A fighting game is a video game genre where the player controls an on-screen character and engages in close combat with an opponent. These characters tend to be of equal power and fight matches consisting of several rounds, which take place in an arena. Players must master techniques such as blocking, counter-attacking, and chaining together sequences of attacks known as "combos". Since the early 1990s, most fighting games allow the player to execute special attacks by performing specific button combinations. The genre is related to but distinct from beat 'em ups, which involve large numbers of antagonists.
The first game to feature fist fighting was Heavyweight Champ in 1976, but it was Karate Champ and The Way of the Exploding Fist which popularized one-on-one martial arts games in 1984 and 1985 respectively. Also in 1985, Yie Ar Kung-Fu featured antagonists with differing fighting styles, while 1987's Street Fighter introduced hidden special attacks. In 1991, Capcom's highly successful Street Fighter II refined and popularized many of the conventions of the genre. The fighting game subsequently became the preeminent genre for competitive video gaming in the early to mid-1990s, especially in arcades. This period spawned numerous popular fighting games in addition to Street Fighter, including the successful and long running franchises Mortal Kombat and later Virtua Fighter and Tekken.
The genre's popularity stagnated as games became more complicated and as arcades began to lose their audience to increasingly powerful home consoles near the end of the 1990s, though new franchises such as Dead or Alive, and the SoulCalibur series achieved success. In the new millennium, the genre remains popular but retains a much smaller proportion of enthusiasts than it once did, due to the increasing popularity of other genres and internet multiplayer gaming.