These iconic brawlers represent the best of the best.
When it comes to a great fighting game, there is one sure thing that you must have: a fighter who can kick some serious butt as your main protagonist. Headbands, karate gi, and chiseled muscles are also mandatory. Whether it be for revenge, saving the world, or just cementing yourself as the best fighter alive, they’ve got to stand out above the rest. These warriors are the ones we believe fit that category the best. Not just for story reasons, but also their designs, likeability, and accessibility when it comes to both newer and veteran players of their respective franchises. These are some of the fighters that I feel are just a few steps ahead of the rest.
10) Akira Yuki (Virtua Fighter Series)
In terms of appearance, fighting game characters don’t get much more generic than Virtua Fighter’s Akira Yuki. It’s this universal look that gives him his appeal. Not only does it fit his story, but there’s just something about that gi, spiky hair and headband that speaks to us. Akira isn’t there to save the world or anything like that. He only wants to be the best he can be. He began his training in Bajiquan at a young age under the tutelage of his grandfather. Later on, he finished his training at the age of 23 and went on a two-year quest to test his skills. During his journeys, Akira found out about the 1st World Fighting Tournament, where he suffered his first real defeat at the hands of Kage-maru. He then went on to claim victory in the second tournament and afterward continued to hone his skills.
Akira really fits the protagonist role. Not only is he friends and rivals with several members of the game’s cast, but he’s also a pretty easy character to pick up. While not as simple as most protagonists on our list, Mr.Yuki makes it reasonably easy to learn the basics of the games. His stout movements and simple combos make him a natural choice for noobs. What makes him such a memorable character is the amount of love Sega has shown their fighting game poster boy, featuring him in numerous crossover titles including Sonic Racing, Dead or Alive 5 and Fighters Megamix. Akira Yuki stands tall.
9) Haohmaru (Samurai Shodown series)
Modeled after Dororo’s Hyakkimaru and Miyamoto Musashi, this next character is the epitome of a man with samurai spirit. Haohmaru is the sake-loving, katana-wielding main protagonist SNK’s Samurai Shodown franchise. He started his journey at the age of fifteen where he took it upon himself to challenge Jubei Yagyu, and he got his ass handed to him. Impressed by the young boy’s spirit and bravado, Jubei took him to Nicotine Caffeine (what the hell kind of name is that!?). During his training, he also befriends future rival Genjuro Kibagami. After completing his training, Haohmaru begins his journey, challenging strong opponents along the way.
Haohmaru fits that protagonist mold for a few reasons. For one, he’s defeated pretty much every evil boss in the game series. His moveset also applies. He’s got his projectile Ougi Senpuu Retsu Zan (Secret Skill Whirlwind Rending Slash) for zoning, his anti-air Ougi Kogetsu Zan (Secret Skill Arc Moon Slash) for the pesky jumpers, he’s even got overheads, and, in some games, he’ll whack you with his sake flask. Haohmaru really loves his sake.
Overall, Haohmaru is without a doubt one of the great protagonists in fighters to this day.
8) Morrigan Aensland & Demitri Maximoff (Darkstalkers series)
Sexy, confident, conceited, and confident, these are words that best fit our next entry in our list.
Morrigan Aensland is the succulent succubus from the Darkstalkers games. While she does share the protagonist role with resident vampire Demitri Maximoff, she takes our top spot due to being the most recognizable and wide-spread face of the franchise. She’s made appearances in a multitude of games, and while not precisely heroic, she doesn’t mind helping out when the world is in danger (damn you Marvel heroes stop screwing stuff up for everyone else). Morrigan’s fighting style is pretty shoto-like. She has fireballs, anti-air uppercuts, a cross-screen attack, and is pretty straightforward in her approach.
To be kind here, we’re going to give Demitri a little love since he’s also a protagonist of the series. Sharing in Morrigan’s shoto-style similarities, he’s another protagonist who doesn’t quite fit the typical nice guy persona. He views himself as superior to anyone, and that confidence earned him a crushing defeat and banishment from Makai by its then ruler Belial Aensland. However, learning from that failure helped him grow as a warrior.
