So you want to learn how to play fighting games…

By on July 23, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Old-timers know to expect it by now. You get home from Evo, unpack your stuff, do your laundry, and sit on the couch to breathe for a second. Just a second. And then —


This kind of post pops up everywhere people talk about fighting games. Which is great! We should all be proud that our competitive events don’t just highlight the best players — they motivate people to try and be the best players as well. But all that time spent giving newbies tips is time we could be spending in the lab, so I thought I’d just write an easy guide that we can all link to and get back to beating each other up.

Which game should I start with first?

The easy answer is: The game you want to play the most. If you watched Super Smash Bros. Melee and that was what got you all fired up to start playing fighting games, then play Smash! You don’t need to take intro classes to learn how to play fighting games. The first step is just to start playing, and the easiest way to start (and stick to) playing fighting games is just to pick up whichever one interests you the most and take it from there.

Some games emphasize cultivating your fundamental fighting game skills that then make it easier to transfer over to other fighting games, but as a newbie, you shouldn’t worry about that. Just pick the game you want to learn, and go from there. You’re never going to stick around in fighting games if you feel compelled to play a game you don’t actually enjoy.

That said, I’ve seen a few people who are interested in just making it into fighting games in general and don’t actually have a specific game in mind that they’d like to play. If that sounds like you, I’d recommend starting out by picking up Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition 2012; you can buy it right now on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, or PC for about $20 or so these days.


How do I know if I have the latest version of Street Fighter IV?

Street Fighter IV has had a whole bunch of updates since it was released in 2008, so this might get confusing to some people. There are currently four versions of Street Fighter IV, starting with the original Street Fighter IV (a.k.a. “Vanilla SF4”), then Super Street Fighter IV (released as a separate game entirely, a.k.a. “Super”), then Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition (paid DLC upgrade from Super, a.k.a. “AE”), then Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition ver. 2012 (free balance update from Arcade Edition, a.k.a. “AE 2012”). AE 2012 is the newest version of the game; Capcom announced an update called Ultra Street Fighter IV (a.k.a. “Ultra”) at Evo 2013, which will be available as a paid downloadable update to AE 2012 when it comes out in early 2014.

If you bought Street Fighter IV when it first came out, you’re not playing the newest version of the game, which means you’ll have a hard time finding other people to play against.

If you bought Super Street Fighter IV, you’ll have to pay for the AE update, then you can get the ver. 2012 update for free.

If you own Arcade Edition, just download the free ver. 2012 update.

If you own AE 2012, congrats! You’re playing the latest version.

And don’t worry about the recently-announced Ultra Street Fighter IV — as long as you have AE 2012, you can upgrade to Ultra when it comes out, so don’t let that stop you from starting your fighting journey right the heck now.

Why should I start with the Street Fighter IV series?

Personally, I think there are all kinds of long-winded game design explanations for why I think the Street Fighter IV series is a good way to introduce new people to fighting games, but I’ll save those for another time. Here are the shorter, more-relevant-to-newbies reasons:

It’s everywhere. Street Fighter has long been the center of the fighting game world, meaning that it’s not hard to find people who are playing the game online, tutorial videos and articles, local competitive scenes, or any of that. When you’re just starting out, it’s easier to learn how to play a game and plug yourself into a community when the games you like to play are very active and have no shortage of dedicated players.

It’s familiar. Many people haven’t really touched a fighting game since the Street Fighter II days, and the SFIV series is the modern-day heir to that legacy. You’re more likely to be familiar with the basic characters, the rules, and the controls than any other fighting game out there right now, which should make it easier for you to get started and learn how to play the game.

It’s (relatively) simple. Compared to most other fighting games out there, the SFIV series has the least amount of complicated systems and techniques to intimidate a new player, and the tutorial process is pretty good about introducing them. If you’re going to try and learn a game like Persona 4 Arena or Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, you’ll need to do a lot more homework in the very beginning compared to someone starting out in those games with more experience playing other games.

The online play isn’t awful. Fighting games are far more heavily affected by lag from online multiplayer, since at high levels they rely on your ability to immediately see what’s happening onscreen and react with precise, complicated physical motions. Due to both design and engineering constrictions, some games are harder to play online than others; AE 2012 is actually reasonably playable, and that’s really important for newbies because when you’re just starting out you’ll need to play lots and lots of matches against other people.

