30 best fighting video games of all time

Nintendo /
5 of 10

18. Dead or Alive 3

Release date: 2001

Notable facts: Was one of the launch titles for the original Xbox.

Why it’s one of the best fighting games: For its time, Dead or Alive 3 was impressive on every technical level. It was one of the games that made audiences excited about the Xbox and what it could deliver. The game looked great, played well, and sounded good. Perhaps owing to the fact that it was helping to launch a new console, Team Ninja and Tecmo also scaled back the overly difficult AI, allowing players easier controls, a longer period to counter attacks and generally making the game a little bit easier. This was the game that pushed the Dead or Alive franchise from good into great.

While it doesn’t hold up as well compared to the later titles in the franchise, one has to judge it by the hardware it was working with, and at the time Dead or Alive 3 was almost top notch. It got the absolute most out of the Xbox in terms of graphics and playability, while bringing back all the important characters. This game was also notable for being the first title in the series where Christie was a playable character; she had appeared before, but this was the first time fans could do anything with her, and she was a great addition to the roster. In retrospect it doesn’t seem like a title that revolutionized the fighting game genre, but for 2001 it was as close as gamers could get.

17. BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger

Release date: 2008 (arcade), 2009 (PlayStation 3/XBox 360)

Notable facts: Was nominated for Fighting Game of the Year at the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards.

Why it’s one of the best fighting games: BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger wasn’t as expansive or flashy as most fighting games, but that worked in its favor. Arc System Works created a title with an excellent plot that was easy to follow and get invested in, compared to many fighting games whose plots wind up meandering with side stories, alternate endings and general confusion. Even though it had a smaller number of available fighters, those characters were all well-developed and each had something to make them worth playing – both in terms of their moves and their stories (such as Jin’s backstory with Ragna).

The mechanics of the game were also wonderful, offering a number of options on both offense and defense that gave players that much more freedom.

BlazBlue also scores points because of how much it improved when it was ported to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Not that the arcade version of the game was lacking, but it was impressive to have so much console-exclusive content, including an entirely new story mode and the ability to choose your character audio track. The console versions almost felt like a whole new game with as much effort as was put into them. Add it all together, and the game was simply solid all around. Maybe it wasn’t the biggest or the best, but there’s something to be said for a game that’s simply consistently great.

16. Mortal Kombat X

Release date: 2015

Notable facts: Became the fastest-selling game in the Mortal Kombat franchise upon its release. The Mortal Kombat X logo also became part of NASCAR Xfinity Series history when Erik Jones’ branded car won the 2015 O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.

Why it’s one of the best fighting games: When it took four years to follow up Mortal Kombat‘s triumphant return, there was a certain degree of nervousness surrounding Mortal Kombat X. But the title arrived with almost everything fighting game fans wanted from it. The game’s story was massive, spanning roughly two decades, and audiences got to see the children of some of their favorite characters – who, critically, were well-developed characters in their own right and not just gimmicky attempts at creating a new crop of protagonists. At the same time, all the beloved characters returned and contributed important things to the game’s story mode, making sure every character was served in some way.

The game’s mechanics were also excellent; it’s one of the best-playing games in the entire franchise, with the brutal brilliance that fans had come to expect from Mortal Kombat. And on a purely geeky level, the game had so much to offer, too. The voice cast was fantastic, including Lucifer‘s Tricia Helfer as Sonya Blade, The Flash‘s Danielle Nicolet as Jacqui Briggs, and The Good Doctor‘s Will Yun Lee as Kung Lao.

Mortal Kombat X loses points for its DLC offerings, some of which felt ridiculous (did we really need DLC for Alien or to make Jax look like Carl Weathers?) and others which made it feel like the basic game got short-changed. But aside from that, it was a great return to one of the best fighting game franchises.