Despite being around for decades, fighting games have always been criticized for not having a compelling single-player component. Over the years, every single aspect of fighting games has been improved: the netcode became faster, character rosters became bigger and mechanics became more convoluted. But the single-player modes were relegated and if you didn’t have anyone to play with or if you’re internet connection was bad, you were forced to play insipid arcade modes. Although there’s certainly room for improvement, the situation has definitely changed over the past few years and some games have brought us fantastic story modes to keep us entertained for hours and hours. Below you’ll find some of the best.
10. Bushido Blade
There’s nothing extraordinary about Bushido Blade’s story mode, but I ultimately decided to include this game on the list because it’s extremely fun to play on your own and because more people should be aware of the game’s existence. For the unfamiliar, Bushido Blade is a three-dimensional fighting game where you try to defeat an opponent using weapons such as katanas, saber, sledgehammers or rapiers. Set in modern-day Feudal Japan, the story follows your character as he fights against a series of opponents and one of its innovations comes in the form of damage that is reflected from match to match. Bushido Blade received a fantastic sequel, so if this game piqued your interest, also check out Bushido Blade 2.
9. Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate
Dead or Alive 5’s story mode has several well-presented cutscenes, voice acting and some ridiculous moments. The fighting mechanics can be quite complex and this is a fantastic-looking fighting game, so there’s more to Dead or Alive 5 than a compelling story mode. By the way, stay away from the free-to-play version (titled Core Fighters) because the story mode is hidden behind some micro-transactions, so to access that mode, you need to shell out $15.
8. Blazblue: Calamity Trigger
Calamity Trigger is a deep fighting game with an amazing online mode, but one of the parts where this title truly shines is in its story mode. In this mode, your path branches into different directions and you can unlock content depending if you win or not which is terrific for both newcomers and veterans alike. Note that the story mode was exclusive to the console version.
7. Dissidia: Final Fantasy
I’m aware that Dissidia: Final Fantasy puts more emphasis on its action and role-playing game elements, but this is still an exhilarating three-dimensional fighting game. It also features a strong story mode where you assume the role of some of the most popular protagonists from the Final Fantasy series and fight against the ten warriors of Chaos. Anyone who still has a PlayStation Portable should check out this fantastic fighting game and its sequel, Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy which added a 3D world map.
6. Tekken 5
The Tekken franchise has always been notorious for its story modes, mainly because it was completely bonkers. As you’d expect, Tekken 5 has a ridiculous story mode and you can customize characters using items that you buy with in-game currency. Back in the day, reviewers called the fifth entry one of the best fighting games of its generation and one of the best games in the Tekken series. An updated version called Dark Resurrection came out on the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3 with new characters, game modes and stages.
5. Injustice: Gods Among Us
In the world of Injustice, Superman has reached its potential and has been tricked into killing his wife and unborn child, so he loses faith in humanity and instead of trying to protect Earth, he decides to rule it with an iron first. The premise sounds terrific and while it isn’t without some shortcomings (after a while, you’ll lost track of why characters are punching each other,) this is the level of quality that you’d find in a DC graphic novel.
4. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Called Adventure Mode: The Subspace Emissary, this single-player mode features unique character storylines and keeps the tradition of former Super Smash Bros. with side-scrolling levels and boss fights. One of the goals of this mode is to defeat the Subspace Army, a group of antagonists taken from classic Nintendo games, as well as some completely new characters. It’s worth pointing out that this mode features team-based fights, so other characters can join you. Additionally, this mode can be played cooperatively with a friend.
3. Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution
Sega’s fourth entry in the Virtua Fighter series was already considered an amazing fighting game, but when Evolution came out under the budget-priced Greatest Hits label on the PlayStation 2, it improved pretty much every aspect of the game. One of those improvements was Quest Mode which replaced Kumite and allowed players to fight against the AI and unlock dozens upon dozens of cosmetic items. In this mode, you assumed the role of a fighting game player that travels from arcade to arcade to participate in different competitions, challenges or matches.
2. Soulcalibur 2
Soulcalibur II had Weapon Master Mode (which was remarkably similar to Soul Edge’s Master Mode) where you travel across a map of Europe completing a series of challenges against different fighters. The most inventive part about this mode is that apart from participating in one versus one fights, you also navigated dungeons, completed challenges, played matches with modifiers (weaker weapons, hit counters and so on.) Completing these matches gave you rewards in the form of money, unlockable weapons and an overall rank. Needless to say, you could spend hours and hours in this mode and if you don’t have someone to play with, this is a terrific way to experience Soulcalibur II.
1. Mortal Kombat
The Mortal Kombat reboot made us change the way in which we think about a fighting game story modes and set a new standard for future follow-ups. Mortal Kombat comprises events from the original Mortal Kombat trilogy, as well as some specific parts of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. This was an in-depth, extensive and eminently entertaining story mode that despite some minor problems (the difficulty could be unforgiving at times,) once you started playing this over-the-top plot, it was difficult to stop.
Other fighting games with strong stories that didn’t make the cut include Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Virtua Fighter 5, Soulcalibur 3, Soul Blade, Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Persona 4: Arena Ultimax.