Street Fighter: The History of the Classic Arcade Game

5 min readJun 28, 2021


Credit: Capcom

What is it about Street Fighter that made it stand the test of time?

As one of the classic arcade games, Street Fighter has a special place in fans’ hearts. You might reminisce on a simpler time; turning on the SNES and slotting that Street Fighter 2 cartridge into the console. The nostalgia of those 16bit graphics and synthesised music really gets you pumped to beat your mates. Gaming doesn’t get much better than that.

Today, however, we remember Street Fighter as a timeless classic that has survived many ages in video game history — the question is, what is it about this simple game that has captured so many hearts and minds?

The original arcade machine

An arcade novelty

Street Fighter got its first start in 1987 as a lone arcade machine that came in two different versions. One machine featured the standard six-button set — perfect for bashing — while the other had players pushing pressure-sensitive pads to control attacks. In a genius innovation, the harder you pressed the pads, the more damage you’d do. This was later removed from arcades for obvious reasons — what were they thinking?

The game captured the simplicity of 1v1 game styles with its limited but charming graphics, chiptune music and the choice of just two characters — Ryu or Ken. With the arcade market expanding into the home, Street Fighter was later ported to the PC in Japan and the TurboGrafx-CD in North America. It saw some popularity, but nothing compared to what was to come.

Credit: Capcom

Street Fighter 2: changing the game

In 1991, Street Fighter 2 arrived on the scene in arcades across Japan and North America before being ported to home consoles just a year later. It quickly became an iconic piece of gaming history, as the first fighting game to feature combos. Players could now pull off more complicated moves with a quick ‘down forward punch’ or the ‘back down forward punch’. It’s no wonder it is considered one of the greatest games of all time today.

The sequel ramped up the hype by having a whopping eight characters to choose from, with each having their own unique abilities, attacks and animations. One of these kick ass characters included Chun-Li, one of the first successful female protagonists in gaming history. On top of this, the game itself was the first game to be released on a 16-bit cartridge — itself a huge technological development.

Street Fighter 2’s unique style and simple 1v1 structure left an impression on gaming as a whole, creating fond memories and fuel for sentimentality in later years. It’s safe to say that the phrase ‘Hadouken’ triggers nostalgia like no other. This sequel brought about a sort of gaming renaissance, influencing modern fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Injustice and Super Smash Brothers.

Credit: Capcom

The legacy of Street Fighter

So how do you follow the greatest fighting game of all time? Capcom continued with the series and still have a modest catalogue of popular games today. The latest addition to the series, Street Fighter V, was released in 2016 — but receives regular updates. Things have moved on since Ryu and Ken, this instalment includes a roster of forty kick ass characters!

In a testament to its popularity, a multitude of anime, manga and live-action adaptations have sprung from the series. Street Fighter has become a household name, easily recognizable through its soundtrack and pop culture references — Zangief even made an appearance in a Disney movie!

And nostalgia continues to fuel the success of Street Fighter V. In 2019, an update brought the classic Kapukon Yu Stage back from Street Fighter II. Fans had been begging Capcom to reinstate the classic backdrop, and the creators listened. This relationship might go some of the way to explaining the ongoing success of the game.

Credit: ESPN Esports — Mike Begum

eSports and EVO

Street Fighter hit the eSports scene the same year Street Fighter 2 came out with the creation of the Evolution Championship Series (EVO). It started as a ‘forty man Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Street Fighter Alpha 2 tournament’, and nearly 25 years later the tournaments are still going on strong. Capcom were so far ahead of the game, they basically invented eSports decades before anyone else.

These tournaments brought talented gamers to the spotlight, one of them being Daigo Umehara, holder of the Guinness World Record for “most successful player in major tournaments for Street Fighter”. Another honourable mention is Mike Begum, a man who doesn’t let his disability hold him back from enjoying his games. Mike ranks as number 378 on the world leaderboard, using only his mouth to operate the controller! It’s a pretty impressive, inspiring stat.

With Street Fighter’s success in eSports, Capcom established their own eSports tournament — Capcom Pro Tour (CPT) — a premier league that has seen steady viewership over the years. This isn’t limited to the best of the best; players from around the globe are free to enter and try their luck in over thirty-two online events.

It’s no surprise that Street Fighter has stood the test of time; with its dedicated fan base and strong pop-cultural influence — not to mention the continued, well-received additions to the series. We’re excited to see the next installation and hope to see the biggest fighter roster yet.




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