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A fighting game is a genre of video game that involves combat between two or more characters. Fighting game combat often features mechanics such as blocking, grappling, counter-attacking, and chaining attacks together into "combos". Characters generally engage in battle using hand-to-hand combat—often some form of martial arts. The fighting game genre is related to, but distinct from, the beat 'em up genre, which pits large numbers of computer-controlled enemies against one or more player characters.
Battles in fighting games usually take place in a fixed-size arena along a two-dimensional plane, to which the characters' movement is restricted. Characters can navigate this plane horizontally by walking or dashing, and vertically by jumping. Some games, such as Tekken, also allow limited movement in 3D space.
The first video game to feature fist fighting was Heavyweight Champ in 1976, but it was Karate Champ that popularized the one-on-one fighting game genre in arcades in 1984. Released later the same year, Yie Ar Kung-Fu featured antagonists with differing fighting styles and introduced health meters, while The Way of the Exploding Fist, which was released the following year, further popularized the genre on home systems. In 1987, Capcom's Street Fighter introduced special attacks, and in 1991, its highly successful sequel Street Fighter II refined and popularized many of the conventions of the genre, including combos. Fighting games subsequently became the preeminent genre for video gaming in the early to mid-1990s, particularly in arcades. This period spawned dozens of other popular fighting games, including franchises like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Super Smash Bros., Tekken, and Virtua Fighter.
Fighting games are a type of action game where two (in one-on-one fighting games) or more (in platform fighters) on-screen characters fight each other. These games typically feature special moves that are triggered using rapid sequences of carefully timed button presses and joystick movements. Games traditionally show fighters from a side view, even as the genre has progressed from two-dimensional (2D) to three-dimensional (3D) graphics. Street Fighter II, though not the first fighting game, is considered to have standardized the genre, and similar games released prior to Street Fighter II have since been more explicitly classified as fighting games. Fighting games typically involve hand-to-hand combat, though many games also feature characters with melee weapons.
This genre is related to but distinct from beat 'em ups, another action genre involving combat, where the player character must fight many enemies at the same time. Beat 'em ups, like traditional fighting games, display player and enemy health in a bar, generally located at the top of the screen. However, beat 'em ups generally do not feature combat divided into separate "rounds". During the 1980s to 1990s, publications used the terms "fighting game" and "beat 'em up" interchangeably, along with other terms such as "martial arts simulation" (or more specific terms such as "judo simulator") and "punch-kick" games. Fighting games were still being called "beat 'em up" games in video game magazines up until the end of the 1990s. With hindsight, critics have argued that the two types of game gradually became dichotomous as they evolved, though the two terms may still be conflated.
Sports-based combat games are games that feature boxing, mixed martial arts (MMA), or wrestling. Serious boxing games belong more to the sports game genre than the action game genre, as they aim for a more realistic model of boxing techniques, whereas moves in fighting games tend to be either highly exaggerated or outright fantastical models of Asian martial arts techniques. As such, boxing games, mixed martial arts games, and wrestling games are often described as distinct genres, without comparison to fighting games, and belong more in the sports game genre.
Fighting games involve combat between pairs of fighters using highly exaggerated martial arts moves. They typically revolve primarily around brawling or combat sport, though some variations feature weaponry. Games usually display on-screen fighters from a side view, and even 3D fighting games play largely within a 2D plane of motion. Games usually confine characters to moving left and right and jumping, although some games such as Fatal Fury: King of Fighters allow players to move between parallel planes of movement. Recent games tend to be rendered in three dimensions, making it easier for developers to add a greater number of animations, but otherwise play like those rendered in two dimensions.
Aside from moving around a restricted space, fighting games limit the player's actions to different offensive and defensive maneuvers. Players must learn which attacks and defenses are effective against each other, either through trial and error or communication with other players outside of the game. Blocking is a basic technique that allows a player to defend against basic attacks. Some games feature more advanced blocking techniques: for example, Capcom's Street Fighter III features a move termed "parrying", which causes the parried attacker to become momentarily incapacitated (a similar state is termed "just defended" in SNK's Garou: Mark of the Wolves).
