Whether you’re looking for your next holiday gift or just need to watch something get beat up, any of these fighting games are sure to deliver. They’re great for relieving stress, fostering healthy competition, and fueling interesting conversations about play styles and personality types. Most importantly, they’re fun! There’s nothing quite like snagging a satisfying win from an online ranked match with a nice drink by your side at the end of your day. But which one do you choose? This article will give you some insight on some of the most popular fighting games on the market, and hopefully help you reach a more educated decision on where to start.
What makes or breaks a good fighting game varies on a few key factors:
- Beginner friendliness
- Replay value
No one likes a steep learning curve, especially in something that’s supposed to be fun. Beginner friendliness in a game will make sure you can get engaged from the start. Even complicated mechanics and controls can be fun as long as the game teaches you how to use them. Replay value will come naturally with a game that provides all of these factors for a player and fosters a healthy community. Each game has its own strengths and shortcomings, and the following sections will analyze which game will be a great choice for you.
Known for its flashy visual effects, high-energy dance music, and nearly garish character customizations, Tekken 7 is a highly polished fighting game for those who enjoy the experience of the traditional arcade fighter. The franchise, developed by Bandai Namco, is well-established in the genre with a 26-year-long history. The game’s downloadable content keeps up with the status quo with new characters, stages, and even a new soundtrack every season.
The reason this game is considered a more “traditional” arcade fighter is because it’s based in a classic high-mid-low striking system. If a player wants to block a mid or high strike, then they must stand and guard which leaves them vulnerable to a low strike. To guard against a low strike, a player needs to crouch and guard which leaves them vulnerable to a mid-strike. You also have to be aware of sidestepping attacks, throws, and other factors. This may sound complicated in theory, but in reality it’s just an intricate slurry of rock-paper-scissors scenarios. This gameplay formula has proven to be quite fun as it’s withstood the test of time in all sorts of arcade fighting games. It also pairs well with Tekken’s four-button control setup where each button corresponds to a character’s left arm, right arm, left leg, and right leg. The mechanics feel straight-forward and keep you engaged until the end of every match.
The community is large enough that finding someone online sparring partners won’t be too much of a problem, but the game isn’t the most popular in the world. Tournaments for Tekken exist, but they’ll be concentrated in select urban areas, so you may need to travel to physically meet players. The online gameplay matchmaker has a great ranking system to link players with similar abilities, but just know that you’ll come across some sore losers that pull the plugs on their console before you can taste a few victories.
Tekken’s beginner-friendliness and replay value are not its forte. There’s a wide variety of characters, but you’ll end up picking two to three specialize as your “main.” It’s not necessarily a problem, but one of the key win conditions for Tekken matches is launching your opponent to string air combos. These combos are really satisfying when you land them, but anything can lose its novelty after the thousandth execution. However, for players with a personality that doesn’t tire of watching their opponents get pummeled by the same crushing blows, this game delivers.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The most popular fighting game in the world is also the most versatile since it performs so well as a party game. It has the most expansive list of characters and each character is from a well-known franchise. While Nintendo holds a majority of the roster, there’s also characters from series such as Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Minecraft, and even Street Fighter! This selection expands every season with new downloadable characters as add-ons. The characters are just the beginning, however, because this game features all sorts of game modes such as classic arcade, a full-on story with linear challenges, and online matches with rulesets you can personalize. Surprisingly, the vast amount of options aren’t terribly overwhelming, and players often find themselves sticking to a few niche brawlers that satisfy their itch for a good tussle.
The mechanics of this game are quite interesting because they allow for enjoyable gameplay for every player regardless of skill level. It is true that most fighting games use a traditional high-, mid-, and low-attack mechanics to create a rock-paper-scissors effect, but Smash Bros abandons this framework for a more free-form fighting style. Attacks change depending on the direction you input alongside one of the attack buttons: the normal attack button and the special attack button. Normal attacks are usually simple, close-distance attacks. Special attacks vary by character. You just have to play around with your favorites and see what you like. But it’s also very important with this game that you play against someone of a similar skill level. No one likes losing over and over to a pro. Thankfully the online ranking systems helps take care of that for you too. And since the community is so large, it’s pretty easy to find fighting buddies online or at tournaments, even if you’re not in a metropolitan area.
Unfortunately, the community has some mixed reviews about it. It’s a common jest in the Smash Bros world to feign toxicity with insults and sarcasm. Some people, however, take the joke too far and can get overly competitive. Moreover, there have been quite a few scandals with high-level competitive players. Particularly, these scandals have all been of some sort of sexual misconduct off-camera at tournaments. Does this mean that the game turns players into sex offenders? No. But there were some people in the competitive scene that have given the community a bad reputation because of their personal issues.
Street Fighter V
Capcom’s cartoony beat-’em-up is the granddaddy of fighting games with a whopping 33 years in the industry. Since the beginning this game has been swallowing quarters from peoples’ pockets for hours of entertainment at the arcade. Now in 2020, you can play a modernized version on your at-home console. This game shares the same classic arcade fighter philosophy as Tekken 7 with the high-mid-low strike system, but it’s executed in a different way. While Tekken 7 has a four-button control setup, Street Fighter features a six-button control setup. Each button corresponds with a light, medium, or heavy hit with one row of buttons for punches and the other for kicks. While that may sound more complicated, it’s simplified by the fact that there’s not nearly as many moves in character movesets as there in other fighting games. There’s an underwhelming 16 characters to choose from in the beginning, but on the bright side, that means there’s far less character movesets to try to remember. And since Street Fighter is a two-dimensional game, you don’t have to worry about opponents sidestepping your attacks. Everything is fairly head-on.
The combos for each character are rather similar in execution since Street Fighter’s combo system relies on frame disadvantage instead of launches. While real-life time is measured in seconds, video game time is measured in frames. For example, if a game is running at 60 frames per second and a punch animation runs for 30 frames, that means it ran for half a second. Frame disadvantage happens whenever a character’s recovery time from an animation is too slow to guard the opponent’s next attack, leaving the character vulnerable. Street Fighter is also different from other arcade fighters since landing certain strikes will guarantee a frame disadvantage for your opponent. This means you can follow up with a guaranteed second or third strike if your first strike gives you a frame advantage. The game also includes a meter with incredibly powerful and stylish super combos that you can execute before your opponent can recover.
Landing long strings of combos can be incredibly satisfying for a win. But a lot of these mechanics aren’t exactly beginner-friendly. They require proper spacing and excellent timing which is quite a bit of pressure in the heat of battle for a newbie. Street Fighter is packed with tutorials for each characters and the first lot of them are pretty easy to pull off. But if you want to be throwin’ ‘bows with the best of them, the intermediate and advanced tutorials have quite a steep learning curve. A lot of the commands can be tough to pull off. The community understands this, however, and you can easily find videos online of some of your favorite characters to keep practicing. Learning by watching competitive players can be fun and rewarding. You can catch top performers on YouTube and Twitch to get some heavy-hitting inspiration.
Ready to spend some time on the punching bag? Out of all of these games, which do you think you would enjoy the most and why? If there’s a game you think should be on this list, tell me about it in the comments below!