Top 5 Greatest 2D Fighting Games!

Topic started by AlexEL on Jan. 25, 2013. Last post by unkle_matt85 1 year, 3 months ago.
Post by AlexEL (52 posts) See mini bio Level 8
Staff

WELCOME TO THE TOP FIVE! This week, I’ll take a break from my usual griping and complaining to geek out about something I’m always in a good mood about - - the good old days of 2D fighters!

Anime, video games, manga, art books, etc., all fall under the blanket of "otaku," as far I'm concerned. Japanese video games, especially in the 2D era, were working with most of the same tropes and visual themes as anime. Plenty of talented artists working in anime and manga got involved in the video game business, and when the fighting game boom of the early 90's happened, we were suddenly flooded with a bevy of beautifully-illustrated and inventive games that should appeal to any fan of the nerdy Japanese arts. As an artist, I certainly took notice.

And let's be honest, fighting games are really just interactive shonen anyway!

Even the box art for these games is awesome. Plus, check out that knockoff M.Bison on the bottom right.
Even the box art for these games is awesome. Plus, check out that knockoff M.Bison on the bottom right.

I got hooked early on and never looked back. Suffice it to say, I’ve played a lot of fighting games. From the classics to the not-so-classics to the utterly absurd, I’ve seen’em all. So I’ve decided to lend my expertise to all of you and help separate the wheat from chaff.

So, lets get down to it!

HONORABLE MENTION = = KING OF FIGHTERS ‘98

Forever punching dudes on fire.
Forever punching dudes on fire.

KOF was like a sports title for a while, with a new release every year. Well, 1998 is when everything changed. New combo system, nicely updated graphics, and a daunting roster of characters made KOF ’98 the best of the series.

Unfortunately, SNK was always stuck in the “little brother” role to CAPCOM. SNK put out a ton of great games, usually with interesting art and design, but as far as fighters were concerned, they always seemed a couple steps behind CAPCOM’s titles. This game helped to close that gap.

Please, Ralf! Stop! She's already dead!
Please, Ralf! Stop! She's already dead!

KOF has always been an aggressive game with a focus on offense and update to the combo system made this all the more exciting. Plus, you can’t beat these over-the-top supers! One of my favorites includes about 25 consecutive punches to the face.

NUMBER FIVE = = VAMPIRE SAVIOR (DARKSTALKERS 3)

Slashing girls with blood-scythes like it aint no thing
Slashing girls with blood-scythes like it aint no thing

Great designs, a unique feel and amazing settings all set the DARKSTALKERS series apart. This game has an amazing dark atmosphere, plenty of creepy characters to choose from, and an interesting spin on the two-round fight. DARKSTALKERS started strong but this third entry is easily the best in the series.

The gameplay in SAVIOR is rock solid, but much of the appeal of this franchise is its unforgettable look. This is kind of like STREET FIGHTER ALPHA's spooky goth cousin. The sprites are sharp, colorful and full of personality, and each one moves in a distinctive way. There is no question that these are among the most memorable fighters CAPCOM ever created (and I’m not just saying that because of Morrigan).

This game is full of great characters like these guys. Hsien-ko's sprite is a real stand out, lurching and rolling her head in a really unsettling way.
This game is full of great characters like these guys. Hsien-ko's sprite is a real stand out, lurching and rolling her head in a really unsettling way.

This particular installment of the franchise also took a bit of a risk, doing away with the traditional 3-round system. This time, each character is given two life bars and there’s only a brief pause after someone’s life bar is depleted - - the positions don’t reset, and the life bars don’t refill.

For example, if you manage to take all of your opponent’s life without being hit, then you have two full life bars in the second round, while your opponent only has one. This amps up the gameplay to an especially aggressive and quick-paced level. Every hit matters, so you have to be on at all times!

NUMBER FOUR = = GAROU: MARK OF THE WOLVES

I love how much motion is in this screen shot.
I love how much motion is in this screen shot.

