Street Fighter has been around since 1987, which means it has introduced many, many characters to the fighting game pantheon. Despite being a game where every fighter is supposed to be more or less on the same level, the narrative doesn’t reflect that. Boss characters and main heroes are the best of the best in the story. Some even reach demigod status and become virtually invincible . For real, even Sean’s endings show him either lose repeatedly to Ryu or reveal that him winning the game’s tournament was just a dream he experienced while knocked after the first round.
So who are the most powerful characters in Street Fighter lore? I’ve put together a list of the top 15. Funny enough, Guile and Chun-Li – the heroes from the two live-action movies – are nowhere to be found. Go figure.
Seth has the honor of being the final boss of the Street Fighter IV games. Not only does Seth have Taskmaster powers that allow them to understand basically every fighting move they see but they have a rubbery android body that allows them to upgrade said moves in badass ways. Seth runs their own evil organization and is the mastermind behind the big tournament, which gives them a spot by default.
Unfortunately, Seth never really does anything of note in the story. They gave Ryu a run for his money in the Tie That Binds anime, but Seth never really proves to be anything more that just another villain. They’re quickly overshadowed by Bison licking his wounds from Street Fighter II and reestablishing himself as the top terrorist. Seth is reduced to a malfunctioning afterthought.
14. Cody Travers
Cody is a unique subject as he’s a hero from another property (Final Fight) thrown into Street Fighter, where he isn’t really allowed to be the protagonist. It’s a lot like how Terry Bogard and Ryo Sakazaki are heroes in their own fighting games but act as supporting characters in King of Fighters. With Cody, there’s an actual story explanation.
Simply put, Cody is insanely powerful but lacks the drive to hit his potential. In both his regular and Oni form, Akuma tells Cody in his winq uotes that if he actually tried, he would be a major threat. That’s as high praise as you can get, considering how Akuma usually resorts to insults. Cody never does act on his potential, so we don’t actually know how high up the ladder he’d be if he gave a damn and asserted himself. In the meantime, he lazily puts up his dukes in hopes that it will kill his boredom.
As the story goes, Street Fighter V was supposed to get a second campaign, and G was going to be the villain, but the idea was scrapped. Despite all that, this enigmatic Uncle Sam knockoff is still a mystery threat that we’ve yet to understand. In fact, according to Rose’s Street Fighter V storyline, G is supposed to be the harbinger for the end of everything.
While he appears to be the avatar of Earth itself, G ranks only so high. While Rose can’t stop the apocalypse, she can still best G in battle. Gill also makes his first public appearance by defeating G, which G seems to fully accept with open arms.
Rose doesn’t get her hands dirty too often, but her backstory makes it easy to calculate where she ranks among Street Fighter‘s strongest. She is Bison’s doppelganger, albeit flipped in gender and alignment. In fact, Rose is basically equal to Bison, but just when he’s in his base form. When he’s amped up his Psycho Power, there’s nothing Rose can really do to match up with him. You’d think that by now we’d see some kind of purified form of Rose where her Soul Power is off the charts, but maybe in Street Fighter VI.
Gill carries himself like he’s the biggest threat in Street Fighter’s world. He’s the one who controls fire and ice. He has the power to self-resurrect. He runs his own secret organization, and seems like a bigger deal than Bison because he follows him on the timeline. In-game, he’s an absolute nightmare to fight. Gill seems like he should be at the very top of the rankings.
But honestly? He actually kind of sucks. He seems to lose a lot. In canon, he loses to Alex. Capcom Fighting Evolution depicts a showdown against M. Bison where Bison reigns supreme. In the very beginning of the manga Street Fighter III: Ryu Final (Masahiko Nakahira’s works are as official as you can get without being outright canon), Gill takes a beating from Ken. Even the nature of Street Fighter III: Second Impact and its secret boss fight suggests that Akuma has a leg up on him. Gill may be able to get up from these losses, but he still gets knocked down in the first place.
Because of Capcom’s tendency to downplay Street Fighter III, we never get to see Alex do all that much. That’s a shame, since Alex is cool as hell and really should pop up more. He’s still defined as the hero character of the Street Fighter III games who canonically thrashes Gill, and even gets a moment in Street Fighter V’s cinematic story mode where Dhalsim tells him that he’s going to be a huge deal down the line.
But despite his role in Street Fighter’s final chronological chapter, Alex isn’t the best of the best. His ending shows that he still eats Ryu’s dust and he has a long way to go. Now that he’s gone past his need for revenge against Gill, all Alex wants is to get better at fighting so he can eventually get one over on Ryu. And if he doesn’t? He’s still having the time of his life.
9. Ken Masters
Ken may never be as important as Ryu, but the games always insist that they are rivals. No matter how much more skilled Ryu gets, Ken is still there to give him a good one-on-one. On paper, Ken should be left in the dust due to how much more driven Ryu is while Ken balances his fighting with his family and business responsibilities. But it’s actually his family that gives him an extra edge and pushes him forward. Kind of like when Spider-Man is buried under rubble and thinks of Aunt May to brute force himself out of danger.
Like Ryu, Ken has his own special, sinister form as Violent Ken. Unfortunately, that form is pretty ill-defined in and just comes off as “Ken as mind-controlled asshole.” He’s still someone Ryu can take down, just in a more reluctant way.
Sagat’s defined by his losses. Ryu tore his chest apart in the first Street Fighter. Dedicating himself to rage only caused him to lose to his former pupil Adon. He eventually lost to series joke Dan Hibiki. But those losses come with an asterisk. Ryu’s win came thanks to a supernatural cheap shot. A clear-headed Sagat got his win back from Adon down the line. Sagat basically let Dan win so Dan could let go of his thirst for vengeance and learn the same lesson as Sagat.