An integral feature of fighting games is the use of "special attacks", also called "secret moves", that employ combinations of directional inputs and button presses to perform a particular move beyond basic punching and kicking. Some special moves, which play an animation portraying an aspect of the character's personality, are referred to as taunts. Originally introduced by Japanese company SNK in their game Art of Fighting, these are used to add humor, but also have an effect on gameplay in certain games, such as improving the strength of other attacks. Sometimes, a character can even be noted especially for taunting (for example, Dan Hibiki from Street Fighter Alpha). Super Smash Bros. Brawl introduced a new special attack that is exclusive to the Super Smash Bros. series, known as a Final Smash.
Combos, in which several attacks are chained together, are another common feature in fighting games and have been fundamental to the genre since the release of Street Fighter II. Most fighting games display a "combo meter" that displays the player's progress through a combo. The effectiveness of such moves often relates to the difficulty of execution and the degree of risk. These moves are often challenging to perform and require a player to have both a strong memory and excellent timing.
Predicting opponents' moves and counter-attacking, known as "countering", is a common element of gameplay. Fighting games also emphasize the difference between the height of blows, ranging from low to jumping attacks. Thus, strategy becomes important as players attempt to predict each other's moves, similar to in rock–paper–scissors.
In addition to blows such as punches and kicks, players can utilize throwing or grappling to circumvent blocks. Most fighting games give the player the ability to execute a grapple move by pressing two or more buttons together, or simply by pressing punch or kick while being directly adjacent to the opponent. Other fighting games, like Dead or Alive, have a unique button for throws and takedowns.
Used primarily in 2D fighting games, projectiles are objects that a fighter can launch at another fighter to attack from a distance. While they can be used to simply inflict damage, projectiles are also often used to maneuver opponents into disadvantageous positions. The most notable projectile is Ryu and Ken's Hadouken from Street Fighter.
Further information: Turtling (gameplay)
In the world of fighting games, especially those of the 2D variety, zoning refers to defensive play that focuses on using relatively risk-free attacks to keep the opposing player away. The desired outcome of zoning is to force an opponent to take significant risks to approach the zoning player's character, or to stall out the in-game timer, which causes the player with more health (typically the one doing the zoning) to win. The effectiveness of the latter strategy varies from game to game, based on the effectiveness of zoning tools as well as the length of the in-game timer and the rewards characters can receive for successfully landing a hit when countering zoning.
Further information: Rush (video games)
The opposite of turtling, rushdown refers to a number of specific aggressive strategies, philosophies, and play styles across all fighting games. The general goal of a rushdown play style is to overwhelm the opponent and force costly mistakes, either by using fast, confusing setups or by taking advantage of an impatient opponent as they are forced to play defense for prolonged periods of time. Rushdown players often favor attacking opponents in the corner of a stage or as they get up from a knockdown; both situations severely limit the options of the opponent and often allow the attacking player to force high-risk guessing scenarios.
Spacing is the act of positioning a character at a range where their attacks and movement tools carry the lowest risk and the highest reward. The concept is somewhat akin to that of footwork in martial arts. The desired position for play varies based on what tools are available to the character each player is currently using. As a result of this, a concept called "footsies" has emerged, frequently defined as players jockeying for position and using low-commitment moves at distances where neither character has a particular advantage.
Depending on the game, character, and move used, a player may be rewarded for a decisive blow with a strong positional advantage, strong enough that the rewarded player can minimize the number of viable moves available to the other player. Doing so, and then taking advantage of the opponent's limited options, is called pressure. Common forms of pressure include making a player guess whether they should block high or low, or keeping the opposing player trapped in the corner and punishing any attempts to escape.
Fighting game matches generally consist of a set number of rounds (typically three), and the match will officially begin once the in-game announcer gives the signal (typically "ROUND 1... FIGHT!"). If the score is tied after an even number of rounds (e.g. 1-1), then the winner will be decided in the final round. Round decisions can also be determined by time over (if a timer is present), which judge players based on remaining health to declare a winner. In the Super Smash Bros. series, the rules are different. Instead of rounds, the games usually give players a set number of lives (called stocks) for each player (usually three), and if the score is tied between two or more fighters when time runs out, then a "sudden death" match will take place by delivering a single hit to an opponent with 300% damage.
Fighting games widely feature health bars, introduced in Yie Ar Kung-Fu in 1984, which are depleted as characters sustain blows. Each successful attack will deplete a character's health, and the round continues until a fighter's health reaches zero. Hence, the main goal is to completely deplete the health bar of one's opponent, thus achieving a "knockout". Games such as Virtua Fighter also allow a character to be defeated by forcing them outside of the arena, awarding a "ring-out" to the victor. The Super Smash Bros. series allows players to send fighters off the stage when a character reaches a high percentage of damage; however, the gameplay objective differs from that of traditional fighting games in that the aim is to increase damage counters and knock opponents off the stage instead of depleting life bars.
