The competitive gaming landscape has certainly evolved since its infancy in the early 90’s with the likes of Quake and Counterstrike dominating the scene triumphantly. Now in 2017, we’ve ushered in a new form of gaming known as eSports, which has taken much of the gaming world by storm and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. While fan favorites like Valve’s Counterstrike continue to bring in large numbers in the team based shooting realm, it’s the MOBA titles that are really raking in the big bucks and really making waves. League of Legends and Dota don’t seem to be losing any steam, while newcomers like Blizzard’s Overwatch and Nintendo’s Splatoon are quickly gaining traction. Whatever you’re into, the competitive gaming environment has a diverse array of titles ranging from the more realistic to the colorful anime style we’ve come to know and admire.
10. Under Night in Birth Exe: Late
- System/Platform: Arcade, Windows, PlayStation 3
- Publisher: Arc System Works
- Developer: French Bread | Ecole Software
- Release Date: July 24, 2014
Under Night in Birth Exe: Late or UNIEL for short, amazed players with its crazy play style and characters along with splendid visuals to top things off. While it hasn’t made its way into the spotlight for anime fighters, Under Night in Birth Exe: Late still has a strong cult following and continues to receive positive reception. Perhaps it sees more play here in Japan than in the west, where the more notable titles like Guilty Gear Xrd, Central Fiction, and Street Fighter V are taken more seriously.
In spite of that, Under Night in Birth Exe: Late is a title that any anime fan should play because it certainly provides a unique experience unlike any other fighter, while taking inspiration from classics like Arcana Hearts. The library of fighters is satisfactory while learning the game won’t take you as long as other titles, so for brand new players into fighting games, this one is surely one to try. If you truly want to see high level play of this game however, definitely come to Japan and you’ll be blown away.
9. King of Fighters XIV
- System/Platform: PlayStation 4, Arcade
- Publisher: SNK | Atlus USA
- Developer: SNK
- Release Date: August 23, 2016
SNK just released King of Fighters XIV and while it had a rough beginning in the graphics department, it has certainly improved in a remarkable way. This series is perhaps one of the more classic titles much like Street Fighter, because it’s been around the competitive scene for years. King of Fighters is a very popular title that takes all of the notable characters from SNK’s roster, and throws them into a 3v3 showdown where you’ll need to take out the other team as swiftly as possible.
With flashy combos, visually stunning backdrops and a catchy soundtrack, King of Fighters XIV has learned from its past predecessors and implemented more concrete gameplay elements to make the experience more satisfying. KOF XIV as it’s also known by, is slowly picking up momentum and is really starting to cement itself in the fighting community. While it still has a long way to go before it reaches the likes of Street Fighter V on the main stage, King of Fighters XIV offers a fresh experience to those who are into fighters with a combo system that feels fluid and concise.
8. Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme vs Maxi Boost ON
- System/Platform: Arcade
- Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
- Developer: Bandai Namco Games
- Release Date: March 19, 2016
Another heavy hitter in the Japanese arcade scene is Gundam Extreme Vs Maxi Boost ON, which continues to make waves and brings in large crowds at well known arcades across Tokyo. The reason for its popularity perhaps stems from the Gundam branding, but we feel that it’s the team based, fast paced gameplay that truly blows everyone away. The game has received constant updates ever since its initial release, and with Maxi Boost ON being the most recent there’s just so much in store for anyone who’s willing to pick up and play. You have pretty much the entire roster of popular Gundams from the series, all of whom have their own unique characteristics that make them stand out in battle.
Maxi Boost ON takes players into a 3D playing field where teamwork is imperative to win, and if you don’t cooperate there’ll be hell to pay. While fighting on your own is certainly permitted at times, you’ll need to rely on your team members to come to your aid when bombarded by the opponent. Competition is fierce in this game and much like sharks, the pro players can sniff out blood very quickly and can destroy any rookie in mere seconds. If you don’t want to be shark bait then perhaps it’s best to just spectate, but if you’re a true warrior then take your yen and step your game up in this action packed title.
