Throughout my gaming experience so far, I have never found a fighting game I have truly loved. I have tried most of the Mortal Kombat games, the Street Fighter series, boxing games, etc., but have never found one that really stuck with me. I ended up concluding that the fighting game genre simply did not appeal to me.
So why would someone who does not like fighting games write an article solely focused on fighting games? If you think about it, the fact that I do not play fighting games on my own time means that there will be little to no bias towards any certain series, as most reviews inherently have (even if they say they do not). To create some sort of credibility, considering I have only played half the games on this list and for a short time at that, I have done some research in terms of Steam reviews, outside reviews, general community feedback, and raw sales data to find some of the higher-tier fighting games and what sets them apart from the rest.
Considering ‘fighting’ games is such a broad genre, I tried to ensure every game on this list had a different style to avoid overlapping. Some of them are classic side-view fighting games, others are 2D platformers, and even some based on animated television. With all that out of the way, let’s get to the top fighting games available on the Steam marketplace including:
Being the only free to play game on this list, one would naturally expect Brawlhalla to be the weakest contender for the best fighting game on Steam… right? This is not the case with Brawlhalla as its free to play price tag is countered by having in-game purchases that do not affect gameplay in any way, they are simply cosmetic. Many popular games have opted for this payment route as it brings two distinct advantages over a normal pay to play game: increasing player base through its free to pay status and not driving said player base away from pay to win purchasables. Companies like Riot Games love creating free to play games (League, Valorant, Legends of Runeterra) with awesome in game skins available for purchase and (especially in Riot’s case) they are still extremely profitable. This route also adds a level of aesthetic design to the game by having so many different skins for the visual designers to create and display their creativity and prowess.
As for gameplay, Brawlhalla is a side view 2D platformer fighting game with many different game modes to play. You can play online against a maximum of eight players or locally with the same player cap. It even has full cross-play compatibility with quite literally every popular device. For the competitive folk out there, there is a ranked mode for both 1v1’s and 2v2’s meaning that you and a friend can have some fun grinding the ranks and striving to reach the top.
There are a variety of party game modes available to play in Brawlhalla including classics like capture the flag and ‘kung foot’ which is essentially their take on soccer (football for those across the pond). With so many different game modes, it is easy for Brawlhalla to entertain an entire party for an extended period of time. If you get tired of beating each other up in teams or free for alls, try out the unique game modes to switch up the pace!
Brawlhalla has over 200,000 Steam reviews and still maintains a ‘very positive’ tag with 84% of their reviews being positive. Keep in mind, that is solely for those who have reviewed it on Steam. The game is also available Playstation, Xbox, and mobile with positive reviews being left on each of those platforms as well. With such a well polished, visually intriguing, and mechanically enthralling game that also has a free to play price tag, you really can not go wrong with giving Brawlhalla a try!
“Heard about this game from a friend. Tried it out. 1000 hours later, I still LOVE it. A++++” - Lucians_Sword on Steam
Mortal Kombat is widely regarded as one of the founding fighting games that built up the genre as a whole. Some may argue it was Street Fighter (which did come out first), but the brutal nature of Mortal Kombat allowed it to get more media attention than any fighting game prior. With this increased attention, Mortal Kombat continued to release new installments, building on their storyline and in-game lore while refining their fighting mechanics to be more enjoyable to both newer players and seasoned veterans.
This all beautifully culminates into Mortal Kombat 11, which is broadly recognized as their best work (which makes sense being the newest). It has all of the classic mechanics and animations (GET OVER HERE) as the games prior, while also having better netcode and a more refined combat system. The visuals of the game are wonderfully modern with some of the most detailed gore I have ever seen in a video game (or any style of media for that matter).
Mortal Kombat 11 introduces a couple of new features to the franchise such as custom character creation and a split meter system separating offensive and defensive specials. The custom character variations allow you to put your own twist on Mortal Kombat’s roster while not varying too far from their basic nature. The new meter system changes up the combat style (combined with an overall slower-paced gameplay) that rewards good positioning and punishes thoughtless spamming.
