Few things can measure up to the competitive joy of an adrenaline-pumped match between you and your friend. Whether it’s due to complex combos to master, great feeling of power through flashy blows, kicks, and punches, or the imaginative, sometimes very iconic characters, Fighting games are a pinnacle of multiplayer fun.
With that in mind, We’ve compiled a solid list of the best fighting games available in the industry. I tried to strike a careful balance between those with high skill ceiling and those more approachable to the newcomer. Due to the popularity of martial arts-based combat in storytelling in general, these games also often involve known characters from the popular movie or comic book series. So a part of the idea is taking the reigns of your favorite characters and putting them in hypothetical scenarios you wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise.
Best PC Fighting Games
So let’s take a look at our selection of champions!
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
|Developer:||Arc System Works|
Cross-overs are a dime a dozen in the world of fighting games, but they are rarely as bold as that in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, a game whose very title reveals it’s premise. Guest starring in BBCTG come characters from franchises such as RWBY, Persona, or Senran Kagura. The storylines does its best to justify the crossover, and thanks to the power of anime, it mostly manages the act.
Like all fighting games from Arc System Works, Cross Tag Battle is a slick, 2D title with fast, crisp, technical gameplay which is likely to appeal to genre veterans. It also features the eponymous tag-in system for extending combos. Despite ASW’s experience being mostly in 1v1 fighting games, they had enough experience in the genre to make the game work really well.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
|Genre:||Action RPG, fighting|
Kakarot mixes action RPG with a fighting game to show you the life of a goof known to most as Son Goku, even though his birth name was Kakarot, hence the game title. You’ll spend a lot of time running around engaging in the typical action RPG activities draped in Dragon Ball vestments, but then you’ll face an iconic battle and the game turns into a flurry of combos and supers.
Along the way you’ll play more characters than just Goku, even though he’ll remain the main star of the game, and you’ll get to use their abilities in a three-dimensional space. Oddly enough, it’s a rare one-player fighting game, focusing the genre’s aspects predominantly into solo boss battles, a relatively novel, but effective approach.
For Honor doesn’t look like a fighting game, but it certainly qualifies as one, especially when nobody butts into a tense duel you’re having with the opposing faction. You have four factions, inspired roughly various warrior types drawn from Europe and Asia, each with a different playstyle and moveset, and you need to be on your toes, because fights get technical fast.
The core of the combat system lies in the direction triangle. Whether in defence or attack, you have to pick one of three sides: up, left, or right. If the defence direction is the same as the attack direction, the hit is deflected. But then a million variables, like special attacks and various quirks come into play, turning a simple game of reflexes and perception into a deeply technical one.
|Genre:||Beat ’em up, party, fighting|
In opposition to the serious, demanding games for serious people, Gang Beasts is floppy, colourful, and generally uninterested in being serious. It has a lot of interest, however, in letting you have your character flail around wildly, and perhaps pick up an enemy and throw them off a speeding truck. It’s not necessarily a fighting game for a tournament, but it is one for a party.
There isn’t much to write about, really, other than that the game can be really amusing if you’re playing them with a good group. Each player controls a character that is seemingly made of jelly shaped into a vaguely humanoid form. The one thing that isn’t flopping about messily, are the arenas, which feature many deadly ways of dealing with your enemies, such as blazing furnaces.
Weekly Shōnen Jump is an incredibly popular publication delivering a dose of new shōnen manga chapters every week. Jump Force is a fighting game which brings the heroes (and villains) from the WSJ series together in “real world” for a multiverse smackdown. If you’ve always wanted to throw Uchiha Sasuke against Goku or see how Monkey D. Luffy fares against Kenshiro, you can!
Even if these names mean nothing to you and you’re only in for a neat fighting game that’s not as dark and edgy as your Mortal Kombats and your Infamouses, Jump Force delivers. The decently-sized roster draws from many different series, and the storyline involves a lot of high-concept mumbo jumbo that does a decent, and suitable “manga-esque” job explaining what’s going on.
The King Of Fighters XIV
The King of the Fighters series has some pedigree, the first instalment dating back to 1994. The most recent release at the time of writing is The King of Fighters XIV from 2016, a 2.5D fighting game benefitting from the developers’ experience gathered over the years. Although TKotF doesn’t have many characters recognisable to broader audience, the large roster will let you find a favourite.
The core gameplay are battles between team of three fighters in a tag-team setup. The big change is the introduction of the Rush mechanics, which makes the game less prohibitive for the genre beginners. It allows them to unleash advanced moves easier at the cost of their full damage potential, a pretty fair trade-off that doesn’t take away from mechanical depth for the veterans.
