My top 15 favorite fighting games of all time (2023 update)

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#1  Edited By stratogustav

I wanted to update my list of favorite fighting games considering we are in 2023, and it is time for an update, however for some reason, considering how much I love newer fighting games coming out, my list remains pretty similar in terms of what games I can keep on playing without getting tired of them, particularly against other people:

1. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 / Mortal Kombat Trilogy 1995 / 1996

The arcade version of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 could easily be my favorite fighting game of all time if it wasn't for lacking the assets of the Super Nintendo version and the Williams Entertainment N64 Trilogy version I would love to have in the arcade game. There is something to be said about the 3rd party Avalanche Software PlayStation Trilogy version that adds more fan service but removes the limitations that you expect from something made in-house that makes the N64 version feel more authentic to me. It bugs my mind because my favorite fighting game of all time doesn't really exist as it is a mix of all these iterations of the game including the better sound of the PlayStation version.

2. Killer Instinct 1994

Despite how fun and awesome the 2013 version is, nothing replaces the coolness of the original version, and even though I would also love a remake of this game with the original assets, the original version holds very well on a proper pedestal cabinet with a giant CRT and a subwoofer. To me it is the perfect balance between the fluidity of Street Fighter with the planned strategic play of Mortal Kombat, but on steroids.

3. Street Fighter III 3rd Strike Fight For The Future 1999

This game is still the most fun Street Fighter game ever made. The cast is very unique, and the gameplay is extremely fluid, and it feels very natural. I also like the entire presentation, and the vibe of the soundtrack and the stages makes it even cooler. Sadly, it doesn't have the wide screen mode 2nd Impact Giant Attack has, but it compensates with the new content additions missing on previous versions.

4. The King Of Fighters XIII 2010 / 2011

Easily the best fighting game of all time. It has the best combos, chains, links, specials, cancels, and supers on any fighting game so far. A spectacular showcase of sound, and drawing art. It took over 1,500 man hours to just carefully draw the entire thing. It was the goodbye gift from SNK to fans after a long journey of amazing arcade culture titles, at a time when they were still hurting from commercial failures of their 3D releases like Samurai Shodown Sen and both KOF Maximum Impact games. Regulation A2 was even cancelled because of this, and SNK was about to go bankrupt. The good news is that SNK was able to survive, and still left us with this incredible gem from SNK after perfecting their craft with their previous upgraded releases of KOF '98 UM and KOF 2002 UM.

5. Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 New Age Of Heroes 2000

Probably the most glorious and successful fighting game after Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat II when it comes to arcade culture. It is hard to measure the impact the game had at the time in the psyche not only of professional players, but also of the general public. This was the culmination of a series of amazing Marvel fighting game titles from Capcom that felt like a love letter to fans. It also the coolest depictions of iconic X-men characters that at the time were some of the most recognizable superheroes of the Marvel brand. Even though the game has some balance issues, there are ways to play around those by adding certain parameters, and still make it one of the most kick-ass and fun competitive experiences when it comes to fighting games.

6. Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection 2005 / 2006

There are many versions of Tekken 5, but Dark Resurrection is without a doubt the best iteration of them all. To me DR is easily the best Tekken game ever made, even surpassing the commercial success that was Tekken 3, and any of the newer games with all their popularity. There is just something special about the atmosphere, quality, undertone, ambient, and mood if the games that makes it stand out. Not the mention the incredible cast of characters and the first time we Lili which is my favorite fighter on the franchise.

7. SoulCalibur II 2002

From its beginnings with Soul Edge, and the amazing first SoulCalibur that is a masterpiece, it is very difficult to choose which SoulCaibur is the best. SoulCalibur III was very unique, and SoulCalibur IV felt like the proper evolution of it all. SoulCalibur V was bold and edgy in changing things up, and SoulCalibur VI found a balance. But in my opinion, nothing beats the aesthetics, playability, and overall aura of SoulCalibur II. The prime title of the series holds as a timeless piece of medieval fantasy in the genre.

8. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R 2012

This is a 10 years in the making evolution of an already massively fun iconic fighting game. It is basically a real-life example of how wanting to perfect something that was already great looks like, and the last version of the game doesn't disappoint everything that was wanted from this amazing 2D fighting experience only Guilty Gear unique characters can deliver. As much as I love the quality of Guilty Gear Xrd Rev. 2 and the reinventive proposal of Strive. This game is still the most compelling when it comes to delivering the experience the franchise was meant to provide since its creation.

