How To Win At Fighting Games (Without Cheating)

By on April 8, 2021

jin kazama doing a victory pose, with YOU WIN in big ol' letters across the screen

There are plenty of reasons to pick up a fighting game. You can play for fun; you can use them as a way to make new friends; you can stream them as a hobby or even for money. But there are some times when you just want to win.

The only problem is that it’s hard to win in a fighting game. Especially at higher levels of competition, it can be nearly impossible to know which adjustments will allow you to overcome a particularly difficult challenge. By now, every competitive fighting gamer can recite the basic ways to improve: hit the lab, study matchups, and so on. Yet without having an overall strategy in place, you won’t be able to get the most out of those methods. When you work on your game, you should always be working towards some vision of how you plan to win. That way, you’ll be able to organize your time, focus your efforts, and build specialized skills that are custom-fit to the obstacles that you actually encounter.

The Menu

In this series, we’ll take a look at all of the different ways to win and how they apply in the context of the Fighting Game Community. This is not a color-by-numbers game; it’s not “One Easy Trick To Get You To Platinum.” Every approach illuminates a different path towards victory, and every player will have to pick and choose the combination of strategies that matches their personality and situation. But by understanding each method individually, you’ll be able to properly classify your difficulties and pick the solutions that match.

With that in mind, let’s start learning. In broad terms, these are all of the ways that it’s possible to win in any competitive endeavor:

  • By virtue of superior physical attributes
  • By having a more focused gameplan
  • By having a more balanced gameplan
  • By using a gameplan that specifically nullifies the opponent’s strengths
  • By virtue of superior execution of a gameplan
  • By deploying a good innovation
  • By using a gameplan that’s better suited to the territory
  • By deploying superior technology
  • By relying on luck

Think of this list like a menu. If you’re not very hungry, you might go to a restaurant and only order an appetizer. On the other hand, if you’re celebrating a holiday, you might order a full five-course meal. The same applies with the list above. Depending on what you need in any specific moment, you might select either just one option or a combination. For now, don’t worry about knowing how to navigate the menu. That knowledge will come as you learn more about each “dish.”

The Exceptions

In this series, we’re assuming that you want to win with honor – or, at least, with as much honor as you can have in a genre that features unblockables, unseeable mixups, lopsided matchups, and the like. That’s why our menu doesn’t include two other ways to win, namely, by default and by cheating.

Winning by default is the easiest possible way to win. If your opponent never shows up, gets caught breaking the rules, or intentionally throws the match, you’ll win no matter what. But winning by default doesn’t bring any honor with it, and it certainly doesn’t scratch the competitive itch. The same goes for cheating. We all know that there are ways to cheat in fighting games, especially when you play online. If you give yourself infinite meter, one-hit kills, or some other outrageous buff, you’ll make your life a whole lot easier.

But if you’re planning to cheat, then this series isn’t for you. As the FGC prepares to restart its in-person tournament scene, there are going to be plenty of players who want to level up their game the right way. So if you’re willing to put in the work, then get ready for an all-you-can-eat buffet of strategic insight, because this is the series for you.

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