Rivals of Aether
Rivals of Aether looks quite cool, featuring various types of elementally-charged animalistic fighters. Fire-fisted lions, wind-dancing birds and more await you in this pixel-art based merge of Avatar: the Last Airbender and Thundercats. On top of that, although it looks friendly and simple, it’s still a really good fighting game, inspired mostly by the Super Smash Bros.
RoA also is quite welcoming to guest appearances from other franchises. Not to the level of, say, Mortal Kombat, but you could play as Ori (without the Blind Forest) or Shovel Knight, in addition to a dozen fighters more native to RoA’s setting and representing different species and fighting styles. There’s even a story mode delving into the backstories of characters.
There aren’t great many properly 2D fighting games around, but that hadn’t discouraged the creators of Skullgirls, a stylish game in the style described as “Dark Deco”. The fighters are very well designed, in a way that emphasises their themes and personality, and the high-definition, hand drawn graphics look wonderful both in screenshots and, more importantly, in motion.
Like a few other games on the list, Skullgirls is fairly accessible if you’re not a fighting game veteran, but if you’re a seasoned fighter, then you’ll have plenty of reason to count frames and devise counters. You won’t, however, be likely to deliver infinite combos, as the game wears is as a badge of honour in its very Steam description that it took precautions against them.
Stick Fight falls in a category similar to that of Gang Beasts. The characters, if we can called them that, even move in a similar floppy, uncoordinated way, even though they look more like humans than humanoid bags of jelly. It’s very much a physics-based game, which makes for a lot on unscripted silliness and a bit a challenge on many arenas such as a box-filled warehouse.
Certainly, the comedic nature of the game make it suitable for a party more than a serious game with serious people and serious stakes. However, if you have an oddly specific craving for a bunch of stick figures trying to fight on a collapsing pile of boxes, or easily destructible ice platforms, look no further than Stick Fight. It’s silly, kinetic, and a great option for up to four players.
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary is a rare treat of a package. It contains The original Street Fighter game from 1987, as well as six editions of SFII, three instalments Street Fighter Alpha, and three of SFIII. Twelve games total, a large dose of the absolute classics of the fighting gamer genre, with the fundamental Street Fighter II leading the charge. A great way to go back to the roots.
It doesn’t come with its own arcade cabinet, but it does have a lot of extras, including concept art and a timeline letting you explore the key events of the Street Fighter story. The Museum hides more than that, of course. For the price you get twelve classic games and a lot of insight into the series’ history. They also benefit from modern advances in online multiplayer systems.
Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator
|Genre:||Fighting Game, Arcade|
|Developer:||Arc System Works|
As far as character designs go, the Guilty Gear series is definitely one of the more out-there. Not just that, but practically everything in this game oozes personality, from the over-the-top story and move-sets of the characters to the fantastic music.
source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdTZ0Sj2I_A (Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- Official Trailer)
Guilty Gear is definitely a niche title, for the most part, underrepresented by the western audiences. It is also a little bit difficult to get into, not because it’s hard, but because it’s just different. But those willing to learn new things, the Guilty Gear will reward with very intense and nuanced gameplay. While the game has a lot of backstory that may seem difficult to follow, it mostly rests on the characters, who are certainly fascinating.
Dragon Ball: FighterZ
|Developer:||Bandai Namco Games|
The selling point of this game is pretty straight-forward: you get to play as characters from the ever-popular anime: Dragon Ball Z. You pick a tag-team of three characters and engage your opponent’s team.
source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBI0MU73nlc (DRAGON BALL FighterZ – E3 2017 Trailer | XB1, PS4, PC)
Dragon Ball: FighterZ manages to strike the balance between accessibility and a high skill ceiling. Which is to say, picking three random heroes and just mashing buttons is a lot of fun and can be surprisingly effective, but taking time to master the controls can reward you with the ability to pull off some very fancy tricks. Additionally, you can learn to master the iconic moves of these characters, like Goku’s ubiquitous Kamehameha wave.
