- Ling Xiaoyu has a childlike personality and fighting style, now with more maturity and serious motivations.
- Yoshimitsu is a theatrical supernatural ninja with deadly swordplay and tricky stances.
- Steve Fox is an unorthodox boxer with a mysterious past who relies on evasive techniques and hard-hitting punches.
Fighting games are typically character-driven affairs, but Tekken takes the crown as the fighting genre’s greatest character-driven dramas. With blood feuds, genetic experiments, demonic entities, and prize money fueling a decades-long conflict, there’s so much personality on display.
6 Most Iconic 2D Fighting Game Characters
Even gamers outside of the fighting game genre will recognize these famous 2D fighting game characters from Mortal Kombat to Street Fighter.
There are so many eye-catching, compelling, and downright quirky characters to choose from, but not everyone can make it to the finals (in popularity or power). Based on their fighting prowess, backstories, lasting appeal, growth as people and fighters, and, of course, fashion sense, these figures made the list of top fighters in the Iron Fist universe.
10 Ling Xiaoyu
The Cheery Optimist Who Fights For Compassion With Grace
- Has had a childlike personality and backstory throughout the series, with signs of growing maturity in later entries
- Her fighting style incorporates graceful sweeps, fluid side-steps, and deadly and elusive maneuvers
Ling appeared in the third Tekken entry, but given her personality and fighting style were both fluid but somewhat childlike, she never quite edged into the ring of viable fighters until Tekken 7. Her drive to enter the third Iron Fist tournament came from a desire to build a theme park with the winnings; another was to fund a “time machine” project. Since then, her motivations have been more serious, usually revolving around her attempts to reform members of the Mishima clan.
Ling is no powerhouse but instead wears her opponent down with the pressure of quick jabs and snappy, long-ranged sweeps in the Piguaquan tradition. While unleashing her true potential (impervious stances and deadly shock attacks) relies on the player’s reaction speed, her stances tend to be easy to pick up for new players. This, combined with her colorful, cheery personality and recent maturity, makes her a late favorite.
Part Skeletal Cyborg, Part Supernatural Ninja
- This theatrical enigma blends the mysteries of the supernatural with the power of the cybernetic
- His fighting style is based on deadly swordplay and tricky, magical stances
While he is an odd character (to say the least) and has a difficult fighting style to master, Yoshimitsu has always been an oddball icon for the series, having appeared in every game. He has a very “Robin-Hood-esque” backstory, as he belongs to the Manji clan, a clandestine group that steals from evildoers and distributes their earnings to those in need. Although he has an altruistic magnetism, he also wields a cursed blade that thirsts for evil blood.
Yoshimitsu has always incorporated several complex stances into his move set, including the deadly-but-ridiculous sword-hopping flea stance, a health-recovering meditation, and Kincho, in which Yoshimitsu can draw his blade in a variety of deadly ways. Of course, Yoshimitsu is also known for his Kenjutsu swordplay, especially after adding a second blade to his arsenal, which he now uses to strike opponents directly in fights rather than using it as a special technique.
8 Steve Fox
The Unorthodox Boxer With A Mysterious Past
- Steve’s mysterious origin leads him to the heart of a Mishima conspiracy
- While he lacks reach, his evasive technique is usually more than enough to keep him swinging
Charming, equitable, and hard-hitting, Steve Fox was initially driven to fight in the Iron Fist tournament for fame in order to further his search for his biological parents. After discovering the treachery of the Mishima clan, his mother’s true identity (one highly skilled assassin), and getting revenge, he continues to search for meaning and authenticity, fighting to break free from his artificial roots.
Steve has an incredibly out-there fighting style for a Tekken character in that he does not use kicks, only punches. Naturally, his boxing fists hit hard and fast, and while he may not have the reach afforded by kicks, he is slippery and evasive in the ring, a street fight, or even in a firefight, as his ability to bob and weave blows and sting with a counter leaves his enemies knocked out for the count.
7 Nina Williams
The Enigmatic Assassin With Unscrutable Attacks
- As an assassin, Nina is every bit as mysterious and unpredictable as could be expected from the profession
- Nina is a challenging character to play, but in the right hands, she is untouchable thanks to her grapples and throws
As anyone might expect, Nina’s life as a professional assassin has had regular twists and turns. This mysterious path seems to have shaped her fighting style, which she can use to bamboozle her opponents with an unpredictable array of moves, from grappling to juggling throws. Nina isn’t the easiest fighter to master, but against players who value precision play, Nina is unreadable and untouchable.
8 Best Mothers in Fighting Games
Motherhood sometimes means protecting a child through any means, even if that entails stepping into the ring for some one-on-one combat.
Her Koppojutsu and Aikido training leaves her with many “hit, dodge, hit, dodge” style moves, such as her “Uppercut to Jab” and “Creeping Step,” making it difficult not only to land a hit against her but impossible to break a stunlock if facing off against a Nina expert. Her deadly left-arm reversal, if timed correctly, can lead to an unending series of throwdowns.
6 Paul Phoenix
The Meathead With Everything To Prove
- Paul is a straightforward, power-first character
- Paul uses old-school judo mixed with powerful wind-up fist attacks
The bad-to-the-bone biker with as much heat behind his punches as a thousand blazing suns, Paul is the go-to “smoke ’em” character for players looking to smack their enemies to the other end of the stage. A grizzled drifter with all the determination in the world to prove himself as the greatest fighter of all time, Paul enters the Iron Fist tournament to further his reputation or to pull himself out of a financial hole.
