How Street Fighter II changed video games, according to game devs

Designers of Street Fighter IV, Guilty Gear, Skull Girls, Yomi, and Sentris discuss how Street Fighter II was a sea change in how players could compete against each other in a game.

Gamasutra reached out to many game developers, pro players, and other luminaries of the fighting game scene for a roundup of comments on Street Fighter II's 25th anniversary.

A common thread emerged from the developer responses. Several noted how the game fundamentally changed the multiplayer experience, bringing unprecedented depth and complexity to player vs player combat. Here are some excerpts from the responses we received that explore this topic.

Junya Christopher Motomura, designer at Arc System Works (Guilty Gear, BlazBlue)

I think it was the first game to make people seriously compete against each other. Of course there were many games before SF2 where you could compete against friends, but it must have been the first game that had the depth that was worth investing time and effort into. It made us gamers realize that overcoming your opponent (and yourself) was fun as hell.

Yoshinori Ono, current series producer of Street Fighter

Street Fighter II it was the very first time I ever saw a game where you had to fight with logic, you had to have strategy. On top of that, your opponent was a human being, so you actually had to have an understanding of what their habits were. You actually had to build strategies around the person that you're playing against. It was actually the very first game that had that. 

People can look back at Street Fighter II and say, "That wasn't a very balanced fighting game," and maybe that's true. But, at the same time, it was the seed that ended up creating this environment where you're battling between two people, two minds battling. 

Seth Killian, formerly at Capcom and Sony Santa Monica, now working on Rising Thunder

It was beautiful, baffling, and made every loss feel somehow personal. Most importantly, it injected games with humanity, by offering enough depth to let people express themselves through a character and a playstyle. Winning at SF2 required not just memorizing patterns and little tricks, but seeing straight into the dark heart of your opponents. It taught you fear and fearlessness in equal measure, and if you were good, it taught you a lot about yourself.

David Sirlin, fighting game analyst and balancer, author of Playing to Win: Becoming The Champion, creator of Yomi and Puzzle Strike

The big boom of competition spawned by Street Fighter II was "fair competition". The world of Street Fighter competition and tournaments is a meritocracy. Our community didn't care about anyone's race or religion or who their parents were, etc. If you were good at the game (as in, had actual merit), you rose to the top. You also could not buy a more powerful character and you could not grind in order to gain material advantage in the game. The saddest thing is that so many modern competitive games have become unfair forms of competition that allow paying for power and allow grinding for material advantage. Those who grew up in world of fairness and meritocracy really got something valuable , something we can carry into the rest of our lives. Street Fighter's form of fairness is the gold standard, and I personally do my best to live up to it as a developer.

Another thing Street Fighter II did was put asymmetric gameplay on the map. Each character plays differently, and you only have to learn and understand how to use one of them to be able to participate in the rich tapestry of the system. Players specialize in a given character for many different reasons: maybe the gameplay style matches their skills, maybe the story and personality of the character resonates with them, or maybe they just think their character is cool. Whether it's characters in a fighting game or MOBA, classes in World of Warcraft, decks in Magic: the Gathering, or races inStarCraft, asymmetry in competitive games is just so fun and interesting.

Mike Zaimont, design director at Lab Zero Games, designer of Skull Girls

Fighting Street (Street Fighter one) was HARD to play!SF2 added negative edge (button release) activation for special moves, a much more lenient input parser, and a kara-cancel period on normal attacks, all just to make it easier for players to do special moves. The way blockstun/hitstun/hitstop work, projectiles and projectile interaction, knockdown and wakeup, there are so many places in SF2 where you can see the thought that was put into designing a fighting game that would be as much fun as possible for a wide variety of players. The designers wanted to make players feel cool, and they succeeded. (They even went as far as--in SF2 only--making each button press have a 1/256 chance of randomly executing a special move instead of a normal attack, to get players more excited about playing the game.)

Samantha Kalman, founder of Timbre Interactive, creator of Sentris

My memories of Street Fighter are intensely social. Matches were always intensely competitive -- but with friends. Trash talking just happened and everyone had so much fun. When I saw a really good player at an Alpha cabinet at the Northgate arcade, I asked how to do the difficult moves and he showed me. The game became a way to make new friends, letting a mutual appreciation for the game bridge the gap between two strangers to become friends.

After high school I made friends with a couple that hosted monthly fighting game tournaments. Those Saturday nights embody many of my favorite gaming memories. Eating great food, trading techniques, trash-talking, discovering secrets, and improving our skills as a community of friends. Street Fighter IIand its legacy represent a purity of joy in social gaming before "Social Gaming" became a bad word.

For much more from these devs -- and others -- read our full feature-length article: The 25-year legacy of Street Fighter II, in the words of the experts

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