Fighting games are brutal to newbies to the genre. While I’m still a newbie myself, I’ve purchased seemingly every major fighting game series through the years. When opponents face me in online matches, I’m seen as Glass Joe from “Punch-Out!!” Sporting the default symbol, lingering in the bottom rank, with a miraculous one victory to my name (probably a player who disconnected midway), I’ve got more issues with fighting games then just lag and a bad directional pad to blame. My horribleness at pulling off the successful 10+ hit combo, or even 3+, qualifies me to rank each fighting series from the best for newbies to the most hardcore fighting game mechanics.
This isn’t a list of best in quality but merely moving from the easiest to hardest to play for newcomers to fighting games. This has been a great and robust year for fighting games with prominent series like “Dead or Alive,” “Soul Calibur” and “Tekken” receiving sequels all with different play style and difficulties for players.
Capcom versus series
Specifically “Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds”
Capcom facing off against other series and entertainment properties is a cheap but effective shot of fan service into the bloodstream of gaming. Because of the inclusion of comic book characters and drawing in non-fighting game fans, “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” introduced “Simple Mode,” which boiled down special moves and combos into single button pushes, while limiting the overall move pool available to normal players. So those playing as Iron Man wouldn’t have to fumble over controls to start equipping the massive Stark guns to dole out insane 50+ hit combos. There’s not a lot of nuance or complexities to the system, being a strong straightforward game, ideal to breakout for multiplayer against people who’ve never played before.
Specifically “Mortal Kombat 9”
Beneath the bloody exterior of “Mortal Kombat’s” reputation is a stiff fighting system perfect for new players to the fighting genre. The majority of special moves are simplistic enough to master quickly and even the “Finishers” have simplified through the years (pausing and studying game manuals no longer necessary). Rigid movement equals leniency in timing with moves so even if you throw in a few extra directional presses you’ll still execute Kung Lao’s friendly bladed hat toss. The gore is still upfront but at “Mortal Kombat’s” core, it’s an easy system to pick-up and play. Not to humble-brag, but I actually have TWO ranked wins in “Mortal Kombat” thanks to Mileena’s roll combos.
Dead or Alive
Specifically “Dead or Alive 5”
Outsiders looking at “Dead or Alive” see more of the jiggling than the air juggling combos thanks to its upfront female cast that strangely contains about equal male and female fighters. While not boasting the deepest combat thanks to its counter system, the series tends to rely on luck and predicting opponent’s moves which levels the playing field. The 10+ hit combos still require precision but “Dead or Alive’s” timing doesn’t require utmost accuracy compared to other fighting games meaning it’s not an impossibility to perform every character’s full move set in training. Visuals also give the series an extra pop in presentation with tiered levels adding cinematic flare to battles paired with the blazing-fast pacing. The “Dead or Alive 5” “I’m a Fighter” advertising campaign has attempted to put the game mechanics upfront, but apparently wasn’t what fans really want in the series.
Specifically “Super Street Fighter IV”
Down, down-forward, forward and punch/kick is always the first move tried with every fighting character thanks to Ryu, and lesser extent Ken, from “Street Fighter.” The hadoken is legendarily simple and perhaps the most famous fighting move ever and attributable to “Street Fighter’s” ease. Smartly the series jumped to 3D graphics in “Street Figher IV,” but sustained the lovable 2D action, which didn’t require forcibly adding directional dodging and the like. The fighters are straightforward, if Guile’s kneeling, no jumping: flash kick imminent. Just remember never to purchase on release day lest the ultimate version of the title bites you several months later.
King of Fighters
Specifically “King of Fighters XIII”
The rival to “Street Fighter,” the “King of Fighters” series has always lurked in the background but continuously sustained itself through the years thanks to a dedicated fan base. Two critical elements separate the two series in terms of gameplay: team-based standard matches, requiring multiple character expertise and a lot of terminology like “drive cancels.” Citing the Shoryuken Wiki, the following is an explanation:
“Drive Cancels (DC) serve as a way to cancel a Special Move into another Special Move to continue a combo. You can also cancel a special into its EX version, but not vice versa. To Drive Cancel, simply input the motion for the special you wish to cancel into while the currently active special is hitting (or in some cases, during the recovery time of a Special Move after it has hit). Each Drive Cancel consumes half of a player’s Hyper Drive Meter, limiting most combos to two Drive Cancels outside of Hyper Drive Mode. “
I feel like I’m in math class which I’m equally as ignorant to as I am to fighting games.
Specifically “Soul Calibur IV”
Jumping into 3D fighting is a completely new experience if you’ve been contained in the 2D realm in your entire fighting game life. Sidestepping is a wholly new concept, but “Soul Calibur” is a great entry point into this odd extra dimension. The weapon-based fighting is simplistic with various different styles that tend to overlap with the myriad of weapons available. Not every move is easily executable, I’m pretty sure Ivy’s “Calamity Symphony” requires bending the thumbstick in two directions at once, but no character is overly complicated beyond comprehension… except Voldo.
Arc System Works fighting games
Specifically “BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger”
Arc System Works is stubbornly staying put in 2D graphics, but with the beautiful art of “BlazBlue” series, it’s acceptably on many levels. Besides amazing graphics, Arc System Works utilizes a much smaller roster of well-developed characters rather than a larger list of sometimes overlapping characters. Eccentric is not a strong enough word to describe the cast of characters, like Carl Clover, who utilizes a doll/mannequin as a weapon and a sister, or cat-girl Taokaka who tends to use breast size as a descriptor or name for most characters. Each character’s unique fighting system requires a heavy dosage of usage to fully understand their style. For example, Bang Shishigami uses giant nails to fight, but not in a conventional poking type of way. He punctures the air and utilizes them in a variety of ways by either speed boosts or damage combos. It’s a hard game to master and weeding out newbies is especially easy.
Specifically “Virtua Fighter V”
Where “Dead or Alive” relies on sexy female fighters and “Mortal Kombat” focuses on violence, “Virtua Fighter” is the straight-to-business fighting series. It’s not overly flashy, without the extreme personalities and wackiness of other fighting games and relies on its balanced and straightforward gameplay. Getting knocked out of the fighting environment doesn’t trigger an explosion or cinematic-like fall but merely ends the match. There’s no “Extreme Beach Volleyball” or “Death by Degrees” in its series history, “Virtua Fighter” has been the banner series for 3D fighters, which may give newbies a difficulty, especially if they’re expecting a visual-heavy game.
Specifically “Tekken 6”
When block doesn’t have a button, button-mashers are already at a disadvantage, as “Tekken” requires a lot of patience to succeed. Everything about the “Tekken” series is complex compared to other fighting series. It has one of the largest fighting rosters, boasting over 40 characters, which requires a lot of knowledge on characters beyond whether or not they’ve got a fireball in the arsenal. It’s also a series very reliant on combos, since damage output is high while defenses are typically low, resulting in quick matches. Most fighting games a single long-string combo doesn’t spell instant doom, but in “Tekken,” the match could be over the second a player initiates a string of devastating moves. I had trouble even completing the single-player arcade mode. No way should you make “Tekken” your entry point into fighting games, unless you’re setting the bar high.
(Sadly, I haven’t played “Skullgirls” yet, but from all accounts an original decent fighting game released this year.)
Agree or disagree with the ranking of the degree of difficulty for each fighting series? Be sure to post your thoughts in the below comment section.