The year is 1991. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior has been released to arcades, forever altering the gaming landscape. Capcom's game brought fighter fever to the masses, leading to a sudden influx of one-on-one fighters. While Street Fighter II reigned supreme in arcades and, eventually, home consoles, there were plenty of companies looking to jump on the fighting game money train. As gamers flocked to the iconic Street Fighter II cabinet, arcade goers began to notice more and more fighting games popping up. While these games bore different names, they looked... familiar. This signalled the beginning of the Street Fighter II knock-off rush.
Yes, as companies around the globe took notice of Capcom's runaway success, every Mom and Pop operation suddenly threw themselves into the burgeoning fighting game market. Problem is, as the genre was so new, many companies didn't know how to build an original fighting game. So these companies decided to take out the guess work and simply copy the successful game they were aping in the first place. The '90s saw dozens of wannabe, almost-was, and never-were contenders to the fighting game crown, and plenty of these games were unashamed rip-offs of Street Fighter II. Unless you were cruising the darkest corners of your local arcade every week back in 1993, odds are you forgot about some of these obscure fighters. So join CBR as we take a look back at 15 Street Fighter II knock-offs you totally forgot about!
15 BODY BLOWS
Before developer Team17 would make its fortune with the perennially popular Worms franchise, the then-fledgling game maker decided to make a fighting game, hoping to cash in on the success of Street Fighter II. Unfortunately, it seemed like the team was holding onto its originality for Worms, as Body Blows is a generic, messy Street Fighter knock-off.
Released for Amiga and DOS, Body Blows had all of the wandering martial artists, street-smart boxers, and barrel-chested wrestlers that fans had grown to love from Street Fighter, albeit exponentially watered down and terrible. With characters named "Mike" and "Ninja," this Street Fighter knock-off was destined to be forgotten about.
14 POWER MOVES
When Street Fighter II finally made the jump from the arcade to the home consoles, the game practically flew off of the shelves. Eager to get a piece of the fighting game pie, Street Fighter II clones began to pop up on Super Nintendo and Genesis faster than you could say "Shoryuken." Once such blatant knock-off was the oft-forgotten Power Moves.
Pretty much every aspect of Power Moves was lifted wholesale from Capcom's mega-popular fighter, from a gi-wearing, fireball throwing protagonist, to a jungle wildman, to a kick-heavy female fighter, to even between-fight mini-games a la Street Fighter's famous car breaking mini-game. Power Moves is as close to a store-brand version of Street Fighter II as you can get.
13 FIGHTIN' SPIRIT
Okay, let's not act like Street Fighter is a great name. At best, it's lazy; at worst, it's stolen from a classic Sony Chiba karate movie. But Street Fighter is practically poetry compared to Fightin' Spirit.
Sounding less like a white-knuckle 2D fighter and more like a forgotten John Wayne movie, Fightin' Spirit wasn't much better in the gameplay department, playing like a clunky, chuggy Street Fighter aping mess. Fightin' Spirit wasn't shy in ripping off Street Fighter, including a military fighter, a Las Vegas casino level, and plenty of moves that should look familiar to fans of Ryu and the gang. But the game did allow you to play as an actual, honest-to-goodness tiger, so it's got that over Street Fighter.
12 DRAGON MASTER
As Street Fighter fever gripped the world, every rinky-dink game developer on God's green Earth was eager to jump on the money train. Cue an avalanche of forgettable fighters, bound to sit unloved in the darkest, dankest corner of the arcade. Dragon Master was one such Street Fighter wannabe destined to slip into obscurity.
Developed by Korean developer Unico, Dragon Master would be hilarious if it wasn't so generic. With character names that reek of "Non-English speaker attempts to create English-sounding names" (seriously, Klaus Garcia? Jedi Ryan?), and character designs so boring you'd swear the cast was assembled from discarded Street Fighter designs fished out of Capcom's trash, Dragon Master is as bland as it is forgettable.