That said, if you have a game you really want to learn that’s not Street Fighter, go play that instead! Each person starts their journey into fighting games in a different way.

Do I need an arcade stick?


If the prospect of dropping $80+ on a decent arcade stick is what’s stopping you from playing a fighting game, then no, you don’t. Just play with whatever you have handy — gamepad, keyboard, whatever.

Eventually, you may decide you want to migrate over to an arcade stick; I personally prefer them because I prefer to make large movements with my arms on an arcade stick and big arcade buttons than small movements with my fingers and a gamepad. But the most important thing is to just start playing. You will suck, early on, but part of not being really bad at fighting games is learning how to master your controller of choice — whatever it is.

Also: Don’t buy a cheap stick. They break more often, they’re simply not as fun to use, and they’ll probably just end up being a waste of money. If you’re interested in buying a stick, I recommend checking out this thread by Darksakul on the Shoryuken forums.

I’m bad at fighting games. Should I still try to learn how to play them?

I have something important to tell you, so brace yourself:


Odds are the vast majority of games you play have been impeccably designed to ease you into gradually feeling like a master. You probably feel like a super-soldier whenever you crack open a new Call of Duty, or a badass demonslayer in Devil May Cry, or whatever. This is because people who make games want you to play them, so they give you levels that look harder than they are, introduce subtle mechanics like auto-aim to make you feel like a crack shot, and so on. They know that most people don’t like playing games that make them feel like they suck, because no one likes to spend an hour or two of their free time every day feeling like they suck.

No one…except people who play fighting games. We love this feeling, because when we play a game that accurately acknowledges the fact that we suck, we get to have the feeling of gradually getting better at it.

In other words: For many video games, you learn how to play the game better so that you can progress to the end. For fighting games, developing the skill is an end in itself. We play the game to get better at it. This means that you have to treat fighting games as though you were learning a new hobby or skill, not as though you are just relaxing by watching a movie or something. You have to practice. You have to do things that you might not immediately find fun, like drilling the same moves over and over until you get them down. You have to stay motivated — even when you lose a whole lot.

And yes, you have to lose. No one ever got good at fighting games without losing over and over and over.

So if you watch those Evo Moment videos or the streams and think, “I want to learn how to do that, too,” well, you can — but it’ll be work. Eventually, that work becomes fun — I love spending time in training mode figuring stuff out, or getting totally beaten up by people who are way better than I am — and it all feels even better when I’m able to take all the new stuff I learned from those experiences to beat other people — but at first, you might not think it’s fun. (My advice: Play through it until it gets fun.)

Everyone starts out bad at fighting games. All that matters is that you want to learn how to be good at fighting games.

Don’t I need to learn how to count frames and stuff like that?

Nope. Don’t even worry about that. Just know that some moves take longer to recover from than others, for now, and you’ll learn about frames when you’re good and ready to learn about ’em. And you really don’t want to be that guy that has all the frame data memorized but can’t do a dragon punch to save his life.


So, how do I learn how to play a new fighting game?

Learning how to quickly experiment with, understand, and master a new fighting game is a skill in itself — a skill that you’ll hopefully be able to practice many, many times during your fighting game career.

Step 1: Learn the moves and the rules

I’m going to go out on a limb here and recommend that you should stay away from single-player story modes and playing other people online until you’ve got a good hang of the basics. These days, most modern fighting games have a series of tutorial and challenge modes that walk you through the basic gameplay systems (blocking, basic combos, movement, and so on) and character-specific moves and combos. Start with those. Just learn the basics, play at least a few different characters’ challenges, and get comfortable with the game.

Physical execution is very, very important. Learning to accurately and consistently perform the game’s moves is the first step to figuring out a new fighting game. If you can’t reliably do any of the moves in the game, it’s kind of like playing Chess without a full set of pieces — you just don’t get access to the game’s full set of options.

This doesn’t mean you need to be able to perform every single advanced combo with 100% reliability before you start playing against other people, but you do need to be able to consistently perform your character’s moves and a few basic combos. Otherwise, when you play other people, you’ll feel like you’re struggling against the controller and the game, not the other person, and that’s no fun for anyone involved.

Once you have your basic moves and simple combos down pat, go ahead and play through story mode or a Vs. CPU mode to get used to performing those moves against a moving, attacking opponent. Or, even better: go into Training Mode and set the training dummy to a CPU opponent. That way, you can just play against a single opponent nonstop for as long as you want, without having to break for another round, a new matchup,  load times, or whatever. I still do this when I’m learning new characters as a way to quickly grind out repetitive combo practice or try new setups and patterns.

