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Street Fighter 5 tips: How to win and become a champion

Street Fighter 5
(Image credit: Capcom)

Although it's geared towards newer players, you'll want to have some Street Fighter 5 tips to hand when you face off with an opponent as there are plenty of skills you'll need to master if you want to become a champion. Although the core of the game is obviously fighting, there's a lot more nuance than just hitting your opponent as many times as possible, with lots of little tricks and, dare we say it, even some maths when you delve deep enough, that will help you get the most from Street Fighter 5 once you understand what's happening beneath the surface. If you're ready to learn the ways of the flying fists, then head to the dojo with our Street Fighter 5 tips and work your way up to pro level.

Street Fighter 5 tips: Beginners

Street Fighter 5 tips: Beginners

Street Fighter 5 Beginner Tips

(Image credit: Capcom)

Stick or pad?

It’s perhaps the most-asked question on r/streetfighter: should I use a pad or a stick? The answer is an honest-if-unhelpful ‘whatever works best for you’. Many top players use pads. Luffy won EVO 2014 using a PS1 controller, which feels like bringing a flint spear to a shooting party. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter. Practice long enough with a modded Nintendo Power Glove and you’ll still get good enough to pick up a few wins. Whatever you decide, please don’t blame losses on your control method. BrolyLegs fights competitive matches using his face. Remember that when your opponent starts mewling about controller lag.

Block, block, block, and block again

You’ve chosen your control method. Now let me introduce you to blocking. Blocking is your faithful gun dog. Blocking is your Doctor Watson. Before you even look at those lovely buttons, you should hold block long into the small hours of the night, just to see how it feels. Familiarise yourself with defending the standard attack of a high jump-in attack followed by low sweep: when you first start, literally everyone will use this. Obviously, blocking is fallible - people will throw you all over the place if all you do is hold back - but you won’t win many matches without it. Study your opponent's combos, block smartly and counter attack when it’s safe.

Practice until your thumbs feel sick

Learning a stick will certainly make certain inputs easier, but it’ll feel shatteringly unnatural at first. Look at it like a gym subscription. Dropping $200 on a shiny controller is a muscular sign of commitment to your new life as a top-tier Street Fighter player. Gootecks’s fight stick tutorial is a wonderful place to start, because yes, you’re probably holding it wrong. Follow his advice, and listen to the noise you make when you’re using a stick. Does it sound like a plastic piano being kicked down stairs? If so, you’re doing it wrong. Use the stick as if you’re secretly playing Street Fighter V in a forest and you don’t want the wolves to find you. Use training mode, turn on input display and execute your moves cleanly. If there’s an errant directional input in your Dragon Punch, practice until it’s gone. You should be able to do everything ten times in a row from both sides. If you fumble a move once, start again from zero.

Fools jump in

Remember how your mum would warn you about jumping recklessly into murky ponds? Street Fighter 5 is like that, but with uppercuts replacing rusty shopping trolleys. Don’t jump in unless you know it’s safe. There are stacks of character-specific safe jump tutorials on YouTube, and we’ll come to that later on. For now, you should avoid falling for the standard trick of jumping over a fireball into a miserable anti-air attack. Neutral jump fireballs by pushing straight up, and advance only when it’s safe. Always remember that walking is the safest method of moving in Street Fighter. Stay on the deck, and if your opponent starts throwing out pokes, stop, block and roll.

Normal wisdom

We get it: the first thing every new Street Fighter player wants to learn is how to chuck out endless snazzy fireballs. Specials are an essential part of the game, but remember your precious normals. Learn what they are, how they hit and how quickly they strike. Flame-footed spinning kicks are lovely, but there’s a pragmatic, elegant power to normal attacks, especially if you’re using the likes of Bison, Nash or Chunners. Start here, and use your specials when they’re needed. After all, you don’t want to be like this guy, right? Or maybe you do. That’s also fine.

Prepare to die

When you first go online, you’ll get bodied by almost everyone you play. Then, eventually, you’ll fight someone who does all the stupid stuff you did when you started. Then, just when you’re beginning to feel confident, you’ll meet someone who can read every single move you try, who’ll find new, humiliating ways to destroy you. Don’t be disheartened. Tough love is all part of the brutal, ultimately-very-effective learning process. Remember that however bad you are now, you were worse when you started.

