Fighting games are notorious for being focused — they don’t typically offer the branching narratives, open-ended gameplay, and side-goals we’ve come to expect from other genres. Instead, they combine complex controls with a simple goal: outwit the character in front of you.
Many characters such as Guilty Gear’s Happy Chaos have a fighting spirit. Others, however, are drawn into the conflict despite being peaceful and light-hearted people. They may be trying to stand up for someone, keep a promise, or just make new friends. Either way, these characters would probably rather live in the Animal Crossing universe than Street Fighter.
ten Lynn Baker – Rage of Dragons
Rage of the Dragons is a team-based fighting game originally released for the Neo Geo. Among her roster of well-designed characters, Lynn Baker has the most ambivalent relationship in combat.
Lynn was trained in martial arts by her grandfather. After his death, she takes on the responsibility of preserving his legacy as the White Dragon. While carrying this heavy burden, Lynn uses her martial arts teaching earnings to save for the latest fashionable outfits. She is a model of balancing family responsibility and personal pleasure – and she does it in a calm, elegant style.
9 Dizzy – Guilty Gear
Guilty Gear’s dense story is told through four-hour cutscenes and countless in-game encyclopedia entries. While the grand narrative may confuse newcomers, Dizzy is an easy-to-grasp character.
She is a gentle and kind person who struggles to control her guardian wings – the fiery Necro, which represents violence, and the Water Undine, which represents self-defense. Necro and Ondine often go after “enemies” even after Dizzy begs them to stop. Their reckless behavior escalates the situation, dragging Dizzy into messy conflicts she wouldn’t otherwise join due to her peaceful nature.
8 Mauru and Mugi – Waku Waku 7
Fighting games often use the trope of a gentle giant protecting a young child. It’s easy to love such characters and feel guilty for defeating them.
In the strange and colorful Waku Waku 7, Mauru is a respected forest dweller who meets the human Mugi and promises to bring her home safely. Mauru’s direct move set demonstrates her physical strength, but at the same time they fight with the adorable Mugi clinging to their backs. Eventually, Mauru keeps his promise and Mugi is gratefully reunited with his parents.
seven Felicia – Darkstalkers
The Darkstalkers roster may feature monsters, demons, and cute bees, but it also includes Felicia, a light-hearted cat-girl. Confronted with human prejudice against non-human Darkstalkers, Felicia harbors hope for coexistence and sees violence as a last resort.
Although Felicia has a fierce style that allows her to quickly cover distance and attack, her passion is music – she plans to unite different groups by touring as a pop star. Felicia’s hopeful outlook is endearing in a horror-themed game. Elsewhere in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series, she even shows an unlikely affection for dogs.
6 Hotaru Futaba – Garou: Mark of the Wolves
Hotaru fights as softly as she can, incorporating open-palm strikes, high kicks, quick jumps, and graceful throws into her repertoire. It suits his laid-back personality.
Hotaru’s goal is not to hurt his opponents, but to ward them off in search of his missing brother. Unfortunately, Garou: Mark of the Wolves’ roster includes a policeman, a pirate, and a serial killer. Hotaru remains cheerful in the face of such hardened opposition, in part because of her fellow ferret Itokatsu. The game manual states that she can shape any animal into snow.
5 Lee Rekka – The Last Blade
Lee is an acrobatic monk whose mastery of fire and handheld fans makes him a joy to control. The Last Blade games also have a dedicated parry button, which allows Lee to play responsively, turning enemies’ aggression against them.
Despite his fluid movement set, Lee only fights out of a sense of duty. Seeing an ominous red star, he travels to Japan to suppress a growing evil. Thereafter, Lee earns a modest living through farm labor before somehow making his way to America. Obviously, new sights excite him more than new battles.
4 Pyrrha Alexandra – Soulcalibur
Manipulated and injured repeatedly by the unpredictable Tira, Pyrrha lacks confidence in herself as a fighter. She hides behind her shield and moves away from her opponents. Worse still, Pyrrha’s throws seem unpractised.
On her Critical Edge move, designed as a crushing finisher, Pyrrha says “I can’t!” and “please stop!” Her weapon arts also include voice lines in which she asks to be left alone. Nonetheless, Pyrrha is considered a strong fighter by the competitive Soulcalibur community. His next appearance should be in a game that doesn’t involve physical violence – or even heated arguments.
3 Boman Delgado – Rival Schools
Rival Schools’ big polygons haven’t aged as well as its colorful, messy roster. Alongside a student journalist armed with a camera and a perpetually drunk doctor is Boman Delgado, who is training as a preacher.
Boman dislikes violence, so much so that he prays for forgiveness after the fight. Boman’s special moves – such as “God Lariat” and “Heaven’s Cross” – are themed around religion to an almost ridiculous extent. Her peaceful nature and her secret passion for cooking help Boman overcome difficulties immigrating from America to Japan.
2 Jun Kazama – Tekken
In the Tekken series’ convoluted storyline, Jun may or may not be dead. Or possessed by an unknown spirit. In any case, she is certainly the only wildlife warden to grace a fighting game.
Quiet, mysterious, and nature-loving, Jun fights to save main character Kazuya from being possessed by the devil. Even after her disappearance, she exerts a peaceful influence over her child Jin, often discouraging him from violence. Jun’s black crow-print high-waisted white pants also make her a fashion icon.
1 Elena – Street Fighter 3
Making her debut in Street Fighter 3 alongside characters such as Gill, a cult leader with apocalyptic intentions, Elena is an exchange student who enters fighting tournaments to meet new people and make new friends.
Her lighthearted and cheerful demeanor trumps Street Fighter 3’s most disturbing subplots. That said, Elena’s demeanor often annoys those fighting for higher stakes. Her capoiera style disguises martial arts as dance, further separating Elena from more direct fighters such as Twelve. Still, it’s nice to meet a character who is so curious about the world around him.
Next: Fighting Games That Deserve An HD Remake