We recently passed the 30th anniversary of the Street Fighter franchise, which is an impressive milestone for a series that is not only still active but still among gaming's most popular. While the original game kind of came and went without much attention or fanfare, Capcom still saw potential in the concept and some of its characters and decided to give the Street Fighter team another chance. The result was one of the most accurate possible uses of the phrase, "...and the rest is history."
Though the most recent SF game has the title of Street Fighter V, we all know that that doesn't mean there have only been five entries. Beginning with Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, the series began a tradition of incremental upgrades rather than going straight to full-fledged sequels. There are more separate games that fall within the Street Fighter II sub-series than there are entries in many entire game franchises. Between that, and spin-offs like Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter EX, there have actually been over two dozen different SF games released over the years that can be justifiably considered individual installments.
For this list, we tried to strike a balance between how good a game was for its time, and how good it is in retrospect as compared to subsequent entries. In addition, for games that had upgrades that weren't quite worthy of being their own entry— such as Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold or Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix— we considered the quality of those upgrades when considering how to tank the anchor title in this list.
23 Street Fighter: The Movie
While pretty universally despised at the time of its release, the Street Fighter live-action movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme has since been slightly embraced for its camp value and the delightfully over-the-top performance of Raul Julia as M. Bison.
The same can't be said for this game based on that film, opting to go the Mortal Kombat route of digitizing real people for the in-game characters only without any of of MK's fun or playability. This spent years being the worst thing to bear the Street Fighter name...that is, until the utterly dreadful Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.
22 Street Fighter (Fighting Street)
If it weren't for its sequel going on to become one of the most popular games of all time, the original Street Fighter— sometimes ported to home systems as Fighting Street— is a game that nobody would've talked about again after 1989.
Capcom spent years trying to quietly pretend this game didn't exist, refusing to re-release it or include it on early SF and Capcom collections. They have since relented, which is good since everyone should give Street Fighter a shot— if only to see how lucky we are that Capcom actually let them make a sequel to it.
21 Street Fighter EX3
Not long after Street Fighter II made tournament fighting games into one of the hottest genres in gaming, developers started to bring fighting games into the third dimension. And, after seeing the massive success of games like Tekken and Virtua Fighter, Capcom decided SF needed a 3D spin-off series.
The novelty of the EX series began to wear off with the third installment, and, coupled with it going up against the next generation of 3D fighters that included Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive 2, EX3 felt a bit like a dinosaur and was the last of the EX games for good reason.
20 Street Fighter X Tekken
We may never get to see the Street Fighter vs Mortal Kombat game that we've been dreaming about for 20 years— but after playing Street Fighter X Tekken, maybe that's a good thing. There isn't anything especially bad about SFXT, but it just never really comes together as a coherent blending of the two franchises.
They would've been better off copying how Dead or Alive integrated Virtua Fighter and just had some Tekken characters be added to SFIV's roster. Will we ever actually see the long-promised Tekken X Street Fighter? And do we even still want to?
19 Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
Here it is, the granddaddy of this entire list— sorry, SF1, you're more like the weird uncle. It can't be overstated the impact SFII had on the entire video game industry, almost single-handedly inventing a genre and reviving the arcade scene for years to come.
Still, putting its place in history aside, SFII just can't stand up to most of its successors. From not being able to play as the bosses, the lack of mirror matches, and just its slower overall gameplay, there really hasn't been much reason to revisit vanilla SFII since Champion Edition and Turbo were released.
18 Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers
We thought we were done getting new updates to Street Fighter II once SFIII was released, but never underestimate Capcom's ability to milk every last drop out of their cash cows. Switch exclusive Ultra Street Fighter II is definitely a great game, but its new features are minimal and arbitrary.
The only "new" character Ultra SFII brings to the table is Violent Ken, which is a definite reach to call a new character. But all the classic fighters are there, and can be played either through classic sprites or via their HD Remix versions. Just don't touch that first-person mode!
17 Street Fighter EX
The first installment of just about every 3D fighting game franchise— Tekken, Dead or Alive, Virtua Fighter, Soul Blade/Edge, and so on— tends to be almost instantly made obsolete with its first sequel. Street Fighter EX has aged the worst of any of its 3D fighting game peers.
