The beauty of video games lies in the fact that there is a genre to suit everyone. Are you an avid fan of cars? There’s the racing genre for you. or Are you more of a sucker for planification and intelligence-based adventures? The strategy genre might suit you best!
In a wide sea of video game options, however, there is a genre that has earned the likings of the most part of the gaming community—”fighting games”. Whether it be its relative simplicity and straightforwardness, or the competitive nature of the games, the top fighting games have survived the test of times, and most likely will continue to do so.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane, explore the current thriving titles and find the best fighting games of all time.
Best Fighting Games
1. Mortal Kombat II (1993)
The game that started a phenomenon. While the initial installment of the Mortal Kombat series brought a new scene to fighting games, full of gruesome fatalities and shocking violence, it was Mortal Kombat II the game that established the franchise as prominent in the fighting genre. The innovative combat mechanics, character dynamics, and variety of “secrets” and alternatives, all cemented Mortal Kombat II as a fan-favorite from the very beginning. Despite being decades old, Mortal Kombat II is an evergreen entry on the list of best fighting games.
Developed By: Midway
Supported Platforms: Arcade, PC, Game Gear, Sega 32X, PS1, PS3, Xbox 360, Saturn, SNES, Genesis, and Sega Master System.
2. Samurai Shodown II (1994)
Samurai Shodown broke free from its predecessors’ dynamics and lore, allowing further creativity for its developers. This was put to good use, allowing SSII to include a wider range of moves and strategies. Samurai Shodown II introduced the ability to dodge roll, break enemy weapons, and parry. Fans of the game were quick to embrace these new abilities, integrating them into mind-blowing, bone-breaking combos. Samurai Shodown II set the greatest of standards for developer SNK’s subsequent games. Up to date, no game has managed to even scrape such an intense and pleasing delivery as SSII did, making it one of the best fighting games to leave a permanent impact on the history of games.
Developed By: SNK
Supported Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PS1, PC, iOS, Android, Arcada, Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, and Neo Geo Pocket Color.
3. Killer Instinct (1994)
The early nineties were plagued by the “Mortal Kombat vs Street Fighter” debate. Amidst a scene that seemed unbreakable for any newcomer fighting game, Killer Instinct arrived to challenge the established status quo. Not only were Killer Instinct’s audio and visuals exceptional for its time, but its gameplay was thoroughly enjoyable. It offered a refresh in the fighting genre. While the sequels following Killer Instinct might be deemed as “better”, there is no denying this installment had a huge impact on the gaming community. It paved the way for future games.
Developed By: Rare
Supported Platforms: Arcade, Game Boy, SNES, and Xbox One.
4. Super Street Fighter II Turbo (1994)
Capcom ruled the fighting game scene for a long while, thanks to their groundbreaking series, Street Fighter. Super Street Fighter II Turbo, however, took things to a brand new, unexplored level. This game introduced the world to the iconic Akuma, new combo types, and gameplay dynamics. Street Fighter II is widely considered the genesis of the fighting game genre, and this version is the best representation there is. Even nowadays, Super Street Fighter II Turbo is still played competitively at Evo, which only confirms its status as a timeless classic.
Developed By: Capcom
Supported Platforms: PC, Amiga, Amiga CD32, 3DO, Saturn, Dreamcast, GBA, PS1, Xbox, PS2, Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PS4.
5. Tekken 3 (1997)
If it isn’t evident by now, what truly makes a fighting game memorable is its revamped mechanisms with every new release. This is exactly the case for Tekken 3, one of the best fighting games franchise ever.. Coming from a solid series of fighting games, what made Tekken 3 stand out is the refined combat technicalities, rebooted gameplay, and fighter roster—mostly full of fresh new faces. Tekken 3 is believed to have added a greater skill standard to fighting games. The newbie strategy of “randomly pressing buttons and hoping for the best” fell short if you were aiming for a 10-hit combo or mastering a particular character’s fighting stance. Similar to Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Tekken 3 is still widely played today in arcades and home alike.
