Anime Fighting Games
When Capcom released Street Fighter II: The World Warrior in 1991, it sparked a fighting game craze that boomed for a while, and then fell into a steady stream of regularly released sequels and some new intellectual properties every so often.
It’s not that Street Fighter II was the first fighting game, but it introduced concepts that were so refined and balanced that the formula could be replicated with ease in order to create a competently designed, playable game. All a developer had to do was replace Capcom’s Ryu, Ken, Guile, Chun Li, etc with other original characters or licensed ones, and with some minor changes to graphics, sound, and music; they’d have a game.
Anime has proven to be a popular area of popular culture from which characters and locations have been taken from to form a great number of fighting games. It certainly helps that a lot of series are known for sporting flashy, super-powered battles that can be replicated with varying degrees of ease with a fighting game format. Most are competent, but some go above and beyond. Today we’ll be looking at 10 games that set the bar, as the best fighting games based off of anime.
First, a couple ground rules:
Games have to have had an English language release to be considered. It’d be kinda cruel to tell you about this super, amazing, wonderful, blow your mind game, only to tell you that it never got released outside of Japan. The one exception is given in the honorable mention below.
- Series like Guilty Gear and BlazBlue are drawn and animated in a heavily anime influenced style, but they’re not based off of an anime. While they did later receive an anime adaptation, this list is looking at games that were spawned from a series or multiple series.
Honorable Mention: Jump Ultimate Stars
This Nintendo DS game is considered by many to be one of the greatest anime based games of all time. By taking some elements of Super Smash Bros. and combining it with Shonen Jump’s iconic roster of characters, Jump Ultimate Stars is as strong on its gameplay as it is on representing beloved fan franchises. The manga inspiration is played up even more from the stage design where each battle arena looks like its taking place on a flat manga page. Bleach, Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Naruto, Gintama, and so many other series are represented with some of their most recognizable characters. Unfortunately the game was only ever released in Japan which is why it’s listed as an honorable mention.
Top Anime Fighting Games List Below
10. One Piece: Grand Adventure
As of 2016, most of the recent One Piece games have been modeled after the Dynasty Warriors series in that you control a character that cuts their way through hordes of enemies. Before that, there were a number of fighting games such as One Piece: Grand Adventure. Like the classic multiplayer fighter Power Stone, you play on a 3D, square map using environmental objects and your own unique attacks to defeat your enemy.
In keeping with the One Piece theme, the game also includes an adventure mode where you can defeat and recruit new characters as you sail from location to location. Additionally, you can level up your party with experience gained from battle and some mini-games are thrown in for good measure. All in all it’s a nice break from the more recent entries in the series that still holds true to the source material.
9. Digimon: Rumble Arena 2
Do you like Digimon? Do you like Super Smash Brothers? Well this PS2/Xbox game is basically those things combined, so enjoy. Seriously there’s not much more to say than that. Unlike Smash Bros. this game has a health bar that depletes with damage and your Digimon can digivolve mid-battle – those are the main differences.
In all fairness, this game actually holds up a lot better than other fighters of its ilk and is much better than most other Digimon games too. The action is fast paced and frenetic, and the roster includes a good mix of fan favorites and lesser known characters. So grab a friend and get your Digimon on…or whatever catch phrase was popular with Digimon fans back then.
8. Rave Master
Remember Rave Master? That series with Haru Glory traveling around to find the mystic Rave Stones with that weird snowman guy? Well it had a game for the GameCube and if you’re a fan of the series it’s legitimately worth playing. Like the aforementioned One Piece title, Rave Master has its battles unfold in a square arena with an almost isometric view of it. Four players take the field in either a free for all or team match, and just wail away on each other.
Where Rave Master becomes more engaging is how Rave Stones and Shadow Stones can be picked up in battle and attached to your weapon, allowing for distinct powers and abilities. It’s one of the few anime fighting games that can legitimately be enjoyed by four people simultaneously.
7. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle
Though it was partially criticized for its microtransactions JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is an incredibly well crafted title that brings together 41 characters from all of the story arcs in the manga that were current as of 2013. CyberConnect 2, the company that also makes the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise, was responsible for crafting this game and it shows from the graphics down to the battle mechanics.