9. Vampire Chronicle For Matching Service 2000

Easily one of the most underrated fighting game releases of all time, mostly due to its regional-in-mail-order-direct-platform-service nature, this game compiles all the greatness, bizarreness, and uniquely artistic presence of the Darkstalker series. Sadly, it still lives trapped in the almighty Dreamcast, and I believe a forgotten PSP port. There hasn't been another title that delivers the entire Darkstalkers experience in a single package. A series which is without a doubt one of the most lovable Capcom fighting propositions we have seen.

10. Virtua Fighter 5 Final Shodown 2021

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is a testament to the brilliance of the fighting game genre, encapsulating an unparalleled trajectory of greatness from the franchise. With its thoroughly crafted gameplay mechanics, precise controls, and deep strategic depth, the game stands as a true masterpiece. Its timeless appeal lies in its ability to captivate both casual players and seasoned veterans that grew with the series, offering an unrivaled level of satisfaction, challenge, and excitement that firmly establishes it as the leading reference in the realm of 3D fighting games.

11. Dead Or Alive 5 Last Round 2015

I was a huge fan of Dead Or Alive 2 Hardcore when it first came out, and all the titles of the series are indeed a lot of fun to play. The series has always been a giant in the genre, with some of the most iconic characters in the industry. It has inspired a big variety of media that no other 3D fighting franchise has been able to accomplish. If you look closely, many of its characters are more recognizable and utilized than those of other 3D fighters like Tekken.

The main hold back of the series has been how edgy and unapologetic it is, but that's also what makes it stand out. Considering how visual in nature the franchise is, we can all recognize the brand will get better as graphic technology improves, making the newer titles better that the last ones.

However, I have to recognize that when it comes playability, the robust roster of diverse and intricately designed characters of Last Round allows to explore a multitude of playstyles and engage in intense, skill-based combat unlike anything else we have seen in tag-based fighting, so it stands as the technical pinnacle of an already awesome fighting proposition from the series.

12. Dragon Ball FighterZ 2018

This title has no rival in capturing the essence of the beloved Dragon Ball franchise in an electrifying and visually breathtaking experience. With its dynamic and fast-paced gameplay, the title successfully blends accessibility with depth, inviting players of all skill levels to partake in its exhilarating battles. The faithfully recreated roster of iconic Dragon Ball characters, complete with their signature moves and flashy superpowers, immerses fans in a true celebration of the series.

The vibrant and stunning 2.5D graphics, reminiscent of the anime's art style, seamlessly blend with fluid animations, making every encounter an awe-inspiring spectacle. I would say it delivers a nostalgic and immersive journey for enthusiasts of the show, that I can easily say represents the modern version of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2. It a is a fusion of exceptional gameplay, stunning visuals, and faithful adaptation of the source material establishes it as an extraordinary fighting game that leaves players like me exhilarated and craving for more.

13. Capcom Vs. SNK 2 Mark Of The Millennium 2001

Capcom vs. SNK 2 stands as a monumental masterpiece, a crossover fighting game that flawlessly brings together two iconic gaming universes into a single unforgettable experience. The game showcases the incredible craftsmanship of Capcom and SNK, offering a deep and diverse roster of characters from both franchises, each with their unique playstyles and movesets. The gameplay mechanics strike a harmonious blending of Capcom's Street Fighter series with the strategic depth of SNK's KOF.

With its robust and customizable groove system, players have the freedom to tailor their fighting style to suit their preferences, resulting in a rich and dynamic combat experience. The game's visuals, while retaining the distinct art styles of each franchise, are brought to life with vibrant colors, fluid animations, and meticulous attention to detail. Capcom vs. SNK 2's enduring greatness lies in its ability to captivate both casual and competitive players, offering a wealth of content, an engaging storyline, and a plethora of multiplayer modes that keep the fighting spirit alive for years to come.

To me this monumental crossover experience still continues to be revered and celebrated by fans as a timeless classic in the fighting game genre because there is no other experience likely in the genre, and a soon as you find yourself playing the game despite how old the game is now, it still feels fresh, modern, and even futuristic as it fulfills the desire of having these franchises coming together as one.

