Fighting games have never been more popular, with franchises like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat has been around since the golden years of arcades. Competitive gaming is getting more popular, and huge competitive competitions like Evo are getting more and more coverage. With the release of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, I feel the need to list out the five greatest fighting video game franchises in gaming history.
There so many great fighting games out there, that I couldn’t possibly list all of them out. Honorable mention goes to the Soulcalibur, King of Fighters, Dead or Alive, Darkstalkers, Killer Instinct, and the million fighting games that Capcom made in the 90s. All those franchises have amazing fighting games in them, yet I think the five I have listed out arguably have the biggest legacy. Know there is no specific order in this list, and that numbers are simply there to differentiate the top five fighting games with the special mention I have.
Special Mention – Dragon Ball series
Putting the Dragon Ball series as a special mention above arguably more iconic fighting games may turn out to be a controversial decision to some gamers. This purely a personal choice, as the Dragon Ball fighting games were the games I grew up with. Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 is one of my favorite games of all time, and it is one of the few titles I return to constantly. The gameplay in Budokai is solid and very addicting, while at the same time being very easy to control and understand. It is the most balance Dragon Ball fighting game yet, though that isn’t to say I do not like Budokai 1 or 2. I love those games as well, along with the Budokai Tenkaichi sub-series of Dragon Ball.
The only issue with the Dragon Ball fighting games is that they are very much a hit or miss franchise. For every Budokai 3 or Budokai Tenkaichi 3, there is a Dragon Ball Z: For Kinect and Battle for Z. With that said, Dragon Ball FighterZ seems to pose to take the fighting game scene by storm, with the game getting more and more hype as it gets closer to release date. Having played it myself, I can safely say the game is worth all the hype.
Tekken is a more difficult fighting game than most, but that is what makes it appealing to gamers. It has a more gritty feeling than its more vibrant competitors, even though underneath the gameplay is a ridiculous soap opera story that features assassins, robots and literal devils. The series may have started later than most iconic fighting game series, however, it was able to quickly gain critical acclaim and have a devoted fan base. While more and more fighting games attempt to make new entries more casual-friendly, Tekken refuses to make the games easier and continues to make the games as hard as they were in the 90s.
Featuring iconic characters like Jin Kazama and Heihachi Mishima – the story of the series centers around the Mishima family and their never-ending power struggle for control of the Mishima Zaibatsu Corporation. Tekken 7 was recently released with positive reviews, which means the franchise is still in healthy hands.
4. Marvel vs. Capcom
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has just been released, so it feels fitting that the MvC franchise would make the list. Capcom has a vast amount of fighting game franchises in their archives, creating some of the most enduring arcade games of the 90s. By the turn of the century, Capcom came up with something brilliant. Since they had the licensing for Marvel comic characters, they decided to create a versus series featuring the characters from Marvel facing against characters from their own catalog of games. This is what leads to X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, and finally simply Marvel vs. Capcom.
It wasn’t until the sequel, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, that the series truly reach its full potential, giving a fantastic game that fans from both franchises would love. All characters’ moves were over-the-top, and the whole game was animated beautifully in old school, pixelated art. Infinite, fourth in the MvC franchise, has been dealing with a lot of negative press, all of it mostly justified. Yet Infinite is still a very fun game and I’m hoping the series will only improve and get better.
3. Super Smash Bros.
In a move that was so crazy at the time that it ended up working, someone in Nintendo decided to incorporate their most iconic characters in free-for-all fighting game. The original game only had twelve playable characters, but it was enough for the first Super Smash Bros. to be a major success. The sequel, Melee, proved to be even more popular. Melee is still played in most major gaming competitions. Brawl came afterward, coming in with much hype and plenty of sales. However, Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS may be the pinnacle of all fighting games.
With a roster of almost 60 characters, a well-balanced gameplay, wonderful graphics, and very addicting extra features, Smash 4 is everything right in fighting games. It feels as if it would be impossible for the next Smash Bros. game to top this, and Nintendo should honestly just port Smash 4 in the Switch as the next installment. Simply add in bonus features via updates, and Smash 4 can last for as long as it wants.
2. Mortal Kombat
Few games could say they were kings of arcades during the 90s. Street Fighter is one of those franchises that can say it without anyone arguing against it. But if there is only one other fighting game franchise that can lay claim to that title, it would be Mortal Kombat. Remembered more for the controversy it started, MK is a series known for their hyper-violence that many parents saw as unsuitable for younglings.
Though most players came for the extreme violence, most continued playing because the games turn out to be very fun. While many will always just remember Mortal Kombat as that one super violent video game series, underneath all that gore and blood is a very great gameplay mechanic with a lot depth. There may have been a dark period for the franchise during the PS1 and PS2 era; they were able to find their footing again in the later generations of gaming consoles. With my personal favorite cast of original characters in any fighting game series, the Mortal Kombat franchise is still one of the most influential video game franchises ever.
1. Street Fighter
The quintessential fighting video game, the Street Fighter franchise is possibly the father of all fighting games. After the forgettable original Street Fighter, Street Fighter II not only improved everything from the first game, it also kick-started the arcade renaissance. Competitors from around the world attempt to copy Street Fighter II success, with only a few coming even remotely close, and even fewer matching it. SF II is such a popular game, that a new version in HD was released on the Switch this year.
It is because of Street Fighter that other gaming franchises like Mortal Kombat, Tekken, and Marvel vs. Capcom were made. If SF II wasn’t as big of a success as it was during the early 90s, it would have been doubtful that many gaming companies would have bothered getting into the arcade scene. Personally I am more of a Mortal Kombat man; however, I do thank Street Fighter for leading the way for future fighting games and creating the template for many arcade games to follow.