Punching Out the Top Ten Fighting Games to Play Today

Last updated: 12/31/2023
8 minutes read

Many video games find popularity by placing player against player, but no genre embraces this idea as directly as fighting games. These are tests of character knowledge and skills, where the focus on HP (health points) and meter management is ramped up to a constant intense pace.

Fighting games distill the competitive experience, where success or failure is entirely on you. There's no starting again in new game plus, there are no excuses for teammates, and there's no mercy given to anyone in your way.

Despite how intense these titles can be (especially if you're not a fan of elo hell games), they can also be some of the most rewarding. Few genres let you experience growth like fighting games do, where landing a new combo or beating a player you’d formerly considered untouchable is a fantastic feeling.

To celebrate this genre and how far it's come, we're taking a look at ten of the best fighting games you can play today. From the modern smash hits to the classics that set the world on fire, let's explore the fight games that get the blood pumping.

10 of the Best Fighting Games

1. Street Fighter 6

After spending some time in development hell, players and longtime fans were wary about how Street Fighter 6 might pan out. These fears turned out to be misplaced, as Capcom hit the ball out of the park with its latest iteration of this classic series.

SF6 brings back the classic characters that made the series famous, alongside hugely popular newcomers like Marisa and JP. It even features a strong story mode that’s great at teaching players the basics before they join the battle online.

2. Mortal Kombat One

Gaming’s most famously violent series returns with the confusingly named Mortal Kombat One. Rebooting the series (although not for the first time), MK1 includes the trademark blood, gore, fatalities, and, of course, great gameplay. The graphics in this one also stand out, though whether that’s a plus might depend on your taste for the extreme.

Whatever kind of fighting games you enjoy, MK1 delivers new twists on classic characters, and a cinematic story mode that raises gaming single-player content to new heights. Just be sure to avoid the Switch version if at all possible.

3. Dragon Ball FighterZ

Dragon Ball is no stranger to video games, but nobody expected just how much DBFZ would add to the series. This 3-on-3 fighter includes 44 characters in total from the Z, Super, and GT canons. It even goes to lengths to explain how Yamcha might keep pace with a Super Saiyan God, at least within the context of this game's world.

We're super excited to add DBFZ to this list because the game has just seen an important update that brings its netcode up to modern standards with rollback. Fighting games are best played with others, so don't worry if you missed out on the launch, you can now Kamehameha with a fresh group of players.

4. Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Super Smash Bros is the ultimate Nintendo fan settler of disputes, and this latest iteration turns the dial up to 11. Smash Ultimate brings together 74 different characters from Nintendo’s lineup and far beyond. From mainstays like Mario and Link to PlayStation stars like Cloud and Sephiroth, the fast-paced carnage of Smash is unquestionable.

Smash Ultimate is also one of the most welcoming games on this list, with casual four-player combat with items turning into a chaotic battlefield of bright lights and spectacle. Whatever happens in the game, one thing’s for sure: Nintendo will have a tough time following up with whatever Smash they develop next.

5. Guilty Gear Strive

The Guilty Gear series was once considered a target of feature creep, where characters and abilities grew to a point that new players found themselves at a loss. Strive took to GG’s systems with a scalpel, cutting out the overcomplication while maintaining the series’ core and flair. The result is the most welcoming GG game yet.

Strive offers beautiful cell-shaded characters, a growing roster, and some of the best netcode in the business. It also lets you launch a dolphin at your enemies dozens of times in a row, not that we’d recommend players troll their friends in such a manner.

6. Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3

Not the latest in the MvC series, but Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 is regarded as the best in the modern era. Combining characters from Marvel Comics and Capcom's established legacy results in a fast-paced and stylish team-fighter that emphasizes combos and juggling.

If you’ve ever wondered who would win a fight between a lawyer and the Lord of Chaos, and let’s be honest you have, then MvC 3U is the title for you. There’s even a growing modding community for this title on PC where additional characters like Leon Kennedy and Asura can enter the fray.

7. Tekken 7

The 8th entry of the King of Iron First tournament launches early in 2024, but until then, we have Tekken 7 to keep us satiated. Tekken has long been held as among the best 3D fighting games, ever since it originated in arcades back in 1994. Tekken 7 illustrates the biggest title yet, featuring 51 playable characters alongside a robust story mode.

Tekken is a game that is famous for huge move lists, though players can succeed by only knowing the character’s key techniques. Whether bruising with Jack, flipping with Law, or just being a straight-up Panda that somehow attained a fighting license, Tekken has characters that speak to everyone.

8. Killer Instinct (Xbox One)

Arguably the best of all free fighting games, Killer Instinct was released as a launch title for the Xbox One back in 2013. Rebooting the 1994 SNES title, Killer Instinct was a fantastic addition to a console that suffered a less-than-tremendous launch.

KI didn’t just offer great gameplay, it also set a new standard with DLC support, and more importantly, netcode. Up until KI, fighting games tended to rely on a system called delay-based netcode, which often stuttered and was problematic. KI wasn't the first to implement the vastly superior form of rollback netcode, but it did popularize its inclusion. This one feature alone makes us thankful for the killer reputation of Killer Instinct.

9. The King of Fighters XIII

The KOF series has traditionally been more popular in Asia than in the Western world, but it's still a fantastic team fighter well worth a look. The 13th entry originally released in 2010 was the last in the series to feature 2D sprites and is still held up as one of the best-looking fighting games today.

Players in KOF adopt three-member teams from a roster of 32. With a diverse roster of designs and playstyles, KOF 13 harkens back to the golden age of 2D fighters, as it maintains an eternal position of influence and respect within the fighting game community.

10. Street Fighter 2

As much as we wanted to avoid including more than one entry from the same series on this list, we still have to include Street Fighter 2. Like Dune 2 did for RTS games or Doom did for FPS titles, Street Fighter 2 acts as the grandfather of the fighting game revolution.

This is the title that invented combos, Hadokens, Dragon Punches, Shotos, and so many other fighting game mainstays. SF2 dominated arcades and has since spawned seven different versions and dozens of ports to different systems. Still played competitively online and in person, every fan who enjoys games with fights owes it to themselves to try this one.

Fighting for a Brighter Future

Fighting games have long held reputations as complicated titles, with gameplay that's seemingly inscrutable to outsiders. Unlike action-adventure games, for example, some players see fighting games as impossible mountains to climb, but new games are challenging this concept.

Newer fighting games are placing an enormous emphasis on opening games up to newer players, while also maintaining the depth that makes fighting video games popular with pros. Better online connectivity, developed tutorials, and welcoming online/offline communities reveal a bright future for the future of fighting video games.

Whether you have only a few minutes to play with friends or want to dedicate yourself to becoming the champ, fighting games are only getting better. Fire a Hadoken, launch a hurricane kick, and we'll see you out there in our united dislike of being dominated by grapplers!

Fighting Games FAQs

What is the best fighting game for beginners?

Ironically, it might be the recently released Street Fighter 6 that’s the best fighting game for new players to try. This entry has put enormous emphasis on creating a welcoming environment with controls, tutorials, smooth online connectivity, and approachable gameplay systems.

What are OCV fighting games?

OCV fighting games are those in which players control teams instead of only one character. OCV stands for one character victory, which refers to a single character beating all of the opponent’s characters. Games with OCV potential include DBFZ and the Marvel Vs Capcom series.

Do fighting games have a tier list?

Fighting games are titles with some of the most well-developed tier lists. From modern and well-balanced titles to older, niche, and glitchy releases, players can always be trusted to develop tier lists as they play. Of course, not all tier lists are equally valid.