The Forgotten Fighting Games of the 1990s

Let's take a look back at 13 forgotten fighting games that should make a comeback!

The fighting game genre has never been more popular, with modern takes on many of the big names from yesteryear. We’re constantly graced with new installments of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, King of Fighters, Smash Bros, Killer Instinct, Marvel vs. Capcom, Guilty Gear, and so on.

Then I get to thinking about the fighting games that haven’t been so lucky. The ones that have fallen into the sands of time. When’s the last time we got an Art of Fighting game? Aren’t we due for a Wu-Tang Shaolin Style sequel about now? Do you think somebody could make a Tattoo Assassins game that isn’t garbage just for the challenge of it? There are so many possibilities.

Here’s a list of thirteen fighting games I’d like to see make a modern-day comeback.


1991 | Almanic | Genesis

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When an idea like Street Fighter II hits it big, you’re going to get something like Fighting Masters. Its heart was in the right place and it had some cool ideas (and especially cool soundtrack), but couldn’t pull off a lasting impression. It takes place in a galaxy where the sun is about to go nova and a race of hyper-competent aliens stop by to say that they can save only one planet. So…fighting tournament among the best of each planet because these aliens have a strange sense of perspective. That means we get a couple humans and a lot of ridiculous alien designs, including a boxing horse man.

Too bad the gameplay was undercooked. Rather than feeling very Street Fighter, it came off as more of a series of Double Dragon boss fights. That’s unfortunate, as they almost seemed to have something.


1993 | Incredible Technologies | Genesis, Arcade

Time Killers was one of the earlier fighting games exist thanks to Street Fighter II‘s success. It went the Mortal Kombat route of playing up the gore factor. While Mortal Kombat only used gore for stylistic reasons and shock value, at least the blood in Time Killers affected gameplay. Not only could you get your arms chopped off mid-fight and continue the battle with a handicap, but decapitations could happen at any time, immediately ending the match.

The game is like the Pete Best of early fighting games, but maybe it’s about time we gave these blade-swinging time-travelers a second chance. After all, Rancid from the year 2024 is a chainsaw-wielding punk with sunglasses, earrings, an X carved into his forehead, and a green Mohawk mullet with ponytail. That’s the most overkill design ever and deserves a trophy.


1993 | Visual Concepts | Genesis, SNES

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The ClayFighter games were never very good, but I enjoyed them for the cartoony nonsense. The character designs were pretty great, outside of the cast of ClayFighter 2: Judgment Clay and the racist caricatures in ClayFighter 63 1/3. On paper, the concept of the game has tons of promise. It’s a parody of fighting game tropes featuring a man made of taffy, an Elvis impersonator, Santa Claus as a sumo wrestler, a mopey clown, and a pumpkin-headed ghost.

The series pretty much died when ClayFighter 63 1/3 got delayed into oblivion and finally came out as a crap game that felt unfinished because it totally was. A somewhat more polished version called ClayFighter: Sculptor’s Cut came out as a Blockbuster exclusive rental, but that didn’t exactly set the world on fire. It was going to be updated for the WiiWare a few years ago, but that fell through.

Just get some CGI that looks clay-like and we don’t have to worry about all that choppy animation that plagued the old games. I’m just saying, I need my Bad Mr. Frosty fix. It’s been too long.


1997 | Atari Games & Midway Games | N64, Arcade

If you’re a fighting game fan who owned a Nintendo 64 but not a Playstation, then there’s a 95% chance you’ve played Mace: The Dark Age. Developed by Atari, the fighter played like the Soul Edge games with a Mortal Kombat atmosphere. The story was incredibly similar to Soul Edge in that it was also about medieval warriors fighting over an evil weapon of ultimate power, only it was definitely more metal. Even when you remove the Fatalities (called “Executions” here), you had an executioner, a knight from the bowels of Hell, a zombie crusader, a dwarf riding a steam-powered mech, and an impressive-looking demon boss who was so massive that only his top half appears out of a portal in the ground.

It also had a giant chicken as a hidden character, which somehow led to it having a hidden character appearance in Gauntlet Legends. Go figure.

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The game never really caught on, which is a shame, since it had a good foundation for a sequel to build on. I’m kind of tired of SoulCalibur feeling like more of the same every time, so maybe it’s time we give Mordos Kull another chance.


1997 | SNK | Neo Geo

There were only two installments of Last Blade?! Really?! Like, I realize the three games I’ve already mentioned are sub-par at best (and Time Killers at worst), but Last Blade was so good. After years of doing Samurai Shodown sequels, SNK let loose with a different kind of sword-slashing historical Japanese fighting game that had a more impressive look than Shodown and simply felt grander. It played great, it looked great, and was only held back by some vanilla character designs.