Darkstalkers III was a refreshingly lighthearted approach to the fighting game genre. With innovative high-quality animations, constant motion, and attractive character design, Darkstalkers III attracted a whole new wave of fans to the genre. It is a shame the series has now gone stagnant, but its characters were so iconic that they sometimes crash other Capcom’s game rosters. B.B Hood and Morrigan—we’re looking at you pals!
Developed By: Capcom
Supported Platforms: Arcade, Saturn, and PS1.
7. Bushido Blade (1997)
While fighting games usually features a body combat laced with special, often supernatural, abilities. Sure, weapons were sometimes featured but as a side dish, never as a main course. Bushido Blade came to change that, making swords the principal means of battle in the gameplay. The mechanisms of sword fighting were innovative enough to earn Bushido Blade a lot of attention—granting it its status of an all-time classic. While fights were considerably shorter than what players were used to, this only incentivized them to perfect their technique.
Developed By: Light Weight
8. Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1998)
A third installment of the Street Fighter series had the gaming community expecting more of the same mechanisms and gameplay is seen in its predecessors. After all, why fix something if it isn’t broken? Street Fighter Alpha 3 had the perfect answer for this: to improve it, of course! The new installment implemented new fighting styles, which directly affected the character’s speeds, defense, and offense. This seemingly tiny changes swiftly enhanced the gameplay experience, making Street Fighter Alpha 3 truly unique.
Developed By: Capcom
Supported Platforms: Arcade, PC, GBA, PSP, Dreamcast, PS1, PS2, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PS4.
9. MUGEN (1999)
MUGEN is definitely an interesting addition to this list. What even is MUGEN? Not exactly a game, for sure. MUGEN is a fighting game engine that allows players to create their own characters, stages, and graphic sets. MUGEN allows a level of creativity no fighting game has ever allowed, besides including a handful of built-in gameplay modes. Released in 1999 for Windows, MUGEN was an incredible addition to the fighting games roster. While it might now shine for its competitiveness or balance of the game, MUGEN definitely introduces a brand-new experience.
Developed By: Elecbyte
Supported Platforms:Microsoft Windows, MS-DOS, Linux and macOS.
10. Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves (2001)
Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves was the perfect farewell for the series before its complete merge into the King of Fighters franchise. Fans agree that Mark of the Wolves wrapped up in Fatal Fury was on a simple, yet elegant note. Featuring a Tactical Offense Position system, Mark of the Wolves went beyond being a fighting game and incorporated strategic thinking. The truth is this game did not depend heavily on elaborated animations or gimmicks, instead opting to rely upon its strong fundamentals to offer the best closure possible.
Developed By: SNK
Supported Platforms:iOS, PC, PSP Vita, Neo Geo, PS2, Xbox 360 and PS4.
11. Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001)
Cult followers of the fighting game genre sometimes exclude the whole Super Smash Bros franchise from the genre, since it parts from the traditional 2D gameplay and dynamics. However, it is no lie Nintendo scored a brilliant idea by gathering their beloved characters into the most violent of scenarios. Super Smash Bros. Melee specifically stands out for its most mechanically polished and fastest fighting mechanisms. Despite being about two decades old, the game is still prominent in the gaming community. The cartoony graphics that are so synonymous with Nintendo means that Smash Bros Melee is an amazing cartoon fighting game. Other Smash Bros. installments have been released, but Melee remains the best.
Developed By: Hal Laboratory
Supported Platforms: GameCube
12. Dead or Alive 4 (2005)
Dead or Alive 4 gave the Xbox 360 the quality game it so desperately needed in its beginning days. Coming from the strong series of fighting games—Dead or Alive, the fourth installment surprised players all around the world because of its in-depth counter system and the amazing animations it contained. Added to this, Dead or Alive 4 was amongst the pioneer games in online play, being way ahead of its time for 2005.