After 100 years of regaining his strength and feasting on humans, Demitri not only grew in power but was able to take down and devour Pyron. Too bad he didn’t get his revenge on the Aensland clan as he was sucked into Jedah Doma’s homeworld before he got the chance. These two are pretty fun characters to play with, and both have a simplistic, straightforward playstyle for pros and beginners alike.
7) Siegfried Schtauffen (SoulCalibur series)
There are a few characters who could lay claim to the title of the protagonist in the SoulCalibur series, but none have a stronger right to that honor than Siegfried. As the character whose life was most affected by the evil sword Soul Edge, Sieg certainly has endured his fair share of trials and tribulations. In his youth, he was a brash yet well-skilled swordsman thanks to the training he received from his father, Frederick. Later on, Siegfried began to hang with a group of “edgy” teens, and they formed the band of thieves known as Schwarzwind. One night they went to rob a band of war-weary soldiers, and Siegfried fought and killed there commander. Too bad their leader happened to be dear old Dad.
Afterward, Siegfried’s mind shattered to the point that he had convinced himself he wasn’t responsible for his father’s death. Instead, the wielder of Soul Edge was.
Fast forward: the young knight would happen upon not only the sword but also the corpse of Cervantes, who had been defeated earlier by Taki and Sophitia. Then the nightmare began. After defeating Inferno and claiming Soul Edge, Siegfried became overcome by its immense power. Once consumed, Siegfried was no more, and Nightmare had claimed his body for his own. Eventually, he was able to free himself and become the wielder of Soul Calibur, the benevolent counterpart to the wicked Soul Edge, and ultimately defeat a now-resurrected Nightmare to gain redemption.
Siegfried’s moveset isn’t quite like most protagonists where they are simple to grasp. He has multiple stances, and heavy blows make for a multitude of tricky ways to evade then strike. Additionally, he’s also one of the slowest characters in the game. Mainstays like Mitsurugi are more suited for newcomers. Nevertheless, Siegfried will forever be the protagonist of the games — at least in our hearts.
6) Jin Kazama (Tekken series)
Jin Kazama is the son of former Tekken protagonist Kazuya Mishima and Jun Kazama. First appearing in Tekken 3, he has somewhat stereotypical main protagonist design thanks to his spiky hair and distant yet caring demeanor. Jin is always willing to put himself in danger for both friends and rivals and packs a whole lot of butt-kicking potential to boot.
Now for his backstory. Jin has had it kind of rough. First being raised by his mother Jun, his life was turned upside down when Tekken 3‘s big green baddie Ogre murdered her. From there he finds his grandfather, gets taught Mishima-Ryu karate mixed with his mothers fighting style, gets shot, turns into a devil, and well, the crazy Tekken story begins. From Tekken 4 on to current titles, Jin’s sole focus is to rid the world of his cursed bloodline, though he does act as a somewhat antagonist in Tekken 6.
In later titles, Jin’s style transitions into more traditional karate, and that’s why he’s on this list. This change makes him insanely easy to pick up and play. Jin’s accessibility gets pretty straightforward in the later games making him an excellent option for beginners. His powerful punches, sneaky lows, and insane damage potential make him deadly in the hands of more experienced players as well as fun and user-friendly for rookies. While he does lack fireballs and other staples akin to protagonists in most fighting games, his approachability when it comes to easy mix-ups makes him one tough S.O.B to bring down. And Don’t even get me started on his alternate form, Devil Jin.
5) Liu Kang (Mortal Kombat series)
When it comes to the defense of Earthrealm, you can always count on good ole Liu Kang to kick ass and save the day. The protagonist and winner of the first four Mortal Kombat tournaments (only two in the retcon), the immortal champion has reigned supreme as one of the most notable protagonists in fighting games to date. Modeled after the legendary Bruce Lee, he was trained by the White Lotus Clan ensuring his martial arts skills are second to none. I mean the guy beat Shang Tsung, Shao Kahn, and Shinnok — a freaking god! Being a descendant of the great Kung Lao, Liu Kang has a legacy like no other. While recent incarnations of the character have had taken on a villainous role, there’s no denying the heroic actions taken by Liu Kang.
His ease of use is another appealing factor. Someone created to be accessible even to your parents, Liu Kang boasts high speed and acrobatics while having some of the most simplistic and straightforward combos.
