Fighting games are a culture all unto their own. They have their own language and concepts that stretch across multiple subgenres. One of the most fun parts of playing something new is seeing how it handles the implementation of these building blocks. Learning neutral, mixups, and combos in a new game is fun and stress relieving, especially when a game is able to take risks.
Risk taking is a big part of why indie fighting games are very worth any gamer’s time. Whether it’s unique characters and style, a focus on certain mechanics, or even attempting to redefine what can be considered a fighting game, indie fighting games are awarded a level of creativity not afforded to games in long running series’. If you’re looking to try something different than you’re used to, here are 6 indie fighting games you should try.
1. Blade Strangers (Switch, PS4, PC)
An eclectic roster of characters is one of the best ways to get new eyes on your game. This is what makes crossover fighting games such a mainstay of the genre. Blade Strangers is a 2D fighting game featuring characters from a wide variety of indie titles. This is about as “indie fighting game” as it gets. If you ever wanted to see Gunvolt from Azure Striker Gunvolt take on Quote from Cave Story, or wanted to play as the eponymous Shovel Knight against Isaac from the Binding of Isaac, this is the game for you.
The gameplay is a little slower, and comes with various universal mechanics to make things easier to pick up. It’s an accessible title, featuring a special move button that only requires a single press as well as a direction. Everyone has access to an anti-air, overhead, armored move, wake-up reversal, offensive cancel and guard cancel. So once you learn the mechanics, you’re pretty much halfway to learning most of the cast. Great for people that want to play defense and then blow up opponents’ mistakes.
2. Mighty Fight Federation (Steam early access)
It seems like every year that goes by, we lament the disappearance of the popular fighting games from back in the day. For the Capcom faithful, this might leave you with a Power Stone sized hole in your heart. Mighty Fight Federation is here to save the day, bringing the 4 player arena based combat Power Stone fans might remember to Steam Early Access (and other platforms soon too!). The roster is interesting on its own, but includes guest characters like retro stars Toejam & Earl, and new school indie darlings Yooka & Laylee, with plans for more to come.
While still in its early stages, the game is aiming to be competitively viable with fun combos as well as a universal gap closing mechanic, in its dash, to help neutral become a skilled dance between players. Switching between different types of normals and specials isn’t relegated to directional inputs, since you need those for moving around, but instead rely on a Shift button to switch up your attacks. Positioning through movement, unique character abilities, and the universal roll mechanic will have you thinking about applying your game plan in a completely different way than in other, more traditional, fighting games. There are launchers and wallbounces too, so lab away, combofiends.
3. FOOTSIES (Steam, Mobile)
Looking for a more traditional experience? Well this is about as pure as it gets. FOOTSIES is a 2D fighting game where you have one attack button to do normals and specials, and you can only move horizontally. Don’t be fooled by its minimalist presentation which, to be honest, is actually kind of charming. This fighting game requires you to have a good grasp of fighting game Neutral.
If you want to win: you need to put thought into your attacks, your spacing has to be immaculate, and your whiff punishes need to be on point. Fans of Street Fighter V will feel right at home with how Footsies approaches neutral. This game is great because a lot of the things you’ll be practicing will directly help you get better at other games. There’s no health bar here, you win by hitting your opponent with a special move. There is a guard bar, allowing you to block up to 3 attacks before you run the risk of getting guard broken, so you can’t just play defensive all day. With the introduction of its Rollback Edition on Steam, you can now take the action online against your friends.
4. Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid (XB1, PS4, PC, Switch)
Make one mistake, get wiped. If you’ve got the resources, you can end your opponent’s whole career with one combo in this 3v3 2D fighting game. To some, that may be off-putting, but to anyone who came up playing games in the Versus series, it’s an opportunity to see how far you can push the game with your creativity.
Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid has a collection of characters from across the Power Rangers Mythos, including the TV shows and comics, for you to build your team of 3. The typical Versus fare is here, including assists, super moves and a terrifying comeback mechanic (the Megazords). The game flips the scripts a little in how it approaches gameplay, providing a unique combination of assist calling and active switching.
If you want to do a high block stun special move with your point character and tag in someone from your reserves to run offense, Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite style, you can do that. If you want to call in an assist to make your point character’s offense safer, Marvel Vs Capcom 3 style, you can do that. If you want to do some type of weird combination where you let a bit of the assist animation play out, and make a last minute decision on if you’re going to switch, or keep playing your point, you can do that too. There’s a lot to explore, and matches are easy to find thanks to crossplay on all platforms.
5. Them’s Fightin’ Herds (PC)
You get to test your execution while playing as a pony, or a deer, or an alpaca. The biggest knock against this game is that people may not take it seriously at first glance, thanks to its adorable cast of four-legged friends. If you let the aesthetic put you off, you’ll be missing out, though. Them’s Fightin’ Herds is chock full of unique moves that could only be performed by non-bipedal characters, which you won’t find anywhere else.
It’s a four button fighting game, with all the cross-ups, push blocks, launchers and air combos you could want. Whether you want to do ABC combos, or go for more intricate high execution stuff to flex on your opponent, there’s something for you here. This game has a unique magic mechanic, which is represented by a bar above your super meter. Basically, each character is unique, and they perform their special abilities by drawing on the magic meter, which operates differently than the burning meter in other fighting games. Different characters' magic bars don’t operate the same as one another, so there is a lot to discover.
Lab time is a blast with this game and, if you’re having trouble convincing your friends at locals to just give the pony game a try, the netcode is stellar. TFH has a pretty active online community which is down to teach the game, and always looking to bring in people from other communities. Really, just try it.
6. Lethal League Blaze (Switch, PS4, XB1, PC)
Does Lethal League Blaze belong on this list? It looks a little bit more like a really intense game of squash than a fighting game. It doesn’t fit the traditional description of punching and kicking your opponent’s health bar away, but just 10 minutes in game will have the fighting game faithful feeling comfortable.
Lethal League Blaze is a 2D, high speed ball game where up to 4 players hit a ball back and forth at one another as it gets faster and faster. If your character gets hit, you take damage, so you want to make sure you’re swinging your ping pong paddle, skateboard, or big hammer with precision.
Your characters’ unique abilities are the key to altering the trajectory of the ball, keeping you safe, and ensuring constant danger for your opponent. Whether its movement abilities, like Raptor’s wall jump, or striking abilities, like Candyman warping the ball through walls, mastering what makes your character special will help you learn matchups against other characters and give you that fighting game feel.