Top 10 Nerfed Fighting Game Characters

Whether you think it's a good thing or not, developers nowadays are listening more closely to their fan base when it comes to balancing fighting game characters. Outcries from outraged fans can have an effect on how a character becomes balanced. It really depends on the developer. Some of them have their games tested ahead of their releases so that the initial game feels somewhat balanced. Yet, others like to see overpowered characters rise and fall like the tide. It helps games feel fresh and fluid.

There are so many fighting games available nowadays that it's tough to keep track of them all. However, we'd like to bring your attention to some of the characters that have received the biggest nerfs in fighting game history. They've been weakened or neutered in some cases. Fans have either rejoiced over the alterations or been split 50/50 over the changes. Taking into consideration a character's overall strength, popularity, design, tournament results, and other factors, we've compiled a comprehensive list that any fighting game fan should read. So, without further ado let's take a look at our top 10 nerfed characters in fighting games.

10. Ibuki from Street Fighter III - New Generation

  • System: Arcade, Dreamcast
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Dates: Feb. 4th, 1997 (Arcade)

Easy hit-confirms, a very quick and long-range Special Art, and an easy to do infinite combo (one button repeated over and over), yup, Ibuki was extremely strong in New Generation. She very well may have been the strongest character in NG. Her SA3 had a 1-frame startup and was able to travel almost full screen to punish whiffed normals and specials. Her fast-paced, mixup-centric, flashy playstyle served her well for this iteration of SF III.

Even though her infinite was removed in the console release of this game, she was still at the top of the tier list. She and the twins (Yun and Yang) continued to reign supreme in 2nd Impact. That's when Ibuki would be slightly nerfed, but still received EX-moves that would diversify her playstyle and keep her at the top.

Finally, when 3rd Strike rolled around, she would receive even more nerfs to her SA's and her setups became slightly harder to pull off for each individual character. Eventually, people would discover stronger combos, pokes, and kara moves (throw and shoryukens) that would put other characters above Ibuki. She fell down to mid-tier when it came to the highest levels of competition.

9. Sentinel from Marvel vs Capcom 3

  • System: PS3, Xbox 360
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Dates: Feb. 15th, 2011

Sentinel was a fan favorite in Marvel vs Capcom 2. So, when he made the roster of Marvel vs Capcom 3, a lot of the top players tried him out to see if he was similar to his previous incarnation. Though, he was quite different from before he still retained high damage, a good assist, and strong aerial pressure. He was an anchor on many teams because of his tankiness and ability to come back and win a match from a deficit. Then, changes started rolling around.

According to developers, he suffered from a "bug" where his health was higher than it should have been. He went from 1,300,000 health in vanilla MvC3, then to 910,000 after the patch and finally to 900,000 health in UMvC3.

Other nerfs included reduced hit stun on rocket punch and reduced armor on his standing S (launcher). Less hit stun meant that the droid lost the ability to combo his rocket punch into Hyper Sentinel Force. This specific combo used to give him a fighting chance against zoning characters such as Hawkeye. Going from hyper armor to super armor on his launcher forced took away a cheeky move where he could spam standing S up close to go through attacks with almost no consequence. Overall, Sentinel lost his tankiness but did not gain any benefits that would classify him as a glass cannon. He was placed somewhere in the middle of the tiers.

8. Seth from Super Street Fighter 4 - Arcade Edition

  • System: PS3, Xbox 360
  • Publisher: Capcom, Dimps
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Dates: Feb. 12th, 2009

When Seth was introduced into the series, he was seen as an amalgamation of several Street Fighter characters. He possessed the shoto Shoryuken, he had Zangief's SPD, he could use Chun-Li's lightning legs, he had Dhalsim's long-range limbs, and he had Guile's sonic boom. In essence, he seemed like the most broken character in SF history. He was a rush down character through and through. The only thing holding him down was that he had the lowest health in the game. He was the epitome of a glass cannon.

