Brian is an intrepid traveler who loves films, music, and fighting games.
I was very excited when Capcom announced the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection. Street Fighter II was one of the first video games I've ever played, and I have been a fan of the series for my entire gaming life. The prospect of being able to play the original title all the way through to the SFIII series was something of a dream come true.
I've played through each title and ranked them from most to least favorite. I will describe my experience as I journeyed through the evolution of the franchise. I played each game on their default difficulty setting. It should be noted that I played this on the Nintendo Switch. Let's get started!
Best Street Fighter Games
Here is my personal ranking of all 12 games featured in the collection. This is essentially based on how much I enjoyed playing these games in the single-player arcade mode as well as competing against other players.
- Super Street Fighter II Turbo
- Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
- Street Fighter Alpha 3
- Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
- Street Fighter Alpha 2
- Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers
- Street Fighter Alpha
- Street Fighter II: Champion Edition
- Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact
- Street Fighter III: New Generation
- Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
- Street Fighter
1. Super Street Fighter II Turbo
I was salivating when I finally got to this game. This is not only a contender for the best game in the series but also one of the best fighting games ever made. In my opinion, this is the best version of SFII and the culmination of years of tweaking the gameplay.
There are quite a lot of changes to the mechanics of the game. This game introduces tech throwing, which allows you to land after being thrown and reduce damage. It also introduces air juggling. This is when you are able to continuously hit an opponent that is in the air for a combo. The biggest addition is without a doubt the introduction of super combos. As you attack during a match, a super combo meter fills up at the bottom of the screen. When it is full, you can unleash a super version of a special move that does devastating damage. There is nothing better than finishing a perfectly executed combo with your super move. After missing from the last game, this entry brings back the ability to speed up gameplay.
As I was playing this game, I took note of how difficult it was. I swept through previous titles, but this one felt particularly brutal. I did some research and discovered that the American version of this arcade game, which the collection uses, had its difficulty increased from the Japanese version. The AI is blatantly reading inputs and seems to have offensive and defensive buffs. It's not impossible to beat, but I definitely struggled.
Then I got to Akuma and wanted to smash my controller. This game introduces the concept of the secret boss character. Meeting certain conditions will have Akuma replace M. Bison as the final fight. He hits hard, fast, can dash across the stage, and can fire three Hadokens in midair. I honestly consider beating him to be a major accomplishment.
Overall, I gotta say that SSFII Turbo is more than worth the price of admission for this collection. This game holds a special place in my heart since I grew up playing this one at my local 7-Eleven. The fact that this title still has a strong competitive scene speaks volumes of how great it is.
2. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
This is the only version of Street Fighter III that I had previous experience with. That experience was minuscule so I was essentially going into this game blind in a way. However, I was fully aware of the reputation 3rd Strike has. It is often considered to be the best in the franchise and the genre. To say I was excited starting this game up was an understatement. This may be one of the few times my expectations were sky-high and a game still exceeded them.
The game plays noticeably quicker. It doesn't reach the speed of the Alpha series, but the pace is definitely faster. Fan-favorite Chun-Li is brought in to appease older fans. The SFIII characters may not be the most popular in the franchise, but I thought Makoto, who was introduced in 3rd Strike, was pretty cool.
This game very much feels like chess. I found that losing matches was the result of being reckless and getting punished for trying to rush. While applicable to all games in the collection, this specific title does force you to plan your round. The biggest gameplay addition is the new ability to parry while stunned. I haven't been able to use this feature too much since I have rarely been stunned, but it has saved my matches on a few occasions.
The single-player mode is the most different in the series so far. You actually have the choice of picking between two opponents each round. You are also evaluated after each match and given a ranking. It's a pretty bizarre system that I can't quite figure out. I usually hover around the C and B ratings.
This may be my favorite game in the collection to play online. I've enjoyed learning all the nuances to improve my game in 3rd Strike. However, I could see the complex gameplay discouraging some people. I would say that while this title is fun to play, it may be the most difficult to fully grasp and master. If 3rd Strike is chess, then the older games are Chinese checkers. I feel this game has a thriving competitive scene thanks to the competitive balance present here. I would say this game is the most satisfying to have a good match in. Even watching high-level players go at it in 3rd Strike feels more exhilarating than in previous entries.
3. Street Fighter Alpha 3
This is one of the games I was looking forward to the most in this collection, and it did not disappoint. The final entry in the Alpha series is the one I played the most (courtesy of my local bowling alley) and is arguably one of the best fighters ever made.
