Image via Arc System Works / Bandai Namco / Lab Zero Games

The 10 best grapplers in fighting games, ranked

These combatants really 'grab' your attention.

When it comes to fighting games, there are lots of different character types out there. Zoning characters control the space around them, rushdown characters move quickly with rapid attacks and combos, and grapplers are all about grabs and throws. Dealing with a grappler means keeping your distance — you don’t wanna get command grabbed.

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We’ve compiled a list of the ten best grapplers in fighting games, hailing from a variety of series. We stuck with just one fighter per franchise, otherwise, this list would be overloaded with Street Fighter and Tekken characters. Maybe you’ll find a new main on this list.

Related: Best fighting games that feature cross-play

10. Astaroth – Soulcalibur

Image via Bandai Namco

Yes, there are grapplers even in weapon-based fighting games like Soulcalibur. Astaroth is a big dude with an even bigger axe, and he can use it to hook opponents and fling them around. He’s pretty much the only grappler in the series, which makes him a real shake-up to the meta.

9. Clark – King of Fighters

Image via SNK

This year’s The King of Fighters XV is a return to form for SNK, and that means classic characters like Clark Still can still dominate. He’s trained as a wrestler, which means he’s deadly up close. His combos allow him to poke his way toward opponents before going for a grab, and by that time, it’s usually too late.

8. Android 16 – Dragon Ball FighterZ

Image via Bandai Namco

Android 16 isn’t the only android in FighterZ’s roster, nor is he the only grappler — but he is arguably the strongest in both categories. That comes with a tradeoff since you’ll need to close the distance to your opponent before he gets very effective. Once there, however, Android 16 can cause real trouble thanks to the sheer speed of his grabs.

7. Waldstein – BlazBlue

Image via Arc System Works

Sometimes you just look at a character and know they’re meant for grappling: Waldstein’s massive claws make it clear that he’s built for that fighting style. While grapplers typically need to get close to their opponents to be effective, Wald’s claws reach far enough to make him a threat at a medium distance too.

6. Terminator – Mortal Kombat

Image via Warner Bros

Guest characters can make the list too. The Terminator came to Mortal Kombat 11 as DLC, and he was an instant threat. Obviously, he’s dangerous up close as a grappler, but he also comes with a range and mobility that few others in his category can match. The Terminator carries a dangerous sawed-off shotgun, and its small size lets him move confidently without needing to worry about the gun getting in the way.

5. Cerebella – Skullgirls

Image via Lab Zero Games

Skullgirls is a very balanced game, but it’s still fair to call Cerebella top-tier. Much like Waldstein, you can look at her hat-arms and tell that she’s a dangerous grabber. While not as fast as other characters, she’s able to cancel out of certain moves and glide through the air in ways that can really trip up her opponents.

4. Mike Haggar – Marvel Vs. Capcom

Image via Capcom

Haggar’s hopeful Street Fighter 6 inclusion might be up in the air, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had with the mayor in Marvel Vs. Capcom. His grappling style originated in the Final Fight series, where he moved slowly but made up for his pace with a powerful piledriver. If he can’t close the distance, he can still keep enemies at bay by swinging a heavy iron pipe.

3. Zangief – Street Fighter

Image via Capcom

Haggar and Zangief have emulated each other over the years — Haggar’s Final Fight mechanics were actually used as the basis for Zangief’s move set. Since then, he’s become the quintessential grappler in Street Fighter. Sure, there are others like R. Mika and Makoto, but Zangief stands tall as the first Street Fighter contender to use the style.

2. Donkey Kong – Super Smash Bros.

Image via Nintendo

Even in a platform fighter like Super Smash Bros, there are grapplers. Everyone can grab in the series, but Donkey Kong has some extra tricks up his sleeve that elevate him above the rest. He has a powerful wind-up punch for striking and setting up, a continuous ground slap for zoning, and a grab-and-carry that many a kid has used to drag an opponent off-screen in a self-destructive divebomb.

1. King – Tekken

Image via Bandai Namco

There’s no contest when it comes to the best grappler in Tekken, and there isn’t much contest for the top spot on this list either. King is a wrestler; that’s the backstory of many grapplers, yes, but few can boast of the sheer power of his grappling combos. The Magma Drive Screwdriver is a single combo that almost drains an entire enemy life bar, and it’s nearly impossible to escape once it gets going.

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Tony Wilson
Tony has been covering games for more than a decade. Tony loves platformers, RPGs and puzzle games.