At this point, most of the big names in the fighting genre are old warlords. Street Fighter 6 is due out this year, Tekken 8 before this time next year, and Mortal Kombat 12 is rumored to be coming to near-medium well. Street Fighter started in 1987 and has been spun off several times on its way to SF6, Mortal Kombat in ’92 and Tekken in ’94. This game has been around for decades and runs these streets. Even Smash Bros., whose status as a fighting game is somewhat controversial, is a ’90s kid. The most notable new kid on the block was Injustice: Gods Among Us, which is now 10 years old and has built an interesting legacy.
Injustice is not necessarily designed as an intruder. Developed using similar quality by NetherRealm, the same studio that created Mortal Kombat. Injustice’s IP partnership (although Mortal Kombat loves crossovers) gave studios and developers the opportunity to do new things while remaining on a relatively safe footing. Injustice was also a bit less mechanically complex and more accessible, and Mortal Kombat sometimes felt like it was for a much more experienced player. It was a strategic move to give well-established studios the opportunity to create different types of fighting games for different audiences while relying on their experience and reputation.
It’s not a new rebel roaming the block looking for a way to become king, but Injustice was still fresh. It retained Mortal Kombat’s dark, realistic design, but threw in a bunch of customization options and relied on each fighter’s personality. While not too realistic (Poison Ivy was able to beat Superman in melee), each character felt lovingly crafted. Not only did they have their own unique moves, but they also reflected their cartoonish nature. Smash Bros. has done something similar over the years, but Injustice really shined with its story.
Most fighting games have a story that loosely connects narrative scenarios where stars can circumcise each other. Injustice isn’t much different either, but it felt like the relationships between the cast were a lot deeper and well-established because they could come out of a comic book. This continued into regular battles where the characters communicated specifically with their opponents, rather than just telling a few lines of generic jokes.
The fighting game prides itself on its complexity and attracts the most devoted crowds. Keeping up with what’s going on in the story is hard enough for beginners, but the game itself also actively stands out. There have always been more accessible games, but they offer overly modified or cartoonish graphics and don’t have Injustice’s darker, more appealing tone.
Not everything went smoothly. Extensive customization is paired with heavy RNG microtransactions in the sequel, leaving a fully kitted Harley Quinn and everyone else in basic outfits. It also leans a bit too dark at times in its level design and feels it could be more distinct from Mortal Kombat in its aesthetics. But overall, Injustice has a bright future ahead of it turning 10 and a good sign for fighting games.
Street Fighter, Tekken, and Mortal Kombat will each try to push their highs even higher soon, and it’s pretty impressive that this trio is still at the top of their game. However, Injustice did a great job of bridging the gap between the cartoonish casual fighter and the most complex heavy hitter by upsetting the status quo and giving fans a new way to go. Fighting games are still popular, but the community has always been exclusive. Injustice provided a great entryway to the genre when it first emerged, and 10 years later it’s still the best way to get into the big city.
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