Developed By: Team Ninja
Supported Platforms: Xbox 360
13. The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match (2005)
Sometimes, it is necessary to revisit your roots to achieve success. King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match proved this theory by returning to its basic modalities of three-on-three battles. The outcome was perhaps the most polished entry in the franchise, up to date. KOF 2002 included all characters previously featured in the past King of Fighter games, allowing the most creative—and deadliest—of rosters. The wide variety of champions granted KOF 2002 a huge replayability value, for there were always new skills to be mastered on each champion. Learning about what dynamics worked best for each fighter and experimenting with different line ups is what made this game truly great.
Developed By: Eolith
Supported Platforms:Arcade, PC, Neo Geo, Xbox, PS2, Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PS4.
14. Virtua Fighter 5 (2007)
Virtua Fighter always shone because of its amazing, ahead-of-its-time 3D graphics. Virtua Fighter 5 did not disappoint, offering 17 brand new combatants, each with a rich selection of moves. The combatants, however, remained balanced when pitted against each other. Virtua Fighter 5 also required you to actually think in order to control and master each of its combatants. You had to understand and immerse into the character to fully juice his or her potential. Similar to Tekken 3, button smashing your way through this game will lead nowhere.
Developed By: Sega AM2
Supported Platforms: Arcade, Xbox 360, and PS3.
15. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (2011)
Nothing but an absolute banger can result from merging two of the most beloved franchises in the market. Both Marvel and Capcom knew exactly what they were doing when they decided to join forces in a fighting game. The Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom series was an immediate hit, but it is its third installment which truly stands out. Its diverse roaster was only the tip of the iceberg behind the success of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Laced with hidden surprises, tricks, and glitches, players often exploited these findings in their favor, reaching for mind-blowing combos. In this particular situation, chaos and imbalance worked in favor of the gameplay experience.
Developed By: Capcom and Eighting
Supported Platforms: PC, PSP Vita, Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, and PS4.
16. The King of Fighters XIII (2011)
Yet another King of Fighters entry makes it into our list, which only demonstrates how this franchise sustained quality all throughout its games. In an era where 3D models were taking over the genre, King of Fighters decided to stick to its retro antiques, pleasing hardcore fans immensely. It’s one of the hardest fighting games ever made. The game successfully delivers one of the most beloved, complex, and old-school fighters into brand new scenarios. It is safe to say the game has aged better than most of its counterparts, as well.
Developed By: SNK
Supported Platforms:Arcade, PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.
17. Skullgirls (2012)
While anime and fighting games were no strangers, Skullgirls offered a truly unique experience when released. The game featured characters that strongly resembled animated characters coming to life. Visually stunning brawls were one of Skullgirls’ strongest characteristics. However, we cannot fail to mention its complex, yet “newbie friendly” combat mechanisms, which made the game even more beautiful. Skullgirls was considered a scalable game as well, meaning that it could attract newcomers but also present a challenge to hardcore fans, through a series of advanced tactics.
Supported Platforms: Arcade, Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Vita PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PS4.
18. Guilty Gear XRD (2014)
Guilty Gear is best known for its essence in aggressively busy and stylish actions. The art style has been beyond praise, and the roster never fails to surprise. Guilty Gear XRD is the culmination of the saga’s games, exploiting the characteristics fans love the most. The game keeps players on their toes, forcing them to learn new approaches and mechanics while remaining “friendly”. Many consider Guilty Gear XRD the crown jewel for Arc System Works’ wide catalog.
Developed By: Arc System Works
Supported Platforms:PC, PS3 and PS4.
19. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (2014)
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is the love child of the RPG and Fighting games genre. Being a fighting game heavily based on the RPG story behind Persona, P4AU had the daunting task of attracting and pleasing two different audiences—and it succeeded fantastically. The game continues to explore the story of Persona while seamlessly incorporating fighting concepts. While it is true Persona 4 is in a gray area between genres, it is unique enough to appeal to a wide variety of fans.
Developed By: Arc System Works
Supported Platforms:Xbox 360 and PS3.