4) Sol Badguy (Guilty Gear series)
Frederick Bulsara, better known as Sol Badguy, is a protagonist like no other. Overpowered doesn’t even begin to describe this man. Sol was one of the lead scientists involved in the gear project and the first prototype gear ever. After managing to escape the lab, he worked to find a way to revert himself to his human form which led to the creation of his signature headband. Far from a hair accessory, in reality, it’s a limiter to help keep his power in check.
From that point forward, Sol’s sole mission became the destruction of all Gears so that they may never be used for war. He earned the nickname “Badguy” for wrecking several gear factories and avoiding detection by authorities. Eventually, he joins the Holy Order where he meets future rival and friend Ky Kiske. Sol ultimately does save the day, defeating many of the series protagonists and fathering a child along the way (Hi Dizzy).
Sol has everything you could ask for when it comes to his playstyle. He’s got overheads, lows, anti-airs and can stick to your opponent like Gorilla glue. Sol can play zoner or rushdown depending on your tastes. His accessible moveset, versatility, and long reach make him fun to play for newer players and a monster of sheer destruction in the hands of more advanced players.
Creator Daisuke Ishiwatari designed Sol to reflect his alter ego in many ways, proving how much the character means to the series.
3) Terry Bogard (Fatal Fury series)
When almost every single one of your moves have “POWAH!” yelled out before you release a wave or punch, you may just have the touch, you may just have the power, you may just be Terry Bogard. This American-born icon of awesomeness made his first appearance in 1991’s Fatal Fury: King of Fighters. Since then, he’s established himself as one of the genre’s most prolific characters. Whether he’s got a long, flowing ponytail, or a brown bomber Jacket, Mr. Bogard is a force to be reckoned with. Terry is pretty much motivated by revenge against Southtown’s resident baddie Geese Howard for the murder of his father, Jeff Bogard. After defeating Geese, Rudolph Krauser, and many others Terry eventually finds and raises Geese’s son Rock Howard (why Rock I’ll never know).
Terry and his brother Andy were trained in the martial arts Hakkyokuseiken by their master Tung Fu Rue. He’s also proficient in boxing, kickboxing, kung fu, karate, and good old fashioned street brawling. With his ability to gather chi he can unleash devastating attacks. His playstyle is pretty straightforward imploring his multiple styles of martial arts. He’s essentially a shoto character utilizing zoning and stage control but still pretty basic to use.
2) Kyo Kusanagi (The King of Fighters series)
Bad attitude, pyrokinesis, tight-fitting leather jacket, headband (sometimes), and a willingness to save his friends, Kyo Kusanagi has it all. This bad boy is the face of SNK’s King of Fighters franchise. He made an impact in King of Fighters 94, his first appearance, and has gained steam ever since. First appearing as the prototypical Japanese delinquent, Kyo hides a noble heart behind his image. Hailing from a clan who, along with the Yasakani clan, sealed the snake entity Orochi
1,800 years before the events of the game.
Kyo eventually finds his way into the King of Fighters tournament where he finally defeats Rugal “I’m gonna Genocide Cut You To Death” Bernstein (I hate that guy).
Kyo’s design has changed over the years, but one thing remains certain: he’s a certified badass. Adding flames to all of his moves, Kyo fits right into that simple and straightforward character role, allowing beginners to get the hang of what KOF has to offer.
1) Ryu (Street Fighter series)
I mean honestly, who else could it be? Ryu is the epitome of a fighting game protagonist. This guy isn’t in the tournaments for money, fame, or revenge. He only wants to be the very best (like no one ever was). And ya know what? He is. Ryu has a knack for beating impossible odds, and, like any good fighting game player, improves himself after every fight. He’s even got the whole Star Wars thing going for him (we all know you are his father, Akuma).
Ryu, along with his best friend and fiercest rival Ken Masters, were taught Ansatsuken by their master Gouken. This martial arts allows Ryu to shoot fireballs or the Hadouken from his hands, spin kick continually across the screen with his Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, and uppercut the living crap out of anyone with his Shoryuken. When you’ve pretty much-beaten everything and everyone standing in front of you, it’s safe to say you’ve established that you must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance against him.
So did any of your favorite warriors of truth and badassery make the cut? Are there any protagonists you feel deserve mention? Well, don’t be shy. Leave us a comment in the section below and let us know who you think should be on this list.