But putting aside how dated it is, SF EX was much better than it often gets credit for, doing the whole "2.5D" thing years before SFIV did and actually introducing some interesting characters that have unfairly been forever trapped in the EX games. Free Skullomania!
16 Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams
As the story goes, Capcom saw Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie and really liked the way the film reinterpreted the looks of the characters— buffer Sagat, curvier Chun-Li, less Mike Tyson-ish Balrog, and so on— and wanted to see them used in video games. But instead of waiting for SFIII, they decided to create the first major SF spin-off: Street Fighter Alpha (or Zero in Japan).
The original Alpha feels a little rough around the edges compared to its sequels, but it's still a solid fighter that introduced mechanics that would eventual become mainstays of the core SF series.
15 Street Fighter III: The New Generation
For awhile, it seemed as though we might never actually see a true "third" Street Fighter game and would instead just get updates to and spin-offs of Street Fighter II until the end of time. Some even wondered if Street Fighter Alpha was going to just take over as the new mainline SF series.
We eventually got Street Fighter III, and it... wasn't quite what we were expecting. From its bizarre new characters to its complicated mechanics, it took gamers awhile to warm up to the brilliance of SFIII. Luckily, adding more familiar faces to its updates helped to win fans back.
14 Street Fighter V
Capcom took its time planning out Street Fighter III, wanting to ensure it felt significantly fresh, different, and worthy of being a true sequel. This set the precedent of each newly-numbered SF sequel being something truly special— a precedent that Street Fighter V failed to live up to.
Street Fighter V is by no means a bad game, but it just feels too much like another update to Street Fighter IV, doing little to really shake up that game's looks or mechanics. It also somehow looks a little worse than SFIV from an art direction standpoint.
13 X-Men Vs Street Fighter
These days, major crossover fighting games aren't a big deal anymore— once Mario and Sonic appeared in a fighting game together, nothing was ever going to shock us again in that regard. But it was still a novelty when X-Men Vs Street Fighter was announced, feeling more like a made-up game brainstormed by fifth graders at recess than an actual retail product.
What would eventually become its own "Vs" franchise hit its popularity peak with the masterpiece Marvel Vs Capcom 2, but this first attempt is still a fun celebration of two of the 1990s' biggest brands.
12 Street Fighter EX2
The Street Fighter EX series never quite found a huge audience, being successful enough to justify two sequels and various updates but still falling far short of most of its competitors in the 3D fighting game space.
EX2 is definitely the high point of the series, and the one that comes closest to making the franchise a legitimate contender in the genre. If there was ever a point when this series could've turned a corner to compete with the likes of Tekken, EX2 was at the cusp of it. Unfortunately, EX3 was a disappointment and the series never recovered.
11 Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers
After what seemed like two dozen different updates to Street Fighter II that mostly had gameplay and mechanical tweaks, Super Street Fighter II finally took the step of actually adding all-new characters to the roster for the first time.
To be fair, opinion on the four new challengers was mixed, and only Cammy seems to have really grown into a fan-favorite character in the ensuing years. But finally getting some new fighters was still exciting, and this game would lay the groundwork for the game that has a pretty good shot at topping this list.
10 Street Fighter IV
As previously discussed, the Street Fighter EX series has its fans but it was largely seen as a disposable 3D spin-off to the "real" series. So when it was announced that the long-awaited fourth numbered installment in the SF series was dropping sprites in favor or polygons, fans were definitely worried.
Turns out those doubts were unfounded, as Street Fighter IV proved to be every bit as fast and fluid as its 2D predecessors— thanks to the gameplay remaining purely in the 2D realm— and did what hadn't been done since Street Fighter II: made the SF franchise a massive crossover phenomenon again.
9 Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact
Anyone who was ready to write off Street Fighter III after its initial installment clearly forgot about how much the Street Fighter II "series" improved and evolved from its first version. 2nd Impact demonstrated that Capcom learned from the mistakes of its predecessor and got much closer to delivering the Street Fighter sequel fans had been wanting for years.