This is easily the most unique and colorful entry in the collection. Even the intro and character selection screen feel more dynamic. Who could forget the over-the-top announcer?! What makes this entry stand out from the entire series is the ism system. After picking a character, you then select an ism; A, X, or, V. The isms essentially work as character builds; they remind me of something out of an RPG. A-ism plays like the previous Alpha games where you have access to a multi-level super combo gauge. A-ism is sort of the standard, all-around build with regular offensive and defensive traits. X-ism has your character play like they are in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. They only have a single level for their super combo and only have access to one special that does tremendous damage. This build has high damage output at the expense of lowered defense. You'll take more damage as well as lack some defensive moves like rolls and air blocking. V-ism is a unique build that increases speed and defense. Instead of a super combo, you have the ability to pull off a custom combo. Your character will move faster and pull of moves quicker, allowing you to pull off insanely high combos. The drawback with V-ism is the reduced damage output.
Another element introduced is a meter that measures your guard. It goes down every time you block an attack. If depleted, you'll enter into an extended dizzy state and be completely vulnerable. This discourages overly defensive play styles.
The ism system is unique to Street Fighter Alpha 3 and is the reason why this game is so popular in the competitive scene. This entry has a mind-boggling amount of strategies and play styles present thanks to an increased roster of nearly 30 characters. Each character basically has three different fighting styles with the ism system. With this level of depth in the metagame, it is understandable why more casual players prefer the previous entry. I personally prefer A-ism, but high-level tournament play often sees V-ism being used. This title feels almost like a standalone entry rather than the culmination of the Alpha sub-series. That is how different it feels.
4. Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
Yes, we finally get the air hurricane kick! In fact, most characters got new special moves in this version. The competitive balance feels spot on and the gameplay feels really tight and responsive. This is easily the best version of vanilla SF2, which is probably why this is one of the four games in the compilation to have online play. If you grew up playing SF2 on your Genesis or SNES, you will feel most at home with this version.
The biggest change here is the ability to speed up the gameplay. It makes previous entries feel like they played underwater. It feels great being able to pull off fast cross ups into quick combos that can dizzy opponents before they realize what's going on. The extra speed offers a level of intensity that earlier games lacked. This makes winning competitive matches feel so much more satisfying. Playing against the AI felt relatively fair. There is always the obvious input reading, but this was a trait of early fighting games, especially titles from Capcom.
5. Street Fighter Alpha 2
I have to say that Street Fighter Alpha 2 is probably the most fun game in the series. This does not necessarily make it the best. It's fun in the sense that it's similar to popcorn action flicks. I never played this particular title a lot in the arcades but I do know it has a strong reputation as a fan favorite with more casual Street Fighter fans. While the first Alpha game was mechanically similar to the previous titles, it still felt like a shock to me with its overhaul of the gameplay. This game felt more like Street Fighter II with an Alpha coat of paint. It felt like the familiarity of the older games meshed more cohesively with the improvements of the Alpha series with this title. The result is a fighting game that feels like comfort food.
I feel a big reason for that cohesion is the slight decrease in the pace of the gameplay. I wouldn't call it slow, but it does feel like it goes back to SFII levels of speed. I feel like I can't pull off as many combos as I did in the first Alpha. This isn't necessarily a bad thing since it does make Street Fighter Alpha 2 more accessible. The character roster sees a much-needed increase. The most notable new character is Sakura, who was arguably the face of the franchise during the 90s. Overall, while not the best, Street Fighter Alpha 2 is a solid entry that I do occasionally revisit. It has that '90s Capcom charm.
6. Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers
This entry sees a bit of a facelift since it is running on a newer arcade system. The presentation sees an update with more dynamic character portraits. Even the intro is more bombastic with Ryu launching a Hadoken at the screen. The biggest addition is the introduction of four new characters. They are Cammy, Fei Long, Dee Jay, and T. Hawk. Cammy would easily become the most popular of the four and make frequent appearances throughout the series.
In terms of gameplay, the changes are slight yet noticeable. Some characters received new moves. Ryu gets his flaming Hadoken while Ken gets his flaming Shoryuken. The game also introduced a new scoring system where it awarded points for things like first attacks and reversals. It also counted combos. However, this game removed the faster gameplay of the predecessor. While the general gameplay feels faster than the older titles, it still feels like a step backwards.
This entry sits in an awkward spot in the collection. It features some large changes but it still feels too close to the previous titles. While this is a great game, it was hard to enjoy this entry when I was anticipating the next game in the series.