Paul’s brash, brawler attitude is expressed in his preferred medium of communication: combat. While he incorporates elements of judo and karate, he takes a more old-school approach and opts for strikes over throwing moves. That isn’t to say that he can’t move his opponents, as his slow-charging “Burning Fist” attack will send standing combatants rolling away into the horizon.
5 King (I & II)
Masks Of Jaguars, Hearts Of Saints
- Both kings embody kindness and a love for compassion, forgiveness, and charity
The style of these
is more defensive, turning their opponents’ carelessness against them
King I and II are indistinguishable from a gameplay perspective and in their appearances. Both have never been seen without their trademark jaguar masks, and both appear as pro-wrestlers with luchador fighting styles. The original King grew up on the streets of Mexico under the tutelage of an alcoholic priest whose dream was to build an orphanage. After fulfilling his late mentor’s dream, King was murdered by Ogre before the events of Tekken 3.
One of his orphans donned the mask and, with Armored King’s training, became King II and swore revenge. King II inherited his hero’s heart as well as his mask, as he demonstrated a great capacity for forgiveness and compassion. Despite their ferocious jaguar appearances, both Kings have a conservative, defensive fighting style. While they are capable of demonstrating raw power, they excel at taking on careless opponents through counterattacks and devastating chain throws.
4 Kazuya Mishima
The Original Devil Progenitor
- Kazuya is one of the more complex villains in the series, second only to Heihachi
- While powerful, Kazuya’s strength lies in punishing his opponent after they slip up
The Tekken series has had its share of black-and-white characters, and this is no more evident than with Kazuya, whose horrific past is matched only by his appalling actions between each tournament. Kazuya went from hero to mainstay villain, thanks, in part, to his devil gene. He is the lesser of evils when compared to his father, and while he lacks the family patriarch’s power, he makes up for it in nuance.
Kazuya is best played with a coy tact. While his basic moves are powerful, his wind-up attacks, best used when a foe slips up and exposes themselves, are crushingly powerful. Once he catches his opponent’s mistake, he can use his “Electric Wind Godfist” or “Double Face Kick” to put them in their place.
3 Marshall Law
The Legendary Dragon
- Marshall Law takes his looks and style from the martial arts legend Bruce Lee
- He is unbeatable up close, able to juggle enemies in the air and wear them down with a thousand smacks
This iconic Tekken favorite is immediately identifiable thanks to his resemblance (in both fashion and fighting style) to Bruce Lee, one of the world’s greatest martial artists and master of the Jeet Kune Do style. Law is well-liked for his fighting passion, responsible attitude, and connection with friends and family. Paul Phoenix is a long-time family friend, and his son, Forest, competed in the third tournament in Mashall’s place.
20 Best Fighting Games You Can Play On Steam
Steam is filled with great fighting games gamers can choose from. With so many unique titles on the platform, these are the ones that stand out.
Marshall Law is an up-close-and-personal fighter who devastates anyone foolish enough to step into his range of pain. His somersault flips pin enemies in the air, and he is capable of delivering quick kicks high or low, high or mid-range, or a deadly and unpredictable mix of both.
2 Heihachi Mishima
The Powerful Forefather Of Evil
The dastardly face of the Mishima clan could well be the face of
- Heihachi utilizes powerful attacks that come with little risk of countering
Heihachi has had his ups and downs across the series, swaying between the tertiary protagonist, main villain, comic relief, and back again to anti-hero. His personality is difficult to define, as he is as often prone to childish japes and jokes (such as promising to fund a theme park on the whims of a 16-year-old schoolgirl) as much as he is to serious ventures (initiating a coup against the family corporation, throwing his son into a volcano, and resurrecting the monstrous god of fighting, Ogre).
Ultimately, he has been at the center of Tekken‘s overarching devil gene story and is in the running to be the face of the fighting game series. The actions he takes against his father, son, and grandson are horrific and compelling. His personalized karate fighting style is as rigid as a brick wall, and his aggressive, unrelenting headbutts, kicks, and punches are nigh impossible to counter. Even on the occasion that Heihachi’s moves fail, it is almost impossible to exploit the moment.
1 Jin Kazama
The Dark Angel Of The Mishima Saga
Jin had overt “protagonist” features until
, when he briefly became a villain
- Well-rounded, easy to pick up, but difficult to master, Jin is the ultimate Iron Fist fighter
Jin carries with him the mark of a protagonist, or at the very least, a sympathetic anti-hero streak (with a blemish of true villainy in Tekken 6). His life mission is to undo the Mishima bloodline, which is quite an understandable goal considering the damage the clan and its members caused to the human race over its lifespan. He wrestles with the devil within and yearns to be rid of it.
Although his moves have changed over the years due to unlearning the family brand of karate, Jin is a well-balanced fighter with well-rounded offensive and defensive capabilities. Although he is a strong combatant and easy for newcomers to pick up (at least in earlier Tekken games), it takes some time to truly master his moves.
The Most Iconic Character Archetypes in Fighting Games
Fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat follow character archetypes, which can identify the playstyle of the character.