30 best fighting video games of all time

Nintendo /
8 of 10

9. Virtua Fighter

Release date: 1993 (arcade), 1995 (Sega Saturn)

Notable facts: Also in 1995, Sega released an updated version of the game called Virtua Fighter Remix, which they mailed – for free! – to anyone who had registered their Sega Saturn.

Why it’s one of the best fighting games: Without Virtua Fighter, the fighting game genre as a whole may not exist. That’s because this game made the groundbreaking move into 3D graphics, and it featured all kinds of unique aspects, such as giving players the ability to see multiple camera angles in certain replays. (Its hardware was a collaboration between Sega and the aerospace engineering firm Lockheed Martin.) It also differed from other fighting games of its time by only requiring three buttons to play, although combos were still possible. Technically speaking, it was unlike anything else out there, and its effects can still be seen in today’s more sophisticated games.

Virtua Fighter was just a whole lot of fun to play, too, with a wide variety of characters including a movie star, a fisherman, and a professional wrestler. Each character had their own unique style, and unlike other fighting games where you don’t necessarily see that come out in the gameplay, they all felt different. Sega did an outstanding job of providing enough move possibilities for each character, and many of them were wonderful to watch with the game’s new camera angles. While it’s been surpassed technically in the more than 20 years since, this is where a lot of what’s great about fighting games first started.

8. Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition

Release date: 2010 (arcade), 2011 (PlayStation 3/XBox 360)

Notable facts: Was supposed to be the final entry in the Street Fighter IV series, but ended up being followed by Ultra Street Fighter IV in 2014.

Why it’s one of the best fighting games: Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition may have one of the most convoluted histories of any fighting game, given that it’s an updated version of Super Street Fighter IV, which was itself originally intended as a DLC update to Street Fighter IV. But Arcade Edition was the cherry on top of the whole sequence, and as the title indicates, gave the game a truly arcade feel. It refined all of the characters, whether it was giving them fresh EX moves or balancing them better overall. That made the game much more competitive, while keeping the already enjoyable gameplay experience otherwise.

It also added four new playable characters (Evil Ryu, Oni, Yun and Yang). The former two were impressive to watch and even more fun to play, particularly Oni with his wide variety of possible attacks; he was formidable and somewhat terrifying at the same time. Yun and Yang originated in Street Fighter III and both had serious speed that made them challenges both to compete against and to master. By adding these characters, plus improving the ones that were already there, Arcade Edition created a pretty stacked roster for an already great game. Editions like this are why Street Fighter has lasted in the fighting game community for so long.

7. Marvel vs. Capcom 2

Release date: 2000 (arcade and DreamCast), 2002 (PlayStation 2 and Xbox)

Notable facts: Capcom once offered a custom hip-hop mixtape as an alternative soundtrack for the game. Artists on the mixtape included Raekwon, DJ Toure and Talib Kweli.

Why it’s one of the best fighting games: Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes is simply insane. Not insane in the “what were they thinking?” way of Primal Rage or Killer Instinct, but insane as in it feels like the end result of a protracted argument between overcaffeinated gamers and comic book fans. There are a whopping 56 characters in the game, ensuring that you can settle any “X character could beat up Y character” argument. (The inclusion of less obvious characters like Silver Samurai and Resident Evil‘s Jill Valentine is a nice touch.)

Then once you get into the gameplay, it feels like it’s permanently cranked up to eleven. There is so much going on in this game, whether it’s the jarringly bright colors, unbelievable moves, or the pace of play. With the teams expanded from two characters to three as well, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is bigger in every respect. It’s possibly the most hyperactive fighting game ever made, and if it didn’t have a terrible jazz soundtrack, it might be perfect. But even that really isn’t an issue, since Capcom also made custom soundtracks possible. The game may not be revolutionary, but it’s a wild ride of wish fulfillment, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a game that’s more fun.