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Legends Never Die – The 14 Best Fighting Games on Nintendo Consoles

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Pokken Tournament is coming out soon, and so what better way to greet a new fighter into our library than to create a list of our favorite fighting games from the past? This article isn’t intended to discuss what makes a fighting game good, nor are we going to even bother addressing the ongoing and silly debate about whether or not Super Smash Bros. is even a fighting game. Instead, we will list our 14 favourite fighting games available on any one of Nintendo’s many consoles. Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are surely represented here, but despite their dominance in the genre, a few lesser known games also make an appearance. And although the Super Smash series does have an unfair advantage, many of you may be surprised that it doesn’t get the number one spot. Check out the list below and let us know which of these 14 games is your favourite.

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14. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core (Wii)

Few franchises have the pedigree to them that Guilty Gear does. Inspired by Capcom’s fast-paced Dark Stalkers series, Guilty Gear eventually became the benchmark for quality in what to want out of a fast-paced anime-style fighting game. The Wii release of Accent Core suffered from the console’s lack of other fighting game support. While supporting the Wii Classic controller, and GameCube controller, the Wii lacked a dedicated arcade stick, something the rivaling PlayStation 2 release did not. It’s a shame the game was overshadowed in this way, as Accent Core is one of the most polished games in the Guilty Gear franchise. It’s colorful cast of characters and rocking soundtrack are offset by one of the highest skill floors for a popular fighter, but maybe it’s that aspect that makes Guilty Gear fun to play. Without a doubt, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core is one of the greatest fighting games of all time and an under-appreciated gem on the Nintendo Wii. (Taylor Smith)

13.  Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (Super NES)

Considered one of the best installments in the franchise, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is an update to the third installment that brings back everything that made the original good while adding a whole lot more. The third installment of Mortal Kombat retains the blood and gory attacks that defined the series and it also introduces new types of the finishing moves, including Animalities. This is the first Mortal Kombat that allows you to uppercut an opponent into a new arena, and new to the series were combos and predefined sequences that let players perform a series of consecutive attacks. Players could also now briefly dash toward the opponent, and Mortal Kombat 3 added some great characters, including a great boss in Motaro. On home consoles, Rain and Noob Saibot join the roster, and the boss characters are playable thanks to codes. Each console port has differences from the arcade original, but overall the SNES port was the better version thanks to the system’s advanced color palette and sound chip. Ultimate MK3, unfortunately, marked the beginning of a new era in which the creators started a trend of focusing more on the bells and whistles instead of the basics that make a good fighting game. (Ricky D)

Bloody Roar: Primal Fear

12. Bloody Roar: Primal Fear (Gamecube)

In the fighting game heyday that was the mid-1990’s, Eighting’s Bloody Roar series was one of the standouts among the polygonal fighters.  It featured a special “Beast Mode” where each character had an animal they could transform into and a breakable wall system which allowed for several combo and juggle possibilities. Released in 2002 and being the only title in the series on a Nintendo platform, Bloody Roar: Primal Fury was unleashed with 16 fighters, including returning favorites such as Yugo the Wolf, Jenny the Bat, Gado the Lion, Alice the Rabbit, Long the Tiger, and newcomers Chronos the Penguin and Ganesha the Elephant.

Bloody Roar: Primal Fury features a side story that takes place between Bloody Roar 2 and Bloody Roar 3, and is as nonsensical as your typical fighting game, but it boasts nice graphics, fast-paced gameplay, and plenty of modes to choose from. Hardcore fighting game veterans may be let down since there is only so much depth and immersion to the core mechanics (although the combos will satisfy) but newcomers will appreciate how accessible the game is for beginners.

Bloody Roar: Primal Fury has sold 180,000 copies around the world, a modest amount compared to its biggest competition at the time, Tekken 4, but in my opinion Bloody Roar: Primal Fury is one of the best fighting games available for the Gamecube. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a new title in the series since 2003’s Bloody Roar 4, and with Hudson being absorbed by Konami, the future of the series is up in the air.

