From ‘Shoryuken’ To ‘Finish Him!’

The Duality of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter

Welcome back to our in depth look at the gameplay and design history of games. Today we’ll examine two genre-defining franchises and their graphics and gameplay evolutions over the years.

No two franchises have been quite so genre-defining as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. These earliest examples of fighting games debuted to much critical acclaim and to the chagrin of censorship groups everywhere. Both franchises also spawned cheesy ’90s movies. In the current running, Street Fighter holds the most clout in the tournament circuits, with Mortal Kombat as a close second, though having been somewhat absent from the tournament scene between 2014-17.

For these two powerhouses, we’re going to take a side-by-side semi-chronological approach, analyzing the graphics and gameplay of the two, and their overall reception.

Street Fighter (1987)

Capcom’s first foray came out much earlier than the more well-known console games, and before Mortal Kombat even existed. Street Fighter was originally an arcade title only and featured just one playable fighter: Ryu. Taking control of this legendary, fictional martial artist, the player travels around the globe, participating in the World Warrior tournament, and taking on the best fighters in each region, including the USA, Japan, England, China, and Thailand. Each region has two fighters, making for 10 fights total, and the first to win two rounds wins the fight overall [ 1 ].

The now-iconic and familiar appearance of Ryu started here, with his white karate gi, black belt, red hand and footpads, and red bandana. His fighting style appears to be a combination of karate and kickboxing, though it is hard to tell exactly. He also has his special moves, derived from his inner fighting spirit, called ki or chi. Included in these are his now-signature Hadoken fireball, Shoryuken uppercut, and the often poorly understood and mispronounced Tastsumaki Senpukyaku hurricane kick. Apart from these, he has his regular punches and kicks, jump punches and kicks, and his block. While this is a small move set, it’s very effective and smoothly animated, especially for such an early title.

Humble beginnings for both franchises gave rise to great and wondrous things.

The graphics are 16-bit, though they fall on the less detailed side. The scenery of each fighting stage is brightly colored, with static background and foreground set pieces like a train station, Mt. Rushmore, Japanese temples, the Great Wall of China, and more. The far foreground features a crawling cloud animation, and while that would barely count as animation today, it’s still enough in this early title to give a sense of actual-world activity outside the fights themselves. It should be noted that other recurring series characters make their first appearance here, namely Ken, who the second player can be in versus mode, Gen, and Sagat. 

The original Street Fighter wasn’t too popular of a title, though it did garner enough of a following for Capcom to make a sequel. It’s known for its very unforgiving difficulty, as Ryu can’t take much punishment before being knocked out, and the controls aren’t as responsive as they need to be for a fighting game. It is not unbeatable, but it is damn hard. It’s interesting to think that such an unpolished first title spawned a genre-defining franchise.

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991)

This is the title that most people will remember first playing on home consoles. SFII features a versus mode and tournament mode, with a roster of 8 fighters to choose from. Ryu returns, joined by his rival Ken, and newcomers Dhalsim, the Yoga master; Chun Li, with her amazing rapid kicks; Guile, a USAF vet known for his high-top fade and Sonic Boom; E. Honda, the sumo wrestler with the unstoppable pushing hand; Blanka, a mutated man who fights like a beast; and Zangief, a gigantic Russian wrestler. There are also four hidden fighters to face at the final leg of the tournament: Balrog, an American boxer; Sagat, Ryu’s enemy from the first game; Vega, a lithe Spanish man with a hand claw; and finally, M. Bison, a villain from parts unknown and this game’s Big Bad [ 2 ].

This game follows the same tournament style—fight your way through 10 opponents, each one progressively harder than the last, winning two out of three possible rounds to advance. The expanded roster of characters of course means a lot more variety in both matchups and special moves. Basic attacks like punches, kicks, sweeps, blocks, and throws are shared by all fighters, so their unique outfits and special moves are what set them apart. It’s up to the player to utilize these moves at the right times to achieve victory. Each fighter’s model also has a range of facial expressions and reactions to being struck that make them feel more alive, and their unique victory poses add more character to these otherwise lore-light fighters.

Fighting arenas are even more exciting in this edition, as there are animated spectators cheering and jeering, though on a continuous loop. Some stages even feature destructible objects that fighters can throw their opponents into for some extra damage, or just to look cool. Each stage is a unique 16-bit painting of real-world inspired locations. Dhalsim’s temple in India has Taj Mahal-inspired architecture, and animated elephants lining its long background corridor.

Street Fighter II broke new ground in the burgeoning fighting game genre. It put fighting games on the map and into the homes of hundreds of thousands, paving the way for all fighting game titles that came after it. I fondly recall many nights of my childhood playing this game at my friend’s house, and the fun back and forth of discovering new character moves in the pre-internet days. This particular title has had many iterations. We’ll get into those as we move forward in time, but now it’s finally time for Mortal Kombat!

Mortal Kombat (1992)

The new cool kid on the block, Midway’s Mortal Kombat was an astounding and infamous success. Known primarily for its semi-realistic depictions of blood, gore and death, this title drew the ire of many censorship groups, and is partly why we now have the ESRB rating system [ 3 ]. The game takes place in a fictional Earth, where a tournament called Mortal Kombat is held to decide the fate of Earth and a place called Outworld. Shang Tsung has taken control of this tournament, and his champion, Goro, has won the tournament for the last 500 years. One more victory will mean that Earthrealm is open to invasion [ 4 ].

MK features a roster of fighters in rotoscoped style, where real actors pose in costume and the film was used to create the sprites. The result is the characters look like real people, although their animations remain limited to technology. The first game features seven fighters in total. Liu Kang, a Shaolin monk whose mission is to stop Shang Tsung; Johnny Cage, an actor with something to prove; Sonya Blade, a special agent on the hunt for a fugitive; Kano, the fugitive; Sub-Zero, a ninja with ice powers; Scorpion, rival to Sub-Zero; and Raiden, god of lightning. Similar to Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat‘s fighters share all the same basic punches, kicks, and blocks, but their appearances and special moves set them apart from each other.

Following typical fighting tournament format, but with its own twists you must battle your way through all the other fighters on the roster, as well as a mirror match. You then face three endurance rounds where they must defeat two opponents in a row, plus Goro and Shang Tsung for the game’s final fights. The game’s stages consist of different areas of the tournament island. There’s a spectator-filled arena with Shang Tsung himself sitting on a large throne in the background. You’ll battle atop a tall bridge, with a stage-specific finishing move that sends your opponent down to the spikes below. There’s a throne room stage with Shang Tsung much closer, and he’ll applaud when matches are ended. Some stages are set during the day, and others at night. The combination of rotoscoped fighters and traditional digital art makes for an interesting dichotomy, and it’s a signature style that the MK series will continue to have for several of its early titles.

