#15. NBA Jam (1993, Midway)
I would never consider myself to be a basketball fan, let alone an NBA fan. But when NBA Jam came out, I quickly found myself scrambling to download the ROM. Why? This game broke all of the rules of the sport as well as the backboard. Instead of trusting on your teammates and hard-wiring your shots, you can drain the ball from the other side of the court, leap fifty feet into the air, and catch on fire! That was all in the original arcade port–the madness got cranked up to 11 when it hit the Super Nintendo with an array of secret codes and hidden characters including then-President Bill Clinton! The game also had a great legacy and inspired a sports genre featuring intense sports games with overdrawn realism. Only legendary games can pull off something like that in its wake.
#14. Street Fighter II (1991, Capcom)
Yes. The original. No Super, no Turbo, no HD Remix, no slightly different costumes, no slightly tweaked controls, the critically acclaimed, award-winning phenomenon that started it all, it’s motherloving goshdang sons of guns Street Fighter II! I still have to wonder why Street Fighter II Turbo has made more “best-of” lists than this game. This was the one that was played by millions, the one that grossed over a billion dollars in two years, the one that Capcom just cannot top, no matter how many sequels they make. Nothing felt just as great as pulling off your first Hadoken or winning your first match or beating the crap out of that car! There’s no doubt that this game remains one of the most influential and popular games ever made. Without it, fighting games would never be the same.
#13. Killer Instinct (1995, Midway/Nintendo)
C-c-c-c-c-c-combo breaker! Even though this game was promised as a title for Nintendo’s never-released Ultra 64, it was the first arcade game to use an internal HDD to boost its data amounts and the detail of its graphics. It had a memorable lineup including a cyborg, a skeleton, a Native American, and a Tibetan monk. Like many Super Nintendo titles, Killer Instinct was an arcade phenom, and the home console port was decent but couldn’t live up to its greatness due to severe cuts. Not only that, but the game’s soundtrack was packed in with the game! It is to this day considered to be one of the best fighting games ever made, and who can argue with that and an 80-hit combo?