All the ‘Street Fighter’ Games, Ranked

Lifestyle

Hadōken! It’s sounds like a nonsense word, and it mostly is, despite translating to “Wave Motion Fist” from Japanese. But when shouted, it embodies a pop culture phenomenon that triggers nostalgia in multiple generations of gamers — and probably people who may have never even touched a controller.

The most famous move in perhaps all fight games, Street Fighter’s Hadōken, and by extension the Shōryūken (“Rising Dragon Fist”), represent a pinnacle of a certain type of gaming: culturally accessible, wildly addictive competitive play that anyone can pick up. Maybe you have the quarter motion of the joystick committed to memory, maybe you’ve flailed at an arcade cabinet long enough to accidentally pull one off, it doesn’t matter. The joy of blasting your buddy with ki is universal, nonetheless.

It all began back in 1987, when Capcom first unveiled Street Fighter, a revolutionary (for the time) new arcade title that allowed players to settle their scores (pun intended) not by beating each other’s records, but by beating each other’s ass. Starring series mainstay Ryu and featuring pressure sensitive punch pads, it was a fun little oddity that opened the door to one of gaming’s greatest dynasties and changed the face of digital entertainment forever.

But the true revolution began in 1991 with the release of Street Fighter II. Perfecting every idea the first game introduced, it brought together simple, yet mechanically deep controls, a globe’s worth of culturally diverse characters, and a punchy presentation that would take arcades — and eventually living rooms — by storm.

From here, the series would have its ups and downs. From an astronomical number of reissues and confusing titles, competing sub-series that would cannibalize and divide fans, and eventually falling out of favor as a crowded field of both competing fighting games and new genres, the legacy of Street Fighter would, perhaps fittingly, mostly live on in dedicated underground communities and people’s memories, before ultimately finding its footing in the burgeoning esports world and livestreaming platforms like Twitch.

But now, Street Fighter is ready to return to the world’s stage and take back its crown with the upcoming launch of Street Fighter 6. Having played it extensively both in pre-release and open beta, it’s safe to say that there’s cause to be excited. Ahead of its arrival, we’re taking a trip back through time to the front of the coin line to definitively rank each of the previous mainline games in the series, but no crossovers (sorry, X-Men fans).

The list was built from cross discussion (and debate) between Rolling Stone staffers, contributing journalists, our Twitch viewers, and of course, the FGC (fighting game community) itself via Discord.

One heavy caveat though: as touched on above, Street Fighter is a series that can be confounding to discuss. While there’s only a handful of mainline entries (versus say, Mortal Kombat’s 12), practically every game in the series has been reissued multiple times with new characters, balance tweaks, and UI overhauls. Sometimes, a game will get a direct sequel in a sub-series, other times it’s considered an update. So, to keep things manageable, we’re technically ranking the “series” of mainline games here.

That means Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II, and Super Street Fighter II: Turbo will all count as one entry. Trust us, it’s easier this way.

And with that… fight!

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