A beginner’s guide to fighting games

For a long time I would look at fighting games and say, “This looks so cool – but this isn’t for me.” I had done some casual button mashing, but I had never delved into the deeper mechanics. When I saw the gap between what I could do and what others were doing, I told myself I would never get there.

Then, a few years ago, I decided to really give it a try.

Was it worth it?


I can tell you without exaggeration that the joy that fighting games have brought me is light years above anything else I’ve spent my gaming hours on. It is a separate category of pleasure made up of the greatest pleasures in gaming. The childish joy of pressing buttons and watching cool shit happen, the slow-burning excitement of outmaneuvering an opponent, the Dark Souls gratification of studying a boss’s patterns and exploiting his weaknesses. It’s meditative. It’s rhythmic. it’s sports It’s therapeutic. It’s community. You’ve never come this far to feel like Rocky or your favorite shonen protagonist. It made me happier and my brain felt better.

It’s worth it.

But accessing this pleasure takes a lot of work, and seeing it from the outside can be scary and overwhelming. This guide is for people who have looked at the water and thought about jumping in. Hopefully you can use this video as a gentle, supportive nudge into the pool.

Check out the video above for my 10-step guide to getting started with fighting games. And while you’re at it, subscribe to Polygon on YouTube and TikTok!