7. Blazblue Central Fiction
- System/Platform: Arcade, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Arc System Works | Aksys Games
- Developer: Arc System Works
- Release Date: November 19, 2015
Blazblue Central Fiction released recently both in Japan and North America, with die hard fans rushing out to grab their copy. If you’d like to know our take on the popular anime fighter, be sure to check out our latest review for more details on modes and more. While Guilty Gear Xrd stands at the forefront for anime fighters, Blazblue is right behind it and continues to shine on its own with a large cast of popular characters to choose from.
Some would argue that in terms of learning curve, Guilty Gear Xrd is a lot easier to pick up and play than Blazblue Central Fiction. The reason behind this is that for a while now, Blazblue has been known among the anime fighting community to have a high ceiling for newcomers since learning combos and executing them consistently takes a lot more time than it’s Guilty Gear relative. Be that as it may, Blazblue Central Fiction is an incredible game with a great tutorial that provides players with plenty of useful tips to help get them started, and then take those skills online (or arcades if you’re in Japan) to show your opponent who’s boss.
6. Guilty Gear Xrd
- System/Platform: Arcade, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows
- Publisher: Arc System Works | Aksys Games
- Developer: Arc System Works
- Release Date: February 20, 2014
The anime fighting community are a very passionate bunch and they have every right to be. Guilty Gear Xrd is one title that the scene will never let go of because it’s so spectacular not only to watch but incredibly addicting to play. In Japan this game is constantly in the spotlight, as top players like Kazunoko, Ogawa, Dogura, and Machaboo continue to leave their opponents in the dust with their flashy and technical combos. Guilty Gear has this very unique style to it that no other title could ever replicate, with its very metal rock themed visuals pertaining to its character roster, along with the godlike music from Daisuke Ishiwatari & Naoki Hashimoto.
In spite of the game requiring a lot of execution and a steep learning curve depending on the character, Guilty Gear Xrd is honestly jam packed with features that are undeniably entertaining both on a casual level and professional level. When watching this game on the main stage at EVO, you’re just left in awe because when you watch the pros go at it. Everything just looks seamless and easy to pull off. Then when you try to go into training mode and mimic what you saw, you realize just how hard it is and that this game requires a lot of practice to be good at.
5. Pokemon Sun & Moon
- System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS
- Publisher: The Pokemon Company
- Developer: Game Freak
- Release Date: November 28, 2016
Pokemon has always been a competitive title ever since both versions Red and Blue released back in 1996, and since then Game Freak’s baby has now evolved into a massive powerhouse worldwide. No matter where you go, whether it be a small family owned restaurant or just walking down the streets of Tokyo, you’ll most likely see some advertisement of Pokemon just glistening in front of you. What makes Pokemon so popular isn’t so much in its cutesy anime visuals, although that too is a selling point, it’s honestly the emotional connection you build with each Pokemon that you catch in the wild because they feel like they’re your own.
As you level up each of your Pokemon and prepare them for battle, you feel this sense of accomplishment each time one of your Pokemon evolves, or throws out that final blow to your opponent to win the match. Pokemon Sun & Moon came out of the gates with fire in its eyes and the determination to succeed, and boy it did. The numbers clearly speak for themselves and further prove just how powerful of a brand it is, and with the Pokemon World Championships rolling around again soon, Pokemon Sun & Moon will be at the forefront and so we’ll wait and see who becomes the next Pokemon Master.
4. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
- System/Platform: Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Bandai Namco Games
- Release Date: November 21, 2014
Initially released on the Nintendo 64 back in 1999, Sakurai’s brainchild somehow managed to capture the hearts of Nintendo fans worldwide, and still continues to shine on big time in the competitive scene. Smash Bros. Melee came out for the Gamecube years ago and yet, the title is still being played at a high level and now is taking the eSports world by storm. However the true winner at the moment is certainly Smash Bros. for the Wii U because it takes just about everything you loved from past iterations, and beefs everything up entirely to create an experience like no other.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is just simply breathtaking in its visual aesthetics, and incredibly thrilling to play not only competitively but with a group of friends. While many argue that Smash Bros. for Wii U isn’t a true fighting game, it’s quite clear that the title still continues to gain traction in the eSports world and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. With an array of new characters added to an already mammoth roster, along with a rumored Nintendo Switch update at some point (maybe??), the Smash series will certainly continue to turn heads with its unique style and creativity in the competitive scene.