14. Garou Mark Of The Wolves 1999

This game to me still stands tall as a shining gem within the fighting game genre, exuding greatness through its captivating gameplay, innovative mechanics, and remarkable presentation. Developed by SNK, this title showcases a refined and fresh take on the iconic Fatal Fury series, introducing a new generation of characters while paying homage to its roots. The game's mechanics strike a perfect balance between accessibility and depth, allowing both newcomers and seasoned players to engage in fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping battles.

Personally, the cast of fighters is a testament to the game's exceptional character design, with each combatant exhibiting unique personalities, fighting styles, and captivating backstories. The fluid animations, detailed backgrounds, and stunning pixel art visual effects create a visually striking experience, enhancing the immersion and intensity of every match.

15. Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom Ultimate All-Stars 2008 / 2009

Another multiverse made reality using the worlds of Tatsunoko Productions and Capcom into an exhilarating fighting game experience. This unique title brings together a diverse roster of beloved characters from both universes, inviting players to engage in fast-paced, flashy battles that are a joy to behold.

The visuals are a vibrant homage to the one of my favorite Anime series, which is Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, along others from Tatsunoko, with colorful and detailed character designs that come to life through smooth animations and stunning special effects. Not only it captures the essence of each franchise but also introduces innovative gameplay elements such as the partner system, allowing players to unleash devastating combo attacks with their chosen duo.

The game leaves a lot of space for a sequel as it still lacks many characters you would love to see included from both Universes, but sadly it doesn't look like this could happen, and if it does, it would be difficult at this point to make a sequel in a way that honors the original. However, hope is not lost, so who knows, maybe a miracle could happen, and we can have a sequel.

Honorable mentions for me to include in no particular order:

- Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 / 2011

- Guilty Gear Xrd Rev. 2 / 2017

- Killer Instinct / 2013-2017

- Super Street Fighter II Turbo / 1994

- Mortal Kombat II / 1992

- Mortal Kombat 3 / 1995

- Mortal Kombat 4 / 1997

- Samurai Shodown V Special / 2004

- The King Of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match / 2009

- The King Of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match / 2008

- The Last Blade 2 / 1998

- Mortal Kombat XL / 2016

- Tekken Tag Tournament 2 / 2011

- Fate/Unlimited Codes / 2008

- DNF Duel / 2022

Popular games that didn't quite make the cut for me, but I believe are very fun:

- Tekken 3 / 1997

- Virtua Fighter 4 Final Tuned / 2004

- Dead Or Alive 6 / 2019

- Jojo's Bizarre Adventure Heritage For The Future / 1999

- Street Fighter Alpha 3 / 1998

- Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 The Newcomers / 1998

- BlazBlue Central Fiction / 2016

- Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[cl-r] 2020

- Persona 4 Arena Ultimax / 2014

- Melty Blood Type Lumina / 2021

- Granblue Fantasy Versus Rising / 2023

- Phantom Breaker Omnia / 2022

- Blade Arcus Rebellion From Shining / 2019

- Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax / 2014

- Nitroplus Blasterz Heroines Infinite Duel / 2015

Other beloved fighting games missing from my list:

- Mortal Kombat (9) / 2011

- Ultra Street Fighter IV / 2014

- Street Fighter V Champion Edition / 2020

- Street Fighter VI / 2023

- Tekken 7 Faded Retribution / 2016

- Tekken 6 Bloodline Rebellion / 2008

- SoulCalibur VI / 2018

- Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate / 2020

- Injustice 2 / 2017

- Injustice Gods Among Us / 2013

- Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe / 2008

- Skullgirls 2nd Encore / 2015

- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R / 2022

- Arcana Heart 3 Love Max Six Stars Xtend !!!!! / 2021

- Capcom Fighting Evolution / 2004

Some other forgotten gems:

- Bloody Roar 3 / 2000

- Rival Schools United By Fate / 1997

- Project Justice / 2000

- Plasma Sword Nightmare Of Bilstein / 2000

- Star Gladiator / 1998

- Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix / 1998

- Aquapazza Aquaplus Dream Match / 2011

- Chaos Code New Sign Of Catastrophe / 2017

- Battle Fantasia Revised Edition / 2015

- Battle Arena Toshinden 2 / 1996

- Bushido Blade / 1998

- Fighters Megamix / 1997

- Red Earth / 1996

- Cyberbots Fullmetal Madness / 1995

- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters / 1993