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

Updated July 30, 2020 948 votes 189 voters 13.1k views20 items

List RulesVote 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.

  • 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. 

    • Release: 1993
    • Developer: Acclaim Cheltenham, Midway Games, Sculptured Software
    • Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, PlayStation 2, Master System, PlayStation, Sega 32X
    Still packs a punch?
  • Photo: 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. 

    • Release: 1994
    • Developer: Capcom
    • Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
    Still packs a punch?
  • Photo: Capcom

    Basically the all-star matchup every gamer wished for, X-Men vs Street Fighter was an insanely popular arcade game that was first ported to the Sega Saturn and later released on the PS1 (though the reviews weren't nearly as generous). While the gameplay was similar to the original Street Fighter games, it included a new tag-team format where players could pick characters from different franchises, meaning you could have Wolverine pop in and help Ken out.

    Featuring 17 playable characters, it offered way more variety than your typical run-of-the-mill fighter. It’s fast, it’s frantic, and the graphics are still surprisingly tight. As one of the greatest and most popular fighters of the time, it’s no wonder it started such a huge movement.

    • Release: 1996
    • Developer: Capcom
    • Platform: Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Arcade game
    Still packs a punch?
  • Photo: Namco

    Tekken 3 is what franchises should look to emulate when making a sequel. This game improved on the original two games in nearly every area, and they weren't even bad! Combat was refined by limiting jump heights and creating new maneuvers.

    Successfully executing a 10-hit combo felt like more of an accomplishment in this game, and as a result, it felt more rewarding. This game wasn't just a button masher like so many other fighting games at the time; it required a high level of skill. 

    • Release: 1997
    • Developer: Production I.G, Namco
    • Platform: PlayStation 2, PlayStation, Dreamcast, Namco System 12
    Still packs a punch?