20 Classic Fighting Games From The '90s That Still Hold Up

Voting Rules
Vote up all the old fighting games that still pack a punch.

Arguably the best type of game to sit back, unwind, and beat the living daylights out of a few friends (or AI opponents), fighting games have been a staple in gaming since the early Atari days. But while a handful of franchises have dominated the arena for decades, there are literally dozens of great '90s fighting games that still hold up today. 

While classic old school fighting games like Street Fighter II Turbo and Tekken 3 still rock, for every Mortal Kombat there are plenty of other great retro fighting games that either fell by the wayside or have all but faded into gaming obscurity. The 16- and 32-bit eras were prime real estate for tournament fighters, and while the PlayStation 1 had its fair share of great games, the N64 also held its own. And we can't forget about all those great retro Sega and SNES fighters.

From Eternal Champions and Killer Instinct to X-Men vs. Street Fighter and Samuri Showdon, vote up all your favorite classic fighting games to see which vintage fighter is still the king of the ring.

  • Street Fighter II Turbo
    Photo: Street Fighter II Turbo / Capcom

    Capcom released the Street Fighter game way back in 1987. But in the few years between the first game to the release of Street Fighter II Turbo, the series was essentially upgraded and updated in every possible way. While Street Fighter 2 was already a classic, the Turbo edition took all of the great elements and made them even greater.

    By the time this game came out (which honestly wasn't much after the original Street Fighter II was released), there were several new combo moves to use and new characters to play as. Yup, there's a reason Street Fighter II Turbo is still regarded as one of the best games of the entire franchise and is still played competitively to this day. 

    • Released: 1994
    • Developer: Capcom
    • Platform: Arcade, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, Game Boy Advanced
    179 votes
  • Mortal Kombat II
    Photo: Midway Games

    If there's a competitor that can match Street Fighter in terms of sheer popularity, it's Mortal Kombat. While the first MK release was worthy in its own right, it was Mortal Kombat II that essentially started the legacy. The game's hyper-realistic graphics and over-the-top gore were so brash and outrageous that there was simply no way it wouldn't become an instant hit.

    In addition to bringing a new attitude to the fighting arena, the combat mechanics were also upgraded (while still keeping the high level of violence of the first game). This way the game stayed unique but was still able to compete mechanically with other fighters. 

    • Released: 1993
    • Developer: Acclaim Cheltenham, Midway Games, Sculptured Software
    • Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, PlayStation 2, Master System, PlayStation, Sega 32X
    142 votes
  • 3
    113 VOTES
    Photo: Capcom

    Some people prefer realistic fighting games, and then some people prefer Darkstalkers. Unlike traditional fighting games that focus on real-life moves and mechanics, this game is incredibly cartoony —both in graphics and fighting moves.

    Instead of fighting humans, you fight epic monsters in this brilliant fighting game. Although the game never reached the height of other fighting games such as Street Fighter it still deserves to be played by fighting game fans. 

    • Released: 1994
    • Developer: Capcom
    113 votes
  • 4
    104 VOTES
    Killer Instinct
    Photo: Rare

    If it weren't for titles such as Street Fighter and Mortal KombatKiller Instinct may have gotten a lot more attention. Still, the series has a massive following with gamers often claiming the original as one of their favorite games. Killer Instinct had revolutionary visuals and audio for the time, plus it was brutal enough to give the folks over at Mortal Kombat a run for their money.

    And in addition to a roster of interesting, unique, and sometimes downright creepy characters, it also had an announcer that went crazy, making Killer Instinct one of the most hyped-up fighting game ever. Sure, the controls could be awkward at times, but the overall aesthetic appeal more than makes up for any in-game issues.

    • Released: 1994
    • Developer: Rare Ltd
    • Platform: Game Boy, Arcade game, Super Nintendo Entertainment System
    104 votes
  • 5
    70 VOTES
    Photo: Project Soul

    Technically the second Soulcalibur game (the first being Soul Edge, which was released in 1995), Soulcalibur was an arcade game first that was later ported to the Sega Dreamcast. Unlike other fighters at the time, Soulcalibur took advantage of 3D gaming mechanics, which, when coupled with sharp graphics, smooth controls, and an engaging storyline, made for one great fighting game.

    Soulcalibur basically improved upon the original game in every conceivable way, which definitely helped solidify it as one of the most popular games to ever grace the Dreamcast. It also featured all the same characters (plus a whole lot more), which helped solidify its status as a diverse fighting game.

    • Released: 1998
    • Developer: Namco, Project Soul
    • Platform: Dreamcast, Xbox 360, Namco System 12
    70 votes
  • The King of Fighters '98
    Photo: SNK

    A classic series outside the States, the King of Fighters franchise is as vast and diverse enough to give Street Fighter a run for its money. King of Fighters '98 was the game that basically took everything that was great about the previous titles and combined it all into one.

    The roster was huge, the gameplay was fluid, and the graphics — like always — were cartoony and tight.

    • Released: 1998
    • Developer: SNK Playmore
    • Platform: PlayStation 2, PlayStation, Neo Geo CD, Xbox 360, Arcade game
    69 votes