Fighting games at their core are a colorful cast pounding the crap out of each other for our amusement. The in universe reasons
why usually fall into one of these three categories.
- 1. Tournament: Mostly seen in games where the fighters use real martial arts. All the cast enter a fighting tournament to get the prize, test their skills or to further their own sinister agendas. Examples: Street Fighter, Tekken
- 2. Maguffin Brawl: A mysterious dodad has appeared, everyone wants it and they'll fight each other for it. Examples: Skullgirls, Street Fighter X Tekken.
- 3. War: An actual war has broken out and the characters are usually champions of their faction. Examples: BlazBlue
- The Street Fighter series is the trope codifier for this sub-set. In Street Fighter 1 Sagat sets up the first World Warrior Tournament to prove he is the greatest Martial Artist in the world. Later World warrior tournaments were hijacked by the schemes of Shadloo and S.I.N.
Maguffin Brawl examples
- In Skullgirls the fighting revolves around the Skullheart which can grant the wishes of women, but at a price, turning them into the titular Skullgirl if their hearts are impure. Some seek to make their own wish while others seek to destroy it and put an end to the madness.
- The Street Fighter Alpha series follows M. Bison/Vega/Dictator's attempts to take over the world using a device known as the psycho drive and the efforts of the heroes to stop him.
- BlazBlue is the war variation (between the NOL and Section 9, and on a wider scale Terumi against The Powers That Be).
- Mortal Kombat originally started out as a Tournament, with the rule that ten consecutive victories would forfeit the loser's realm to the victor. However, as early as the third game, that rule of tournaments got thrown by the wayside into a War, with the forces clashing around a central antagonist (Shinnok, the Deadly Alliance, Onaga). Armageddon then mixes Maguffin Brawl, with Blaze giving whoever defeats him the power of a god and the ability to avert Armageddon itself.
- Persona 4 Arena is technically the Maguffin variety, but it plays with it in that most of the characters are on more or less the same side; they only end up fighting each other because the fog makes them get into arguments, essentially making it an invoked version of the war example.