Street Fighter’s characters are the main point of the game; the main point of any fighting game, in fact. While fighting mechanics are integral, if the characters are unappealing, rote, or just plain boring, it’s hard for a fighting game to succeed.
And, one reason why Street Fighter II is probably the most legendary fighting game ever is because of its cast of characters. So, we’ve picked out all our favorites. Once you’ve had your Street Fighter character fill, check out some more fighting game legends with our Mortal Kombat Mileena, Mortal Kombat Sonya, Mortal Kombat Scorpion and Mortal Kombat Sub-Zero guides.
Anyways, here are our favourite Street Fighter characters, chosen by the whole team.
There’s no way to start talking about Street Fighter without talking about Guile’s Theme. Stick on that video up above, close your eyes, and give yourself a few minutes to just chill out to the tune.
Beyond the iconic song, however, Guile is one of the original roster of Street Fighter II characters. With spiky yellow hair, chunky muscles, and revenge in mind against M. Bison for killing his buddy, Guile’s a classic. (Also, try and find Guile’s Theme for SFII Turbo, either on 3DO or PC – both are quicker, slicker, and a little quirkier).
M. Bison, a.k.a. Mike Bison, a.k.a a parody brother of the famous boxer, is the big bad archetypal villain of Street Fighter II and throughout the series. He wears an evil-looking cape and militaristic hat, suiting his position as dictator.
So, Capcom changed his name for the Western release to avoid any legal issues, which is interesting. But that’s not all, as the character also appeared in Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, a crossover that went completely over my head at the time (and you can check out above).
Now, it’s a bit boring, but Ryu has to be on this list. Appearing in the first game onwards, Ryu is the most famous Street Fighter character, carrying his legacy throughout the series and into so many other pieces of media, from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to Ready Player One.
Takashi Nishiyama, director of Street Fighter, created him, inspired by Mas Oyama, a real-life karate master who wrote numerous books. His depiction in the manga Karate Master actually inspired Nishiyama to create the first Street Fighter game. Now look where we are. Lovely stuff.
One of Seth’s lackeys, Juri made her first appearance in Street Fighter IV. She’s a South Korean Taekwondo master, a first for the series in both nationality and fighting style. This means she’s mostly using her feet to take her opponent down.
Beyond fighting style, she’s also full of quips and playfulness when taking down the enemy. Check out her Street Fighter 6 trailer above, where she’s become some kinda mix between Harley Quinn and a VTuber.
A secret character in Street Fighter II Turbo, Akuma is the son of Ryu and Ken’s master, setting up a lovely position for him as the antagonist. The creators based his design on Ryu, and they wanted to differentiate him from M. Bison.
Most interestingly, Akuma came about as a sort of apology to fans fooled by an April Fool’s joke regarding a secret character in the game. The result is a surprisingly complex villain, with an unclear nature in spite of his drive to manipulate Ryu.
Ken is Ryu’s best bud and a straight-up karate master. Oh, how apt, as his full name is Ken Masters. Anyway, as the only other playable character in the first game, Ken is arguably as iconic a Street Fighter character as Ryu. Iconic enough to also appear in Wreck-It Ralph, alongside Ryu, M. Bison, Chun-Li, and Blanka.
But, Ken’s most iconic moment came at Evo in 2004. The famous Evo Moment #37 shows just how exciting fighting games can be, as Daigo Umehara parries and wins against the odds. Give it a watch above, it’s excellent.
Blanka is a strange, green-skinned humanoid with hot orange hair. He’s green for one of two reasons: either eating too many plants or from being struck by lightning. That depends on where you’re from, as the American version had the latter and the Japanese version the former.
There are a few nice tidbits about Blanka’s creation, but I’ll leave you with a personal favourite quote from Akira Yasuda: “At first, Blanka’s skin colour was pink, and that was disgusting. Lol. I felt much better after changing it to green.” I can’t believe it actually says ‘lol’, but it does.
Now, I don’t know all that much about Chun-Li off the top of my head, so I did some research. Wikipedia has her down as “the first ever female playable character to appear in a fighting game to gain mainstream recognition”, which is great. But it also makes me want to find out who was the first-ever female playable character to appear in a fighting game at all. Also, it makes me want to edit the page and put a hyphen between ‘first’ and ‘ever’.
Anyway, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to give you another excellent Akira Yasuda quote, regarding the few weeks they had to create Chun-Li: “Oh yeah, Chun-Li was wearing pants right up until the very end. When we made the sprites I thought she didn’t look right, so I had them changed to tights instead.” Now, for SF6, her legs are again covered, and all the weirdos are up in arms about it…
Anyway, if you liked learning some little historical tidbits about all these Street Fighter characters, check out our Castlevania: Bloodlines history lesson and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney history lesson for more ancient deep dives.