Sony’s PlayStation launched in Japan in late 1994 and worldwide the following year, at a time before online gaming was as prevalent and accessible as it is today. Shortly after the best PS1 fighting games started to reveal themselves.
Consequently, competitive gamers flocked to arcades to show off their skills against other players, with fighting games proving to be an excellent way for gamers to demonstrate their impressive reaction times – and earn that incredible dopamine rush that comes with beating a skilled opponent who happens to be standing right next to you.
It’s no surprise that fighting games proved popular as a genre for home consoles, with many of the most highly regarded titles being converted from arcade originals.
That’s not the whole story, however, as you’ll soon see from the list of the Best PS1 Fighting Games.
There was a bizarre prejudice against 2D fighting games in the press at the time of release, with a common complaint being that they looked and felt dated – this wasn’t relegated to fighting games exclusively, but rather 2D games in general – so user scores tend to reflect the more commonly held contemporary views of all types of fighter.
Due to this, it’s user scores that I’ve used to compile this list instead of critic ratings. Ready?
20. Warpath: Jurassic Park (1999)
Any game that sees Dinosaurs battling against each is bound to make our list of the best PS1 fighting games. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of!
Pick from a whole host of amazing dino-warriors from the Jurassic Park movies and battle it out to see who has the Killer Instinct (wrong game franchise, but I just thought I’d give it a mention).
All the different arenas in this game refer back to classic scenes from the films too. You can even find out about the prehistoric beasts themselves if you’re taking a break from getting the dino-dung beaten out of you.
Unlock new dinos to play with, ad square up against your mates in the multiplayer mode. It’s Roarsome (I hate myself for writing that).
19. Tobal 2 (1997)
Next up in our list of the best PS1 fighting games is an unapolagetic brawler with a new Quest Mode to spice things up a little bit.
Tobal 2 adds to the brilliance of its predecessor by adding all the elements that we know and love from our favourite role-playing games. Gather experience through battles, head to a town to purchase items and drink potions, and generally upgrade your character to make them even gnarlier.
Oh, and you can now grab hold of monsters and use them in VS modes with your mates!
Apart from that, all the same grappling, punching, and kicking actin can be found as in the previous game. The controls feel familiar while still blowing your mind with fresh mechanics and features.
18. Psychic Force (1995)
Psychic Force reckons that people in 2010 would have been fighting with psychic abilities to control the elements. Unless the weather readers on Sky News have got powers we don’t know about, I’d say that it falls a little short of the mark.
All the battles take place with characters floating, making for a incredibly different feel to the standard 2D one-on-one fighter such as Street Fighter.
Use a combination of futuristic powers and traditional beat-down moves, with each character boasting special attacks that marry up with their chosen elemental power.
Don’t worry if this all sounds a little hard to grasp; there’s a training mode where you can practice all your special moves before delving into the story mode. PHEW!
17. Bloody Roar 2 (1999)
Bloody Roar 2 takes the 17th spot in this list of the best PS1 fighting games, alluding to the fact that you might well be seeing the original Bloody Roar a little further down this list…
Fans of the Fighting Vipers games will feel right at home with this game. The fighting style is incredibly similar, so much so that you’ll be able to flick between the two without any real issues.
The main selling point about Bloody Roar 2 is that players can transform into beasts while fighting. These anamorphic fighters know only one thing – a lust for blood.
In animal mode, fighters have way more moves and do more damage. You’ll need to rack up enough points to transform though, so make sure you land those hits!
16. Destrega (1998)
Where other games are hell bent on you getting all close and personal with your attacker, Destrega focuses on throwing long range killer attacks at opponents and backgrounds that fight back.
That’s sure to keep you on your toes!
Yes, instead of firing punches, players use projectile abilities in order to take down their opponents. Fight to gain control of ancient relics that hold mysterious power; it’s all very sci-fi orientated, but all we’re focusing on today is the gameplay.
The moves are fluid, the graphics are crisp, and the game itself is super fun to play. The camera angle often hovers slightly above the action creating a soft isometric feel to the action too, proving a nice change from Tekken and Street Fighter if you’re looking for something different.
15. Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes (1999)
Marvel Vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes takes the 15th spot in this list of the best PS1 fighting games of all time!
We all know the drill by now; Marvel characters vs Capcom characters, with fights taking place in epic locations from both universes.
In many ways, this game is very similar to X-Men vs. Street Fighter, but players have the chance to take a team of three characters into battle instead of two. Tag-team for more damage and call other fighters in Pokemon-battle style if the going looks rough.
Work your way through the game battling characters from both franchises until you come up against the final boss, a super being forged through Charles Xavier and Magneto fusing together.
