Streets and/or fighting optional
On February 6th, 1991, Street Fighter 2 was unleashed on arcades the world over, setting the course for the most legendary 2D fighting franchise in history. And in the 25 years since, SF's popularity has spawned countless spin-offs, including a lot of oddball games that took the World Warriors in some very... interesting directions. Most people are used to seeing Ryu and Ken square off on a virtual sidewalk, but their travels have also taken them into the realms of board games, slot machines, and even a pen-and-paper RPG.
Street Fighter 5 is nearly here, and our hype is at a fever pitch. To channel that fighting spirit into something productive, we decided to comb through the franchise's storied history and shine some light on its most obscure spin-offs. These curios attempt to capture the spirit of Street Fighter, even if they abandon its core gameplay tenets entirely. Here are our picks for the best (and strangest) Street Fighter games that have nothing to do with 2D fighting.
Street Fighter 2 board game (Tabletop)
Street Fighter 2's board game adaptation feels like someone handed the designers a picture of the SF2 box and said, "Make a game about that." Up to four players pick a character and roll dice to move around the board (which, fittingly, is a bunch of streets). Eventually, two players will collide and a fight breaks out. This is also handled with dice, with higher die rolls trumping lower ones a la Risk. Fighters grow stronger with each victory, and the game ends when someone either reaches max level or defeats M. Bison, who is holed up in what looks like a Panda Express. With its over-reliance on random dice rolls, the Street Fighter 2 board game ultimately fails to replicate what makes the video games great - despite being entirely about fighting and streets.
Cannon Spike (Arcade, Dreamcast)
To fighting fans, the Cannon Spike is best known as Cammy's Shoryuken facsimile, where she rockets into the air bootheel first. But it's also the title of a wildly offbeat shmup that Capcom quietly snuck into arcades and the Dreamcast in 2000. It's a top-down run-'n'-gun starring those elite, army-trained street fighters Cammy and Charlie Nash (who's back in Street Fighter 5, if you didn't know). They could team up with other iconic Capcom blasters like Mega Man and Darkstalkers' B.B. Hood to take down waves of robots who are quite clearly disturbing the peace. You've even got the claw-bearing Vega (aka Balrog, in this case) as a recurring baddie, complete with a redone goth-meets-S&M look.
The Street Fighter 2 Tabletop Game (Tabletop)
The backstory behind this Street Fighter 2 version of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots gives a very dark alternate ending to the original Street Fighter 2. As narrated in the game's commercial, "From around the globe, the street fighters came, bashing and banging until only Ryu and Guile remain." So what happened to the rest of them? Did they all beat each other to death? In that case, M. Bison would've already been defeated, so what motivation do Ryu and Guile have to keep "bashing and banging" each other? When will the carnage end!?
Street Fighter 2 Movie (PS1, Saturn)
FMV games were all the rage in the '90s, giving the the illusion that you were in control of a photorealistic experience, even though it was more like long periods of doing nothing interrupted by frantic Simon Says. To its credit, Capcom put a smarter spin the concept than most, repurposing the footage from Street Fighter 2: The Animated Movie by casting you as a voyeuristic Shadaloo cyborg observing the film's events from afar. Yes, there are some moments of 2D fighting as a reskinned Ken sprite in the Super Turbo engine. But all the the familiar street fighting is bookended by long periods of watching the anime with a distracting android-eye overlay, hoping to score 'battle points' by responding to button prompts with inhuman speed.
Namco X Capcom (PS2)
Continuing a proud tradition of random crossovers between Japanese companies that make fighting games, Namco X Capcom is a vehicle for watching adorable, sprite-based versions of your favorite Namco and Capcom characters hit each other. Player input and strategizing isn't as important here, as the game really isn't all that difficult, so you really can just sit back and watch the little guys do their thing. If you missed the original on PS2, then the spiritual 3DS successor Project X Zone should give you a good sense of its tactics. For the super fans who want to see these characters in a new setting - or in a new game whatsoever (poor Captain Commando) - this game is probably already in your collection, so let's just move on.
Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight (NES)
Localization is a delicate art, where taking some liberties with Japanese-to-English porting can create a franchise black sheep that causes ripples in the space-time Street Fighter continuum. Case in point: Street Fighter 2010, which was rejiggered for American markets to evoke two Capcom franchises that had nothing to do with the game itself (and if anything, it's more in line with Strider). The original version has you platforming and zapping aliens as Kevin Straker, a titanium-plated future cop. But to cash in on Street Fighter hype, the localization renamed him to Ken, implying that this was the same blonde-haired playboy who threw fiery dragon punches, then went on to become a world-renowned scientist and law enforcer.
Street Fighter Deck-Building Game (Tabletop)
This card game comes by way of Cryptozoic Entertainment, which has made similar games based on Naruto, The Lord of the Rings, and DC Comics. All of these deck-building games use the same ruleset, so if you want to make the hybrid Naruto/Batman/Chun-Li deck from your wildest dreams, that's entirely possible. The rules themselves are simple: you buy cards to power up your character, then use those cards to attack your opponent(s) and earn victory points. When all the cards are gone, each player tallies up their victory points to see who won. Sadly, this ends up feeling like the card game equivalent of button mashing, as the randomness of what you're buying and playing undercuts the strategic elements of any good fighting game. But hey, at least it's thematically more interesting than a game of War.
