The 25 best fighting games to play right now

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Fighting games are a wonderful niche within the industry - they can be flashy or grounded, newbie friendly or impenetrable to all but the experts, and perhaps most importantly, they're a direct competition of skill. Sure, technically any multiplayer game could be considered the same, but there's just something so raw and pure about two players picking up a gamepad, keyboard, or fight stick and going head-to-head.

But what if you're not sure where to start? What if you want to know the best fighting games to play right now, and what sets each one apart? Well, you can start by reading this list, where we've compiled 25 of the best fighting games from the modern age. Take a look, and see if you can find the next game to test your might.

25. M.U.G.E.N

Developer: Elecbyte
Format(s): PC

A freeware 2D game supported entirely by fans, M.U.G.E.N is a bit of an oddity in the world of fighting games. Because the game is so customizable, your version of M.U.G.E.N is likely not the same as another player's. Instead, you'll need to find content tailored to your interest (maybe you want a Darkstalkers x Dragon Ball Z x The Simpsons crossover) and build up your vision of the game as you see fit. It's a bit of a hassle and the game is not known for being balanced, but it can still be pretty amazing to see Spongebob Squarepants go toe-to-toe with Joseph Joestar.

24. Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]

Developer: Ecole Software, French-Bread
Format(s): PC, PS4

Part visual novel, part fighting game, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] (sidenote, we're just going to call it "Under Night" here on out) is an underdog favorite in the fighting game community thanks to its lovely sprites, catchy tunes, and focus on feet-on-the-ground fighting. The plot is about as hard to follow as its title, but if you like anime about supernatural beings and ancient secret organizations, you'll find something to enjoy about Under Night. 

23. Gundam Versus

Developer: Bandai Namco
Format(s): PS4

Who doesn't want to see giant robots duke it out in free-roaming, 2v2 battles? In Gundam Versus, you'll team up with a second building-sized mech and move freely on land and in the sky as you use laser swords, cannons, and everything else in your arsenal to defeat an opposing team. With a cast of more than 90 suits pulled from 17 years of anime and manga, this is a Gundam fan's dream. Just don't go in expecting an epic single-player story to follow - if you're going to play Gundam Versus, it's for the online battles.

22. War of the Monsters

Developer: Incognito Entertainment
Format(s): PS4

Lots of fighting games on this list require patience and a high level of skill to be played at a master level. They require hours of study if you want to become competitive, and are taken very seriously. War of the Monsters is not one of those games. This is a big, dumb slugfest between cartoonish monsters, with buildings, vehicles, and pedestrians getting crushed underfoot. Originally released for the PS2 but re-released with an increased resolution and smoother framerate on the PS4, pick this one up to feel like a kid again and have a raucous, not-too-serious time.

21. Arms

Developer: Nintendo
Format(s): Nintendo Switch

Arms is the fighting game for those of you who preferred Wii Sports' take on boxing to tennis or bowling. Using the Nintendo Switch's Joy-Con as extensions of your... well, arms, you'll throw real-life hooks, jabs, and uppercuts (at the TV, not your friend, of course) as you try to outmaneuver and outsmart your opponent. Customizing your in-game arms will lead to different strategies and power-ups, and the wild character designs are a sight to behold. Of all the games on this list, Arms is probably the most likely to give you an actual workout.

20. Pokken Tournament DX

Developer: Bandai Namco
Format(s): Nintendo Switch

If you've ever thought to yourself "Yeah, I like Pokemon, but the turn-based battles just aren't exciting enough for me," then Pokken Tournament DX is exactly what you need. The title is a bit of wordplay on "Tekken," which Pokken's fights are largely modeled after - that is to say, 3D movement with an emphasis on close-quarters brawling. While you won't get to play as every Pokemon in the series, there are lots of fan favorites like Mewtwo, Pikachu, Blaziken, and Gengar to choose from. It occupies a strange niche as a not-quite traditional Pokemon game and not-quite a super competitive fighter, but it's tons of fun to see in action.

19. EA Sports UFC 3

Developer: EA Canada
Format(s): PS4, Xbox One

Why should anime characters and huge monsters have all the fun? In the fighting game genre, there are surprisingly few quality games that look to simulate actual, real-life martial arts combat. EA Sports UFC 3 gets a lot of it right: the kicks and punches have impact and feel satisfying, yes, but you're also constantly evaluating your strategy on where and when to move in and go for the combo or grapple that will net you a KO. Given how UFC 3 doesn't feature a health bar like many fighting games, you need to be smart about how much you exert your fighter when going in for the knockout.

18. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

Developer: Arc System Works
Format(s): PS3, Xbox 360

Follow this logic: the Persona games are a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei series. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is a sequel to Persona 4 Arena, which is itself a spin-off of Persona 4. So this is a sequel to a spin-off of a spin-off. And yet, it's clear that developer Arc System Works put serious love and care into translating the characters from the Persona RPGs into a fighting game, and there's a great sense of balance and intricacy to combat. You'll have even more fun if you're already familiar with Persona, but even if you haven't played through the series, this is a solid fighter with a unique and memorable cast.

17. Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite

Developer: Capcom
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One

While criticized harshly for its character visuals (which are... not great) and simplified mechanics, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite still adds some worthwhile wrinkles to the MvC formula - the biggest of which are the Infinity Stones from the Marvel Comics universe. Each stone has different effects which can drastically alter your strategy, and the franchise-spanning roster features plenty of fan favorites. This is a 2v2 rather than 3v3 fighter, and there aren't any assists from your partner this go-round either, so overall it's a bit more restrictive than the series' previous entry.

16. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round

Developer: Team Ninja
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One

The Dead or Alive series is a bit of a black sheep in the fighting game community, as some find it shallow and too focused on cheesecake (that is, highlighting the sexual appeal of its cast) to be taken seriously. DOA5 did a lot to rectify this, shortening the input window for combos, requiring more precise timing and accurate button presses, and rebalancing fighters across the board. It's not as fast or focused on counterattacks as Dead or Alive 4, but it's still an accessible fighter with a fun single-player, a good tutorial system, and revamped gameplay that shows a desire to be taken seriously.

15. BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend

Developer: Arc System Works
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One

With a roster comprised of demon girls, hulking behemoths, shapeshifting androids, and some stuff that only gets a whole lot weirder from there, BlazBlue is one of the fighting game community's more eclectic games of choice. What helps separate BlazBlue from its competitors is the "Drive" button. Every character's Drive function is unique, from helping them regain lost HP to trapping opponents in ice. Learning what makes each character tick is key to victory. It's a series that's been steadily growing in popularity, so if you're looking for something outside the Street Fighter and Tekken norms, BlazBlue is worth checking out.

14. Virtua Fighter 5

Developer: Sega
Format(s): PS3, Xbox 360

The Virtua Fighter series was one of the first to define 3D fighting games, way back on the Sega Saturn. The series has somewhat fallen somewhat out of favor, possibly due to its more toned-down nature - you won't find any robots or monsters here - but that doesn't mean it isn't still great. There's a strong focus on input precision and making counterplays, which helps Virtua Fighter 5 feel like one of the deeper 3D fighters out there. It may not be flashy, but its focus on nailing combat flow and balance more than make up for that.

13. Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2

Developer: Arc System Works
Format(s): PC, PS4

Believe it or not, one of the things that fans of Guilty Gear love it for is... the tutorial. This fighting game is exceptionally thorough, and there's a lesson and a challenge for every feature it has to offer. Guilty Gear set the tone for Arc System Works fighters: it's fast and bombastic, with some of the most ridiculous characters ever put to the screen, and it is, for lack of a better term, a bit weird. It's also quite the spectacle to look at, with characters technically rendered as 3D models, but so finely detailed and animated they look like hand-drawn anime cels.

12. The King of Fighters 14

Developer: SNK
Format(s): PC, PS4

Remember the days when being good at a fighting game meant memorizing extremely long combos which required painfully specific inputs and timing? King of Fighters remembers, and it's still holding onto those designs. Featuring a mix of grounded and eccentric designs, it's a flashy showcase for some of the fighting game community's absolute best players. King of Fighters 14 utilizes 3D models instead of the 2D sprites of its predecessors, but otherwise this will feel like a game pulled straight from the arcade cabinets of 1999.

11. Killer Instinct (2013)

Developer: Iron Galaxy
Format(s): PC, Xbox One

The surprise revival of Killer Instinct was one of this console generation's earliest treats. A cult favorite since its days in the arcade and at home on the Genesis and SNES, the game has an edgy, exaggerated style about it you can't help but love. Fights are almost always very close and borderline claustrophobic, but never stiff or boring. Anyone can rack up massive combos in Killer Instinct, but only those who know its intricacies will be able to capitalize on them. And with special guest characters like Rash from Battletoads and General Raam from Gears of War, it's one of the most unique fighters around. C-c-c-c-combo breaker!

10. Street Fighter 5

Developer: Capcom
Format(s): PC, PS4

There's a reason why people immediately think of Street Fighter whenever "fighting game" enters the conversation. As one of (if not the) most technical fighters on the market, it demands precision, patience, and strategy. Street Fighter 5 continues this legacy and adds a fresh wrinkle of approachability, plus a unique visual flourish to set itself apart. True, the game has its naysayers thanks to the freemium economy wrapped around it, but the core gameplay is as rewarding and deep as ever.

