Shimbun‘s resident games guru, Ben Reynolds, counts down the best beat ’em ups of all time…
5. INJUSTICE 2
Let’s be honest, we all want a decent Marvel fighting game. We all want the chance to right some wrongs, to help Thor smash Loki or for Bruce Banner and Black Widow to work through their relationship problems with a good scrap, but until that time, we have to settle for the DC version. So we get Batman, Joker and Superman in foreboding locations beating the hell out of each other. It looks pretty and the fighting mechanics are robust with a surprisingly good single-player campaign. And if DC had not made such a mess of its cinematic universe, this might have been even more enjoyable.
4. MORTAL KOMBAT
Mortal Kombat will always hold a special place in my heart because of the outrage it caused on its release in 1992. Tabloids and parents frothed at the mouth at its blood-splattered ultra-violence carried out by photo-realistic motion-captured characters, although it was the fatality moves that caused the real controversy. When the words “Finish Him” appeared in red across the screen, it was an invitation to complete your victory in the most sickeningly violent way possible, with each character having a set of special moves for just that job. As a game it wasn’t as good as Street Fighter 2, which came out the same year, but it had a similar impact on the genre and prompted the introduction of age ratings on the industry. Mortal Kombat 2 subsequently hugely improved on the original, while the latest in the series, Mortal Kombat 11, was released in 2019.
Tekken 3 was the best fighting game of the Playstation era and the series still sits top of the pile as the best 3D hand-to-hand combat game out there. It has never relied on special moves, but instead rewards creative use of combinations across a cast of wide-ranging and enjoyable characters. Tekken 7 (pictured) is the best in the series since Tekken 3, with a large roster and controls that reward precision and timing. The latest version also has a mode for the noobs, so you can mash all the buttons and still feel like you’re in control while veteran players perfect the deep system of combinations.
2. STREET FIGHTER 2
The Godfather of fighting games. It’s impossible to say what the genre would look like without Street Fighter, but it influenced everything that came after. It was so good, in fact, that Capcom decided it didn’t need to come up with a newer version for years. But after a spell in the wilderness, the series is back in action with Street Fighter 5, which adds some modern visual polish to the brilliant original gameplay. Boasting unique characters and multiple arenas, with open movement that previous games had lacked, it is still the benchmark. Technical, relying on timing and combinations, you need precision and patience to win at Street Fighter. Just the way it should be.
1. SUPER SMASH BROS
Marvel v Capcom was a series of fighting games that might have been the best crossover attempt in the genre, but for the glorious, imperious and unbelievably fun Super Smash Bros. Characters and game worlds collide as players battle to be the last man/woman/hedgehog/robot/ape/dinosaur/whateverelseyoucanthinkof standing. Nintendo has never followed the crowd, and its own entry differs from the others in that it doesn’t work on hit points, but simply the race to pound your opponent until they take so much damage they fly off the screen. Hundreds of power-ups, a massive cast of characters from across multiple game worlds such as Mario, Sonic, Pacman, Zelda, Metroid, Megaman – the list goes on and on – make this the ultimate party fighting game. Fun, competitive, colourful and very, very satisfying, it’s just one of the best games about.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A professional journalist and author, Ben Reynolds has been a dedicated button basher for as long as he can remember. His first novel, The Last of Logan, is part grief memoir, part love letter to video games and will be out later this year.
VERDICT: Are you outraged at the omission of Virtua Fighter or do you believe Ben’s “best of” list is bang on? Share your thoughts via firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set the record straight in a coming issue.