Street Fighter: Puzzle Spirits (Mobile)
Given that the mobile game market is a bit like the Mega Millions Jackpot these days, Capcom would be foolish not to attempt a parlay of Street Fighter's fame into an Android/iOS spin-off. The result is Street Fighter: Puzzle Spirits, which is actually more in line with Puzzle & Dragons than Puzzle Fighter. Instead of dropping blocks Tetris-style, you're tapping on a 6x7 grid of colored orbs, where adjacent spheres become mini-Hadoukens, and adjacent fireballs become nondescript swirls that look like candy. And rather than a team of monsters, you assemble a line-up of iconic specials (and even some normal attacks, like Ryu's overhead medium punch) that you can unleash in one giant combo. So, not too off from the source material, then.
Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo (Multiplatform)
While Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo contains 2D fighting, it is not itself a 2D fighter. Instead, it's a tile-matching puzzle game, similar to Tetris Attack or the Puyo Puyo series. Players build up clusters of similarly colored gems before shattering them with corresponding Crash Gems, 'bomb' pieces associated with the elements of fire, water, lightning, or leaves. The bigger the cluster gets before shattering, the more blocks get dumped onto your opponent. Therefore, the key to mastering Puzzle Fighter comes from learning when to hoard your gems and when to shatter them all in a chain of colorful explosions. Give and take - it's very Zen-like in that way. Unless you pick Dan, in which case defeat is inevitable.
Street Fighter 2 Pinball (Arcade)
Pinball is one of those fantastic mediums where anything (blockbuster films, typically) can be turned into an exciting and physically tangible game. Street Fighter 2 Pinball is no exception, condensing the spirit of Capcom's 2D fighter into a legitimately fun ball-and-flippers experience. It's all about capturing the theme on the playfield: you've got Chun-Li as a Spinning Bird Kick spinner, Zangief busting out a Spinning Piledriver on a ramp, and M. Bison staring back at you with an evil grin whenever you lose a ball. The artwork is all spot-on (giving that electrified beast Blanka primo placement), and the backglass even managed to capture the young heart of a certain GR+ editor. If you can't find this Gottlieb machine in person, try the SF2 table for the digital Pinball FX2 instead.
Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game (Tabletop)
When it comes to Street Fighter tie-ins, publisher White Wolf had the unenviable job of basing an entire game around one of the most invisible aspects of any fighting game: the story. It's hard to imagine a game of Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game that doesn't go the way of the 1994 Street Fighter motion picture: all random vignettes, awkward fights, and no cohesive plot to be found. Even so, this pen-and-paper RPG spawned four more books before going out of print, as well as a planned fifth book developed by the fan community that will include characters from the Street Fighter 3 games. We salute those folks' dedication to carrying the SF2 tabletop torch.
Super Street Fighter 4 CR Edition (Arcade)
If a Japanese franchise doesn't have a pachinko machine, it may as well not exist. Where Westerners have slot machines, pachinko is the mindless, minimally interactive gambling of choice in Japan. Folks of all ages line up to watch balls drop between pegs in a cacophonous room full of machines bouncing metal off metal. This Street Fighter-themed machine makes it more exciting than it sounds: all the while, you're watching a plastic-encased monitor embedded in the playfield that shows original CG footage of Ryu and Chun-Li teaming up against Akuma. And if you're lucky enough to trigger a jackpot, then entire machine lights up in an eye-searing rainbow of neon colors and loud noises that seem purposely engineered to trigger epileptic seizures.
Street Fighter 2 Slots (PC)
Speaking of slot machines, it's nigh unbelievable that Capcom would give its blessing to the virtual Street Fighter 2 slots on InterCasino.com. We're staring at the legit-sounding copyright info emblazoned right beneath the slots, and we still refuse to accept it as reality. It's not that it's a fundamentally abysmal game, either; slot machines work with what little they can to capture a theme, in this case subbing in Vega's mask, Balrog's gloves, and Dhalsim's necklace for the cherries, bells, and 7s. You can even pick your own character - Ken, Ryu, Sagat, Chun-Li, or Guile - which is pretty neat. But the problem is that no matter who you choose, they're rendered as hideous, amateur-looking 3D models, squaring off with two frames of animation against an M. Bison who looks just as homely. Watching those things jitter around while you spin is an affront to the eyeballs.
SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash (NeoGeo Pocket)
Released in 1999 for the Neo Geo Pocket Color, SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash is a celebration of both companies' massive stable of characters, all crammed into a simplified card game. Players summon monsters (or, in this case, fighting game characters) which generate SP points. The 'monsters' then fight, while players use those SP points to play support cards and give themselves an edge. While these games didn't have a huge impact in the West, Card Fighters Clash (and its stellar chibi art style) did resonate enough with some to earn the sequel game an unofficial English translation patch. One super fan has even adapted it into a physical game that you can print out and play at home.