3. Street Fighter V
- System/Platform: Steam, PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: February 16, 2016
In spite of the negative feedback that many review outlets released about Street Fighter V, Capcom’s notable title doesn’t ever back down from a fight. Street Fighter V had a very rough start as the beta version promised a lot of features that eventually were altered or removed entirely from the full game. Many who purchased the title felt that things felt unfinished to which Capcom promised to fill that gap in the near future. Fast forward to the present and the popular franchise is now slowly picking up steam and is becoming a notable eSports title.
There’s no denying that Street Fighter has captured our hearts in some way or another, and perhaps that’s why we find it difficult to really ignore the game. Those who are passionate about fighting games will certainly mention Street Fighter as the creme de la creme when it comes to what’s hot at the moment, because it truly has this nostalgic feeling with a modern kick that makes it a thrill to watch. Whether you’re setting up combos in the corner with Ryu, or flash kicking your way to victory with everyone’s favorite Guile, Street Fighter V is your quintessential fighting game that’s only going to get better over time and evolve into something spectacular.
- System/Platform: Nintendo Wii U
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo EAD
- Release Date: May 28, 2015
Splatoon was one of those titles that came out of left field and blew everyone away the moment it released. Nobody expected Nintendo, a company that’s been so tailored to creating a very family friendly image, to release a shooting game on their platform. However Nintendo did a stellar job of ensuring that their audience wasn’t shun away by any means, and implemented the notable Nintendo charm that just makes their games so exciting to play. You play as a team of Inklings, humanoids that can transform into squids on the fly, who battle it out on numerous stages to see who comes out on top.
The fantastic aspect about Splatoon is that it’s a friendly shooter meaning, that while it incorporates imagery that you’d find in your typical third person title, it transforms everything into a vibrantly colored world filled with obstacles to overcome, and constant paint flying everywhere instead of blood. This innovative decision by Nintendo to create a fun loving title for just about anyone is why Splatoon continues to rise in popularity despite the Wii U’s unfortunate demise. With the Nintendo Switch, perhaps we may see an upgrade to the addicting shooter, and also introduce an eSports league to really kick things off.
- System/Platform: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
- Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
- Release Date: May 24, 2016
There’s no arguing that Overwatch is currently the one title that many people are talking about in the competitive scene, especially in South Korea where the game has taken precedence over the once dominant League of Legends. The numbers truly speak for themselves, as Blizzard’s team based shooter continues to make headlines and turn heads. Known in its early stages as Titan, which took inspiration from classics like Team Fortress 2, Overwatch launched in May of 2016 and since then has become a global brand in Blizzard’s already stacked lineup.
This now gives Blizzard so much leverage going forward since their other major titles like Hearthstone, Starcraft and Heroes of the Storm still continue to shine. Overwatch is just fun, simply put, and with constant maps and new characters being thrown into the already diverse lineup, this addicting team shooter will perhaps overtake CS:GO at some point. It already seems to be doing so as popular streaming platform Twitch continues to see rising numbers in viewership, while more and more players are going out to buy a copy of the game to take part in the action. We’ve spent a large chunk of time sniping the opposing team with our favorite Widowmaker, and it’s just so solid in every single way that no matter how much you try to stop playing you’re right back in the fray.
Other honorable mentions for our list are Tekken 7, Initial D Arcade Stage 8, Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 5DX Plus, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Yu Gi Oh, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, along with a ton of others to choose from. Which competitive anime game do you love to play the most? Who’s your favorite character from the cast? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to let your friends know of Honey’s Anime also to keep the community buzzing!
As always, if you want to know about all the latest buzz straight from the bee’s nest in Japan, be sure to keep it locked here at Honey’s Anime.