Beginning with Midway's Mortal Kombat released in 1992, the Mortal Kombat series introduced "Fatalities", a gameplay feature in which the victor of the final round in a match inflicts a brutal and gruesome finishing move onto their defeated opponent. Prompted by the in-game announcer saying "Finish Him/Her!", players have a short time window to execute a Fatality by entering a specific button and joystick combination while positioned at a specific distance from the opponent. The Fatality and its derivations are arguably the most notable features of the Mortal Kombat series and have caused a large cultural impact and controversies.
Fighting games often include a single-player campaign or tournament, where the player must defeat a sequence of several computer-controlled opponents. Winning the tournament often reveals a special story-ending cutscene, and some games also grant access to hidden characters or special features upon victory.
In most fighting games, players may select from a variety of playable characters with unique fighting styles, special moves, and personalities. This became a strong convention for the genre with the release of Street Fighter II, and these character choices have led to deeper game strategy and replay value.
Custom character creation, or "create–a–fighter", is a feature of some fighting games that allows a player to customize the appearance and move set of their own character. Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium was the first game to include such a feature.
Fighting games may also offer a multiplayer mode in which players fight each other, sometimes by letting a second player challenge the first at any moment during a single-player match. Some titles allow up to four players to compete simultaneously. Uniquely, the Super Smash Bros. series has allowed eight-player local and online multiplayer matches, beginning with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, though many classify Super Smash Bros. under the platform fighter subgenre due to its deviation from traditional fighting game rules and design. Several games such as Marvel vs. Capcom and Dead or Alive have featured modes that involve teams of characters; players form "tag teams" to fight matches in which combat is one-on-one, but a character may leave the arena to be replaced by a teammate. Some fighting games have also offered the challenge of fighting against multiple opponents in succession, testing the player's endurance. Newer titles take advantage of online gaming services, although lag created by slow data transmission can disrupt the split-second timing involved in fighting games. The impact of lag in some fighting games has been reduced by using technology such as GGPO, which keeps the players' games in sync by quickly rolling back to the most recent accurate game state, correcting errors, and then jumping back to the current frame. Games using this technology include Skullgirls and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition.
Fighting games find their origins in martial arts films, especially Bruce Lee's Hong Kong martial arts films which featured concepts that would be foundational to fighting games. These include Game of Death (1972), which had Lee fighting a series of bosses, and Enter the Dragon (1973), which was about an international martial arts tournament. The genre also drew inspiration from Japanese martial arts works, including the manga and anime series Karate Master (1971–1977), as well as Sonny Chiba's The Street Fighter (1974).
The earliest video games which involved fist-fighting were boxing games, before martial arts fighting games later emerged, featuring battles between characters with fantastic abilities and complex special maneuvers. Sega's black-and-white boxing game Heavyweight Champ, released for arcades in 1976, is considered the first video game to feature fist fighting. Vectorbeam's arcade video game Warrior (1979) is another title sometimes credited as one of the first fighting games; in contrast to Heavyweight Champ and most later titles, Warrior was based on sword fighting duels and used a bird's-eye view. Sega's jidaigeki-themed arcade action game Samurai, released in March 1980, featured a boss battle where the samurai player character confronts a boss samurai in one-on-one sword-fighting combat.
One-on-one boxing games appeared on consoles with Activision's Atari VCS game Boxing, released in July 1980, and Sega's SG-1000 game Champion Boxing (1983), which was Yu Suzuki's debut title at Sega. Nintendo's arcade game Punch-Out, developed in 1983 and released in February 1984, was a boxing game that featured a behind-the-character perspective, maneuvers such as blocking and dodging, and stamina meters that deplete when getting hit and replenish with successful strikes.