7. Street Fighter Alpha
As much as I love SF II, the previous series, I was ready to get into the Alpha series. Perhaps Capcom was getting tired of SF II as well because Street Fighter Alpha has the most drastic changes yet.
The most obvious is the art style. The game sports a new anime look. This would be pretty much how the franchise would look until Street Fighter IV introduced 3D models. Another big change is how super combos work. They now have a three-tier system. While building up the gauge, you could launch a super combo at the first level or wait until you built it up to the second or third level. This creates a new level of strategy as you have to calculate whether you should use a super combo early or wait until you have a higher level to do more damage. The game also introduces new defensive techniques. You now have the ability to block in midair as well as roll after a throw for a quicker recovery. There are alpha counters which allow you to use a level of your special gauge to counter an attack and send your opponent flying. I personally don't like to use this technique since I'd rather save my gauge for attacking but it is another tool that adds a layer of complexity.
The new game mechanics makes Street Fighter Alpha feel like a more cerebral fighting game. It feels like it moves at a quicker pace as well. I felt like I was able to pull of combos at a faster rate than any game in the SFII series. In terms of difficulty, I felt like this title was much easier. In fact, the rest of the series from here on out would have the difficulty toned down. Or rather, it seems like the series was done using fake difficulty. However, secret bosses like Akuma are still stiff challenges. The roster did feel slim compared to SSFII Turbo but that problem would be remedied with the next two entries.
Within the greater scope of the collection, Street Fighter Alpha is outshined by its successors. However, it is still very much enjoyable and is certainly worth playing.
8. Street Fighter II: Champion Edition
This felt more like the game I grew up playing. The gameplay feels smoother as some combos are actually possible now. However, certain moves are still missing. The four boss characters from the original release are now playable and are not so overpowered. Their AI when fighting them is still pretty cheap but they feel a lot more manageable compared to the previous game. It's not quite perfect but this is the first game in the compilation that I enjoyed.
It should be noted that this is the first version of SF2 that features the iconic ending credits music. I was actually surprised to see it absent in the previous game. Little things like this make this edition feel like it has higher production values.
9. Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact
As I played 2nd Impact, I began to get the picture of why the SFIII sub-series wasn't as popular as the older games. Don't get me wrong, this is a great game. It's just that it further pushes toward catering to more hardcore fighting game players. I personally don't mind, but I can see why it didn't appeal to a mass audience.
The learning curve problem isn't really solved, but if you played the previous game then you'll be fine. The changes here aren't terribly drastic. Stronger versions of basic special moves are introduced here. They use a portion of the super arts gauge and can be used by performing the typical inputs with two attack buttons. You also now have the ability to completely escape from throwing moves.
And that is pretty much it. Urien and Hugo are introduced here and Akuma makes a return as a secret boss. Much like its predecessor, 2nd Impact feels a bit half-baked in terms of content. It's in a weird spot in the collection since it is not substantially different from New Generation. It just felt like a hurdle to get to the next game. The end result is a solid game that is sadly not very memorable.
10. Street Fighter III: New Generation
I have to be honest, I never got to play much of Street Fighter III in the arcades. The sub-series came out in the late 90s when the arcade scene was dying out. Not helping matters was the rise of 3-D gaming. I recall people back then trashing this game for its 2-D graphics. They believed the presentation was antiquated. It's a shame because the sprite animation in the SFIII games are some of the finest out there. I looked forward to playing these games because I never got to experience them much when they first came out.
Street Fighter III feels very different from the previous games, more so than the jump from SFII to Alpha. Right of the bat, the pace of the game is slower. Not in a plodding sense but slower in a more methodical way. I feel that this sub-series punishes players for sloppy moves more than previous entries. I was constantly getting thrown off since I would do a jumping attack after a knock down only for my opponent to not even be standing yet. The pace does get some getting used to since it is so different.
Super moves are changed up with a system called system arts. The concept is similar, however, you now have to pick having only one move available to you. Each character has three to choose from and each move has different tiers ranging from one to two. There is now a visible stun gauge that fills up when you take hits. You become stunned and vulnerable when it fills up. The biggest addition is the introduction of the parry system. This is the signature trait of the SFIII games and arguably the most controversial. Timing a stick movement at the right time before an attack hits you will parry the move. You will not take damage and your opponent will be open to a counterattack. This is a necessary skill to master to compete at a high level.