The game has a somewhat unique “style” system that allows characters to use distinct special abilities that vary depending on what style a character falls under. While the microtransactions aren’t great, it’s just a small mark on an otherwise outstanding title.
6. Bleach: Dark Souls
You may be surprised to find out that the best Bleach fighting game came out on a handheld system. And not just on any handheld. The DS. Bleach: Dark Souls, developed by Treasure, combines fast flowing action between combatants, mixed with a touch of strategy by giving the player cards they can deploy mid battle. The game sports a fairly robust story mode as well as an arcade mode with a sizable amount of fighters.
The cards that can be used by the player really do change up the way battles are fought. That, combined with the number of characters to pick from, gives this title a greater sense of variety that other Bleach titles lack, even on consoles far bigger and more powerful than the DS.
5. J-Stars Victory VS+
Though we didn’t get Jump Ultimate Stars outside of Japan, most of the world did get this spiritual successor, J-Stars Victory VS+. Like Jump Ultimate Stars, J-Stars features a bunch of popular characters from Shonen Jump manga, brawling it out with each other. Unlike its predecessor, J-Stars takes place in 3D arenas and also has a fairly extensive story mode, rife with exploration and challenge.
The actual fighting mechanics aren’t as indepth as they could be though, leading to the potential for repetitive winning strategies and therefore repetitive gameplay. Despite this, it’s a pretty astounding crossover game, one that offers the possibility to play out battles that could only have existed in fan fiction. That alone will make this worth playing for fans.
4. Tatsunoko vs. Capcom
The Capcom Vs. series of crossover fighting games has its origins in a long running deal during the 1990’s for Capcom to produce games based on Marvel Comics properties. This is why Akuma from Street Fighter appeared as a secret character in X-Men: Children of the Atom in 1994 and why a full X-Men vs. Street Fighter game appeared in 1996.
In 2008, Capcom produced a vs. crossover few would’ve expected, when they took a number of their own characters and pitted them against classic anime characters from Tatsunoko anime productions. The result was being able to see Ryu, Chun Li, Mega Man, and Viewtiful Joe take on the likes of Casshan, Yatterman, Tekkaman, and Karas, among others. Little details in the stages further play up the history of Tatsunoko characters and series making the game one of the few places for fans to go to for a truly classic anime experience.
3. Fate/unlimited codes
Good luck trying to find this one anymore. Fate/unlimited codes is based off the anime Fate/stay night and sees a number of the major characters from the anime battling it out in one-on-one battles. Being Capcom produced, it carries with it the company’s reputation for quality fighting games with all the characters being balanced and sporting their signature weapons and moves.
Some extra training and challenge modes mix the fighting up a bit but it ultimately boils down to being a beautiful looking fighter where you can pit Archer against Saber as many times as you want In 2009 it made its way stateside on the PlayStation Network online store, but in 2012, Capcom’s license for Fate/state night games expired and the game is no longer available for purchase.
2. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3
If there’s any anime series that can rival Dragon Ball Z with the number of games to its name, it’s Naruto and its follow-up, Naruto: Shippuden. Fortunately thanks largely to the efforts of CyberConnect2 (the same company that created the .hack games) the Naruto titles have been pretty consistently strong. Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is arguably the best of them with its 80 playable characters, special boss fights, and engaging story.
If you’re new to Naruto, the Shippuden series may not be the best point of entry for full comprehension of the plot, but it’s still an impeccably made game that fans can really dig into.
1. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3/Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2/Dragon Ball Xenoverse
It might seem like cheating to put these three games in one category but there’s a very good reason for it: namely that each of these titles offer a wonderful DBZ experience, while all playing very differently. Budokai 3 takes place on a standard linear plane, Tenkaichi 2 has fights take place in an open 3D field, and Xenoverse also occurs in 3D space, but allows for more than two combatants at a time and offers a deep leveling system for your created player character. It also has its own unique story about a group of fighters who exist outside of time itself and will do everything they can to keep the timelines in check, should someone try to interfere with them.
Because each of them have different features that will appeal more to specific players, it’s hard to say that one is better than the others. They do however represent the cream of the crop of DBZ fighting games, and anime fighting games in general; hence they all come highly recommended.