Arcade machines, retro gaming, vibrant colors, 80s style, pixel art, classic characters, action-packed fighting, martial arts, level design, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, nostalgic, arcade ambiance, button mashing, challenging difficulty

The Evolution of Fighting Games in the 80s: From Street Fighter to Mortal Kombat

When it comes to video games, fighting games have been a popular genre for decades. Among these fighting games, the 80s saw some of the most classic and iconic titles of all time. From the game that popularized the genre, Street Fighter, to the gory and controversial Mortal Kombat, let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore the evolution of fighting games in the 80s.

Street Fighter: The One that Started it All

Street Fighter, released by Capcom in 1987, is widely considered the game that popularized the fighting game genre. It was a 1-on-1 fighting game that allowed players to choose from a roster of characters with unique fighting styles and abilities. The gameplay was simple: the goal was to deplete the opponent’s health bar before the timer runs out.

But what made Street Fighter stand out from other arcade games was its input system. Instead of just pressing a button to attack, players had to perform specific joystick and button combinations to execute moves and special abilities. This added a layer of strategy and skill to the gameplay, as mastering the input system was essential to win.

The Rise of Fighting Games

Following Street Fighter’s success, more companies started making fighting games. In 1989, Technos Japan released Double Dragon, a side-scrolling beat ’em up game that allowed two players to fight together to defeat enemies. While it wasn’t strictly a fighting game, it laid the groundwork for cooperative multiplayer in the genre.

The same year, Capcom released Final Fight, a game that allowed players to move along a 2D plane, fighting multiple enemies simultaneously. It had three playable characters, each with different strengths and weaknesses, and introduced the concept of weapons in fighting games.

King of Fighters: The Birth of the Crossover

In 1994, SNK released The King of Fighters, a game that brought together popular characters from existing SNK fighting game franchises, including Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. It was the first crossover fighting game, and it was well-received by fans who loved seeing their favorite characters fighting against each other in the same game.

But it wasn’t just the character roster that made The King of Fighters popular. It also introduced the concept of a team battle system, where players had to choose three characters to fight against their opponent’s team. If a player lost with one character, the next one would take their place until all three were defeated. This added a tactical element to the game as players had to think strategically about which characters to choose and when to use them.

Mortal Kombat: The Controversial Game that Changed Everything

While the 80s saw many classic fighting games, none caused as much controversy as Mortal Kombat. Developed by Midway Games and released in 1992, Mortal Kombat featured realistic digitized graphics of actors performing gory martial arts moves. It was the first fighting game to use blood and gore as a selling point, and it quickly became a lightning rod for criticism.

Despite the controversy, Mortal Kombat was a massive hit. It introduced the concept of fatalities, the now-iconic finishing moves that allowed players to brutally kill their opponents at the end of each match. It also featured hidden characters and easter eggs that kept players coming back for more.

The Impact of Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat’s success had a significant impact on the fighting game genre. It led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) in 1994, a system that rates the content of video games and determines their age-appropriateness. It also paved the way for other violent and controversial fighting games, such as Killer Instinct and Tekken.

But beyond the controversy, Mortal Kombat’s impact on the fighting game genre was undeniable. It demonstrated that fighting games could be more than just button-mashing contests and added real-world martial arts techniques to the mix. It also showed that games could be edgy, subversive, and push the boundaries in ways that other media couldn’t.


The 80s saw the birth of the fighting game genre and the rise of some of the most iconic and memorable games of all time. From the groundbreaking input system of Street Fighter to the crossover madness of The King of Fighters, and the controversy and innovation of Mortal Kombat, these games paved the way for the genre’s continued popularity today.

So grab a joystick, choose your fighter, and relive the glory days of 80s fighting games, where the only thing that mattered was your skill, strategy, and ability to pull off a perfect dragon punch.

Are you a fan of fighting games? What’s your favorite game from the 80s? Let us know in the comments!