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220px-Heavyweight Champ screenshot

Heavyweight Champ (1976) noted as the first fighting game

Fighting games are a type of action game where two 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 to three-dimensional graphics.

Game design[]


Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S: Jougai Rantou!? Shuyaku Soudatsusen (1994)

Fighting games involve combat between pairs of fighters using highly exaggerated martial arts moves. They typically revolve around primarily 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 allow players to move between parallel planes of movement. Recent games tend to be rendered in three dimensions and allow side-stepping, 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, often by trial and error. 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. In addition to blows such as punches and kicks, players can utilize throwing or "grappling" to circumvent "blocks". 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 rock–paper–scissors.

Special attacks[]

An integral feature of fighting games includes the use of "special attacks" that employ complex combinations of button presses to perform a particular move beyond basic punching and kicking.


Injustice (2013)

Combos, in which several attacks are chained together into strings using basic punches and kicks, are another common feature in fighting games and have been fundamental to the genre since the release of Street Fighter II.

Some fighting games display a "combo meter" that displays the player's progress through a combo. The effectiveness of such moves often relate to the difficulty of execution and the degree of risk. These moves are often beyond the ability of a casual gamer and require a player to have both a strong memory and excellent timing.

For open up opportunities, a player can Cancel his own combo. Cancelling (or interrupting), means that the player can break out of a current animation (like a jump) or move by inputting another move that cancels the previous one. Cancelling can give the players more opportunities for combos that would normally be impossible otherwise.

Taunting is another feature of some fighting games, it is used to add humor to games, but can also have an effect on gameplay such as improving the strength of other attacks.

Matches and rounds[]

Fighting game matches generally consist of several rounds (typically "best of three"); the player who wins the most rounds wins the match. Fighting games widely feature life bars, which are depleted as characters sustain blows. Each successful attack will deplete a character's health, and the game continues until a fighter's energy reaches zero. Hence, the main goal is to completely deplete the life bar of one's opponent, thus achieving a "knockout".

Somes games also allow a character to be defeated by forcing them outside of the fighting arena, awarding a "ring-out" to the victor.

Round decisions can also be determined by time over (if a timer is present), which judges players based on remaining vitality to declare a winner.

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.

Character selection[]


Dead or Alive 6 (2018)

In most fighting games, players may select from a variety of characters who have unique fighting styles and special moves. This became a strong convention for the genre and these character choices have led to deeper game strategy and replay value.

Although fighting games offer female characters, their image tends to be hypersexualized, in many games they also exhibit exaggerated "breast physics". Male characters in fighting games tend to have extra-broad chests and shoulders, huge muscles, and prominent jaws.

Custom creation, or "create–a–fighter", is a feature of some fighting games which allows a player to customize the appearance and move set of their own character.

In the fighting game community, players tends to compare characters against each other, and put together math to form tier lists which showed which characters had more favorable match-ups than others and ranking all the characters in the game next to each other. Basically, what characters to respectively pick or avoid in tournaments due to their relative strength. The community named a game balanced if its fighters are near of each other into the tier lists, developer are even using patch for balancing a game when the difference of ranking it is too important between characters. Yet, some game deliberately have made some fighters overpowered to help casual players or as a price for finish the game (like a boss fighters).

Character archetypes[]

Fighting games have developed multiple type of fighting characters, resulting in the apparition of some patterns into the movesets of the characters and the strategy to adopt with them. A regular fighter corresponds to multiple type of fighting, they have rarely one type.

Neutral - This kind of fighter excels at mid-range battles. Footsies (close-up combat) and spacing are their specialty and they usually start their offense through whiff punishing.

Rushdown - A rushdown character can 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.

Turtle - This characters play on a defensive style that focuses on patience, positioning, timing, and relatively safe attack options. He can be used to force an opponent into making punishable mistakes while minimizing the damage one takes. They are especially efficient when they are combined with the Zoning type when they are able to both maintain the pressure and stay out of harm's way.

Zoning - This fighters excel at long-range battles. They are vulnerable to close quarters combat. Their moveset helps them to keep the opponent away through either their versatile projectile or long-ranged normal attacks.

Mix-up - A type of character which uses mobility and unpredictable movesets to confuse the opponent and make them vulnerable against your attack. Usual methods of offense include cross-ups and dash unders.

Grappler - A character which utilizes powerful strikes and throws for huge damage, as the latter cannot be blocked. The downside is that they require extreme patience especially against the zoning type. They have a few windows of opportunity to attack so every offense should count.

Multiplayer modes[]

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. A few titles allow up to four players to compete simultaneously.

Several games have also 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.


Late 1970s to early 1990s[]

220px-Karate Champ flyer

Karate Champ (1984)

Fighting games find their origin in boxing games but evolved towards battles between characters with fantastic abilities and complex special maneuvers. Sega's Heavyweight Champ (1976) is considered the first video game to feature fist fighting. However, Data East and its related developer Technōs Japan's Karate Champ (1984) is credited with establishing and popularizing the one-on-one fighting game genre. In it, 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. It went on to influence Konami's Yie Ar Kung Fu (1985), which expanded on Karate Champ by pitting the player against a variety of opponents, each with a unique appearance and fighting style. Also in 1985, Elite's Frank Bruno's Boxing introduced high and low guard, ducking, lateral dodging, and a meter which was built up with successful attacks, and when full enabled a special, more powerful punch, to be thrown.