Step 2: Pick a starting character or team

Once you’ve spent some time learning the basics and experimenting with a few different characters, choose a character and stick with them for a certain period of time — a day, a week, a month, whatever.

I have personally found it easier to learn a new fighting game by sticking to a single character (or team, if it’s a team-based game like UMvC3) for a long time; that way, you only have one set of moves and combos to learn, one set of matchups to practice, and so on. If you focus on a single character, you can develop your understanding of the game more deeply and more quickly, and then learn how to play new characters much more easily.

I have no problem sticking to one character for a very, very long time, though, so how long you decide to stick with a new character is up to you. Just know this: At your current level, there’s no point in blaming the character you’re playing for your losses. It’s not your character’s fault, it’s yours — so don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to change characters to win. Eventually, you may in fact hit a skill peak where you simply can’t win without changing to a new character, or maybe you might find that another character better serves your preferred playstyle after all — and that’s fine! But if you’re getting mad about losing, most of the time it just means you need to practice more and learn how to play your character against other characters, not change completely.

Step 3: Play other people

Once you’re relatively comfortable with a game and a character, you’re ready to start playing some other people! Hopefully, you’ve chosen a game with decent online play, so you can just jump right into grinding some matches out — but there’s nothing like the real, live, in-person experience to really get you hooked on fighting games (and hooked into your local fighting game community), so look around to find nearby people to play with as well. The Shoryuken matchmaking forums are good for this.

I personally recommend against immediately jumping into ranked multiplayer modes, because they don’t let you stick around and play a long set with someone, and when you’re learning a new fighting game early on, it’s best to play as long a set as possible with the same person so you can really get some good practice in against the same few character matchups. Also, that way you don’t have to spend nearly as much time in matchmaking screens waiting to connect to other people. Who knows — maybe you’ll find a training partner you can hit up for regular practice sessions and push each other to improve!

Step 4: Repeat

Learning a new game is a nonstop cycle: First you learn new techniques, then you practice them, then you try them out against other people, which gives you information for new techniques. It’s like the Circle of Life, except it’s the Circle of Virtual Ass-Beatings.

Eventually, you’ll want to supplement your fighting game information diet with more than just your own training mode efforts. Of course, you can find plenty of people to talk about game-specific strategy and techniques in the Shoryuken forums. There’s also an ever-growing body of game-specific knowledge on the Shoryuken Wiki as well. And if you need to get away from SRK for a bit, I like hanging around some of the subreddits for fighting games: r/Fighters for general fighting game stuff, as well as game-specific sections like r/SF4, r/MVC3, and so on.

There are a lot of other good reads out there on learning how to play fighting games, too. Seth Killian’s Domination 101 and David Sirlin’s Playing to Win are both good places to start; Majestro’s classic Footsies Handbook is good once you have the basics down. I’d humbly suggest checking out my Educated Gentleperson’s Fighting Game Primer, as well — it’s designed for people who have started to get comfortable with executing the moves but don’t quite see some of the less-obvious skills involved with playing fighting games competently.

So: Stop reading and get started! Maybe I’ll see you at Evo next year.

(image courtesy of Karaface)

  • CharizardSpa

    I’m not new to Street Fighter, but I have so much trouble with executing combos, mainly the timing of moves. I can’t even beat Seth on Easy in Arcade Mode lol. I’m ok at UMvC3, Injustice, BlazBlue etc, but not so much SF. I have MAJOR trouble using normals into specials/ults in a combo. Any tips on timing moves?

    • Tanjisaem

      seth is a chump limited/vulnerable to his own AI. u just have to be patient and recognize that he’s going to do the same things in certain situations (wake up ultra, counter-DPs, etc.) you want to capitalize with your hardest hitting bread-and-butter combos when he leaves himself most open (and he does so, often)

      • CharizardSpa

        Even if I had a bnb, I can’t do it. I find myself dropping the simplest chain of normals. I’ll get the first two hits and then the 3rd will get blocked or I’ll get 3 hits and then use a special and it won’t combo.

        • Tanjisaem

          hard knock down w/ sweep or a safe, simple meaty 2n1 would be fine. you can bait an ultra or DP on wake up if i remember right.

