With the recent release of the viscerally exciting Mortal Kombat 11, I can’t help but revisit that moment when I first played the original Mortal Kombat game on the SNES some 25 years ago. I was so out of sorts with the controls, having become used to the Street Fighter way of doing things. And yet, I still had a blast punching and kicking my way through what was then a very sophisticated-looking series of fighters. While Street Fighter might have initially presented a route towards fighting games, Mortal Kombat helped solidify in my mind that it was the right path. Oh, I wasn’t, and still aren’t, a master of the craft, but in fighting games I found a satisfaction that just didn’t come from any other games. Because they present a challenge and constantly offer me room for improvement, they feel infinite and timeless.
For a time during the 1990s, I walked this path paved by fighting games, and it led me to some unusual places, dim corners and far-flung realms. While some fighting games soared to greatness and remain high in the public eye, others occurred like fireworks – bright in the moment with a subsequentlt quiet fizzle. But that doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about them; nor does it mean that their days in the sun should be over. And so, here are my top five fighting games of the 1990s that I’d like to see rebooted in true 21st century fashion.
In the first of three picks of games featuring beasties of all sorts, I cannot tell you how much fun I had playing Bloody Roar on the ol’ PlayStation. While its animations of yesteryear leave something to be desired, the game was enjoyable, responsive, and not terribly difficult. How cool it was that players could opt to transform their character into their respective animal forms! I recall becoming quite decent at Alice (the Rabbit), though Greg (the Gorilla) was much more my go-big-or-go-home style. The last Bloody Roar game came out in 2004, and I can only imagine what a good time a new developers might have in creating a new crop of transforming fighters. And heck, what a good time I’d have playing it!
Video by YouTube user TheInnocentSinful
Unlike with Bloody Roar, the classic Darkstalkers has seen some press in recent years. But the latest version of it, and HD compilation called Resurrection wasn’t enough to really kickstart the series for modern audiences. Can we fix that with Darkstalkers 2020? (I just made that up, by the way.) But seriously, Darkstalkers needs some 21st century love, because as far as fast-paced, 2D, action-packed fighting games go that aren’t Street Fighter, Darkstalkers is key. I actually came round to the series after played Capcom vs. SNK 2, which made me realize that I needed to know more about the then-recent history of fighting games. So I backtracked into the Darkstalkers series, and I was not disappointed.
Video by YouTube user NintendoComplete
King of the Monsters
Another SNK title that hasn’t seen the sunshine in some time, King of the Monsters seems ripe for the picking these days, what with the raging popularity of Godzilla and his ilk. King of the Monsters took the big-creatures element of ye olde game called Rampage, but instead of having giant monsters destroy a city, it had giant monsters fighting each other and destroying a city at the same time. If that isn’t a win-win fighting game, I don’t know what is! Colorful, frenetic, and slightly absurd, it’s time for King of the Monsters to rise again!
Video by YouTube user Amy Rose Longplays
There once was a game system called the Neo Geo that tried so very hard to be awesome, and for a time, it really was, mainly because it had some really incredible games, such as Fatal Fury. More from SNK, this game was an interesting entry into the genre, because it was essentially a one-person fighting game. Players didn’t meet in head-to-head battles, rather you played as one of three characters whose job it was to smash and bash through a series of CPU-controlled bosses. (Later games expanded the playable character roster.) Unless I’m mistaken (say so in the comments!), outside of a couple compilations from the 2000s, the Fatal Fury series essentially died once the Neo Geo did, and it deserves a resurrection. Its unabashedly enjoyable combat wrapped up in a simple package (no need to spend fifteen minutes choosing a character!) with all the modern trimmings would be very welcome in my current library.
Video by YouTube user RTWorld
Okay, bear with me. I know that the Clayfighter series may not be as applauded as many fighting games of its day, but as far as just wanting to have a good, goofy, low-key time with a fighting game, I don’t know if you can top Clayfighter. Yes, it’s kind of dumb, what with characters like Blue Suede Goo and Ickybod Crane (my favorite), but it was also really good its humor, and it was a refreshing jaunt after sweating through heated battles in more “serious” fighting games. Folks have tried bring the series back – once to the Wii and again just a couple years ago, and I was legitimately excited to see the all that glorious clay-fighting action again. But alas, neither was brought to fruition. Isn’t it about time that Mr. Bad Frosty and his gooey crew are allowed to be in the spotlight once more? The world’s much too serious as it is, right now, and I think we could all enjoy a good Clayfighter-inspired laugh.
Video by YouTube user NintendoComplete
What are some classic fighting games that you’d like to see rebooted for today’s players?