With the fighting game resurgence over the last few years, perhaps a new Bloody Roar game is due for a comeback on a current platform, like the Wii U or maybe even the NX?  (Koru Taylor)

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11. Street Fighter IV (Nintendo 3DS)

The spotty history of fighting games on handhelds has been due to awkward controls and/or a straight-up sloppy port, but thankfully Capcom proved a fighting game on a portable system can be done right! Capcom not only successfully ported its popular fighting game over to Nintendo’s handheld, but it also managed to pack in a ton of extra features not included in the version found on home consoles. Packed with 35 playable characters, bonus stages and cinematic combos, Super Street Fighter IV 3D expands the action by allowing you to challenge friends from around the world using Wi-Fi. New to the franchise is the figurine mode, which utilizes the Street Pass feature to add a collectible meta-game, and the 3D over-the-shoulder camera option looks great. It may not be the best platform to play the fighter on, but it’s certainly the best we’ve seen when it comes to playing on the go. It would be easy to point out all of the things that Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition doesn’t do, but why bother? The bottom line is Capcom found a way to best squeeze every bit of bone-crushing fighting action onto the palm of your hand. Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition easily stands toe-to-toe with its console editions and is one of the best titles in the 3DS library. (Ricky D)

Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001,

10. Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001 (Gamecube)

While Capcom called the first Capcom Vs SNK the match of the millennium, the sequel ups the ante further with hi-res character detail and more characters from the venerable fighting houses. The dream matches got even dreamier when you could now pit Akuma of Street Fighter vs Iori Yagami from The King of Fighters.

Capcom Vs SNK 2: Mark of the Millenium 2001 made some rather vast changes in its control scheme and game mechanics from its predecessor. The original title featured a 4-button system common with the SNK fighters and also featured a Ratio system which enforced a sort of balance to the team of fighters you can build. In the sequel, the 4-button has now moved to a 6-button input set a la Capcom style and the Ratio system has been removed, allowing you to have any fighter for a team of 3 characters. The controls of the characters all remained the same, each responding as their original fighting base counterpart, which made it welcoming for fighting fans of SNK or Capcom.

CvS2 has a staggering total of 48 characters in the game at your disposal, ranging from the Street Fighter franchises and the unforgivably underrated Rival School franchise on the Capcom side, to King of Fighters, Samurai Showdown, and Garou: Mark of the Wolf on the SNK side.

CvS2 appeared in many top-10 fighter lists, and it’s no surprise why. It pits two fighting franchises against each other and sticks to controls and gameplay that makes them so great, while also creating a tight competitive atmosphere that gives the fans bragging rights to who’s really the greatest fighting company of them all – my money is on Capcom. (Aaron Santos)

Killer Instinct SNES

9. Killer Instinct (Super NES)

This 1994 arcade 1-on-1 fighting game, developed by Rare and published by Midway and Nintendo, introduced the world to the infamous “C-C-C-C-Combo Breaker!” and the legendary “Ultraaaa ComBOOOOO!” It also brought us a full-motion video, insanely long combos (including Cinder’s soon-patched infinite), a kick-ass soundtrack, auto-doubles, and smooth pre-rendered graphics at a level unique to 2D fighters at the time.

Killer Instinct’s roster features a diverse cast of characters, including a killer cyborg, a cursed werewolf, and a warrior skeleton, and each come with unique moves and actions. The battle system is somewhat similar to other fighting games at the time, only without a best-of-3 round set. Instead, each player has two life bars, and the fastest to drain their opponent’s two bars wins. Killer Instinct’s move set is similar to that of  Street Fighter II, and the fatality system calls to mind Mortal Kombat. Killer Instinct also adds humiliations, which make your opponent dance after defeat, and ultra combos, which are absurdly long attack strings and juggles, creating an unintentional plague of sorts over the future of the genre (i.e., Tekken Tag 2 and nearly every Anime fighter).

Killer Instinct was on course to becoming a launch title for the upcoming Nintendo console, the “Ultra 64,” which eventually would become the Nintendo 64, but in summer of 1995, the game was released instead on the SNES to critical acclaim, selling over 3 million copies. The SNES port released on a black cartridge and came with an arranged soundtrack CD, as well as some other goodies, and there was even a special SNES Killer Instinct console bundle, as well as a Game Boy port shortly after. Some fans were understandably upset that we weren’t quite getting our arcade experience at home, as from all technical aspects, this was, of course, an inferior port from an audio and graphical standpoint.