As mentioned before, there is blood and death in the game. In particular, MK is the first fighting game to feature finishing moves, which it calls Fatalities. These moves require special sequential input into the game controller, and when done correctly will cause your victorious character to kill your opponent in spectacular, gory fashion. The MK series has fatalities in every main title and continues to keep an overall dark theme throughout. These killing moves, along with the general bloodshed present in the game, brought down the ire of censorship groups in the United States. The ESRB did not yet exist, and wouldn’t for another two years, but this is one of the game titles that contributed to that reactionary movement. Of note, Sega actually implemented its own rating system for games featured on its console, and Mortal Kombat received the “MA-13” designation, for mature audiences 13 and older.

Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (1992), Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers (1993), Super Street Fighter II: Turbo (1994)

Whoa baby, that’s a lot of remakes! Capcom released these various remastered editions of SFII in rapid succession, following the success of the first title, with each one adding more features and more balance patches to the game. I’m going to be brief here because the differences aren’t too massive, though they are impactful. SFII Turbo adds the four previously hidden characters to the roster—Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison, and the Turbo in the name indicates the ability to speed up the game, making all movement faster. Super SFII added four more fighters—T. Hawk, Cammy, Fei Long and Dee Jay. Along with that expanded roster, Super SFII was the first fighting game to have a combo count. Previous fighting games did have combos—as a glitch, but Capcom decided to leave that glitch in the code, and then later make it a prominent feature of their games. Then, Super SFII Turbo added one more hidden character in Akuma and added Super Combos—enhanced versions of the characters’ special moves than can be utilized when they have enough of their special meter filled.

Apart from these and a few other minor gameplay differences, there are some differences in graphics as well, mostly in the game backgrounds. The animated spectators gain more detail across these versions, and the addition of more stages alongside more fighters makes for a more dynamic setting for the tournament as a whole.

Releasing so many versions of the same game so rapidly might seem odd when considering today’s technology, but in the ’90s this was the only way game companies could update games for home console use. The final version, Super SFII: Turbo, is the definitive Street Fighter II experience, pushing the SNES to its graphical limits and re-balancing the game for a more fair and fun playing experience. These games are what set the industry standards and expectations for fighting games, making any title that lacked the polish of SFII unbearable.

Mortal Kombat 2 (1993), Mortal Kombat 3 (1995), Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (1995), Mortal Kombat Trilogy (1996)

Keeping up with its chief rival, Midway also released its successors games quite quickly. The core gameplay in all of these titles remains the same, but each has its own variations.

Starting with MK2, the plot continues with Shao Khan, Emperor of Outworld, now hosting the tournament, and should his Outworld fighters win, he will invade Earthrealm [ 5 ]. We have a larger roster that now includes Baraka, Jax, Kitana, Kung Lao, Mileena, and Reptile—this time not as a hidden character, and even Shang Tsung as a playable character, albeit not as powerful as his MK1 iteration. Additionally, the old roster of fighters gained several more special moves each, including new finishing moves like Friendship, which is a way to show mercy to your defeated foe, and Babality, which turns them into a baby. Yes, a baby. There are also many more stunning new stages, including a haunted forest with trees that occasionally moan, an acid pit where you can uppercut your foe into the corrosive depths as a stage fatality, and even a platform next to the portal to Outworld. On top of all this, MK2 has much improved animations and more crisp graphics, despite being on the same platforms. We also see the implementation of the “toasty” running gag.

Both have seen so many iterations, as above with Super Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, that they’ve required compilation editions to contain the glut of characters.

MK3 continues the story of the Outworld invaders. With Shao Khan’s last plan foiled, he enacts his backup plan—to resurrect his wife, Queen Sindel, in Earthrealm, allowing him to travel there to reclaim her, and in doing so merge the two dimensions, causing untold havoc as billions of souls are stripped away from Earthrealm. Raiden once more gathers his champions to undo this merging by defeating Shao Khan, which would also restore those lost souls [ 6 ]. MK3 expanded the fighter roster even further, with Cyrax, Kabal, Nightwolf, Sektor, Sindel, Sheeva, Stryker, and Smoke (unlockable). In this version not all of the previous roster from MK2 quite made it in, notably Johnny Cage, Scorpion, Reptile, Kitana, Mileena, and Raiden. MK3 is the first of these titles to feature combos, coming close after the successful implementation of this feature into Super Street Fighter II. There is also the Run meter, which limits the duration in which a character could run. The significant changes in the fighter’s roster of course means lots of new special moves and Fatalities, and it’s at this point in the series that the finishing moves started to become truly absurd. Midway fully embraced the dark humor that was becoming their trademark. Jax can become giant and simply step on his defeated foe, crushing them into a bloody mess. Liu Kang can drop a Mortal Kombat arcade machine on his opponent. Sektor can produce a crushing machine from his cyborg chest that mushes his foe into paste. Also, a new category of finishers was added, known as Animality, where the fighter becomes a giant spiritual animal that then destroys what is left of their foe. The game developers definitely aren’t afraid to put the bizarre and absurd into their games.

Ultimate MK3 is more or less an update for MK3, bringing back characters previously left out of the roster, and some re-balancing of different moves, and expanding the roster even more with Jade, Ermac, and Rain [ 7 ]. Finally, the MK Trilogy is an amalgamation of all 3 of the previous game titles, with stages from all the previous games, and the complete roster from all previous games, as well as a new style of finishing moves called Brutality, where the player presses an 11-button combo that beats their defeated foe into a bloody pulp, and they literally explode [ 8 ]. Notable addition to the game’s roster of fighters is Noob Saibot, a black-clad ninja whose name is a mirror of Boon and Tobais—the last names of the series co-creators. He is considered the most broken character in the game, and this is likely by design.

Midway continued to push the envelope in violence and crude humor in their games. Mortal Kombat differentiated itself from Street Fighter by showcasing extreme brutality, gory Fatalities, and the absolutely absurd, but no less cool, Animalities and Babalities. This was the game that kids would have to sneak around to play, as now the ESRB was in full swing, and the M for Mature rating was granted to Mortal Kombat every time.

This marks the end of the old console era, and the start of next-gen. Both franchises sought to take advantage of the advancements in technology, but in different ways.

Street Fighter Alpha (1995), Street Fighter Alpha 2 (1996), Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1997) 

The Alpha series of Street Fighter games ups the ante in graphics and gameplay, thanks to the new advances in tech both in the arcade and home consoles, via the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Taking place between SF and SFII, as sort of a side tournament, Alpha explores plots with younger versions of fighters from SFII, as well as some new challengers and old rivals. Returning are Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, and Sagat. From SF, we have Adon, Sagat’s apprentice, and Birdie, the British thug. Guy and Sodom from Final Fight also make an appearance. Completely new are Charlie, Guile’s combat buddy, and Rose, a fortune-teller who fights with “Soul Power” [ 9 ].

