PS – These ALL debuted in the arcade.
1987 Street Fighter
The game that really started it all. It looks great for 1987 with very detailed backgrounds and raw audio. Unfortunately, it plays like shit. The animations are very rigid so you can’t do things like jump and kick when you want to – you jump, hit the kick button and then at a specific point in the sequence your guy kicks. Also, almost every enemy is much stronger and faster than you. I only beat the game by playing very defensively. Only Ryu and Ken are playable. In spite of its shittiness I have grown to like this game.
1991 Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
(plus 4 updates – SFII Champion Edition, SFII Hyper Fighting, Super SFII, Super SFII Turbo)
The importance of this game can’t be overstated. It single-handedly made the fighting genre mainstream and it quite literally kickstarted a short renaissance for the struggling US arcade market. In this game the controls are perfect and you have a large, colorful cast of characters to choose from. This game also began Capcom’s practice of re-releasing a game with some incremental upgrades/improvements.
1993 Saturday Night Slam Masters
What if Street Fighter was a wrestling game? Saturday Night Slam Masters is what! It’s actually a lot more of a wrestling game than a fighting game but it has the Street Fighter look and some special moves.
1994 Super Muscle Bomber
The sequel to Slam Masters and now it’s much more of a traditional fighting but with grappling. The gameplay is actually pretty unique and more difficult to master than most fighters but I’d always choose SFII over it.
1994 Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors
(plus 2 updates: Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge, Vampire Savior)
When I first saw this game in a magazine my thought was, “Wow, Capcom is really scared to make a Street Fighter III.” I still feel that this game, which runs on a new engine, was basically a test run for the next Street Fighter. The main difference is that it introduces a cast of horror movie stereotypes that are somehow not overly interesting. This game also introduced Capcom’s new art style and their new arcade hardware: the CPS2. There are 2 “sequels” to this game that are really just updates, each improving on the last. Somehow, this game is just not as fun as a standard SF game but the last version, Vampire Savior aka Darkstalkers 3 really improved the engine to the point that it’s pretty decent.
1994 X-Men: Children of the Atom
Perhaps another test run for the next SF game but this one has more personality than Darkstalkers. I especially like that they chose some rather obscure X-Men characters and ignored some of the regulars. Magneto is damned hard in this game!
1995 Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams
(plus 2 updates: Street Fighter Alpha 2, Street Fighter Alpha 3)
Goddamn, they sure were afraid to make a SFIII! Instead they made this ‘prequel’. In all respects other than story, this is the true sequel to SFII and it’s pretty sweet. The cast is somewhat small but this was corrected in the updates. Street Fighter Alpha 3 really outdoes itself and might be the funnest Capcom fighter.
1995 Marvel Super Heroes
Basically like X-Men but with other Marvel Universe homies thrown in.
1996 X-Men vs. Street Fighter
(plus 1 update: Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter)
This game introduced the whole tag team element to the series and does it very well, with some awesome super moves thrown in to boot. Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter is just a roster change and reuses backgrounds and even the final boss.
1996 Red Earth
A very bizarre and unique entry in the series. There are only 4 selectable characters plus 8 boss characters. Apparently, this game was meant to take a long time because there is a password feature! The bosses have a whole shitload of life and are very difficult to beat in one life but when you die you can just put in another quarter and pick up where you left off. I have to say this is really lame – beating the game has more to do with how many quarters you have rather than your skill. Still, it plays really well and looks awesome, introducing Capcom’s new hardware, the ill-fated CPS3.
1996 Street Fighter EX
(plus 2 updates Street Fighter EX2, Street Fighter EX3)
SF goes 3D with mixed results. Some characters are still fun to play with but others are sluggish. It’s fun to see things in 3D but the blocky polygons just don’t compare to the excellent sprites in the 2D games. Sorry! PS – Developed by Arika, a company made up of former Capcom developers.
1997 Rival Schools
Capcom makes their own 3D fighter with much better results, featuring a new crazy cast of high school students and teachers, apparently trying to solve a mystery involving kidnappings or something. Whatever! It’s fun and frantic and you can hit a volleyball.
1997 Pocket Fighter
Awwww, it’s little cute versions of the SF cast. A lot of people adore this game but I’m split. It looks great but it’s very random and just too nutty for me to LOOOOOVE.
1997 Street Fighter III: New Generation
(plus 2 updates – SFIII: Second Impact, SFIII: Third Strike)
By the time this came out there were no longer droves of people begging for a SFIII. In spite of a perhaps off-putting cast, it’s a great game and it has extremely advanced animation for a 2D game. The fighting system is deep and has a lot of variety. Didn’t have nearly the exposure of SFII or SF Alpha.
1998 JoJo’s Venture
(plus update: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
The sprites look Street Fightery but the fighting is almost all-out wacky. I beat the game and I still couldn’t tell you how this special move works or that whatever works. I’m dizzy.
1998 Marvel vs. Capcom
Apparently, people wanted more of the old CPS2 style games so the SF Alpha/Darkstalkers/Marvel engine was dusted off for this big-ass crossover. Although it looks just like those older games its playing style is its own – it’s insane and wild in a way that makes sense. A very fun game.
1999 Capcom vs SNK: Millennium Fight 2000
The big crossover with the company that made a career out of copying Street Fighter, good ol’ SNK. In spite of the title, this is really a Capcom fighting game that happens to have SNK characters in it. It’s fun but not all that different from SF Alpha and not as innovative as Marvel vs Capcom.
2000 Marvel vs. Capcom 2
This is where the wackiness goes too far and loses me somewhat. For one thing, the big special moves are basically performed with a single button, at the expense of a striking button. And there’s a big cactus guy that was never in a Capcom game or a Marvel comic. I dunno. I don’t hate it but . ..
2000 Capcom vs SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001
Oh, good, more of the same (but not quite an update).
2004 Capcom Fighting Evolution
As you can see, things slowed down in a major way and then some idiot at Capcom had the idea for this game: let’s do a “crossover” between SFII, SFAlpha, SFIII, Darkstalkers, and Red Earth. What do you get? A really uneven game that uses the original sprites from the games mentioned and feels like a real cut and paste job. I don’t think the giant boss characters from Red Earth were ever meant to be playable and I’d say this game confirms that position. Kind of a bad note to end on . . .
Street Fighter IV is currently in the later stages of development. It looks pretty fun but seems to be too beholden to SFII. It’s in 3D but the characters a hand-drawn level of detail and the gameplay is 2D. Will it be good? Will it launch 3,000 spin-offs? Time will tell. There is also a more traditional game in the works, Capcom vs Tatsunara. Neat!
CONCLUSION . . .
If a lot of these games look similar it’s because they ARE. The Street Fighter Alpha engine, in particular, was used over and over. I consider the following games to be unique:
Street Fighter II
Street Fighter Alpha
Street Fighter EX
Street Fighter III
Saturday Night Slam Masters
Marvel vs. Capcom
Everything else is essentially a roster swap or an update.