The character Hibiki got to show up in Capcom vs. SNK 2, but that’s not enough. It’s been 16 years since the last game. Why aren’t we being overwhelmed by Last Blade sequels?


1991 | SNK | Neo Geo, SNES, Genesis

Okay, SNK, what the hell?! How did something as brilliant as King of the Monsters fall into obscurity so quick?! The game was about giant monsters (blatant copies of Godzilla, King Kong, and Ultraman) fighting through giant cities. That would be cool on its own, only their fighting takes the form of a giant hardcore professional wrestling match where you can use buildings as weapons! The cities have electric borders to box them in, acting like ring ropes. The creatures perform suplexes and bodyslams. You have to actually pin your opponent.

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There have been other giant monster fighters like Primal Rage, the Godzilla games, and War of the Monsters (which is the closest thing we’ve ever had to a King of the Monsters reboot, even if it’s made by a different company), the very concept of giant monsters wrestling is a very deep well to take from. There’s a reason why Kaiju Big Battel has lasted so long. Actually, while we’re at it, can we get Kaiju Big Battel its own video game? I’d be good with that, too.

Strangely, SNK did make a sequel to King of the Monsters shortly after, but the game was a side-scrolling beat ’em up instead. It just wasn’t the same, man.


1995 | Capcom & Incredible Technologies | PS, Saturn, Arcade

All right, all right, all right. Before you jump down to the comments to flame me, let me explain. Everything involved with Street Fighter: The Movie is laughable, including the fact that they made a mediocre fighting game based on a movie based on a legendary fighting game. But here’s the thing. Recently, DC Comics released a series called Batman ’66 that expands the world of the old Adam West show to not only show new adventures, but show what characters like Killer Croc and Harley Quinn would be like had they appeared on that old show. There’s also a webcomic sequel to the terrible Super Mario Bros. movie from twenty years ago that retells Super Mario Bros. 2 in the first movie’s setting.

The Street Fighter: The Movie ports had that going on too, to a lesser extent. Not only did they introduce the live-action Akuma into the story, but they claimed that Gunloc from Saturday Night Slam Masters was secretly undercover as M. Bison’s henchman, Blade. Also, he was Guile’s brother. That’s completely bonkers and I kind of want more. Bring back that goofball universe for another go. I want to see what Gill would be like. How off-base could they make Dudley? Or even Rufus? Holy hell, the possibilities are endless.


1993 | Sega Interactive | Genesis

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Eternal Champions is next to Killer Instinct in terms of games that were kind of a huge deal for a short burst after they came out, but then vanished for years, never to be heard from again. Ergo, if Killer Instinct can make a comeback, where’s Eternal Champions? The game had a pretty kickass story where the Eternal Champion picked victims from across history who would have been great forces for good had they not been tragically killed. In order to help bring balance to the timeline, one of them would get the right to relive their final moments and change the course of history. How would that be decided? A horrible bloodsport tournament. Naturally.

The game had a sequel in Challenge from the Dark Side and two completely unplayable spinoffs (Chicago Syndicate starring Larcen Tyler and X-Perts starring Shadow Yamato). They were going to have a final game to bring the story to an end, but Sega decided to axe it because they felt it hindered Virtua Fighter‘s popularity. God forbid two completely different games exist under the same company.


1996 | SNK | Neo Geo, Arcade

To be fair, the first game in the series is Savage Reign, but that’s a pretty forgettable one-on-one fighter that isn’t really worth revisiting. It didn’t really kick in until the sequel, Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle, SNK’s first attempt at a tag team game. In fact, it came out just weeks after Capcom’s popular X-Men vs. Street Fighter, one of the many reasons it’s fallen into the sands of time. Despite that, it felt different than Capcom’s tag fighters. The characters felt bigger and more grounded. It felt more like a 2D version of Tekken Tag in a way. The game was super fun.

Also neat was that it took place in the same timeline as the Fatal Fury games, only about a hundred or so years into the future (featuring an old man wearing Terry Bogard’s discarded hat and Kim Kaphwan’s descendant). I love the designs because instead of making everything all futuristic, characters are mostly just either dystopian or extra gaudy. It gives us supervillain King Lion, who has the triple threat of body armor, boxing gloves, and a giant sword. We’re supposed to take him seriously. Why not? It’s the future! Maybe in the future looking like a cross between Dr. Doom and Strong Bad is considered threatening. The guy showed up again in Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, but nobody played that either.