This spiritual successor to the FATAL FURY series was arguably SNK’s most complex, technical and elegant game to date. It has beautiful new sprites and a slick updated animation style, plus some interesting new gameplay mechanics. Add to that a roster of interesting, balanced (and occasionally very offensive) fighters and you’ve got a tragically under-appreciated gem.

The new “just defend” mechanic rewards players for blocking at the last possible instant with a bit of life recovery and the chance to counterattack out of block stun. There’s also the “Tactical Offense Position” which lets you choose a section of life bar which, when reached, gives you a life and offense boost for as long as your health remains at that point.

The new style created for this game is one of my favorites that SNK ever used. Big sprites, really nice motion, warm colors and beautiful backgrounds make this game a joy to look at...

One of the gorgeous backgrounds in this game. SNK always kill it with their BGs.
One of the gorgeous backgrounds in this game. SNK always kill it with their BGs.

Perhaps most importantly of all, this game features a character by the name of Butt. No joke. Butt. if you're not already scouring eBay for a copy, then I don't know whats wrong with you.

NUMBER THREE = = GUILTY GEAR X

Just a couple of dudes in the rain
Just a couple of dudes in the rain

Arc system works got a little attention for the original GUILTY GEAR, but it wasn’t until they released this ultra slick update that the world really took notice. Suddenly, there was a real contender to CAPCOM’s throne. GUILTY GEAR is both a combo heavy rushdown and very technically-focused at the same time. The beauty of GG is that it can be played fast and frantic without much thought by the average Joe, or it can be played with intense precision by pros.

The look of the game is almost entirely determined by Daisuke Ishiwatari and, as a result, it’s pretty singular and unified visually. The character designs are way out there and the style of the game is very much that of contemporary anime. The sprites are sharp, detailed and lively with a huge range of sizes and fighting styles.The backgrounds are also epic, colorful and full of motion.

And, of course, there are the instant kills! There's nothing more crushing than seeing the words "DESTROYED" flash across the screen as your entire life bar disappears. These especially over-the-top one-hit-kill moves are hard to pull off, but I can't imagine anything more decisive/satisfying.

That cartoon dolphin is just insulting frosting on the cake of injury.
That cartoon dolphin is just insulting frosting on the cake of injury.

GGX is also packed full of kitschy references to American music, particularly metal (which does appeals to me personally as a big metal nerd). Hearing the clumsy Engrish pronunciations of these references brings a smile to this usually frowny face of mine. “Master-of-puppet-oh!”

NUMBER TWO = = MARVEL VS CAPCOM 2

Madness!
Madness!

Here it is. The ultimate hype machine, MVC2. The game responsible for more high stakes money matches, more coast wars and more serious video game feuds than any other (and I mean this as a compliment). This is a game that got people excited, and invested, and even angry.

This game is all about through-the-roof insanity, unfair combos, and broken characters. MVC2 is openly and undeniably unbalanced, with tons of infinites and easily-exploitable supers. It's just good-old-fashioned-fun to play, especially if you’re not worried about going pro. 56 playable characters, tons of team combinations and individual combos to master.

The sprites do vary in quality, as some of them are quite a bit older than others, but generally the designs are all top notch. The way CAPCOM’s artists dealt with redesigning iconic Marvel characters still makes my neck hairs bristle. There’s a ton of art and enthusiasm poured into this game, and it definitely shows.

At high levels, MARVEL is somewhat complex, and extremely fast paced. But what this classic really has going for it, and in spades, is the ability to get people excited. It's epic, explosive and simply a lot of fun to watch.

In short, “IT’S MAHVEL BABEE”

NUMBER ONE = = STREET FIGHTER III: 3rd STRIKE

What's not to love about this?
What's not to love about this?

