Top image credit: TeoGonzalezColors
The fighting game genre has seen a huge resurgence for the past 10 years. Before it became the juggernaut in Esports today, let’s not forget how underground the scene was when Street Fighter 3: Third Strike ruled the FGC roost. We should be thankful that the period between 2008 to now has been kind to us.
We’re spoilt for choice for fighting games in this modern generation, but which ones deserve to be in a prestigious top 10? Here are my picks and why they are instrumental in the current golden decade of fighting games.
Disclaimer: we’re going to exclude SoulCalibur 6 because the game is still really fresh. The following entries have been around longer than 6 months, so they’re fair game in getting their player base.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Let’s start off with this year’s non-surprise hit. If you take the 3v3 Mechanic of an already popular fighting game and add in characters from an already established anime juggernaut, and then have the guys from Arc System Works on the project, you will spawn a hit. The game could have been a mess, but it isn’t.
It’s also serendipitous that Capcom, the guys who popularized the 3v3 tag team fighting mechanic, s*** the bed with Marvel vs Capcom Infinite last year, so you have most of your MvC guys and gals jumping ship.
The King of Fighters XIV
I assure you that you’ll be seeing a lot of franchise comebacks and revamps on this here list. This recent King of Fighters game is one such comeback. With a roster of 40+ characters and a fighting engine that’s a mimicry of KOF 98 (but in 3D), this 2D fighter does fanservice right. With slick controls, a bountiful cast of characters, and a rockin’ soundtrack, there isn’t much to hate about this version of KOF.
Okay, maybe the graphics aren’t as revolutionary as KOF XIII, but at least SNK improved the 3D artwork and detailing over time. Plus, KOF’s all about the action and speed, and it is still as hectic as ever.
Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2
Whichever version you play, Guilty Gear Xrd introduced the 2D cel-shaded 2D-in-3D animation style to the world. And it’s easy for newbies to pick up too and get good at. Unless you count all those legacy Guilty Gear X players of course. Pesky bunch.
Controlling each of the cast feels so good and unique. You have good ol’ Ky and Sol Badguy for your standard revved-up shotos. You have old-school Guilty Gear folks like Baiken. You have new characters with awesomely unique fighting game mechanics like Elphet Valentine and Jack-O-Valentine. You even have a kid who fights using a friggin’ bed, and it’s not as lame as it sounds.
This colourful-looking fighting game is a huge labour of love from fighting game fans. You can opt for a 1v1 or tag-team/3v3 onslaught with the crazy cast of the game ranging from an Egyptian princess to a carnie performer with four hands and a huge pair of….eyes. Because it’s anime-esque, you perv.
Skullgirls also proved that with the best community, your game will live on even if it’s not featured on the biggest fighting game tournament on the planet. There are people out there who still play this bizarre-yet-fun-looking fighting game in the highest level possible.
The next two entries are for the comic book fans in all of us. First up: DC fans are given a lovely treat by way of the second Injustice game. Not only is the roster filled with luminaries like Blue Beetle, Black Canary, Gorilla Grodd, and even Deadshot, but you get to customize them to your liking and set them loose in online play.
Marvel vs Capcom 3/Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
I admit: I was hyped AF when I saw the preview trailers for Marvel vs Capcom 3. Seeing Ryu and Wolverine duking it out as well as Amaterasu teaming up with Viewtiful Joe was a sight to behold.
What was also fun was seeing better players like the Singapore MvC3 folks and pros like ChrisG go at it with their assists and Helm Breakers being thrown around like nobody’s business. If you want to see a display of confusing-yet-exhilarating fireworks in your 3v3 fighting, you can’t go wrong watching pros fight in MvC3.
It was a game made out of pure sweet love, unlike the 2v2 flawed-but-kinda-well-meaning mess that followed.
Out of all the games on this list, we never expected Tekken to outlast & outpopularize Virtua Fighter & Dead or Alive in the 3D fighting game space. Yet here we are with the 9th mothership Bandai Namco Fighting game in the series.
The game features a huge roster of new and old fighters, as well as awesome guest characters like Noctis from FFXV, Geese Howard and Akuma, and even Neegan from The Walking Dead. Just goes to show that the guest character additions help a lot.
