The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time #14: Street Fighter II

“The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time” is a statistical meta-analysis of 44 “Best Video Games of All Time” lists that were published between 1995 and 2016. Catch up on how we decided to sort the games and the rest of the Top 100 in the Introduction.

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Street Fighter II: The World Warrior wasn’t the first fighting game ever released, but it single-handedly helped shape the genre for decades to come.

Capcom’s masterpiece rose to prominence by replacing the small and stiff characters of previous fighting games (including its predecessor, 1987’s Street Fighter) with highly detailed characters that seemed to fly around the screen. Instead of generic fighters clad in traditional karategi uniforms, Street Fighter II starred a diverse group of characters with fantastical “special moves.” And young fans lined up around the block to do battle with “World Warriors” like E. Honda, a sumo wrestler with a lightning-quick Hundred Hand Slap; Zangief, a Russian giant who fought bears; Blanka, a green-skinned prince who controlled electricity; and Dhalsim, a yoga master who breathed fire.

Rather than rest on their laurels, Capcom refined Street Fighter II’s controls and added more characters to the select screen through the release of four subsequent revisions. This parade of improvements (and Street Fighter II’s eventual release on home consoles) helped ensure the game’s status as the biggest fighting game of the early 90s arcade renaissance. By the late 90s, a loosely-connected group of enthusiasts for Street Fighter II began building a “Fighting Game Community” online, which eventually grew to include organized tournaments (like the annual Evo gathering) and a dedicated fandom that could rival any professional sport.

But first, a slew of imitators and acolytes appeared in Street Fighter II’s wake, all trying to claim their own corner of the arcade. SNK poached two producers from the original Street Fighter team, Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto, to create the rival Fatal Fury/King of Fighters series. Namco gave swords to all the fighters and called it Soul Edge. Midway tried to partner with Jean-Claude Van Damme on a fighting game that eventually morphed into Mortal Kombat. Family-friendly Nintendo upped the ante with the ultraviolent Killer Instinct. Atari Games replaced the human fighters entirely and turned the arena over to subterranean monsters in Primal Rage.

With this much attention being paid to the fighting game genre, Hollywood came calling for Capcom and Street Fighter II.

Hollywood studios first began toying with video game adaptations in 1993 with Super Mario Bros., and that flop was quickly followed by Street Fighter: The Movie in 1994. Capcom demanded that Jean-Claude Van Damme should star in the film, and “The Muscles From Brussels” obliged, staring down at theatergoers from the film’s poster and monopolizing the majority of the trailer’s running time as the All-American Guile.

After a career headlining films like Bloodsport (where he similarly played an All-American Joe with a curiously Eastern European accent), Universal Soldier, and TimeCop, Van Damme was the closest thing to an action star that Street Fighter: The Movie had. But he, and the rest of the cast, would be overshadowed and outmatched by Raul Julia, a slight man in his 50s who had most recently charmed children and adults alike as Gomez Addams in the Addams Family films.

During filming, the reason for Julia’s slight frame, a secret battle with stomach cancer, was unknown to the cast and crew. But this didn’t prevent the actor from giving the role his all. Julia relished the chance to play the charismatic villain, M. Bison. He even recruited his children, Raul Jr. and Benjamin, both fans of the game, to help him prepare for the role. The actor also drew on his Shakespearean training to deliver a performance that is both quietly scary and so rooted in overblown 80s action movie cliches that it was like he was acting in a different movie from Van Damme and the rest of the cast.

The film was written and directed by Steven E. de Souza, the same man who penned all of Hans Gruber’s gleefully sadistic dialogue in Die Hard. So it’s not much of a stretch to understand why Julia’s Bison is such a scenery-devouring hoot, especially when he’s threatening someone:

“For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.”

No one knows what his children told him to inform his performance, but Julia’s over-the-top bravado was one of the few things that critics liked about Street Fighter. And his wild-eyed ravings (including “Tuesday,” which found a second life in Internet discussions) left an indelible stamp on the teenagers who were the film’s target audience. Dodgy special effects and a bizarre attempt to cram all 16 World Warriors into the film (Dhalsim is a morose scientist! E. Honda is a wise-cracking cameraman! Ryu and Ken are petty criminals!) gave the rest of the film a cheap feeling. Not to mention the silliness of Van Damme’s blonde dye job and the massive American flag tattoo that occasionally migrated from his shoulder down to his bicep and back again.

Street Fighter: The Movie was a disaster in nearly every way. Critically and financially, it was a bust. And it left a black mark on the concept of “video game movies” that the genre has yet to fully shake. With their pitch-perfect notes on how to render M. Bison, perhaps the producers should have given control of the movie to Julia’s sons, who were seven and 11 at the time.

After filming wrapped, Raul Julia suffered a stroke while dining with friends, and he would die a few days later. To honor the true star of their film, the producers of Street Fighter: The Movie added a short dedication to the film’s closing credits: “For Raul, Vaya Con Dios.”

In the two decades since, filmmakers haven’t stopped trying to turn popular games into blockbuster movies. But aside from a few small-scale successes (including Mortal Kombat and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), they haven’t figured it out just yet.

On the other hand, Capcom knows exactly what to do with the Street Fighter franchise. The publisher has produced three more full sequels and dozens of spinoffs since the release of Street Fighter II, while also nurturing the competitive spirit of the “Fighting Game Community” with the Capcom Pro Tour.

Fight!


Street Fighter II: The World Warrior was one of the most popular arcade games in the 90s, so finding a working cabinet in the wild is still very possible. But the game also received an excellent Super NES adaptation in 1992, which is likely available for purchase from your local game store. This version of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior can also be downloaded through the Wii U eShop.

The fighting game has also been remade multiple times over the years, and several versions of the game are available for modern consoles, including the remastered Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix for the PS3 and Xbox 360, and Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers for the Nintendo Switch.


Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: February 6, 1991

Average Ranking: 35.05
Selection Percentage: 75.00% (33/44)
Scientifically Proven Score: 60.05

Publication Rankings For Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
Hyper (1995) 1*

Next Gen (1996)

7

Next Gen (1999)

9

Edge (2000)

8
GI (2001) 22

GameSpy (2001)

30

Edge (2003)

1*

EW/G4TV (2003)

10
GameSpot (2003) 1*

IGN (2003)

10

1UP (2004)

1*

The Age (2005)

NR
IGN (2005) 8

Yahoo! Games UK (2005)

8

Edge (2007)

16

IGN (2007)

24
IGN HoF (2007) 1*

Stuff UK (2008)

27

Edge (2009)

NR

Empire (2009)

6
GI (2009) 25

FHM (2010)

NR

GamesTM (2010)

NR

The Phoenix (2010)

10
Gamereactor (2011) 81

GamesRadar (2011)

NR

Stuff UK (2011)

37

1UP (2012)

3
G4TV (2012) 30

GamesRadar (2012)

NR

Time (2012)

1*

EPN (2013)

12
GamesRadar (2013) NR

Gaming Bolt (2013)

25

PC & Tech Authority (2013)

1*

GamesRadar (2014)

NR
Popular Mechanics (2014) 6

Slant Magazine (2014)

68

Stuff UK (2014)

6*

Edge (2015)

NR
GamesRadar (2015) NR

IGN (2015)

20

GamesMaster (2016)

16

Time (2016)

NR

Plante, Chris – Polygon – Street Fighter: The Movie – What Went Wrong – 2014

This entry was posted in Features, PS3, Retro, SPBVGOAT, Switch, Top Story, Xbox 360 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
John Scalzo is Warp Zoned's Editor-In-Chief and resident retro gaming expert. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at john AT warpzoned DOT com.

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