The recent (and current) state of things in the world has negatively impacted a lot of things, and the world of fighting games is among them. Without the majority of in-person tournaments the FGC (fighting game community) has taken a hit, and things have slowed down fairly considerably. Without any real big releases over the past year, the genre has taken a bit of a dip, but things are looking up in 2021.
With the beta of the newest Guilty Gear title, Guilty Gear Strive, a lot of attention was turned back to the genre. There’s a lot to be excited about, not just in Guilty Gear but in a host of titles set to hit the scene soon enough. We’ve gathered a few of the new titles set to bring a spark into the genre this year, if you’re looking to get in on the ground floor of a title, then keep an eye out for these.
KING OF FIGHTER XV
Release Date: TBA, 2021
The newest entry into the long-standing King of Fighters series, King of Fighters XV is shaping up to be a very promising entry in a series known for tight mechanics and an interesting cast of characters. The previous entry, The King of Fighters XIV, released to very mixed opinions back in 2016, due to the highly awkward and, in some places, poor visual design. The game’s move into a more 3D art style didn’t go over well initially, but after putting a lot of effort in and making everything look considerably better, reactions became far more positive.
Here’s hoping this new entry comes out with a bit of that polish we saw by the end of XIV. From the bits we’ve seen, it’s looking quite nice already.
GUILTY GEAR -STRIVE-
Developer: Arc System Works
Release Date: June 11, 2021
The big one at the moment, an anime fighter stalwart. The newest Guilty Gear has lit up the fighting game world as the first big game in a good while. With a few betas rolled out already, fan opinions have been pouring in. The core of the game is still this beautiful anime fighter goodness, though a few mechanic changes are proving a bit tough to get used to. The wall break system hasn’t been recieved well, seeming to hamper combo potential more than creating new options. But it’s early days still, and with an interesting and varied roster, there should be a lot of depth to this game. The last entry, Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2, was a beautiful beast of a fighting game, so we’re excited for big things!
DIE BY THE BLADE
Developer: Triple Hill Interactive, Toko Midori Games
Release Date: TBA, 2021
For whatever reason, Bushido Blade influence seems to be a big thing coming up. Somewhere between Bushido Blade and For Honor is where Die By The Blade appears to be, it’s one of a few upcoming fighting games basing themselves around the high footsies focus where first hit kills. Swordfighting samurai techpunk with parrying and high stakes? Sounds promising. It could end up being a gem of a smaller title.
PHANTOM BREAKER: OMNIA
Developer: 5pb., MAGES.
Release Date: TBA, 2021
A 2D anime fighter I had somehow never heard of up until recently. Phantom Breaker: Omnia is the definitive edition of the Phantom Breaker title, complete with all content and new characters. The game features guest characters from animes Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate, and will have two brand new fighters in this updated version. With an overhauled battle system, fighting styles to choose that affect how you play, and dual language audio, it seems like the devs are going all out for Omnia.
The game has developed a bit of a cult following, not on the level of Melty Blood or Fate or anything, but a respectable following nonetheless. With a more widespread and definitive release Phantom Breaker is looking to solidify a name for itself.
Developer: NeXT Studios
Release Date: TBA
Metal Revolution breaks down fighting games to a simple to use and beginner friendly system. Single buttons can be used to string together combos and moves. It’s an idea that’s been done a few times before, first that comes to mind is Fantasy Strike. Fantasy Strike unfortunately lacked a lot of depth and the awkward visuals combined with shallow gameplay left it to be quickly forgotten.
Visually Metal Revolution reminds me a bit of Rising Thunder, which also took a simplistic approach to the genre, though also felt barebones before the studio was bought out for Riot Games’ Project L. Here’s hoping Metal Revolution takes that formula and makes something with a bit more fire in it. From what we’ve seen the brighter cyberpunk inspired robots theme does give it a bit more flavour already, though without even as much as ‘2021’ as a release date we may be a good bit off seeing this one.
SAMURAI GUNN 2
Release Date: Q1, 2021
The sequel to the lightning fast Bushido brawler, the first entry was bundles of fun and the perfect game to just jump into with a group of friends. With interesting stage design and a plethora of movement abilities Samurai Gunn goes all in on making the playing experience as hype as can be. The sequel, though we don’t know too much just yet, should continue and build upon that style. Even if it ends up similar but with a brand new set of characters and maps, that’s a win in my book. Samurai Gunn is an arena brawler, not a traditional 2D or 3D fighting game as most of the other entries on this list are. This one seems due to drop any day now as well, if your thirst for new fighters can’t wait.
