The PlayStation (PS1) was a groundbreaking console that brought arcade-quality games to the living room. One of the PS1’s strongest genres was fighting games, and there were many great arcade-quality titles released for the PS1. Many of these fighting games are still a joy to play today, and that’s not just the nostalgia talking.
Before we bring you the top 10 best PS1 fighting games, there are a few things to cover. Firstly, any list of PS1 fighting games this will inevitably be filled with Capcom games, so we tried our best to discuss games from a variety of different publishers. In the same vein, we tried to include a nice mix of both 2D fighting games and 3D fighting games. Without further ado, here’s our top picks in no particular order.
1. Tekken 3
Tekken 3 is a 1998 fighting game developed and published by Namco, and it’s widely considered one of the greatest fighting games on the console. While the core gameplay of Tekken 3 is the same as its predecessors, it brought more polish to the series as well as new content and game modes. The game also introduced some new gameplay mechanics such as dodging and sidestepping. All things considered, it’s the quintessential 3D fighting game on the PS1.
2. Street Fighter Alpha 3
Street Fighter Alpha 3, released for the PlayStation in 1998, is a fantastic entry in the iconic Street Fighter series. The game features a roster of classic fan-favorite characters as well as new fighters like R. Mika and Karin. The game’s 2D graphics are impressive even though it might not stand up to the Dreamcast version. Overall, Street Fighter Alpha 3 is a must-play for fans of the series and fighting games in general.
3. Mortal Kombat Trilogy
Mortal Kombat Trilogy, released for the PlayStation in 1996, contains elements of the three main Mortal Kombat games released previously. While its title is misleading as it’s not technically a compilation, it’s still a solid buy for fans of the series. With its brutal finishing moves, iconic characters, and decent graphics, it’s sure to keep fans of the series engaged for hours on end.
4. Samurai Shodown III
Samurai Shodown is a series of Capcom games that never got as much love in the West as Street Fighter got. Its lone PlayStation entry, Samurai Shodown III, was released in 1996, almost a year after its arcade release. The game showcases the best of traditional Japanese samurai culture, and the gameplay feels the part too. If you’re a sucker for Japanese samurai culture and more obscure fighting games, this game is definitely for you.
5. Battle Arena Toshinden 3
The original Battle Arena Toshinden was a launch title for the console, and it came a long way by the time its third installment was released. If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise, it’s a weapons-based fighting game with an anime-esque style developed by Japanese developer Tamsoft. Battle Arena Toshinden 3 isn’t too difficult to get into and there is a wide variety of characters including plenty of unlockable characters, so you’ll inevitably find one that fits your style.
6. Pocket Fighter
I didn’t want this list to be overwhelmed by Capcom games, but Pocket Fighter is too good not to bring up. This 1997 game features a roster of characters from various Capcom fighting games, namely Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, and Red Earth, who are depicted in a super-deformed chibi-style. The chibi art style of the game is absolutely charming which helps make this game one of the best PS1 fighting games. The gameplay is no slouch either; while the combat isn’t as complex as the typical Street Fighter game, you’ll still find great controls and a surprising amount of depth in this game.
7. King of Fighters ’95
SNK was bound to find itself on this list eventually, and it’s with the 1996 PlayStation release of King of Fighters ’95. The game is the second entry in the King of Fighters series and the first to feature the “team battle” system, where players select a team of three characters to compete against other teams, making this game revolutionary for the series. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll enjoy the walk down memory lane with this classic fighting game.
8. Rival Schools: United by Fate
Rival Schools: United by Fate was a great game for fans of 3D fighting games, and it was probably one of the best 3D fighting games from Capcom for the console (we don’t talk about Street Fighter EX). This 1998 game takes place in a Japanese high school setting and features a roster of student fighters from different schools who must band together to solve a mysterious crisis affecting all of their schools. It’s a decent buy if you can manage to find an affordable copy.
9. Darkstalkers 3
Okay, we promise this is the last Capcom game on the list. Darkstalkers 3 flew onto the PS1 in 1998, and there’s a lot to love about this fighting game, including its horror-themed world and cast of supernatural characters. The game plays very much like other 2D Capcom fighting games, so you more or less know what you’re getting into gameplay-wise.
10. Guilty Gear
The Guilty Gear franchise has come a long way, but it all started way back in 1998 with this PS1 release. This 2D fighting game clearly took heavy influence from Japanese media like manga, which is reflected in the character designs and graphics. If you’re not too distracted by the beautiful hand-drawn artwork, you’ll enjoy the game’s solid fighting mechanics.