When Street Fighter II arrived in the arcades in 1991, it dragged the fighting game genre into the mainstream. It would soon be followed by the bloody & violent Mortal Kombat, and the tag team-based combat of the King of Fighters series. Coins were spent in arcades all across the world, as players fought against each to prove that they are the best at fighting games.
After a slump in interest during the 32 bit generation, the fighting game genre bounced back into popularity with the advent of online console gaming, and the increased importance of competitive gaming events. Tournaments that run Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros. events are a big deal now, with a lot of money on the line. As with all competitive games, players will look for any sort of advantage to win. The way they do this in fighting games is simple… not all characters are created equal.
We are here today to separate the Ryus from the Rugels, the balanced from the overpowered. Every fighting game has its equivalent to Oddjob from Goldeneye 007, and we’re going to single all of them out. From the leader of the X-Men, to Kirby’s masked rival, here are the 15 Most Unfairly Overpowered Fighting Game Characters.
15. Cyclops – X-Men Vs. Street Fighter
When X-Men vs. Street Fighter was released in 1996, fans were awestruck by the concept of mixing Marvel Comic’s most popular superhero team with the cast of the greatest fighting game of all time. It also had the gameplay to back it up, even if the single player was incredibly difficult (it was built for you to keep putting coins in, after all).
The game’s character roster has eight X-Men characters (both heroes and villains), and nine Street Fighter characters. One of the X-Men spots went to Cyclops, despite there being a massive pool of characters to choose from. While Cyclops is an important character in the comics, he isn’t really fighting game material. His power involves shooting beams of energy from his eyes, but he is otherwise a normal dude.
The issue of having ranged attacks in a 2D fighting game has come up in many games over the years. One of the most notorious examples of this is in Marvel vs Capcom 2, where you can plays as Cable, Iron Man or War Machine, and just fill the screen with projectiles. Not only does Cyclops have an easy to perform ranged attack that is both powerful and easy to spam, he also possesses an infinite air combo.
14. Eddie – Guilty Gear XX# Reload
The Guilty Gear series started in 1998, long after the initial fighting game boom had died down. The series is known for its incredible sprite art, character design and tight gameplay. While it does not have the name recognition of a Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, the series has spawned its own competitive scene of fans who love its retro arcade style.
One of the characters that appears in the series is Eddie, a man who gave up his eyesight for the ability to control shadows. He is named after Iron Maiden’s mascot, Eddie the Head. Due to his shadow manipulation powers, Eddie fights by literally making shadows rise up and attack his opponents. He can shroud himself in shadow matter, and become a gargoyle like monster.
Despite the series being known for its technical balance, Eddie is regarded by fans as being unfairly powerful in Guilty Gear XX# Reload. His damage output, combined with the large number of his attacks that are unblockable, make him almost impossible to stop once he goes on the offensive.
13. Pikachu – Super Smash Bros.
The Super Smash Bros. series was not considered a competitive fighting game until the release of the 2nd title, Super Smash Bros. Melee. The original Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64 was considered to be more of a casual party game. The established rules used by players (not using items, playing on Final Destination) weren’t laid down yet, and the game rarely sees play at competitive video game tournaments today (whereas Melee is still as popular as ever).
Despite not being as well-regarded as its sequels, Super Smash Bros. is still seen at casual events where Nintendo 64 games are played. As such, fans have created a tier list of characters, and sitting at the top is the popular yellow rat himself – the Pokémon Pikachu.
Super Smash Bros. is generally meant to be a party game that uses four players, this means that Pikachu’s advantages as a character generally get ignored in the chaos of a multiplayer battle. When it’s one-on-one, however, his strengths become obvious. He is the fastest character in the game, coupled with high attack power, a selection of projectile attacks, and his Quick Attack ability granting brief invincibility, allowed easy escape from enemy attacks.
12. Armor Ralf – KOF: Maximum Impact 2
It’s rare that a character is so powerful that he needs to be taken out of a game entirely. This was the case with Armor Ralf in KOF: Maximum Impact 2, as he was purposely designed to break the game’s balance.
