Fighting games have been one of the most popular types of video game genres since the release of Karate Champ in 1984. Most classic fighting games allow for the player to move horizontally back and forth across the screen while doing battle with a single evenly matched opponent, rather than a group of opponents like in Beat ‘Em Up games. While moving the player, you can choose to attack, block, or attempt to chain together several buttons into a combo and perform a super move. Over the years, fighting games have changed from 2D pixel masterpieces into 3D computer graphic monsters but this has had little effect on the core gameplay of this genre. The basic controls and simple goals of retro fighting games have led to some of the best and worst games ever made.
Top 10 Retro Fighting Games with Pixel Graphics
#10 – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition is a fighting game with pixel graphics based on the first few seasons(before it went to hell) of the MMPR television show. The game was released by Bandai in 1995 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It uses the same engine that would be used for the future game “Gundam Wing: Endless Duels”. This was the first Power Rangers title that allowed the player to control the Zords rather than their human counterparts. This game has been placed last on the list because it lacks depth in both the story and gameplay. While fun to play, this game offers nothing you won’t find in all of the other games on the list.
#9 – World Heroes 2
World Heroes 2 is an arcade game published by ADK/SNK in 1993 that was eventually ported to the Super Nintendo. Expanding on the first game of the series, World Heroes 2 made several changes and additions to their core gameplay. Developers increased movement speed and added new features like the ability to counter grabs and reflect projectiles. Although it lacks the popularity of Street Fighter II most gamers will agree that it is just as good of a game with equally enjoyable action and characters. As with most retro fighting games of the time, World Heroes takes place during a mysterious fighting tournament. Unlike other games, this tournaments gimmick is its the ability to pull fighters from all throughout time. In 1994 another expanded sequel was released called “World Heroes 2 Jet”. This version gave the players even more abilities such as being able to dash forward and backward.
#8 – Samurai Shodown II
Despite only making number 8 on our list, Samurai Shodown II has always been a cult favorite. Primarily because of the ability to use weapons rather than the same old tiresome fist-to-fist combat. Each of the combatants in the game was the masters of a particular type of weapon. In hindsight, the game feels a lot like a Soul Caliber set in 18th century Japan. Samurai Shodown II was the first game of the genre to add a parry technique to the game. This simple mechanic adding another level of depth to combat by allowing the player to deflect and counter incoming attacks, .
#7 – Fatal Fury Special
Fatal Fury Special is an enhanced version of Fatal Fury 2 which new characters and small changes to the game mechanics. Pretty much, Fatal Fury Special is to Fatal Fury 2 what Street Fighter II: Turbo is to Street Fighter II. The game features fifteen playable characters and an in-depth combat system making it extremely fun to play. Sadly, it is often overlooked when compared to games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat II. Which, unfortunately for the Fatal Fury franchise, were both released around the same time(1993).
#6 – Primal Rage
Primal Rage sets itself apart from the other fighting games on the list by using prehistoric monsters and dinosaurs as combatants rather than the common humanoids. Originally developed for the arcade by Atari Games in 1994, Primal Rage’s gameplay can easily be compared to other fighting games of the time containing basic attacks, special moves, and special finishing moves for each character. Primal Rage’s plot follows 7 monstrous gods are battling for control of “Urth”, a post-apocalyptic version of Earth. One of the coolest features in the game is the human worshipers that come out during a battle. While they do not affect the outcome of a match, nothing can compare to the satisfaction achieved by eating them.
#5 – Eternal Champions
Eternal Champions is probably the least known game on our list of the Top 10 Fighting Games with Pixel Graphics. Released directly on the Sega Genesis, Eternal Champions did not receive the publicity of the arcade circuit like other games. Despite its low popularity, Eternal Champions is one of the most unique fighting games of the period with character-specific moves(force fields and reflectable projectiles) and one of a kind stage-specific finishers. The story of the game follows a mystical tournament known as the “Eternal Champions”. In this tournament, recently deceased heroes from different stages of time can battle for another chance at life. Eternal Champions is one of the few fighting games of the time to focus heavily on the plot. This really allowed you to understand your fighter’s motives and fully sympathize with them.
#4 – The King Of Fighters ’98
The King of Fighters ’98 is one of the only retro fighting games with pixel graphics to be released exclusively on the Neo-Geo CD and the PlayStation. By this time, most fighting games were upgrading to use 3D graphics such as the ones seen in the original Tekken. Despite not having an actual plot, KOF ’98 is considered by most fans of the series to be the best. Mainly due to the style of gameplay and beautiful background stages. Due to its popularity, KOF ’98 was eventually ported over to the Playstation2 and Dreamcast under new titles. To utilize the power of the next-generation engines, the ports featured new 3D versions of the background stages.
#3 – Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash Of The Super Heroes
Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes was released in 1998 making it the third installment of the crossover fighting game series Marvel vs Capcom. Unlike other games of its time, Clash Of The Super Heroes allowed players to choose multiple fighters. They could then switch them in and out freely during a match, Tag Team style. This mode was removed from the Playstation versions of the game to preserve game speed. The greatest feature of this game is its large amount of lovable characters from various genres, 16 of which are playable.
#2 – Mortal Kombat 2
Released by Acclaim Entertainment in 1993, Mortal Kombat II and is the second game in the Mortal Kombat series. The game expanded on the story and mythology behind the original Mortal Kombat by introducing new playable characters. It also introduced several new mechanics to the game including new basic moves and an increased number of fatalities. The storyline continues where the first game left off and takes place at the following year’s tournament. Many older players preferred Mortal Kombat over Street Fighter due to the graphic violence and darker tone of the game. Like the next game on our list, the popularity of this franchise has lead to several movies and spin-off games.
#1 – Super Street Fighter II Turbo
Super Street Fighter II Turbo is an entertaining fighting game released on the Super Nintendo in 1994. It contains 17 playable characters from around the world and plenty of nonstop action. To a lot of gamers, Super Street Fighter II Turbo is considered to be the best fighting game ever made. To this day, people discuss the high-speed gameplay and in-depth combat mechanics of the game. Turbo is the fifth and final update to the Street Fighter II sub-series and added several new gameplay features such as “Super Combo’s” and the ability to “juggle” your opponent in the air. Selling over 6.3 million copies, Street Fighter II remains Capcom’s best-selling game on a single platform to this day. The popularity of Street Fighter II jump-started what is known as the video game renaissance and inspiring the creation of many of your favorite fighting game series.
Did we list any of your favorites? Do you think we missed a great game on our list of the Top 10 Retro Fighting Games with Pixel Graphics? If you answered YES to either of these questions please let us know in the comments.