2D vs 3D Fighting Games: which one is better?

Are 2D fighting games better than 3D fighting games? or is it the other way around? Games like Street Fighter pretty much popularised 2D fighting games and is probably seen as the most popular fighting game in its genre.

Remember the Street Fighter EX series? This was Capcom’s stab at making a 3D Street Fighter game and quite honestly it didn’t go down nearly as well as it’s 2D ventures. The series was retired after Street Fighter EX3.

There’s rumored to be a fourth one on the horizon but this hasn’t come to fruition.

The point that I’m trying to make is Capcom tried to make a 3D fighting game and kind of failed in the process. So that pretty much proves the point that 2D fighting games are better right? Not necessarily.

You see, what Capcom tried to do was to convert a 2D game, with the same game mechanics, into a 3D game. This is the wrong way to go about it.

Tekken, on the other hand, is a 3D fighting game(well technically not full 3D, but more on that later) and it manages to come in a close second to Street Fighter in terms of popularity and beloved gameplay.

There are, of course, many other 2D and 3D fighting games but Street Fighter and Tekken are arguably the big hitters.

In this article, I’m going to try and give an overview of what 2D and 3D fighting games are and give their respective pros and cons to try to answer which one is better. Let’s get to it.

What are 2D fighting games?

In the simplest terms, 2D fighting games dictate mainly 2 methods of movement: Horizontal (forward and back) and/or Vertical(In the air).

There are some other notable differences as well such as the overall visual design and controls.

2D games in general tend to emphasize artistic flair rather than go out for flat out realism. Hence why games like King Of Fighters, BlazeBlue, and similar titles tend to look like you’re literally playing an anime.

In addition, the controls often tend to be a lot simpler than 3D fighting games. That’s not to say 2D games are not complex but they are probably easier to pick up and play.

Examples of 2D fighting games

One of the great things about 2D fighting games is the sheer number of titles to choose from. Here are some of the more popular examples of 2D fighting games:

  • Street Fighter Series – Needs no introduction. One of the very first games to popularise the fighting game genre. It’s needless to say that Street Fighter is a staple in the fighting game community and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
  • Marvel Vs Capcom Series – It’s Mahvel baby! Although the recent Marvel vs Capcom Infinite wasn’t as well-received as the previous titles, the series as a whole still remains one of the more popular 2D fighting games titles.
  • Mortal Kombat Series – Mortal Kombat is one of the most popular fighting games today. Although the artistic design lends itself to more of a 3D game it’s still a great 2D fighting game at heart.
  • Super Smash Bros Series – An incredibly fun crossover game that adds a unique twist to the traditional fighting gameplay mechanic. Unlike other 2D fighting games, the objective is to knock the opponent off the stage instead of depleting their life bar. A series that is well received by all and is highly competitive too.
  • DBZ Fighter Z – One of the more recent entries into the 2D fighting game genre. DBZ Fighter is similar to Marvel VS Capcom but with DBZ characters. This game has become immensely popular in recent years and remains one of the top fighting games today.

What are 3D fighting games?

Like with 2D fighting games, 3D fighting games allow you to move horizontally and sometimes vertically but with the added dimension of moving side to side (sidestepping) as well, hence the 3D element.

The overall visual design of a 3D fighting game tends to look more realistic, although this isn’t always the case and is really in the choice of the developer.

The added dimension of side to side movement means that the controls can differ greatly as well.

In addition, the camera plays an important role in a 3D fighting game. Some pure 3D arena fighting games need to adjust the camera constantly especially during certain moves(e.g DBZ tenkaichi, Power Stone).

This is different from 2D fighting games where the camera is often fixed and less complicated.

One of, if not, the most popular 3D fighting game is Tekken. Although some may consider Tekken to be a 3D fighting game with 2D fighting game mechanics I still consider it to be prominently 3D due to the way it’s rendered.

Examples of 3D Fighting games

Other notable 3D fighting games include:

  • Soul Calibur Series – Tekken with swords. Ok, not really but it is made by the same publisher. A particular favorite amongst 3D fighting game fans, Soul Calibur offers a fun and unique take on the fighting game genre.
  • Dead or Alive Series – Commonly known for it’s ‘jiggle’ physics than it’s the gameplay, the DOA series is still a fun 3D fighting game that even spawned a terrible movie.
  • Virtua Fighter Series – Widely considered the first 3D fighting game, Sega’s Virtua Fighter series is an underrated but difficult fighting game to master.
  • Dragonball Budokai Tenkaichi Series – Not really a fighting game in the traditional sense but it’s a game that was immensely popular. It’s also a game that is considered a ‘pure’ 3D arena fighting game. complete with fully 3D immersive stages and a 3D camera.

Pros and cons of 2D fighting games


  • Movement is simple
  • Unique visual design
  • Easier to pick up and play
  • Larger competitive scene


  • Market is oversaturated
  • Lack of interactive environments

Pros and cons of 3D fighting games


  • 3D models feel more realistic
  • Environment plays an important part and can add another layer to the game
  • Simpler controls can appeal to more of a casual fanbase especially at the beginner level


  • Not many 3D fighting games are popular except for Tekken, especially in the competitive scene
  • Can be difficult to master at a competitive level

Which one is better?

To say one type of game is better than the other is entirely subjective. There isn’t really a right answer.

As I’ve just pointed out there are positives and negatives for each type of fighting game. Although, saying that, I would like to see more 3D fighting games on the market.

Apart from Tekken, other 3D fighting games haven’t really picked up steam, especially in the competitive scene. This is a shame as I think 3D fighting games can have a lot of depth to them, especially with regards to interactive stages/environments as well as the added dimension of movement.

Overall, however, it really comes down to if the games are good. This is the most important thing. If the game is fun then it doesn’t really matter whether it’s 2D or 3D. And that is pretty much my two cents worth.

Jake "Arcade Ace" Kim
Jake "Arcade Ace" Kim

Jake discovered his passion for fight sticks when he spent his summers mastering the arcade scene. He soon became a local legend, dominating every fighting game he laid his hands on. Jake's love for the arcade culture has led him to collect an impressive array of fight sticks, each with its own unique story. Now, he's channeling that love and expertise into guiding others to find their perfect fight stick match.