Everybody has their own personal top 10 lists for any genre of game, so I feel that I must preface this list by saying that this is the top 10 according to us here at 3GK and not a top 10 for the entire world. That being said I feel firm in our list because we play the hell out of Fighting Games, just about all of them since the original Street Fighter 2, so we don’t feel as if we’ve neglected anybody that should be up there.
10. Capcom vs SNK 2
A solid fighting game engine that managed to bridge the gap between 5+ different games.
Do you remember that awesome fighting game engine created by Elecbyte to allow us diehards to create our own fighting games? Well it’s name was M.U.G.E.N. and it spawned a million mashups that continue to be created today – even after the company gave up on their project. My point? Well Capcom vs. SNK 2 was about as close to a perfect M.A.M.E. styled mashup as you are going to get. Oh… my… god… just the memory makes me want to play it. You had the kings of SNK taking on the Gods of Capcom in a fighter that managed to include all of the “modes” that iconic games from each company had.
While Capcom vs SNK was pretty damn good, this sequel fixed the issues that we complained about and upped the fun factor by 100. It was truly the battle game of the century where Capcom/SNK fanbois (and girls) could see Sheng Long Ryu take on the legendary hungry wolf Terry “Southtown” Bogard.
09. Samurai Shodown 2
When the original Samurai Shodown launched it took gamers by surprise. Players who were used to the hands and feet damager that was Street Fighter got to play with Samurai, Ninjas, Ainu village girls, and strange green goblins who breathed poison. It was instantly an arcade classic. When Samurai Shodown recieved a sequel, SNK fixed a lot of the cheap tactics (like my 3-hit Haohmaru dizzy killer), and snuck in some super secret special moves – which I still argue today as being one of the influences behind the “Supers” in modern fighters.
Shodown 2 had a massive roster, even more colorful characters – like chibi Cham-Cham and her monkey, as well as the smokey Caffeine Nicotine! The colors were vibrant, the characters would zoom in larger than life – and like every other Samurai Shodown it had that face-off element that I love so much. Not to mention but for us it was the last Samurai Shodown to do extremely well in the American arcade before the release of the disappointing 3, and the overly complex Samurai Shodown 4 (30+ hit combos SNK really?)
08. Virtua Fighter 5
It’s so disappointing to be a fan of the Virtua Fighter series… it’s like being an SNK die-hard. You know that many people won’t play the games you prop, and you know that the controls are so different than the mainstream titles, that you won’t be seeing a big surge of people giving it a try. But Virtua Fighter 5 is about as perfect a fighter as you’re gonna get out of a 3d engine. Let me first mention for those who don’t know that this is the grand daddy of those other games that you love so much – the Tekkens, Dead or Alives, and Soul Caliburs of today.
VF5 took the greatness of 4 and sharpened up the character models, removed the nonsense, and worked on making the fighters “heavier”. If you’ve ever sparred with someone for real, or played around like you’re fighting you will feel the same back and forth anticipation when you play VF5… it is just so much fun. One of the things I love about the engine is that the strong attacks are so solid that you can almost feel the damage when you get blasted – I’m talking about you Akira!
07. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
In the wake of 3D fighters like Virtual Fighter and Tekken, 2D games seemed to be on the wayside. When it was first announced that a new 2D based Street Fighter 3 was coming, well I can tell you that the sky was falling. Not only was it a new game, but the art style was fresh, the game engine was completely re-designed, and the only iconic characters from Street Fighter were Ryu and Ken. Many questoned the idea of introducing a brand new set of characters with “Alex” representing the new World Warriors. Street Fighter III unfortunately was not well received until the last revision Street Fighter III: Third Strike.
Finally this was the evolutionary leap that yet again set the bar for fighting games. SF3TS took all of the best parts of each predecessor and introduced the “Parry System” which still to this day makes for an exciting game. SF3TS was one of the longest running games that was played tournament-wise around the world. I have a few words for you Evo Moment #37….
06. Mortal Kombat II
Newer gamers who see Mortal Kombat 2 probably laugh at how bad it looks, plays and more. They probably don’t realize that at one time it was all that people talked about in the arcades. That guys used to load up tokens under the screen itching to get a chance at that “nasty Scorpion” and his cheap teleportation tactics. Mortal Kombat II defines “arcade classic” and guys became gods in the mall for their nasty “nut punch” combos with Johnny Cage. It was the game that gave American developers the hope that maybe they too could make a Street Fighter to suck up our arcade dollars.
The Mortal Kombat series has always been ignored in Japan, but in the states when MK2 was released on the SNES (sans blood and guts :/) and Sega Genesis it was one of the first fighters I’ve known to ever have an actual “scene”. MK2 is huge for fighting game history and no fighter worth his salt could ever deny it’s importance.
