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This sounds like I'm just asking for people to list their favorite fighting games, but I'm actually trying to hone in on something more specific, albeit hard to quantify. Good fighting games all tend to feel satisfying and responsive to play. Tapping on clicky, sensitive arcade stick buttons and seeing your input mirrored by an associated action near-instantly in a locked 60fps image on the screen just feels good. It's the kind of satisfaction one gets from older, hyper-responsive 2D action games when you kind of enter this zone where you are longer conscious of your inputs and just do without thinking.
But drilling down a bit further, let's see if we can hone in on the individual design elements of particular fighting games that make them feel especially good to control. In my mind, all of the following come into play when crafting that crisp game "feel":
- Animation fluidity and speed
- Movement speed and options
- 2D vs 3D plane
- Input styles (e.g. MK vs Street Fighter vs Tekken control mechanics)
- Punchy sound design to accompany the action
So with that being said, I'm going to give my top nomination to: Street Fighter III: Third Strike.
This was actually tougher for me to boil down then you might realize. As someone who has been at least dabbling in pretty much every fighting game (good and bad) released since the early 90's, there are both 3D and 2D fighters that come close to taking 3S's top spot, IMO. Here are a few reasons why I think 3S feels the best to play:
- Some of the best 2D pixel animation of any fighting game. The level of craft on display here in terms of art and animation is staggering, and I feel that 3S strikes the perfect balance of fluidity and speed. It kind of feels like an animated film that has been drawn on every frame (e.g. Akira) as opposed to most other animated films which draw on every other or every third frame and let the brain fill in the blanks. 3D fighters can be very fluid as well, but sometimes it feels like the length of their animations slow down the game feel a bit. That being said, Garou: Mark of the Wolves comes very close to taking Third Strike's crown on this one.
- Movement speed and options are pretty much perfect in my eyes. The walk speed for all of the characters feels just right here, and the way dashing forward and backward, jumping, and super-jumping feel is spot-on as well. This is completely subjective, of course, but for me 3S just nails this aspect of character control.
- Parrying, love it or hate it, is extremely satisfying to pull off. Since no other fighting game has nailed parrying as well as 3S did, it further justifies its place at the top for me.
- Garou: Mark of the Wolves
- The Last Blade 2
- Soul Calibur 2
- King of Fighters XIII
- Guilty Gear XX