Karate Champ, developed by Technōs Japan and released by Data East in May 1984, is credited with establishing and popularizing the one-on-one fighting game genre. A variety of moves could be performed using the dual-joystick controls. It used a best-of-three matches format like later fighting games, and it featured training bonus stages. The Player vs Player edition of Karate Champ, released later the same year, was also the first fighting game to allow two players to fight each other. It went on to influence Konami's Yie Ar Kung Fu, released in October 1984. The game drew heavily from Bruce Lee films, with the main player character Oolong modelled after Lee (like in Bruceploitation films). In contrast to the grounded realism of Karate Champ, Yie Ar Kung-Fu moved the genre towards more fantastical, fast-paced action with a variety of special moves and high jumps, establishing the template for subsequent fighting games. It expanded on Karate Champ by pitting the player against a variety of opponents, each with a unique appearance and fighting style. The player could also perform up to sixteen different moves, including projectile attacks, and it replaced the point-scoring system of Karate Champ with a health meter system, becoming the standard for the genre.
Irem's Kung-Fu Master, designed by Takashi Nishiyama and released in November 1984, was a side-scrolling beat 'em up that, at the end of each level, featured one-on-one boss battles that resemble fighting games. It was based on Hong Kong martial arts films, specifically Jackie Chan's Wheels on Meals (1984) and Bruce Lee's Game of Death. Nishiyama later used its one-on-one boss battles as the basis for his fighting game Street Fighter. Nintendo's boxing sequel Super Punch-Out, released for arcades in late 1984 and ported by Elite to home computers as Frank Bruno's Boxing in 1985, featured martial arts elements, high and low guarding, ducking, lateral dodging, and a KO meter. This meter is built up with successful attacks and, when full, enables a special, more powerful punch to be thrown. Broderbund's Karateka, designed by Jordan Mechner and released at the end of 1984, was a one-on-one fighting game for home computers that successfully added plot to its fighting action, like the beat 'em up Kung-Fu Master.
By early 1985, martial arts games had become popular in arcades. On home computers, the Japanese MSX version of Yie Ar Kung-Fu was released in January 1985, and Beam Software's The Way of the Exploding Fist was released for PAL regions in May 1985; The Way of the Exploding Fist borrowed heavily from Karate Champ, but nevertheless achieved critical success and afforded the burgeoning genre further popularity on home computers in PAL regions, becoming the UK's best-selling computer game of 1985. In North America, Data East ported Karate Champ to home computers in October 1985, becoming one of the best-selling computer games of the late 1980s. Other game developers also imitated Karate Champ, notably System 3's computer game International Karate, released in Europe in November 1985; after Epyx released it in North America in April 1986, Data East took unsuccessful legal action against Epyx over the game. Yie Ar Kung-Fu went on to become the UK's best-selling computer game of 1986, the second year in a row for fighting games. The same year, Martech's Uchi Mata for home computers featured novel controller motions for grappling maneuvers, but they were deemed too difficult.
In the late 1980s, side-scrolling beat 'em ups became considerably more popular than one-on-one fighting games, with many arcade game developers focused more on producing beat 'em ups and shoot 'em ups. Takashi Nishiyama used the one-on-one boss battles of his earlier beat 'em up Kung-Fu Master as the template for Capcom's fighting game Street Fighter, combined with elements of Karate Champ and Yie Ar Kung Fu. Street Fighter found its own niche in the gaming world, which was dominated by beat 'em ups and shoot 'em ups at the time. Part of the game's appeal was the use of special moves that could only be discovered by experimenting with the game controls, which created a sense of mystique and invited players to practice the game. Following Street Fighter's lead, the use of command-based hidden moves began to pervade other games in the rising fighting game genre. Street Fighter also introduced other staples of the genre, including the blocking technique, as well as the ability for a challenger to jump in and initiate a match against a player at any time. The game also introduced pressure-sensitive controls that determine the strength of an attack, though due to causing damaged arcade cabinets, Capcom replaced it soon after with a six-button control scheme offering light, medium, and hard punches and kicks, which became another staple of the genre.
In 1988, Home Data released Reikai Dōshi: Chinese Exorcist, also known as Last Apostle Puppet Show, the first fighting game to use digitized sprites and motion capture animation. Meanwhile, home game consoles largely ignored the genre. Budokan: The Martial Spirit was one of the few releases for the Sega Genesis, but was not as popular as games in other genres. Technical challenges limited the popularity of early fighting games. Programmers had difficulty producing a game that could recognize the fast motions of a joystick, and so players had difficulty executing special moves with any accuracy.
