Top 8 fighting game singleplayer modes

Street Fighter 6‘s release brings with it the most substantial fighting game singleplayer content in recent memory. But while having that much singleplayer content in a fighting game may sound like a novel idea nowadays, there was a time when this was the norm.

In the 1990s, playing fighting games online was just not a thing. As such, fighting game developers had to think of how to provide players with more things to do outside of the usual arcade and versus modes. To this end, many fighting games released during that time (and into the early 2000s), came with unique singleplayer modes designed to make players feel that they were getting more bang for their buck.

Of course, not every fighting game singleplayer experiment turned out to be an absolute classic. But those that did so are remembered to this day, and even inspired what we’re seeing in games like Street Fighter 6. To this end, we’ve listed some of our favorite fighting game singpleplayer modes.

1. Street Fighter Alpha 3—World Tour

Might as well get this out of the way. Street Fighter 6 is not the first game in the franchise to have a “World Tour” mode. That distinction belongs to the PlayStation release of Street Fighter Alpha 3 (or Zero 3 as it was known in Japan).

To be clear,  Alpha 3‘s World Tour mode did not have the free-roaming open-world, nor the player-created character that Street Fighter 6‘s version has. Instead, players would just pick from any of the existing cast and then level that character up by traveling all over the world to specific fights. That said, this still gave players the feeling of being able to create their version of their character of choice.

To no one’s surprise, the mode was a hit and has returned in every home port of Alpha 3 since—though it’s sorely missing from recent compilations.

2. Mortal Kombat: Deception—Konquest Mode

If there’s one other place where Street Fighter 6s takes inspiration for its World Tour mode, it’s the Konquest Mode from Mortal Kombat: Deception.

Now Konquest Mode actually first appeared in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, but it’s the revamped version that appeared in Deception that’s of interest here. The latter turned what was a simple set of missions in its predecessor into a full-on RPG mode. Here, players take control of Shujinko, visiting the various realms of the Mortal Kombat universe, and leveling him up while searching for the pieces of a mysterious artifact.

Konquest Mode appeared again in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. However, Midway Games changed the way the mode worked once again, this time turning it into a more straightforward adventure instead of an RPG.

3. Tekken—Tekken Force

Fighting games share a fair amount with the beat ’em up genre. As such, it should come as no surprise that Bandai Namco (then just Namco) would try to mash both genres up for the singleplayer mode of their flagship Tekken franchise. (Read: Sifu is not a fighting game, and calling it one is a disservice to its actual genre)

Tekken Force first appeared in 1998’s PlayStation port of Tekken 3. Back then, the mode was a straight-up attempt to create a side-scrolling beat ’em up inside Tekken. While this initial version could be somewhat janky at times, it fared well enough that it would return in succeeding games. Tekken 4, 5 and 6 all introduced updated versions of the mode, further improving it with each installment, while also making it the same mode where players could learn about the game’s story.

Despite the improvements Bandai Namco had made with the mode, Tekken Force did not return in the latest numbered installment of the franchise, Tekken 7. But, with Tekken 8 on the horizon—and Street Fighter 6 seemingly putting expansive fighting game singleplayer modes back in vogue—perhaps we’ll see Tekken Force make a return.

4. Tobal 2—Quest Mode

Did you know that Square Enix (then just Squaresoft) put out a fighter that wasn’t a Final Fantasy spinoff? Developed by Dream Factory and featuring character designs by Dragon Ball artist Akira Toriyama, 1996’s Tobal No. 1 capitalized on Square’s reputation as an RPG company by having a dungeon-crawling rogue-lite quest mode.

However, it’s not that version that we’re interested in. Rather, it’s the version in Tobal 2. That version added two important things, first was an actual town that players could explore, and the second was the ability to capture monsters during the dungeon crawling segments. Any captured monsters could then be used in the game’s versus mode, greatly expanding the game’s cast of playable characters.

5. Soul Calibur—Various

An expansive singleplayer mode has been part of Bandai Namco’s Soul Calibur series of fighting games from the very start. When the first game in the series, Soul Edge, arrived on PlayStation (as Soul Blade in the West), it did so with the Weapon Master mode that allowed players to take their favorite character around the globe, while gathering unique weapons for them.

Since then, just about every iteration of the franchise now known as Soul Calibur has had some version of this mode. Each iteration changes the formula, adding or removing features as necessary, but all of them leverage the franchise’ unique setting and characters to draw players into its world further.

6. BlazBlue—Story Mode

Arc System Works’ BlazBlue franchise is a love letter to 2000s and 2010s animé and otaku culture. As such, it should come as no surprise that the games’ story modes are designed to work like visual novels—the “choose-your-own-adventure-style” story games popularized in Japan.

As with most visual novels, the story modes in the mainline BlazBlue games feature multiple branching paths per character. Some of these advance the plot, while others provide alternate scenarios and endings depending on the player’s choices. The result is a story mode that players are encouraged to replay over and over again.

7. Super Smash Bros.—Adventure Mode

What better way to expand a singleplayer mode for a platform fighter than by creating an actual platforming adventure inside the game? This is what Nintendo did with the various Adventure Modes in the Super Smash Bros. games.

Adventure Mode started out in Super Smash Bros. Melee as a series of stages players could complete. It was in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, however, that the mode, now with the subtitle “the Subspace Emissary” truly took off. Here, the mode gained a world map and became the main vessel for the game’s story to be told. This continued with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate‘s version, time called World of Light.

8. Idol Showdown—Virtual Frontier

That free Hololive fan-game Idol Showdown somehow manages to please both fans of vtubers as well as fighting game players is already a big achievement. That it does this while also providing a substantial and highly replayable singleplayer experience with its Virtual Frontier mode is nothing short of amazing.

Idol Showdown‘s Virtual Frontier takes the bog-standard survival mode from most fighting games and expands on it to create a highly compelling rogue-like singleplayer experience. Here, players have to pick from multiple paths, figuring out which will allow them to get the most accessories and items, while also earning money to pay for those through fights. In addition, all of these items are references to the various Hololive talents in the game, and collecting them becomes a game on its own.

Just looking at this list, it’s clear to see that—despite the genre’s multiplayer roots—singleplayer modes have been an important part of the history of fighting games. Now, as more games in the genre look to include them once again, here’s hoped players get to see more unique takes on fighting game singleplayer modes moving forward.

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Franz Co

managing editor | addicted to RGB | plays too many fighting games

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