The Top 7... Fighting game backgrounds

5) Shun Di's raft: Virtua Fighter 2

Forget the crappy version of this stage that appeared in the Saturn conversion (if the raft's beached – it's no longer a raft, really, is it?), because the arcade stage is what it's all about. You're fighting on a 3D raft as it floats serenely down a river. That is awesome. And how much money did we waste trying to get a character to fall into the water? Too much. As if to thank us for all that extra cash, Sega then made the raft stage fully 3D and dunkable in Virtua Fighter 3. But it was never quite as awesome as this:

Above: The stage even tilted, which was something other fighting games simply couldn't do at the time

Nobody ever asked the question, though - how did the fighters get on? Sure, you could drop from above, but then... how will they get off? Would Virtua Fighter 3 be set at sea with the pair marooned on a desert island? No. The fight ends and then the winner's on to face Pai. Yes. Pai for the winner. Yum.


Biggest mid-fight distraction

As you drift along, you pass under a fully 3D bridge. With textured bricks and everything. And then, as you slide serenely beneath, a shadow creeps across the raft in real-time. As if the fight wasn't spectacular enough already!

Above: The actual game didn't have that text. If it had, it would've been texture mapped and MORE AWESOME

You're probably wondering why I'm getting all excited about a 3D bridge, especially if you're under 25 years old. Well, imagine playing that in the arcade and then coming home to... this:

Above: Hey, isn't that the ROFLCOPTER? No, it's LHX Attack Chopper. Shudder...


Other noteworthy stages in VF2:

Dural's underwater stage was cool, especially as it featured a slow-motion effect that let you see every frame of that amazing 3D animation. And Sarah's stage was pretty smart too, with flashes of lightning illuminating the empty coliseum as you got taunted about running home to mama now. Aww, did the nasty lady kick you in the willy?

Above: Sarah's stage and the bonus Dural fight were both memorable. As was everything, really 


4) The Dead Pool: Mortal Kombat 2

Mortal Kombat 2 has aged worse than almost any other game I can think of. What was once an impressive blend of real-life digitised images and gaming sprites has become a fugly, unbalanced mess masquerading as a classic game. But that's not to say it doesn't still have some of gaming's most memorable and awesome backgrounds. Observe:

Above: Welcome to the Dead Pool. Doesn't look like much, does it? Ah, but wait until you see its little trick

There aren't many things in gaming more macabre than The Dead Pool's acid pit, which is surely one of gaming's bluntest horrors. Forget Dead Space 2 – this had way more clout than any of that game's OTT gore and cheap sudden loud noise scares. The scene is simple: There's a platform that you fight on, some meat hooks dangling from the ceiling and a pool of dull green water, which looks like window dressing at first...

Above: Your foe's body surfaces almost immediately... only all their flesh has burned away. What a nice smile!

There's no denying time has not been kind to MKII. But there's still something about this scene that goes beyond the sum of its parts. Could it be any scarier? Well...

Above: If you knocked your opponent into the acid and Weegee popped up? Bye-bye sanity

Bottom line is this: If you're fighting at Dead Pool, there's only one option when it's time to pull off a fatality. Hold low punch and low kick, then do an uppercut. Has to be. Especially as it works with any character, while other backgrounds require character-specific commands to access their secrets.


Biggest mid-fight distraction

Meat hooks. Lots and lots of meat hooks. But they're all 'vacant', so to speak. They just hang there, giving some depth to an otherwise flat scene. But they did fire up the imagination of every child of the '90s. Could you lift your opponent into the air and hang them there? Of course you couldn't. Didn't stop us trying, though.


Other noteworthy stages in MKII

The Kombat Tomb and The Pit very nearly made this list instead of Dead Pool, as their spikes and fall respectively are equally iconic scenes from the game. Many are also forever haunted by the evil trees from the Living Forest too, but probably only because the animation was so poor. Ba-doom tish!

Above: The Kombat Tomb and the Living Forest. They don't make 'em like this any more (thankfully)


  • Ariaka - February 11, 2011 3:30 a.m.

    For one: Tengu is awesome. For two: Soul Calibur is awesome. For three?: I actually had a copy of LHX on my old 286 and I giggled incessantly when I saw it here XD I'm also under 25
  • AuthorityFigure - February 10, 2011 1:07 a.m.

    Stop showing the girls with their legs apart. It's not interesting anymore.
  • GreyGhost - February 9, 2011 6:42 a.m.

