Top 5 Friday: The Best Boxers in Gaming

Want an epic, hugely hyped boxing match that is actually entertaining? Match up two of these bruisers.

5. Steve Fox (Tekken series)


Steve’s backstory is a little strange, to say the least:  He is the son of Tekken vixen Nina Williams, though she gave birth to him unknowingly via an experiment while she was in cold sleep. It’s a fighting game origin story, and one from the 4th game in the series, so what do you expect? The other part of his story is the well-worn trope of him being tasked by the mob to throw a fight, and when he didn’t and knocked the guy out anyway they set out to kill him. And what better place to hide than a worldwide martial arts tournament? So yeah, Steve has all the cockiness and exhibitionism needed to be a boxer. He can also hold his doing straight boxing in a game not only full of characters with every martial art and fighting style imaginable but also robots, kangaroos, bears, and a man that has given into his “devil gene” and has sprouted wings and can shoot laser beams. Oh and a guy made completely out of a tree – try punching a tree with your bare hands if that doesn’t impress you.

4. Dudley (Street Fighter series)


Street Fighter III initially had a little trouble gaining traction with gamers, and much of that had to do with a cast of not only mostly new characters but some really odd ones. Well if Oro and Necro didn’t scare you right back to the nearest SF2 cabinet you eventually came across Dudley, the SF series’ distinguished, handlebar-mustached British boxing counterpart to the brash, violent American boxer Balrog. Even his motives for entering fighting tournaments are quaint, from trying to recover his father’s car to looking for flowers for his garden. Don’t let any of that fool you, though, as Dudley still fights like a champion when he laces up his gloves and takes on an opponent. You don’t always have to fight dirty to be an absolute badass (Ryu says hi). Don’t think he is completely above just a little bit of showboating, though – he has a special move in which he lets his opponent get a free shot to his face which he then uses to deliver an even more powerful blow to theirs. That he does it without any Muhammad Ali-style taunting and gloating just seems to give an otherwise arrogant move a sense of good sportsmanship – though maybe that makes it sting that much more when you’re on the receiving end of it from someone who is much more akin to a butterfly.

3. Afro Thunder (Ready 2 Rumble series)


Ready 2 Rumble is easily the best arcade-style boxing game ever made that doesn’t have the words Punch-Out in the title, and held its own next to fellow Dreamcast launch fighter Soulcalibur in terms of pure fun factor (yeah, I said it). The game had some memorable characters and several were worthy of this list (lusty Lulu Valentine very nearly took this spot), but I ultimately ended up going with the game’s de-facto star, Afro Thunder. Though he definitely doesn’t do much to rise above the cliches you might expect from a character named Afro Thunder who sports an impossibly enormous ‘fro, he’s nonetheless a very entertaining and endearing character. Perhaps the best thing about him is that he actually isn’t an especially great boxer, and relies on his smack-talking, dance moves, and overall wiry scrappiness to eke out far more wins than his pure boxing skill would’ve otherwise allowed. It really is too bad that this franchise seemed to disappear and be forgotten as quickly as it hit, and that later games that attempted to ape its style and vibe – Black & Brused and Facebreaker – both missed the mark so badly as did its embarrassing 2009 Wii installment (that weren’t done by the same developer or even publisher).

2. Balrog (Street Fighter series)


Balrog was originally just a Mike Tyson rip-off (which is even more apparent when you know that his original name was the similar-sounding Mike Bison. And in Japan, who we know as Vega is named Balrog, and our M. Bison was originally Vega. What in the holy hell, Capcom!?), which doesn’t make him that interesting of a character. Fortunately, as the Street Fighter series has gone on he’s eventually developed a more unique and interesting look and personality, though his Iron Mike-inspired roots are never far behind as Balrog definitely doesn’t only use his fists when he boxes. He may not have bit anyone’s ear (yet) but headbutts, elbows, and punches that travel far below the regulation hitting area are a frequent occurrence. Still, even with those extra flourishes he primarily fights with his fists, and against far more than Steve Fox ever has to deal with – and Balrog doesn’t ever even take off his boxing gloves! When you can effectively punch your way through fireballs, electricity, and spinning kicks from thighs bigger than most biceps, you have far surpassed whatever measly world heavyweight champion you may have once been just a clone of.

1.  Little Mac (Punch-Out series)


How can Little Mac not be #1? Not only did he technically knock out Mike Tyson before Buster Douglas did, he has flattened literally dozens of boxers double – if not triple – his size, weight, reach, age and experience. He has also made short work of boxers who spit, kick, headbutt, and use actual magic, and he even trains in a pink sweatshirt because he’s just that confident and doesn’t need to intimidate anyone until his first star punch is thrown. And not to be outdone by the other boxers-turned-fighting-game-contestants, he has even taken his skills to the world of Super Smash Bros. where he holds his own against way more firepower, weaponry, and magic in a single match than Balrog has seen in his entire career. Mario generally has to settle for tricking Bowser – and Donkey Kong before him – into stupidly falling in lava or down a pit or some other such passive-aggressive victory. Little Mac just uppercuts them both into space – in the same match. ‘Nuff said.


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