The beta for Street Fighter 6, Capcom’s most recent installment in the series that essentially created the fighting game, is currently the talk of the gaming community. But Them Fightin’ Herds, a one-on-one combat game with…ponies, is also coming out in October (and other hooved animals). From the stiff competitions of Karate Champ, the fighting game genre has developed into something lot more diverse—and much stranger. Here are 10 of the oddest fighting video games that have ever been produced.
JOE ARMY Fighting games draw influence from a variety of sources, including mythology, real-life boxers, and kung fu movies, but this is the only example that comes to mind. Arm Joe, a 1998 Windows fighting game by Japanese developer Takase, features scenes from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Your favorite characters, including Inspector Javert, Cosette, and “Robo-Valjean,” are all present along with a few strange extras. It’s not a joke; it took the creator five years to create Arm Joe, a competitive game with combos, special strikes, and more.
BATTLE CRAB The way your avatar will leap, kick, and move across the screen when you’re operating a fighting game is usually very intuitive. But what if you were in a karate master instead of a crab? The 3D fighting game Fight Crab’s premise is that you pick a crustacean from a cast of 23 different crabs (and lobsters) before facing off against an opponent. Skirmishes are a jumbled mess thanks to the physics-based action, especially if you manage to snag a weapon in one of your claws.
DIVEKICK Fighting games are sometimes criticized for having too complicated control schemes that force players to memorize certain joystick movements and button combinations in order to perform special moves. Then there is the 2013 fighter Divekick from One True Game Studios, which takes a different approach. Just the Dive and Kick buttons are used to operate Divekick. Your character can jump vertically with Dive and diagonally with Kick. Whoever strikes their opponent first wins. It’s a combination of a brilliantly simplistic experience and a loving spoof of fighting game culture.
Magic Beast Warriors: Gokuu Densetsu No copycat game is as strange as Gokuu Densetsu: Magic Beast Warriors, which was inspired by Mortal Kombat’s digital combatants. The cast of this game is made up of actors dressed in latex outfits to resemble Power Rangers villains rather than ninjas and karate experts. Since it was released on the PlayStation 1, the gameplay is very archaic, but the supporting cast is completely insane. FMV clip prior to every game? A soundtrack of screaming buttrock? backdrops that are sore to the eyes but have no regard for color theory? It’s all here.
KYANTA 2: ULTRA FIGHT! Few indie games from Japan’s market lean as heavily on the bizarre as Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2. The hand-drawn aesthetic of this lightning-quick free-to-play fighter, which has the appearance of a Geocities page from the late 1990s, snubs many of the fundamental conventions of the genre. There are no joystick motions for special moves, characters can walk directly through each other, and the main character is an anthropomorphic Pomeranian. As bizarre as Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 may appear at first glance, it is actually a wonderfully intelligent and detailed game with a ton of intriguing systems and features.
Image spitting Fighting games with TV program themes aren’t very common, and this one is particularly odd. The cast of the long-running British political satire Spitting Image consisted of horrifying puppet caricatures of famous people and world leaders. Ronald Reagan personally requested that it be cancelled because it was such a big deal in the 1980s (it wasn’t). Additionally, it included a fighting game companion for the time’s computers. For complete world dominance, six playable politicians, including Thatcher, Gorbachev, and even the Pope, punched and kicked. It’s quite archaic, but the final level features an odd twist where the screen is obscured by muck, making it difficult to see your adversary.
METAMOQUESTER Being able to compete against real people is one of a fighting game’s fundamental components. So why wouldn’t makers Banpresto incorporate that in their outrageous arcade game Metamoquester from 1995? The one-on-one fights aren’t very fair because you have to contend with a posse of otherworldly beings, such as a fire-breathing demon, a golem, and a big floating infant. Although this is strictly a man vs machine game. For the time, the graphics are astounding, and the screenshake is some of the most extravagant ever. Actually, Metamoquester has a two-player option, but it’s cooperative, which makes the game’s absurd difficulty a little bit more bearable.
INFLATALITY The ability to move around and unleash attacks to control the space around you is one of the most crucial aspects of a fighting game. So without that, what is a fighting game? One of the most insane concepts we’ve ever encountered is Inflatality. Each character in this game resembles one of those inflatable tube men you see outside car dealerships, and the majority of the fighting takes the form of wildly flailing at one another until one side pops. The bizarreness of Inflatality’s last boss, a sentient bounce house, is increased.
Vehicles used in battle: BUCHIGIRE KONGOU The Japanese company Artdink has produced some of the most bizarre concepts in history while remaining in operation for more than 35 years. The A Ressha train simulation series is the studio’s primary source of revenue, thus it is clear that it enjoys large machinery. That explains Buchigire Kongou, a PlayStation fighting game in which cranes, bulldozers, and other construction equipment engage in combat to win lucrative contracts. The controls aren’t particularly responsive, as you might expect, but the insane super moves more than make up for it.
NEVER DIE, DONG DONG Dong Dong Never Die is one of the most infamously bizarre combat games of all time and the very definition of a passion project. A group of Chinese indie game developers gathered their pals, took pictures of them performing a range of bizarre martial arts maneuvers, digitally transformed them in the style of Mortal Kombat, and then produced a combat simulator that could only be described as a fever dream. A 20-year-old third grader, an extremely unlicensed Mario, and police officer Dong Dong are just a few of the characters in this game. It’s outrageously absurd but amazingly feature-rich and entertaining to play.
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