Street Fighter has captured the hearts of gamers for over three decades. With its diverse cast of characters, innovative gameplay mechanics, and unforgettable special moves, Street Fighter has cemented itself as a cornerstone of the gaming industry.
As the games industry has evolved over the decades, so too have the Street Fighter games, each adding its own unique twist on the formula. And I live for this. I’ve been hooked on Street Fighter ever since my childhood best mate challenged me to a fight on Street Fighter II on his SNES.
Join me as I rank the best Street Fighter games of all time, taking into account their impact on the genre, gameplay mechanics, character rosters, and overall fun factor. Let’s get into it…
Round One: FIGHT!!
10. Street Fighter (1987)
The game that started it all. The original Street Fighter, was a groundbreaking title that paved the way for the entire fighting game genre. Although it may seem dated by today’s standards, the 1987 release introduced us to Ryu and Ken, the iconic Hadouken special move, and the concept of one-on-one fighting game competitions.
TL;DR: it was, and remains, a pretty big deal.
While the controls were stiff and the voice samples laughably incomprehensible, Street Fighter’s pioneering gameplay set the stage for the legendary series that would follow. For its historical significance alone, the first Street Fighter earns a spot on our list.
9. Street Fighter EX Series (1996-2000)
The Street Fighter EX series marked Capcom’s first foray into 3D graphics, with the games featuring polygonal character models and stages. Though the visuals were rough around the edges (a bit rubbish, basically), the EX series introduced new characters and experimented with fresh gameplay mechanics.
Unfortunately, the games never quite gained the same traction as their 2D counterparts, and the series is often seen as more of a novelty than a true Street Fighter experience. Nevertheless, the EX series deserves recognition for its daring attempt at bringing the franchise into the third dimension.
Street Fighter EX3, the third and final installment of the EX series refined the gameplay and graphics, boasting a larger roster of fighters and the return of custom combos. While still not widely embraced by fans, Street Fighter EX3 remains the standout entry in this experimental 3D offshoot.
8. Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight (1990)
An oddity in the Street Fighter catalog, Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight is a futuristic side-scrolling action game featuring a cybernetic Ken on a mission to avenge his friend’s murder. Although the game bears the Street Fighter name, it strays far from the series’ traditional fighting game roots.
Despite its bizarre premise and questionable connection to the franchise, Street Fighter 2010 offers a unique and challenging action experience. It may not be your typical Street Fighter experience, but I’ve had plenty of fun emulating this game over the years.
7. Street Fighter Alpha Series (1995-1998)
The Street Fighter Alpha series served as a prequel to Street Fighter II, introducing new characters from the Final Fight series and reintroducing fighters from the original Street Fighter. With its anime-inspired art style and innovative gameplay mechanics, the Alpha series breathed new life into the franchise.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 is the best of the series. It has a massive (for the time) roster of 32 characters, refined gameplay mechanics, and some of the best 2D visuals in the series. Street Fighter Alpha 3 remains a fan favorite for its balanced character roster, tight controls, and unique fighting styles for each character.
6. Street Fighter IV Series (2008-2014)
Street Fighter IV marked the series’ triumphant return after a lengthy hiatus, bringing together classic fighters and newcomers in a visually stunning 2.5D experience. Its focus on accessible gameplay and a robust online community helped rekindle interest in the franchise among both casual and competitive players.
Ultra Street Fighter IV is the definitive version of the fourth installment, featuring a perfectly balanced roster, the addition of five new characters, and the elimination of AI cheating found in previous versions. As the last Street Fighter game released in North American arcades, Ultra Street Fighter IV stands as a fitting swan song for the series’ arcade roots.
5. Street Fighter V Series (2016-2023)
Street Fighter V faced its fair share of criticism for its initial lack of content, particularly the absence of a single-player arcade mode. I won’t lie, I refunded it within an hour of firing it up for the first time, I was that disappointed with it at launch. However, with the release of the Arcade Edition in 2018, Capcom righted.
The Arcade Edition not only brings back the beloved arcade mode but also includes all previously released DLC characters, making it the most complete version of Street Fighter V. It is what Street Fighter V should have been at launch. Sure, it has some lingering flaws, but Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition stands as one of the best fighting games in recent memory.
4. Street Fighter II Series (1991-1994)
The game that truly put the Street Fighter franchise on the map, and my introduction to the series, Street Fighter II revolutionized the fighting game genre and spawned countless imitators. With its diverse roster of characters, innovative gameplay mechanics, and unforgettable special moves, Street Fighter II cemented its place in gaming history and laid the foundation for the series’ enduring success.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo is creme de la creme when it comes to Street Fighter II. It has a roster of 17 characters, introduced the secret boss Akuma, and added turbo mode for faster, more intense gameplay. It is a classic in the fighting game genre.
3. Street Fighter 6 (2023)
Street Fighter 6 is a return to form for the series. It is about as feature rich as a Street Fighter game has ever been at launch. It literally reminded me why I love Street Fighter and fighting games in general, it is that good.
Long-time fans will find the gameplay mechanics have the depth they have been yearning for, and it will undoubtedly dominate the fighting game scene for years to come. Newcomers or those returning to the series after a long break are onboarded with a highly accessible thanks to its modern and classic control schemes. It is a rare game that is both welcoming yet has a high skill ceiling for those who put the time in. An instant classic.
2. Street Fighter III Series (1997-1999)
Street Fighter III brought the series into a new era with its stunning 2D animation, intricate gameplay mechanics, and an entirely new cast of characters. Though initially overshadowed by the popular Street Fighter II, Street Fighter III has since gained a dedicated following and is considered one of the best entries in the franchise.
3rd Strike is widely regarded as the pinnacle of the Street Fighter III series, boasting a varied and balanced roster, top-notch animation, and near-perfect controls. It’s excellent sound design and memorable soundtrack further elevate it as one of the greatest fighting games of all time.
Often hailed as the crown jewel of the franchise (and rightfully so – it could have been #1 on this list), Street Fighter III: Third Strike features some of the most intricate gameplay mechanics, beloved character designs, and an awesome soundtrack.
1. Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (2017)
Serving as both an homage to the classic Super Street Fighter II Turbo and an update for modern audiences, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is a feature-rich and accessible entry in the series. Exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, the game introduces new characters, modes, and gameplay tweaks, making it the ultimate Street Fighter experience for fans old and new alike.
I just wish it wasn’t stuck on Nintendo’s handheld system, but what can you do. It’s the best Street Fighter game and you owe it to yourself to check it out.