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In game parlance, the term fighting game is not used as a catch-all phrase to refer to any game which involves combat; it specifically refers to a style of combat-game which consists of a series of duels (or, occasionally, battles between four characters) typically fought using martial arts.

Fighting games are typically styled after martial arts tournaments, with a number of selectable characters competing in one on one, or tag team style fights. The tournament can either be a regular tournament with just a title or mundane prize up for grabs, or the fate of the world can be hanging in the balance. A Fighting Game based on an Anime will often take place during a Tournament Arc.

The two most common play modes in a fighting game are story mode, where you play as one character trying to win the tournament and versus, where two or more players fight each other. Many recent games released on consoles have longer, more involved storylines and as such will have both the regular Story Mode and an Arcade Mode, which takes out all the story-related elements and makes the opponent lineup more random.

In story mode you generally get to fight special boss characters not available for player selection after you beat the rest of the characters. These characters are either the previous tournament champions or the Big Bad and his Dragon. Rarer but still somewhat prevalent, you may instead end the mode fighting against another player character that is specifically your character's rival. Some games have both.

But most people don't play Fighting Games for their single-player modes, at least today; rather, the multiplayer is the meat and potatoes of most any Fighting Game today. If you go to a reputable arcade with Fighting Games, you'll often see many people playing these games. Depending on your skill level, playing against a random opponent can range from very easy to Nintendo Hard; the latter especially if you're a new player. This is one of the reasons arcades rely on fighters for profit: instead of just playing the same stages or CPU-controlled opponents over and over, a player can come across opponents of all skill levels and styles, and it's this aspect that makes fighting games very popular for multiplayer. This is also one of the reasons that home versions come out far more often on consoles; most PC monitors just aren't big enough for more than one person.

Generally the interface consists of a Life Meter with an optional Mana Meter of some kind, usually used for special power moves.

Early fighting games allowed the characters to move back and forth on a single axis, with some limited jumping. Modern games tend to have full 3D movement, with complex scenery that can be interacted with (for limited values of "interact" that include "throw through" and "beat heads against".)

Most Fighting Games give each character a set of special moves that are activated through different button command sequences. While one or two of these will sometimes be high power moves that drain the aforementioned Mana Meter, most of these can be executed at any time. These aren't Secret AI Moves; your computer opponents will assume you can use them and will use them themselves. Still, don't expect the game to actually tell you what they are, especially for any secret characters you may find.

See Fighting Series for the non-video game equivalent. Mascot Fighters have simpler mechanics and are somewhat like Platformers. If you walk around a level fighting against many opponents at once using techniques similar to a Fighting Game, it's a Beat'Em Up.


Fighting games generally provide examples of:


Examples:


Licensed fighting games include:


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