It’s not just that; the fighting system itself is solid and balances old and new mechanics so that even newbies can join in. It’s sure as hell isn’t dumbed down: experts like Jeodding, Knee, and Qudans have stated that this is the best iteration of Tekken yet.
One feature makes this game a treat to watch: the slo-mo last hit camera. Having this, as well as a defined art style and visual flair, helps to make it even fun to spectate. You may not understand the nuances of ukemis and stage transitions mid-fight, but you should know an entertaining-looking fight when you see one. Tekken 7 delivers in spades in the fisticuffs-heavy field.
Mortal Kombat 9
If you want to make a comeback, you have to do it right. Before getting to the top two, we need to talk about the ninth Mortal Kombat game, which was revolutionary in two ways.
First: it brought back the same classic gameplay but with new current-gen additions like the game’s version of Supers (X-Ray moves), EX moves, and a plethora of single-player and multiplayer non-tournament modes that were just loads of fun. Gauntlet mode? Check. Rage team fights? Check. No limbs mode? Check. It’s crazy fun.
Second: MK9 has THE best story mode in a fighting game. Period. Not even its sequel and the two Injustice games hold a candle to this highly-respected nod and revamp to the MK lore of old. Whether you’re a fan or non-fan who is curious, you will enjoy how this MK game’s story mode is laid out.
When Xbox made the announcement for this game back in 2013, I flipped. And when I tried it out for myself at E3, I was in shock and awe. Could this be the breakout fighting game from a Western studio that we deserve? Is Killer Instinct going to get it’s due?
Yes, and then some. True it was only popular in the US and Europe because Southeast Asia still loves their Japanese-made fighting games. But it’s really a shame because KI 2013 is a well-made and slick fighting game that deserves a bigger and more appreciative audience.
KI featured different esoteric fighters from the trap-tastic Cinder to the “Marvel”lous Aria. They even brought in Rash from Battletoads. Frickin’ Rash! The combo system works well to the point where it’s an important strategy in a fight. Instinct Mode -a temporary buff that helps out specific characters- is so influential that other fighting games like SFV and SoulCalibur took parts of it and call it something else.
KI also boasts one of the best fighting game soundtracks of the generation. Mick Gordon’s work here is unparalleled with his blending of music genres & sound design.
Ultra Street Fighter IV/Super Street Fighter IV
How can we create a modern fighting game list without including the series that launched the renaissance? Street Fighter IV came into the fray in 2008, making arcades relevant again and reintroduce the new generation of FGC fans to this brave new world.
Super was a personal milestone for me. It hit that right balancing chord long before Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition f***ed it all up. But at least the ship corrected its course with Ultra Street Fighter IV. No matter which version I played, I experienced the rebirth and its evolution with my own two eyes when I was still in Singapore. From your small community chalet gatherings to full-blown spectacles like the South East Asia Major 2018, it all revolved around this one game: Street Fighter IV.
It’s a shame that it was followed up with a game like Street Fighter V; it’s a decent sequel and all with a rough start, but it doesn’t capture that same lightning in the bottle like its predecessor. Street Fighter IV: we thank you for the revolution you have led during the last decade. The aforementioned fighting games wouldn’t have happened were it not for you.
Honourable Mention: Battle Fantasia
Believe it or not, Street Fighter IV’s 2D/3D style wouldn’t have been possible were it not for this little-known Arc System Works fighting game, Battle Fantasia. Designed back in 2007 by one Emiko Iwasaki and a really, REALLY small team, the game blended colourful 3D fantasy trapping graphics with 2D fighting gameplay featuring knights with swords, giant dwarves, and baton-twirling mages. Oh, and catfolks, pirates, and sexy male vampires too.
While the arcade release missed the decade stipulation of this feature, the Xbox 360 & PS3 version came out in 2008. I felt it would do the game injustice if it wasn’t mentioned as part of the reason why fighting games made a stellar comeback. It wouldn’t go toe-to-toe with the big boys that succeeded it, but it made quite an impact in shaping the genre into what it is now.