05. Super Street Fighter 4
Without Street Fighter 4 the genre of “fighting games” would still be a tiny niche largely ignored by the general gaming community. Fighting games used to be one of the primary genres that defined the power of a console (thinking of how I purchased a Sega Saturn only to have an arcade-perfect X-Men vs Street Fighter) and it was the chosen arcade game for young adults. Capcom shocked the gaming world by daring to choose a 3d model over their traditional 2D sprite model for the fighter and when it finally launched it blew our collective minds. SF4 is the living reincarnation of the original Street Fighter 2 in both hype, and competition flexibility. From its afterbirth rose new gods in the EVO championship, new players in the fighting game genre, and new hope (don’t sue me Lucas!) for the direction of fighters. Hell even my RPG Nazi girlfriend was trying to learn how to play it!
04. Last Blade 2
One of those silent hits that would suffer from a lack of exposure on American shores – Last Blade 2 was one of the best fighting games of it’s time. Utilizing an engine which allowed you to choose between slow, damaging combos under (POWER) and quick, high-numbered combinations in (SPEED); the game was just a treat to play. One of the best features of LB2 was it’s beautiful yet simple art, complimented by the smooth animation that left nothing to the imagination. When The buddah monk Lee Rekka started to dance on your face, you immediately knew that your ass was grassed, and when chibi Akari started her sequence of rolls it was your best guess at whether to risk a rushdown, or turtle back until she was finished.
Last Blade 2 took Samurai Shodown’s face-off mind games and added in the right amount of flavor to make it exciting. They had the classic drunken badass, the overly serious Samurai’s and the fun and playable child who hits as hard as her guardian. To this day 3GK wishes that X-Box arcade or PSN would inherit this title, or to have a true sequel created specifically for HD tvs.
03. The King of Fighters ’97
The King of Fighters 97 was the apex of perfection for the SNK series. Having played the games since my arcade face-offs with Gal Fighter© Team Europe (reppin dat Mai) in KoF ’94, I have always found the games to be one part silly story (omg Rugal’s throwing a partay let’s fight!) and another part Fatal Fury styled combat. Coming off of the goodness that was Fatal Fury 3, when King of Fighters 97 hit we were on it like white on rice. I remember wood-shedding for hours to master Terry Bogard’s and Blue Mary’s 100% life dropping combos and then taking that knowledge to the arcades and breaking boys off some of that nasty South Town burn knuckling. It was fun, the story actually made sense with respects to the fighting and almost everyone in the entire roster was fun and playable.
Strange as it is to mention this, the music in King of Fighters ’97 was also a big deal… from Blue Mary’s Blues to Iori’s sad song. The King of Fighters has a long history (since ’94) and a lot of games, but nothing was as memorable as ’97. What a solid fighter!
02. Tekken 3
There have been a lot of Tekkens but if Tekken was Basketball legend Michael Jordan, then Tekken 3 is the Chicago Bull’s Championship Game 6. It is the game we look back to when we say that Tekken IS one of the premier fighters of the entire genre. It just doesn’t get any better than 3 folks… let’s start with graphics; when Tekken 2 launched it had a wonderful engine but the blocky, polygonal characters made the game ugly (at the time it looked amazing).
Tekken 3 had absolutely beautiful models, the engine was tweaked, and we were introduced to the CHICKEN! The ability to counter a throw with a throw (sounds like a feature all games should have but hey…) For console junkies the game was almost arcade-perfect and came with all the goodies that a fighting game should have: a ton of unlockable clones (Tiger being the crowd favorite) and Gon – a chibi dinosaur who breathed flames and had a tiny hit-box.
Tekken 3 did the best out of the series in presenting each character’s story through both an elaborate intro and an awesome ending. Since then it has been dumbed down to slides, movies, and sometimes nothing. The arcades were abuzz with Tekken 3 – hell I remember a girl at the community college whose King was so perfect that she would be sitting at 10+ wins in a row at times. I can still hear him in my nightmares (shudders) “roar, roar, crack, pop, roar, crack, roar, K.O!” Ugh!!! But Tekken 3 is the reason why this series will never die.
01. Street Fighter 2 Turbo: Hyper Fighting
Why is this game number one? Well I feel definitively that this game really put the fighting game genre on the map. I just remember the good old arcade days of placing a quarter on the cabinet waiting to get my revenge on the guy who was winning with “walking dragon punches”. Hell some stood around just to watch the Blanka “phenom” who could do endless rolls across the screen one-handed.
SF2T really set the bar high and I feel it was the birth of the “fighting gods” like Daigo Umehara, Alex Valle, Justin Wong and others. Without this game I don’t think tournaments like EVO, Wednesday Night Fights, etc. would exist. This game was really hype in its hay day and is probably one of the most memorable if not historical games in the fighting game genre. Many games were like it and they really tried to copy its formula, but in the end everyone came back quarter after quarter.
Although the only new “playable” characters introduced were the last 4 bosses (Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M.Bison) everyone was tweaked and balanced. There were no super meters or anti-air cancels, or even guard crushes; no you played with raw nerves of steel, constantly in a chess match with your opponent. The game’s simplicity made for its complexity and that is why it is our 3GK top pick.
The honorable mentions that came close but did not make the top 10 were: