If Mortal Kombat 11 has piqued your interest in fighting games, there are a plethora of options available today. And depending on who you ask, anything from full-fledged arcade machines to strange hacky versions of PS1/Dreamcast games with fan-made servers will probably be recommended.
As a huge fan of all kinds of fighting games, I believe I can contribute in this area. I’m going to discuss the finest fighting games available right now for current-generation consoles and/or gaming PCs. Let’s start at the top and work our way down the list.
1. Tekken 7
Tekken 7 is an ode to the series’ illustrious history and bewildering complexity. Yet, despite its funny and slightly hackneyed story, it manages to be accessible to just about everyone who wants to mash buttons, and its massive amount of customization unlocks continuously give you something to strive for.
With Injustice 2 smashing it out of the park, Killer Instinct continuing to deliver quality content years after its release, Street Fighter 5 finding its stride after a rocky start, and a new version of Guilty Gear Xrd air-dashing our way, the King of the Iron Fist Tournament is not going to be outdone.
Tekken 7 appears to be a continuation of the series’ trademark three-dimensional stages, which allow you to move to your opponent’s sides as well as forward and backward. Attacks are influenced by Asian martial arts and various fighting methods from throughout the world, with a focus on strikes rather than the missiles found in most other fighting games.
Movement is more deliberate, and a reckless leap or dash can be fatal. The Mishima Saga, an ambitious new story mode built for the console and PC versions of Tekken 7, introduces the game’s speed (as opposed to the arcade).
The Mishima Saga delves into the Mishima clan’s healthy and emotionally secure relationships, where sons are obsessed with killing their fathers and fathers can’t help but throw their sons into the next lava pit. Heihachi, his son Kazuya, and his grandson Jin all run multibillion-dollar enterprises with military far superior to those of most developed nations, all while attempting to eliminate one other.
While The Mashima Saga tries to put Heihachi in a better light by explaining why he famously threw Kazuya into an erupting volcano decades ago, it’s hard to feel sorry for any of the Mishima family’s scions.
The completely over-the-top nature of Tekken’s backstory and its embrace of anime cliches, on the other hand, has a certain charm, and The Mishima Saga’s short character-specific chapters help lighten the atmosphere while also feeding up nostalgia.
When King fights Jack, Jack’s artificial intelligence adapts to King’s fighting style, thus the famed luchador borrows moves from his long-time ally Marduk as well as his opponent Armor King.
When Yoshimitsu tries to infiltrate the Mishima Dojo, he comes across Leo and fights her before changing his mind and getting a knee in the crotch for his troubles. While it isn’t sophisticated, I have no qualms with saying that watching Yoshimitsu crumple to the ground made me laugh, smile, and shake my head.
The Mishima Saga follows the same format as Injustice 2’s story mode, switching between Heihachi and his descendants, Tekken Force rebel Lars, and special guest Akuma – yep, that Akuma.
Injustice 2, when I was thrown into the shoes of a new character and had to pause to learn them, and Tekken 7 and The Mishima Saga, I found this approach to the story a little aggravating.
However, while playing The Mishima Saga, Tekken 7 allows you to use simplified controls to perform a handful of pre-selected moves, making it easier to segue into playing a character with whom you are unfamiliar.
In addition, while there are numerous points of view, the number is manageable, so I didn’t have to spend a lot of time learning maneuvers to advance.
At the same time, The Mishima Saga’s brief three-hour runtime and smaller cast made the story’s events feel more vital to the Mishima clan than to the entire King of Iron Fist Tournament. With optional side missions housed within Mashima Saga mode, other fighters are given a little time in the spotlight.
While I found some of them, like as Yoshimitsu’s ill-fated foray into the Mashima Dojo, I was dismayed that there was so little focus on anyone other than Heihachi, Jin, and Kazuya and their quest for control over the Mishima Zaibatsu and one another.
Tekken 7’s content shines brightest in its character customization options, which put it in a league of its own and establish a new benchmark for allowing you to express yourself. Cosmetics have never been more customizable, with attack effects, vivid auras, pictures and tile backdrops, and several alternate costumes with interchangeable top and bottom pieces.
You can also pick from hundreds of options for the frame art that surrounds your health bar; it’s a small detail, but it offers another fascinating way to differentiate oneself when playing online.
Extra material can be unlocked by participating in online Tournaments, Treasure Battles, or spending Fight Money, which you earn just by playing.
To acquire all the headgear, shirts, accessories, costumes, and alternate artwork, a completionist would need to fight a lot of fights. In a Bullet Club t-shirt, Hwoarang is kicking off the Superkick Party. It’s far too sweet.
These new appearances combine with an often-overlooked aspect of the Tekken characters that Tekken 7 delivers: even familiar faces look fresh, rather than sticking to the tried-and-true costumes and styles of past games. Hwoarang wears a patch over his eye. Lars is dressed in new armor.
Heihachi has a samurai-style appearance. In a cape, King appears heroic. While characters like Ryu and Sagat from Street Fighter, Iori from King of Fighters, and Slayer and Sol from Guilty Gear have traditional, iconic designs, I like that Tekken takes a risk by rethinking the visual style for even their most seasoned names. I know I’m playing Tekken 7 when I see Yoshimitsu sporting armor that looks like it was made by H.R. Giger.
Tekken 7 is a true classic, a fighting game that has been lovingly constructed. It strikes a delicate balance between making the series accessible to newcomers while while maintaining many of the series’ technical hallmarks. While the story can be a little trite at times, the fact that it never takes itself too seriously allows for a great deal of character customization.
2. Dragon Ball FighterZ
Who’d have guessed that pairing one of the most iconic action anime series of all time with one of the top fighting game companies in the industry would work out so well? Arc System Works’ Dragon Ball FighterZ successfully transforms the fast and exhilarating pace of a Dragon Ball fight into a three-on-three 2D fighting game built around a beginner-friendly combo system and some of the most magnificent and faithful to the source cel shaded art styles around.
Despite its chaotic appearance, Dragon Ball FighterZ’s mechanics are deceptively simple and easy to learn up. Light, medium, heavy, and a special attack button that is usually mapped to a projectile are the only attack buttons available.
There are no difficult special move input commands, such as dragon punch, charge, or 360-degree motions. You can perform almost every move and technique in FighterZ if you can throw a fireball in Street Fighter. That’s fantastic, especially considering you have to deal with three characters at once.
One area where the game’s simplicity goes too far is that each character has two very devastating auto combos that can be activated by just hammering the light or medium attack buttons. When you add in the ability to use a safe-on-block homing attack to narrow the distance and allow those auto combinations to land, you have a system where low-skill strategies may be quite effective.
Because a well-timed down + heavy strike can punish those homing attacks, a skilled player will most likely win. However, timing those can be difficult, especially if lag is present, which can be irritating when your opponent decides to spam the move.
More significantly, the fight isn’t particularly entertaining. FighterZ, on the other hand, is fast, fluid, and cerebral when you’re paired with another player of like level. It strikes that golden spot of being easy to learn but hard to master, while also feeling like Dragon Ball.
Taking someone up into the air, slamming them away at high speeds, teleporting behind them, pinballing them back, and then finishing it off with a massive energy blast is simply so wonderful and so Dragon Ball.
The character roster is quite impressive, with a total of 24 characters. Oddballs like Ginyu earn their place on the roster by employing novel mechanics like summoning individual members of the Ginyu Force to perform an attack instead of using a regular projectile, or Nappa’s ability to plant Saibamen that grow and fight.
Arc System Works has found the easy balance of having each character similar enough to learn while yet giving them enough depth and subtlety to give them their own distinct personality.
FighterZ’s original story concerns an invasion of mystery clones and the inexplicable arrival of a new character in Android 21 in the single-player campaign. It starts off OK, but after 10 or 12 hours of this slow-moving, derivative plot, I was ready to give up.
It feels like padding to clear out poor clone fighters in between big clashes. Sure, you level up and gain new skills, but the advantages, such as minor health, defense, or special attack bonuses, are barely perceptible until you’re in the middle of a match.