11 WORLD HEROES
"Rip-off" is a term that denotes negativity. But a rip-off can often find a voice of its own, given enough time. Such was the case with World Heroes, which began life as a shameless Street Fighter wannabe before eventually blossoming into a unique cult classic franchise.
World Heroes had all the makings of a knock-off: color-coded rival characters, a wrestler, a Bruce Lee wannabe, an exotic jungle wildman; this game had it all. But as the series progressed, the characters got wilder (a fighting pirate that can throw ghost ships! A time traveling viking!), and gameplay moved away from its Street Fighter II rip-off roots to find unique mechanics of its own. Still, besides some slavishly devoted fans, you'd be hard-pressed to find many who remember this '90s fighting game franchise.
10 TUFF E NUFF
We dare you to find a more '90s video game name than Tuff E Nuff. If you took Street Fighter II and fed it a steady diet of Surge Soda and Dunkaroos, you'd get Tuff E Nuff. But even the bulging, Rob Liefeld-inspired monstrosity on the cover couldn't hide the fact that this game was not, in fact, x-treme. Rather, it was just a bland, ugly knock-off.
Sure, Tuff E Nuff tried to mix things up: the game was set in the post-apocalypse, and featured movement between the front and back of the stage. But the game played like a slower, clunkier Street Fighter II, ripped-off special moves and all. Add to the fact that this game only featured four playable characters, and you've got a Street Fighter knock-off that even the most devoted fighter fans avoided like the plague.
9 DOOMSDAY WARRIOR
Turns out, making a wholesale rip-off of Street Fighter II and slapping a post-apocalyptic theme on it was quite the trend in the '90s. Just as developer Jaleco did with Tuff E Nuff, developer Laser Soft followed suit with the obscure fighting game Doomsday Warrior.
Releasing in the wake of the runaway success of Street Fighter II, Doomsday Warrior wore its inspiration on its ripped, irradiated sleeves, featuring gameplay and moves borrowed from the popular Capcom fighter. With a cast of seven characters bearing names like "P. Lump" and "Layban," Doomsday Warrior didn't have quite as memorable a roster as Street Fighter II. Compound this with muddy visuals and boring gameplay, and you've got one of the more forgettable SNES fighters.
8 KAISER KNUCKLE
When a game has an awesome name, interesting visual presentation, and a roster of bonkers characters, it becomes infinitely more confusing as to why the gameplay is so blatant in copying another game. Did the developer blow all of their cash on the bells and whistles, but skipped on gameplay development? The world may never know, but this is seemingly what happened to Kaiser Knuckle.
Released in 1994 by Taito, Kaiser Knuckle barely made a blip in arcades, which was largely due to the general exhaustion among gamers concerning Street Fighter II clones. But Kaiser Knuckle had plenty going for it: big sprites, a bombastic visual style, and detailed stages make the game a joy to look at. Too bad the gameplay was so blatant in its rip-off-ness that it doomed the game to '90s fighting game obscurity.
7 ART OF FIGHTING
Among fighting game faithful, the debate rages eternally: who's better, Capcom or SNK? These two beloved companies have been churning out legendary fighting games for years now, with both developers jockeying for fighter supremacy. But it was largely due to a Street Fighter II rip-off that SNK even managed to go toe-to-toe with Capcom in the first place.
Released in 1992, Art Of Fighting had all the makings of a Street Fighter wannabe: gi-clad protagonist, his hot-headed best friend, a female fighter that utilized kicks. But Art Of Fighting had enough differences to stand on its own, and the game's detailed sprites and more realistic gameplay earned the game a cult following, eventually allowing the series, and SNK themselves, to blaze a new trail, moving away from their Street Fighter wanna be roots.
6 FIGHT FEVER
In the immediate aftermath of the release of Street Fighter II, companies were able to surreptitiously slip their Street Fighter wannabes into arcades without fighting game-hungry gamers noticing that the game was a knock-off. But by 1994, fans had gotten wiser, and had even coined the term Street Fighter clone to describe these shameless cash grabs. Apparently, Korean developer Viccom hadn't gotten the memo, as the company released Fight Fever in '94.
