The Best PS1 Fighting Games

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Fighting games have always been hugely popular in arcades, from the original beat ‘em up classics like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, to Virtua Fighter and Soulcalibur. The 16-bit generation had some ports of the 2D fighters, but the era of the 3D console ports only really started fully with the PS1. It wasn’t long before games like Tekken became extremely popular, helping the genre grow and move towards what it has become today.

There were certainly plenty of beat ‘em ups on Sony’s debut console, but our list below are the games we feel are the best fighting games on the PS1.

Tekken 3

While the original Tekken was extremely popular, each iteration of the series on the PlayStation evolved and improved the formula, peaking with Tekken 3. Created originally for the System 12 board in arcades, Tekken 3 was ported across to the PS1 and was almost identical to the arcade version.

There are more than 20 playable characters in the 3rd instalment of Tekken, with a diverse range of fighting styles for each character. Players begin the game with just 10 characters, but progressing through the arcade and story modes gradually unlocks the full roster. While the game doesn’t have the deepest story, each character has a CG movie to give players a little more of their backstory.

Each fighter in the game has a substantial number of moves to learn, each tweaked to suit their particular fighting style. There are basic kicks, punches and throws, alongside numerous unique attacks on the ground and in the air.

The variety and depth involved in mastering the game is what really makes Tekken 3 one of our favourite PS1 fighters.

Street Fighter Alpha 3

The Street Fighter series is arguably the best-known fighting game collection ever, so it’s no surprise to find one of the best games in the series on PS1. Alpha 3 was packed with tons of classic characters and locations, several interesting game modes and, most importantly, was a lot of fun to play.

With an initial line-up of 31 playable characters and several more to unlock as you progress through the game, there is always someone suited to your style of play. From classic fighters like Blanka and E. Honda to newer ones like Juni, there was plenty in the game for newcomers and veterans alike.

The real depth in Street Fighter Alpha 3 came through the World Tour, where players could unlock new characters and develop their fighting abilities. There was almost an RPG element as players could choose which skills to improve and ultimately learn more moves for their character.

The World Tour, alongside the traditional arcade and versus modes, provided a level of depth that many beat ‘em ups struggle to compete with even today.

Soul Edge

Developed by Project Soul and published by Namco, Soul Edge was the genesis of the hugely popular Soul series of fighting games. The title of this version refers to the demonic sword at the centre of the plot of this PS1 classic.

Soul Edge was just the second home console 3D fighting game to allow players to battle with weapons (Battle Arena Toshinden being the first). Incorporating weapons in a 3D fighter added an additional element to the gameplay, and offered another area for consideration in attack and defence. It also allowed for a greater diversity between characters, allowing most players to find a playable character suited to their style of play.

Soul Edge, while not one of the best-known fighters on PlayStation, developed a hardcore following and was the beginning of a successful series of games for Namco.

Dead or Alive

Based on the popular Model 2 arcade board from Sega, Dead or Alive had some incredible 3D arenas in which the 8 characters could battle it out. Alongside the smooth and fluid fighting action, the game also featured some interesting innovations in the genre. These included a series of special moves which could restore your characters health, adding an extra dimension to the gameplay.

The actual gameplay was extremely deep, with a huge choice of attack combinations, reversals, a holding system, mid-air combos and special attacks. The arenas also feature areas known as Danger Zones, which could cause a lot of damage to any player unlucky enough to be caught up in one.

There were also a wide range of gameplay modes open to players. The Tournament mode was the main single player section, allowing them to battle through a series of matches to unluck new costumes for their character. Players could also test their skills in modes like Time Attack, Versus, Danger Zone, Kumite, Team Battle and Survival.

Bushido Blade

Bushido Blade was a unique beat ‘em up at the time of its release, as it featured some gameplay mechanics which hadn’t really been seen before in the genre. Removed were the traditional health bars and special meters, and certain matches could be won with a single hit. For hardcore players and those looking for something fresh from the genre, Bushido Blade was a real favourite.

Named after the Samurai code of ethics, Bushido Blade allowed players to choose between 6 ninjas in a battle to regain their honour in the fighting arena. Each fighter had their own unique skills and attributes, and players could choose between 8 different weapons to suit their style of play and tactics.

The arenas in the game were far larger than in most traditional fighters, and allowed players to run, climb and even cut down certain sections of the environment. There were several game modes available, including a single player story mode, the standard versus battle, a difficult ‘slash’ mode where up to 100 opponents would appear, and a challenging POV mode with allowed you to play in first person.

Players could choose between 3 different stances when fighting, and choose to attack low, middle or high. The unique aspect was that damage was location-focused, so hitting an opponent in the arm could render the arm useless, while successful strikes to the head could prove fatal. The risk of these one hit kills made the game a real challenge without ever removing the fun aspect of the game, and make it one that all PS1 players should consider checking out.

Gundam Battle Assault 2

Those familiar with the long running Gundam amine series will be right at home when playing Gundam Battle Assault on the PlayStation. The game features numerous characters and plot lines from the series, allowing players to battle as their favourite character in a fast-paced 2D battle.

There were various game modes available, including the traditional versus mode, time attack and survival mode. There was also a story focused Street mode which led players through 3 story lines featuring 8 different pilots. Each story was taken from one of the Gundam anime shows – G Gundam, Gundam Wing and Mobile Suit Gundam. While the story mode is essentially a series of fights in between some dialogue, it’s still an interesting aspect to keep players engaged.

The game features 30 different Gundam suits from across all the series, with the majority being unlocked as the player progresses through the game. The actual combat is fairly complex, with the standard kicks and punches being complimented by various flying, thrust and thrown manoeuvres. All the characters in the game also have a unique Mega Special Attack which can be used 3 times in each fight.

The game is ultimately just good fun, and if you’re a fan of the Gundam series then it’s the ideal beat ‘em up on the console.

X-Men: Mutant Academy

This X-Men fighter features 10 characters from the extremely popular comic and movie series, and features various locations from the 2000 X-Men movie. The fighting is, for the most part, fairly standard beat ‘em up stuff which is well executed, with the added element of unique super attacks for each character.

There are a handful of game modes, including survival, versus and arcade. Fans of the series will appreciate the range of unlockable items in the game, from costumes and in-game bonuses to artwork featuring the stars of the game.

There’s plenty of action to keep players interested in this one, particularly if you’re a fan of the X-Men comic series.

Capcom vs. SNK Pro

With over 30 characters from the SNK King of Fighters and Street Fighter games, Capcom vs SNK Pro has more than enough unique fighters for players to master. Alongside the huge roster of fighters, the game offers a unique team-based approach to fighting, which adds another element to an already fast-paced and action-heavy game.

In the main arcade mode, players can choose up to 4 fighters to battle against their opponent. The number of fighters available to choose depends on the strength of each individual, with all characters rated between 1 and 4. So players can have a team of 4 level 1 characters, or a 1 and a 3, or just a 4 etc. There’s also a slightly more straightforward Pair Match mode, which simply allows you to pick any two players together.

Outside of the unique multi-fighter system, the arcade mode is a fairly straightforward set of battles until the player reaches one of two final bosses. As you progress through the fights, your moves are graded and can ultimately lead to Super Combo attacks. When complete, these points are totalled together to allow players to purchase and unlock new characters.

  • Updated September 3, 2020