SNK is a video game & hardware developer that is known for its various fighting game series. Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, and King of Fighters are their best known franchises. The King of Fighters series has long been a staple of fighting game tournaments, and has officially crossed over with Capcom on several occasions. The SNK games have always been accused of ripping off Street Fighter, so much so that the joke character of Dan Hibiki (who first appeared in Street Fighter Alpha) is a direct parody of Robert Garcia and Ryo Sakazaki from the Art of Fighting games.
One of the recurring characters in King of Fighters is Ralf Jones, who originally appeared in the shooting game Ikari Warriors and the Metal Slug series. Ralf has always been a popular character, but the alternate version of him introduced in KOF: Maximum Impact 2 quickly turned fans sour. Armor Ralf was designed specifically to be overpowered. While he lacks the ability to block, he is completely immune to throws. Due to his overpowering strength, high defence, and the fact that even his taunts do damage – a fan outcry resulted. He was removed from the games updated rerelease, KOF: Maximum Impact Regulation A.
11. Phoenix & Dark Phoenix – Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
The Marvel vs. Capcom series isn’t exactly known for it’s balance, nor for having a characters’ in-game strength be related to their strength from the source material. In no other game would a character like Phoenix Wright last five seconds against the Hulk. Relative strength is not something that comes into play when choosing characters for this series, otherwise we would never have seen an appearance of the Dark Phoenix from X-Men – a character with the power to destroy reality itself.
In Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (and it’s updated rerelease, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3), Jean Grey from the X-Men makes an appearance as a playable character. Unlike her regular appearance, where she is a mutant with the powers of telepathy and telekinesis, this version of Jean Grey has been possessed by the Phoenix Force – the guardian spirit of the universe. She is one of the most powerful, and feared, beings in all of Marvel comics.
As a fighting game character, the Phoenix might initially seem weak. While she has lower health and defence than most characters, she has the ability to heal herself with her “Healing Field” Hyper Combo. Once her Hyper Combo bar is full, and her lifebar runs out, Phoenix turns into the Dark Phoenix. She gets a whole new health bar (that slowly drains), and her attacks become much stronger. When in Dark Phoenix form, she becomes one of the most fearsome characters in the game.
10. Bob – Tekken 6
When you see a fat guy in a fighting game, they are usually Sumo wrestlers or bikers. They are usually slow and powerful fighters that generally don’t see much competitive play. The one big exception to this is Bob from Tekken 6, a character known for his high speed and agility.
According to his backstory, Bob was a fighting champion that won battles with his unbeatable speed. He lacked the strength to back it up, however, and decided to bulk up. He ended up putting on a lot of weight, and his opponents no longer took him seriously. He only entered the Iron Fist Tournament in order to earn some respect, and show that he is still a swift fighter.
Despite his big size, Bob is one of the fastest Tekken characters, whose mastery of Freestyle Karate allows him to quickly chain combos together. Unlike most other fast characters, Bob also has the strength to back it up. He is a character of pure offensive, with his only weakness being his large size giving opponents an easier time hitting him.
9. Kat & Dusty – PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale
Is it any surprise that the best character is PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale is a DLC one that you have to pay for?
Kat is the main character from Gravity Rush, a PlayStation Vita/PlayStation 4 title based around manipulating gravity. Dusty is her feline sidekick. The two were released as DLC characters for PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale on February 12th, 2013. They took their place among some of the most recognizable characters in gaming, like PaRappa the Rapper and Sweet Tooth.
The reason that Kat & Dusty are so powerful is due to their omni-directional air movement. As expected, Kat’s moveset revolves around gravity. Along with her high speed, many of Kat’s attacks send her up into the air afterwards, meaning that the opponent cannot counterattack. Her jumping dash also allows her to move from one side of the arena to the other in a flash. She is the queen of stick & move – damaging the opponent and being gone before they knew what hit them.
8. Fox McCloud – Super Smash Bros. Melee
When Super Smash Bros. Melee was released on the GameCube in 2001, it changed the series from a fanservice filled party game, to a highly technical fighting game, that is still played heavily to this day. Melee has been a staple of fighting game tournaments since its release, and only those who are willing to learn the technical intricacies of the game need apply.
