Sick of always getting bodied at fighting games? Hate losing to that one cocky friend who’s always bragging about being the best? Simply put – want to get better at fighting games!? Sure you do! Nobody likes getting the beat down but never fear, as our resident fighting game expert Imran talks you through his top ten tips to get better at fighting games, specifically Ultra Street Fighter IV, though the concepts of these tips are also just as applicable in other fighters. So whether you play Marvel, Killer Instinct or Guilty Gear, pay attention… class is in session!

Note – this article is aimed at players who are newer to the genre or who play casually. So if you’re a 4000PP+ ranked player or your name is Justin Wong or Luffy, then this isn’t aimed at you!

Tip 1 – Use brain, not brawn

Endless COD clones and twitch shooters train gamers to value reflexes and reactions. Whilst these are valuable traits in fighting games, most casual players don’t realise the fact that this genre values brain much more than brawn. A common mistake I see with a lot of newer players is their mentality, in that hitting a bunch of buttons as fast as you can is going to get you results. The truth is, fighting games at the highest level are more akin to chess or poker – out thinking and outsmarting your opponent is the name of the game. Stay calm and don’t be tempted to press buttons as fast as you can. Just hang back, block and read your opponent. A game like Ultra Street Fighter IV is about dominating your opponent mentally and imposing your will over them. So take a deep breath and take it slow. Once you understand that this genre is a thinking man’s game, you’re already on the path to becoming a better player.

Tip 2 – Don’t get salty if you lose

I can name tons of people who would be great at fighting games if only they had the right temperament for them. What makes fighting games so unique and often off-putting for some is the high barrier for entry. Casual players don’t like to lose when ‘casual-er’ games are easier to win and shun the genre because they’re not given the positive boost of being good at them straight away. This, coupled with the fact that the genre is one-on-one, often leads to a certain nervousness and people not wanting to play against veterans, whereas other genres don’t seem to have the same problem. You have to get past this mindset if you want to get into fighting games. In fact, the best thing you can do is play against the best person you know and lose repeatedly for six hours straight. If you get frustrated, angry and feel like throwing your controller after losing two matches in a row, well, I hate to break it to you, but you don’t have the right temperament for this genre. You should be able to lose and still have fun. If you still enjoy the game when you lose (and at the beginning you will) then just think how happy you will feel once you start winning.

Respect to Sanford Kelly, but don’t ever do this.

Tip 3 – Put your lab coat on

Most, if not all fighting games, have a training mode. You’d be surprised how many new players completely skip this and just start playing, and then complain and give up when they inevitably lose. Training mode is your best friend. Spend some time in the ‘lab’ and find some tutorials on Youtube and learn your character. Find out what their ‘bread and butter’ combos are and go through the button patterns again and again. Know how to do a Hadouken? Go into training mode and attempt it 100 times. Did it come out 100/100? Know a bread and butter combo for punishing? Do it in training mode over and over so much so that you can do it without even thinking. These lab sessions are key in keeping your execution as sharp as it can be and should be a regular part of your fighting game regime no matter what level you’re at. Just look at the most famous moment in pro gaming – the ‘Daigo parry‘. Do you think for a moment he hadn’t practiced that a thousand times over? Dedicate as much time to a fighting game as you would to learning an instrument. If that sounds ridiculous to you, I hate to admit it, but that’s the reality of it. 

Tip 4 –  Find a character you identify with

It sounds trivial, but I actually can’t stress how important this can be. Ask yourself, what kind of player are you? Do you prefer to be analytic and defensive or do prefer to be aggressive and rush down? There’s a character for every playstyle, but if you can’t find a ‘main’ early on, things can be a bit frustrating. Spend some time getting to know the roster. Finding a character you enjoy playing and identify with is a great way to plant roots.

Hakan likes to get oily with the ladies. Naturally I'm drawn to him.

Hakan likes to get oily with the ladies. Naturally I’m drawn to him.

Tip 5 –  Learn your character’s normal moves

Another common mistake I see with newer players: learning one or two special moves and then solely relying on these moves. Do you think those six buttons are just for show? Understanding and using a character’s normal moves when you are first learning is more valuable to you than knowing how to do a super or ultra combo. A jab or crouching medium kick doesn’t look as fancy as a Hadouken, but these normal moves all help with zoning, setups and controlling the flow of the match, with the ultimate goal of baiting your opponent into committing errors, and then punishing with combos. Most characters also have normal moves that also work as ‘anti-airs’, and knowing how to punish opponents who jump at you is one of the most valuable skills you can acquire.