Each character now has a hand-drawn portrait, which partially reflects the Street Fighter cartoon series and movies. Although Alpha remains in the realm of 2-D, the level of detail on sprites, backgrounds and special effects is greatly improved. The gameplay also benefits highly from the new technology, with no hang-ups or slowdowns that were often present in the older games. It also added some more global maneuvers like Air Blocking, Chain Combos, and the ability to recover from throws and falls via rolling. It also revamps the Super Combo system from Super SFII Turbo, making it a three-stage buildup, with each stage allowing more powerful Super Combos. These were further refined in Alpha 2 and 3, with 2 adding a Custom Combo feature, allowing the player to chain any number of moves together after expending one bar of Super Combo. Alpha 3 also added a Guard Power Gauge, which when depleted meant that the player could no longer block for a short amount of time, increasing the skill difficulty of the game.

Both eventually found their new niches, with Street Fighter going on to examine both prequels and sequels, (seen here with Street Fighter Alpha Anthology) and Mortal Kombat with Deadly Alliance, and then, Armageddon.

The subsequent Alpha titles expanded the roster of fighters. Alpha 2 includes M. Bison, Akuma, Dan, Dhalsim, Zangief, Gen from the original SF, Rolento from Final Fight, and a new character, Sakura, who can also perform a limited version of the Hadouken attack that Ryu and Ken are known for. Alpha 3 adds newcomer Cammy, E. Honda, Blanka, Balrog, Vega, another newcomer in R. Mika, Cody from Final Fight, and Juli and Juni, M. Bison’s new assassins and bodyguards. The PlayStation port further added Dee Jay, Fei Long, T. Hawk, Guile, Evil Ryu and Shin Akuma. This brings the final playable roster to 34 on home console. That’s a huge chunk of fighters! All three of the Alpha titles were big hits in the Arcade and home console scene.

While the Alpha series didn’t overhaul or revolutionize fighting games, they were still quite solid games. At the very least, they demonstrated that just because the third dimension is now available does not mean that every game must absolutely be three-dimensional. The new take on the game’s art style, reflecting a more traditional Japanese manga or anime was an interesting choice, and one that I personally enjoy very much.

Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)

One year after the release of Trilogy comes Mortal Kombat 4 [ 10 ]. This is the series’ first jump into the realm of 3-D fighting, brought on by the popularity of other fighting titles that were already in the realm of 3-D. This time a new foe appears in the form of Shinnok, a banished Elder God who has been freed from the Netherrealm with assistance from the sorcerer Quan Chi. He seeks vengeance against the other Elder Gods, and Raiden once more gathers his warriors to stop this new threat.

With this title, we have a reduced and greatly changed roster. New characters include Fujin, god of the wind; Jarek, a member of the Black Dragons; Kai, a Shaolin monk who is friends with Liu Kang; Quan Chi, the new evil sorcerer on the block; Reiko, general to Shinnok; Tanya, traitor to the realm of Edenia, who helped Shinnok conquer it; and Meat, an unlockable character that is just a fleshy, bleeding skeleton. Returning favorites are Goro, Jax, Johnny Cage, Liu Kang, Noob Saibot, Raiden, Reptile, Scorpion, Sonya Blade, and Sub-Zero.

One might think that being in a 3-D game world would mean adding a Z-axis to character movement, but this is not true for MK4. Both players will stay on the traditional left-right movement, with the 3-D environment only coming into play for certain throwing moves, and when the players reach the “edge” of the screen they start to move up or down instead of being stuck in a corner. Not adding another axis on which to maneuver is more of a balancing decision than it is a product of better technologies being underutilized. 

Initial outings in 3-D for either franchise, seen here with Street Fighter EX Plus and Mortal Kombat 4, were powerfully mixed.

For this game’s visuals to match up to its rivals, Midway used a combination of hand-animated frames and 3-D models. They also developed and entirely new engine, called Zeus, which was purportedly 10 times faster than the Nintendo 64, an impressive feat for the time. This advanced hardware and software allowed for the game to run buttery smooth and keep the level of detail on characters, special effects, and backgrounds relatively high. Unfortunately, this jump in arcade tech meant that the home console ports would be horrendously downgraded in terms of game detail and frame rate. Even so, the game was a great commercial success, and it was also the last time that Mortal Kombat would have an arcade release as the arcade era of games was all but dead and competitive gaming was being transformed into more console-based play. It didn’t make sense for Midway to continue making arcade cabinets that no one would use.

Street Fighter EX (1996), Street Fighter EX Plus (’97), Street Fighter EX2 (’98), Street Fighter EX2 Plus (’99), Street Fighter EX3 (2000)

The EX series of Street Fighter games were Capcom’s answer to the new realm of 3-D [ 11 ]. The first venture into it, like many other 3-D fighters, was rough. The available technology was not fully understood in terms of what could be accomplished. Thusly, EX suffers from very blocky-looking characters and backgrounds with very limited animation. Indeed, the 3-D fighting areas themselves seem completely separated from any of the background images, seeming to go on forever in their three-dimensional space. The overall look is very similar to the original Tekken, another big fighting game of the time. This lack of defined space continued into EX Plus, EX 2 and EX 2 Plus. It does not make the game unplayable or un-fun by any means, but it does look weird. EX 3, however, fixes this by defining the spaces in the fighting areas more concretely with closer background and foreground props. EX 3 also benefits from being released in the year 2000 on the PlayStation 2, which is obviously a superior console to the PS1. EX 3’s graphics are greatly enhanced, with improved character, background and special effect details, though frame rates remain largely unchanged in the transition. 

As you might expect, all these variations of the EX series have their own rosters. The final roster in EX 2 Plus on the PS1 included 23 fighters, making it fall short of Alpha’s roster. EX 3 boasts a slightly larger roster of 27, still falling short of Alpha. In the end, this means the whole roster of Street Fighter II appears in the EX series, alongside a few newcomers like Crackerjack and Skullomania.

The gameplay of the EX series remains mostly the same as the Alpha series, using 3-D models in a mostly 2-D space, with the linear path sometimes shifting on the third axis. Gameplay additions include a new way to get past blocking, called Guard Break. Requiring one level of Super Combo gauge, if the move connects with a blocking opponent it breaks their block and makes them dizzy, allowing any move to be performed on them freely. There is also Canceling and Super Canceling, the first of which allows a special move to be done rapidly after a regular move, and the latter allowing another Super Combo to be performed in the midst of another Super Combo.