Capcom's Street Fighter found its own niche in the gaming world, partially because many arcade game developers in the 1980s focused more on producing beat-em-ups and shoot 'em ups. 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. 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.

Early 1990s[]

Street Fighter II Japanese flyer

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991)

The release of Street Fighter II (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. The popularity of Street Fighter II led it to be released for home game consoles and allowed it to define the template for fighting games. 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.

SNK released Fatal Fury (1991). 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. Sega also attempted to introduced 3-D holographic technology to the genre with Holosseum (1992), though it was unsuccessful. Fighting games soon became the dominant genre in the arcade game industry of the early 1990s.


Mortal Kombat (1992)

Chicago's Midway Games achieved unprecedented notoriety when they released Mortal Kombat (1992). The game featured numerous secrets and a "Fatality" system of finishing maneuvers with which the player's character kills their opponent. The game earned a reputation for its gratuitous violence. The Mortal Kombat franchise would achieve iconic status similar to that of Street Fighter.

Sega AM2 gained renown with the release of Virtua Fighter (1993). 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.

The 1994 PlayStation launch title Battle Arena Toshinden is credited for taking the genre into "true 3-D" 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. 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.

Late 1990s[]

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Super Smash Bros (1999)

In the latter part of the 1990s, the fighting game genre began to decline in popularity, with specific franchises falling into difficulty. Capcom later released Street Fighter III (1997) which featured improved visuals and character depth, but was also unable to match the impact of Street Fighter II. Meanwhile, SNK released several fighting games on their Neo-Geo platform, Garou: Mark of the Wolves from 1999 (part of the Fatal Fury series) was considered one of SNK's last great games, and the company announced that it would close its doors in 2001.

In retrospect, multiple developers attribute the decline of the fighting genre to its increasing complexity and specialization. This complexity shut out casual players, and the market for fighting games became smaller and more specialized. Furthermore, arcades gradually became less profitable throughout the 1990s due to the increased technical power and popularity of home consoles.

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Tekken (1994)

Even as popularity dwindled, the fighting game genre continued to evolve; several strong 3D fighting games also emerged in the late 1990s. Namco's Tekken (1994) proved critical to the PlayStation's early success, with its sequels also becoming some of the console's most important titles. The Soul Calibure series of weapon-based fighting games also achieved considerable critical success. Tecmo released Dead or Alive (1996), it spawned a long running franchise, known for its fast-paced control system and innovative counterattacks. 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 was Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes (1998), 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.



Guilty Gear X (2000)

The early part of the decade saw 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. 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 like Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO noted as the first game of the genre to successfully utilize internet competition.

In the new millennium, fighting games became less popular and plentiful than in the mid-1990s, with multiplayer competition shifting towards other genres. However, Arc System Works received critical acclaim for releasing Guilty Gear X (2001), a 2D fighting games featuring striking anime inspired graphics. The fighting game is currently a popular genre for amateur and doujin developers in Japan. In addition to Virtua Fighter and Tekken, the 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.



Skullgirls (2012)

Street Fighter IV was released in early 2009 to critical acclaim. The console versions of the game as well as Super Street Fighter IV sold more than 6 million copies in total. 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 (2009) was positively received, selling more than 3 million copies worldwide. Other successful titles that followed include new instalment for existing franchises like Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs. Capcom, The King of Fighters, Dead or Alive, SoulCalibur, Super Smash Bros., Killer Instinct, Guilty Gear and Samurai Showdown but also the introduction of new series like Under Night In-Birth (2012), Injustice: God Among Us (2013) or Dragon Ball FighterZ (2018).

Numerous indie fighting games have also been crowdfunded on websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the most notable success being Skullgirls (2012).

The Community[]

With the huge success of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, the fighting game genre became really popular. Many people played this game at their local arcades, this spurred competition among many players and the Fighting Game Community slowly started to take shape. Although there were tournaments for fighting games, the tournaments were obscure and had insular events.


EVO 2017

In the early 2000s due to the rise of streaming media websites like YouTube, the internet starting to affect the Fighting Game Community. The site became the main go to forum for many fighting game competitors and it quickly attracted the community to create major tournaments like The Evolution Championship Series.

With the released of Street Fighter IV, the game brought life back into the community by not only rejuvenating the popularity of fighting games, after a decade of decreased of the genre, but it also created an influx of new players into the community and increased the number of competitors. New fighting games began being developed and the community expanded with more tournaments. The tournaments even started being live-streamed with Twitch. There are also sponsor-ships from franchises which pays players for free advertisement.

With the rise of other competitive video game genres (Real-time strategy, First-person shooter, Multiplayer online battle arena), the fighting game starting to be cited as eSports (Electronic Sports) but many members of the community have rejected this label.

The overall size of the community remains a very small proportion of the fighting game market overall. Some of the genre's biggest selling games have sold in excess of 5 million copies. In contrast, the same games might only attract 1,000-2,000 entrants at a large tournament. Typically some 20-30% of players fight online.


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