While Fox McCloud (of Star Fox fame) was a powerful character in the original Super Smash Bros., his appearance in Melee rocketed him to the top of the tier list. His speed, coupled with an amazing array of attacks, make him the most feared characters in the series. While he is often considered the hardest character to master, many players have won tournaments and prize money using a well-played Fox.
Watching a high-level Melee match will reveal just how fast the game moves. A large part of the technical aspect of the game revolves around precise button presses that allow you to cancel out of moves or extend their invincibility frames. As Fox is a naturally fast character with a range of swift attacks (both close and ranged), he is the character who can best take advantage of the quick pace of gameplay.
7. Pet Shop – Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is a long running manga series that has been in publication since 1987. The series follows the members of a family across different generations, whose first and last names begin with the letters “Jo”. The first story arc was set in Victorian England, and followed Jonathan Joestar, whilst the second was set in America during World War II, and followed Joseph Joestar, and so on.
The series received a popular fighting game that was based on the third major story arc, “Stardust Crusaders”, that followed Jotaro Joestar in contemporary (for the eighties) Japan. Stardust Crusaders is often regarded as the best story arc of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and is credited with bringing mainstream popularity to the series. One of the reasons that Stardust Crusaders became so popular was due to its introduction of “Stands”, that are powerful magic spirits that can be called upon by their user.
In the fighting game Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future, the most powerful character is Pet Shop (named after the British band, the Pet Shop Boys). Pet Shop is a falcon, that is empowered by his Stand based off of the god, Horus, that grants ice based abilities. The reason Pet Shop is so powerful is because of his small size (making him difficult to hit), coupled with his array of ranged attacks. It is very easy for Pet Shop players to just spam the opponent with ice attacks, and it is possible to pull off an infinite combo.
6. Gill – Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact
Between the genre-defining release of Street Fighter II and the series reviving Street Fighter IV, there existed several other games based around Street Fighter III. If you ignore the 3D Street Fighter games (which most fans do), Street Fighter III: New Generation is the true successor to Street Fighter II. It was a highly technical game, and a welcome addition to the franchise.
The final boss of Street Fighter III: New Generation was Gill, a man who looks like Fabio if he became a 3D-themed superhero. The red & blue sides of his body aren’t just for show either, they reflect his ability to control both fire and ice. He was first playable in the home console port of Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact.
Along with being a fighting skills, Gill is considered the most overpowered character in Street Fighter III for another reason – his super art “Resurrection”. If Gill is defeated while his Super Combo meter is full, he will be brought back to life. His health will slowly fill, giving the opponent a chance to stop the move before he heals a whole health bar, but the invincibility frames at the start of the move will guarantee some of his health will come back.
5. Hilde – Soul Calibur IV
The Soul Blade/Soul Calibur series is known for popularising weapon use in fighting games. The original Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast was so acclaimed, it became the 2nd game ever to get a perfect score in the Japanese gaming magazine, Famitsu (the first being The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time). The series is also known for its crossovers. Soul Calibur II had console exclusive characters – Link from The Legend of Zelda in the GameCube version, Heihachi from Tekken in the PlayStation 2 version, and Spawn from Image Comics in the Xbox version. Soul Calibur IV introduced Darth Vader, Yoda, and the Apprentice from the Star Wars franchise. Soul Calibur V brought in Ezio Auditore from the Assassin’s Creed series.
Soul Calibur IV introduced a new character named Hilde. She is knight from the region we know as Germany, who wields a spear in one hand and a sword in the other. While not as flashy as the Star Wars characters that appeared in the same game, Hilde quickly earned a name for herself due to her play style, and she was banned from competitive play.
One of the ways to win in the Soul Calibur series is to perform a “Ring Out”; this involves knocking your opponent off the edge of the stage. It doesn’t matter how much health they have left – if you knock them off the edge, then you win the round. By using her charged attacks within a combo, Hilde has a much higher chance than normal of causing a Ring Out, giving her an unfair advantage over other characters.
4. Sentinel – Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New Age Of Heroes
Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes doesn’t even try and pretend to be balanced. It is the definition of a fun fighting game that is meant to be enjoyed, and not taken too seriously. When the fans of your product are mainly comic book fans and fighting game fanatics, however, you are going to get people who will try and gain an advantage in competitive play.