Not only was he strong in theory, but Poongko (a Korean fighting game player) displayed just how powerful this character was at Evo 2011 in his match against The Beast, Daigo Umehara. Yun was considered the most overpowered character in that version of the game, Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition 2012. However, Poongko destroyed Daigo’s Yun with his psychic uppercuts and countless SPD's. He even received a Perfect in one of the rounds. He showed everyone why Seth was actually strong and not just why he looked good on paper.

Every subsequent version of Street Fighter 4 saw Seth receive nerfs and balance changes. He lost his jump back to heavy punch (yoga sniper). He could no longer wall-jump or dive kick as effectively. The stun on some of his special moves was decreased. He lost the ability to cancel his normal moves into Tandem Engine (vacuum grab). Of course, he was affected by the DP FADC nerf (affected all DP's) that made it -5 on block. These and other nerfs were all things he deserved, but by the end of SFIV's cycle, people were too strong in the neutral game to allow Seth to begin his mixup game. He lost his explosiveness and therefore his effectiveness as a character.

7. Akuma from Tekken 7

  • System: PS4, PC, XB1
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
  • Developer: Bandai Namco Games
  • Release Dates: June 1st, 2017

Akuma reincarnated into his Tekken 7 form left him in a unique position. He possessed moves that were almost game breaking. He brought over Focus Attack Dash Cancel combos from SFIV as well as his Super move (Raging Demon). These abilities coupled with his plethora of unrivaled aerial attacks made him the strongest character in the game upon his release.

In Tekken 7: Fated Retribution (or vanilla Tekken 7 on consoles) Akuma received changes to his dive kick combos (some of them no longer work), recover on his air tatsumaki zankukyaku (spinning kick), and damage reduction to some moves, such as his Raging Demon.

In Tekken 7: FR - Update version H, he received even more nerfs. For starters, the hitboxes on his forward, backward jumps, and demon flips were increased. This meant that he could be punished easier for performing aerial attacks. Not only that, he received more recover after performing a jumping attack. So, he could be punished easier when landing as well.

If you've watched any professional players using Akuma then its easy to see why he received those changes. Even after those, he remained one of the strongest characters in the game, to this day. Will he receive more nerfs? Only time will tell. But, if he's anything like his SFIV iteration then he'll receive balance changes every time there's a new update.

6. Scorpion from Mortal Kombat X

  • System: PS4, PC, XB1
  • Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, NetherRealm Studios
  • Developer: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
  • Release Dates: April 15th, 2015

Fans have always had a special place in their heart for the Hellfire ninja. His attacks and personality ooze with power and determination to incinerate his opponent. Even though he's somewhat of a villain, gamers always love to pick him up and try his signature moves, such as his spear that pulls the opponent towards him ("Get over here."). So, it was no surprise that so many people used him in Mortal Kombat X and voiced their opinions when he received some well-deserved nerfs.

He went from having very strong high/low mixups, safe attack strings that could be canceled into his teleport (which switched sides), and high damaging combos, to being a mid-tier character. It was clear to everyone that Scorpion was a vortex character that had the potential to kill his opponent after landing a single hit. His main combos went from doing ~45% damage to about ~30% and his attack strings were no longer as advantageous on block. In fact, some of his block strings were disrupted completely because larger gaps were added in between his moves. This meant that he could no longer keep up his barrage of attacks without consequence.

He was still viable in online play and offline tournaments, but he no longer had the ease of access that players had just become accustomed to during the game's initial release. People had to make adjustments to their combo paths, block strings, reversal baits, etc. The nerf wasn't character destroying as people initially made it out to be, but because the character was played by SO many people it received a lot of attention and scrutiny from the community.

