the best fighting game of all time is likely to be a controversial topic. We know that people are doing to disagree with our assessment. We’re also aware that there are cases to be made for many different entries within the same franchise, too. With so many different incarnations of top fighting franchises like “Street Fighter,” “Tekken,” and “Mortal Kombat” to choose from, how are we to select just one outright winner? All we can say is that we’ve done our best – and if you disagree with us, that’s what the comment section is for!
King Of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match
The “King of Fighters” series of games has never been noted for its good looks. Even when this 2002 entry into the series was brand new, its graphical style looked dated. That didn’t matter, because it played like a dream. Picking just one game from the series wasn’t easy (even Eolith frequently combine and sell them together like they’re variety packs), but we’ve decided to choose this 2002 incarnation because of the sheer number of characters that came with it. Every single character from every single previous “King of Fighters” game makes an appearance here, and the fact that you can create fighting ‘teams’ for 3 vs. 3 battles means you’re never likely to get bored. The game was eventually made playable for the current generation of video game consoles due to popular demand, and that doesn’t surprise us at all. If you’ve never tried this letter-known virtual fighting brand, give it a try.
To many people, the Sega Dreamcast was a failure of a console. We disagree with that assessment because, without the Dreamcast, there would never have been a “SoulCalibur,” and that alone makes it a success. The game was eventually re-released for the Xbox 360, but the Dreamcast original feels more authentic to play if you still have a working console. Originally this was a Namco game built for arcades (remember them?), but the Dreamcast port came with a visual upgrade rather than a downgrade, and at the time, the ability to move in eight directions was almost unheard of. The combos were easy to pull off, the weapons were ingenious, and the characters were genuinely interesting. It might not have endured for as long in gamer’s memories as some other games because of the DreamCast’s struggles, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was a genuinely brilliant fighting game. It’s more than worthy of its placing here.
When faced with the full list of “Tekken” games to choose from, we’ve gone what many people might assume to be the obvious thing and picked the most recent. Hear us out, though. It doesn’t always stand to reason that the newer games are the best (as you’ll find out below), but sometimes ambition and modern technology combine and make beautiful things. “Tekken 7,” released as a celebration to mark twenty years since the first-ever “Tekken” game, is incredible. It ties together story strands that go all the way back to that first game and finds a way to make you care about them. It looks fantastic. It brought back classic characters by the handful, and it equipped every single character with up to one hundred moves each. That’s a whole lifetime’s worth of play and experimentation, and so it’s no wonder that IGN gave it a near-perfect review. It’s one of the best video games ever made – and yet it’s still not the best fighting game ever.
Mortal Kombat X
We agonized over which “Mortal Kombat” game should make the cut, and we’ve opted for the tenth in the series. It was either this one, “Mortal Kombat XI,” or “Mortal Kombat III.” The tenth game has ended up getting our seal of approval because it strikes the right balance between looking good, playing well, and retaining enough self-awareness to throw a few laughs in with all the unrelenting body horror. What “Mortal Kombat X” had over its predecessors was the newly-developed “Living Towers,” and the introduction of brand new fighting styles for each individual character. That made the game feel bigger and more varied than ever before and gave it an extended “playing life” far beyond that which we’d come to expect of “Mortal Kombat” games. It’s as gory (and, in places, outright offensive) as any other game in the history of the brand, but this is the incarnation of Midway’s classic that has the most charm and character.
Street Fighter II
There can only be one winner in this contest, and it’s “Street Fighter II.” It’s not got the best graphics of any fighting game you’ll ever play. It doesn’t have the most expansive range of characters, and it won’t take you hours to complete it. It is, however, the fighting game that made fighting games popular, and therefore made all the fighting games we know and love today possible. The second “Street Fighter” game led to a movie, and even a series of connected online slots games. “Mortal Kombat” might have made it to the movies, but it never made it to famous online slots websites like Rose Slots. The fact that someone in the 21st century would make an online slots game based specifically on “Street Fighter II” tells you everything you should need to know about how far this game crept into the public consciousness. It made household names of Ryu and Ken, and it will probably always be the benchmark by which all other fighting games are measured.