The game has four characters who are considered better than the rest, they are dubbed the “Four Gods” by fans – Cable, Storm, Magneto, and the Sentinel. All of them are X-Men characters, and broken as hell. Cable and Storm can fill the screen with ranged attacks and Magneto is the fastest character in the game.
While the other three are power houses in their own right, the Sentinel hedges them out due to its sheer amount of unblockable attacks. It is surprisingly fast (despite its size), and has the power to back it up. Like the other members of the Four Gods, the Sentinel has some screen-filling Super moves that can hit the enemy, no matter where they stand.
3. Noob Saibot – Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
When Mortal Kombat first showed up in arcades in 1992, it brought ultra violence and gore to the fighting game genre. Fights no longer ended with knocking out your opponent – now you could bloodily dismember them, and relish in the pixelated glory. The game was so violent that it was responsible for the creation for the ESRB age rating system (along with the Sega CD game, Night Trap).
Mortal Kombat has always been more about the spectacle and the violence than about tight gameplay and balance. The fun of Mortal Kombat lies in showing off the fatalities to your friends. As such, the series has never been that popular in the competitive circuit.
In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, a new character was introduced named Noob Saibot. His name was a backwards shoutout to two of Mortal Kombat’s creators, Ed Boon and John Tobias. At this point in the series, the creators made no effort to hide the fact that they were palette swapping the ninja characters, and Noob Saibot was no exception. Noob Saibot was just a fully black version of Scorpion & Sub Zero.
So why was Noob Saibot so broken? He had an unblockable teleporting attacks. He would fly up off the screen and come up under the opponent into a strike or a throw. If you know how to do this move, then you have won the match.
2. Akuma – Super Street Fighter II Turbo
In the original arcade version of Street Fighter II, one of Ryu’s victory quotes is “You must defeat Shen Long to stand a chance”. The term Shen Long was a mistranslation of Dragon Punch (the literal translation of Shoryuken). The fans believed it was the name of an undiscovered secret character. A famous hoax article in Electronic Gaming Monthly added fuel to the fire. The article claimed that you could only battle Shen Long by playing as Ryu, scoring Perfect victories in every match, and then fight M. Bison to a standstill without either of you taking damage. This would supposedly make Shen Long appear, and you would fight him as the new end boss.
The Shen Long myth was so popular that it even reached Capcom of Japan. In Super Street Fighter II Turbo, if the player reaches the end boss without using any continues and achieving a high score, or does it within 25 minutes, then a new character will reveal himself. M. Bison will be dispatched by Akuma, an evil equivalent to Ryu and Ken, whom the player must now battle.
As Akuma was intended to be a reference to the Shen Long myth, he is an overwhelmingly powerful character, and was never intended for serious tournament play. His Shoryuken can remove a third of the opponents health with ease, his air Hadoken can follow the enemy, and his flaming Hadoken can cause a complete knockback.
1. Meta Knight – Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Fans of the Super Smash Bros. games tend to love Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of the series. He has appeared in many videos promoting the series, and has been noted for his unnaturally youthful appearance.
The one thing that fans don’t like about Sakurai is his tendency to favour characters from the other series that he personally had a hand in creating. No one was asking for Lady Palutena, a character from Kid Icarus to show up in the series, and no one was asking for Kirby’s rival, Meta Knight, to be the most ridiculously overpowered character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Meta Knight is the best character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and is overpowered to the point of being banned at most tournaments. The only characters who even come close are the Ice Climbers (due to their chain throwing ability). He has the highest attack priority in the game – meaning, if Meta Knight and another character hit each other at the same time, Meta Knight’s would connect while theirs would not. This coupled with his speed and range mean he will often get the first strike before the enemy has a chance to react. He also has an amazing array of recovery moves, that allow him to strike the opponent when they are off the stage. In the hands of a decent player, Meta Knight is unstoppable.
With the release of the new Smash Bros. titles on the 3DS and Wii U, the games now have the ability to be patched. These patches have mainly balanced the characters better, so we will likely never see the likes of OP Smash Bros. Brawl Meta Knight ever again.