For me, there was always something interesting about Street Fighter. I don’t know if it was the fact that it was the only one on one fighting game available in the Ten Pin Bowling Alley where my Mum worked, or if it was something deeper. Street Fighter holds a very dear and special place in my childhood, both in memory and in my heart. Since the series has celebrated it’s 30th Anniversary and Capcom are putting out the first almost complete collection of the series since conception, I think it would be a good time to take a walk down that nostalgic highway and remember some of the best games I played in my childhood and early teenage years.
As always, this list is a PERSONAL ranking based on my experiences of playing these games in the arcade during the time of their release. This isn’t based on technical data or how much play the game got on the professional circuit or at EVO or whatever. This is based on nostalgia alone and nothing else. After all, the series is almost as old as I am and I’ve been playing it for 30 years, so I would like to think I know what I’m talking about. But feel free to leave your hate comments below or email them directly to my email address. With that said, let’s begin at the bottom…
12. Street Fighter (1987)
There is nothing wrong with paying respect to the OG. But when it comes to the OG Street Fighter, there is nothing worth respecting. To be honest, the game was a mess. Horrible controls that made using the special moves more of a feat of luck then actual skill, battles that only let you use Ryu and Ken against one another, and a single player mode where fights would be over in moments because the computer was a cheating pile of shit. Those are my memories of playing the original Street Fighter in arcades, I’m not sure when it was but all I can remember is playing about 3-4 games of it in a Mom & Pop Video Games store. After a while, I don’t even think they bothered to turn the machine on at all since no kids were going to play it anyway. Why waste electricity on something that wasn’t going to make any money? So it just sat there for a few years till it eventually got replaced with a Street Fighter II machine and people started playing the game again.
11. Street Fighter III: New Generation (1997)
I’ll make this clear here and now: I HATE THE STREET FIGHTER III SERIES. There, I said it. What everyone keeps touting as the best set of games in the franchise is something that I personally find annoying and terrible. I know this is the entry that brought in the multiple super moves, popularized the counter/parry system and all that, but as someone who was used to Street Fighter II and Street Fighter Alpha at the time, not to mention Tekken 2, going into an arcade and playing Street Fighter III was just not the same. Hell, I saw Street Fighter EX getting more play time than this game at the time. Sorry, the game is ok to play… kinda. I think there was just too much focus on getting money from gamers at this phase in the franchise lifecycle than actual decent gameplay.
10. Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact (1997)
Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact was the obvious attempt to fix the issues with Street Fighter III: New Generation. Bring in 2 new characters and returning the then fan favorite Akuma to the roster really made this something to… walk past in the arcades. I’m sorry, but at this stage in arcade life, 2nd Impact just wasn’t worth looking at let alone play. There were some arcades where this game was the only one there, so it would get play then; but at most popular arcades you would see this pushed to the back in favor of the faster and more combo heavy X-Men vs Street Fighter and Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter machines. Honestly, I think I played this once ever in the arcades as I was more interested in playing the VS games at the time.
9. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike (1999)
What is considered the absolute perfection of the Street Fighter franchise, but it was really a failure in the arcades in my area. Unfortunately, the VS games were still going strong at the time with Marvel vs Capcom 2 coming only a few months after this game arrived in Australian arcades. I wouldn’t get a chance to play this one for what it was until many years later when I found it at one of the rare pizza stores that still had some arcade games in the store to play while waiting for your pizza, and even then it was free. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike was an ultra hard game with a boss in Gill that I still have nightmares about to this day… Fucking reviving bastard.
8. Super Street Fighter II (1993)
I can remember walking into a Blockbuster video one night and seeing this pretty normal looking Street Fighter machine and watching the intro… But it was a different intro. There were new characters all over the place and ended with a front on shot of Ryu throwing a Hadouken at the screen!… and then we had to leave. I would spend months trying everything I could to not only go back to that Blockbuster video and get my hands on this game. I just had to try out those new characters! But sadly I wouldn’t get my hands on this one till it came out on SNES and even then it was a watered down version of what this one was. Thankfully there has been Mame in order to get my chance to play the game in the proper format… Though it’s not the same as it would have been on the arcade. Personally, from a gameplay standpoint, I found the characters to be challenging if not downright broken at times. But this game was amazing to play either way.
7. Street Fighter Alpha (1995)
I always thought the concept of going back before going forwards was weird for the Street Fighter series. I knew of the existence of Street Fighter as a game, even played it in both the Street Fighter and Fighting Street versions by the time Street Fighter Alpha came out. But I could see what CAPCOM were doing with releasing this game. Since the original Street Fighter would not work with the more modern fanbase who either played or grew up playing variations of Street Fighter II, going back to that slower game would not work. So putting out Street Fighter Alpha as a retelling of the Street Fighter game was a good choice. The biggest attraction for me was seeing Akuma for the first time via a code that would have to be inputted on the character select screen. This began a long obsession with the red-haired demon and also a quest to get that damn code to work since this was the early days of the internet and the main way these codes were passed around was via word of mouth, so people often had 2-3 different ways of getting the code to work.
6. Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (1992)
Given that there was A LOT of revisions of the Street Fighter II: Championship Edition game, it would all end up being used by CAPCOM and added into one game. Hyper Fighting was the result of all the other bootlegs out there such as Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition, which really messed up the game by letting you switch characters and had a lot of weird modified moves. However, those specific modifications never made it into this official “final” release of the Street Fighter II series. What we ended up with is a faster and more tournament friendly version of the game that would stick around a lot longer than most. I remember seeing cabinets of Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting long into the Street Fighter Alpha/III/EX era of games.
5. Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1998)
While a lot of people consider Street Fighter Alpha 3 to be one of the best games in the Alpha series, I really didn’t like it. Something about the whole ISM selection thing just didn’t work with me, plus the fact that this game has one of the hardest versions of M.Bison outside of Street Fighter EX2. All I have are nightmares of seeing Bison with his Shadowloo ISM meter full and having him catch me off guard with that fucking full-screen Super Psycho Crusher thanks to its one frame startup time. I swear the CPU was set on some sort of cheating mode where it would wait till you are in the middle of some uncancellable animation before launching into that fucking move. Though this did have a very large roster of characters and was enjoyable for the most part, I think it was just trying too hard to be a really tough game.
4. Super Street Fighter II Turbo (1994)
Oh man, this version of Super Street Fighter II. Not only was this the time when we had a faster update to Super Street Fighter II, bringing it up to speed with the previous “final version” of Street Fighter II, but it was the first time that we got to see Akuma as a hidden boss. Sure, this was CAPCOM striking back at its main rival: Mortal Kombat and it’s ability to have hidden characters in their games (Mortal Kombat II was out at the time with it’s 3 hidden characters: Smoke, Jade, and Noob Saibot). But none the less, we got to see the most insane boss character enter the franchise for the first time and it was amazing. Little did I know at the time that there was a code to make a less powerful version of Akuma playable in this game, only to find out once home console ports came about and never being able to hit the right timing for it to work… But I do now in the PS2 Street Fighter Anniversary and Hyper Street Fighter Collection versions of this game, not to mention the easy version in the PS3 port. To this day this is one of the best player vs player versions of the Street Fighter franchise to exist, right down to the point where there was a version called Super Street Fighter II Turbo X: Tournament Edition; which was designed especially for tournament play. But I never got my hands on that one.
3. Street Fighter II: Champion Edition (1992)
This stems from my love of the game in the number 2 spot. Again I remember the time when I first saw this machine. The difference in the side panels, the logo panel, and the addition of the final four bosses with their moves on the paper strip that lined the bottom of the monitor! This was insane to me that we had a version of Street Fighter II that would allow us to do such a thing. Not to mention having the ability to have same character matches thanks to pallet swapping! A lot of people made this out to be some sort of “Super mode” for the characters, meaning that Red Costume Ken was weaker than Blue Costume Ken, etc. A lot of people, in the beginning, started playing the new characters, especially Vega since you could fly around the stage with his leaping claw attack, or just doing things with his claw in general as it gave you extra reach. I quickly found out that my previous “main” Guile no longer had the glitches that made him a challenge to play against, so I started playing Ken instead. Eventually, this version of the game was removed from the bowling alley and replaced with one of the more popular bootlegs: Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition until Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting was released.
2. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991)
I don’t know if this is one of those “you have to” or just something I find myself doing, but I have to give the second spot to the OG Street Fighter II game that started it all. Coming off the slow and clunky Street Fighter, which spent more time gathering dust than actually being played, to something like this that was fast (or at least we thought it was fast) and engaging was amazing. I can still remember the first time walking into the arcade section of the bowling alley where my mother worked and seeing this machine for the first time. All the times playing it solo as Guile trying to make it through the 3rd or 4th stage Blanka gatekeeper (long before I understood that no matter who was in the 3rd or 4th match, the machine upped the difficulty in order to get you to spend more money) in order to finish what I thought were the only fighters in the game, only to be amazed as I watched someone make it through all 7 matches and then seeing the pictures of the final four bosses pop up instead… Oh, what glory that was to see. It only got better from there as I learned some interesting glitches like the Guile Stance and Handcuffs which I would bust out on challengers when I was being pressed into a corner. Then there was the time I made it all the way through the game and got to see the ending scene for Guile through my own hard work and effort. I wouldn’t stop talking about it for weeks afterward. It was here that my obsession with not only fighting games, but Street Fighter began and lasts to this day.
1. Street Fighter Alpha 2 (1996)
I don’t know what it is, but I keep coming back to this version of Street Fighter no matter how long it has been. There is something about this game that just seems perfect to me. Maybe it was the fact that you could pick Akuma without needing a damn code for the first time, or maybe it was how there was nothing needed to select but you could do super moves or custom combos at will, or maybe it was how it continued the story from Street Fighter Alpha without destroying the Street Fighter II mythos. I’m not too sure, but to me, this is the best version of Street Fighter than I love to play over and over again. Even now I’m happy to pull out the Street Fighter Collection for PlayStation or the Street Fighter Alpha Anthology on PlayStation 2 and just play this game over and over till the cows come home or I just get bored at winning and play something else. To me, this is what Street Fighter is. A good combination of flashy moves and great matches with a splash of story just to keep you interested. A true classic.