The Story of Street Fighter: Capcom’s Game Turned Cultural Phenomenon

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In 1987, Nishiyama created a video game icon that still lives on today. But what's the story behind it all?

To quote American actor James Chen, “Street Fighter was more than just a popular video game. It was a cultural phenomenon”. These words still ring true today, and perfectly sum up the importance of Street Fighter in the history of the video game industry. Walk through the history of Street Fighter, from it’s inception by Capcom creator Nishiyama to it’s peak moments of success in the golden era of arcades, and how the franchise has been kept as alive as ever today. 

Where The Story Begins

In 1986, the video game development stars aligned for Takashi Nishiyama. At the time, he was hired at Capcom and given the project of developing an arcade game based on the fighting seen in “Kung-Fu Master”, a popular game at the time. Combined with this, Nishiyama had a personal interest for the fighting genre, being himself in the process of learning martial arts. This laid the foundations for Street Fighter, which Nishiyama created in 1987 with his colleague Hiroshi Matsumoto. Street Fighter was equipped with various elements that drew players in (notably the older demographic), including the best visuals any fighting game had seen as well as a catchy soundtrack. However, what really ensured the success of this game was actually far more simple; it was the first game that allowed opponents to fight against each other in a game, in live time. To quote Capcom Senior Manager Seth Killian, 

Competing against a live opponent, in front of strangers, to see who kept their quarter, and who went to the back of the line? The experience was intoxicating.”

With the first Street Fighter received with such enthusiasm, Capcom quickly decided to expand the franchise – and they were not ready for what would happen when they did this. 


The Era of Street Fighter II

Street Fighter II, the direct successor of the original game, was released in 1991 for arcades, followed by compatibility with consoles in 1992. The game was such an immense success that up until 2019, it held the position of the best selling fighting game of all time (the throne is now held by Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate). The characters and gameplay of Street Fighter II were highly valued by the public, and the franchise’s fanbase grew at a monumental rate, truly turning the series into a real knockout (see what we did there).  

Iconic Characters and Gameplay

Today, the story of Street Fighter has grown too complex and multi-faceted to explain in a single blog post (there are over 6 official games released, with various spin-offs also produced). However, the first few games can be summed up to be based on the following storyline; our main character, Ryu, is partaking in a martial arts tournament, spanning five countries and over 10 opponents. Ryu’s friendly American rival, Ken, is also part of the tournament (and played by the second character in the original edition). The two characters go om q esut tow in the torunament, which Ryu eventually does, utilising “special moves” known by Street Fighter experts. 

Each of Ryu’s opponents come with backstories of their own, many of which have inspired the characters “special moves” which players get to know as the game progresses. In later games, players get to explore these characters in more depth, and many have become fan favourites over the years, including the fierce Blanka as well as Chun-Li – who was the first notable playable female character in the  fighting game genre. 


Sensei arcade cabinet with street fighter 2 game
Street Fighter Today

Although Street Fighter had it’s humble beginnings in the world of retro arcades, the franchise has lived and remains a staple for new generation gamers. The latest Street Fighter game (Street Fighter 6) was released for the Xbox and PlayStation in the summer of last year, with various new features continuing to be developed including in-game commentary, customisable avatars and much more. 

The iconic, original Street Fighter games are available to play on each of our arcade cabinets, and make not only for a fantastic games night battle between friends, but also as solo entertainment due to the various tricks and special moves one can learn with time and patience exploring the game. 

View our beginners guide to playing Street Fighter on your Maison Roshi arcade here

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