Whenever someone talks about fighting games we always think about the popular franchises, such as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Tekken; but over the past forty years – if not longer – there has been an extensive list of fighting games released and some are actually a lot more fun than you might imagine.
So; with this being said we have decided to create a rundown of the best fighting game franchises ever released onto consoles.
Originally released into Japanese Arcades in 2008 this anime-styled sprite-based fighting franchise has been ported onto several different consoles in its eight-year life-span; with the latest release, known as BlazBlue: ChronoPhantasma Extend being released onto the PS4 and Xbox One.
Unlike Tekken and Street Fighter franchises, which opted to focus on a more ‘balanced’ experience BlazBlue offered potential players an ever-expanding -storyline, filled with cut-scenes and visual-novel styled dialogue, in addition to the difficult to master technical combat mechanics of the game. Just like with Street Fighter titles however each player could perform simplistic attacks, which chained together create combos, as well as ultimate stylish attacks that do heaps of damage.
Developed by Tamsoft, the developers of the controversial Senran Kagura franchise, Battle Arena Toshiden is 3D fighter that was released onto the Playstation in 1995 before being later ported to the SEGA Saturn, Nintendo GameBoy and PC in 1996. A selection of sequels, also developed by Takara and Tamsoft, was also developed exclusively for the Playstation platform.
Unlike other fighting games at the time Battle Arena Toshiden saw characters wield weapons and upon reaching less than 10% health characters were able to use a desperation attack that would cause large amounts of damage if connected to the opponent. All versions of the game featured a base set of characters, with more being unlocked as the games arcade mode was completed, and in the PC release of Battle Arena Toshiden Earthworm Jim was an unlockable fighter.
Dead or Alive:
To some Dead or Alive is now considered the ‘joke’ fighting game; with its over-sexualisation of women and questionable physics; but when it originally released into Japanese Arcades in 1996, and then later ported to the SEGA Saturn in 1997, the game offered a well-rounded fighting experience with a balanced character roster, smooth fighting mechanics and danger zones which caused damage if landed on.
Dead or Alive was also one of the first games to use characters from other popular Tecmo franchises, namely Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden, and since its original release in the arcade the game has expanded to include more guest characters with recent additions including Akira, Pai and Sarah from SEGA’s Virtua Fighter franchise as well as costume collaborations with Marvelous for Senran Kagura.
What originally started as a Japanese Manga series by Akira Toriyama in 1985 soon spiraled into its own anime and gaming franchise; and while some may have doubts about the overall pacing of the anime series the Dragon Ball range of fighting games are amongst the best fighting games in the world. Games based upon the Dragon Ball manga have been released since 1986 but it wasn’t until the SNES-era of gaming that the games evolved from a turn-based RPG to a fighting game.
The first round of fighting games, known as Dragon Ball Z Butoden, were simplistic with slow commands, sluggish controls and adrupt gameplay but the later instalments, such as Dragon Ball Z Budokai on the PS2 offered not only ‘anime-like-visuals’ but also offered faster gameplay experiences that replicate other fighting games released during the same timeline.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 has always been a personal favourite for me; not only did it feature an extensive list of characters being it crammed the entire Dragon Ball Z, and parts of the Dragon Ball GT, timeline into the games story. A recent release on the Nintendo 3DS, known as Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden, attempts to replicate the original SNES ‘Butoden’ versions of the game but this time offer more simplistic commands and a generally more fun gameplay experience.
Another long-running Japanese sprite based fighting game that is getting revived later this year (2016) by PQUBE; and it’s another franchise i have personally not played in a long time.
Developed by ARC System Works, the same team which brought us BlazBlue, we see a wide-range of characters available for selection with each one offering a different type of tale to tell. Simplistic arcade action is what Guilty Gear promises to offer; which considering the game was originally released onto the PS1 in 1998, its all we can really ask for.
Killer Instinct is one of the few fighting games that didn’t transcend effectively into the new generation until Microsoft acquired RARE several years ago and as such only two retail releases of the series exist alongside a ‘free-to-play’ variation on the Xbox One.
Killer Instinct initially made its appearance in Arcades by Midway before being ported to the SNES, and then later the Nintendo 64, by Nintendo; the Xbox One reboot on the otherhand was developed by Double Helix; a studio known for mediocre games such as G.I. Joe and Battleship.