5. Sean from Street Fighter III - 2nd Impact

  • System: Dreamcast
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Dates: October 1997

Sean is a joke character now. People see him as a shoto rip-off and for that reason, he's often called the "Dan" of the Street Fighter 3 series. But, that wasn't always the case. There was a time when he was the best shoto-esque character in the series. His high damage, quick meter building heavy punch, easy hit confirms, high mobility, and Sean Roll gave him the tools to deal with every other character.

Unfortunately, when 3rd Strike rolled around, he could not escape his fate. His uppercut, Dragon Smash, had its power, speed, and range reduced. It also was given a new animation that left it hitting once instead of twice. Also, the hitbox was changed so that it only hit directly above his head instead of further out like most shotos. The speed of Sean Roll was reduced. So, it was easier to see coming, more punishable by reaction, and less useful to escape aerial attacks and corner pressure. Not to mention that a lot of Sean's hit confirms and cancels were changed. His methods for canceling into specials and supers were greatly reduced. Ken and Ryu easily outclassed him in the tier list.

In an interview, Producer Tomoshi Sadamoto expressed his rationale when designing Sean. The design team wanted to create "a character that people could use when they wanted to give themselves a handicap." So, it's reasonable to think that Sean's success in New Generation and 2nd Impact were unplanned consequences. In 3rd Strike, they corrected their mistakes and developed a version of Sean that more closely resembled his original conception.

4. Dante from Marvel vs Capcom Infinite

  • System: PS4, XB1
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Dates: Sept. 19th, 2017

On December 5th, 2017, an update was implemented into Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite that saw some huge changes affect some of the strongest characters. This was most evident in Dante (from the Devil May Cry franchise).

General changes included a 10% health decrease and homing capabilities removed from several of Dante's special moves. A few of his normal attacks had the hurt boxes increased as well.A lot of his specials received damage reductions, near 45% in some cases, hitbox decreases, knockdown time shortened, and meter gain lessened.

To put these changes into perspective, you have to realize that Dante has about 15 different special moves. All of them were adjusted so that they were less effective and generally weakened across the board. It would even make sense to alter 1 or 2 things from each move to create a more balanced character. But, to "normalize" 3-4 characteristics of 15 different moves is over the top. If the character actually deserved all of those adjustments (which arguably he did) then he was not tested properly before the game's release.

That being the case, Dante players had to adjust to all of these changes very quickly. The pro players, in particular, had to adapt on the fly because these changes were carried out three days before Capcom Cup. For those unfamiliar, Capcom Cup is an invitational tournament that features the best players in the newest Capcom Fighting games. While several characters received changes at the same time, Dante players were especially impacted by the ill-timed update.

3. Aquaman from Injustice 2

  • System: PS4, PC, XB1
  • Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, NetherRealm Studios
  • Developer: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
  • Release Dates: May 9th, 2017

In the middle of July 2017, NetherRealm released their first big patch for Injustice 2. Two of characters hit hardest by nerfs were Black Adam and Aquaman. It's the latter one that we're focusing on here. Aquaman received nerfs to his Tentacle Strike, Trident Rush, and recover on some of his more annoying moves.

Let's start with Tentacle. Pre-patch the meter burn version of this move launched the opponent up into the air and granted a combo extension. That launch was removed. Next, Trident Rush used to be a great move to use in blockstrings just to tack on some additional block damage and gain meter. However, the block damage was reduced which in turn decreased the amount of meter gained. The last big change was that his back + 1, 2, 3 string was converted to negative on block. It's not punishable by opponents, but it does put an abrupt end to Aquaman's pressure game. His frame advantage is gone as well as his momentum in that specific situation.

These major changes caused an uproar in the NetherRealm community. People took to the message boards to express their distaste for these changes. Top players dropped this character completely. Fans created an online petition to have the changes reverted or at least altered to a more reasonable degree. Even though Aquaman fans raged as hard as they could, NetherRealm stuck to their guns. This was just another example of a top tier character being normalized and players eventually accepted the change when they realized it was permanent.

