Fighting games are one of the most intriguing genres that gaming hasto offer. They boil down the action game appeal of engaging combat into a smaller-scale scuffle that -- when it's at its best -- is based just as much in skill and strength as it is in tactics and complex mind-games.
While this is one of the qualities that makes fighting games awesome, it also means that the specific skill-set required to play most of them is so different from other games that it makes them inaccessible to lots of people -- and that's a shame.
Luckily, there are some fighters out there for those who are looking to get into the genre, but can't seem to "get good". They're perfect jumping-off points if you want to hone your fighting game prowess beyond mere button-mashing.
Five fighting games fit this bill perfectly, and we've collected them here. So without further ado, it's time to select your fighter!
Super Smash Bros.
Nintendo 3DS and Wii U
Smash is like a second language. Whether you're breaking it out at a sleepover, entertaining your cousins young and old at a family reunion, or part of Smash tournament on your college campus, practically anyone anywhere who loves video games is down to play some Super Smash Bros.
While every game in this series is great, and most of them would be decent places to start if you wanted to get better at fighting games, I think that the most recent installment released for Wii U and 3DS is the best entry for beginners and newcomers.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS is the most recent installment in the series, so it's likely the one most people are playing it at the moment (next to Melee, anyway). It also has the most fluid controls, and is the easiest game in the series to pick up and play. Because there are so many characters that behave so differently, the average person is bound to find at least one out of the nearly fifty fighters that suits their preferred play-style.
Last but not least, this game is just fantastic. It's got an enormous amount of content and variables that make it fun and easy to play for hours (if not days) at a time. While very complex -- with a tier-chart that stretches as high as the sky -- Super Smash Bros. is fun to learn and get better at because it's so satisfying to play.
The only catch to Smash being on this list is that, as good as it is, it's also the least like a normal fighting game of any title on this list. Smash definitely has an enormous and active fan-base, and playing it enough will teach you more about fighting games -- but it's also in a league if its own, like all games in the series.
Choose your controller, choose your fighter, and settle it in Smash.
PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One
Divekick is both a great fighting game and a great comedy game. It's about as simple as a fighting game can get without being mindless (or being Evil Zone). There are no combos, no complex six-step inputs, and not even a movement stick. You have two buttons in total, and all you can do is dive and kick -- just like the title implies.
This unique fighter aims to keep the depth of a conventional 1-on-1 fighting game, while boiling down the gameplay to its purest essence -- encouraging players to rely more heavily on mind-games, spacing, and predicting their opponent's moves. Divekick manages to make the meta aspects of fighting games very easy to understand, and its beginner-friendly gameplay has just enough depth to be enjoyable at a higher level of play.
Despite its basic mechanics, Divekick features a large cast of characters that all play differently from each other -- with special moves that you'll need to become familiar with. There isn't a ton of content to explore, but odds are you'll enjoy the base game enough to not let that bother you. Just focus on getting better at dancing back and forth and psyching people out.
In story, themes, and mechanics, Divekick is a love letter to the inner fighting game community. It's loaded with inside jokes, direct parodies and references, and delightful (if baffling) amounts of fighting game lingo. It's a game for people who truly love fighting games, but it's also very accessible to newcomers.
PC, Mac, PS4, PlayStation Vita
Some people may argue that Nidhogg isn't a typical fighting game, but more of a fencing simulator. But I say that if it's got two characters up against each other, utilizing movement techniques and dodging in conjunction with context-sensitive and input-specific moves, then it's a fighting game. Plus, you could just as easily just call it a sword-fighting game.
A lot like Divekick, Nidhogg is equal parts mind-games and brute force. You must pass your opponent -- killing them over and over again if necessary -- and make it to the other end of the stage in order to win the right to be eaten by the Nidhogg.
You can low thrust, mid thrust, high thrust, throw your sword, jump, duck, roll, and even rip your opponent into gooey shreds with your bare hands if need be. There is only one character in this game, and there is no time limit -- so if two players of equal skill face off, the game can go on forever. And there are only three stages to pick from -- but if you want the most even playing field, you'll want to pick the castle.