While the EX series doesn’t fully commit to its three-dimensional spaces in terms of movement (not unlike MK in that regard), these games really didn’t have to. The solid, established gameplay of 2-D linear movement is much easier to predict and create a game around, and doesn’t detract anything from the fun of the games. Again, this comes to an issue of balancing the fighters rather than just not using the space.

The EX series is the least well-received of SF titles. It was competing with its own franchise cousin, the Alpha series, for the console spotlight, and it was Alpha that won out. While fans did not hate the EX series, and critics also found it enjoyable, its fumbling attempts at moving into the 3-D realm were just too inexperienced.

X-Men vs Street Fighter (1996), Marvel Heroes vs Street Fighter (1997) 

A slight step back in time, though nonetheless important, we have the very popular crossover titles of X-Men [ 12 ] and Marvel Heroes vs Street Fighter [ 13 ]. These ambitious and incredibly popular crossovers were massive arcade hits, combining the rising popularity of ’90s Marvel IPs with the established gameplay of Street Fighter

In X-Men vs SF, players choose two fighters and face off against two others. To achieve victory, both fighters on one side must be knocked out. Fighters can be switched to at any time during gameplay with the press of a button, allowing for smooth tag team transitions. It should be noted that the PlayStation port removed this tag team feature, making it a lesser version of this otherwise fun title.

The game roster’s Street Fighter characters include Akuma, Cammy, Charlie, Chun-Li, Dhalsim, Ken, M. Bison, Ryu, and Zangief. From the X-Men we have Cyclops, Gambit, Juggernaut, Magneto, Rogue, Sabretooth, Storm, and Wolverine. While this roster is not nearly complete for either property, it still features a majority of the most popular characters respective to each. The designs of the X-Men specifically mirror their cartoon television counterparts and are even voiced by the same actors. Also, present, as an unplayable boss, is Apocalypse, so massive his whole body doesn’t fit in the fighting arena. He is the final challenge of the tournament mode. The art style and animations are nearly identical to the Alpha series, with an addition of slightly more detailed backgrounds for fighting arenas.

The gameplay is similar to the Alpha titles of Street Fighter, but it also borrows from Capcom’s X-Men: Children of the Atom. The Super Jump and Aerial Rave abilities from that game are present, allowing the fighters to jump much higher and perform awesome air combos. Similar to the Super Combo Gauge of Alpha, we have the Hyper Combo Gauge. On top of this we have the Variable Combo, where both characters on one team use their Hyper Combos simultaneously for massive damage. There is also the Variable Counter, which allows the player to transform a block into a tag-in counterattack. This adds an incredible new level of depth to the fighting game series. 

Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter is a direct sequel to the X-Men title, featuring a new roster of Marvel’s iconic characters—Blackheart, Captain America, Cyclops, Hulk, Omega Red, Shuma-Gorath, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. The Street Fighter roster remains with two changes—Cammy and Charlie are replaced with Dan and Sakura. Overall, the same amount of characters in total, but a big enough difference in the roster to matter. This game has the same Tag Team style of play, with the same possibilities of Variable Combos and Variable Counters. It does add the new Variable Assist, where the off-screen tag partner can be summoned to perform a special move briefly. Though it sounds like a small change, it actually adds a ton of new combo possibilities.

Both of these crossovers were well received by fans, though some critics found fault with the games being “more of the same.” That’s an opinion I don’t share, as the ability to play as some of my favorite childhood superheroes alongside the men and women of the Street Fighter universe is enough to make me pick that game up. Fans of Street Fighter and Marvel will absolutely love these titles.

Street Fighter 3 (1997), SF3: 2nd Impact and SF3: 3rd Strike (1999) 

Continuing down the chronological sequence, we come to the 3rd installment of Street Fighter. Now, I know you might be thinking that we’ve had way more than three Street Fighter titles already, and you’d be correct, however the “Main Series” continuity runs outside of Alpha, EX and the crossovers. Thus, we come to Street Fighter 3, the third occurrence of the World Warrior tournament [ 14 ]. The three versions of these games also feature three different rosters, which is par for the course when it comes to Capcom. The final tally on the roster is 20. Akuma, Chun-Li, Ken, and Ryu being the only four older fighters, with an entirely new roster of Alex, Dudley, Elena, Hugo, Ibuki, Makoto, Necro, Oro, Q, Remy, Sean, Twelve, Urien, Yang, Yun, and Gill making up the rest.

This latest installment and 2nd Impact were originally only available in the Arcade and on the doomed Dreamcast console. It was not until 3rd Strike that the game made the cross-platform leap onto the PS2 and Xbox, as well as their generational successors, the PS3 and Xbox 360. Regardless of these limitations, Street Fighter 3 in all its iterations is a beautiful game. It comes back to the 2-D roots of the series, eschewing 3-D almost entirely, leaving just a little bit of that 3rd dimension in its character sprite details. The 2-D graphic style has lost none of its original charm, despite the popular 3-D titles of the day. The overall game looks quite similar to the Alpha series titles, which is not at all a bad thing.

Building further upon the changes introduced in previous titles, SF3 adds a decent chunk to the maneuvers of the franchise. Dashing and retreating is introduced, lifted from another Capcom title called DarkStalkers. High jumps are present just the same as they were in the crossover games, and quick fall recovery. The addition of Leap Attacks allows the player to strike at a crouching opponent more effectively. The newest main feature to change the gameplay is the ability to Parry. The player must block at the right moment, right before being struck, to parry the attack and create and opportunity for a counterattack, and the Parry can be performed against Special Moves and even Super Arts without taking damage, as you normally would if you only blocked. Speaking of Super Arts, these replace Super Combos from the earlier titles. Instead of several Super moves, the player picks one to use, and the Super Arts gauge will fill accordingly. Some Super Arts are more powerful than others and require more charges of the gauge to utilize. Some of the lesser Super Arts allow for the player to stock up on gauges, allowing them to use the Super Art in rapid succession. The last changes to the fighting include the ability to combo throws and grabs into the regular combo attacks, and some moves have the ability to actually cause the opponent to face the opposite way, opening them up completely. The one major aspect that was taken away was Air Blocking from the Alpha series, though there are so many new mechanics to make up for that it hardly matters.

One could do a lot worse than returning to one’s roots, particularly if the “one” here is Street Fighter. Straight-up 2-D gameplay with just a few extra bells and whistles works fantastically well for fighting games, making their battles a lot more balanced and entertaining. This is pure conjecture, but I’d wager that another attempt at a 3-D title would have gone poorly for Street Fighter, if only because the technology had yet to catch up to what would be needed for a really good transition to three dimensions.

