Street Fighter II

Timelines: All, Japan Categories: 1990s, Country, Decade, Japan, Media, Video game Street Fighter II
Date: 1991


Street Fighter is a major Japanese multimedia franchise owned by the Japanese company Capcom and centred on a set of fighting-based video games. Aside from video games, the Street Fighter name has branded anime films (Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, 1994), manga and comic series, card games, cologne, a U.S. TV series (Street Fighter, 1995-1997), and a U.S. live action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (Street Fighter, 1995). But the games remain the best-known and most enduring productions, beginning with the release of the arcade game Street Fighter in 1987. Designed by Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto and developed and published by Capcom, Street Fighter was an early competitive, single-axis fighting game that drew on conventions in precedents such as Yie Ar Kung Fu (1985, Konami) and Karate Champ (1984, Technōs Japan). Street Fighter centres on either the Japanese or American characters Ryu or Ken as they compete in a martial arts tournament featuring opponents from across the globe.

It was Street Fighter II: The World Warrior that established the franchise’s dominance of early 1990s gaming, released for arcades in 1991 and on the Famicom/Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1992. Street Fighter II was itself the subject of many editions, including Street Fighter II: Champion Edition (1992), Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (1992), and Street Fighter II: The New Challengers (1993). Street Fighter II: The World Warrior is notable as the first fighting game to allow players to choose from various characters with unique fighting styles and back-stories. One (unplayable) boss character, “Balrog”, resembled American boxer Mike Tyson, and his name in the original Japanese game, “M. Bison”, was changed for the U.S. release fearing possible legal action. The first SNES game to feature 16 megabits (or 2 megabytes) of memory, and expanding on the six-button control scheme and special move sequences of the original game, Street Fighter II provided increased variety to fights as players moved through the single-player tournament mode. This variety was also extended through a two-player versus mode, which along with the introduction of a combo mechanic, was a major development for fight-based arcade games. Unlike many other popular arcade titles, the emphasis on special combinations also demanded repeat playing for skill development.

By 1993, Street Fighter II had earned sales revenue of USD1.5 billion and its success contributed to the expansion of the two-player fighting genre, including Mortal Kombat (Midway Games, 1992-) and Tekken (Namco, 1994-). Mortal Kombat in particular, which expanded on Street Fighter’s martial arts fighting with a range of gory “fatality” moves, would prove to be controversial in the United States, leading to a Senate Committee Inquiry and eventually formalising self-regulating of the video games industry through the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). – Liam Grealy

Further reading:
– Donovan, T. (2010). The history of video games. Yellow Ant: East Sussex.
– Leone, M. (2014). Street Fighter II: An oral history.

Back to timeline