Fighting games — now that's a hardcore genre that's hard to translate to a smartphone experience. Controls usually require a lot of buttons and special move combinations require the type of precision that is often tough to pull off on a smartphone screen. And that's without going into frame data and precise hit chaining.
Still, there are the few fighting games for smartphones that somehow manage to scratch the KO itch. They either have their controls super fine-tuned to make the best of the touch inputs, come up with different control schemes, or have the whole game be a simplified experience, which still manages to capture the core elements of a round-based fighter. Let's check them out!
Punch Planet is actually a game that's being developed for PC — it's currently in Early Access on the Steam store. But it was a pleasant surprise to find it on the list of games in Apple Arcade.
The game feels really good to play on the iPhone. You are given large, easy to hit virtual buttons that give off a very reassuring vibration when tapped, and the game's speed and mechanics are just right in most cases. You don't feel like you need more fingers on the screen as the game's combos hit that sweet spot between "easy to learn" and "hard to master". Of course, you can play it with a controller and not worry about the touchscreen at all.
Unfortunately, you can't play the iOS version of Punch Planet online — at least not yet. If you pair two controllers to your Apple device, you can play 1v1 games locally. But if you want to play this game on the Internet, you'd have to go to the Steam version for that.
Hey, it's still cool — if you happen to be a fan of Punch Planet on PC, you can use the mobile version to practice those combos against AI!
Final Fighter tries to walk the fine line between being a respectable fighting game and somehow working well on mobile phones. It achieves that by giving you a virtual joystick and only two buttons to work with (contextual buttons come up later). The rest is smooth animations and colorful characters.
Sure, it's not as deep as a full-blown console game, but it does hit the basics — footsies, projectiles, special moves, stamina management, and colorful characters that can in no way exist in the real world. Its story mode also has "melee" levels where it basically turns into a side-scrolling beat em up... It's a two-in-one game!
It's a pretty good way to enjoy some round-based slaughtering on your handset, but its freemium model might leave a bad taste in your mouth. You know — lootboxes to unlock characters, lootboxes to level them up, et cetera.
"Footsies" is one of the main components that make a fighting game tick. It's basically the skill of being able to stay just outside of reach for your opponent, baiting them into making a mistake, and capitalizing on it.
So, this here is a super-stripped-down fighting game that focuses on footsies alone. You've got the simple controls for forward, back, and attack. Combining them in different ways will get you a couple more special hits, but don't expect much in terms of combos or creativity. This game is all about practicing your footsies either against an AI — which can be honestly infuriating at times — or another player (on the same device, too).
Shadow Fight 3
Shadow Fight has been around for quite a while — the second game in the series kept its popularity for years before this iteration arrived. Of course, Shadow Fight 3 adds more options, weapons, and moves to a formula that already worked, so it's the best one to get right now.
So, what makes Shadow Fight 3 good? Super-smooth animations, and controls that have been fine-tuned to work flawlessly on touchscreen. It has a super-long campaign to plow through as well as online PvP if you prefer that player-stomping experience.
What's bad about it? It's a mix between a fighting game and a hero-leveling game. The latter is done by finding and opening chests to get gear. You guessed it, you can spend money on gear in this game, which essentially makes the PvP a pay-to-win experience. The campaign will also slow down to a halt at some point if you don't cough up the dough.
But hey, it's worth a spin, see if you want to support it!
This game has been around for quite a while — it came out for arcades and consoles way back in 2012. It set itself apart from other fighting games with its distinct art style and insane combo system, which allowed you to make super-long combos, yet keeping it fair somehow.
The smartphone version is a tad toned down. You perform your hits and special moves by tapping or swiping with one or two fingers across the screen. Combos are there, but kind of limited to your number of taps. The creativity factor, which made the original Skullgirls special is kind of gone.
Yet, for a mobile game, it has its charm and somehow manages to scratch that "I want to see lots of things go boom" itch. Unfortunately, it's a free game that falls in the freemium trappings and progression is basically tied to lootboxes. In them, you can find characters and super moves, which not only need to be unlocked, but leveled up as well.
A boxing game, which kind of reminds us of the good ol' Punch-Out!! back for the NES in 1990. But rest assured, Prizefighters is its own thing.
You can build your boxer by literally picking his fighting style as you progress through the levels. There is a solo career, but also PvP and even arcade events where you can race with other players to reach the high score.
Controls are simple tap-based mechanics, but it's all about stamina management, proper blocking, and picking a fighting style that fits you.
Fighting Ex Layer -α
Here's an interesting take — this game is played entirely with taps and swipes. And no, not in the "Marvel Contest of Champions" kind of way. This one tries to have some depth to it with different special moves and the way you can connect them to your simple combo. It's definitely an interesting take and it sure doesn't feel comfortable in the beginning, but the swipe controls are a thing that can be learned.
Unfortunately, the game itself is pretty tiny. You only have 4 characters that you fightin this one training location... that's it. It looks like an unfinished product, which the developer meant to build over time, but the game hasn't been updated since April 2019. So, check it out, but don't put your hopes up.
Street Fighter IV Champion Edition
Street Fighter is a true classic and it was actually ported for mobile a while ago. Champion Edition even added controller support and multiplayer.
Now, what you get here is a dumbed down version of Street Fighter but you do actually have 4 different attack buttons and need to input your special moves. So it's not a mindless tapper.
That said, it does run at a limited frame rate for some reason and input is flaky to say the least. But hey, that Street Fighter itch needs scratching!
A nice-looking 3D boxing game. The camera sits behind your character in 3rd person vision and you have controls for dodging in every direction, blocking, or — of course — punching the teeth our of your opponent.
You have a lengthy career mode to climb through and also a League mode where you meet and fight other players.
ChronoBlade plays like a side-scrolling beat em' up when you are in singleplayer. In this portion, you can just learn and have fun with one of the four selectable characters. In PvP mode, you put your skills to the test against... well — other players!