No surprises here. STREET FIGHTER 3 was the most balanced, well-crafted, technical and visually spectacular entry in the series to date, and 3rd STRIKE refined the system to near perfection.The parry system is inventive and exciting, adding a whole new level of mind games to the mix, as well as enabling shocking last minute comebacks. By tapping towards at the exact moment of impact, the player can deflect any attack, take no damage and have an opportunity to counter attack. It’s an advanced and interesting mechanic, which rewards practice and timing.

For proof of this, see the crowd absolutely lose their shit for Evo moment #37...

This is also a gorgeous game. These sprites are so well-animated, its absurd. Cloth hangs, folds and bounces in beautiful and believable ways; characters move smoothly and attack fluidly. The impact of a heavy hit feels solid and all this is compounded by plentiful details (like the table breaking in the background of Chun-Li’s stage or the snake falling out of the tree in Ibuki’s). There’s just so much here! So much attention paid to actions, reactions and gesture. Every character has a discernable personality, usually conveyed elegantly through their movement alone.

Look at how much detail is in this one frame! Their facial expressions are great, the lighting is perfect, and the implied motion is really impressive. Even screenshots of this game are exciting!
Look at how much detail is in this one frame! Their facial expressions are great, the lighting is perfect, and the implied motion is really impressive. Even screenshots of this game are exciting!

SF3 took some big risks in reinventing CAPCOM's beloved franchise, getting rid of almost the entire classic roster, introducing some complex features, and abandoning the cartoon-y look of the ALPHA series for something more mature and realistic. However, the payoff was huge and this game stands the test of time both visually and where gameplay is concerned.

SF2 defined the fighting genre and reigned as its king for years, but this new incarnation of the series trumps that worn-out old warhorse in every way. 3rd STRIKE looks better, plays tighter, and is more complex and rewarding than all the STREET FIGHTERS that preceded it. This is the high water mark of 2D fighting; and since very few people seem to be making these games anymore, it may forever remain the king of 2D fighters.

There are tons of great 2D fighters out there and I'm sure some of your favorites didn't make the list. Feel free to remind me of all the games I've snubbed in the comments section below.

Alex Eckman-Lawn is an illustrator and comic artists from Philadelphia. Check out his site - -alexeckmanlawn.com - - rumble with his Tumblr - -dudenukem.tumblr.com - - and hit up his Twitter: @alexeckmanlawn

Post by Fehafare (8,077 posts) See mini bio Level 13

Not bad. Would have excluded Garou: Mark of the Wolves and any kind of SF on it and i'd debate the order but still a nice list.

Post by Petiew (244 posts) See mini bio Level 14
I've only got into fighting games fairly recently, but I've dabled (Just a little) in almost all of the ones you've mentioned.
Haven't played Garou: Mark of the Wolves and am still waiting for the re-release of guilty Gear to come to the EU PSN.
 
What do you think of the newer games that are popular now? UMVC3, SSF4, KOF XIII, etc. Or the lesser played Skullgirls, Blazblue, Persona 4, etc.
 
The Daigo parry is still great fun to watch, even more impressive is how Daigo baited Justin into it. I still love seeing the stream chat flooded with "Lets go Justin!" whenever he messes up bad.
Post by Donwun (112 posts) See mini bio Level 12

tbh i wasn't a fan of the parry system in SF3 mostly because i was so used to not having it BUT i do admit it was very inventive and if it was actually a staple in future games i probably would have got on board with it in the long run.

For me it's going to have to be SF Alpha 2 as a 2D pick and SF Ex Plus Alpha as greatest SF of all time (which is a PS1 3D variant)

Guilty Pleasure: Marvel Superheroes vs Street Fighter (GOOD TIMES!)

Post by sickVisionz (4,221 posts) See mini bio Level 24
Moderator

Mark of the Wolves looks and sounds pretty awesome. This is my first time ever hearing of it.