Unlike other fighting games on this list Killer Instinct proved to be more popular in the arcades in the western market more than its console release; partly because the arcade version offered superior visuals and featured a louder “combo breaker” whenever combos were performed. Killer Instinct also saw humans battle against demonic creatures, such as Wolves and Demons, rather than other humans; so in general it was a nice pace from the norm.
Before SNK Playmore were acquired in 2005 the Japanese based development studio created a steady list of arcade games with the most notable series being The King of Fighters. It all began in Japanese arcades with King of Fighters ’94 and then each year a new variation of the game, with an expanded character roster and improved combat mechanics, would be released.
Each year the arcade versions were also ported to various home consoles; with the first few titles being released exclusively onto Neo-Geo devices before becoming more wide-spread and released onto other platforms such as the PS1 and SEGA Dreamcast and more recently onto the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
To me the King of Fighters series has always been a direct rival to Street Fighter; as both feature fast-paced sprite based gameplay with combos and secret abilities but over the years each franchise has evolved into its own type of fighting game. There hasn’t been a King of Fighters game since 2010, which was known as The King of Fighters XIII, but during 2016 a brand new 3D variation of the game is expected to be released.
Everyone associates Marvel Vs Capcom as the first fighting game to take characters from the Marvel and Capcom universes and pit them against each other; but in fact it was actually the 1994 release of X-Men vs Street Fighter which saw this dream come to fruition.
X-Men vs Street Fighter saw a limited selection of X-Men and Street Fighter characters do battle in the gameplay style of Street Fighter Alpha; however it wasn’t until 1998 when Marvel Vs Capcom, a game which saw a wide selection of Marvel and Capcom franchises do battle, that things really started to get interesting.
An expanded character roster, a user-friendly combat mechanic and a lower difficulty level was the result of Marvel Vs Capcom and as the series progressed newer additions such as more characters, more attacks and expanded story modes were added. As it stands Marvel Vs Capcom 3 is the latest ‘crossover’ fighting game between Capcom and Marvel; and its come along way from how it used to look in X-Men Vs Street Fighter.
Created by Ed Boon and John Tobias Mortal Kombat is the fighting game that every parent in the nineties was concerned about and despite all of the criticism it received the franchise is still popular today. Originally released into arcades in 1992 the game saw multiple kombantents enter a tournament to either save the world or destroy it (depending on which character was chosen) and as the game was ported to consoles an updated story and arcade mode was included.
Mortal Kombat is notoriously famous for its violence, especially the finishing moves known as Brutality and Fatality, and the newer games released onto the Xbox One, PS4 and PC still retain these unique finishers; albeit in a more realistic, and quite disturbing, fashion. It’s also worth nothing that the Mortal Kombat franchise has spun-off to create several movies, a TV series and even a selection of books – the latest two games, known as Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat X, even featured a cinematic story that progressed forward after each fight.
Naruto, and it’s sequel Naruto Shippuden, are another example of Japanese manga being turned into a form of videogame and over the past decade a wide selection of Naruto themed fighting games have been released onto all-sorts of consoles; including the GameBoy Advance, Wii and PS3.
Majority of the Naruto games i have played on were from the Naruto Shippuden franchise, namely Ultimate Ninja Storm, which completely blur the distortion between game and anime with its fast-paced action and superb visuals but whichever Naruto game you play they all follow the same traits of exploring the games ‘expansive’ storyline and the characters that revolve around it.
As Naruto is a long-running manga series there is plenty of resource material available; and the later games released use this at great lengths to create superb games that let you watch the story unfold through cinematic cut-scenes and fights. Earlier games however, like those released onto the GameBoy Advance, would similar allow fans to pit their favourite characters together. It’s simple combat mechanics; but the characters, the attacks and their appearance were everything we wanted them to be – so it didn’t matter about the story.
Some would argue that Super Smash Bros doesn’t deserve to be on this list; but ever since its release onto the Nintendo 64 in 1999 the series has proved mighty popular at gaming events and tournament across the globe. Unlike traditional fighting games Super Smash Bros sees various characters from iconic Nintendo games do battle with each other and instead of knocking out an opponent players have to knock them out of the ring. It’s a simple game, as the only commands are attack, block and jump – but the ability to pick-up weapons, use support items and the potential for ever moving stages means that its anything but easy.