But technical shortcomings aside, the SNES port was extremely well done. The staff at Rare and Nintendo worked very hard to make the game as close as possible to the arcade original, and although the animation was not as fluid, the gameplay remained intact, with all of the crazy combos and several bug fixes. Modes like the tournament, training, and others were added for more friends to be able to join the battle. Killer Instinct’s legacy remains strong, especially with its revival in 2013, and the SNES version remains on of the best fighting games on the system. (Koru Taylor)

8. Super Street Fighter II Turbo (Gameboy Advance)

When Capcom’s timeless Street Fighter masterpiece made its way to the Game Boy Advance it was a big deal. Back in the day, we didn’t have many fighting games we could play outside of our homes, and so the port to the GBA was a blessing for fans of the series. Obviously, there won’t be many people wishing to return to this version in 2016, but it is on the list for two simple reasons: first, the game proved that fighting games can be fun to play on a portable system and second, the port was actually really good considering the limitations of the GBA. Nostalgia kicks in when making these lists and there is no doubt Super Street Fighter II Turbo Revival has a special place in our hearts, but nostalgia aside, the game is still a blast to play and can now be downloaded via the Wii U virtual console. (Ricky D)

7. Mortal Kombat 2 (Super NES)

After the commercial and critical success of the original Mortal Kombat, Ed Boon, and John Tobias set out to make a sequel that would somehow be better than the original. In what is now a staple for the series, Mortal Kombat 2 introduced new characters, new stages, and cranked up the fatalities to 11, making them bloodier and more gruesome than before. New to the series were Baraka, Jax, Mileena, Kitana and Kung Lao – while the previously unplayable evil sorcerer Shang Tsung was added to the roster, as was Reptile (who could only be unlocked in the original). Released in 1994 for the SNES, MK2 went on to become a massive success, selling well over $50 million in its first week alone and outselling movie blockbusters such as Forrest Gump, The Lion King, and True Lies. (Aaron Santos)

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6. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Super NES, Gameboy, Wii Virtual Console)

Though people will often cite other games as kicking off the popularity of the fighting game genre, the impact of Street Fighter II cannot be overlooked. Sure, there were other fighting games that came first, but Street Fighter II was the first game that executed it well. Capcom’s groundbreaking game became a cultural phenomenon and single-handedly sparked a resurgence in the arcade in the early 90’s. Street Fighter II set up the blueprint of the modern fighting games and opened the doors for a spate of games such as Mortal Kombat and Tekken following in its wake. It was a massive success for Capcom, selling more than 60,000 cabinets worldwide, a record for the time, and it completely changed the video game industry.

Like most popular arcade games of the time, Street Fighter 2 inevitably made its way to home consoles. Given Capcom’s publishing history and relationship with Nintendo, it was first ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The SNES adaptation is probably one of the best arcade-to-console ports in history, and despite some minor changes to the graphics and audio (in order to fit into the cartridge), the port is extremely faithful to the original. It became one of the console’s best sellers and was so successful that Capcom just kept releasing more versions of it. From 1991 to 1994, there were 5 adaptations of Street Fighter II, and by 1995 the game had been played by at least 25 million Americans in homes and arcades, while the gross revenues of the console and arcade versions had exceeded $2.312 billion, making it Capcom’s best-selling single consumer game software at the time.

Street Fighter II set a standard, popularized the genre, and set off a renaissance for the arcade game industry in the early 1990s. At the time it was groundbreaking, and 25 years later it stands the test of time that any gamer, no matter what their age, can enjoy. (Ricky D)

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5. Super Smash Bros. Wii U

If there were never another Smash Bros. game ever produced (which is highly unlikely, no matter what happens to its constantly retiring director), Nintendo fans could be content that they may have already played Sakurai’s ultimate version of the classic fighting game series in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. If it seems like almost nothing was put into the creation of the bland title, maybe that’s because all Nintendo’s efforts were focused entirely on packing this entry with the most characters, content, and chaos possible, resulting in a game so stuffed with playability and replayability that it should live on long past the lifespan of its console home. A roster of 58 fighters, including several non-Nintendo characters like Bayonetta, Ryu, Mega Man, and Cloud Strife, 48 stages, 140 challenges, online tournaments, 743 trophies, amiibo support with fighter training, and the list keeps going on and on.

Despite the massive amount of content, though, the best thing about Smash Bros. for Wii U is how it plays. Whether an old pro or someone new to the series, the basics are still as satisfying and easy to jump into as ever, but this may be the most finely-tuned game in the franchise, thanks to Sakurai’s seemingly endless balance tinkering, making this one of the few entries where trying each character out isn’t done merely for posterity’s sake.