The release of Street Fighter II in 1991 is considered a revolutionary moment in the fighting game genre. Yoshiki Okamoto's team developed the most accurate joystick and button scanning routine in the genre thus far. This allowed players to reliably execute multi-button special moves, which had previously required an element of luck. The graphics took advantage of Capcom's CPS arcade chipset, with highly detailed characters and stages. Whereas previous games allowed players to combat a variety of computer-controlled fighters, Street Fighter II allowed players to play against each other. The popularity of Street Fighter II surprised the gaming industry, as arcade owners bought more machines to keep up with demand. Street Fighter II was also responsible for popularizing the combo mechanic, which came about when skilled players learned that they could combine several attacks that left no time for the opponent to recover if they timed them correctly. Its success led to fighting games becoming the dominant genre in the arcade game industry of the early 1990s, which led to a resurgence of the arcade game industry. The popularity of Street Fighter II led it to be released for home game consoles and becoming the defining template for fighting games.
SNK released Fatal Fury shortly after Street Fighter II in 1991. It was designed by Takashi Nishiyama, the creator of the original Street Fighter, which it was envisioned as a spiritual successor to. Fatal Fury placed more emphasis on storytelling and the timing of special moves, and added a two-plane system where characters could step into the foreground or background. Meanwhile, Sega experimented with Dark Edge, an early attempt at a 3D fighting game where characters could move in all directions. However, Sega never released the game outside Japan because it felt that "unrestrained" 3D fighting games were unenjoyable. Sega also attempted to introduce holographic 3D technology to the genre with Holosseum in 1992, though it was unsuccessful. Several fighting games achieved commercial success, including SNK's Art of Fighting and Samurai Shodown as well as Sega's Eternal Champions. Nevertheless, Street Fighter II remained the most popular, spawning a Champion Edition that improved game balance and allowed players to use boss characters that were unselectable in the previous version.
Chicago's Midway Games achieved unprecedented notoriety when they released Mortal Kombat in 1992. The game featured digital characters drawn from real actors, numerous secrets, and "Fatality" finishing maneuvers in which the player's character kills their opponent. The game earned a reputation for its gratuitous violence, and was adapted for home game consoles. The home version of Mortal Kombat was released on September 13, 1993, a day promoted as "Mortal Monday". The advertising resulted in line-ups to purchase the game and a subsequent backlash from politicians concerned about the game's violence. The Mortal Kombat franchise would achieve iconic status similar to that of Street Fighter with several sequels as well as movies, television series, and extensive merchandising. Numerous other game developers tried to imitate Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat's financial success with similar games; Capcom USA took unsuccessful legal action against Data East over the 1993 arcade game Fighter's History. Data East's largest objection in court was that their 1984 arcade game Karate Champ was the true originator of the competitive fighting game genre, which predated the original Street Fighter by three years, but the reason the case was decided against Capcom was that the copied elements were scènes à faire and thus excluded from copyright.
Sega AM2's first attempt in the genre was the 1993 arcade game Burning Rival, but they gained renown with the release of Virtua Fighter for the same platform the same year. It was the first fighting game with 3D polygon graphics and a viewpoint that zoomed and rotated with the action. Despite the graphics, players were confined to back and forth motion as seen in other fighting games. With only three buttons, it was easier to learn than Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, which had six and five buttons respectively. By the time the game was released for the Sega Saturn in Japan, the game and system were selling at almost a one-to-one ratio.
The 1995 PlayStation title Battle Arena Toshinden is credited for taking the genre into "true 3D" due to its introduction of the sidestep maneuver, which IGN described as "one little move" that "changed the fighter forever." The same year, SNK released The King of Fighters '94 in arcades, where players choose from teams of three characters to eliminate each other one by one. Eventually, Capcom released further updates to Street Fighter II, including Super Street Fighter II and Super Street Fighter II Turbo. These games featured more characters and new moves, some of which were a response to people who had hacked the original Street Fighter II game to add new features themselves. However, criticism of these updates grew as players demanded a true sequel. By 1995, the dominant franchises were the Mortal Kombat series in America and the Virtua Fighter series in Japan, with Street Fighter Alpha unable to match the popularity of Street Fighter II. Throughout this period, the fighting game was the dominant genre in competitive video gaming, with enthusiasts popularly attending arcades in order to find human opponents. The genre was also very popular on home consoles. At the beginning of 1996, GamePro (a magazine devoted chiefly to home console and handheld gaming) reported that for the last several years, their reader surveys had consistently seen 4 out of 5 respondents name fighting games as their favorite genre.