And since we didn't get to it in the entry on vanilla SFIII, it bears mentioning that all versions of SFIII are absolutely gorgeous and contain sprite work and 2D animation that few games have topped in the last 20 years.
8 Ultra Street Fighter IV
We'll be getting to Super Street Fighter IV farther down the list, as it is— spoiler alert— the best version of SFIV. And while Ultra was an improvement over the original, it just didn't do enough to justify itself as a full-fledged successor to Super.
Character-wise, Ultra added four characters that previously appeared in SF X Tekken, as well as new character Decapre. The big gameplay tweaks were the introduction of Red Focus and delayed wake-ups, and the removal of unblockable set-ups. All nice changes, but not enough that couldn't have just been accomplished via patches and DLC for Super.
7 Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter
Look, there's no denying that the eventual evolution to Marvel Vs Capcom is where this sub-series really came into its own. And this half-step between X-Men vs Street Fighter and Marvel Vs Capcom felt a bit superfluous, especially in retrospect.
At the end of the day, though, Marvel Vs Street Fighter is a blast despite the lack of non-SF Capcom characters that would become a defining feature of later games. In fact, purists argue that this last dedicated SF-centric entry in the Vs series was more about pure fighting and less about the novelty of getting to play as Mega Man or Jill Valentine.
6 Street Fighter Alpha 2
The first Street Fighter Alpha felt kind of like a fun, anime-inspired spin-off to the SF games that nobody would've mourned if it had been a one-off. But with Alpha 2, this eventual trilogy proved it was a legitimate contender.
It even surpassed the mainline Street Fighter series in various ways. Alpha 2 Gold in particular is easily superior to most standard SF games, and is still cherished for being the last pure Alpha game before the series would become a bit more "mainstream" with Alpha 3.
5 Street Fighter II' Turbo: Hyper Fighting
As we were going through the SFII games one at a time, we didn't realize what needed to be improved upon until that next version hit. But it wasn't until the second major revision— it goes by various names depending on the port, but we'll just call it Hyper for brevity's sake— that everything finally clicked into place.
Hyper not only sped things up but introduced the first significant gameplay tweaks the series had seen, polishing up the core mechanics and laying the groundwork for what we'd come to expect from these fighters— and SF in general— for years to come.
4 Super Street Fighter IV
Street Fighter IV almost single-handedly revived the fighting game scene, which, in the years before its release, was barely limping along and was only really being appreciated by the most dedicated of fighting game aficionados.
Naturally, its success meant that we got the usual succession of upgrades big and small, but the definitive SFIV version remains Super Street Fighter IV. New characters (but not too many) and significant tweaks (but without messing with the formula too much), Super SFIV remains the gold standard for modern fighting games as a whole.
3 Street Fighter Alpha 3
Hardcore Alpha fans might have felt as though Alpha 3 tried too hard to appeal to everyone via its selectable Isms and its huge roster of returning favorites from the mainline series (especially in the home ports). But they need to get over it— a great game is a great game, and Alpha 3 is a really great game.
Sometimes, a series ends because developers know the last installment just can't be topped— and that feels like the case with Alpha 3, a nearly-perfect game would be almost impossible to improve upon.
2 Street Fighter III: Third Strike
Fun fact: the adage "third time's the charm" was coined after someone played SFIII: Third Strike and saw that it finally fulfilled the promise of the SFIII series. Okay, so that's a lie... but it's hard to think of an example that better-illustrates that classic phrase.
Everything just came together for Third Strike: the roster, the mechanics, and the visuals, all culminating in a game that, for the first time ever, felt like it could've taken the crown as best SF game. And it got awfully close, except...
1 Super Street Fighter II Turbo
...except that there probably won't be any fighting game that ever tops Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Everything that makes the SF series great is not only accounted for here, but at its best. Coupled with the breathtaking HD Remix version that almost trumps SFIII's visuals, and Capcom has every reason to consider this game their masterpiece.
There aren't many video games from the mid-'90s that can be considered timeless and every bit as playable today as they were the day they were released, but Super SFII Turbo definitely falls under that umbrella.