While Street Fighter is a legendary franchise today, with some of the largest eSports tournaments behind it, it’s interesting looking back on the early days of arcade gaming. Consoles brought Street Fighter to the living room, but the arcade days hold plenty of nostalgic memories for those that lived it.
In this article, we’re going to examine how Street Fighter influenced not only arcade gaming, but the entire fighting game industry.
The development of Street Fighter
The original Street Fighter made its arcade debut in 1987, and was designed by Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto. They took a lot of inspiration from popular martial arts films, such as Enter the Dragon, as well as side scrolling beat-em-up games like Karate Champ, Kung-Fu Master, and Yie Ar Kung Fu.
In the original SF, players could only take control of Ryu, and fight their way through the single-player tournament. A second player could also control Ken Masters, in 2P versus mode. Players had 3 types of punches and kicks, as well as three special attacks. Takashi Nishiyama credits the 1970s anime Space Battleship Yamato with inspiring the Hadouken fireball.
A few of the original characters in Street Fighter would be reworked into new characters in future titles, some have never appeared again, while others were given larger roles in the franchise. Mike in SF1 inspired Balrog in SF2, while Geki inspired Vega, as examples of reworked characters. Other names like Sagat, Adon, and Gen played larger roles in the Street Fighter universe over the series timeline.
Street Fighter was somewhat popular in arcades, but Capcom couldn’t quite capitalize on the versus fighting genre yet. It was a very different time from when you could hop online and play Friv games in a browser, with dozens of titles like Short Life and Shell Shockers just a click away. After failing to brand beat’em up game Final Fight in 1989 as the Street Fighter sequel, development on Street Fighter II began, and that’s when things really took off.
Street Fighter II: Hyper Turbo Champion World Warrior
Street Fighter II exploded onto the arcade scene in 1991, and came at a really interesting time. The arcade industry had been on a bit of decline through the late 80s until 1990. Home consoles like Nintendo’s NES were competing with arcade goers, leading to a drop in arcade attendance. Today, the arcade industry is practically a novelty, and gamers can just find tons of free .io games to play at CrazyGames, or play a game on their mobile phone while out and about.
When Street Fighter II launched, it pumped life into the arcade industry by pioneering the one-on-one versus fighting game, giving players an entire roster of characters to choose from. Over 60,000 units were sold, and with total coin revenue worldwide estimated to be around $5.11 billion USD, from 1991 to 1993.
As with anything that has any amount of success in the game industry, numerous clones, knockoffs, and companies looking to get on the fighting game train were hot behind Street Fighter II. A great many forgettable fighting games were released in the early 90s, although some like Mortal Kombat and Fatal Fury had unique differences, and spun into their own franchises.
Arcades were cool again as players plunked billions of dollars into machines throughout the early 90s, and fighting game releases on home consoles sparked their own console wars. In that era, without internet and game patches / DLC, updates to games would be released as entirely new versions. Hence we would see Street Fighter II Hyper, The New Challengers, and Turbo editions, keeping the franchise alive with new characters and bug fixes.
The fighting game genre has evolved so much over the years, but Street Fighter has always remained relevant. The franchise has its gems, like Street Fighter III: Third Strike, and its forgettable titles, like Street Fighter Alpha 1, like every other game franchise that has lasted decades.
Still though, it’s always worth acknowledging how Street Fighter revolutionised the fighting game genre, and reinvigorated the arcade game industry with new life, at a time when home consoles were taking the life out of it.