3D fighting games have been a breath of fresh air since their introduction thirty years ago. As each new title innovated on the last, the number of games grew larger after each new release. Unfortunately, the number of releases died down after the 6th generation. With new companies dipping into to fighting game genre, here’s hoping for a return to the 3D fighting genre.
2D fighting games have made a big return, with anime fighters flooding the scene and the re-emergence of Street Fighter. On the other hand, 3D fighters have slimmed down to only Tekken, Dead or Alive, and Soul Calibur. As our way to celebrate 30 years of 3D fighters, let’s look at the top ten 3D fighting games that have been released over that period.
- 10. Virtua Fighter (Arcade)
- 9. Tekken (Arcade)
- 8. Dead or Alive (Saturn)
- 7. Soul Blade (PlayStation)
- 6. Rival Schools (PlayStation)
- 5. Flying Dragon (Nintendo 64)
- 4. Power Stone (Dreamcast)
- 3. Tekken Tag Tournament (PlayStation 2)
- 2. Soul Calibur 2 (PlayStation, Xbox, Gamecube)
- 1. Mortal Kombat Deception (PlayStation 2, Gamecube, Xbox)
10. Virtua Fighter (Arcade)
The original Virtua Fighter was released for arcades in 1993 in Japan. The gameplay was surprisingly fluid, and the combos were quick and impactful. The roster was small for today’s standards, but each character felt unique gameplay-wise. The game has been ported to the PC and every modern console up to the PlayStation 4, so players should have no trouble giving it a try.
9. Tekken (Arcade)
Tekken is inarguably the most popular 3D fighting series of the genre. This title particularly, had some quirky characters and introduced the anti-hero Kazuya Mishima as its leading man. Its gameplay was solid, but launching opponents helplessly in the air was the real draw. The first game in the series was eventually ported to the PlayStation a year later.
8. Dead or Alive (Saturn)
Before the excessive DLC and beach volleyball spinoffs, Dead or Alive was an innovative fighting game series with cool mechanics and an interesting style. Every moveset was fleshed out, with everyone having the ability to use holds to counter nearly any move from their opponent. The presentation was especially memorable with its “physics” selling the characters’ personalities. Dead or Alive also started in the arcades, but was eventually ported to the Sega Saturn and PlayStation.
7. Soul Blade (PlayStation)
As the precursor to Soul Calibur, Soul Blade was the original 3D weapon-based fighter that made it to the arcades in the 90s. As you can see, weapons were a huge selling point that helped this title stand apart from its other 3D counterparts. Combat was unsurprisingly varied due to the nature of the different weapons, but every character still maintained their identity. Soul Blade was initially released for Arcades before being ported over to the PlayStation.
6. Rival Schools (PlayStation)
It’d be no surprise if Rival Schools were the least-known title on the list. The game launched at a time when fighting games were being released like hotcakes – which is why this hidden gem may have been a casualty. The game is unique with its scholastic setting and world-building. Even though it started in the arcades, it was quickly ported to PlayStation with much more success.
5. Flying Dragon (Nintendo 64)
For N64 owners, Flying Dragon was a breath of fresh air for the genre at a time, when many games skipping the relatively demanding console. Additionally, it came in a 2-in-1 package. After booting up the game, players could choose between a chibi-styled version or a more conventionally proportioned alternative. The combat wasn’t spectacular, but it worked for the time, and the main character looked a bit like Goku.
4. Power Stone (Dreamcast)
Like Flying Dragon, Power Stone was initially released on a much-maligned console that sold fewer lifetime units than the Wii U. Unfortunately, many gamers missed out on one of the most mindlessly fun fighting games ever. The craziest mechanic in-game was the ability to become super-powered demigods after collecting three stones scattered throughout the stage. Flying Dragon would later be ported to the PlayStation Portable as part of a collection alongside its sequel.
3. Tekken Tag Tournament (PlayStation 2)
Making its second appearance on the list, Tekken continued to revolutionize the genre into the PS2 era with the release of this epic title. Similar to King of Fighters and Marvel vs. Capcom, TTT brought the tag concept to 3D fighters with its huge roster of zany fighters and crazy combos. The game would eventually spawn multiple sequels on many consoles. Many fans hope for a sequel sometime before the current console generation ends.
2. Soul Calibur 2 (PlayStation, Xbox, Gamecube)
Soul Calibur 2 may not be the first title in the series, nor is it as good gameplay-wise as part three, but no one can deny its impact it had on the series. Namco went above and beyond in development and marketing, adding three unique guest characters to each console port. Soul Calibur 2 was one of the few games at the time where you could have Link from Legend of Zelda battle Yoshitmitsu from Tekken. This game would release for the Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox, and Sony PlayStation while putting the series on the map as a major player in the genre.
1. Mortal Kombat Deception (PlayStation 2, Gamecube, Xbox)
Mortal Kombat has been a controversial title since its inception. Blood and gore are the mainstay of Mortal Combat, and its third foray into the realm of 3D fighters is no exception. What made this title unique was the sheer amount of minigames and modes available to the player. Everything came together perfectly, as each mode rewarded you with a currency to purchase unlockables.