1994 | Capcom | PS, Arcade

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It’s hard to accept that Darkstalkers has fallen to the wayside as much as it has. While it was never going to be as big as Street Fighter, it did feel popular enough to be a staple in Capcom’s library. Then again, look at everything that’s happened with Mega Man… Anyway, Darkstalkers was a brilliant fighting game with monsters, and it was cartoony as all get-out. There were follow-ups and while they did change up the gameplay here and there, they were still using the same sprites again and again, making the games look less like sequels and more like upgrades. It didn’t help that lead heroine Morrigan showed up in a bunch of crossover fighters (ie. Marvel vs. Capcom and Capcom vs. SNK) and they chose never to update her graphics at all, making her stick out like a sore thumb.

Capcom’s bigwig Yoshinori Ono has wanted a new Darkstalkers game for forever, but decided that it could only happen if people purchased Darkstalkers Resurrection, the HD re-release of the previous Darkstalkers games. I hated that. But hey, good to see that Capcom was still trying to get as much play out of those 20-year-old sprites as they could.

We wrote much more about Darkstalkers right here.


1999 | Capcom | Dreamcast, Arcade

Man. Power Stone. What happened? Second to Smash Bros., Power Stone was such a fun party game fighter, based purely on running around the environment and beating your opponent with anything and everything you could get your hands on. This was especially chaotic in the sequel — it was four players and the stages were increasingly ridiculous and elaborate. While on the surface, the characters mostly played the same outside of speed and strength, the real fun was being the first to grab three Power Stones and go full ham in your unstoppable, overly-cheap, super-powered identity. That’s where the real variety came in. Good times.

While the second game was a nice step up, it got a little too repetitive and could have used more stages and outlandish ways of hurting your enemies. Save up all those ideas for a third installment – maybe even toss in some iconic Capcom characters for flavor – and you could have an instant classic.

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1991 | SNK & Takara | Neo Geo, Genesis, SNES

1999 | SNK | Neo Geo, Dreamcast, Arcade

In the early days, Fatal Fury was one of SNK’s answers to Street Fighter‘s popularity and, much like Art of Fighting, it fell into the background once King of Fighters hit the scene. They still made Fatal Fury games, but they never felt big enough to unseat King of Fighters as SNK’s flagship fighting series. At first glance, it made sense that they simply stopped making the games.

EXCEPT. Their last game was Garou: Mark of the Wolves, a practically new fighter that took place ten years later. Only one character (Terry Bogard) returned and his look was completely changed. The animation and play style were updated.

It was wonderful. You could play as a man named Butt! Jeff Hardy was there for some reason! It’s easily one of the best games SNK’s ever produced and looked like an amazing first step in this new direction!

So of course nothing ever happened to follow up on it. Several characters – especially main hero Rock Howard – got to show up in some other games, including a Mark of the Wolves-based trio in King of Fighters XI, but the most we ever got was talk years ago that they were totally in the middle of making the sequel. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been word on it since 2008. Lame.

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1993 | Capcom | SNES, Genesis, Arcade

A handful of Capcom games are part of the same continuity, which is kind of cool. Sakura from Street Fighter pops up in Rival Schools, while major cast members of Final Fight show up in Street Fighter Alpha.

At one point, someone figured, “Hey, we’ve established that Mike Haggar from Final Fight used to be a wrestler. Why don’t we do a wrestling game with him in it?” And so we got Saturday Night Slam Masters.

The game was a total blast. A game where characters could do over-the-top moves a la Street Fighter, but in the context of a wrestling match with wrestling rules. For instance, King Rasta Mon (a hybrid of Blanka and Bruiser Brody) would grab you, jump straight up about 15 feet while backflipping a dozen times, then throw you straight down to the mat. Much of the cast was really Capcom recreations of classic wrestlers like Big Van Vader, Tinieblas, and The Great Muta.

They did make a sequel called Ring of Destruction, but they changed the gameplay so that it was more of a Street Fighter clone with pinning. It got rid of one of the most entertaining parts of the game where you could do tag team tornado matches and the whole thing just felt a lot less special.

I’d love to see Slam Masters brought back in some form. Considering the shared universe, they could even toss in the likes of Zangief, Hugo, Poison, El Fuerte, and just about anyone else who would fit in a wrestling ring.

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What other fighters would you like to see dug up and brought back? Sound off in the comments.

Gavin Jasper wants to remind you that the end credits theme to the Darkstalkers animated series is top notch. Follow him on Twitter!