        • Rob Toohey

          Also, if you find yourself getting frustrated with getting a simple combo or BnB down… Take a break. Frustration can cloud your thinking and judgement, and people tend to get very emotional after that stage.

        • Cat Astrophy

          Yeah that’s one thing not really addressed in the article. This game is loaded with 1-frame linkers. This is the hardest game I’ve ever played in terms of trying to combo. I still recommend SF first anyway since it has all the standard control types borrowed by most other games (charge, grappler, shoto, etc) and the pacing is much easier to follow. Plus it’s probably the best in learning spacing and footsies. But once you want to have fun with combos…**** this game and play Mahvel or GG/BB…or even Tekken (though that’s a whole new experience).

          • martin rush

            i feel the same way. sf4 is not a combo friendly game for average joe i feel. the 1 frame links. but once you get it its like man.

          • Rob Toohey

            People tend to say that it’s “common sense” (like how it’s missing from the article). People don’t pay attention to anything other than their anger when they’ve been trying to do something for hours on end and it isn’t working.

      • Jason Slade

        You’re kind of missing the point when somebody is talking about being bad at fighting games and you’re telling them how to cheese the A.I.

        • Tanjisaem

          ‘how to cheese the A.I.’ is ‘Reading Your Opponent 101.’ most ppl have habits, and in those habits exploits are discovered. when you can remain calm under the pressure of fixed AI and implement your bread-and-butter arsenal you can move up to real people and implement what is already reflex. hitting a dummy is good for practical execution memory, but you need to start with some sort of context that mimics a human opponent at some basic level. that said, learning how to bait a wake up ultra or DP against seth teaches a small but highly applicable aspect of fighting games even if it “cheesing”

          • Charlon

            Thats why I love smash, because you can’t train against AI unless to train speed ^^ No one can presume to be good if he never played against real fighters. In smash you can learn and play as you wish and just by playing and training skills, you’ll be better. And by the way, I like how you are free in smash, it adds a dimension ^^

    • Jason Slade

      There really is no way around simply practicing something over and over and over until it becomes second nature.

      Start by executing each of your characters special moves until you can do them 10 times in a row without fail. Then jump over the training dummy to the other side and do it on the other side.

      You can apply the same logic to any combo. Set the training dummy to auto-guard so you can easily see when you fail your combo and turn on Input Display so you can see if you’re doing the moves correctly.

      Basic rule of thumb – If the move comes out but it didn’t combo, you’re doing it too slow. If the move doesn’t come out at all, you’re doing it too fast (or you messed up the input. Again, input display is essential).

    • Logan Via

      With SFIV, the answer to mistimed motions is usually “Slow Down”. Techniques such as buffering and taking advantage of negative edge can also help. If you’re not sure what either of those are, check the Term Glossary in the Saikyo Dojo as it’s a treasure trove of information for any and every term you may need a definition for. 🙂

    • King9999

      If we’re talking SF4, that’s kind of a special case because of the abundance of 1-frame links. The only thing that will help you there is practice.

      Besides that, it’s just a matter of identifying which moves cancel into others and understanding the combo rhythm.

    • kingsharkboi

      OK here’s 1 thing that really irked me when first learning SF4’s engine (may have applied to other SF games too just not as prominently.) This may be your problem often:

      Almost every character can do “jabs” repeatedly. You can mash jabs and get like 3-4 hit combos with just jab. You may not realize this, but each jab is canceling the previous one, making a chain, and this is why you can mash them so easily. However, once you try to combo these jabs into a special by canceling them, you’ll notice that the jabs won’t cancel into a special. This is because you made a “chain” out of them by mashing, and the laws of SF4 state, I believe, you can’t cancel a chain into a special (unless it’s labeled a Target Combo i.e. Ibuki).

      To circumvent this, you must make that last jab (before the special) a timed “linked” jab. Basically, before you go for the last jab, wait for the previous jab animation to finish, then “link” the final jab. That final “linked” jab is now special cancelable. Try mashing Feilong jabs into his Rekkaken special. It won’t work unless you “link” the last jab via delayed timing. (I’m probably talking out of my ass since i play Ibuki…)

    • Nomad

      When playing music they tell you to give every note it’s due, meaning you don’t rush the notes timing, you let everyone you touch (from the slow to the fast) get it’s time in the sun. I use that analogy, because the same thing applies here: Let every button press get the proper amount of time, and don’t let your hands get ahead of themselves or fall behind.