The extra fanservicey talks before a match are the main reason it’s worth playing for Dragon Ball fans. A scene with Gotenks and Ginyu causes them to have an impromptu pose-off; another has Piccolo and Tien discussing how Piccolo is a better grandfather than Goku; and nearly any scene with Yamcha is worth seeking out because of how painfully aware he is that he is by far the weakest fighter in FighterZ.
At the very least, canonically. Finding these kinds of moments was by far the most enjoyable aspect of Story Mode.
FighterZ’s unique approach to Arcade Mode is the way to go if you want to put yourself up against the AI. You’ll be rated after each battle as you fight through specifically themed teams of fighters, and your grade will determine which path you take: high, middle, or low.
Outside of their severity and the exact characters you fight, there’s no actual difference between the paths, although staying on the high path the entire time may be exceedingly difficult, giving you something to strive for as you play.
The disadvantages include the inability to resume a losing match and the fact that difficulty increases might be significant from one match to the next.
In terms of internet gaming, I’ve had a 50/50 experience. There were times when it felt like I was playing against someone standing right next to me. Other times, it was an exasperating latency fest that would almost always end in a connection.
We must hope that Arc System Works will be able to stabilize this situation quickly. Dragon Ball FighterZ is an appealing entrance into the world of fighting games for newbies – whether you’re a Dragon Ball fan or not — thanks to accessible auto combos, homing techniques, and streamlined command inputs.
Those easy controls can lead to spammy behavior, but they’re also often rewarding in a way that honors the Dragon Ball brand. Dragon Ball FighterZ has enough depth and complexity to let a Super Saiyan shine brightly.
3. Street Fighter 5
Finding the appropriate balance of old-school fighting game foundations and newer, more modern approaches to the genre is no easy undertaking, but Street Fighter 5 does so with elegance and style.
It’s just as important to have a solid, old-school ground game as it is to take bit of the new V-nasty System’s tactics, leaving opportunity for both technical and tactical expertise.
But I anticipated Capcom, the game’s developer, to knock it out of the park when it came to the punch; what I didn’t expect was for so many critical and regular elements to be missing on launch day. When compared to the features included in other modern-day fighting games, Street Fighter 5 has a lot of unexpected flaws.
Street Fighter 5 takes the franchise’s tried-and-true basics and adds a trio of fantastic all-new elements that drastically alter the ebb and flow of fights compared to Street Fighter 4. It all begins with the V-Skill, a free-to-use action that varies by character.
Every V-Skill presents an interesting tactical advantage for me to leverage, from Birdie nibbling on a snack and leaving the rest for his opponent to deal with, to Necalli’s unrelenting ground pound, which can push opponents to rush in close where he wants them.
You must use your V-Skill properly, because it is the only way to charge up your V-Trigger, another powerful new tool that is unique to each character.
They can be as simple as Vega’s single, powerful move (which, by the way, makes for a terrific whiff punish), Ken’s combo extender, or even Chun Li’s momentary power-up, which adds multiple hits to most of her usual attacks.
The V-System, as a whole, is a fantastic alternative for Street Fighter 4’s Ultra meter. It rewards your mastery of one special ability by offering you access to another, which needs thought to use effectively with each of the cast members.
And what a cast they have. A wonderful mix of eight famous franchise mainstays, four long-absent fan favorites, and four newbies. Some of the perennials have a familiar feel to them, but because to the V-System, they’ve been given a lovely new twist.
Dhalsim is a personification of this ideal. His V-Skill allows him to pause his jump in the middle of its arc and hover in place, shifting left or right and canceling out any aerial move on the fly.
Where an airborne Dhalsim was formerly a target, this allows him to threaten from angles he couldn’t before, or to flee circumstances where he would have been trapped otherwise. As a result, hemakes a much more challenging and interesting character to play as and against.
Others, such as Vega, have been completely redesigned with new moves and mechanics that make them seem exciting to learn and play. With the addition of his characteristic claw, the Spanish matador may now fight with or without it.
His pokes are slower with it, but they have more range and damage. When he removes it, his standard attacks become significantly faster, new combo routes become available, and he also receives a command grab, making him much superior at brawling up close and maximizing damage on every opening.
Understanding the posture to take in various matchups is crucial, and now that all of his inputs have switched from charges to motions, he can be played more actively rather than reactively.
All of the new kids on the block are also a lot of fun to utilize. Lieutenant F.A.N.G of Shadaloo is all about flamboyance and a tense keepaway game. With both his basic and special moves, he simply fills the screen with stuff, commanding vast swaths of space.
Necalli is a thug that uses massive block-stun inducing punches and foot-stomps to bully his opponents. Rashid can play balls-out like a nut with his ability to close gaps quickly and enhance his many mobility choices with the strength of wind, but he also has some terrific pokes and a balanced toolkit that allow him to play cautious and solid if his gimmicks stop working out.
Still, the nicest thing I can say about the cast is that I want to play everyone, including characters like Ken, Chun, and Sim, whom I’ve never given a second thought in my 20 years of Street Fighter.
Not only is the cast strong from top to bottom, but they’re also competing on a level playing field. Capcom has spent a ton of time fine-tuning Street Fighter 5 in order to eradicate the “vortex” style offenses that dominated Street Fighter 4, as well as to ensure that the ground game can’t be avoided with simple defensive alternatives.
With the concentration mechanic gone and back-dashes no longer providing invulnerability, dominating opponents with nothing but superior timing and spacing is entirely achievable.
This is a boon for characters like Chun Li, Karin, and Cammy, who can use their quick walk speeds and strong normals to poke, prod, and oppress their opponents if they’re played correctly. In this way, Street Fighter 5 is a refreshing throwback to a simpler time when having a great ground game was rewarded appropriately.
It’s difficult to critique something that appears tailor-made for a want tobe competitive player like me, but I can’t help but notice how little Street Fighter 5 offers the ordinary fighting game player. It features a wonderful, diverse cast of characters, lays a heavy focus on solid fundamental play, provides a superb online experience for competitive gamers, and does so all while looking stunning.
Street Fighter 5 is nearly unrivaled in terms of mechanics and competitive features, but it still has a long way to go in terms of overall content before it can compete with other fighting games, even its own predecessor.
4. Mortal Kombat X
Let’s get this out of the way first: Mortal Kombat X is, without a doubt, the best Mortal Kombat game ever made. It is, without a doubt, deeper, more mechanically rich, and more completely featured than any of the previous nine games.
Furthermore, developer NetherRealm Studios has taken a bunch of risks by introducing eight brand new characters to the MK roster, as well as interesting, diverse twists on adding characters. Each of these chances pays off to varied degrees, but they also serve to emphasize some of the franchise’s historical ways.
Mortal Kombat X is an outstanding fighter and the most enjoyable Mortal Kombat game I’ve ever played. A huge roster shakeup is the first thing MKX takes to make itself feel new and exciting to both long-time series fans and casual fighters.
MKX has a respectable 24 combatants before DLC arrives, with a staggering one-third of them being genuine new characters, not palette swaps or altered variant versions of current ones. Few fighting games with such a large cast of fan favorites have gone through such a thorough cleaning, and MKX is all the better for it.
Sure, I have fond memories of Kabal and Smoke, but newcomers like Takeda and Kung Jin bring so much variety to the scene in terms of gameplay that it’s difficult to be disappointed by their absence.
Takeda is the most visually new of the new characters, and he represents what MKX does well with them. He battles like a 21st-century ninja would, using a unique combination of conventional weapons and high-tech gadgetry.
He has arm-mounted, retractable grappling hooks that can open up into imposing blade-covered whips, as well as remote-controlled laser swords that he can plant and recall at will.
He also has explosive kunai throwing knives and arm-mounted, retractable grappling hooks that can open up into imposing blade-covered whips. He swings everything with a martial arts swagger that makes it all appear plausible.