In the late 1990s, traditional 2D fighting games began to decline in popularity, with specific franchises falling into difficulty. Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded the excess of fighting games the "Most Appalling Trend" award of 1995. Although the release of Street Fighter EX introduced 3D graphics to the series, both it and Street Fighter: The Movie flopped in arcades. While a home video game also titled Street Fighter: The Movie was released for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn, it was not a port, but a separately produced game based on the same premise. Capcom released Street Fighter III in 1997 which featured improved 2D visuals, but was also unable to match the impact of earlier games. Excitement stirred in Japan over Virtua Fighter 3 in arcades, and Sega eventually ported the game to its Dreamcast console. Meanwhile, SNK released several fighting games on their Neo Geo platform, including Samurai Shodown II in 1994, Real Bout Fatal Fury in 1995, The Last Blade in 1997, and annual updates to their The King of Fighters franchise. Garou: Mark of the Wolves from 1999 (part of the Fatal Fury series) was considered one of SNK's last great games; the company announced that it would close its doors in late 2001. Electronic Gaming Monthly reported that in 1996, U.S. gamers spent nearly $150 million on current generation fighting games, and in Japan, fighting games accounted for over 80% of video game sales.
The fighting game genre continued to evolve, with several strong 3D fighting games emerging in the late 1990s. Namco's Tekken (released in arcades in 1994 and on the PlayStation in 1995) proved critical to the PlayStation's early success, with its sequels also becoming some of the console's most important titles. The Soul series of weapon-based fighting games also achieved considerable critical success, beginning with 1995's Soul Edge (known as Soul Blade outside Japan) to Soulcalibur VI in 2018. Tecmo released Dead or Alive in the arcades in 1996, porting it for the PlayStation in 1998. It spawned a long-running franchise, known for its fast-paced control system, innovative counterattacks, and environmental hazards. The series again included titles important to the success of their respective consoles, such as Dead or Alive 3 for the Xbox and Dead or Alive 4 for the Xbox 360. In 1998, Bushido Blade, published by Square, introduced a realistic fighting engine that featured three-dimensional environments while abandoning time limits and health bars in favour of an innovative Body Damage System, where a sword strike to a certain body part can amputate a limb or decapitate the head.
Video game enthusiasts took an interest in fictional crossovers, which feature characters from multiple franchises in a particular game. An early example of this type of fighting game was the 1996 arcade release X-Men vs. Street Fighter (which later became the Marvel vs. Capcom series), featuring comic book superheroes as well as characters from other Capcom games. In 1999, Nintendo released the first game in the Super Smash Bros. series, which allowed match-ups from various franchises, such as Pikachu vs. Mario.
In the early 2000s, the fighting games boom turned to bust. In retrospect, multiple developers attribute the decline of the fighting genre to its increasing complexity and specialization, as well as other factors such as over-saturation. This complexity shut out casual players, and the market for fighting games became smaller and more specialized. Even as far back as 1997, many in the industry said that the fighting game market's growing inaccessibility to newcomers was bringing an end to the genre's dominance. Furthermore, arcades gradually became less profitable throughout the late 1990s to early 2000s due to the increased technical power and popularity of home consoles. The early 2000s is considered to be the "Dark Age" of fighting games.
In 2000, Italian studio NAPS team released Gekido for the PlayStation console, which uses a fast-paced beat 'em up system, with many bosses and a colorful design in terms of graphics. Several more fighting game crossovers were released in the new millennium. The two most prolific developers of 2D fighting games, Capcom and SNK, combined intellectual property to produce SNK vs. Capcom games. SNK released the first game of this type, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium, for its Neo Geo Pocket Color handheld at the end of 1999. GameSpot regarded the game as "perhaps the most highly anticipated fighter ever" and called it the best fighting game ever to be released for a handheld console. Capcom released Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 for arcades and the Dreamcast in 2000, followed by sequels in subsequent years. Though none matched the critical success of the handheld version, Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO was noted as the first game of the genre to successfully utilize internet competition. Other crossovers from 2008 included Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. The most successful crossover, however, was Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii. Featuring characters from Nintendo and third-party franchises, the game was a runaway commercial success in addition to being lavished with critical praise.