Developer: Riot Games, Radiant Entertainment
Release Date: TBA
Riot Games’ codename for their League of Legends fighting game. With Riot money (or, I suppose more aptly, Tencent money) there’s no excuse at all for this to not come out a sparkling gem. Their dedication to balance and frequent tweaks could be fantastic for the genre, and a whole host of brand new players will pop up following its release. With the Cannon brothers behind the wheel, who were responsible for the incredible GGPO rollback netcode and the Evolution Championship Series (Evo), there’s a whole lot of promise here.
Riot already has access to a host of well designed and varied characters with a slew of possible moves to capitalize on. We know of a few fighters who are making it in, and the speculation as to what others could is an exciting thing to mull over. With Riot Games branching out in so many directions they’re poised to take over a good portion of the gaming world, though at the same time things aren’t for certain. Their forays into deck building games and tactical shooters have more than likely been financially successful, but with a lot of dissenting opinions and quick drop offs in player counts things are still in the early days for Riot in other genres.
MELTY BLOOD: TYPE LUMINA
Developer: Type-Moon, French Bread
Release Date: Late 2021
A few days ago the new incarnation of the Melty Blood series was announced, another massive title for the fighting game genre. Type Lumina is a remake of the Melty Blood series, following the new continuity in the upcoming remake of the Tsukihime visual novel. At the moment we don’t know too much in depth, but at the least we know of one new mechanic in this fast paced anime fighter. Rapid Beat is their name for what appear to be autocombos, rapidly pressing the same button to execute combinations.
French Bread have been busy the past decade with the Under Night: In Birth fighting game series, however plans for Type Lumina have been floating around since 2010. It’s unlikely we’ll see this one until either after or around the same time as the new Tsukihime game releases, August 26th. Since the Under Night series has been hit after hit, with an incredible focus on mechanics and individual style of each character, Melty Blood: Type Lumina is a promising return to the classic title.
MOVING FORWARD: THE BIG READS
And now on to the speculation side of things. The former titles are all confirmed as either being worked on or definitely coming out this year. With the way things are in the world release dates are a bit malleable at the moment, but it’s safe to assume most of those titles will be dropping at some point this year with the possible exception of Project L.
The following games however are a few possibilities we’re waiting on news for. The bigger names in fighting games have decently long lifespans, being supported for years after release and generally getting multiple re-releases with new content. But eventually the next full entry is on the horizon.
STREET FIGHTER 6
It’s very likely that we will hear big news regarding the Street Fighter series soon enough. Street Fighter V seems to be in the wind down with the Champion Edition releasing and the final season of new characters coming to an end. All things point to the next game in the series prepared to enter the planning stage. SF6, or whatever it may end up being titled, is a strong possibility in the near future.
Where this will take us is anyone’s guess, though in terms of the story timeline the new game taking place post Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike makes the most sense. This leaves things open, we could see a plethora of brand new characters, redesigns of a lot of existing ones, or a mixture of the two.
Similarly a new Tekken game could be around the corner, although it seems less pressing than a new Street Fighter. It’s been a good while since Tekken 7 dropped, and whilst it’s gotten considerable attention over the years and consistent new content and characters, it’s likely with a new console cycle becoming a bit more widespread soon enough that we’ll hear news of a new entry into the series. The current generation in the Tekken series is still performing incredibly well and catching a lot of attention, so Bandai Namco will probably take their time perfecting the next game before we see anything.
Injustice 3, provided NetherRealm keep with their release pattern of Injustice, Mortal Kombat, Injustice, Mortal Kombat, should be their next big project. NetherRealm’s attention to detail and fantastic narrative experiences make for an exciting new entry, even if their gameplay is occasionally divisive. It’s very likely we’ll hear news about this soon enough, although since creative director Ed Boon has previously stated in an interview that “there are so many factors involved with the transition to the next consoles,” the current shortage of new console units out in the world may prove to delay news at least for a little while.
There are plenty more fighting games coming this year, the majority of which are either smaller titles or brand new indie games. The genre may have hit a bit of an uncertain time recently, but with the passion the fanbases of not just the individual games but the genre as a whole put in we’ll be seeing new life constantly pulsing back through the industry.
In terms of the FGC they’ve found success, at least on some levels, in developing an online community for their tournaments. Things will eventually, hopefully, be able to return to some semblance of normality in time. Right now is a great time to start getting into fighting games, with a plethora of new and exciting games on the horizon, and the community banding together in more accessible ways than ever before. Pick your game, choose your fighter, and let’s dive into the future of the genre.