Ironically enough despite being released onto the Nintendo 64, which as we know was a highly popular console at the time; not many people became aware of Super Smash Bros existence until its Nintendo Gamecube release – which of course contained a new selection of characters and improved gameplay. The most recent release, known as Super Smash Bros Wii U / 3DS introduced Amiibo support and allowed new characters to be added via the use of downloadable content.
Originally released as Soul Edge in Japanese Arcades, and then later renamed to Soul Blade for its European Playstation Release, the game sees a wide-selection of characters’ venture on a quest to find the strongest weapon known as Soul Edge. Ironically enough despite being an arcade game it was actually the home console version which proved to be more popular; with its expanded CGI sequences before the first (and after the last) battle as well as the option to receive two different endings depending on how well you preformed during the main arcade mode.
Soul Edge, or Soul Blade if you prefer; was the starting point of the franchise with its 3D fighting mechanics and sword-based-gameplay but it wasn’t until the Dreamcast port of the Soul Calibur arcade game where the franchise really started to evolve into its own. Each game would feature an extensive character roster, with most being unlocked, as well as a story mode which would see the quest for the Soul Edge in further detail with new ‘equipable’ weapons being unlocked for use in other gameplay modes. The later releases of Soul Calibur, such as Soul Calibur II, even featured cameo appearances with characters from other games; for instance, Soul Calibur II on the GameCube had Link from The Legend of Zelda whereas the PS2 version featured Heihachi from the Tekken franchise.
Undoubtedly one of the best fighting game franchises ever released and yet the first Street Fighter game, which made its Arcade debut in 1987, hardly anyone seems to remember. Instead its sequel, known as Street Fighter II, received the most attention and when Capcom finally ported the game to the SNES in 1991 it was met with a positive response; a response which prompted Capcom to release expanded versions of the game known as Super Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II: Turbo Edition and Street Fighter II: Championship Edition.
Since its debut appearance Capcom have released numerous variations of the Street Fighter; some of which remain true to their original 2D Sprite-based roots, such as the Alpha series of games, while others, such as EX Series, opted to give the 3D Fighting mechanics a try. Each instalment however offered a similar selection of characters, a variety of unlockable content and a relatively enjoyable story mode.
Created by Harada Tekken and developed by Namco, which is of course now known as Bandai Namco Entertainment; Tekken is the 3D fighting game that sees numerous characters take part in a fighting tournament to become crowned the ‘King of Iron Fist’. Look deeper however and you will uncover a story that takes place over three decades (and three generations) of the Mishima clan which see Heihachi, Kazuya and Jin attempting to kill each other for revenge.
What initially started as a simplistic 3D fighting game, with high-jumps and slow-moving combat mechanics, soon evolved into a fast-paced adrenaline experience known as Tekken 3 and since then the game has continued to evolve with the introduction of a deeper story and alternative gameplay modes. Tekken and Tekken 2 remained true to the principals of arcade gaming; while Tekken 3 onwards introduced alternative story mode options such as the Side-Scrolling platformer, similar to Streets of Rage, known as Tekken Force and Mini-Games such as Tekken Bowl and Tekken Volleyball; each of which changed the games rules slightly.
Developed by SEGA’s AM2 department, and released into the Arcades in 1994, Virtua Fighter was SEGA’s attempt at dominating the 3D Fighting Game market and, just like Tekken which released a few months later, proved to become a popular contender amongst Arcade attendees. Following on from its successful arcade release the game was ported to the SEGA Saturn, which received much praise for being a near perfect port, a selection of other Virtua Fighter titles were released into the arcades before being ported to a relative console at the time.
Disappointingly however despite Virtua Fighter’s high praise the game was completely overshadowed by the arrival of Tekken, Street Fighter and Soul Edge which as a result saw the game become less favourable than these other titles. Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, the latest instalment in the franchise, was previously released as a digital download onto the PS3 and more amusingly Virtua Fighter has made cameo appearences in anime; specifically Ben-To as well as Tecmo’s Dead or Alive 5.
Over the past four decades there has been plenty of fighting games released onto numerous consoles; some have bee bad, such as the Xbox 360 release of Samurai Showden, while others have been exceptionally good, such as Capcom’s Rival Schools, and while they may not make our list of our top fifteen franchises they are in our fighting spirit of a heart.