9. Skullgirls 2nd Encore

Developer: Reverge Labs
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One

An extremely fast and frenetic fighter, Skullgirls could be likened to a Western take on games like BlazBlue and Guilty Gear. You can mix and match teams of one, two, or three characters, and the well-rounded cast of characters which clearly stand apart from each other will encourage you to try everyone. An extensive tutorial will help you learn the ropes, and the active community will be waiting to take you on. What helps Skullgirls stand out though is just how fun it is to watch - the hand-drawn art style is gorgeous, and the presentation is exciting. You're gonna have fun with this one.

8. Tekken 7 

Developer: Bandai Namco
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One

With Tekken 7, Bandai Namco set out to prove it was still the best at 3D, hand-to-hand combat - and yeah, it pretty much succeeded. Tekken 7 is the series at its best (or at least the best since Tekken 3), with precision-based inputs and a wide variety of characters to get up in your face. There's even a mode so newbies can hammer away on the controller and feel like they're accomplishing something, while veterans can take advantage of a deep combo system. Just try not to get your hopes up for single-player: the story mode is billed as an epic conclusion to a long-running saga, but everything about it falls flat.

7. Soul Calibur 6

Developer: Bandai Namco
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One

A tale of swords and souls, eternally retold... Soul Calibur 6 may have only just arrived on the scene, but it's already setting longtime fans alight with excitement. The definitive weapons-based fighter, the Soul Calibur series struggled to find its footing for awhile, but seems to have come home with SC6, which echoes the beloved Soul Calibur 2. The new Reversal Edge mechanic gives combatants more options, while returning features like Critical Edge provide flashy, powerful moves that let you unleash devastation on your foes. And then there's the incredibly robust character creator...

6. Dragon Ball FighterZ

Developer: Arc System Works
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One

While the uninitiated might think Dragon Ball FighterZ to be little more than a shallow fan service game, it's proven to be much more than that, and has quickly become a hit within the fighting game community. The winks and nods to DBZ fans are nice, but what fighting game aficionados will appreciate is the depth present in FighterZ's mechanics. It's a blisteringly fast game (probably the fastest on this list) that favors aggression and rushdown tactics, but if you can wrap your head around the finer points of its 3v3 tag-team battles, you're sure to come away pleased.

5. Injustice 2

Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One

If there's one thing Injustice 2 nails, it's presentation. From the word go, you'll be immersed into the world of DC Comics, and a stellar single-player campaign (seriously, it's a fighting game with a really good story) will keep you going for hours. Once you've finished with that, a world of finely-tuned battles against AI or online players awaits. And in a unique twist, completing the game's challenges will earn you pieces of gear that you can use to not only change the look of your chosen fighter, but alter their stats as well. It's an incredibly deep experience and you shouldn't be surprised to lose track of time with this fabulous fighter.

4. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Developer: Capcom
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 might be one of the most button-masher friendly games on this list, but that doesn't mean it's shallow. Instead of memorizing combos and worrying about being ultra-precise with your inputs, Ultimate MvC3 is all about making the most of your special abilities and your partners. Each fight is a 3v3 affair, with one character on screen at a time until players call in their partners for an assist or screen-filling super move. And if you start to fall behind, the X-Factor mechanic can help you turn what looks to be sure defeat around. It's chaotic, it's loud, it's colorful, and it's fun as hell.

3. Mortal Kombat XL

Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One

Don't be fooled into thinking Mortal Kombat XL is just for gore-fiends and those who get their kicks from brutal ultraviolence (although, let's not kid ourselves, it is chock full of those things). It's also a damn good fighting game that pairs robust single-player offerings with some of the smoothest and most satisfying online gameplay around. The stiffness found in the series' ninth entry is gone, and MKXL feels like the definitive vision of the Mortal Kombat universe. With all of the game's DLC under one roof, XL is a smorgasbord of content just waiting for you to dig in.

2. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Developer: Nintendo
Format(s): Wii U

The definition of a "party fighter," Super Smash Bros. is at once the most relaxed, laid-back fighting game you'll ever play (because it's just about having wild and crazy fun, right?), while also being the most intense, friendship-ruining competition (because Ike is @#$%ing bull$#^%, okay, Nick?!). Unlike most other fighters, which work off of hit points, Smash Bros. is all about increasing the damage your opponents take until they can be knocked offscreen. With support for up to 8 players, interactive levels, a huge roster of characters spanning a wide variety of franchises, and unique items you can use in battle, Smash Bros. gives everyone something to enjoy. And if you want to get competitive, you know the rules: no items, Fox only, Final Destination.

1. Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection

Developer: Capcom
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Yes, this is something of a cheat to pick as a winner, as it's not one single game, but rather twelve squeezed into one package. But don't worry, this collection doesn't take the number one spot because of sheer quantity, as it also includes two of the very best and most-revered fighting games of all time: Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Street Fighter 3: Third Strike. The former is credited with helping revolutionize and lay the foundations for the genre, while the latter is one of the tightest, most beautiful sprite-based 2D fighters you'll ever enjoy. And with Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, you don't need to choose.