      Something very helpful to do is to break the combo into parts, specifically target the part your having trouble with, instead of constantly trying the whole thing, but most of important of all is allowing the right amount of time between button presses during a link is the most important thing. I suggest visiting Vesper Arcades youtube channel (if you haven’t already) he shows his hands in the video (most of them are with an arcade stick, but he’s also done some trials with pad as well), and a visible, moving example might help you out, so here’s some links:
      Ryu trials:
      and Part 1 of execution tips:

    • Guest

      Same here!!! I (re)discovered fighting games about a year ago and I’ve actually become halfway decent at Guilty Gear, I went to a mini-tourney and got beat on by pros but it wasn’t hopeless, I wasn’t free, I took a couple of rounds, got out of pressure, did good for myself, but for chrissakes SFIV is just lost on me. The third AI opponent on normal is as far as I get (I can consistently beat Maniac AI in Guilty Gear). It’s the damn neutral game, it goes so quickly from just standing there looking at the other guy to getting K.O.ed, and normals are hard to combo. Will check out SRK matchmaking though, I think I just need to sit down for two hours and grind it out in matches, figure out what isn’t working and what is.

    • Magnalon

      My #1 tip to you is to not worry about combos, starting off.

      If you’re looking for SFIV tips, try Ryu. Learn his low medium kick, and how to use it to poke opponents. Learn to use Shoryukens to anti-air if your opponent jumps too close to you. Learn how to use Hadokens to “zone” out your opponent, and keep him at bay as you read what he’s doing when he closes in.

      Ryu’s standing fierce punch is also a great simple move to use as well. If your foe learns to block often, try throwing or going high/low (you just taught yourself basic mix-up strategy).

      “Punishing” is basically hitting an enemy with something after he whiffs a big attack. Use Ryu’s Shinku Hadoken to hit people who whiff starting off. This entire time, you will be learning “match-ups,” which basically teach you how to play against certain characters.

      One character may accept your punishment, but the other may cancel out, jump over your super, and punish you right back. This can only be taught through constant play.

      Learning the basics, how to block, and “what counters what” is your first step, and you can actually win many games JUST by doing this, without learning combos. Try combos later. Also, keep in mind that the “heavy” version of a move, or even a “normal” (a basic punch or kick) is not always the “best” version.

  • Tanjisaem

    def gonna have to disagree with the devil may cry comparison. devil may cry is just as much about zoning and a +/- frame-game as fighting games are. difference is there’s no human opponent in the dmc series to mix things up. if you compare devil may cry to say offline mode fighting games you can easily see parallels with recognizable AI patterns, exploits, etc. hell, i’d even go as far to say that devil may cry often presents you with the ability to [stylishly] express yourself as you would in high pressure third strike matches, forcing you to select the right tools and techniques when your back is up against the wall (especially in the first and third iterations of dmc.) personally, i got into devil may cry for a lot of the same reasons i got into fighting games.

    • Richard N

      I’m sure he didn’t mean the game doesn’t take a decent amount of skill, but the developers still give you plenty of opportunities to make the game easier. They make you feel powerful and make the game more lenient than most people give the series credit for; devil trigger for one thing, heal items, and yellow soul orb continue thing. But yeah, DMC is pretty much a 3D beat em up, which is pretty much a long scrolling fighting game.

      • Tanjisaem

        well if you’re going to point to devil trigger to making the game “easier,” or to making the player feel more powerful, i could compare that aspect of the game to X-factor in uMvC3; both are essentially desperation/OP modes that cant be spammed and has to be used thoughtfully to maximize its utility (near death, tactical annoying-but-threatening-enemy-instakill, etc.) you could use this move as soon as you walk into a room like a scrub, but that would be equal to activating X-factor before even throwing out a punch in the first round. and as for orbs, i don’t think it makes things easier, but rather customizes your character to your style of play while scaling with the game’s progressive difficulty. so rather than having a roster of characters, you actually have one character capable of many styles similar to that of fighting games (turtle, rushdown, counter, etc.) overall, its still a game of zoning and frame recovery like fighting games are and far from what traditional side scrollers have been (especially since most titles even to this day have no consideration for frame data and have serious game breaking exploits.) in essence there really is very little that separates DmC from your average fighting game outside of the competitive element.