If you’re a fan of street fighter, then you’ll already understand how to play this game. It’s fun, simple to grasp, and a bona fide nerd fest.
14. X-Men vs. Street Fighter (1998)
Speaking of which, X-Men vs. Street Fighter is up next.
In all honesty, I prefer this game to Clash of Super Heroes. It feels tighter, and the fact that it has fewer characters means I don’t have to spend as long picking who I’m going to fight with.
That’s why I’m always so useless when playing Super Smash Bros on the Switch!
The Street Fighter crowd remains the same as always, with characters being pulled from Street Fighter 2. The X-Men characters from Marvel Super Heroes make a return too along with three new fighters; Gambit, Sabretooth, and Rogue.
Seeing these two famous franchises square off against each makes my nerd senses tingle; Ryu vs Wolverine is a battle that everyone always wants to see!
13. Bloody Roar (1997)
I may have spoiled the surprise for you already earlier on, but Bloody Roar takes the 13th spot in this list of the best PS1 fighting games of all time!
Yes, the original beast-morphing title will always hold a special place in my heart. If you’ve played and enjoyed the sequel already while scrolling down this list, then the original won’t seem that revolutionary.
Still, back in the day, having fighters transform into beasts was a pretty huge deal! So they look like blocky robots in this version, but who cares? I’d still pay to see a robot rabbits square off against a Wolf-bot any day of the week!
12. Rival Schools: United by Fate (1998)
Have you ever sat back and wished that Street Fighter had more school kids beating each other up in it? Well, if the answer is yes, then Rival Schools might just be the best game you’ve ever played.
Because it’s a Capcom game that’s basically a reimagined SF title, it’s simple to pick up right from the off. There are tonnes of exciting characters to get acquainted with and a whole load of new moves to store in your brain.
The game itself is a recreation of the arcade title, but there’s also a second disc with loads of other cool features, my favourite if which is a mode where you can teach yourself new moves.
Great, even more bits to remember now!
Play in tournaments or square up against other players in multiple multiplayer modes (that was fund to write!). It’s the gift that keeps on giving and a great game for blowing off steam with.
11. Mortal Kombat Trilogy (1996)
This just wouldn’t have been a list of the best PS1 fighting games without including the iconic Mortal Kombat Trilogy in it.
Play with all of the characters from Mortal Kombat 1 through to 3 including Kano, Rain, Cyrax, Liu Kang, Shao Kahn, and many more.
The series is timeless, and these original games had some of the best battles I’ve ever played. With over 30 characters and 30 special moves and finishers to remember, it’s probably best to have a pad of paper to hand when you’re doing those training sessions.
And the best part is that you can have old versions of characters playing against their newer selves. If that isn’t a blast from the past, then I don’t know what is!
10. X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 (2001)
Released just a year after the X-Men saw their live action debut catapult superheroes into the mainstream consciousness and kicked off a superhero craze that is still in full swing, with Kevin Feige, head of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having been a young producer on X-Men.
X-Men: Mutant Academy might not be the most proficient fighting game from the point of view of its mechanics, but it improved massively on the first game and had an impressive roster of mutant fighters – and, somewhat bizarrely (considering the tortured tangle of the movie rights keeping these characters apart on the big screen), Spider-Man was also a playable character.
9. WWF Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role (2000)
Though not traditionally a ‘fighting’ game as they’d normally be defined, translating the larger than life antics of oiled up, musclebound men – who throw themselves at each other in the name of sports entertainment – into the video games arena does essentially bring similar conventions and mechanics that are familiar to the genre.
There’s no doubting that this game came at a time when WWF (now WWE) wrestling arguably hit its last major peak – in the Smackdown era.
Featuring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson at the height of his popularity in the squared circle – just before he rocketed into the mainstream by moving away from wrestling and into Hollywood blockbusters – and a versatile suite of customisation options (even allowing players to create movesets) alongside a story mode and robust multiplayer bouts, it’s not difficult to see why WWF Smackdown! 2 is such a fondly remembered title, even if it’s inclusion in this list may be a tad controversial.
8. Tekken 2 (1996)
The first Tekken was an absolute technical tour-de-force upon arrival in arcades in 1994.
Though not the first fighting game to feature fully 3D characters (hello, Sega’s Virtua Fighter!), it joined the fray with a great deal of flair and an unparalleled fluidity (being twice the frame rate of Sega’s game).
Being developed on PlayStation-based hardware (Namco’s System 11 arcade board) meant that it was easily ported to the home and it became a massive, early hit for Sony’s console.
The sequel was an arcade smash in 1995 and came to the PlayStation in 1996, with an impressive array of bonus modes and features that added significant value even for players who’d already played the arcade version to death. Some say it’s one of the best PS1 games for those a fan of fighting games.
