Gaming history is awash with classic examples of these slugfests. Who can forget the zeal of Street Fighter II, the boldness of Mortal Kombat or the sex appeal of Dead Or Alive? For these time-honoured offerings alone the genre is worth celebrating; and with the release of Street Fighter IV just around the corner, what better time to chart the top ten fighting games?
10) Yie Ar Kung-Fu (Arcade)
Konami’s humble offering made this list not because it stands up well today, but because of the significant role it played in shaping the modern fighter. It is widely believed that Capcom studied this one at length, using it as the blueprint for the original Street Fighter in 1987.
They don’t come any more influential than that.
9) Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii)
First appearing on the N64 in 1999, the series was a bold departure from traditional fighting games, with its simplified attack system and emphasis on ring-outs over knockdowns. Nintendo’s much-loved cast of characters looked at home beating the living hell out of each, proving the versatility of Myamoto’s creations.
The franchise’s latest offering, Smash Brothers Brawl on Wii, is equally simplistic and as unashamedly fun as its predecessors, only this time there is an even bigger cast of characters and a four-player multiplayer option just in case solo play isn’t addictive enough.
8) Dead Or Alive (Arcade / Saturn / PlayStation)
Although the realistic breast physics might have helped shift a few thousand copies, as anyone who has played Dead Or Alive will testify, there is much more to this one than superficiality.
Featuring a sophisticated counter system, multi-tiered levels and an entertaining storyline, the game’s emulation of real-life martial arts sets it apart from its competitors.
With its mind-blowing speed and unrivalled sex appeal, DOA jiggles its way in at number eight.
7) Killer Instinct (SNES)
Rare may have downsized its 1994 hit Killer Instinct to cram the game onto a SNES cartridge, but everything that made the arcade version a classic made it through the conversion process. Though the graphics were simplified, it still looked far better than any other fighter on the console and played like a dream.
Borrowing elements from both the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat series, Rare pushed the boundaries of the fighting game with Killer Instinct, and this really showed during multiplayer matches. The expression on your friend’s face when you hit them with an Ultra Combo alone was worth the cartridge’s retail price.
6) Mortal Kombat II (Multi)
After the original Mortal Kombat gave heart attacks to parents the world over, gamers were anxious to see what Midway would pull out of the bag for the sequel - and nobody was disappointed. Following in the footsteps of the original with its gratuitous violence and graphic depiction of gore, MK II threw a tonne of new characters, Easter eggs and secrets into the mix to make this a more complete experience.
The series’ most recognisable trademark is its grisly fatalities, and they are in no short supply here. Introducing multiple finishing moves, players could now choose between tearing their opponent apart or stamping on their pride with a mock display of friendship.
5)Virtua Fighter (Arcade / Saturn / 32X / PlayStation 2)
Sega’s Virtua Fighter was nothing short of revolutionary when it was first unleashed on arcade denizens in 1993. Hailed as much for its in-depth fighting engine and real-world combat techniques as for its groundbreaking 3-D graphics, it was little wonder this one flew off the shelves when it was ported to home platforms.
The original might look somewhat crude by today’s standards, but the series will always be remembered for pioneering 3-D graphics and is still going strong today, with its latest incarnation Virtua Fighter 5 being a quintessential example of a fine current-generation fighter.
4) Tekken 3 (PlayStation)
Traditional fighters emphasised the use of speed to better your opponent, but Tekken took a different approach. With each of the four controller buttons dedicated to one of the fighter’s limbs, mastering special combos is an intuitive process and victory dependent on rhythm, strategy, and deception.
The series has spawned six games to date, with the third entry arguably the best of the bunch. Tekken 3 saw the series make boundless progress in terms of graphics, animation, sound and gameplay, but perhaps its most significant development was its movement system reform, which emphasised the use of the third axis.
3) SoulCalibre (Dreamcast)
Not only did the Dreamcast version look better, it played better and came loaded with new features. The second game in the Soul series is often hailed as one of the greatest fighting games of all time, and anyone who has wielded that mystical sword is unlikely to disagree.
SoulCalibre remains a perfect example of a home console conversion that exceeds the arcade original in every conceivable way. Ten years on and its lustre still burns strong.
2) King Of Fighters 98 (Arcade / Neo Geo / PlayStation / Dreamcast)
The King Of Fighters games took a traditional 2-D approach, with fundamentals similar to those of Street Fighter, but with its three-on-three tag system and fights lasting up to five rounds, they brought their own unique twist to the formula.
The franchise has brought us multiple games, with King Of Fighters 98 being the definitive first-to-the-face offering. Resurrecting virtually every character from SNK’s rich history, the 1998 edition is packed to the rafters with everything that makes traditional fighting games appealing.
1) Street Fighter II (Multi)
Street Fighter II is the superlative fighting game. What’s so great about it? Well…everything. Back in 1991, gamers had never experienced anything like it - bar-raising cartoon graphics, furious gameplay, a great cast of characters and a mind-blowing soundtrack to cap things off. Almost two decades on and the game still has a dedicated following.
Paving the way for a long line of great sequels, such as the superb Third Strike and the Marvel vs Capcom spinoffs, the franchise is one of the most important in gaming history. With Street Fighter IV on the horizon we can only hope that Capcom hasn’t strayed too far away from the perfect formula it concocted back in 1991.