Tekken 4 Box Art
Image via Bandai Namco

Top 10 Best 3D Fighting Games of All Time

3D fighting games are making a big return with the release of Tekken 8. Here's a look at our top ten fighting games of all time.

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.

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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.

13. Mortal Kombat Deception (PlayStation 2, Gamecube, Xbox)

Mortal Kombat Deception
Image via NetherRealm Studios

Mortal Kombat has been a controversial title since its inception. Even saying that this game is one of the best 3D fighting games is already controversial. Blood and gore are the mainstay of Mortal Kombat, 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.

12. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai (PlayStation 2)

Dragon Ball Z Budokai on the PS2
Image via Bandai Namco

In 2002, the popular anime series Dragon Ball Z made its debut in the 3D fighting game genre with the release of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai. The game was a collaborative effort between Dimps, who developed it, and Bandai and Infogrames, who published it. It boasts a lineup of characters from the Dragon Ball Z series, each possessing their distinct abilities and transformations. The game earned praise for its authentic replication of the anime’s art style and its captivating gameplay mechanics. One of the notable features includes the execution of potent cinematic attacks, referred to as “Beam Struggles.”

11. Flying Dragon (Nintendo 64)

Flying Dragon Nintendo 64 Cover Art
Image via Culture Brain

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.

10. Power Stone (Dreamcast)

Dreamcast Power Stone official art
Image via Capcom

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.

9. Tekken Tag Tournament (PlayStation 2)

Tekken Tag Tournament cover art
Image via Bandai Namco

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.

8. Soul Blade (PlayStation)

Image via Bandai Namco

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.

7. Dead or Alive (SEGA Saturn and PlayStation)

Dead or Alive for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn
Image via Tecmo

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.

6. Bloody Roar: Primal Fury (GameCube)

Bloody Roar: Primal Fury Cover Art
Image via Eighting

Bloody Roar: Primal Fury, known as Blood Roar: Extreme in Japan, can be considered a hidden gem and is certainly one of the best 3D fighting games out there. Developed by Eighting and released in 2002, it’s a side story set between Bloody Roar 3 and 4. The game is known for its fluid combat and the ability of characters to transform into powerful beasts, adding an extra layer of strategy to the fights. It was initially released for the GameCube and later ported to the Xbox.

5. Street Fighter Ex (Arcande and PlayStation)

Image via Capcom and Arika

Street Fighter EX, a Street Fighter spin-off, brought 3D graphics to the traditionally 2D series. Created by Arika and Capcom, it debuted as an arcade game in 1996. The game uniquely combines 2D and 3D elements, keeping classic fighting mechanics while adding 3D visuals. It includes both familiar and new characters. Later versions include Street Fighter EX Plus (arcades) and Street Fighter EX Plus α (PlayStation). Interestingly, all the new 3D characters in the Street Fighter EX games are owned by Arika. Surprisingly, even though they’ve worked closely with Capcom before, their characters have never made another appearance in the franchise, not even as guest characters.

4. Soul Calibur 2 (PlayStation, Xbox, Gamecube)

Soul Calibur II cover art featuring link (GameCube)
Image via Bandai Namco

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.

3. Tekken (Arcade)

Image via Bandai Namco

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.

2. Rival Schools (PlayStation)

Rival Schools for the PS1
Image via Capcom

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.

1. Virtua Fighter (Arcade)

Virtua Fighter - the best ever made 3D Fighting Game
Image via SEGA

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. Virtua Fighter is one of the most respected franchises in the fighting games community and was the first fighting game to be considered an e-sport and it has only become better over time. There’s no doubt that all iterations of Virtua Fighter deserve to be in any list of the best 3d fighting games ever made.

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Raymond Dyer
Raymond Dyer is a longtime gamer and writer, not necessarily in that order. Whenever he's not writing, he's playing video games alone or with his buddies online. Like many in his home state of Texas, he's trying to avoid melting in the hot summer sun.