WE CHART KEY MILESTONES OF THE GENRE
KARATE CHAMP 1984
Considered by most to be the game that popularised one-on-one fighting games, Karate Champ sticks to competition martial arts rules with points and half-points given for landing hits. It may not have the spectacle of the fighting games that would follow, but it still had plenty of drama. Karate Champ – Player Vs Player would introduce two-player play, too.
YIE AR KUNG-FU 1985
A single fighter must take on a roster of combatants, inspired by action cinema and driven by colourful, over-the-top design, Yie Ar Kung Fu was the beginning of so much of what we expect to see in a fighting game in the modern era. It didn’t feature multiplayer, unfortunately, and the moveset was limited, but the insanity of the gameplay was still impressive.
STREET FIGHTER II 1991
This was notable for a many reasons with its success in arcades leading to a boom on consoles helping to drive the genre through the Nineties, but combos is where its legacy resides. As players discovered that strings of moves could be pulled off without reply, finding and extending combo attacks became part and parcel of fighter play.
SAMURAI SHODOWN 1993
Credited as the first one-on-one fighter to introduce weapon-based combat, the likes of SoulCalibur, and to some extent Mortal Kombat, owe a debt to this release. It was one of the bloodier fighters of the period. It also built on the Neo-zoom first used in Art Of Fighting that had the camera move in closer as fighters approached each other for extra detail.
VIRTUA FIGHTER 1993
As the first fighting game to introduce 3D polygonal graphics to the genre, Virtua Fighter was a revelation and it’s stunning to think that it landed in arcades a couple of years after Street Fighter II. Its button inputs were limited compared to other fighters of the time, but that gave the game an even more focused and tense feel when in combat.
THE KING OF FIGHTERS ’94 1994
We were looking for the first example of a major crossover fighting game and it seems to us that The King Of Fighters ’94 is that game. With characters from a swathe of SNK titles like Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting and Ikari Warriors, it helped to establish the appetite for these kinds of adversarial confrontation among fighting rosters.
X-MEN VS STREET FIGHTER 1996
While KOF set the industry going on in-house crossover fighters, it was X-Men Vs Street Fighter that set us rolling on the battle royale approach that set us on the path to see Marvel Vs Capcom, Capcom Vs SNK, Street Fighter X Tekken and many more. Even something like Super Smash Bros. may not have happened without the foundations Capcom laid down.
SFIII: NEW GENERATION 1997
There’s a reason why Street Fighter and Capcom dominate the conversation when it comes to fighting games: it’s the best at them, and the introduction of a parry system in New Generation was a huge evolution for the genre. The use of parrying in this game created new scenarios for players and spawned dramatic tournament moments.
Namco’s 3D, weapon-based fighter had been evolving into the SoulCalibur series as we know it today by way of Soul Edge in 1995, but it was this release that introduce the eight-way run control, allowing players to dash on the Y-axis for free movement. This was the first 3D fighter to allow such control, offering players a range of new ways to play.
DEAD OR ALIVE ULTIMATE 2004
The Guinness Book Of Records credits Net Fighter from SegaSoft as the first fighter to introduce online play, but we’d say that the game that popularised the concept was the remastered release of Tecmo Koei’s fighting titles on Xbox, Dead Or Alive Ultimate – with Xbox Live setting the standard for online console play moving forward.
Top 10 fighting games of all time