While the fighting games genre is not in the spotlight as it used to be in the 90s and early 2000s, it's definitely more popular than it used to be a few years back, thanks to the release of several high-quality titles. Last year saw the release of the new entries in the two most popular fighting games franchises ever made, Street Fighter and Tekken, but this year has been, possibly, even better than 2017, with the release of games that will also continue to be played casually and competitively in 2019 and beyond.
Whether you're into fighting other players with swords, energy blasts, a variety of wacky items or with the help of multiple characters, 2018 had something good for you. Without further ado, let's take a look at the best fighting games released this year.
Dragon Ball FighterZ set the bar for fighting game not even a month into 2018. Arc System Works is a developer known for creating some of the best 2D fighting games ever, but the developer even exceeded expectations by creating one of the best, if not the best, Dragon Ball game ever. With an original story mode seeing all of the series' main characters back for one more fight to save the world, a vast selection of single-player modes, a solid multiplayer offering and a fighting system that's easy to pick up but much harder to master, Dragon Ball Fighter Z is a complete package that no fan of fighting games should pass on, even if they are not fans of tag gameplay. Dave summarized in his review:
Dragon Ball FighterZ is a game that does so much right. It’s a hardcore fighting game experience, as well as a more casual button masher. It’s a competitive fighter, as well as a Dragon Ball side story. Other Dragon Ball games have done Dragon Ball style mechanics better, Xenoverse’s 3D flight feels very authentic, but Dragon Ball FighterZ feels like the best of both worlds, and is one of the very best Dragon Ball games of all time. How the fighting meta will develop is another question entirely, and whether or not tournaments like EVO will allow DBFZ to join its ranks is still up for debate, but this is easily the most exciting new fighter I’ve played in a very long time.
Every time a new entry in the Super Smash Bros. series is released, fans of the long-running Nintendo franchise always have cause to celebrate, but with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it's all fighting games fans that should celebrate, no matter their stance on the decade-old question "Is Smash a fighting game?".
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is, without a doubt, one of the best entries in the series, with its huge character roster, featuring all fighters who have previously appeared in the series as well as several newcomers like Simon and Richter Belmont from Castlevania, the Inkling from Splatoon, King K. Rool from Donkey Kong Country, and extensive single-player mode called World of Light, where players have to navigate a huge map in search of battles to complete, all coming with some very interesting twists, and characters to unlock. While the game basic mechanics are still basically the same, a lot of tweaks have been made so that the experience feels somewhat different from the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS experience, with the overall tempo of fighting being much faster than before. The online multiplayer issues are the only flaws in an otherwise perfect game, as Dave explained in his review.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is definitely the Ultimate rendition of a beloved series. It's still the most accessible and interesting fighting game out there, and it's now better than ever. A little familiar in places, but this is the best Smash has ever been. Another essential Nintendo Switch game.
Despite being one of the most loved fighting game series ever made, the Soulcalibur series took a long hiatus following the release of the fifth entry, which was somewhat divisive for several reasons.
The long wait between Soulcalibur V and Soulcalibur VI, however, was well worth it, as Bandai Namco released one of the best fighting games of the year. Most classic characters are back in the new installment, and they have all received some small tweaks that make them feel fresh while also extremely familiar to those who played the previous games. New mechanics also contribute in making Soulcalibur VI feel like a modern fighting game, such as the Soul Charge and Critical Edge mechanics, which can make comebacks spectacular, and Reversal Edge, which can interrupt pressure if used correctly.
While not as rich in single player content as other Bandai Namco developed fighting games, Soulcalibur VI offers plenty for those who don't want to play against other human players at all times, with two different story modes and a lot of customization possibilities for both existing fighters and custom ones. No matter what, you will always find plenty of fun in the game, no matter your preferences, as Dave explained in his review.
Soulcalibur VI is one of the most approachable fighters I've played in years while offering plenty of depth for players who wish to attain true skill. It's hard not to recommend, especially when there's so much for all kinds of players to enjoy. Give SoulCalibur VI a try, it's great fun.
Arc System Works games are known for their incredible level of depth, which often scares newcomers, but the Japanese developer proved this year that they are more than capable of creating games that are easy to pick up.
BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is a godsend for those who have been disappointed in last year's Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite and don't want to deal with the 3 versus 3 tag system featured in Dragon Ball FighterZ. The game, which features characters taken from different Arc System Works fighting games series like the titular BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth and RWBY, is one of the most accessible tag fighters ever released, with two buttons being enough to unleash devastating combos, and a single one to call assist attacks from the other fighter in the team. Despite its apparent simplicity, however, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is a deep fighting game that will take a long time to master.
Despite the DLC characters justified controversy, as detailed by Dave in his review, and the lack of single-player content, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is an excellent fighting game that deserves to be named among this year's best.
BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is a fantastic fighting game, marred by what feels like suspicious DLC practice and very familiar assets. If you can see past that though, you're going to massively enjoy this intense and intuitive anime fighter.
Fighting EX Layer
Arika is a developer that's definitely less known than Capcom, Bandai Namco and Arc System Works, but they are just as capable as all their other Japanese colleagues, having created some of the best fighting games released on consoles, namely the Street Fighter EX series. While Capcom moved away from the series with the third entry and final entry, fans haven't forgotten how great the games felt and how unique some of the original characters were, like Skullomania and a few others.
Despite the lack of the Street Fighter license, Fighting EX Layer definitely feels a new entry in the series. Most of the characters Akira created for the EX games are back in full force, and they feel great to control, thanks to the chain combo system and the ability to smoothly link special attacks together. The truly defining feature of Fighting EX Layer, however, is the Gougi system, which allows players to choose between pre-constructed decks of five special skills that are activated automatically during a match if specific conditions are met. This adds a whole new layer of depth to the game, as the Gougi skills are varied enough to influence playstyles.
Fighting EX Layer is not a game for casual fighting games fans, as it's extremely lacking in single-player modes, but if you're looking for a challenging game that will put your skills to the test, this is the game for you.
Street Fighter V has been originally released in 2016, but it was clear from the get-go that the game required more time in the oven, as it lacked relevant single-player modes outside of the short character stories and survival mode. It took Capcom some time to finally fix these issues, and they did so by releasing a new version of the game called Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition.
Unlike previous entries in the series, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition didn't split the existing player base in two, as all owners of the original release also received the new content for free, namely the brand new arcade mode which finally makes Street Fighter V like a true entry in the long-running series by Capcom.
Having been developed mostly with the E-sports scene in mind, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition is still heavily geared towards online play, but as noted by Dave in the review the game now offers something more for those who cannot help but feeling nostalgia at hearing Ryu shouting Hadoken one more time.
Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition finally brings the fight to everybody. Whether you want to button mash with friends, prove your skills to the world, or just engage in some low-stakes solo fighting, Arcade Edition has you covered. If you’ve been holding out until now, it’s time to step up to the streets.