I have to admit that New Generation is a kind of underwhelming start to the sub-series. There are only 11 playable characters, which makes the game feel barren. The only familiar faces are Ryu and Ken, so you are out of luck if you wanted characters from SFII or Alpha. This game, and the SFIII series as a whole, is not very friendly to beginners. I feel it has the steepest learning curve in the collection. This can be attributed to the parry system. Most casual players never seemed to bother with it, which created a huge gap in skill levels with more hardcore players.
While not a terrible game by any means, New Generation feels more like a test run compared to the games that followed. It was interesting to see how Street Fighter III got its start, but this is a title I would not likely return to.
11. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
Starting up Street Fighter II was like visiting your favorite restaurant after getting food poisoning from the new place you wanted to try. Playing it was like visiting your favorite dining spot and seeing that they changed the menu.
I have to give a little background here. This compilation features five versions of SF2. World Warrior is the original version. In my childhood, I mostly played this game on my Sega Genesis. That version was based on the second and third updates of the game. Gameplay mechanics were tweaked to make a better playing experience and those tweaks are not present here.
I suppose I never really played the original SF2 because this game felt a bit off. I couldn't really pull off any familiar combos and the gameplay felt pretty stiff. I kept trying to do some moves like an air hurricane kick only to learn that the move wasn't in the game. Only eight characters are playable here. The four Shadaloo characters, Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M.Bison, are unplayable boss characters. And because they're unplayable, they're cheap as hell. They soak up damage like nothing, are obviously reading your inputs, and have insane priority over your moves. I struggled with Vega, someone who I am easily able to beat in later editions of SF2. M.Bison was a nightmare as well.
All in all, this wasn't quite what I wanted. I was wondering when the series would start getting good.
12. Street Fighter
I was honestly most excited for this title. Despite being a huge fan of the series, I've never played the first entry. I've never seen it in the arcades, and it hasn't been ported over to consoles as much as later entries. I started playing this game first and was charmed by the retro aesthetic of the sound and graphics.
The good first impression was immediately gone once the gameplay started.
The first entry of long-running franchises are always a bit odd since they are typically primitive and don't have a foundation set for the identity of a series. However, they can usually be enjoyed by people who entered into a series with later titles. The first games in the Mario, Zelda, Castlevania, and Pokemon series are all highly-regarded classics. The same can't be said for the original Street Fighter.
You can only play as Ryu here as he challenges fighters all over the world. The smooth gameplay the franchise is known for is absent here. Ryu feels clunky and his attacks don't feel as tight as in later games. The real awkward part comes when you try to pull off special moves. If you've played other SF games, you'll know the inputs for moves like the Shoryuken, Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, and Hadoken. They're the same here but the timing to perform them is very different. And by different, I mean damn near impossible to do. I never quite figured out the timing and really just tried putting in the inputs quickly in the hopes of pulling something off. The difficulty in using the special moves may be due to the fact that they do a ton of damage. Two or three of them can finish off an opponent. I was quite shocked to see a Hadoken take off half of a life bar.
The first three or four fights were simple enough. I was able to win fights with basic attacks and the occasional special move. It was around the fifth or sixth match when the game started to get cheap. Opponents began to spam their own specials, which were taking me out in the blink of an eye. Regular attacks were no longer effective as they did little damage and left me open to specials. Thus, I had to rely on my own specials that could not be reliably pulled off.
The game became horrible when I reached the final pair of fights with Adon and Sagat. Sagat was particularly cheap with his Tiger Shot and Tiger Knee. Those moves can take away over half of your life bar, can be done quickly, and are sometimes done right at the start of a match. Oh, and Sagat can block that Hadoken you managed to perform. Yay!
The first Street Fighter is atrocious. People complain about the older King of Fighters games for being cheap but I honestly felt those titles were more fair and had more responsive controls. Keep in mind that I don't disagree with the criticism towards KOF games, so that tells you how bad this title is. I honestly beat the game by sheer luck by hitting Sagat with a Shoryuken that managed to hit him three times (I was directly in front of him when I did it). The game uses the familiar six-button layout but apparently there were arcade models that used two hit pads to perform moves. The type of moves performed depended on how hard you hit them. This sounds like absolute purgatory.
This will likely be a game you will only play once. It is no wonder this title never received as much recognition as its sequel. All it did was make me excited to get to the sequel.
A Complete Package
I have to say that Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection gets my full recommendation. It can easily satisfy fighting game fans, people nostalgic for the days of arcades, or people looking to get into the series. The title also offers an in-depth timeline of the franchise, so I would recommend this to people interested in gaming history as well. The ability to play some of these games online is the ribbon that completes this package.