Overall, Mortal Kombat 11 has been well received by its community with over 85% of the reviews being positive. The one drawback the Steam version has is that it is not compatible for crossplay with consoles meaning you will be only able to play with other pc users (hopefully Netherrealm Studios realizes how important this feature is in future installments). That being said, it is still an aesthetically intense game with one of the most polished combat systems in the genre and certainly exceeds any expectations the franchise’s fame put upon it.
“This game is fantastic. Great story. Fighting is awesome. The fatality and friendship are fantastic and brutal.” - SuZull on Steam
Mordhau is an interesting inclusion on this list due to its variance from the fighting genre. Typically, fighting games are played in a 1v1 style or sometimes even in small teams. Mordhau clearly did not want to abide by that normality and instead opted for up games with up to 80 players slashing it out on the battlefield. There are certain game modes that you can play that consist of lower player counts, but Frontline (arguably Mordhau’s main game mode) features massive maps with even more massive player counts.
The high player count can be intimidating at first to a newer player. When you are just learning the ropes to a game, the last thing you want to encounter is a massive team full of experienced players while you are all alone because you do not know where to go or where your team went. This is made even more true from the high skill cap of Mordhau. The combat system allows for a huge array of attacks, defenses, and parries that all have split second timing based upon your opponent’s moves. This makes it to where experienced players have the upper-hand in a major way. However, it also makes becoming a veteran of the game that much more satisfying.
For those just starting, there are a variety of different classes that you can play which may allow you to stay alive for a bit longer than a typical berserker on the front lines. You could play as either an archer or engineer to stay towards the back of the battlefield and provide support from afar. This added touch makes it a bit more fun for newer players as they can actually play the game instead of just playing a respawn simulator.
There are other game modes available, some of which are even player vs AI. The Horde mode is a great way for newer players to learn the ropes of the game as the AI are nowhere near as strong as an experienced player. There is even a battle royale mode (what game nowadays doesn’t have one) for those who feel they are ready to take on an entire lobby.
Overall, Mordhau creates a competitive environment that rewards proper play and strategy. If you have been looking for a game to really sink some hours into and be rewarded for doing so, Mordhau may be right up your alley!
“It’s a hard game. It is difficult to master it. I like hard games. Recommended.” - Anodyne on Steam
DRAGON BALL FighterZ is a return to the classic fighting genre style. It is typically played in a 1v1 scenario from a side-view (although there is a 3v3 online game mode). The most notable aspect to the game is the anime it is based on. Many people all over the world grew up watching Dragon Ball and dreamed of being able to pull off the (literally) inhuman moves Goku performed. With DRAGON BALL FighterZ you can now perform those very same moves you could only dream of growing up.
The graphics of the game are just as good, if not better, than the original anime itself. Just by watching gameplay videos, you can see all of the time and energy the animators put into the game to make sure the moves felt just as powerful and satisfying as they did when watching the show. The vast list of fighters to choose from makes replayability seem way less mundane as you try to master all of the different fighters and their unique movesets. Mechanically, DRAGON BALL FighterZ holds up just as well as any other side-view fighting game. It is difficult to master, but a bit easier than games like Mordhau for beginners.
Overall, this game is perfect for fans of the anime who also love to play quality fighting games. With beautiful animations and a robust combat system, it really is hard to go wrong with DRAGON BALL FighterZ, especially with the childhood nostalgia.
“Dragon Ball FighterZ is a lovingly crafted, exquisitely designed and technically sound fighting game that near-perfectly recreates the scenes, characters and of course, fights from what us probably the most iconic anime of all time” - GimFerno on Steam
By now you should have a decent grasp as to what makes the most popular fighting games so popular. Whether it's the blood and gore fans crave from the Mortal Kombat series or the flashy animations and design of DRAGON BALL FighterZ, every great fighting game tends to have its own take on the genre that sets it apart. The only thing left to do now is to go duke it out on whatever fighting game that fits your preferences best.
Image courtesy of cnn.com