In the new millennium, fighting games became less popular and plentiful than in the mid-1990s, with multiplayer competition shifting towards other genres. However, SNK reappeared in 2003 as SNK Playmore and continued to release games. Arc System Works received critical acclaim for releasing Guilty Gear X in 2001, as well as its sequel Guilty Gear XX, as both were 2D fighting games featuring striking anime-inspired graphics. Fighting games became a popular genre for amateur and doujin developers in Japan. The 2002 title Melty Blood was developed by then-amateur developer French Bread and achieved cult success on the PC. It became highly popular in arcades following its 2005 release, and a version was released for the PlayStation 2 the following year. While the genre became generally far less popular than it once was, arcades and their attendant fighting games remained reasonably popular in Japan in this time period, and remain so even today. Virtua Fighter 5 lacked an online mode, but still achieved success both on home consoles and in arcades; players practiced at home and went to arcades to compete face-to-face with opponents. In addition to Virtua Fighter, the Tekken, Soul and Dead or Alive franchises continued to release installments. Classic Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games were re-released on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, allowing internet play, and in some cases, HD graphics.
The early part of the decade had seen the rise of major international fighting game tournaments such as Tougeki – Super Battle Opera and Evolution Championship Series, and famous players such as Daigo Umehara. An important fighting game at the time was Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, originally released in 1999. The game gained significant attention with "Evo Moment 37", also known as the "Daigo Parry", which refers to a portion of a 3rd Strike semi-final match held at Evolution Championship Series 2004 (Evo 2004) between Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong. During this match, Umehara made an unexpected comeback by parrying 15 consecutive hits of Wong's "Super Art" move while having only one pixel on his health bar. Umehara subsequently won the match. "Evo Moment #37" is frequently described as the most iconic and memorable moment in the history of competitive video gaming, compared to sports moments such as Babe Ruth's called shot and the Miracle on Ice. It inspired many to start playing 3rd Strike, which brought new life into the fighting game community during a time when the community was in a state of stagnation.
Street Fighter IV, the series' first mainline title since Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike in 1999, was released in early 2009 to critical acclaim, having garnered praise since its release at Japanese arcades in 2008. The console versions of Street Fighter IV, as well as the updated Super Street Fighter IV, sold more than 6 million copies over the next few years. Street Fighter's successful revival sparked a renaissance for the genre, introducing new players to the genre and with the increased audience allowing other fighting game franchises to achieve successful revivals of their own, as well as increasing tournament participance. Tekken 6 was positively received, selling more than 3 million copies worldwide as of August 6, 2010. Other successful titles that followed include Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, The King of Fighters XIII, Dead or Alive 5, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, SoulCalibur V, and Guilty Gear Xrd. Despite the critically acclaimed Virtua Fighter 5 releasing to very little fanfare in 2007, its update Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown received much more attention due to renewed interest in the genre.
Numerous indie fighting games have also been crowdfunded on websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the most notable success being Skullgirls in 2012. Later, in 2019, Ubisoft reported that the free-to-play platform fighting game Brawlhalla reached 20 million players, with it climbing to 80 million by 2022.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch in 2018 is the best-selling fighting game of all time, topping its Wii predecessor Super Smash Bros. Brawl, having sold 31.77 million copies worldwide.
The following are the highest-grossing fighting game franchises, in terms of total gross revenue generated by arcade games, console games and computer games.
|Rank||Franchise||Debut||Creator(s)||Owner||Gross revenue||Subgenre||As of||Ref|
|1||Street Fighter||1987||Takashi Nishiyama
|2||Mortal Kombat||1992||Ed Boon
|Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment||$5.054 billion
(including other media)
The following are the best-selling fighting arcade video game franchises that have sold at least 10,000 arcade units. The prices of fighting game arcade units ranged from $1,300 (equivalent to $2,700 in 2022) for Street Fighter II Dash (Champion Edition) in 1992, up to $21,000 (equivalent to $43,000 in 2022) for Virtua Fighter (1993). In addition to unit sales, arcade games typically earned the majority of their gross revenue from coin drop earnings.
|Rank||Franchise||Debut||Creator(s)||Owner||Arcade unit sales||Subgenre||As of||Ref|
|1||Street Fighter||1987||Takashi Nishiyama
|2||Virtua Fighter||1993||Yu Suzuki
|Bandai Namco Entertainment||94,000+||3D||2000||[b]|
|4||Mortal Kombat||1992||Ed Boon
|Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment||51,000+||2D||2002|||
The following are the best-selling fighting game franchises for home systems, having sold at least 10 million software units for game consoles and personal computers.