Street Fighter 5 tips: Intermediate

Street Fighter 5 tips: Intermediate

Street Fighter 5 Intermediate Tips

(Image credit: Capcom)

Don’t get crossed up, get even

Cross-ups are an exception the jumping in rule, but they should be used with caution. A cross-up is when you jump over your opponent and hit the back of their character. Helpfully, Street Fighter 5 tells you when this happens. Most characters have at least one move which crosses up. It’s a great way of starting a combo, but it’s equally important to learn how to defend against them. The moment your opponent jumps over you, switch the direction of your block so you're pushing away from them. Alternatively, jump back and use a normal attack or, even better, an air throw. Finally, if your character has a Dragon Punch, here’s an excellent tutorial on a technical way to counter cross-ups.

Hit confirms

Practising hit confirms will change your game. Basically, this means only finishing your combos when your opening attack connects. Don’t just mash buttons and hope your opponent forgets how to block. The best way to learn this is to go into training mode, set block to ‘random’ and try your combos. If the first attack is blocked, pull out. If it connects, finish the combo. If your opponent isn’t doing this, it means two things: 1) you can punish them with a safe combo of your own once they finish flailing at you and 2) they’re clownshoes at Street Fighter. Pummel them with your knowledge.

I’ve got a Crush Counter on you

Crush Counters are new to Street Fighter 5, and they change the game. All characters generally have two of these, and they offer you a chance to counterattack for massive damage. When you land one of these on a counter-hit, the result is similar to a charged Focus Attack from Street Fighter 4. Your opponent will crumble like a discount souffle, and you can follow up with a tight combo. Certain specials, such as the Shoryuken and Cannon Spike, are also vulnerable to Crush Counters on recovery - tease players into trying them on wake up - that is, hitting a safe move the moment they get back to their feet - then batter them like Atlantic cod. As I mentioned earlier, they’re also a great way of timing a safe jump to start a combo: check out this handy tutorial which uses normal attacks after a successful Crush Counter to perfectly time your jump ins.

The space between us 

Spacing is crucial. Eye tracking was used in this video to show where top-tier player Sako looks during his matches. His zen-like focus is remains resolutely on the gap between characters. This is because all moves have an optimum distance, and the effectiveness of your character directly relates to this. For example, Mika's dropkick gives you frame advantage when executed from the correct distance. This means you'll have a number of 'free' frames of animation to react before your opponent can move - more on that in a bit. Learn which attacks work best, and from where, and watch out for scrubby Mika players (i.e. me) who try to nudge you into dark places.

Street Fighter 5 tips: Pro

Street Fighter 5 tips: Pro

Street Fighter 5 Pro Tips

(Image credit: Capcom)

Peak practice 

Street Fighter 5’s offline mode is preposterously awful, with one notable exception: the training mode. When you’re not fighting people online, you should be here practising everything we’ve talked about. Pop fight request on, and hone your skills in the mean time. Pay particular attention to the recording options. Unlike Street Fighter 4, you can record wake-up and guard recovery actions. Opponents spamming you with wake-up Dragon Punches? Record it, then practice punishing it in training mode. There are also multiple slots you can use for other attacks. For example, you can record a mix of fireballs, jump-ins and throws, then practice counterattacks, anti-air defence and teching. If you’re practising specific combos, save yourself some time by using the reset button. Hit L3 and you’ll return to your original state, so you don’t have to sit through the same (admittedly wonderful) animations. It’s a powerful tool which warrants its own article, but you’ll just have to make do with this handy video instead.

You’ve been framed

If you’re feeling flush, the Prima Strategy Guide has frame data for every single move. There’s also an amazing app called V-Frames, which has similar info, as well as combo specifics, links to streams and more. Why should you care? Well, the entire game is a roshambo of feet and fists, played at a graceful 60 frames a second. Startup data tells you how quickly a move is executed - essential if you want to hit your opponent first - and you also need to know which moves leave you at an advantage. If a move has a +2 frame advantage on block, you’re essentially two frames ahead of your opponent. Likewise, a move that’s +4 on hit will combo into a move that has a four-frame startup. It all comes down to simple mathematics, but if you’re getting confused this excellent video explains it well.

A league of your own

Now that you’ve mastered those skills, you need to know where they’ll take you. Thanks to this Reddit thread we can speculate how league ranking works in Street Fighter 5 (although we’d still argue ‘Ultra Bronze’ sounds far worse than just ‘Bronze’). Try not to get too hung up on rankings, though. Search r/streetfighter and you’ll see many tales of woe, with players hemorrhaging 1000s of points in a single session. Some of us will stay in the bronze league so long we oxidize. Remember that it’s a hard game to be good at, and even the best players lose. Good luck!

Hello! I'm Matt, group commissioning editor for Future's games division. My ideal game would be a turn-based beat 'em up set in Lordran, starring Professor Layton and Nico from Broken Sword. There would also be catapults and romance. Follow me @MGElliott for Darkstalkers gifs and advice on how to tie a cravat.