        • JELIFISH19

          But the competitive element is everything. You’re playing a human player. In DMC, you can play through the whole game without getting hit because the AI is programmed to do things at certain times. It’s also programmed to show you what it’s going to do ahead of time. Fighting games don’t work like that. The other player is reacting to you. You can activate Devil Trigger at any time but the AI won’t change what they’re doing based on whether you have it or not nor will they play differently when you have it activated. Every marionette is programmed the same but every Ryu will not play the same. Getting good at DMC is simply knowing what to do when. If you play a fighting game like that, you’re just being predictable which is a weakness. Single player games are a one-way affair. You only counter the AI. But in fighting games, a human counters you as well. A single-player game is completely different than playing a fighting game against a human.

          • Tanjisaem

            “A single-player game is completely different than playing a fighting game against a human.”

            i’ve already acknowledged that. => “if you compare devil may cry to say offline mode fighting games you can easily see parallels with recognizable AI patterns, exploits, etc”

            it pretty much goes without saying playing human opponents introduces a greater/differential dynamic to fighting games.

        • Richard N

          Very true, stupid X Factor totally ruined one of my main points. -_- I still however believe Devil Trigger was added to give you a slight edge(and go with the story) in a fight, but I see what you mean.

          However; ” overall, its still a game of zoning and frame recovery like fighting games are and far from what traditional side scrollers have been (especially since most titles even to this day have no consideration for frame data and have serious game breaking exploits.)”

          I will have to disagree with you there my friend. Just as you say DMC is about zoning and frame game I would say Streets of Rage is about the same concept. You throw out pokes to try to catch the enemy and do a decent combo, unless you see an enemy approaching you then you have to end it quicker with something that requires less frames than going for that walk in suplex. Sure it definitely doesn’t require as much forethought like shoot, Stinger, Agni Rudra, launch, aerial rave, shooting, blah blah blah. But the idea is still there.

          In fact a better comparison would be to look at Double Dragon Neon, so many mechanics in that game it’s ridiculous. Parries, specials, counters, meters, and all that other whacky fighting game stuff.

          • Tanjisaem

            i can agree with your streets of rage assessment. incidentally, street fighter was based off of final fight, though that game was broken when “shifting” was discovered

        • Cat Astrophy

          The AI doesn’t use yellow orbs/devil trigger etc. HUGE difference compared to both players being able to XF. DMC gives you plenty of advantages to overpower the AI that the AI can do nothing about. XF can easily be handled by the other opponent by smarter play and/or their own XF.

          • Tanjisaem

            you should really learn to read the rest of the thread…. even the first 2 sentences: “devil may cry is just as much about zoning and a +/- frame-game as fighting games are. difference is there’s no human opponent in the dmc series to mix things up. ”

            moreover, even if you are able to momentarily overpower your opponent the game is balanced enough so that most encounters/levels are not completely ‘free.’ you can’t just abuse the devil trigger all you want. hell the last few boss characters in dmc3 alone is slated towards AI winning, not the player. it’s practically a 3s “sean/twelve vs. chun li” match up. none of this however changes the fact that the zoning and +/- frame aspects of dmc are completely transferrable to fighting games, and vice versa. devil triggers and yellow orbs are not there to make the game easier but serve as a balance similar to revenge gauges and x-factor (this is capcom we are talking about afterall.) DMC AI is infinite, precise, [generally] unforgiving [at higher levels], and relentless; dante however has limited lives and power, and still relies on the reflexes and intuition of the player.

  • Guilherme Fickel

    I think this post really should point to UltraChenTV ( ). It has A LOT of material for begginers.

    • Pertho14

      Yeah. There’s a lot of material for beginners but it is, unfortunately, all in random places. If they are bringing back articles, they mights as well have brought back Red Rick Dias’s article on sticks.

  • Martini Whoelse

    My advice to newbies: stop mashing, you don’t mash in pretty much any good competitive game, so why should it magically work in fighting games?
    1.Understand the game mechanics. This is the most important thing.
    Why did “this” happen? You start to realize “I blocked wrongly”.
    Now you understand high-lows and crossups.
    2.Be observant. Observe what your foe is doing.
    How and why they choose to do it.
    Understanding the game is important but so is understanding human behavior.
    This will help you make reads.
    The more observant you are the faster you “download” your opponent.

    • Tanjisaem

      “stop mashing” – sage advice right there

      • Mash Harder

        Speak for yourself.

