For many gamers, nothing unlocks memories and nostalgia like fighting games do. The dynamism, creative strategies, and intense competition is what has made the genre so iconic and timeless over decades. To pay homage to all of these great titles and all of the memories that they hold, here are the 15 most iconic fighting games of all time.
1. Street Fighter
The fighting game that started it all, Street Fighter was the benchmark for arcade brawlers and a colossal success upon its initial release in the late 1980s. Years later, Street Fighter remains one of the most popular fighting games and continues to be the standard for the genre.
2. Mortal Kombat
It’s hard to ignore the impact Mortal Kombat had on the gaming world with its intense fatalities and intuitive combos. In 1992 when the game first released, it quickly became the most successful arcade game of that year and has endured over two decades as one of gaming’s most popular titles.
Tekken has been around for nearly as long as Street Fighter and continues to be a presence in the fighting game scene. It offers complex strategies and a unique take on combat thanks to its diverse cast of characters, making it a timeless staple in the fighting game genre.
4. Super Smash Bros.
This iconic crossover series is a truly unique experience compared to other games in the genre. Super Smash Bros. has been around since 1999, but it stands out for its chaotic and fun gameplay and its ever-growing roster of beloved characters.
5. Soul Calibur
The Soul Calibur fighting game series is known for its tight combat system, its characters from varied mythologies from across the world, and its gorgeous visuals. It’s a game that still retains a passionate fan base even after its original release over two decades ago.
6. Marvel vs Capcom
Another great crossover series that brings together a multitude of Marvel superheroes with the characters from the popular, Japanese-style fighting games is Marvel vs Capcom. With over 20 titles released since the original game, it’s a series that won’t be dying anytime soon.
7. King of Fighters
King of Fighters is the powerhouse of team-based fighting games. Its mechanics are intricate and deep, and the “team-play” feature adds a special layer of strategy that have kept players engaged since the game’s 1994 release.
8. Guilty Gear
This series started out as a fan game that found a surprise amount of success in Japan before being released by its developer. It features a unique musical score and unique gameplay mechanics that make it stand out from all the other fighting games.
9. Dead or Alive
This classic fighting game series is known for its campy visuals, memorable characters, and easy-to-learn combat system. It’s an often overlooked title but has been a fan favorite for years and continues to live on through various re-releases.
10. Samurai Shodown
Samurai Shodown is a unique fighting game as it involves swords instead of punches and kicks. This adds an extra layer of strategy and difficulty as players must be careful with every attack. It’s a classic that remains a fan favorite after its initial 1993 release.
This anime-styled fighting game offers an alternative to franchises like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. As an anime fighter game, it provides intense combat and an interesting back-story that have kept players engaged since its first release in 2008.
12. Killer Instinct
Killer Instinct was one of the pioneers of combo-based fighting games and changed the way gamers play with its dynamic and frantic combat. Few games have come close to replicating the same level of intensity that Killer Instinct introduced in its 1994 debut.
13. Virtual Fighter
Virtual Fighter was the first 3D fighting game ever released and it quickly rose to the top as one of the genre’s most beloved entries. It was extremely popular when it first released and continues to be an iconic part of the fighting game landscape.
Clayfighter is an oddball fighting game that used claymation and dated humor as its theme. It had its own unique charm that made it an instant classic in the mid 1990s and one of the quirkiest titles of the era.
15. Street Fighter Alpha
The Street Fighter Alpha series was a pinnacle of mechanics and style. It’s known for its challenging gameplay, its tight controls, its luscious graphics, and its memorable characters. It remains one of the hallmarks of the fighting game genre.
These 15 titles are just a few of the iconic fighting games that continue to live on over the decades. With each of these titles leaving an indelible mark on gaming culture, the memories and nostalgia of these great games will last forever.