Fighting games have been one of the communities all-time favourite genres for decades now, with Street Fighter and the likes establishing a world class reputation and paving the way for others for generations to come. The problem that sprouts from that fact is that hundreds, if not thousands of hidden gems in this day and age are left scrapping for the centre stage. And with Tekken, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter basically hogging the limelight with their next-level chapters and loyal followings, those underdogs can often be left behind the curtain.
We've been weaving through the catalogue in search of some of the best fighting games on the underground scene. And while some may be globally recognised in certain regions — the global audience has yet to get a taster. So, if you're on the prowl for something fresh and completely out of your comfort zone — then allow us to introduce you to these hidden fighting gems.
5. Blade Strangers
Although we've all heard of Super Smash Bros. and its renowned roster of crossover characters, only few have tuned in to Blade Strangers, an equally as exciting 2D fighting game that also puts toes into multiple franchise pools. And let me tell you — if you're new to the fighting genre and only wish to have a place to hone your skills, then this is probably the stage to practice on. That's because, unlike some of the more elite entries out on the market, Blade Strangers instead channels your inner rookie status, tutoring you to evolve and obliterate future opponents.
Stitching together characters from six different franchises, Blade Strangers assembles one memorable cast of unique heroes, all of which come with their original moves and abilities. From Cave Story to The Binding of Isaac, Code of Princess to Shovel Knight, you'll wrap your head around layer after layer of local talent, building your knowledge base in preparation of the big fight.
4. Rivals of Aether
We've all played our share of Nintendo fighting games, sure — but what we haven't spent a great deal of time with is the lesser-known fighters on the market, mainly ones that fail to strike an immediate chord after glossing over the original line-up. And while we're all guilty of scrolling past a genuine nugget of joy every once in a while, we are somewhat capable of fishing them out years down the line.
Take this one, for example. Rivals of Aether, developed by one incredibly talented dude, was perhaps one of the greatest gems that slyly snuck under our radar back in 2015. With its original style and roster, snappy combat and addictive nature, it probably should've appeared a little higher on our to-to list after launch rolled around. But alas, it's still going strong on the Switch front — and we definitely think you should give it a whirl if you're in the area.
3. Them's Fightin' Herds
When we think of fighting games in a nutshell — we don't automatically weave the likes of My Little Pony with its violent nature. And yet, here we are, staring down the bottle of perhaps the strangest fighting game ever created. A compelling fighting game, of course — but strange. So very, very strange. But let's shed a little light on this unusual masterpiece.
Them's Fightin' Herds was originally supposed to be a fan made game as part of the My Little Pony franchise, with many of the chatcaters pulled directly from the children's series itself. And yet, after a whole lot of tweaking, that charming little fighter somehow escalated into an all-powerful platform of unhinged destruction. Admittedly, we didn't know what to do with it once it landed — but we welcomed it like a long lost relative anyway A weird and distant relative, twice removed. Maybe thrice.
2. Dong Dong Never Die
Speaking of strange, it seems only right that we include Dong Dong Never Die, which is hands down the weirdest game you'll probably ever play in your career. But the video above doesn't really do it any justice, as it pretty much looks like an ecstasy-fuelled homemade recording brewed from a basement somewhere. Gameplay-wise, however, Dong Dong Never Die actually had a few quality ingredients. I just don't think the creators even knew what they had in their hands until fans opened their palms for them to reveal the gold enveloped within.
Dong Dong Never Die is the type of game you'd pick up from a bargain bin on a Sunday afternoon, curious to know how such an unusual concoction ever made it to the shelves. Once booted up, however, you quickly realise that there's more to it than its ludicrous design and laughable roster of characters. Turns out, it's actually a quality game with plenty to adore, with enough to keep you stepping back to relive it time and time again.
1. Vanguard Princess
Don't let the anime style fool you. Vanguard Princess is much harder than one might expect — almost doubling the difficulty of our first mentioned Blade Strangers. And to add to that statement, Vanguard Princess was actually built from the same hammer that constructed the likes of Resident Evil 3 and The King of Fighters EX: Neo Blood. So, definitely not your run-of-the-mill rookie fighting simulator, that's for sure.
With that said, Vanguard Princess is still a welcoming entry to the fighting genre, with plenty of assistance to guide new players through its enchanting world. It's also something that holds up today, despite being well over a decade old and released on outdated operating systems. But then, if you're seriously into the doujinshi world, then this one is pretty timeless.
Are there any fighting games you think we should've mentioned? Let us know over on our socials here.
Looking for more? You could always take a look at one of these lists:
Have you grown a llittle weary of Mortal Kombat? Looking for a fresh fighting game to feast on this weekend? Why not try one of these five