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Throwback Thursday: Fighting Games of the 90s

Hey PCU peeps! I just wanted to share some of my experiences of the 90s when it was a hot time to be a fighting game fanatic. If you think that there is a glut of FPS and open world games today, just imagine what life was like nearly 30 years ago when almost every other game was a beat’em up or a Vs fighter.   Just to distinguish, for the purposes of this entry, the fighting games I am referring to are games like Street Fighter and Tekken. I am not referring to games like Final Fight or Double Dragon.

My first exposure to Street Fighter II was in 1991 when I was in Atlantic City NJ for summer vacation. I remember nearly every arcade there having the machines and all of them were full with lines of people waiting to play. It was also the first time I remember seeing arcade machines play for 50 cents instead of the traditional quarter. I think I may have played the game once or twice and had no clue of what I was doing and once I got back to MD, I searched the local arcades for it and SFII didn’t make it here until early 1992. SFII was the game that started the Vs. Fighting game craze and it became the system seller for the SNES when it was released in June 1992. It was at that point I finally broke down and got a SNES system as it was the only way you could play at home because of it being an SNES exclusive.

I remember my sophomore year of college how many of us not only had mini tournaments at our campus’ game room but in our dorms as well when the game room wasn’t available. For many of us, playing the console version was the way to go since many of us didn’t have money to spare for the arcade machine.

Our love of everything Street Fighter of course was broken in the fall of 1992 when several of us when to a convention at another school and got our first glimpse of Mortal Kombat. We were awed at the graphics and the moves and then eventually someone came along and showed us how to do fatalities and from there on in, it was on. Did he just rip his head off?   Wow, I saw a decapitation!! Which one was better? Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat? The debates raged on.

At that point the flood gates opened and every few months a new fighting game came out. Sega’s Genesis console eventually got Street Fighter II and even had to make a 6 button controller to support both that and Mortal Kombat as the standard controller just wouldn’t cut it. Who can also forget when people debated about the Genesis version being graphically inferior but having blood while the SNES looking close to the arcade but having ‘sweat’?

One of the most prolific companies that seemed like it was spitting games out every other week was SNK. SNK also introduced the Neo Geo system, which by the mid-90s was the home to many classics like Samurai Shodown, Art of Fighting and many others. The problem was of course the prohibitive price tag with the tradeoff of having an arcade perfect home system. The idea was actually great in theory of taking a memory card with you to the arcade, play a Neo Geo game there, save your progress and bring it back home to pick up.   But, the average consumer could not afford the console.

The mid to late 90s saw the decline of the arcade as we knew it once the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation debuted. Gamers didn’t have to slog to the mall to play their favorite games and lose quarters, nor did they have to worry about getting watered down console ports.   At the time of their release, the Saturn and Playstation provided near arcade quality versions of games like Daytona USA, Virtual Fighter, Tekken and Ridge Racer.   Gamers could now save their quarters for home ports.

About this time, new ideas had come from companies such as Capcom and SNK as we started to see universes merge. We had games like Marvel vs. Capcom, X-men Children of the Atom and so many more. Even some of the home consoles were getting some love even if they weren’t well executed (Star Wars – Masters of Teras Kasi I am looking at you). Fighting games more or less petered out in the late 90s as there was a large glut of games on the market.  Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat had spawned several sequels by this point also in some cases, many Vs. fighting games were just overly complicated. There was still some fun to be had as Dead or Alive and Soul Caliber came along for the Dreamcast in the late 90s, but the rush for everyone having a fighting game had died down by that point.

Of course as we all know the want for VS fighting games hasn’t waned over the years. Soul Caliber has seen a few games on the PS3 and Xbox 360 as well as the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat series. Recently Injustice featuring DC Comics characters came along and lit up consoles and Mortal Kombat X was a high grossing seller having just been released last month. For those craving Street Fighter V, unlike the days when SF II was a timed exclusive on the SNES system, it’s forever an exclusive to be found only on the PS4.

What are some of your fondest memories of 90s Vs. Fighting games? Leave them in the comments section.

by Aitch Cee

About Armand (1275 Articles)
Armand is a husband, father, and life long comics fan. A devoted fan of Batman and the Valiant Universe he loves writing for PCU, when he's not running his mouth on the PCU podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @armandmhill
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