Fighting games have a reputation for being tough to learn, but with the rise of video tutorials and guides on all the basics, there’s never been a better time to get into this highly competitive genre. Even if you’re a long way from competing at Evo, there are plenty of ways to enjoy these titles – from online Street Fighter matches to the robust single-player content of games like Injustice and Soulcalibur.
We’ve focused on many of the most competitive games with the most active communities here, but you’ll also find a few classics and curve balls in the mix. So get your fightstick, practice those fireballs, and get ready for the very best PC fighting games.
Here are the best fighting games on PC:
NetherRealm sets itself a high standard for gore and crunchy combat in its long-standing Mortal Kombat series. It’s pleasing to say, then, that Mortal Kombat 11 smashes those expectations harder than Scorpion piledriving Sub-Zero with one of the countless MK11 fatalities.
The moment-to-moment combat is hard-hitting but methodical – meaning that fighting feels considered and landing a blow feels sweet. Tossing projectiles at foes in the name of zoning is prevalent as ever, but it makes those moments you get up close and personal all the better to savour.
It’s not all just throwing hands, however, and The Krypt makes a sparkling return. Here you’ll find plenty of puzzles to solve and items that unlock new areas. It’s a bit of a grind, and a lot of it does involve going out of the Krypt, but that’s okay – as we have a handy Mortal Kombat 11 The Krypt walkthrough to aid with that part.
Dragon Ball FighterZ may not be the first good Dragon Ball game, but it’s certainly the first great one. Arc System Works has leveraged its experience in some of the most technically complex fighting games on the market to build a sumptuous title that keeps the depth of the best brawlers while staying accessible. And the studio did it with one of the most beloved series in anime, showing plenty of love and care to every character in the Dragon Ball FighterZ roster.
For Dragon Ball fans, FighterZ is a slick tribute to the series, from its gorgeous anime aesthetic to the matchup-specific intro and finish cutscenes – Yamcha’s death pose is absolutely perfect, for example. But all that care and craft is evident even if you don’t know your Goku from your Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Goku.
While DBFZ has the aerial combo-driven freneticism of Marvel vs. Capcom, it’s much more accessible for newcomers. Simple, universal combos let you make effective basic attacks across every character in the roster, and the system is flexible enough to let you quickly start working in tags and specials for your attacks – which means you’ll be driving foes through mountains with Kamehamehas in no time.
Street Fighter V did not have a great launch. The fundamentals were there from the start with a great core fighting system, but a dearth of content and characters meant that it felt like an incomplete game – a criticism series producer Yoshinori Ono has copped to. But while it took too long to get there, 2018’s Arcade Edition release saw the game finally achieve its full potential.
That said, this is still Street Fighter and Street Fighter is still the standard all other fighting games are measured against. If you want to understand fireballs, combos, and specials – never mind footsies and frame data – you start with Street Fighter, and V continues the traditions we’ve been building since the World Warrior hit arcades all those years ago.
Street Fighter V on PC also has cross-play with PlayStation 4, which means you’re able to compete against everyone else who’s playing online. That’s a big advantage over just about every other fighter on this list, since the vast majority of players tend to compete on consoles.
Tekken 7 is billed as the end of the saga, and the cinematic flourishes of its big – and ridiculous – story mode seep into the actual fights, too. Slow-motion close-ups punctuate each battle’s tensest moments, and the series’ stony-faced cast of fighters are just as grimly determined to throw each other into volcanoes as ever.
But it’s not just about the bombast. Tekken remains the most competitive 3D fighter out there, with robust tactical battles that reward strong technical play with impressive combos and insane damage. It’s that beautiful combination of high-drama visuals and deep, complex mechanics that makes Tekken one of the most exhilarating fighting games on the planet.
GUILTY GEAR XRD REV 2
Guilty Gear is what’s most commonly known as an ‘anime fighter,’ and while that does partly refer to the Japanese animation aesthetic common to most Arc System Works games, it also describes the highly technical aerial combat the studio’s titles emphasize. In a genre renowned for being tough to learn, anime fighters are among the toughest, but Guilty Gear bridges the gap between newbie and expert in an impressive way.
The latest edition of the series features 3D characters cleverly crafted to look like lavishly-animated 2D sprites. The effect is entirely convincing until a special comes out and the camera swings around to show the full depth of the visuals. There’s a case to be made that Xrd is not just the best-looking fighting game, but one of the most visually impressive games ever.
Of course, there’s much more to praise here than fancy visuals. Every character has a ton of options for getting around the screen, and building up your combos to keep opponents helpless in mid-air means mastering a complex set of inputs and keeping them straight amid the frenetic pace of the fights. A great tutorial system means that getting the basics down isn’t quite so intimidating as it first appears, either.
