Everybody wants to beat their friends, but we don't always want to put in the work. Here are some quick tips on how to wreck your buddies and start on the path to greatness.
Looking to beat your friends without much effort? I can't promise that there will be no actual effort involved, but... I'll try my best. As a fighting game competitor of many years and briefly a coach for a side gig, I've had a lot of experience mentoring other players on how to play my characters or how to approach certain match-ups. General fighting game advice is a bit vague, as each series lives by its own rules. However, having good fundamentals and a mindset go a long way no matter if you play as Ryu, Scorpion, or Kirby.
Mashing is fun... but it only gets you so far
Mashing means pressing buttons as fast as you can, without much thought. While a masher vs. masher might go either way, you'll quickly lose to anyone else who isn't one. While this is a fun way to fight against your friends, you'll want to let go of this habit if you want to get better, since it prevents you from using better tools your character has.
Is your friend mashing on you endlessly, and it's incredibly annoying? Well, here's The One Trick Your Friends Will Absolutely Hate: blocking. In most games, after you block attacks, your opponent is left at a disadvantage, which means it's time to launch your offense back. Similarly, whenever you get knocked down, your first though should be to block, as your opponent can land attacks on you right as you're getting up.
So your first attempt at getting better should be to let go of mashing, and start thinking about how to use your character's tools to your advantage. Which leads us to our next step.
Get to know your character and mechanics
The first step is simply to get to know your character. This is best done in Training Mode. Get a feel for every button in peace. Most attacks serve a specific purpose: some aim to get you closer to the opponent, some are meant to be long-range hits, some can function as an anti-air (a move designed to beat out an opponent who is jumping in).
Learning your character's special moves is essential next. Those are your typical projectiles, etc. Think of the Scorpion's "Get over here!!" for example, or Link's boomerang throw. Sometimes the motion to execute them can be complicated, but in many newer games, there are shortcuts. Many games also offer "Challenge Mode" style combos where you have to perform increasingly difficult sequences. That's a good place to start without having to do any outside research.
For example, in one of the newest fighting games, DNF Duel, all the special moves for the characters can be done by pressing one button and a direction, similar to Super Smash Bros. or MultiVersus. You can also do moves the traditional way, which gives you slightly better super meter regeneration, but if you're a beginner, that's not something to worry about.
Most fighting games also feature a tutorial that goes over every mechanic in the game, commonly called System Mechanics. These govern many aspects of the fight, for example, what ways are there to defend? Can you spend meter to pull off a counter move? How do you stand up? How do you use throws? When is your most powerful move available? These differ a lot in games, but it's important to know them.
Losing is okay
Once you start getting a handle on how to play your character and the game, you might start beating your friends, but sometimes, you might find yourself losing a lot still, depending on your range of opponents. You might feel disappointed with yourself or feel that "by now" you should be a champ in the game. That's rarely the case.
Whether you're just starting out or have been playing for a while, losses meet every player, from zero to pro. The best thing for you to do mentally is to accept losing as part of the process and learn from it. The biggest lessons for any fighting game player come from the losses, not the wins. The best way to grow as a fighting game player is by playing people better than you. You might sit down with someone really good and lose to them 20 times in a row. You might not even score a round. And that's ok, because maybe in the 21st match, you'll at least get one K.O. And then at some point, two.
It's easy to feel beaten up about losses, sad, or angry. I think the best way to manage that feeling is by adjusting your attitude coming in. Think about having fun as first and foremost, and also consider "what am I going to learn from my opponent? What do I need to work on?"
Play different people
Reiterating on growing by facing better players, if you want to get better at fighting games, you need to step outside of the circle of immediate friends. This might mean fighting characters that you've never played against before, which is a good thing. A big part of fighting games is having knowledge not just of your own character, but at least knowing the basics about every other one. What kind of tools do they have to counter my character? How do their special moves work? Those are essential to know.
There are three ways of getting more opponents.
- Go Online: You can fight random people in Network Mode. The quality of the connection varies by title, but some modern fighting games have very good netcode, like Guilty Gear Strive and DNF Duel.
- Enter Online Communities: Search for the main Discord for the fighting game and join it. It should be easy to get matched up to friendly opponents and to ask for advice.
- Join Offline Events: This will vary a lot depending on where you are, but the FGC (fighting game community) is present in many towns and regions. Chances are, there might be a weekly gathering close to where you live. This is a great way to both get into your game and make some friends.
Devote the time and get rewarded
Everything above works toward making you a better warrior, but being proficient in a fighting game doesn't necessarily mean you have to devote hours upon hours. It's more about how you spend your time. The best thing about "studying" fighting games is that most of it is active learning.
You can start setting small goals for yourself, for example: "this week, I'll learn how to deal with Kirby." You can search for someone who plays that character, identify difficult situations, and replicate them in Training Mode. Nowadays, pretty much every fighting game has a robust Training Mode which offers simple ways to recreate a situation. You can either record a training dummy to use a move, or there might be settings to make it act on specific triggers -- after blocking something or getting up, for example.
The best fighting game players have a response for specific situations because they have encountered and dissected them beforehand. I encourage you to search out Discord communities for your favorite games or even your specific character. There you'll be able to find resources from other players that showcase clips, explain optimal moves, and so on.
And as mentioned above, a lot of the learning occurs as you're playing, so don't feel like you have to bog down with notes or extensive studying. I hope you feel prepared to step into the arena and conquer it. For Glory!