With more content than ever before that offers countless hours of entertainment, Super Smash Bros for Wii U is the pinnacle of the series so far. It will be hard to top this one, Sakurai. (Patrick Murphy)

SuperSmashBrosBrawl

4. Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii)

Easily one of the greatest games on the Wii and one of the best fighting games in general, Super Smash Bros. Brawl appeals to both hardcore and casual gamers alike. Regardless of how little experience you have with the series, anyone will find it easy to just pick up the controller and follow along, and with a roster of over 30 iconic Nintendo characters, any fan of Nintendo will find a character they adore. Brawl also marks the first time non-Nintendo characters were added, and while Sonic returns in the Wii U follow-up, Solid Snake is sorely missed. Brawl also features a single player mode with plenty of side-scrolling action, memorable bosses, and several other unique enemies to do battle with. Brawl can lag at times and it lacks features commonly found in many fighting games, but that doesn’t take away from how fun it is to play, and Brawl is easily one of the most exciting fighting games ever made. (Will Stroad)

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3. Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube)

The sequel to Super Smash Bros. keeps the same basic premise as its predecessor, but for the second installment in the popular fighting series Nintendo really outdid themselves by adding better graphics, faster speed, and an even bigger roster of characters to choose from. Super Smash Bros. Melee is easily among the most inventive fighting games ever released and is often cited as the best in the series. Melee became a labor of love for game director Masahiro Sakurai, and anyone who’s played the game can tell he poured his heart and soul into it. Not only is it the GameCube’s best-selling game, but perhaps the system’s best game period.  (Ricky D)

Tatsunoko Vs Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars2. Tatsunoko Vs Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars (Wii)

Tatsunoko Vs Capcom was an arcade fighter released in arcades and on the Wii in Japan in 2008. Many fans in the West were disappointed when they realized that there was probably little hope for the game to get released outside of Japan, due in part to the licensing nightmare involving the Tatsunoko franchises. Because many of the games in the series were owned by various different entities, it would mean that by localizing the game, they would need to pay royalties to use certain characters. Thankfully, Tatsunoko and Capcom teamed up to make the dream a reality and released the title as Ultimate All-Stars stateside, gaining back most of the licenses they needed while promptly replacing characters they could not get approved. While the game’s life was short-lived, it is definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences on the Wii, and for several years it was a part of the competitive fighting game scene, generating one of the most exciting grand finals to happen at EVO or any other major gaming competition worldwide. (Aaron Santos)

soul_calibur_ii_GameCube1. Soulcalibur II (GameCube)

If you played fighting games in the early 2000s, then you’d better believe you played Soul Calibur II. Being the successor to the highly acclaimed Dreamcast exclusive, Soul Calibur, Soul Calibur II had some pretty big shoes to fill. Luckily for fans, Project Soul did the job admirably, and SCII is still fondly remembered by most as the best game in the series. The main reason for this is something that cannot possibly be overstated, and that’s just how damn well the game plays. With perfectly balanced fighters, and most of them featuring incredibly diverse weapons, styles, and move sets (there are a couple of character copies, as is a common malady of the genre), Soul Calibur II is the kind of game that total newbies and expert players alike can pick up and enjoy. It features a deep combo system, an unprecedented focus on weapons, fantastic character design, and a lore so rich as to be almost indecipherable. To boot, as a multiplatform title, each iteration featured a character that could only be unlocked on their specific console, and with Link as the character who popped up on the Gamecube version, the decision was pretty much already made for anyone who happened to own the purple powerhouse at the time. I mean, Spawn (Xbox) and Heihachi (PS2) are just fine, but they can’t hold even the end of a candle up when it comes to everyone’s favorite elven warrior.  For these reasons and more, Soul Calibur II stands tall with the best of them when it comes to fighters, and even if it doesn’t have quite the brand recognition of classic franchises like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, that doesn’t stop it from pounding even their best entries into the ground with its hand tied firmly behind its back. (Mike Worby)

Editor’s Note: While Soul Calibur II was not voted number one on any of the individual ballots, it was the only game every writer voted for, thus accumulating enough points to top this list.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Matt De Azevedo

    March 8, 2016 at 1:29 am

    I don’t know whats more disturbing: The fact that Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 isn’t on the list, or the fact that Brawl is.

    Edit: My bad… the article has a misleading title… so it’s the best fighting games for Nintendo consoles… that still doesn’t explain Brawl’s inclusion, or why the original Smash Bros. isn’t on the list. You guys be crazy.

    • Ricky D Fernandes

      March 8, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      Hey man,

      I sent you an email asking to vote and you chose not to, so therefore, you cannot complain.

      Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 was never released on a Nintendo console. The original Smash almost made the list and believe it or not, many people like Brawl the best. They are wrong, but it is a popular opinion.

      Next time vote.

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