7. Gundam Battle Assault 2 (2002)
Strangely, this entry in the Gundam Battle Assault series was only released in North America and Europe, skipping Japan entirely on its original release, but these didn’t stop the masses from snagging one of the best PS1 fighting games of all time.
It came pretty late into the PS1’s lifespan and utilised a pseudo-3D pixel art for its mech characters, along with polygonal 3D backgrounds.
The sense of controlling a huge, lumbering machine was well done and the colourful style of the Gundam cartoons gave it a bold, colourful look.
For fans of Gundam, the large roster of characters was taken from a few different shows, meaning that no matter who your favourite mech was, it was almost certain to be included.
6. Capcom vs SNK Pro (2002)
Both Capcom and SNK were duking it out to be king of the fighting game genre in arcades and home consoles during the 90s, yet the two companies were able to put their differences aside and settle the matter once and for all in the only arena that mattered: a fighting game!
For fighting game aficionados, the Capcom vs SNK games were an absolute dream come true.
With 30 characters available, chosen from the enormous selection of personalities that both companies had at their disposal, it may not have had a massively comprehensive list, but there was plenty to keep players busy.
Though regarded as the ‘worst’ version of the game – with the original arcade title and a Dreamcast port available – it was still hugely playable despite the chopper animation and less impressively rendered, but still gorgeous, pixel art.
5. Dead or Alive (1998)
The original Dead or Alive courted attention and controversy – along with quite a bit of ridicule – for its exaggerated physics, most notably the endlessly jiggling breasts that the female combatants were endowed with.
Yet despite this tacky exterior, Dead or Alive was a solid, hugely enjoyable fighting game.
The title’s popularity led to five sequels, a number of spin-offs (such as Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, which has an even more obvious focus on the female form – and has become a series in its own right) and even a live action movie, DOA: Dead or Alive, back in 2006.
4. Bushido Blade (1997)
Probably the most unique and realistic game on this list, Bushido Blade is a fighting game that – sequel aside – still has few peers.
A one- on-one fighting game that takes place in 3D arenas, at first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s very little to set it apart from other games of the era.
Yet there’s no health bars or time limit in Bushido Blade – which features a well-implemented, very clever mechanic called the ‘Body Damage System’.
This allows players to target different parts of their enemy’s body, critically wounding or even disabling them in a variety of ways depending on where they’re hit.
It makes for tense, tactical bouts that are miles from the over the top, combos-and-pyrotechnics laden fighting games that usually populate the genre.
3. Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1999)
Despite falling prey to the aforementioned distaste for pixel art in its day, Street Fighter Alpha 3 was a critical and commercial success outside of the finicky fashion victims in the PS1 critical circles.
The joke’s on them now of course: 2D pixel art still looks beautiful and hasn’t aged a day, whereas time has most definitely not been kind to the awkward 3D graphics of the era.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 was an excellent iteration of the Street Fighter sub series and one of the best Street Fighter games out there. It’s packed with a great roster of fighters and a selection of ‘isms’, which allowed players to choose a moveset that fit their playstyle.
Though it suffered a little in being ported from the impressive, cutting edge arcade title to the then-aging PlayStation hardware, Street Fighter Alpha 3 was nonetheless a huge success on the PS1, going on to sell 1 million copies.
2. Battle Arena Toshinden (1995)
So, what’s number two on our best PS1 fighting games list?
With the distinction of being the very first PlayStation game I ever saw in action, way back in the mid-90s, it’s fair to say that Battle Arena Toshinden turned heads upon release. This is a great showcase for the 3D capabilities of Sony’s first console.
It looked and felt leagues ahead of anything available for home consoles at the time, a massive step up even from the likes of the 2D fighters that were all the rage back then.
Though few would argue that it’s among the very best fighting games from the point of view of its mechanics, there’s no denying the impact that Battle Arena Toshinden had on the home fighting game scene, even if it was a definite case of style over substance.
1. Tekken 3 (1998)
Though, from a purist’s perspective, the Street Fighter titles were arguably the better fighting games. there’s no denying the huge popularity, incredibly impressive (in their day at least) visuals and great gameplay found in the Tekken series.
Tekken 3 took the series to ever greater heights; arguably to its peak. The PlayStation version even featured a side scrolling beat ‘em up called Tekken Force and a further, volleyball-esque mode called Tekken Ball.
With 8 million copies sold (an absolutely enormous amount in its day), Tekken 3 stands proudly as the overall fifth best selling PlayStation game. It’s still highly regarded as one of the best fighting games of all time.
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Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.