Are fighting and martial arts-based games getting better? We’d say so. Graphics are enhanced, players are more robust, and events inside the games are becoming more intricate over the years. If you’re a fan of gaming and combat sports, this list is for you. If you’re new to gaming, these are also great entry points for any novice gamer.
Here’s out list of best fighting games of 2023:
Platforms: PS5, PS4, PC, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
Released: June 2, 2023
Leading the pack is Streetfighter 6. This year experienced several false starts in terms of game releases, but at least SF6 pulled through! While Streetfighter 5 left fans wanting, SF6 upped the ante and made it more user-friendly. The game introduced optional simplified controls and a Party Mode catering to casual fans, while still maintaining intricate traditional setups and online modes for long-time enthusiasts. This package was presented in a vibrant new art style and accompanied by an appealing soundtrack. The roster featured the return of classic characters like Chun Li and Guile, alongside new favorites such as the kung fu master Jamie and the Greco-Roman powerhouse Marisa.
Despite the presence of newer games like MK1, Street Fighter 6 arguably stood out as the best fighter of 2023. Its beginner-friendly approach and the inclusion of the World Tour mode offered a more comprehensive experience compared to the older Netherrealm-style story modes. Players could delve into an open-world setting, customizing characters and move sets. The introduction of DLC characters like Rashid and A.K.I., Fang's poisonous protégé from SF5, added further excitement. With Ed expected in Jan/Feb 2024 and Akuma in Spring 2024, fans eagerly anticipate the next reveals. However, Capcom remains tight-lipped, likely keeping the suspense alive until the new year.
Guilty Gear Strive
Platforms: PS5, PS4, PC, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Cloud Gaming
Released: August, 2023
Developer: Arc System Works
With many delays in this year’s releases, we at least have Guilty Gear Strive. Guilty Gear Strive's second DLC has been successfully released, bringing back familiar faces like Guilty Gear XX’s Bridget and Xrd's Sin Kiske, alongside Bedman? and Asuka R#, also known as the elusive "That Man" or "Gearmaker" mentioned since Guilty Gear X. It's a narrative with its intricacies, to say the least.
And 2024 promises two additional rounds for the season!
Platforms: PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X
Released: October 24, 2023
Developer: EA Vancouver
Is this the closest you’re gonna get to real fighting in the gaming world? Black Belt readers will most likely have the final say! After a three-year gap since the release of UFC 4, EA Vancouver returns with UFC 5, designed exclusively for the current generation of gaming consoles. UFC 5 opts for a more conservative approach to improvement compared to its predecessor, presenting itself as a generational step rather than a significant leap forward.
While this approach hasn't resonated well with certain parts of the community, UFC 5 still maintains a commendable 'Generally Favorable' score on Metacritic. However, critics have acknowledged that there was room for more substantial enhancements to truly bring the MMA experience into the current generation.
The community has noted improvements from 4 to 5 including:
Significantly improved damage system
Introduction of health-based events (which amplify challenges for your fighter, requiring quick adjustments to your gameplan, especially if your fighter sustains significant injuries like broken ribs)
And, perhaps most importantly, enhanced graphics!
Mortal Kombat 1 (aka 12)
Platforms: PC, PS5, Switch, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
Released: September 14, 2023
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Fans might have expected Netherrealm Studios' next project to be Injustice 3 or perhaps a departure from the fighting game genre altogether. However, plans for a new Mortal Kombat game were inadvertently revealed during a Warner Bros earnings call. Subsequently, Netherrealm released a teaser trailer featuring a ticking clock reaching 11, only to abruptly jump to 1, unveiling Mortal Kombat 12 as a reboot set in a new universe crafted by Liu Kang.
In this narrative, the fire god enlists the support of familiar characters like Kung Lao, Raiden, Johnny Cage, Kenshi, Sub-Zero, Smoke, and Scorpion to combat a hidden threat in Outworld. Since its September launch, Mortal Kombat 12 has encountered some challenges with a less-than-stellar Switch port and introduced its first DLC character, Invincible's Omni-Man, along with some inventive character and Kameo set-ups.
While there's room for refinement, fans express greater satisfaction with Mortal Kombat 12's gameplay compared to its predecessor, MK11—a promising beginning for the reboot.