Nidhogg is a great game to pick up and play for a few quick matches and gradually get better at. There aren't many bells and whistles that go with this bicycle, but it's a sturdy bike all it's own (and you can pull off some pretty sweet tricks with it).
The sequel, creatively named Nidhogg 2, is also a good time. It added a number of new weapons and environments, though, so it may not be quite as accessible to beginners. Both games are worth your time -- but if you want the purest and most simple experience of the two, then pick up your rapier and take a stab at the first Nidhogg.
Arms is an odd game. Of all the games on the list, it's one of the closesy to a typical 1-on-1 fighter. But since this is a Nintendo IP, it couldn't make it through development without a smattering of oddness and innovation, and thus we have the long-distance competitive boxing game that is Arms.
In Arms you play as one of a number of springy-armed, masked combatants. You must maneuver your stretchy arms and use both your unique abilities and the various environments to your advantage so you can outwit your equally elastic opponent.
Every character handles similar, but they all feel different in their specific mechanics. Each character has an appropriate stage to match them -- each of which also provides extra dimensions of strategy in the way each match plays out.
Then there's the most variable feature of Arms: the various equippable arms. Every character has three sets of signature arms, all with different attack properties and after-effects that can be swapped into various patterns between their left and right hands to craft a vast array of tactical combos. Add on tons more arms to unlock, and you have a chemistry set of a game to toy around with for hours.
The learning curve with Arms is kind of steep -- but at the same time, the barrier to entry is fairly low. It's a great example of "easy to learn, hard to master", and pretty much anybody can pick up play it without needing to learn any intricate combos or dealing with limited movement. They just need to know the basic controls, and from there it's up to them.
Arms is a fun, quirky, and unique take on competitive fighting games that anybody can play. Give it a shot!
Skullgirls 2nd Encore
Xbox One, PS4, PC, iOS, Android, etc.
I'll try to keep this one simple. In my humble opinion, Skullgirls 2nd Encore is, simply put, the absolute best game to start with if you really want to get into fighting games. This female-dominated, 2D, hand-drawn, 1-on-1 fighter stands tall among the fighting game classics that it imitates (such as Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes and Street fighter III: 3rd Strike).
Skullgirls 2nd Encore isn't a sequel, but it rather the completed vision of the original Skullgirls with loads of updates and bonuses. It features a wonderfully balanced roster of characters and bonus content that is perfectly made for a first-time fighting game player. The game uses the intricate stick-and-button combos that most fighting game enthusiasts should be very familiar with by now. But it also features an extremely extensive set of step-by-step tutorials that are meant to help newbies understand everything from the basics up to spectacular blockbuster special moves.
The game does a fantastic job of explaining things to you if you go looking for help, and the added training mode (as well as six different difficulty options in most modes) makes for a true fighting game experience that's not just accessible, but very enjoyable even to scrubs (like me). It's fun to play even if you don't know what you're doing -- and if you do know, there's some seriously amazing high-level techniques to pull off, and the game is happy to teach it to you if you're willing to take the time.
A lot like Divekick, Skullgirls was made by people who not only love fighting games, but also enjoy all video games. The game is bursting at the seams with both visual and audible references to classic games, other fighting games, anime, classic cartoons, internet culture, and tons of other things.
The alternate costumes are a feast for the avid geek-culture junkie, because you're bound to recognize more than a couple familiar color schemes and outfit designs from your own childhood. This game that manages to have it's own identity while also paying homage to countless others.
For that extra cherry on top, it's also got a series of standalone (but still interwoven) plots in its story mode, a jazz-heavy soundtrack that's catchy as hell, and absolutely beautiful hand-drawn artwork for every character and background.
Skullgirls 2nd Encore is an excellent fighting game that has lots to love. If you really want to get into fighting games and you don't where to start, there simply isn't a better game than this one for getting your feet wet.
That wraps up this list of fighting games that are perfect for beginners who are trying to learn. If there were any other titles you felt should have been featured, or if you've got an opinion on the games we've included here, leave a comment below! There's always more room for discussion on beginner-friendly fisticuffs.