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For this list, we’re concentrating only on Player Vs. Player, so you won’t find group fighters such as Power Stone and Super Smash Bros. That’s for another day. Let’s warm up those thumbs and get into the action. FIGHT!
Arguably the definitive version of the arcade classic which at this point had already seen four previous versions being wheeled out such as Turbo and the Championship edition before this debuted, which not only tweaked several of the character move sets but also introduced a further four characters with Cammie, T-Hawk, Fei Long and Dee Jay to an already solid roster of fighters.
At the same time this would be one of the last games in the series not to be overcomplicated by the combo system which blighted Street Fighter 4, much like its cheat boss Seth. Instead, here we get a game which is easy to pick up and play while still for the veteran player, leaving plenty to master.
SNK are legendary for their fighting games with Samurai Showdown standing proudly alongside the likes of The King of Fighters and The Art of Fighting as one of their best series with this game being one of the top and certainly an arcade machine favourite with its cast of colourful Samurai warriors and bloody fatalities all wrapped up in a feudal Japan-themed package.
Rebuilding the game from the ground up this entry adds more than a few tweaks to what was already a great game, with characters being given more moves as well as the ability to parry. Most exciting though is the addition of the “POW meter” which enabled characters to unleash powerful combo attacks on their opponent and even break their weapon if timed correctly. The games that followed might have had bigger rosters or better graphics but this game is still the definitive experience.
While it was a toss-up between this game and Tekken 2, what eventually won out this game was the variety of fighters available, which almost match the number of game modes crammed onto the disc including a “Streets of Rage” style mini-game called “Tekken Force” and even a random beach volleyball game called “Tekken Ball”. The last Tekken game to be released on the PS1, it’s still viewed not only as one of the best in the series but also one of the best fighting games ever, even though it took the risky move to reworking its roster leaving only six of the original fighters. True, many of the missing fighters were substituted with characters who could be considered to be replacements, such as Jack being replaced by his updated model Gun Jack or Julia Chang and Forest Law taking the place of their parents and saving the player the pangs of missing a favourite. The game would equally cover for these changes by introducing many characters such as Bryan Fury, Hwoarang and everyone’s favourite cheat character Eddy Gordo who have remained with the series since.
This strength of this entry is also down to it being easy to pick up and play like the previous games, while its unique roster which included the tiny raptor Gon and the elderly scientist Dr. Bosconvitch (who just lies on the floor), fun game modes and some of the best endings with Mokujin’s alone making this game an essential purchase.
After nine installments of the main game series–and that’s not even including the questionable spin-off’s such as Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero and Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks–the franchise, much like its mythology, had become a bloated and confused mess and a far cry from the golden era of the original trilogy, which this game essentially takes us back to thanks to some time-traveling nonsense…but hey it worked, right? Running on a heavily modified version of the Unreal Engine 3, similar to that used by Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, as well as reverting the game back to 2D, which might seem like a step back, this only works for the games advantage as it allows for greater graphics for both the characters and the routines creating one of the best looking games in the series. The violence was cranked up to new heights, including x-ray moments of bones breaking, only making the game seem all the more fresh.
Those still to pick up the game however would be best sticking with the PS3 version simply because it gave the players Kratos from God of War as a playable character who was frustratingly absent from the Xbox 360 version with no replacement given, though as part of the download pack players did get to use Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, sparking a trend for horror cameos that would carry across to Mortal Kombat X, which saw the Xenomorph from Alien, Leatherface, Jason and The Predator all being added as bonus characters.
Essentially picking up the ball from the Samurai Shodown franchise the original, Soul Edge once more gave us armed fighters battling to the death and while the series would be rebranded Soulcalibur with its legendary sequel on the Dreamcast, the series has always retained its core gameplay with very few tweaks made with each passing game outside of changes to its roster. Ignoring the questionable guest characters which this time saw the inclusion of Darth Vader, Yoda and the Apprentice from The Force Unleashed, this game marked a new high point for the series and one which Soulcalibur V certainly failed to top despite still being a great fighting game. Here though we get one of the best rosters of the series as well as a fantastic character creation system which was only added to further by the DLC pack rather than detracted from as was the case for Soulcalibur V and extending the life of the game considerably including the option to create your own Harley Quinn complete with squeaky giant hammer!