|Rank||Franchise||Debut||Creator(s)||Owner(s)||Software sales||Subgenre||As of||Ref|
|1||Mortal Kombat||1992||Ed Boon
|Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment||80 million||2D||October 2022|||
|2||Super Smash Bros.||1999||Masahiro Sakurai
|Nintendo||75.84 million||Platform||June 2023||[c]|
|Bandai Namco Entertainment||54.5 million||3D||December 2022|||
|4||Street Fighter||1987||Takashi Nishiyama
|Capcom||50 million||2D||June 2023|||
|5||Naruto: Ultimate Ninja||2003||Masashi Kishimoto (manga)
|Bandai Namco Entertainment||28.11 million||Arena||March 2022|||
|Bandai Namco Entertainment||17 million||Weapon-based||July 2021|||
|7||Marvel vs. Capcom||1996||Akira Yasuda
|10 million||2D||September 2021|||
The following titles are the top ten best-selling fighting arcade video games, in terms of arcade units sold. The prices of fighting game arcade units ranged from $1,300 (equivalent to $2,700 in 2022) for Street Fighter II Dash (Champion Edition) in 1992, up to $21,000 (equivalent to $43,000 in 2022) for Virtua Fighter (1993). In addition to unit sales, arcade games typically earned the majority of their gross revenue from coin drop earnings, which are unknown for most games. Arcade revenue figures, from unit sales and coin drop earnings, are listed if known.
|Rank||Title||Release||Developer||Manufacturer||Arcade unit sales||Gross revenue||Inflation||Subgenre||Ref|
|1||Street Fighter II||1991||Capcom||Capcom||221,000+||$5.31 billion+||$11.4 billion||2D||[d]|
|2||Virtua Fighter||1993||Sega AM2||Sega||40,000+||Unknown||Unknown||3D|||
|Virtua Fighter 2||1994||Sega AM2||Sega||40,000+||Unknown||Unknown||3D|||
|6||Karate Champ||1984||Technōs Japan||Data East||30,000+||Unknown||Unknown||2D|||
|7||Virtua Fighter 3||1996||Sega AM2||Sega||30,000||Unknown||Unknown||3D|||
|9||Mortal Kombat II||1993||Midway Games||Midway Games||27,000||$600 million||$1.22 billion||2D|||
|10||Mortal Kombat||1992||Midway Games||Midway Games||24,000||$570 million||$1.19 billion||2D|||
|Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors||1994||Capcom||Capcom||24,000||Unknown||Unknown||2D|||
The following titles are the top ten best-selling fighting games for home systems, in terms of software units sold for game consoles and personal computers.
|1||Super Smash Bros. Ultimate||2018||Bandai Namco Studios
|2||Street Fighter II||1992||Capcom||Capcom||Multi-platform||15.5 million||2D|||
|3||Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U||2014||Bandai Namco Studios
|Nintendo||3DS, Wii U||15.01 million||Platform|||
|4||Mortal Kombat 11||2019||NetherRealm Studios||Warner Bros.||Multi-platform||15 million||2.5D|||
|5||Super Smash Bros. Brawl||2008||Sora Ltd.||Nintendo||Wii||13.32 million||Platform|||
|6||Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4||2016||CyberConnect2||Bandai Namco||Multi-platform||11.88 million||Arena|||
|7||Mortal Kombat X||2015||NetherRealm Studios||Warner Bros.||PS4, XB1, PC||11 million||2.5D|||
|8||Tekken 7||2017||Bandai Namco Studios||Bandai Namco||Multi-platform||10 million||3D|||
|9||Street Fighter IV||2009||Capcom
|Capcom||PS3, X360, PC, 3DS||9.3 million||2.5D||[e]|
|10||Tekken 3||1998||Namco||Namco||PS1||8.36 million||3D|||
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[Combos] became the base for future fighting titles
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Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition will be using GGPO netcode ...
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When Street Fighter II' (pronounced street fighter two dash) was released just a short time later, it sold around 140,000 units, at ¥160.000 (c. US $1300 / £820) each. The figures were beyond massive — they were simply unheard of. Capcom's Titanic wasn't sinking. Anything but. The game was a runaway success in its territory of choice, bringing Western gamers as much joy as it had in the East.
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