Mortal Kombat 5: Deadly Alliance (2002, Xbox)

After a five-year stretch between main series titles and several bad attempts at cash grabs, as well as the departure of series co-creator John Tobias, the future of the MK franchise was in doubt. Then came the big daddy of the next-gen MK line: Deadly Alliance, or MK5 [ 15 ]. This game features another new engine, entirely new graphics, and gameplay that has been completely retooled from the ground up. This time around the plot centers around the alliance between Quan Chi and Shang Tsung, who together ambushed and killed Liu Kang. Raiden, yet again, steps up to gather his warriors to stop the two sorcerers from achieving their goal of resurrecting the Dragon King’s army in order to conquer Earthrealm.

MK5 features a roster of characters old and new, totaling 24 fighters in all. Cyrax, Jax, Johnny Cage, Kano, Kitana, Kung Lao, Quan Chi, Raiden, Reptile, Scorpion, Shang Tsung, Sonya Blade, and Sub-Zero make their triumphant returns into ever-improving 3-D renderings. Joining this roster are newcomers Blaze, a fire elemental; Bo’Rai Cho, former trainer of Liu Kang; Drahmin, an Netherrealm Oni; Frost, a female Lin Kuei ninja and Sub-Zero’s trainee; Hsu Hao, Red Dragon operative; Kenshi, blind swordsman and most popular new character; Li Mei, an Outworld native hoping to win her people their freedom; Mavado, another Red Dragon operative and Hsu Hao’s superior; Mokap, a joke character unlockable later on; Moloch, Drahmin’s partner; and Nitara, a vampire. Each new fighter sports an art design consistent with the dark and deathly themes of MK, and some of the older characters received some interesting revamps, like Sub-Zero having ice arms at all times.

For this game, the designers decided to implement real-world martial arts styles directly into the fighting system. Each fighter has two hand-to-hand styles they can switch between, as well as a signature weapon. Each fighting style has its own combos, and these combos can be combined with rapid-style switching to make for unbelievable killer combinations. Some fighters are easier to use than others and are marked as such in-game with a numerical indicator of one to five under Difficulty during character selection. The more difficult characters tend to have the most complex but also the most devastating moves. Apart from the regular Arcade mode, which follows the traditional tournament style, there is also Konquest Mode, which allows the player to explore a storyline for each character, as well as complete challenges to earn Koins. Koins are spent in The Krypt, where concept art, storyboards, behinds the scenes videos, and unlockable characters can be purchased. The last, and most disappointing note among the many positives, is that each fighter only has one Fatality this time around.

The scenery, models, and special effects are amazing, even considering Xbox/PS2 console capabilities. Every character moves smoothly. Stage-specific weather effects are superb, as is the lighting and background detail. Oh and the blood, there’s ample amounts of blood. Add onto this all the unlockable outfits for each fighter and you’ve got yourself a wonderful-looking game.

MK:DA was an important title for the franchise. With John Tobias gone, and with such a long gap between games, the Midway team could hardly afford their latest franchise title to flop. Franchise fans tend to have a long memory, and the disappointment of the MK4 home port was still prevalent. On top of this, the highly anticipated but ultimately awful Mortal Kombat: Special Forces was rightfully lambasted by fans and critics alike for its several unfulfilled promises and overall poor game design. Thankfully for Mortal Kombat, and for the fans of it, MK:DA was a solidly designed fighting game masterpiece. 

MK 6: Deception (2004)

Building upon the success of MK5, MK6: Deception has many of the same features that made its predecessor so great, plus a lot more [ 16 ]. The story continues where DA left off, with the Dragon King Onaga, first emperor of Outworld, revived. He has defeated both sorcerers and Raiden and is planning his next steps to conquer Earthrealm.

The roster is revamped once again, with most of the MK5 fighters making a return, along with older game fighters Kabal, Baraka, Nightwolf, Sindel, Ermac, Mileena, Tanya, a zombified Liu Kang, and the newly combined Noob Smoke. In newcomers we have Ashrah, Dairou, Darrius, Havik, Hotaru, Kira, Kobra—who many believe to be a Ken Masters clone—Onaga, and Shujinko. The game still sports the fighting style and weapon switching of MK5, changing some of the styles of old characters and adding a lot of new ones for the new fighters.

The most notable gameplay changes are the addition of Combo Breakers, of which you have three per fight, and stage-specific Deathtraps. Essentially, if you maneuver your opponent into a Deathtrap, the round immediately ends with your victory. It’s sort of counter intuitive this way, as the Deathtraps do appear to kill your opponent, but you end up needing to fight at least two rounds regardless. Alongside additional Fatalities being added, each fighter also has a Hara-kiri move, allowing the player to take their own life rather than be killed by the enemy. Konquest mode returns, and there are the additional modes of Chess Kombat and Puzzle Kombat, complex mini games that almost could be titles in their own right.

As this title utilizes much of the same technology, there is not too much visual difference between MK5 and MK6. It still looks and feels wonderful to play, there just aren’t a lot of innovation or improvements. Its commercial success suggests that fans weren’t exactly looking for a huge change, just a solid Mortal Kombat game that continued everything they loved about the franchise.

MK 7: Armageddon (2006) 

It wasn’t a long wait for the next main series title in the MK universe. Armageddon is set to be the great, final conflict of the Mortal Kombat tournament. The plot is convoluted. It involves some time travel and the prophesied battle of Armageddon. I leave it up to you, reader, to make sense of it following the resource links [ 17 ]

Once more the fighting roster is revamped, and includes nearly every iconic character from MK’s past, for a total of nearly 60 fighters. On top of this extensive roster, MK7 includes a Kreat-a-Fighter option, allowing the player, for the first time ever, to make their own custom Mortal Kombat warrior. Choosing male or female fighter, the player can then customize their appearance and move set, drawing from existing move pools or even creating their own moves, to a limited extent. Additionally, MK7 has a Fatality creator, allowing the player to combine a series of bloody attacks into a killing blow.

With the addition of so many fighters, MK7 had to scale back on the individual fighting styles, limiting each fighter to one hand to hand and one weapon. This isn’t the worst thing ever, as the inclusion of basically every character, save Chameleon, is rather nice. Other than this, the game retains the staples set by MK5 and 6, having combo breakers and deathtraps, complex combos and over-the-top special moves. Konquest mode comes back once again, though the only additional mini-game is Motor Kombat, a spoof of Mario Kart in the gory and somewhat absurd MK style.