2. Bayonetta from Smash Brothers 4

  • System: Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Dates: Oct. 3rd, 2014

The final character released for Super Smash Brothers 4 was none other than Bayonetta. This DLC character had a flashy playstyle with multi-hitting attacks that drew in many players. Unfortunately, players who didn't pick her up were left with bruises to their pride and did not enjoy her presence on the roster. She was far stronger than any of the other playable characters and so the community strongly pushed for her to be hit with the nerf hammer. And boy did it hit.

She received a list of nerfs, more than any other character in Smash 4 history. Her entire play style was reworked. Several of her moves had the hitboxes altered (most notably her D-tilt) so that opponents had a slightly easier time getting around her attacks. The damage and angles on some of her special moves were weakened as well. Overall, her neutral game was neutered and she wasn't terrifying to fight head on any longer.

Moreover, the SDI multipliers on her Witch-Twist and After-Burner Kick were doubled! For those that don't know, SDI stands for Smash Directional Influence. This technique allows you to slightly move your character in between the freeze frames of an attack. In this case, characters hit by Bayonetta's specials were essentially allowed to escape her follow up attacks. So, she could no longer execute large combos (at low percentages) that would lead to ring outs. Skilled players could use SDI to escape her pressure and fight her in neutral where she was no longer as strong. The witch is dead! RIP.

1. Rainbow Mika (R. Mika) from Street Fighter V

  • System: PS4, PC
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Dates: Feb. 16th, 2016

NuckleDu took Rainbow Mika and Guile all the way to the grand finals of Capcom Cup 2016. In a stunning display of mental fortitude and skill, he outplayed international players and Ricky Ortiz to win it all. This platform displayed R. Mika's female wrestling strengths for the world to see. It's debatable whether she was overpowered or if NuckleDu just simply more prepared in his matchups than the other players. Whatever the case may be, that single event pushed Capcom to "normalize" Mika for season 2 of Street Fighter V.

First off, she was hurt by the overall changes that took place in season 2 of Street Fighter V. Those changes included, throws and command grab having additional recovery frames, less damage, less stun, and light attacks having additional pushback. That meant she had less follow up options after successfully throwing an opponent and her pressure up close was slightly weakened. She also received the standard treatment of most of her normals having less increased hurtboxes, increased startup and recovery on normal attacks, lower damage on her specials, and less meter gain on her specials.

Okay, now to the character specific changes. The most hurtful changes centered around Passion Rope Throw. Before, she would grab a character and throw them towards the side of the stage. They would hit an "invisible wall" and stumble back towards Mika in a stunned state. This allowed her to get high damage combos and knockdown mix-ups on opponents from the middle of the stage. That "wall" was completely removed, opponents had to reach the actual corner of the stage now. Second, the startup frames were increased on Passion Press as well. So, she couldn't throw it out randomly in hopes of it landing and continuing with the Passion Rope Throw for a high damage combo.

She went from having an extremely strong neutral game, with an even better corner pressure game, to a mid-tier character that was only played by the most loyal fans. If you still follow the game you know that Fuudo (a Japanese pro gamer) still uses this female wrestler but he's one of the last pro gamers still using her. With the latest version, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition being released earlier this month, there's a chance that Mika could make a return to the top. We'll have to wait and see.

Final Thoughts

If you've tried to learn a fighting game in the past 10 years or so, your character has been affected in one way or another by new patches and updates. This will probably be the case from now on. More and more developers are balancing their games frequently. It's something that we've grown accustomed to as gamers.

Is there a character on here that you feel we missed? Is there a character on here that you played, what're your thoughts on their nerfs? As always, we'd love to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to read the article and have a great day!

Javier Garcia


Author: Javier Garcia

Hey guys! I'm a huge fan of anime and video games. I used to be a competitive fighting game player (search my name in YouTube). So, I guess it was natural for me to make my way over here to Japan. I teach English, write anime articles, and put together videos when I have time. I hope you enjoy the content we've created for you here at Honey's Anime!

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