Once more this is a game which is easy to pick up and play for button bashers while equally rewarding for players willing to put in the time to learn the extensive move sets with battles once more taking place in a wide variety of locations from Ships and temples through to circus themed caged arena.
Set in Aoharu City, Japan, several schools are finding their students being attacked or kidnapped. The player creates a tag team to investigate whose responsible as they battle their way through a series of fights.
What sets this game apart other than its unique rosters was the school setting, which meant that the fighters often use things such as baseball bats, footballs and even violins as part of character move sets making this certainly one of the more unique fighters, though one which sadly never gained the same attention as other games on this list. But if you still have your PS1 or can find its Arcade port, it’s still a game worth checking out.
The most popular entry in the series, which sadly might not have aged as well as some of the other games on this list, it is nonetheless important for introducing a sidestep mechanic to 3D fighting games while using the same weapons-based fighting format used by the likes of Soulcalibre and Samurai Showdown. The game also, once fully unlocked, boasts an impressive 32 fighters, ensuring that there should be someone to suit all fighting styles.
While the graphics might be off-putting for graphic snobs, its gameplay still makes this an enjoyable game to play. The introduction of enclosed arenas also allowed more skilled players to juggle their opponents and rack up impressive combos.
Despite being released in 2000, this game has continued to be hugely popular through to 2012, as incredible demand saw it being ported onto both PS3 and Xbox 360, saving players the chagrin of having to pay inflated trader prices for the game. These ports also came with their rosters fully unlocked compared to the previous versions which required players to earn points to unlock all 56 characters pulled from Marvel comics like “The Avengers” and “X-Men” as well as Capcom games like Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, Captain Commando and even Resident Evil.
Using a 3 vs 3 tag system the game really makes the most of its huge roster, encouraging players to venture outside of their old favourites by using the third slot for a random character selection while creating some truly impressive and sometimes random moments when the player calls about their team mates using the assist function.
Another arcade classic from SNK, which pits historical figures against each other in a tournament created by Dr. Brown to find who is the strongest fighter in history with the roster of fourteen fighters being a real mixed batch of fun cartoonish characters including the pirate “Captain Kidd” and mad Monk “Rasputin” facing off against more random opponents such as the Cyborg “Brocken” and Voodoo priest and giant mask wearing “Mudman”.
This time players had the choice of fighting in either a normal match or Death Match with this second mode seeing the use of various environmental hazards aswell as a “Seesaw lifebar” where the fighters share a lifebar and battle to cause enough damage to knock the arrow to the end of their opponents side of the bar where their character is knocked out unless they can pound their buttons fast enough to beat a 10 count adding a fun new angle to a game already capable of standing alongside SNK’s best such as “Fatal Fury”.
The original Def Jam Vendetta was a flawed fighter to say the least despite its attractive setup of pitting your favourite rappers against each other. Here the game is essentially rebuilt from the group up as players battle their way through an extensive roster of fighters made up of both rappers and characters such as Crow (played here by Snoop Dogg) who rappers have lent their likeness to. You can even fight Danny Trejo and Henry Rollins!
This time the game added not only an extensive create-a-fighter mode, but also a variety of match types and the options to take weapons from the crowd or use the environment as a weapon as you can ram your opponent’s head into a wall, toss the through a speaker or even on the subway level, throw them in front of a train. It’s only a shame that it’s follow up Def Jam: Icon wasn’t able to carry the template across as this remains the best and only title in the series worth picking up.
The teenage boys favourite fighting game thanks to its now legendary bouncing breasts physics engine which developer Tecmo created separate to the games main physics engine, this fan service heavy edition to the series (excluding the gratuitous “Dead or Alive Xtreme” games) would later be remade for the Xbox as “Dead or Alive Ultimate”.
Outside of the obvious titillation, the fighting mechanics are solid with a decent roster of characters if perhaps slightly less memorable despite the inclusion of Ninja Gaiden’s Ryu Hatabusa than other games featured in this list, while the multi-layered levels only add to the fun.
Have we missed any of your favourites? Tell us yours in the comments.