Fighting games are notorious for two things: inconsistent quality and confusing titles. The latter is especially infuriating. One particular title could have far more re-releases, ports, and editions than anyone would ever bother counting.
With that said, we've decided to help out. Below, you'll find the best fighting games that you can play today. But, before anything else, we'd like to keep things as fair as possible, so we're only giving one fighting game slot per franchise.
That out of the way, let's get started.
Ultra Street Fighter IV
Ultra Street Fighter IV is the definitive version of 2008's Street Fighter IV, which comes with all the updates, content, fixes, that have been added to the game over a period of 6 years. Throughout this time, Capcom has made numerous changes to help balance the gameplay and keep things fair, including removing all the cheating used by computer-controlled opponents.
As the last Street Fighter game to release in arcades in North America, the game holds a special place in many fighting game fan's hearts. In fact, one can attribute the current mainstream popularity of fighting games to its release. But, more than sentimentality, Ultra Street Fighter IV is a near-perfect game that caters to both veterans and newbies alike.
Unlike Street Fighter V, which got a glorified DLC collection with the Champion Edition in 2020, the game won't bore you with all the details. The UI is a lot better despite being from an older game and there are very few overlays designed to help you that do the exact opposite and only serve to further confuse players.
With an excellent selection of new and even original characters, as well as polished combat and gameplay, Ultra Street Fighter IV is the best fighting game in the series. At least, until Capcom releases a "definitive" edition of Street Fighter VI half a decade or so from now.
Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2
The Guilty Gear series one of the most divisive fighting games around. In the eyes of longtime fans, it's one of the best fighting games.
The combination of arcane systems, combos, and cancels, give the Guilty Gear the kind of depth that only a select few others could ever compare to. At the same time, it is these features that also make the fighting games inaccessible for those unwilling to spend dozens of hours trying to learn its nuances and intricacies. Or, at the very least, this used to be the case.
With Guilty Gear XRD Rev 2, Arc System Works seems to have found the perfect middle ground to make the fighting game series, in a way, more popular.
With an anime art style that's beautifully crafted using Unreal Engine and a roster full of unique characters that force you to be on your toes all of the time without necessarily overwhelming you with complexity, Guilty Gear XRD Rev 2 remains Arc System Works' best work yet.
Perhaps it's no surprise that Guilty Gear XRD Rev 2 is the only Guilty Gear game so far to release simultaneously across all platforms.
Bandai Namco's 3D fighting franchise is older than the company itself, with the first Tekken game releasing way back in 1994. Since then, Namco, and eventually, Bandai Namco, has continuously made every iteration better and more dynamic than the one preceding it. This makes Tekken 7 the culmination of the company's decades of hard work.
With an expansive roster full of returning fan-favorite characters and some new owns, as well as a story mode that seems to have finally ended the rivalry between the Kazuya and Heihachi Mishima, Tekken 7 is a love letter to older fans of the franchise. However, those who are new to it won't find themselves alienated.
Either way, everyone will have to learn the 100-plus moves in Tekken 7 with a handful that's unique to every one of its fighters.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
When it was first released, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was criticized for overcompensation via Marvel vs Capcom 2's unwelcoming freeform combo system. But, over time, subsequent updates and improvements allowed Marvel vs Capcom 3 to evolve and become one of the best fighting games available out there.
Admittedly, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 hasn't outgrown its button-mashing nature. However, this doesn't mean that it's not without its complexity. In fact, it has its own unique charm where you don't necessarily have to memorize what kind of combo to throw and when. Rather, the game focuses more on how you will make use of your special abilities, as well as that of the other characters that are part of your team.
Simple, chaotic, fun, and colorful, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a convoluted mess that's beautiful in its own right.
King of Fighters XIV
King of Fighters XIV is, by far, the best King of Fighters game to date. It's also one of the best fighting games around.
Technical depth has never been one to wow gamers with its technical depth. It's not that it wasn't there. It's just that it was one of the more accessible fighting games. King of Fighters XIV makes the series even easier to learn for beginners, as it gives them wider windows to execute moves and combos with an intensified focus on 3v3 team-based battles.
With more than 50 distinct characters to choose from and around half as many beautifully crafted stages, King of Fighters XIV is a unique 2D fighting game that's quite unlike any other.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Once again, Arc System Works worked its magic and gave fighting games something that's been surprisingly missing for decades.
Dragon Ball FighterZ isn't the first Dragonball game to release. It's one of dozens. However, it's also arguably the best, and the only fighting game based on Dragon Ball to be included in the Evolution Championship Series twice.
What really set Dragon Ball FighterZ apart is that it didn't settle for being just a "good" adaptation of its source material. Make no mistake. It does the Dragonball animated series justice, with its own original story that could very well be made canon in the future. However, it's also a fantastic anime video game that has constantly been improved over the years.
Here's to hoping that Bandai Namco sees enough merit in releasing a sequel to Dragon Ball Fighter Z in the future.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
If you're one of those who firmly believe that Super Smash Bros. Melee is the superior product, you might want to brace yourself. Why? Because we think that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is one of the best fighting games ever released.
With a laundry list of unique fighters to choose from, including third-party additions such as Sephiroth and Ryu, among others, Ultimate is a smorgasbord of fan service that will delight even casual fighting game fans. But, perhaps much more important than Ultimate's character selection is how well the game plays.
From the actual combat gameplay to the adventure mode and online play, Ultimate nails everything right with very few flaws. It's just as fun to play as a casual who doesn't know what's happening on the screen most of the time as it is if you're a pro who counts frames and combos his way to yet another flawless victory.
Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate
Don't think that Mortal Kombat 11 is just another gorefest where the only draw is violence, because, well, it is. Although Mortal Kombat, by its very nature, revels in being unafraid to feature puddles of blood in every round, Mortal Kombat 11 is also a good fighting game that improves on its predecessor's single-player offerings with online gameplay that works all the time.
Having learned from the stiffness of the ninth entry and improving on the tenth, Mortal Kombat 11 is currently the definitive version of the Mortal Kombat game universe.
Plus, with all of the game's DLC and expansions all bundled together, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate gives you a deluge of content to dig through, just in case the cinematic reboot wasn't enough to satisfy your sadistic desires.
Not content with just reviving the Mortal Kombat franchise, NetherRealms went ahead and gave birth to everyone's favorite nightmare scenario of what if Superman ever went rogue.
The first Injustice video game introduced everyone to a Superman who's willing to use his power to dominate the earth after the painful loss of his wife and his unborn child. The second game doubled down on this. The sequel casual audiences even more of a reason to dive deep into the lore of a fighting game to learn more about the central conflict of the Injustice video games.
Then, once you're done reading through every story-related Injustice content out there, Injustice 2 lets you duke it out against AI-controlled characters and other players online.
What separates Injustice 2 from the original title is how it lets you customize each character with gears that alters their look and stats. This paves the way for an incredibly deep gameplay experience that will have you sinking hours.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is the definitive version of the former Japan-exclusive Persona 4 Arena spin-off of the Persona series.
Released in 2014, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax doesn't show its age as much as you think it would for a relatively obscure fighting game. Perhaps this is what happens when you let Arc System Works decide some of its most intricate combat systems to date. But, while the Persona series is just as notorious for not being beginner-friendly, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is somehow a fun game to play even if you don't know who the characters are.
Speaking of the characters, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax lets you play as characters from the Persona 3 and Persona 4 games, each with its own unique Persona abilities and special moves. Plus, true to its Persona namesake, Arena Ultimax still keeps life simulation aspects of the main series. This includes the ability to build social links that can and will come in handy during battles.