Tip 6 – Play offline

Remember the golden era when fighting games involved a trip to the arcade or having a bunch of friends over? A lot of modern day fighters put a lot of emphasis on online gaming now, but offline sessions are really the best way to go. Not only will you remove any chance of lag, but you’ll also experience the thrills and spills of having your opponent in the same room as you. A living room with your friends is great, but even better, check out local scenes, gaming arcades and bars. Most have console setups, casual fighting game nights and offline tournaments. No other competitive gaming scenario can match the hype of having a crowd around you as you and your opponent sweat it out to do battle. Excuse the cliche, but you’ll find this to be truest and most authentic way to experience the ‘soul’ of what fighting games are all about.

Playing offline will give you the most authentic experience of what playing a fighting game is all about. (Photo credit to David Zhou/ Evo.

Playing offline will give you the most authentic experience of what playing a fighting game is all about. (Photo credit to David Zhou/Evo)

Tip 7 – Don’t play the same people over and over again

Play with as many people as you possibly can. This is something I’ve found to be really useful. Beating the same friend you play with day in and day out isn’t going to do you much good in the long run, especially if you are better than said friend. You’ll eventually get too accustomed to each other’s play styles, so it’s important to get out there and play with as many people as you can find. This is where ranked and playing online can actually be quite useful as it is the most convenient place to find endless competition. You may run into a few foul-mouthed and salty players along the way, but generally speaking, the Street Fighter community on Xbox Live, PSN and Steam are great places to challenge players from all over the world.

Tip 8 – Watch high level players

If there is one single tip from these ten that I would pick as a standout, this is probably it. Nothing is going to teach you more than watching a high-level pro competing at the highest level. Luckily, there are tons of resources and footage on Youtube and other places like Eventhubs and Shoryuken where you can view footage of the world’s best players competing. Find out a few pros who use your main character, because studying how they play is a great way to learn, as well as it being very entertaining to watch. Tournaments like Evolution Championship, Capcom Cup and Topanga League serve as some of the more distinguished events so be sure to check out highlights as well as viewing live streams on Twitch too. Nothing beats watching them live in person though! Below is a match from Evo 2013. If this is your first time viewing a professional level Street Fighter match, then you’re in for a treat as the clip perfectly highlights the drama, amazing execution and hype from high level Street Fighter play.

 Tip 9 – If you want to be an online warrior, play with optimum settings

Seriously, don’t be that guy who plays on an awful connection whilst downloading 37 torrents or worse… plays on Wi-Fi! If you’re going to play online, play with the best settings you possibly can. Getting a wired connection and having good internet speeds will save you from a lot of hassle and frustration, and will also improve you as a player. Lag affects fighting games a lot more than other genres due to latency affecting combos and links, meaning a victory you earn online might not have been possible offline. For example, mashing Zangief’s spinning pile driver or T Hawk’s mexican typhoon during an opponent’s combo might work online, but that tactic is less likely to work offline. It’s not always possible to remove lag 100%, but playing with it is only going to be detrimental to your development in the long run, so do everything in your power to keep it to a minimum.

Tip 10 – Watch your replays and see what you did wrong (or right!)

My last tip is to go through your replays. Ultra Street Fighter IV keeps a battle log of all of your recent matches, and you can also save replays. So if you are having trouble against a certain player or a certain character, rewatch your match and try to figure out what you did wrong (turn on inputs too so you can see what buttons you were pressing). For example, when I first started playing, I got into the habit of immediately pressing buttons after being knocked down, such as wake up Shoryuken, and always being punished for it. It wasn’t until I analysed my replays that I realised I was doing this so much that it was resulting in me losing most of my matches. Do this also for the opposite: when you win, look back and see how you won, and perhaps what your opponent was doing that made him or her lose the match. This is a great way to track your development and keep you from making the same mistakes in the future.

So there you have it. 10 tips to get better at Ultra Street Fighter IV. Keep a look out on my Youtube channel in the coming weeks as I’ll be uploading some beginner friendly tutorial videos, and you’ll also find combo videos and other FGC/gaming related content. Also, be sure to check out this link to learn more about fighting game slang in case you didn’t understand any of the FGC slang used in this article.

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