Injustice is something of a DC’s response to Marvel’s foothold in fighting games. You get to pick from a roster of famous DC heroes and villains, from Batman, through Wonder Woman and down to the various Lanterns.
source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p50qZNiRfa8 (Injustice 2 – Gameplay Reveal Trailer)
Gameplay-wise, Injustice is pretty complex with a wide selection of possible moves for each character. You can also customize the characters’ costumes to change their basic statistics. While the game isn’t highly competitive, this allows for something of a meta-game to form within Injustice 2, though there’s an option to disable stat bonuses from gear and give all characters a level playing field.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
|Genre:||Fighting, 2D Arcade|
Built on the idea of a crossover between the two massive IPs, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom series gives the player a chance to play matches between famous characters from Capcom games, like Dante from the devil may Cry series, against famous Marvel heroes and villains. The game’s classic mode features a tag-team of 3 characters picked and chosen according to the player’s fancy.
source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-UFkBRzYi4 (Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 : Trailer #1)
The big draw here is trying to comprise a team of characters to complete each other. Throughout the single-player campaign, these characters interact and give little bits of characterization, allowing you to roleplay this crazy crossover out a little bit. While Marvel deals exclusively with comic book heroes, who for the most part fight in their respective stories, on Capcom’s side there’re a few characters, Marcus Phoenix for example, who don’t usually resort to brass knuckles like this, so it’s certainly cool to see and play as them in this environment.
Soul Calibur VI
Soul Calibur is a little bit different from most of the classic fighting games because the characters come to the arena armed with actual weapons. That and the arena is not closed, which means you can win by knock-out if you manage to push your opponent outside the ring, a little bit like in Super Smash Bros.
source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sCw3kvSjj0 (SOULCALIBUR VI – PS4/XB1/PC – Feature Trailer)
Soul Calibur VI has a pretty high ceiling, but the barrier of entry isn’t particularly hard. Admittedly though, the game has some balance issues with certain characters having a little bit too many compounded advantages, but this is a subject of change due to a stable stream of patches and balance changes. Also of note, is the excellent character creator tool, which allows you to exercise your creative freedom in many different ways and create your own, unique fighter.
Street Fighter V
Another one of the classics, much like Tekken Street Fighter is considered to be one of the competitive staples in the genre. Street Fighter may seem simplistic at first glance, but beneath very straight-forward mechanics lays a world of possible combinations, reversals and ripostes that provide for some fantastic interplay.
source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIOMBc6E_MQ (Street Fighter V Gameplay Trailer)
In the newest edition of the game, things were shaken up by giving players an extra meter that will fill up whenever you take damage, and can then be expended for a buff which can completely turn the tables. Something should also be said about the awesome style of Street Fighter and a more interactive arena, which provides for some highly cinematic finishes.
Developed by Namco Bandai, Tekken is one of the fighting games staple series, defined by its complexity within a very strict set of rules. It is an ideal 1v1 game whose tournaments are a sight to behold, with a long and proud legacy.
source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4h8o4pWECI (Tekken 7 – E3 Trailer | XB1, PS4, PC)
A match of Tekken is more like a professional game of chess than a fighting game. Every combination of blows comes as a response to a specific gambit and the victory comes down to how good you are at reading your opponent. Tekken 7 sees the return of all classic (and highly zany) character from previous games, so long-time fans of the series can get back to playing their favorites.
Mortal Kombat X, XI
|Released in||MK X – 2010 , MK XI – 2019|
|Developer:||Warner Bros, Interactive Entertainment|
Mortal Kombat pretty much speaks for itself. One of the longest-running series of fighting games, Mortal Kombat doesn’t shy away from gore and violence, turning the fight into a bloody spectacle. Mortal Kombat has its own cast of classic characters, who all make a return in the newest edition and some new ones appear as well.
source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSi2LDkyKmI ( Mortal Kombat X | official trailer (2015) )
Mortal Kombat is definitely more complex than its flashy appearance would suggest, but that only makes pulling off those delicious fatalities that much more rewarding. There are also a few characters who are very newcomer-friendly and work perfectly fine when you just mash buttons desperately.
source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14vlJuCYFBA (Mortal Kombat 11 – Official Frost Gameplay Reveal Trailer)
The tenth installment in the saga was widely considered as one of the best fighting video games of all time and was a massive hit. Therefore, it is no wonder that the upcoming release of Mortal Kombat XI creates such a buzz in the gaming world and the game is highly anticipated. It seems that in the final deadly fight for the position of the best fighting video game, Mortal Kombat games will always have the higher ground.
3, 2, 1, KNOCK-DOWN!
Fighting games are a fantastic genre of games with a wide variety of titles to satisfy both hardcore, very competitively-minded gamers and casual players alike. More than anything, between various characters and mechanical depth of combat, there’s a whole lot of genuine content here which can carry you for a long, long time, especially if you factor in online and local multiplayer.