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Fighting Game Tropes

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A list of tropes related to Fighting Games.

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Note that the complicated interplay of stats, movesets, and mechanics in fighting games mean that most characters are best described as a combination of two or more archetypes, like a Big Body Trapper or a Rushdown Mix-Up.
  • Close-Range Combatant: Commonly known as a "Rushdown" character; these characters do their best when they're right in their opponent's face. They're hard to avoid when they're close, but struggle when they lose momentum.
  • Glass Cannon: A character who really excels in certain areas - such as high mobility, attack power or range - but has the lowest health to balance it. Often overlaps with Rushdown, but others trade health for more all-rounded options, or take the other extreme as fragile Zoners who avoid their opponent as much as possible.
  • The Grappler: Don't get caught by them, or you'll be in a world of hurt. Grapplers are almost always at the extremes of Mighty Glacier or Rushdown, and follow a universal strategy of "get within grabbing range and stay there".
  • Fragile Speedster: A mobile, hard-to-hit and unpredictable combatant, usually focusing on strategic use of combos, positioning, and attack properties to make up for their low damage and defenses. Most often known as "mix-up" characters.
  • Jack of All Stats: Known mostly as "The All-Rounder"; this is a character with a little bit of everything to combat their oppoenent, often equal parts offensive and defensive moves.
  • Long-Range Fighter: Also known as a "zoner". These characters work best keeping their distance from an opponent, attacking from afar with projectiles, traps, and long-ranged normals. They're often very vulnerable up close to compensate.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Move fast, hit hard, and laugh off the counter attack. Pure examples tend to be either intentionally unbalanced, or have handicapping mechanics, like short range or needing special resources, that offset their advantages.
  • Mighty Glacier: Much higher health and attack than the average fighter, balanced with low mobility and attack speed. "Big Body"-types pair this with long reach and a big hitbox, while "Small Body"-types trade limited reach for a reduced hitbox.
  • Puppet Fighter: A character who fights with a secondary object or weapon that has its own unique properties, often requiring the player to master a second set of controls.
  • Trap Master: Most commonly known as "trappers"; an uncommon type of fighter who litters the arena with traps (automatically or manually activated) to control space.
  • Stone Wall: A defensively-focused fighter, often relying on Counter Attacks and Victory by Endurance.
  • Swap Fighter: A character who comes packaged with multiple fighters in a single character slot and can tag out with each other mid-battle.

Fighting styles and Gimmicks

  • Animal-Themed Fighting Style: A fighter is themed after a particular animal or type of animal.
  • Animalistic Abilities: A fighter who emulates or channels the abilities of an animal without transformation.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: fighting games rarely place realism over the Rule of Cool, especially regarding real-world martial arts.
  • Boxing Battler: Punch, punch and more punch...
  • Combat Parkour: When a character combines their fighting style with acrobatics.
  • Confusion Fu: That fighter who confuses opponents (especially players) during fights. Their movements, attacks, and properties could be so bizarre and unpredictable that it throws people off guard.
  • Counter-Attack: "Reversal Characters" whose moves are defensive-oriented, and built around parrying and counter-attacking the opponent's moves.
  • Dance Battler: A character who uses a heavily rhythm-reliant and mobile moveset, often with some sort of musical theming.
  • Drunken Boxing: A few liters of sake before the fight can improve performance. Many use the act of drinking as a mechanic to enhance their abilities. Most often characterized as a Drunken Master.
  • Moveset Clone: When two or more characters are built on the same assets and techniques.
    • Ditto Fighter: A character that fights by using the moves, if not the forms, of other fighters.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: When a character is trained in a fictional martial art.
  • Extremity Extremist: Fighters who exclusively use kicks or punches with a few exceptions.
  • Fighting Clown: A character that fights in a humorous way, whether playful, slapstick, or trollish. May or may not also be a Joke Character, lethal or otherwise.
  • The Greatest Style: When a character is very talented in their fighting style.
  • I Know Karate: A character focuses on heavy punches and strikes with the occasional kick.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: When a character's fighting style or techniques are based on non-combat sports.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: When a character developed his own fighting style just by watching the fights on television, playing video games or watching other fighters in action and he was never trained in the martial arts.
  • Improv Fu: When that character relies only on instinct and improvisation and is not trained in any martial art.
  • Ki Manipulation: When a character is trained to control his inner power. The main justification for why regular humans are throwing fireballs and such.
  • Kung-Fu Wizard: Martial arts + sorcery = A perfect combo.
  • Mechanically Unusual Fighter: These fighters can do something only they can do, or have unusual quirks to their abilities that give them a unique playstyle distinct from other fighters in the game.
  • Ninja: A warrior who travels through the shadows to reach his goal. Often very mobile but very fragile.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: The famous martial arts that combine sorcery and hand to hand combat.