This release marks the end of the main Mortal Kombat storyline, and the subsequent titles follow an alternate timeline. MK7 was generally well received, though it wasn’t as crisp of a fighter as its predecessors. Its absolutely massive roster of characters meant a massive roster of moves, which of course would mean issues in-game with hit detection and clipping. These issues don’t make it a bad game, just a flawed game. The complexity of the plot also does some harm, though playing a game like Mortal Kombat for the plot seems to miss the point of the series. Regardless, MK7 is a solid addition to the franchise.

Street Fighter 4 (2008) Super SF4 (2010), Super SF4 Arcade (2010), Ultra SF4 (2014)

As you had probably learned at this point, Capcom is never satisfied with the initial release of its games. Coming fully into the realm of 3-D, with much improved graphic quality compared to the EX series, Street Fighter 4 had quite the task set before it [ 18 ]. A game that had only really been done justice in the realm of 2-D needed the right stylization of 3-D models to keep its signature look intact. I’m pleased to say that Street Fighter 4 does in fact achieve this. Each fighter’s model is a near perfect image translation from 2-D to 3-D. Their animations are nearly as smooth and fluid as their 2-D predecessors. The background and foreground designs of the stages are also amped up to 11, having fully rendered spectators, lighting and shadows, and just a bunch more animation in general. This was the 3-D Street Fighter that fans had been waiting for.

This time around, Capcom wanted their game control as similar to Street Fighter II as possible, with the addition of other features from their later titles. The game returns to a traditional six button arcade style input. A new move, called Focus Attack, allows the player to, with the right timing, absorb an enemies’ attack and immediately counterattack, similar to the parrying from SF3, but with the additional ability to charge up the counter attack to an unblockable state. Even Special Moves can be canceled this way, albeit taking up charges of the Special Gauge to do so. As you might have guessed, Special Moves, previously called Super Arts, make a comeback, in the form of the old Super Combos and EX Special Moves. In addition to these, we are introduced to Ultra Combos. These are longer, cinematic styled moves that are unique to each fighter. The Ultra Gauge is separate from the Super Combo Gauge, and only fills upon taking damage, which is why it is officially called the Revenge Gauge. In both Super and Ultra combos, the camera breaks away from its normal position to display the awesome abilities in their full splendor.

Street Fighter 4’s roster includes all characters from SFII alongside four new characters and three secret characters, bringing the total roster up to 19. The new fighters are Abel, Crimson Viper, Rufus, El Fuerte, Seth, and Gouken—Ryu and Ken’s master. Seth, Gouken, and Akuma are the secret characters that can be found. The later editions of Super and Ultra SF4 brought this somewhat sparse roster all the way up to 44 fighters total, breaking the previous record set by the Alpha series.

SF 4 was a redemption of sorts for the previously mishandled EX series. Now, with technology that was light years ahead of the late ’90s, SF 4 was able to deliver on the long-awaited promise of a Street Fighter game with solid, fully 3-D graphics. While it sticks to the traditional left-right combat format, that is not a bad thing. As mentioned so many times before, having to balance a gigantic roster of fighters against each other, and then against three-dimensional level design is a very difficult prospect. Keeping the arena limited to mostly 2-D space makes both programmers’ jobs and gamers’ experiences far less stressful.

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (2008)

Jumping forward into 7th generation consoles and PCs, we have Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe [ 19 ]. This ambitious title marks the franchise’s first attempt at a crossover game. The story that ties these franchises together is complex: A simultaneous invasion by Shao Khan and Darkseid in these separate dimensions causes an unintended merging. Both the villains combine into Dark Khan, whose mere existence starts to merge the two universes together, which threatens to destroy them both.

No examination would be complete without either franchises’ wacky mashups, from the legion of Marvel vs. Capcom installments, to the Mortal Kombat vs. The DC Universe.

This game’s roster contains fan favorites from both universes. From MK we have Baraka, Jax, Kano, Kitana, Liu Kang, Raiden, Scorpion, Shang Tsung, Shao Khan (unlockable), Sonya Blade, and Sub-Zero. On the DC side we have Batman, Captain Marvel, Catwoman, Deathstroke, Darkseid (unlockable), The Flash, Green Lantern, The Joker, Lex Luthor, Superman, and Wonder Woman. 

The stark contrast between the two worlds, one where killing your opponents is the norm, and another where the champions of justice refuse to kill their enemies, makes for an interesting lens on this title. The heroes finishing moves are not Fatalities, but Heroic Brutalities, where they beat their opponents into traction, but don’t kill them. Of course, some of the sadistic DC villains like the Joker fit right in when it’s time to kill. While Fatalities are, obviously, killing the opponent, one has to wonder just how much more “moral” the DC heroes can be when their final attack moves would assure their opponents were drinking through a straw for the rest of their lives.

For this title, the gameplay has changed back to the traditional MK format, without the real-world fighting styles and weapon styles. Instead, each fighter has one move set, though these singular sets tend to be a bit more expansive because of it. The advanced graphics capabilities of the new generation of consoles enable both improved atmospheres and smoother animations. The story mode play follows either the MK side or DC side of events, with the player taking control of various heroes and villains from either side. There is also a Kombo Challenge mode, where the player must perform a series of difficult combinations to win.

New features in the main fighting mode include Free-Fall Kombat, which happens during stage transitions from a high point to a low point. Each fighter takes part in a brief, mid-air battle, culminating in them crashing into the next part of the stage, with one of them ending up on top. Test Your Might is featured in the fighting as a tug-of-war style minigame, where fighters make opposed moves to put one another through various stage hazards. Another secondary feature is the Rage Mode. A rage bar fills slowly as the fighters take damage or perform attacks. Once the bar is filled, the Rage Mode can be activated, allowing the player to temporarily bypass blocks, prevents them from being stunned, knocked down or popped up, and increases their overall damage.

The storyline in this game is quite interesting. It’s a new enough title that I remember being, at first, disdainful of it. In my own mind, DC heroes were incompatible with the utter brutality and merciless killing that is a main staple of Mortal Kombat. After giving it a try, it was interesting to see how they worked in the storylines of the different universes. The idea of “combat rage” making everyone go ballistic is a bit ham-fisted, and probably didn’t need to be present, but it doesn’t make the game unbearable.

This game was the last Mortal Kombat to be produced by Midway games, which, despite many successful titles, filed for bankruptcy shortly following the game’s release and sold its intellectual properties to DC. This did not mark the end of the Mortal Kombat franchise, however, as a new game studio, Netherrealm Studios, would rise in its place as a subsidiary of DC. Netherrealm replaced Warner Brothers Games as DC’s leading game developer. All this leads us into…

Mortal Kombat 2011 (2011)

The premier title of Netherrealm Studios, MK 2011, which could also be called MK9, picks up where Armageddon left off [ 20 ]. Raiden, having contacted his younger self, has changed the entire timeline of events that led up to his defeat by Shao Khan. Now, the events of the first three games are re-made.