Sagat and Ken exist as Ryu’s go-to rivals, but I’d give Sagat the edge. While Ken has always been parallel to Ryu, Sagat started with a huge lead in skill and power. It’s only over time that Ryu has been able to catch up to him, and even then Sagat’s usually depicted as such a beast that Ryu is the underdog. Well, baseline Ryu, at least.
Being the protagonist doesn’t automatically make you the strongest. Ryu may be able to take down most opponents, but he’s not obsessed with being at the top of the ladder. He even has the humility to know that he doesn’t truly live up to his reputation. And itoesn’t hurt that his iconic, name-making win was achieved only after he briefly became possessed by his inner darkness and cheaply blindsided Sagat.
As shown in various Street Fighter III endings, Ryu still has a long road ahead of him. He’s great, but he’s still not a master. That may take a few more decades. In the meantime, his Satsui No Hado form is like a cheat code that lets him skip years of training and puts him over his more friendly rivals.
Gen is like Ryu or Akuma in reverse. He’s incredibly deadly and nigh unbeatable, but he’s long past his prime. He’s dying of leukemia, and it’s his own stubbornness that’s keeping him alive, even when regularly challenging Akuma and somehow surviving the encounters. He and Akuma are treated as ships passing in the night, where Akuma feels somewhat cheated by how he’s stuck with a weaker version of Gen while his own power only grows with time.
In the Street Fighter games alone, Gen would probably rank a bit lower, but I’m going with the potential of the man he used to be. The UDON Comics one-shot Akuma vs. Hell even shows Gen at his strongest in the form of an apparition from the after-life. When he doesn’t have sickness holding him back, he does prove to be a bit more than Akuma can handle…for a time.
Much like Rose with Bison and Ken with Ryu, Gouken is on par with Akuma when it comes to the latter’s base form. The initial story was that Gouken beat Akuma back in the day, but didn’t kill him. That just isn’t his style.
Then Akuma got stronger, beat Gouken, and murdered him with his Raging Demon attack. But by the time Street Fighter IV came around, they retconned all, revealing that Gouken was able to figure out a counter just in time, which resulted in him falling into a two-year coma instead of dying.
As the yin to Akuma’s yang, Gouken is there to oppose him and help Ryu overcome his inner-demon issues. Unlike Akuma, Gouken doesn’t really have any ultimate forms. Ryu and Ken’s master seems to have leveled off while Akuma is still shattering his limits.
4. M. Bison
It really shows how screwy Street Fighter’s lore is when the iconic M. Bison of Street Fighter II is considered Bison at his weakest. It turns out that Bison’s strongest form came before that, in Street Fighter Alpha 3. At least that explains why the guy is skinny in one game and built like a goddamn bus in the other.
Bison is a man who figured out how to weaponize his own evil, and not only expelled all the good from his soul to make himself stronger but he’s able to figure out crazy sci-fi ways to increase his power on top of that. He loves stuff with satellite lasers, or simply crashing satellites onto major cities because people freaking out and dying is like steroids to him. His downfall usually comes from trying to oppose or take over Ryu, whose purity and inner strength is enough to be Psycho Power’s kryptonite.
But that’s not Bison’s only weakness…
Yes, Akuma, by definition, eats Bison’s lunch on a regular basis. He made his video game debut by just popping in and destroying Bison with one move in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Hell, that’s canon! Despite his rivalries with Ryu, Gen, and Gouken, Akuma is 100% all about being the guy who ruins Bison’s (and sometimes Gill’s) day on a whim.
Too bad Capcom’s somewhat nerfed his accomplishments over the years. Akuma was considered the man who killed Gouken, Gen, M. Bison, and possibly Adon. Since then, all those deaths have been negated, and the Raging Demon isn’t the move above all others that it used to be. Still, Akuma gets to constantly up his game with his Shin Akuma and even Oni forms, which could probably destroy Earth itself if he felt like it.
In terms of traditional Street Fighter characters, the strongest is not a boss or even a villain, but a kindly old man in his hundreds dressed in rags. Introduced in Street Fighter III, the hermit Oro stands above everyone and is only conceivably beatable because he chooses to fight one-handed. Battles are just too easy when he uses both arms free, so holding back allows him to better check out who has potential to one day be on his level.
It’s hard to say who is superior between Oro and Akuma, or should I say, Two-Arm Oro vs. Oni (the UDON comic did have Two-Arm Oro completely clown Akuma but fail to kill him, for what it’s worth). In the end, I have to give it to Oro. Akuma comes off as a major threat that Ryu will gradually, but soon overcome. By the time Ryu has a shot at besting Oro, he’ll probably be sporting gray hair. He is the final finish line in Ryu’s search for enlightenment.
Ah, Ingrid. The most powerful Street Fighter character is also one of the most obscure. Ingrid was meant to be introduced in a 3D fighter called Capcom Fighting All-Stars, which was cancelled and replaced with the lazy-as-hell Capcom Fighting Evolution thatfeatured a roster of reused assets from older games as well as Ingrid in 2D sprite form. To get more bang for its buck, Capcom threw her into Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX.
Ingrid is a cosmic entity that dwarfs the power of M. Bison. It’s more apparent in Street Fighter X Tekken, where the plot revolves around various duos racing towards a MacGuffin called Pandora. In the comic that comes with the special edition of the game, it’s revealed Ingrid herself created Pandora for…reasons. And considering the reality-breaking (albeit ill-explained) abilities Pandora has, Ingrid’s just on a different level to the classic Street Fighter cast.