Characterization and Other Tropes

  • Acrofatic: Being overweight does not mean making the fighter slower.
  • Assist Character: A character the player can summon to temporarily assist them during a fight, but doesn't properly appear as an independant character.
  • Bruce Lee Clone: The famed martial artist has a lot of influence on fighting game rosters. (ex: Fei Long, Marshall Law, Liu Kang)
  • Combat Pragmatist: That fighter who will do anything to win a fight... even play dirty.
  • Evil Counterpart: An evil version of the heroic character. These characters often overlap with Moveset Clones.
  • Guest Fighter: The fighting game features a playable character originating from a different intellectual property.
  • Kung-Fu Kid: Wait, can children participate in this tournament?!
  • Joke Character: A playable character who is deliberately designed to be terrible to play as.
    • Lethal Joke Character: A playable character that looks useless on the surface, but can actually be quite effective and powerful.
  • Mascot Fighter: When the character is the trademark of the developers.
  • Multi-Slot Character: Lots of fighting games sometimes divide a single character into multiple incarnations that act as their own characters.
  • Player Character: It's obviously a player-controlled character. In fighting games also relates to the idea of characters that can be played, vs non-playable characters.
  • The Rival: A character who is your character's rival (friend or not).
  • Secret Character: When a character, or the fact that they can be unlocked as a playable character, is hidden until certain conditions are met, frequently resembling an achievement reward or Classic Cheat Code.


  • Hitbox Dissonance: When there is no fixed point to hit an opponent.example 
  • Hit Stop: To help players confirm into combos, most 2D fighting games actually have varying amounts of hitstop in all their attacks. For most non-special attacks though, the amount is so small (measured in 60ths of a second) that they're hard to notice visually.
  • Home Stage: When the fight takes place in a character's house, as shown in the image above.
  • Idiosyncratic Combo Levels: "Yes", "Cool", "Good", "Great", "Dude!", "Sweet", "Awesome", "Wonderful", "Viewtiful", "Excellent", "Stylish", "Fantastic", "Amazing" "Incredible", "Mighty", "Marvelous", "Uncanny", "Crazy", "Galactic" and (whew!) "Unstoppable".
  • Multiplayer Difficulty Spike: In general as players research and exploit things the computer can't. Of course the computer has some aces up its sleeve.
  • Palette Swap: Same sprites/models, different colors/skins.
  • Promoted to Playable: When that NPC (boss or not) becomes a playable character in the sequel.
  • Punch-Kick Layout: A button layout codified by fighting games; allows for characters to perform more attacks and put more of their physicality into it.
  • Single Player Gauntlet: Usually called "Arcade Mode" in fighting games, there's usually somewhere to fight the playable roster one after another.
  • The Smurfette Principle: When the characters available on the selection screen only one or two is female. This was common in classic games.
  • Training Stage: It's your virtual dojo. Just train and show your true power!
  • Video Game A.I.: A classic player opponent.
    • A.I. Breaker: When a player manages to break the A.I and use it to their advantage.
    • Artificial Brilliance: When the A.I abuses its strategies to try to defeat the player without the possibility of being broken.
    • Artificial Stupidity: When the A.I is so stupid it can be broken easily.
    • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: When computer-controlled characters blatantly ignore the rules of the game.
    • Perfect Play A.I.: When the A.I is so smart that it uses the same strategy at the right moment, the same punches at the right moment, the same combos at the right moment and you even wonder if you are really facing an A.I.
    • Rubber-Band A.I.: When the A.I improves according to the player's skills.
    • Secret A.I. Moves: When A.I uses the moves that you, dear player, cannot use.
    • SNK Boss: A fighting game boss that is ridiculously difficult to defeat.
  • Video Game Interface Elements: The famous interfaces that are never indispensable.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Unless the playable cast have only adults, this is unavoidable by default.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Unless the playable cast is one-gendered, this is unavoidable by default.