Fighting games are well known to video game fans as the playground for a wide variety of colorful characters who battle it out, all with unique gadgets and abilities that stick in the minds of gamers and fans alike. But, some are simply more iconic than others.
Within a given franchise, certain characters stand out to fans. Any Guilty Gear fan could no doubt name several characters from the franchise. But there are characters so iconic that even someone unfamiliar with the franchise would know them at a glance.
10/10 Wolverine (Marvel vs. Capcom)
He’s the best at what he does, but what he does usually involves other types of video games, as well as comics and movies. But, a character like Wolverine, with his melee claw powers and quick moves, is a natural addition to any fighting game roster.
Even if Wolverine wasn’t one of Marvel’s most iconic characters, he would no doubt be iconic simply because of his status in various crossover fighters. His fast-paced style of play and signature claw moves mean anyone familiar with fighting games knows he’s got a spot on the list.
9/10 Mileena (Mortal Kombat)
Many Mortal Kombat characters were palette swaps for each other in the early games, and both Mileena and Kitana debuted in the second game (perhaps the best title in the entire series) as precisely that. But, Mileena has become more iconic because of what lies beneath her mask: a wild, overly toothy jaw that seems perpetually filled with wicked humor.
The idea of an outwardly beautiful woman hiding a monstrous secret became a recurring feature of the franchise’s other characters, and Mileena herself continued to enjoy popularity surpassing that of Kitana (who in lore is actually the character of which Mileena is a copy). To this day, she stands out as a fighter on every level.
8/10 Kyo Kusanagi (King of Fighters)
The long-running King of Fighters franchise started life as a shared crossover between a variety of SNK fighting games, but has grown into a full-fledged series that includes one of the best fighting games ever made. While the series has a packed cast of different characters, Kyo Kusanagi is perhaps the most notable among them as a longtime franchise mainstay.
An arrogant teenager with flame powers who has appeared in the series since the beginning, Kyo has been cloned several times and serves as a major link to the series’ first major antagonist arcs. Even though he’s no longer the “main character” of the franchise, it’s hard not to think of him as one of the faces of the brand.
7/10 Ivy Valentin (Soulcalibur)
More often than not, iconic fighting game characters are easy to pick up and play. Ivy is not in this class. In every game, she is considered difficult to play, being a highly technical character best suited to experienced players. Still, she’s become the most iconic character in the entire franchise.
This is partly due to her obvious eye-catching appearance, but even beyond that, she has a unique weapon and is a driven, goal-oriented character that meshes well with the show’s storyline. He’s not a friendly character for new players, but those who manage to master his abilities feel invested in both the character and the lore that surrounds him.
6/10 Rugal Bernstein (King of Fighters)
While most fighting games have notable and memorable villains, it’s rare for the villain to become as memorable as the playable characters. However, Rugal Bernstein isn’t like most villains. His memorable status comes not just from his lore, but because he was built to simply be a horrible, miserable boss to fight.
Fans of SNK’s fighting games have memories of games with incredibly difficult bosses, often requiring some degree of luck to succeed, and Rugal’s various incarnations (and his frequent boss respawn) make him the poster child for exactly that. Even when playable, Rugal is considered a boss.
5/10 Sol Badguy (guilty gear)
Guilty Gear took a long time to grow from an obscure but respected PlayStation fighting game to a top franchise and an excellent anime fighter. Fans of the show will no doubt cite the wide variety of colorful and unique characters it sports, but at this point, you don’t need to know the show as a whole to recognize Sol Badguy.
Not only is Sol arguably the “main character” on the roster, but he also serves to show what makes the series unique, with a distinctly punk and rebellious edge to its design. A far cry from other fighting games in any way, Sol remains the face of the franchise even as many of its other characters become more recognizable around the world.
4/10 Chun-Li (street fighter)
In the original Street Fighter 2 roster, Chun-Li was unique as the only female fighter. It wasn’t something that would last forever, and more and more women are steadily discovering the franchise as well as other fighting games. Several of them even make it onto this list as iconic characters. But Chun-Li herself remains iconic.
Between his kick-focused fighting style, quick maneuvers, and flashy outfit design, Chun-Li has maintained his iconic status through the years of advancement in fighting games. Although she is no longer the strongest woman in the world as she once boasted, she remains an iconic member of her genre.
3/10 Kazuya Mishima (Tekken)
Even players who have never played a Tekken game recognize Kazuya Mishima at a glance. Although his design is much more grounded than some other iconic characters, it looks like he wouldn’t be out of place on a real-world MMA fighter, his slick hairstyle, angular features and signature scowl make him recognizable to almost anyone. world.
Kazuya also serves as the linchpin of Tekken’s story, starting out as a protagonist before becoming an antagonist, while being an easy character to pick up and understand, though he needs a good amount of knowledge to play effectively. Combine all of that and the heir to the Mishima zaibatsu is an iconic character in his own right, recognizable and well-known across all franchises.
2/10 Sub Zero (Mortal Kombat)
The original Mortal Kombat had two characters directly swapping paddles with each other, and yet both have become memorable and recognizable parts of the franchise. Of the two, however, Sub-Zero is arguably the more iconic, largely because he starred in his own spin-off game in 1997.
A Chinese ninja wielding ice powers, Sub-Zero as a name was passed between two siblings, one more conniving and antagonistic, the other more clearly heroic and fighting for Earth’s safety. Despite this, the character’s moves (including his classic Fatality) and icy powers make him instantly recognizable, and even served as a central plot point for the 2021 film version of the story.
1/10 Ryu (street fighter)
A dark-haired man with a red headband in a white gi, Ryu’s design is so simple that he is not simply recognized but easily copied in countless games. His moveset has become not only familiar, but also copied in countless other fighting games. And yet, with that in mind, is there really any reason to argue that he’s not the most iconic fighting game character of all time?
Ryu is easily the archetype by which all fighting game characters are judged and evaluated, which aligns with his own desire to simply be a master of combat in every possible setting. Whether or not players can defeat his Dragon Punch, no one will soon forget him as a character.
MORE: The most iconic video game outfits