20. Mortal Kombat X (2015)
It is impossible to forget the anticipation any avid fighting game fan felt while waiting for this game to be released. In a series that only continues to surprise with each reboot, Mortal Kombat X reminds us exactly why fighting games are just so undeniably good and addictive. Always supported by the characteristic gore the MK series is well-known for, Mortal Kombat X offers fans new fighting styles, challenges, and game modes. One of the best game modes added is the concept of “Towers”, which adds a huge replayability value to the game. Mortal Kombat X is the best at doing what MK does best—and that is ruling the fighting game genre.
Developed By: NetherRealm Studios
Supported Platforms:Android, iOS, PC, Xbox One and PS4.
21. Tekken 7 (2017)
Tekken 7 is the latest installment in the beloved fighting franchise, and it didn’t fail in delivering. With improved and updated camera angles, Rage System, and a brand-new roster that combines both new and iconic characters, Tekken 7 is a great new addition to the genre. Fans acclaimed the core gameplay’s depth, variety of new movements to learn, and combos to master.
Developed By: Bandai Namco Studios
Supported Platforms:Arcade, PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
22. Injustice 2 (2017)
If there is something the folks at NetherRealm Studios definitely excel at, is fighting games. Riding the wave of the humongous success Mortal Kombat has been for the past years, someone had the brilliant idea of incorporating our favorite superheroes into the ultra-violent scenography. This is how Injustice—and subsequently, Injustice 2, were birthed. While the first installment was a huge success and beautiful addition to any fan’s library, its sequel was the game that steals the show. Injustice 2 polished the first game’s combat, making the game far more competitive than its predecessor. While the main story was not the best, Injustice 2 is guaranteed to bring hours of fun and competition to any player fan, or not, of the genre.
Developed By: NetherRealm Studios.
Supported Platforms: Android, iOS, PC, Xbox One and PS4.
23. Soulcalibur VI (2018)
Soulcalibur VI offers the fantastic experience of a 3D arena while remaining true to its predecessor’s essence that had players enthralled with in the first place. SVI offers new mechanics, two different story modes, and the option of creating your own character. The creative liberties and improved gameplay soon earned Soulcalibur a place amongst the best games of the genre.
Developed By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Supported Platforms: PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
24. Dragon Ball Fighter Z (2018)
It is curious to have such a recent game in a list that claims to be exposing the best fighting games of “all time”. Dragon Ball Fighter Z is just that good. Dragon Ball games are a classic in the genre, with more than a handful coming and going. However, Fighter Z is easily the best of them all. As a standalone, the game is a huge success, but the job it did revamping and emulating the visuals offered from the source material is worthy of admiration. It wasn’t long before Fighter Z was already being played in competitive circuits, gaining attention from the gaming community worldwide. Its developers, Arc System Works, have continued working on improving the game through DLCs, offering fans the best possible experience.
Developed By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Supported Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PS4.
25. BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (2018)
While spin-offs don’t usually harness as much attention as their original roots, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle features characters from four different franchises, granting it a huge variety of players. BlazBlue, Persona 4, Under Night In-Bitch, and RWBY are all featured. It is the wide roster, which only continues to grow through DLCs, is what makes the game unique for fans and has earned it a spot among the best games in the last decade.
Developed By: Arc System Works
Supported Platforms: PC, PS3, Nintendo Switch, and PS4.
As fighting games continue to evolve, their core and essence remain the same. What makes a fighting game stand out is the unique experience it offers for players. While our list aims to rank the best games in the fighting scene so far, we cannot stop mentioning those up and coming games that were either released this year—or are yet to be released—that deserve a shot and will be worthy of your time.
Granblue Fantasy Versus – Released on February 6, 2020.
One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows – Released on February 27, 2020.
My Hero One’s Justice 2 – Released on March 11, 2020.
Metal Revolution – Release date TBA, 2020.
Guilty Gear -Strive- – Release date: Early 2021.
Whether fighting games are your cup of tea or not, amongst the wide variety of styles, themes, and characters, you are bound to find at least one game that suits you. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and find your latest and greatest gaming addiction.