The fighting roster consists mostly of the classic characters from MK1, alongside a few from MK2 and 3. Baraka, Cyrax, Ermac, Jade, Jax, Johnny Cage, Kabal, Kano, Kitana, Kung Lao, Liu Kang, Mileena, Nightwolf, Noob Saibot, Raiden, Reptile, Scorpion, Sektor, Shang Tsung, Sheeva, Sindel, Smoke, Sonya Blade, Stryker and Sub-Zero. There are additional characters that are unlockable through the Komplete edition, or available as DLC, and the PlayStation exclusive inclusion of Kratos from God of War.

The story mode of the game follows the same style of MK vs DCU, where the player takes control of various fighters over the course of the game, watching as their individual storylines unfold in the epic re-telling of the first three games. There is a Challenge Tower mode, with 300 specific challenges of varying difficulty that will provide currency needed to unlock more in-game features and special content. There is also a tag-team mode, allowing the player to select two fighters, or for two players to play cooperatively. The tag team mode adds tag assists and tag kombos, maneuvers made famous by Street Fighter. The overall graphics and gameplay are boosted up another level, thanks to the Unreal 3 Engine. The most interesting addition to the general fighting is that of a super meter. The meter has three levels, allowing for powered-up versions of the fighter’s special attacks at 1 level, a combo interruption at 2 levels, and a special X-Ray move at 3 levels. The X-Ray moves are a display of brutality, showing the fighter breaking several bones inside the body of their foe with x-ray vision.

MK 2011 was a huge success, and whatever previous trepidations fans had for the future of the franchise under new management were completely dismissed, replaced with elation and expectation for the next title in the series. More than ever, MK9 showed that, despite all the problems, shortfalls and heartbreak, the team at Netherrealms knew what they were doing, and would continue to deliver quality MK universe material.

Street Fighter X Tekken (2012)

An even more ambitious crossover than the previous Marvel series, Street Fighter X Tekken is a partnered venture between rival game companies Capcom and Namco [ 21 ]. This title’s development was left primarily in the hands of Capcom, utilizing their art style and game engine to bring the fighters of Tekken to life alongside the cast of Street Fighter.

The in-game graphics are basically identical to that of Street Fighter 4, which is to say they are glorious to behold. As much as one might be a fan of Namco and the Tekken series, one would have to admit that the renderings of the Tekken fighters in Capcom’s graphic style is perhaps superior to Namco’s own, though this would be entirely subjective.

The initial roster for this game, as you might expect, is massive. A total of 38 playable fighters, 19 from each franchise, made for an amazing combination of fighters in the signature Tag Team system. The game updates bring the roster all the way up to 50, adding even more strategic depth and possibilities for fighter combos. I won’t name every single character, because that would take up a lot of space and not accomplish much, but you can see the complete roster in the links.

Being that this takes place on Capcom’s turf, we see the return of EX Attacks, Super Arts, and a new addition in the Cross Gauge to power both. The new Cross Arts, requiring a full Cross Gauge, allow the player to use the Super Combos of both of their fighters in one attack, dealing massive damage. A key difference in the tag team gameplay is that when a single fighter on either side is reduced to zero health, the round is over, making switching out of your most hurt fighter much more important.

The beauty, style and massive depth of this mega crossover are undeniable. If SF4 was the breakout 3-D Street Fighter, SF X Tekken was the near-perfecting of this new generation of fighting games. Not only that, but it brought together fans of both franchises for an all-new shared competitive gaming experience.

Mortal Kombat X (2015)

Moving ahead into more modern times, we come to MK X [ 22 ]. The tenth installment of the game builds upon everything the last title had. The plot picks up right at the end of MK 2011, with Shao Khan defeated, Shinnok attacks Earthrealm with his army of demons with the help of his ally, Quan Chi. Earthrealm warriors, led by Raiden, fight back against this invasion, which leads to a new and lengthy series of events that culminate in Shinnok’s defeat.

MK X base roster consists of 24 fighters, many of them new to the franchise. Ermac, Jax, Johnny Cage, Kano, Kenshi, Kitana, Kung Lao, Liu Kang, Mileena, Quan Chi, Raiden, Reptile, Scorpion, Shinnok, Sonya Blade, and Sub-Zero round out the list of returning characters. Cassie Cage—daughter of Johnny and Sonya, D’Vorah, Erron Black, Ferra & Torr, Jaqui Briggs—daughter of Jax and his wife, Kotal Kahn, Kung Jin—Kung Lao’s younger cousin, and Takeda—Kenshi’s son, make up the new blood. There are also several DLC characters available, including horror movie killer Jason Voorhees, the Predator—from the movie of the same name, and the Alien—likewise.

The majority of fighting features from the last game return, including the super meter and the X-Ray moves. In addition to these, a Stamina Meter was added to limit the fighters’ ability to run, block, and to perform certain special moves. This is to cut down on spamming, quite similar to the stamina bar in the very early iterations of MK. Fatalities are of course present, but new to the franchise is the Quitality, where the opponent is instantly killed if they quit during a multiplayer match. There are also faction-specific Fatalities, which come from one of the game’s five factions. The Brutality finishers return, but in the form of enhanced versions of certain moves used as finishers under certain conditions. There are also stage Brutalities, which can be triggered with certain stage interactions during the Finish portion of the fight.

Apart from the game story mode, which plays like the previous two installments of multiple-character story arcs, we have Living Towers mode, an enhanced version of Challenge Tower from the last game. There is also Faction Wars for online play, where players can align themselves with one of the five factions and compete in multiplayer for points and to unlock more faction specific finishing moves.

Once again taking advantage of the abilities of the Unreal 3 Engine, and further refining from MK 2011, MK X is a stunning visual display, and one would expect no less from such a modern fighting game title. The animations are impossibly smooth, and character and stage design details are infinitely impressive to behold. There is also a ton of additional entertainment to be had in character introductions. Johnny Cage and his daughter Cassie, in particular, bring their smart mouthed sass fully to bear, even against each other.  While some fans of the MK franchise did not appreciate the older roster being pushed out in favor of new fighters, that they viewed as “shoehorned in,” the overall success of MK X seems to indicate that Netherrealm Studios is on the right track. Hopefully, in the future of this franchise, we will continue to see improvements in both technical expertise and writing chops.

Street Fighter V (2016)

The latest and greatest in the long-running Capcom franchise, Street Fighter 5 strives to continue the long-standing dominance of these fighting games [ 23 ]. Now rendered in the Unreal 4 engine, which boasts many improvements compared to earlier installments, SFV promised to be everything fans had come to expect.

