Getting better in Street Fighter 5 is hard. But when you start winning, it'll feel amazing.

Beginner’s Guide to Improving in Street Fighter 5

Getting better in Street Fighter 5 is hard. But when you start winning, it'll feel amazing.
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For most people, the point of playing a fighting game like Street Fighter V is to get good. You want to win. It’s a thrilling one on one match where the game blatantly states YOU LOSE in oversized font whenever you do so, and a glorious YOU WIN for your successes. If you’re really good, the seven golden letters of PERFECT will flash bright for both sides to see.

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Where do you start though, if you want to get good? Do you look at character specific guides? Do you watch the pros play? How about the story mode?

First off, don’t worry about it so much. It’s a long road to success when it comes to fighting games, but when you get there you will notice. Just after a short bit of practice you’ll start trouncing your unpracticed friends while they button-mash away.

I’ve been a fan of fighting games for years. I follow competitive scenes, practice myself, and have been improving for a long time. I won’t lie to you and say I’m a pro. But I’m solid enough to win as much as I lose, and realize how I got here.

Five Steps to Getting Good at Street Fighter

1. Pick a Character

Sounds a bit obvious, doesn’t it? Every match involves you picking a character — you have to do it before you can even play the game. That’s not what I’m saying though. I want you to choose a specific character and stick with them.

For Street Fighter 5 specifically I’m going to suggest you try out Ryu, who is the all-around fundamentals character, but I won’t force you to play someone you don’t like. 

It helps to choose someone who matches at least two of the following criteria.

  1. You like their appearance
  2. You like their backstory and personality
  3. You like their playstyle

Later on it’s only going to be that third one you care about — but for now, just try to find a character you like. Usually all three of these things are tied together anyway. Ryu, for instance, dresses like a no-nonsense martial artist. Thus he plays without any real gimmicks and is fairly straightforward. Meanwhile Guile is a military man with a firm stance, his arms constantly held up to protect himself, and he doesn’t bounce around too much. Going along with this, Guile doesn’t focus too much on combos, caring more about single important hits and a more defensive playstyle.

Mess with your character of choice a bit in the arcade mode. Test the waters with them. Then go to practice mode and try out a few combos, figure out how their special moves work. Try not to change who your character is once you’ve settled. Don’t worry about ‘which character is the best’ just yet.

Got a decent grip? Good, then it’s time for step two.

2. Play Against Other People

“B-b-but,” you say. “I’m not good at this game yet”.

Well how the heck do you think you’re going to get good?

As much as we might want an AI that’s good enough to replicate human players, there’s simply no substitute. Real players all have their own specific playstyles — their ways of messing with your mind and forcing to you adapt and try to keep up with them. Playing against the computer just means that whenever you go up against Nash, you are fighting the same Nash again and again. You’re not experiencing the myriad of ways Nash can be played.

Yeah, you’re going to lose a lot. It’s going to suck.

But analyze what your mistakes are, and press forward from there. No pain no gain!

3. Watch the Pros Play

When you get to that point where you feel like you’re not improving, just lookup ‘[Your Character] Competitive Street Fighter 5‘ on YouTube. You’ll very quickly be able to watch people who’ve been playing this for hundreds of hours and see how they toy with your chosen character.

At least the first time around, you’ll probably get a ‘oh I didn’t know you could do that’ moment.

As an example, check out Daigo, one of the top Ryu players squaring off against some Platinum players online.

4. Spend Some Time in the Practice Mode

Yeah this is the boring part. But once you’ve got the general playstyle of your character down, it’s important to hit the training room. What you want to do is get a firm grip on combos. While getting in singular hits is very important, it’s transitioning those hits into highly damaging combos that really starts to win you games.

Professional players have done these combos so many times that it’s considered a particularly shocking event when one of them drops them. With combos being easier to pull off in Street Fighter 5 than any other iteration of the series, it’s a great time to give it a whirl. Just keep in mind that persistence pays off. Work on one combo at a time, and try to get roughly three different ones down so that you can do big damage from multiple situations and approaches.

Here’s one website where you can find a decent number of combos to try out (check the comments section).

5. Never Complain

When you start to get used to the game, it’s natural to get your own stereotypes about other character. ‘Oh great, another Karin player with the same boring combos as always’. If you lose, you stop blaming yourself, and start blaming the game. It’s not you, it’s Karin. Karin’s overpowered or cheap — or whoever it might be for you.

Make sure you catch yourself when you start to think like that.

It’s true that some characters will be better against other characters. Some just have movesets that counter others. Some characters are easy to pick up and play — or have gimmicks that can be abused. Heck, sometimes it’s not the character so much as the player using an unorthodox playstyle you didn’t anticipate.

When you start putting the blame on things other than yourself, you stop growing. Instead of wondering how you could have beaten that character, you’ll shrug your shoulders and move on, never getting better. This is a guide all about improving yourself, so I won’t advocate that sort of behavior.

You are responsible for all of your losses.

There isn’t a cheap character, or dirty playstyle. It’s just not something you’ve trained yourself against yet.

Keep training, and you will succeed. Check your replays, find out what you’ve been doing wrong or could be doing differently, and eventually you will come out on top.

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