30 best fighting video games of all time

Nintendo /
1 of 10
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Nintendo /

What are the 30 best fighting video games of all time? The genre wouldn’t be the same without these titles that are still putting up a fight.

Fighting video games are an institution in gaming. Everyone has a favorite fighting game, and chances are you’ve played several of them over the last three decades. Fighting games even moved their way into pop culture in the 1990’s, when several titles became movies and TV shows. They’ve been a large part of moving gaming into the mainstream, and they’re still big business.

But that also means there have been a lot of them over the years, and some of them are better than others. Franchises have evolved or fallen off, while titles update and others don’t age well. So which are the 30 best fighting games of all time? This is our list – let us know your top 30 in the comments.

30. X-Men vs. Street Fighter

Release date: 1996 (arcade), 1997 (Sega Saturn), 1998 (PlayStation)

Notable facts: Features the first appearances of X-Men characters Gambit, Rogue and Sabretooth in any Capcom fighting game. Features the voice actors from the hit X-Men animated series that aired on FOX from 1992 to 1997.

Why it’s one of the best fighting games: Crossovers between popular franchises are fairly commonplace in fighting games today, but back in the mid-90’s, they were still unique. X-Men vs. Street Fighter was the ultimate crossover at the time, bringing together two amazing properties into one game. It wound up being every bit as fun as we wanted a title with these two franchises to be, with the added bonus of getting to hear the same voices from the X-Men TV series that had just finished its run as the game was ported to the Sega Saturn. It loses points for a PlayStation version that didn’t hold up to either that or the arcade edition, and for missing some characters (where’s Jean Grey?). And it hasn’t aged well in comparison to more sophisticated fighters with better stories. But this game was good, clean, bright, fast-paced fun and so it earns a spot out of pure enjoyment.

29. Street Fighter X Tekken

Release date: 2012

Notable facts: References other Capcom games and characters, including an entire level based around the 1999 survival game Dino Crisis. Uncharted hero Nathan Drake was almost added to the game as a DLC character for the PlayStation version, but he didn’t make it to the final release.

Why it’s one of the best fighting games: What’s better than one successful fighting game franchise? Two successful fighting game franchises, battling each other for supremacy. Street Fighter X Tekken takes full advantage of having both massive brands: it has an impressive roster of more than two dozen characters from each title, and that’s not including the other dozen that were added as DLC. That includes all the big names that a gamer would want, such as Street Fighter’s Akuma and Tekken’s Heihachi.

Technically speaking, the game is not only sound when it comes to the basics but offers interesting changes to make the actual play experience as interesting as the crossover itself. It’s not just a one-on-one fighter; the tag team element is a huge part of the game, including the Switch Cancel that lets you swap characters in the middle of a combo. There’s also two unique mechanics: the Gem System, which is almost more of an RPG idea allowing players to boost character stats with different gems, and Pandora Mode where one character dies for the benefit of another.

There’s a lot happening in this game, but there’s also one big thing about it that still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth: Capcom’s shoddy handling of the release. Whether charging for on-disc DLC or the online issues with the Xbox 360 version, it killed the buzz of the game just a little bit.

28. Dragon Ball FighterZ

Release date: 2018

Notable facts: Its post-fight cutscenes, called “Dramatic Finishes,” are related to moments from the Dragon Ball universe.

Why it’s one of the best fighting games: While it’s one of the newer entries, Dragon Ball FighterZ is an example of how a popular property can be successfully translated into a fighting game. There are plenty of examples where developers have tried to capitalize on the popularity of something else by making it into a video game, and those games end up terrible. FighterZ feels like a natural extension of the Dragon Ball universe, and has numerous features (like the cutscenes) that are actually integrated into the existing mythology. The game’s new character, Android 21, was created by Dragon Ball mastermind Akira Toriyama. It’s clear that this wasn’t just a licensing job; the developers actually are as interested in the characters and story as the players.

It’s not just the best Dragon Ball game, though. It’s an excellent fighting game that is accessible even if you’re not familiar with the IP. No matter what your play style is, you can find success – and enjoyment – with this game, which won Best Fighting Game at the 2017 Game Critics Awards. While it adds to the existing universe, it also has universal appeal. That also includes in its uses: it works if you’re playing alone, for online play, and even as a tournament title. There aren’t many fighting games that are as versatile as this one, and that’s not an easy feat while also trying to cater to fans of the franchise.