    The "Drive In" stage in SFIV/SSFIV is not Las Vegas ... You folks need to look at the map in the pre fight sequence ... It's in the North Eastern US ...
  • philipshaw - February 8, 2011 3 p.m.

    Great list and you got all my favs in here
  • CaptainSalmon - February 8, 2011 2:07 p.m.

    Four pages on fighting game backgrounds... and still interesting. Mind. Blown.
  • jmcgrotty - February 8, 2011 7:37 a.m.

    While I have no problem with the list, selectable stages in games are 100% unacceptable. They should always be random. Give me a break.
  • Crimmy - February 8, 2011 6:50 a.m.

    Screw that damn clown. I was always amazed at the clock tower in MvC 2. Also, Las Vegas in SF IV (or super, doesn't matter) was pretty awesome. I like all the bouncing cars and neon lights everywhere.
  • KrazyGamer - February 8, 2011 5:43 a.m.

    I was really hoping you would mention Tekken 4's Airport stage, I loved that stage. I think I liked it more cuz of the song that came with it, It blended in well. Thats just my prespective.
  • lovinmyps3 - February 8, 2011 5:40 a.m.

    I was hoping that would be number one. Love the updated version in IV, especially the fat dude with the camera. He makes me laugh every time! I really love the African eclipse stage in Super SFIV though. That eclipse is literally the reason I got annihilated the first time I played that stage!
  • d0x - February 8, 2011 12:39 a.m.

    I was so hopelessly addicted to the Virtua Fighter series. Sega were true pioneers back then and its arcade games were jaw dropping. The first time I saw Daytona USA I almost shit my pants and there was about 70 people waiting in line to play it was amazing. Now arcades are dead. I bought the Saturn just so I could play Virtua Fighter 2 and Daytona USA. I loved all the arcade to saturn ports back then. They were never as pretty but always just as much fun. Fighters Megamix is still my favorite fighting game of all time and I still play it. It looks like vomit on my HDTV but so what!? Sega I <3 you! Get Yu Suzuki back into the mix and create some damn magic and for the love of god make a sequel to Phantasy Star Online without changing the entire game. PSU was terrible!
  • Ravenbom - February 8, 2011 12:25 a.m.

    Pretty sure it's just DoA, not DOA.
  • NathanXplosion - February 7, 2011 11:55 p.m.

    I would have picked 125 Street Station over the Gun Hill Garage stage in Def Jam: Fight for NY. Throwing some onto the tracks and watching them get hit by the train never got old. Whis EA would have made more Def Jame games like Fight for NY.
  • ThePigHostage - February 7, 2011 11:34 p.m.

    Great list, but was it really necessary to bash on MK 2?
  • shawksta - February 7, 2011 10:31 p.m.

    Great list, that clown in MVC2 still scared me at night. I love Chun li's China stage it has so many things happening in the original and in SF4. I gotta agree with the others aswell, a smash bros. Stage deserves to be in this, and you CANT say there wasnt anyone that standed out, I think the problem was that there was TOO MANY that stood out to have only 1 chosen. New Pork Town was Huge, Port Town races you through the track and you fight, Poke floats lets you fight in many giant Pokemon Floats,Wario ware has to be one of the most creative out of all the gimmick stages and of course the Kraid Stage with him slamming the stage around, there was allot, you guys probably couldnt choose because most were unique. Oh well, its just your opinions after all.
  • Ampatent - February 7, 2011 10:29 p.m.

    This Top 7 deserves a part 2 of not 3 & 4. So many stages left out... I don't know how anyone could ignore the Solar Eclipse stage from SSFIV.
  • NinjaJamez - February 7, 2011 10:26 p.m.

    I love the stage on street fighter alpha 2 that is inspired by the ryu vs sagat fight from the anime movie. this one if i didnt made my point
  • elmaropwnz - February 7, 2011 9:11 p.m.

    What's with the hate on mortal kombat II?
  • 8bitBaby - February 7, 2011 9:02 p.m.

    gawd that clownface is creeeepy. D: also. LENS FLARE!
  • Ilyere - February 7, 2011 8:58 p.m.

    I was hoping for an SSBB stage, but oh well! I'm looking forward to the MvC3 review by the way!
  • Darkhawk - February 7, 2011 8:55 p.m.

    AND MvC2 was on a CD on the PS2 version! Remember those blue discs?

Showing 1-20 of 56 comments

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