In fact, because to the greatly improved animations, everyone conveys their fighting style more effectively than in previous NetherRealms games. Injustice was a step in the right direction in terms of fixing the flaws in Mortal Kombat X, but MKX takes it a step further: dash and hit animations, for example, no longer appear like helpless flailing. I used to be distracted by minor details like this all the time, and I’m delighted to see that they’ve now been sorted out.
This contributes to MKX feeling like the smoothest Mortal Kombat game yet. Walk speeds are faster, pokes are more helpful, and there’s more to explore, uncover, and exploit than ever before thanks to the awesome new variation system.
Liu Kang can switch between healing and damaging stances on the fly, new grappler Torr uses an assist character to double-team opponents, and Kotal Khan can place totems to grant himself temporary buffs – this is the kind of stuff you see in Persona 4 or BlazBlue, and seeing NetherRealms open up so many fun new doors is really refreshing.
The aesthetic inconsistency between characters is a minor distraction from the superb combat. Some combatants, such as Scorpion and the newcomer D’vorah, have fantastic facial and clothing details. Others, such as Sonya and Jacqui, appear to be significantly less realistic, with facial textures that are comparably basic.
The lofty peaks MKX reaches during its best moments make it stand out. It’s one of the best-looking console games there, with two of the better-looking fighters squaring off against one of the many stunning backgrounds, so it sticks out when everything else isn’t up to par.
The content of MKX’s so-so story mode, and how completely at odds it is with the visual Mortal Kombat has created over the years, is the inconsistency that sticks out the most for me. NetherRealms has once again built something meaningful for those who prefer a single-player experience, but it falls well short of past attempts.
The problem is that it’s weaving a story about family and young adults coming of age in a world of death and brutality, and the writing and voice acting are mostly to blame. It’s a terrible fit since it lacks the storytelling wit to accomplish anything interesting and unusual.
The chapters set in a civil war-torn Outworld fit the Mortal Kombat tone the best, but the feel-good story of a single father who loves his daughter in story mode can’t be reconciled with the image of him gleefully tearing a hole in her chest and proudly standing over her dead body in every other mode.
Yes, Mortal Kombat is nominally “about” Fatalities, and they’re gorier and more satisfying than ever before, but MKX’s story mode also wants to be about characters with profound links to one another: fathers and sons, estranged lovers, burgeoning romance, and long-standing blood feuds eventually put to rest.
Adding all of that drama to a series that began as a haphazardly put-together tale about a group of loners fighting to the death for their own reasons in strange, dangerous-feeling places leaves MKX befuddled.
Therematters a bit of this internal strife in the superb combat system, but it’s fortunately minor. After being free of it in Injustice, the bi-directional block button is back, and it feels restrictive. You can scream sacrilege all you want, but the block button is a terrible mechanic.
It eliminates an entire axis of mind games and setups by completely removing the left/right mixup that cross-ups are designed to create in 2D fighters. Still, there’s a lot of ground to cover. From high/low mixups to safe block strings to juggle starters, each character has a long array of strikes and combo chains that serve diverse goals.
Throws may now be canceled out of and linked into full combos, providing you another useful way to spend meter. X-Rays, the MK counterpart of super moves, have been retuned to be more worth the resources they need to accomplish.
This makes to the complexity of resource management considerations. Most importantly, having three versions of each character means there will be more matchup-specific information to learn, as playing against Sonya’s martial arts-focused Special Forces variant will not prepare you for the setups she can create with her Demolitions approach.
In a fighting game, the story only matters so much. Combat is king, and Mortal Kombat X has a ton of depth to mine. We’ll be learning, grinding, and finding for a long time, thanks to a much-needed infusion of new blood and the ability to pick between three varieties of each character.
Mortal Kombat X is a fantastic fighting game, even if its universe is becoming increasingly difficult to take seriously and its microtransactions are downright disgusting.
5. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
Dragon Ball Z is no stranger to having its story transformed into video game form, with more than 30 games to its credit, some dating back to the 1980s and the majority only available in Japan. However, it has rarely been done in such a way that the story takes center stage rather than taking a back seat to the action.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the most thorough and loving reimagining of the DBZ universe to date, portraying the story through the lens of a free-roaming action RPG rather than a straight-up fighting game like Xenoverse or FighterZ. It’s as rough around the edges as Vegeta’s demeanor, yet beneath it all lies a game brimming with affection for the original material.
Kakarot achieves an odd genre balance by combining an arena fighting game with a semi-open-world action role-playing game. To put it another way, it feels like a Dragon Ball-powered Yakuza in the free-roaming sections before transitioning to a classic Xenoverse/Tenkaichi-style fighting game once combat begins. It’s also fantastic as an arena combatant.
Combat is simple, with one-button combinations and a customizable set of four special attacks, but it’s packed with small details that go a long way toward keeping the action from becoming mindless. You’re always locked on and connected to your opponent, allowing you to effortlessly move toward, away from, and orbit around them in mid-air, and you can switch targets with a simple flick of the right stick.
While this may appear to be a button-mashing game – and it is to some extent — it is a combat system that forces you to react to what your opponent is doing. Most enemies have hazardous attacks that absorb your hits in order to deal one of their own, which can instantly stop you in your tracks and stun you, forcing you to carefully balance your offensive and defensive options.
Fortunately, Kakarot’s combat is cleverly constructed so that you may always evade to cancel out of a combo and get out of the way when anything hazardous is clearly telegraphed.
Your ki meter governs not only your special move usage, but also your ability to use vanishes to get close and punish projectile attacks, your ability to use a super dash and chase down enemies after knocking them away, your ability to use a burst of energy to knock an opponent away when they’re about to break through your guard, and, of course, your various transformations, including going Super Saiyan.
I enjoy how Kakarot employs Ki, as it ties in just as many valuable defensive methods as it does attacking, making it a crucial rechargeable resource during fight.
A tension gauge fills up during the course of a fight, and when it’s full, you can engage Surge mode, which allows you to cancel special moves into one another. That implies you could chain a series of kamehamehas together for huge damage — as long as you had the ki to do so, of course.
When you finish a fight with a Surge-powered beam strike, you get an awesome “Super Finish” animation, which is a nice trump card to have when things go rough. Because Kakarot is a single-player bit that doesn’t need to be tuned for competitive play, developer CyberConnect 2 was able to go a little crazy with enemy design and give them special skills that would be far too powerful in a PvP setting.
For example, Cell can divide into around 20 weaker versions of himself, all of whom begin preparing attacks directed directly at you, while Kid Buu and Frieza can create planet-sized energy bombs that require you to rush or suffer immense damage. It makes fighting these villains feel appropriately epic.
All of these minor details add up to enhance a combat system that is otherwise quite basic but dazzling. Kakarot, on the other hand, is a long game, taking me roughly 33 hours to complete, and by the time I was halfway through, I felt like I’d seen just about everything it had to offer.
As a result, the second half was less exciting and demanding than I had hoped. Aside from that, Kakarot’s other RPG components just get in the way. Many skills on the skill tree are frustratingly gated by combat challenges that are almost always either more trouble than they’re worth or against enemies who can’t even damage you; and the fishing and baseball minigames are only good for a laugh.
You can also collect various cooking items to make meals that grant both temporary and permanent bonuses, or preserve those dishes to have Chi-Chi prepare a full course dinner for large stat boosts, but this seldom works out.
Cooking, while thematically entertaining, is ultimately a ton of monotonous and repetitive labour that’s best avoided, especially since you obtain all of the stat boosts you need through natural leveling by playing the main quest. It’s fantastic when Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is at its peak.
The huge moments of each epic are beautifully brought to life with stunning visuals and effects, but Kakarot also pays tribute to the quieter, more character-driven moments that first drew fans in. As a result, Kakarot is a wonderful way to relive the Dragon Ball Z story, whether you’re a long-time fan or new to the series.
While the combat is excellent, it has a number of flaws, including poorly integrated RPG mechanics, a general lack of polish, and several disappointingly dull and repetitive sidequests.