I should first say that yes, the graphic quality is outstanding, surpassing SF4 and SF X Tekken by a mile. This follows the general trend of modern technology—just when you think graphics can’t get any better, they do. The dynamic lighting, moving costumes, and facial expressions of each fighter are stunning. The background detail is further refined as well, with more expressive spectators, who will cheer and jump around when you are victorious. It’s a wonderful game to spectate or play.

Now onto the somewhat disappointing news of the limited roster. Having come off the massive 50 fighters of SF X Tekken, going all the way down to 16 seems a bit off. Granted, I like that each character in the initial roster doesn’t look or feel rushed, but one has to question why Capcom keeps doing this. They certainly had the assets available from the previous title, although the engine differences may have cause some difficulties. Still, it’s enough to make people scratch their heads. The initial roster was later bolstered with 18 more fighters, six released per year since the game’s launch. You still have to unlock these new fighters via earned in-game currency or real-world money, which drew the ire of some fans who believed Capcom was looking to make a quick buck. Setting the negative aside, the current roster functions just fine, and introduces many new, fantastic characters to the franchise.

The gameplay is similar to SF4 and X Tekken. This time we have the EX Gauge from SF3, which builds and allows the performance of Critical Arts. Newly introduced is the V Gauge, which builds in the same way as the EX Gauge. The V Gauge brings three new techniques to the table: V-Skills, which are special attacks unique to each fighter, V-Reversals, which allow the player to perform a counter attack, and V-Triggers, which use up the entire V Gauge to allow the player to perform a special ability. Also sort-of new is the Stun Meter. While this meter has always been present in every game since SF3, it is visible for the first time ever in SFV. The Stun Meter fills whenever the player is attacked in rapid succession, and if it is completely filled it will cause the player (or the opponent if the situation is reversed) to be temporarily stunned. This visual aid to indicate stuns allows the player to judge when they are going to need to use their V-Reversals or other tricks to get themselves out of a tough spot.

While SFV has had its issues, it nonetheless remains the best so far (save perhaps X Tekken) of the Street Fighter franchise titles. Notably, SFV broke the Evolution Championship Series record for most entrants with over 5,000 registering.

Mortal Kombat 11 (2020)

The MK franchise continues into its modern-day iteration with Mortal Kombat 11 [ 24 ]. Naturally, this continues the story line of the previous game. Raiden has taken a darker path in this new timeline, now seeking to aggressively destroy threats to Earthrealm, rather than simply defend. His beheading of Shinnok, disabling but not killing the Elder God, upsets the Titan Kronika, the Keeper of Time, who now wishes to reset the timeline completely in order to restore balance between the forces of good and evil. Naturally, once Raiden is aware of her intentions, he plans to stop this from happening, with the aid of his Earthrealm fighters.

Once more, we see a return of the now staple feature of Neatherrealm’s games, X-Ray moves, and brings slightly new elements with the Offensive and Defensive meters, represented by a sword and shield respectively. The Offensive meter is used to enhance special attacks, or to use interactive elements of a stage. The Defensive meter is used to break away from kombos or to perform wake up moves to quickly get back on your feet. Both bars have two halves, which refill slowly over time, with some maneuvers using two bars and some using one bar. The move sets of each character also show detailed information about frame usage, allowing advanced players to calculate how quickly they can string a kombo, punish a move, execute a block, and so on. Fatal Blows are a new comeback mechanic that allow a fighter below thirty percent health to deal a lot of damage and potentially get themselves closer to even ground with their opponent. Fatalities return, alongside Brutalities, and with the expansion, Aftermath, Friendships. Another new addition is the Gear System—each character can equip three gear pieces from a variety of choices, which can be leveled up over time, and add additional special attributes to the character. The game boasts eleven modes of play, 26 kombat stages, and with the DLC, 37 playable characters. The DLC characters include several from outside the franchise—the Terminator, the Joker, Spawn, Robocop, and John Rambo. And yes, the movie characters look like their iconic actors. Needless to say, the graphics are up to the highest standards of modern-day systems, and the game maintains the tried and true two-directional fighting, leaving the 3rd dimension out of its dynamic. Character intros are still present, and just as enjoyable as the last time around, helping to give each fighter a bigger personality outside of their fighting style.

Finish Him!

Throughout the years, the ball of innovation has been mostly in Street Fighter’s court. It was the first game series to have combos, a now universal staple of fighting games. Capcom wasn’t afraid to experiment with newer 3-D technologies early on, even if the results were less than spectacular. They learned more with every re-release and rebalance of their games, always seeking to improve on their product. The Midway/Neatherrealm teams also pushed innovation in their own ways. They challenged what people thought was appropriate to include in video games, showing us that not only was there a market for mature-themed games, but that people absolutely clamored for it. Their willingness to stick to their convictions and not compromise their game vision for censors has been inspirational for many game developers.

I think that about does it for these monolithic game franchises. Mind you, there are more spinoff series games, shows and merchandise for both of these than I bothered to mention here, as both Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are world-wide phenomena of gaming and pop culture. If you are a fighting game fan and you have yet to play any of these iconic titles, I have to ask, what have you been doing exactly.


  1. “Humble beginnings for both franchises gave rise to great and wondrous things.” Street Fighter. Capcom. 1987. Arcade. Mortal Kombat. Midway. 1992. Arcade. 
  2. “Both have seen so many iterations, as above with Super Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, that they’ve required compilation editions to contain the glut of characters.” Super Street Fighter II. Capcom. 1993. Arcade. Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Midway. 1996. PlayStation.
  3. “Initial outings in 3D for either franchise, seen here with Street Fighter EX Plus and Mortal Kombat 4, were powerfully mixed.” Street Fighter EX Plus. Capcom. 1997. Arcade. Mortal Kombat 4. Midway. 1997. Arcade.
  4. “Both eventually found their new niches, with Street Fighter going on to examine both prequels and sequels, (seen here with Street Fighter Alpha Anthology) and Mortal Kombat with Deadly Alliance, and then, Armageddon.
  5.  “No examination would be complete without either franchises’ wacky mashups, from the legion of Marvel vs. Capcom installments, to the Mortal Kombat vs. The DC Universe.” Street Fighter vs Marvel Super Heroes. Capcom. 1997. Sega Saturn. and Mortal Kombat vs. The DC Universe. Midway. 2008. Xbox.

A man of many talents, Clayton has worn several hats. His work focuses on visual mediums like film and gaming. A practiced martial artist and a graduate of Johnson and Wales University with a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design & New Media, he brings both tactile experience and academic credentials as measures of his considerable expertise. Clayton is both Manager of Steam-Funk’s core writing staff and part of the firm’s senior creative team, helping craft both The Living Multiverse and firm policy.


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