Back in 2018, Capcom celebrated the Street Fighter franchise as a whole, releasing the well-received Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, featuring 13 games from Street Fighter (1987) through to Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike (1999). While the first game was the one that kick-started the now-legendary gaming franchise, it is dwarfed in its cultural relevance by its younger sibling, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.
Now, on the eve of the 1991 release’s 30th anniversary, we’re delving into why Street Fighter II is still so revered by the gaming community and was able to make such a huge impact outside of its native arcades.
The colossal impact of Street Fighter II
Capcom’s original release, Street Fighter, became exceptionally popular in the arcades, but a few pioneering features introduced in Street Fighter II completely changed the game. It was the very first one-vs-one arcade fighting game to feature a roster of varied characters. With different move sets and styles, each match was varied, enabling competitive play to rely on skill and knowledge of the other characters’ skill sets.
It’s the competitive aspects that had people queuing around corners to play the arcade game. The heightened degree of skill and learning was completely new. This new way to play was coupled with Street Fighter II’s relentless focus on fighting others as opposed to co-operating, which had been a popular way to play arcade machines. Arriving on home consoles after it saved the arcade industry, interest only grew for the game, increasing the pool of competitive players and altering the fighting genre forever.
An ongoing legacy for a classic game
After revolutionising the industry, it went from strength-to-strength as a game, bringing out an even more successful edition to the arcades and then continuing to see rejuvenated home releases. Street Fighter II very quickly eclipsed its predecessor, becoming a multi-billion-dollar arcade franchise (in coin revenue) from its original edition and Champion Edition, which launched in 1992. It was noted at the time that arcade gaming hadn’t seen such levels of popularity since its heyday in the 1980s, and it was all because of one game.
On home and handheld consoles, from the Super NES to the Nintendo Switch, Street Fighter II has continued to receive high-selling new releases. Even the most recent 2017 release, Ultra Street Fighter II, reached 500,000 in sales on the Nintendo Switch. In 2020, the classic Capcom game even pivoted into the newest craze in gaming, the mobile casino. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior Slot gave the player the ability to pick their character and then fight all of the others, embracing what made the arcade release so popular.
It didn’t take long for the popularity of the game to catch the interests of other entertainment executives, with Street Fighter II becoming a multimedia franchise over the ensuing years. In 1994, an animated movie for Street Fighter II was released. This was accompanied by the Street Fighter live-action movie starring Raul Julia, Kylie Minogue, and Jean-Claude van Damme in the same year. Of course, video game-based movies rarely receive rave reviews. Still, the sheer gravity of Street Fighter at the time was enough to encourage big names to join the film on a $35 million budget, with it achieving $99.4 million at the box office.
The impact of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior cannot be understated, from how it laid the foundations of skilled, competitive gaming, to its continuous appeal to gamers through the decades.