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How All Gamers Already Know How to Play Fighting Games

By Choysauce • June 16, 2020

Level: Beginner

It’s no secret that fighting games are a tough genre of games to get into. There’s a lot to learn to excel and the games themselves tend to do a lackluster job of teaching players. But what if I told you that if your Steam library is big enough, you probably know how to play fighting games at a decent level? You probably wouldn’t think so, especially if you’ve never played one. But here we’ll show you how you actually do.


Breaking It Down

One criticism that players tend to give about fighting games is that they’re overwhelming to learn. Fighting game players do need to learn many systems that interact with each other in order to play the game at a high level. So this criticism is understandable if someone is thinking about trying to understand and learn everything about a fighting game all at once.

Fighting game developers intend to have players learn their games over a long period of time but people have a tendency to want to tackle things all at once. The problem here is that there aren’t easy ways to acclimate players and compartmentalize all the different aspects of the game. So what we can do is to break down each discernible mechanic and name them.

Some general mechanics that most fighting games have are the following:

  • Combos
  • Footsies & Spacing
  • Movement (e.g. dashing and jumping)
  • Mixups and guessing situations

By breaking down each aspect, we can identify and isolate practicing each aspect of our game. This will allow us to put a magnifying glass on where our strengths and weaknesses are, thus allowing us to focus on improving in needed areas.


Reframing the Pieces

Now that we have distilled the game into parts, it’s still not obvious what to do to succeed. We can try grinding it out to train in each area, but that can make the game more work than it is fun. So we can reframe all of these pieces into something most of us enjoy way more, other video games. We can look at all the systems and mechanics of a fighting game as playing multiple mini-games at the same time. This will let us have clearer goals for different aspects of the game and have a bit more fun while we’re at it.

So let’s reframe one aspect of fighting games that new players tend to get very frustrated with, dealing with zoning (or spamming as new players call it). The best way to understand how to deal with this is to translate zoning as playing a bullet hell game. The projectiles, long attacks, and anti air attacks that the zoner character has can be considered different types of bullets you need to avoid. Getting to know the characters a bit, like you might get to know the layout of a level, helps you be ready for the next time you face particular characters. You’ll use your movement like dashing and jumping in the right spots to avoid getting blown up while advancing. You’ll also consider your tools (like any projectile-nullifying or reflecting powers) and learn when to use them like you would use a bomb to clear bullets. Once you finally get close enough to knock them down, you’ve exposed their weak point, unload everything you got by preventing them from getting away.

The satisfaction that comes from overcoming a bullet hell is being careful in your movements and strategic in how you use your resources (power ups, bombs, etc.). Being able to navigate around a zoner’s attacks and getting in their face to knock them down and pressure them to death is just as great as having a perfect level in a tough bullet hell game.

You can apply this type of logic and translate a lot of gaming experience you have to your approach in fighting games. Here’s some examples of how other games can relate to certain tactics or mechanics in fighting games.

  • Combo execution – Rhythm games
  • Footsies & spacing – Soulsborne games
  • Movement (e.g. dashing and jumping) – Platformers
  • Mixups and guessing situations – Rock, paper, scissors

So if you find yourself having trouble with a system or find it to be like a chore, try to reframe it as something you have played before. If you’re still having any trouble with particular mechanics, you can always ask me or someone in the community for help to understand and master any mechanic.


If there’s any fighting game system or mechanic that you can equate to another game, let us know in the comments below!

Choysauce is a self proclaimed fighting game floozy and plays as many fighting games as possible and then writes about playing them. He also helps with management for You can catch him on Twitter @choysauce85.

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