  • Thomas Crane

    Good article. I’d recommend any newbies avoid KOF XIII like the plague. That game is seriously the hardest to play of any game. When you see high level Ash play, realize that all his moves are these crazy charges that require expert timing. All of the characters have move sets that just insane. There’s no spam in that game. You’ll just get murdered. Flashy combos are earned. All the work that goes into a Max Cancel is just nuts.

    If you pick SSF IV, do Ryu’s challenges to get better acquainted with the game. #9 is is 3 moves that seem really easy, but require expert timing. I couldn’t even do it without the stick.

    • Daniel Song

      Dude, not cool man. If people want to play KOF XIII, then I say they should play. Heck, difficulty didn’t stop people from plunking down their quarters (or pesos) to play ’98 or 2002, so why tell people not to play XIII? Especially when we’re hurting for players as it is. For that matter, I can’t remember exactly who, someone made the point that trying to exalt KOF XIII as being some gestalt of difficulty hurts the game. It does so by making players, even ones who play other FGs and have an interest in KOF, reluctant to even try and learn. It’s the most common thing, and it upsets me to no end when I hear “Oh, I really respect that game, it’s so good, but I don’t play it because it’s too hard for me.” It’s really not, it just takes some practice and dedication, like any other FG.

    • Stoogie

      I’m a really noob at fighting games, and I’m currently trying to decide what to learn, i did the tutorials of various fighting games and i have to say the max cancel for kyo is really easy to do all u do is put the input in for the first one then while its animating for the hit put the directional input in for the 2nd one then when it hits you hit the LP+HP for the second one at the exact same time and it chains everytime.

      Now lets say Ibuki’s trial level 8 in street fighter 4 where you have to combo a standing medium punch into a standing medium punch, it took me literally like 200 tries, it is FAR FAR harder in timing than a max cancel in KOF so rediculous that IMO they should tell you or show you the timing in a millisecond bar save you trial and erroring it for nearly an hour, and even after i found the correct timing i still struggle hard with it and land only like 1 in 30…

      Then street fighter 3’s timings is 5x harder than both……..

  • voy3voda

    VesperArcade tutorials are the best for learn all the basics;

  • Rahavic

    Start out with ST.

    • If you wish to play fighting games, you must first invent the universe…

    • Logan Via

      There is definitely a lot of merit to the idea of spending some time with ST. I personally hit a wall back when I was trying very seriously to learn SFIV. I was okay at Street Fighter, but I felt like my execution on everything was extremely lacking. Based on what I’d heard of ST I thought it would force me to be more consistent so I started playing. What I didn’t expect was for ST to force me to think more about how I zoned my opponent and how I dealt with spacing in a match. After about a month of grinding it out with ST I came back to SFIV with much cleaner execution and a new-found respect for my buttons and what they could offer me beyond damage output.

      I think the moral of the story is, there’s no better place to learn fundamentals than the game that defined what a fundamental was.

      • LunaSlave

        Agree 100%. I recommend starting with ST as well. If you’re trying to transition from there to SF4, there are a few habits you’ll have to unlearn (like the fact that throws aren’t nearly as good!) but it really is a great place to get those fundamentals down. KOF 98 is another great one, with even stricter inputs that is also heavily fundamentals based.

        • Petran79

          Most SNK games (KOF, LB, SS, RBFF, GMOTW etc) , even though they have easier combos, they are insanely difficult and the skill gap between a newbie and a better player is much wider than Capcom games. To the point that it isnt interesting anymore. they are more broken too. the best SNK game for newbies would actually be Breaker’s Revenge and World Heroes.

          Om GGPO I notice that actually the most hardcore fighting game players there belong to SNK camp.

      • Rahavic

        Also from ST you can easily find out what your play style is. Want to learn if you like charge characters, grappler, shotos, zoning with limbs and fireballs? It’s all there. ST is what defined every character choice I’ve made in every fighting game since, and what’s even better is all of those styles are there for you in black and white. At their purist forms.