Post by AlexEL (52 posts) See mini bio Level 8
Staff

@Petiew: i happen to love umvc3 though i think its pretty boring artistically. KOFXIII is gorgeous and complex as anything. i respect the hell out of that game but haven't been able to give it the time it deserves. SFIV never really sat well with me. i understand that its a good game but i just don't like how it plays, but thats just me. glad you're getting into these games!

you would have excluded street fighter from a list of the best 2d fighters? explain!

i have very fond memories of marvel superheroes vs street fighter! i played the hell out of it in the arcade. they should bring norimaro back!

definitely a great game! i think it only came out for the dreamcast in the US. it's a real shame, lots of people are missing out on a great game.

Post by Kino88 (189 posts) See mini bio Level 6

Guilty Gear is absolutely my number 1 choice, I mean come'on you get to beat the crap out of your freainds' with a freak'in massive anchor held by an adorable pint sized Lolita pirate girl,

besides that I found the story arcs for each character to be every bit as delightfully insane as there visual designs,

so even playing this one alone was more fun to me than most fighters, 2D or otherwise,

Post by rouju (20 posts) See mini bio Level 5

Nice. Though I put Mark of The Wolves higher. It's my number 2 best of all time. The epitome of SNK (before went bankrupt & sold to other company). The only reason it got beaten by SF III is the question of originality.

Agree with SF III as the best he he

Post by Sonata (35,106 posts) See mini bio Level 20
Moderator
Garou, SF 3rd strike, Guilty Gear would be my top 3. After that you can go either way.
Post by AgentJ (1,545 posts) See mini bio Level 13

Honorary mention for Street Fighter 2 HD Remix, which combined the terrific classic gameplay and characters with jaw dropping beauty.

Post by Fehafare (8,077 posts) See mini bio Level 13

@AlexEL: More an personal opinion than an actual fact. SF never really got me the slightest, never really, and i'm damn fed up with seeing it on every list, just too much.

But yeah as said it's just me.

Post by AlexEL (52 posts) See mini bio Level 8
Staff

fair enough! i'm actually already working on a list of obscure/forgotten 2D fighters so maybe you'll find more to like in that one.

Post by zaldar (1,222 posts) See mini bio Level 15

Eh no virtue fighter, no mortal combat? Foul I say! All of these were waaay to complicated for me. Any game where I have to study to the point of not doing anything else to have even a remote chance of winning in a reasonably competitive match. No thanks...

Post by dtolson (16 posts) See mini bio Level 9

cant believe Street Fighter 2 is not there. That is the classic of classics!

Post by AlexEL (52 posts) See mini bio Level 8
Staff

@dtolson: yeah i figured this would upset a couple people. SF2 is important and totally classic, but i happen to think that 3rd strike beats it, and i didn't want the entire top 5 to be street fighters!

i actually really love virtua fighter but this is a list of 2D fighters, my man!

Post by Marshal Victory (1,855 posts) See mini bio Level 13

@AlexEL: Reguarding guilty gear If ya got a pc Gog.com has 2 of them now drm free.

http://www.gog.com/gamecard/guilty_gear_isuka

http://www.gog.com/gamecard/guilty_gear_x2_reload

an after reading this im gona look at getn them .

they also have http://www.gog.com/gamecard/street_fighter_alpha_2

which after compairing it to street fighter 3 i can see the improvements. Heck i bought a super nintendo just so i could play street fighter 3 .Before that we had to trave one county over just to play its goodness.An then only to be sharked by some one with far more experiance than we did.

Also if ya think why do fighting game on pc well you can get the 6 button arcade style controlers that work for xbox360 an they work on pc as well.

Post by zaldar (1,222 posts) See mini bio Level 15

@AlexEL: Ah thats right even the earliest virtue fighters were 3d...I stand corrected!

Post by unkle_matt85 (16 posts) See mini bio Level 6

Where is Street Fighter II or Super Street Fighter?

Mandatory Network

Submissions can take several hours to be approved.

Save ChangesCancel