Fight Fever wore its knock-off-ness on its sleeve: the game featured moves and character archetypes taken wholesale from Street Fighter, and played like a water down, clunkier version of Capcom's popular fighter. But Fight Fever didn't just rip-off Capcom: the game even featured a blonde fighter that was the spitting image of Ryo from Art Of Fighting, making this the only game on our list to go for the coveted double knock-off.
In the '90s, fighting games were popping up left and right, all featuring serious competitors doing serious battle in serious one-on-one combat. This popular new genre needed a healthy dose of ridiculous, which is exactly what Clayfighter brought to the table.
Hitting shelves in 1993, Clayfighter featured claymation combatants duking it out in crazy, colorful stages. With fighters such as the surly snowman Bad Mr. Frosty and Elvis wannabe Blue Suede Goo, Clayfighter was a far cry from the World Warriors, despite featuring gameplay that took plenty of cues from Capcom's popular fighter. Clayfighter would receive two sequels, but would not make it past the N64, dooming this once-popular fighting game mocking franchise to slip into obscurity.
A game can be a "rip-off" and still be totally awesome. In fact, a game can be a rip-off and be even better than the game its ripping off. Such is the case with the criminally overlooked Breakers.
Hitting Neo Geo and the arcades in 1997, long after Street Fighter II mania had cooled, Breakers took more than a little inspiration from Capcom's fighter, but managed to improve upon the formula in nearly every way, adding lighting-fast gameplay and super-centric combos. While Breakers and its subsequent update, Breakers Revenge, hit arcades with little fanfare, the franchise remains immensely popular in the fighting game community, making Breakers the only Street Fighter knock-off to earn a devoted following on the level of the game it ripped off.
3 MARTIAL CHAMPION
As an avalanche of Street Fighter II clones sprung up in the wake of Capcom's success, gamers found themselves inundated with new ways to duke it out. If the Street Fighter II machine was packed, fighting fans could always step over to the Art Of Fighting or World Heroes cabinets to scratch their fighting game itch. But even the most devoted fighting fanatics stayed far, far away from Martial Champion.
Ugly even by the standards of 1993, Martial Champion was a low budget Street Fighter wannabe through and through. From carbon copy characters (fireball throwing protagonist! military guy! dude with a claw!), and moves so blatantly similar to those found in Street Fighter II it bordered on offensive, Martial Champion was bound for arcade obscurity from the moment it came out.
2 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: TOURNAMENT FIGHTERS
Street Fighter II was everywhere in the early '90s. The same goes for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These two pop culture powerhouses ruled their respective mediums with an iron fist, but it was only a matter of time until the heroes in a half-shell went after a piece of the fighting game pie. While the TMNT in a fighter seemed like a sure bet, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters remains most forgotten these days.
Taking the Street Fighter II formula and adding a fresh coat of TMNT paint was the name of a game, resulting in a game that featured bland, watered-down gameplay, hidden under a sizeable roster of fan favorite characters. Tournament Fighters was expected to be such a runaway hit that three unique versions of the game were released for the SNES, Genesis, and NES, all with unique character rosters, but the game was ultimately met with middling sales, resulting in the game slipping under many gamer's radars.
1 FIGHTER'S HISTORY
Sure, we've discussed plenty of games that were unabashed in their copying of Street Fighter II, but only one fighting game has the distinction of being such a glaring Street Fighter rip-off that it landed its makers in court. This dubious honor goes to Fighter's History.
Hitting arcades in 1993, this Data East developed fighter featured characters, moves, and stages that copied Street Fighter so blatantly that you would think Data East just took Street Fighter II code and fiddled with it. In fact, the similarities were so apparent that Capcom USA sued Data Easy for infringing on the company's intellectual rights. Ultimately, the court ruled against Capcom and the Fighter's History series continued, but we bet few remember this '90s fighter, even after its ridiculous legal situation.