        • Patrick Miller

          I actually personally prefer to teach people in-person with ST, but there is a lot about it that’s not particularly newbie-friendly. I think people should start with SF4, then go back to ST, and then play ST or CVS2, since they are superior to SF4. 😛

  • Oniros

    Newbs can just grab Persona 4 Arena and mash A for the autocombo. It worked for a while with me. XD

  • kingsharkboi

    Dunno if this has been done before but I really wish developers would implement a mode for the newbies that trains them on specific fighting game aspects. I would like to see a mode that first informs opponents on definitions and system mechanics a la Skullgirls and P4A. Then afterwards, I wanna see a single-player arcade-mission type mode that lays down a series of opponents that all train players on a specific aspect of the game. For example:

    -A series of opponents where the A.I. primarily attacks with high/low mixups and overheads.
    -A series of opponents that all block high/low mixups well, forcing players to utilize cross-ups to defeat them.
    -A series of opponents that throw fireballs all day forcing players to get through their various zoning tactics.
    These modes can and should reward newbies somehow, give them a trophy or unlock costumes or something, but most importantly give them something to come back to with various difficulty settings so they can refresh themselves every time they forget how to look out for tick throws, etc.

    • Trekiros

      Skullgirl’s tutorial is the only good one I’ve seen. In fact, it’s pretty much the only reason I play traditional fighting games.

      The FGC and Capcom are extremely bad at teaching stuff. No kidding.

      • King9999

        You need to check out VF4 Evolution’s tutorial if you think Skullgirls’ tutorial is the best one.

  • Auntie Fee

    Good read 10/10

  • MCJ

    Great article!!! There’s been a lot of stuff like this and it’s all very welcome, I remember a year ago when I got scrubbed out by the AI I’d frantically type “Help I suck at fighting games” into Google and I was very unhappy with the stuff that came out. Now, stuff like this is great for encouragement, which is just as important as actual skill when you’re just starting out, but I think nothing can take the place of a skilled player taking an hour or so to teach you fundamentals. That’s what did it for me, not combos, but the basic tennis-like philosophy behind fighting games – when it is/isn’t “your turn”, when not to press a button/you have to press a button so you don’t get cornered. This dude doing the same combo over and over again, me blocking, and then he was like “now, attack!” when he was in recovery was huge, realizing that moment when you can do something. The rest was just practice, realizing how to read that moment on different characters, how to make it appear more often and how to make the most of it by landing combos.
    Also, and in a related point, KOF wiz Juicebox has pointed out that smaller scenes that actually need players are in general much friendlier to new players because, well, they actually need players. And since EVO, Dacidbro’s been heavily recruiting new fighting game players for P4A. The above experience was with Guilty Gear, which, in line with the author’s advice, I picked just because I really like the game. It’s a notoriously hard game, but people have really been willing to help and I can safely say I now enjoy playing it a lot and am not half bad. I’ve found that SFIV people, on the other hand, can be less than helpful or even dickheads towards new players, because, well, they can be, and I know this is a general perception. Something to think about…

  • Chris Lambear

    play 3s, pick remy, throw a ton of frisbees, eat a sandwich

  • Zonnex

    After 21 years since Street Fighter II, my first fighting game (unless you want to count Pit-Fighter?), I still suck at fighting games. Yet, I still love them. From Mortal Kombat to Primal Rage to Mace to… a lot of fighting games to put it. Anyhow, that said, great article for casuals, pros, newcomers and vets.

  • Sina Madani

    Great post. I’m an 09er to fighting games, starting with SF4. Still suck at it but managed to do all but 2 trials (Viper 24 and Honda 24) on a regular Xbox 360 controller. Without the trials I wouldn’t have understood how to play the game, and none of the versions of SF4 have a tutorial. So my advice would be to do as many trials as you can. Also, SFxT is great place to start because it has a tutorial, and is good for co-op play.

  • Shifted

    I’m not a fighting games specialist or anything, but I grew up playing tekken on my PSone (yeah, boo, tekken).
    As a PC gamer now I had a hard time getting into street fighter 4. The combos seemed very hard to unload, and the system of 3 different punches and kicks felt weird.
    On the other hand the newly released (on PC at least) mortal kombat was way easier for me to get into, so I’d recommend checking that out instead, for all of you who seem to have trouble with SF4.

  • Ikki

    “as long as you have AE 2012, you can upgrade to Ultra when it comes out”

    You can upgrade from Super to Ultra.

  • delldroid

    Definitely a good read here. I’ve been playing all types of fighting games for years but never thought to get into it like i have been for the last month. Just opened up a whole new way to play and has me really excited to get better at execution and combos.

  • TrollyPolly

    Fantastic article! Thank you.