21. Injustice: Gods Among Us
Release date: 2013
Notable facts: The Mortal Kombat character Scorpion appeared as a downloadable character, which wasn’t surprising since Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon served as the game director for Injustice. NetherRealm Studios, which released the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot, also developed Injustice.
Why it’s one of the best fighting games: It was declared as such after its release, with the Game Critics Awards, IGN and Game Informer among those who awarded Injustice their Best Fighting Game trophies. Players agreed, making it the top-selling video game in any genre in April 2013; it sold more than 150,000 extra units than any other game that month. One certainly can’t argue with that amount of both commercial and critical success.
Even though Injustice and its sequel may have one of the most depressing fighting game plotlines ever, all credit is due to the creative team for coming up with a layered story and not compromising that story for the sake of cool fighting. The characters still felt like their comic book counterparts; even those who had turned evil still had recognizable elements to them. And all the major characters were included, from Batman to Flash and Catwoman.
The game also made a conscious effort to support the characters, so that Superman versus anybody didn’t turn into a woefully one-sided gameplay experience. The battles are surprisingly level, which made the player feel like no matter who they wanted to play or where they were in the game, they have a chance to succeed. Which were important, because with a plot this bleak, hope had to be somewhere. Until the sequel, of course.
20. King of Fighters XIV
Release date: 2016 (PlayStation 4), 2017 (arcade)
Notable facts: Released to arcades the year after it was made available on PlayStation. But even before the PlayStation release, some gamers in the Americas were able to play the game well before they were supposed to, as both online retailers and physical stores mistakenly sold copies of the game ahead of its official release date.
Why it’s one of the best fighting games: King of Fighters XIV was the first game in the series in four years, and well worth the wait. SNK returned with the Rush system, which made the game easily accessible to anyone who hadn’t been following along and more interesting to loyal fans of the franchise. A whopping 50 characters were included in the base game, in one of the biggest rosters in any fighting game and far more than the title’s predecessor. This felt, looked and played like a triumphant return for SNK, which had moved away from console games and into mobile apps since the previous King of Fighters title.
What made King of Fighters XIV stand out is that it was designed to stand the test of time. By enabling experienced players to use the skills they’d picked up playing the previous chapters, the game also ensured that those players could keep coming back to it in later years. It was something that catered to them instead of completely overhauling the franchise and making them learn all kinds of new modes and characters. On every level, the game felt like it was made for the fans, and so even though it wasn’t perfect (the graphics were hit or miss), it was immensely rewarding.
19. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Release date: 2008
Notable facts: Is the first Super Smash Bros. game to include characters from third parties (Sonic the Hedgehog from Sega and Solid Snake from Konami’s Metal Gear respectively). IGN named it Best Fighting Game for the Wii in 2008 and GameSpot called it Best Fighting Game of the Year on any console.
Why it’s one of the best fighting games: While not quite as awesome as its predecessor Super Smash Bros. Melee, there was still a lot to love about this title, even more than a decade after its release. The inclusion of Sonic and Solid Snake was a big plus for longtime gamers who understood the iconic status of those characters, and they fit right into this universe that’s essentially a huge celebration of Nintendo’s history. Brawl‘s feeling of wish fulfillment was further enhanced by its Stage Builder option, which allowed the player to create their own unique platforms to fight on.
Aside from the sheer enjoyment of playing as more than three dozen characters on more than 40 stages, Super Smash Bros. Brawl also deserves recognition for its Masterpieces function, in which players could access demo versions of the classic games that some of the included characters came from. It was a fantastic way to learn more about Nintendo history and made the game feel like a collection rather than a single title. It wasn’t just that this was a great fighting game with a plethora of awesome characters; it was that it was preserving Nintendo history, while also adding to it.