It might be better to read this entry as ‘whatever the most recent NetherRealm game is.’ The studio has ping-ponged between Mortal Kombat and the DC superhero universe for the past decade, and though there are certainly differences exclusive to MK and Injustice, they’re certainly building on the same formula, but it’s getting closer to perfection with each iteration. This isn’t just one of the best fighting games on PC, it’s one of the best superhero games, too.
Injustice 2 is a grim take on the DC universe that rebalances the sides of good and evil – which is really just a fancy way of saying Superman and Batman are going to fight each other. The broad roster includes superpowered favourites and some delightfully obscure picks, all of whom offer authentic powers in richly strategic matches filled with combat options and spectacular destruction.
NetherRealm games truly shine in their content offerings, and Injustice 2 is no exception. There’s a best-in-class cinematic story mode, a Multiverse full of gameplay challenges and unlockables, and a whole gear system full of ways to customise your fighter’s stats and appearance. Even if Mortal Kombat 11 will probably supplant Injustice 2 in a few months, this is still one of the most complete fighting game packages you can get.
We’ve seen all kinds of crossover fighters in the past, but none quite so absurd as Cross Tag Battle, which brings together the likes of BlazBlue, Persona, RWBY, and Under Night In-Birth. If you’re not familiar with some of those franchises, that’s okay – the basic thrust is that it’s a lot of anime, all tied up in a colourful, fast-paced fighter that’s joyous no matter how much of the roster you recognise.
The tag system makes your character choices matter with unique sets of assist moves to throw out, but the roster remains accessible thanks to a selection of universal moves and combos. That takes some of the burden of memory off beginners, so you can get right into the action and quickly wrap your head around the flashy combat system.
This one’s almost unfair to all the others. Collecting multiple decades’ worth of the greatest fighting games of all time (and the original Street Fighter), the 30th Anniversary Collection brings together 12 Capcom classics that chart the series history up through Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike.
Yes, you’ll probably only want to spend your time with the best revisions of each game, and that’s probably why Capcom only bothered to invest in bringing online play for Hyper Fighting, Super Turbo, Alpha 3, and 3rd Strike. But the vault of historical content – from all the arcade revisions to the original concepts and pitches – makes this package a must for fighting game aficionados, or those looking to catch up on the most important series in the genre.
The fighting game community at large tends to move on when a new entry in an established series is released, no matter how rough the transition might be. However, that didn’t happen with Marvel vs. Capcom. In part, that’s because the latest title, Infinite, was pretty poorly received – but it’s got more to do with the fact that Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is so damn good.
It boasts a robust roster that draws from two of geekdom’s most beloved stables. Then there’s the art that treats all those fan favourites just right. And, most of all, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has a wondrously complex tag team fighting system as deep and varied as any game in the fighting game community canon.
Its 3v3 battles, rich with tags and assist moves, can get so wild with destructive combos that it’s tough for laymen to follow the action – but that’s what gives UMVC3 its appeal. That cacophony of combos and specials is a rich ballet, and one that rewards mastery in a way few other games can match.
The Soulcalibur series has always struggled to recapture the magic of the original home release on Dreamcast, but after nearly two decades it seems that Soulcalibur VI is the game to finally do it. The weapon-based fighter is a delight to play at every skill level, whether you’re mashing through your attacks or building the most intricate combos, and there’s a generous helping of content to keep you going even when you’re not competing online.
That includes the Soulcalibur VI character creator, which has provided some of the most incredible (and terrifying) homespun creations we’ve seen in ages. You can take your custom fighter into a lengthy campaign complete with RPG-style upgrade systems and a nearly limitless supply of side missions, or take on a full story mode with bespoke dialogue and fights for every single character on the roster.
MUGEN is the greatest fighting game. It’s also the worst fighting game, and every measure of quality in between. MUGEN encompasses all things. Do you want to finally see the Street Fighter roster take on Mortal Kombat? You can. Do you want to build a roster of the most obscure fighting games in history alongside Homer Simpson? That can be done. Do you want a group of fighters so pornographic we can’t even describe them here? MUGEN does not judge. MUGEN simply is.
Developed over the past two decades, MUGEN is a freeware fighting engine – technically not even a game. A vast enthusiast community has kept the engine updated, repackaged, and rereleased over the years, and nearly any fighter you can imagine has been made part of some roster or another.
Perhaps most famously, MUGEN serves as the basis for Salty Bet, a 24/7 stream of random fighting matchups where viewers bet digital currency on the outcomes. It’s just the sort of insanity that aptly demonstrates what MUGEN’s community has bred – a place where anything is possible.
The best fighting games on PC have already won more than a few rounds, but there’s always more. From upcoming PC games like Mortal Kombat 11 to forgotten old games and obscure indie games, there’s a rich tapestry of fighters to square off against. For now, you can grab one of these picks, load up a combo video, and get into training mode – you’ll find plenty of competition out there.
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