'Everyone is Here', SonicFox and Go1's rivalry, Tokido's emotional bout with Daigo and more: Here are the best fighting game moments from 2018

Posted by Dakota 'DarkHorse' Hills • January 9, 2019 at 6:55 p.m. PST

2018 will likely go down as one of the best years for fighting games as a genre since its renaissance a decade ago beginning with the launch of Street Fighter 4, and that momentum appears to be carrying through into 2019 as well.

We're here today to go over the best announcements, the hypest matches and the strongest games to release last year with Steven 'Dreamking23' Chavez, Jonathan 'Catalyst' Grey, Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor and myself each giving our thoughts of our favorite moments from 2018.

Dragon Ball FighterZ was a great way to start off the year with a title that would essentially unite the entire fighting game community in a way that no other fighter had essentially managed to do before leading to some of the best EVO numbers ever and a great rivalry between FOX|SonicFox and CO|Go1.

The other monster reveal / release for the community came by way of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's announcement and lead up that gave fans almost every thing they've been asking for for almost 20 years — besides Waluigi.

Outside of those two behemoths, we saw an enormous amount of other titles come out during the calendar year including Soul Calibur 6, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[St], Fighting EX Layer and smaller games like Blade Strangers plus many more.

Continued developer support was also a major theme of 2018 where Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition launched along with Tekken 7, The King of Fighters 14, Injustice 2 and more all receiving new DLC and pro circuit support to keep games and scenes alive. You can check out our full (semi-ranked) list after the jump, and let us know your favorite moments of the past year in the comments.

'Everyone is Here!' - Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's reveal and lead up to release

Catalyst: The E3 trailer for Smash Ultimate was possibly the biggest fighting game announcement of all time. It really blew my socks off with how amazing the whole thing was.

Dreamking: You can't have a "best of 2018" list without Smash Ultimate. Of all the fighting games in recent times, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had one of the strongest build ups to release and eventual launches of the year.

Nintendo absolutely knocked it out of the park in so many ways with this game. From the incredible character reveal trailers for King K. Rool, Simon Belmont, and the others, to the information-packed Nintendo Direct broadcasts that kept fans in the know, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's build up before release might have been the best of any fighting game I've ever experienced. The game's hype and status was further cemented when it finally dropped in early December, as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate ended up being exactly as good as it looked before launch.

DarkHorse: I spent the first 21 years or so of my life not knowing that there was a competitive Smash Bros. scene, but I still very much loved the series beginning with the first Nintendo 64 title. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate felt to me like everything almost all of us had ever wanted crafted together into one package that if you told me about 10 years ago, I would call you a liar.

Cloud, Ridley, Simon Belmont, Snake and King K. Rool under one playable roster was essentially the stuff of schoolyard rumors, but it's real now and made me more excited than any other announcement this year — aside from maybe Devil May Cry 5.

MajinTenshinhan: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, just in general, has been an absolute highlight of the year for me, even though we didn't even know about it until June. Although I think the game leaves a bit to be desired in the game modes area, and I wish we had more new stages (though the sheer amount of selectable arenas is fantstic), the roster is the best any fighting game has ever seen, at least for me personally.

I can't in good conscience claim that every single character I ever wanted is in, but three of my long-time most wanted characters who have all been in my top 5 hopes ever since the pre-Brawl days made it in, in one feel swoop, with Ridley, King K. Rool and the Belmonts.

This coupled with my favorite iteration of Zelda (who's my all-time favorite video game character) and the return of Wolf O'Donnell (my second favorite) makes the roster such an incredible slam dunk it's hard to ever ask for more.

The sheer amount of music at over 800 songs, the love put in to movesets (even a bunch of old characters have gotten big revamps to their abilities), gorgeous graphics and the aforementioned gargantuan, epic roster just makes Super Smash Bros. Ultimate a true and honest treat for any Nintendo fan (of which I am a huge one), or even just any type of gaming enthusiast, really.

The game itself plays great for the most part, and while the hype cycle for it was something to remember, I'm even more happy just having the product. With DLC coming up, and the first Fighter's Pack addition being another character and series I love, Joker from Persona 5, it looks like Nintendo will be delivering even more love my way. It's like they read my diary!

So, Dragon Quest hero and Dixie Kong next? What do you say, Nintendo?

Kemonomichi, SonicFox vs. Go1 and Itabashi's Abigail - The best rivalries, matches and runs of 2018

Catalyst: Kemonomichi 2 was a big moment for me, seeing Tokido struggle against someone he clearly respects in CYG|Daigo Umehara and losing to him yet again — but he ended up having likely the best year of his entire career, at least financially.

I was very happy for him to repeatedly climb the mountain, as he would beat Daigo in other tournaments, like ELEAGUE, NCR and SEAM 2018.

DarkHorse: Early on in Dragon Ball FighterZ's life SonicFox and Go1 appeared to be the two best players in the game who both came from very different backgrounds. One was a young prodigy who was mostly known for dominating the NetherRealm and Skullgirls spaces while the other was a seasoned veteran with a godly record in a number of anime fighters like Melty Blood.

When they first began calling each other out, we weren't sure what to expect, but SonicFox and Go1 would give us the best rivalry of 2018.

They first faced off at Final Round in a special exhibition match where the Esports player of the year was effectively trounced 10-4, but he'd come back in big ways.

After a few more tournament meetings, the pair would square off at Combo Breaker once again, and things went very differently. Go1 finally suffered his first tournament elimination at the hands of SonicFox thanks to a new team and smart adjustments to the anime god's style.

Finally, it would all come to a head at EVO 2018 with the now infamous side switch...

Catalyst: SonicFox's side switch during EVO grand finals showed how even small mental mind games can have a big impact. He had lost momentum in the match and pulling a total shenanigan move to throw Go1 off was absolutely brilliant.

Dreamking: The year ended off with the big show, Capcom Cup 2018, and brought with it some of the best Street Fighter 5 play we've seen yet. While my hat goes off to all of the competitors who put on an amazing show that weekend in Las Vegas, it was Itabashi Zangief's name on my foam finger.

Itazan, who had been playing Abigail all year, had an absolutely crazy run at the Capcom Cup finals. The grappler-style player took out a veritable who's who of top-notch contenders with Abby, including FD|Fujimura, RZR|Xian, Ghost|NuckleDu, Momochi, FOX|Justin Wong, and more.

After suffering a loss to RB|Gachikun in top 16, Itazan found himself back in grand finals against the Rashid player — where Itazan took the first set with an unbelievable 3-0 victory. Unfortunately, Itabashi could not close it out and ultimately lost to Gachikun 3-1 in the final set of the tournament. Despite taking second place, Itazan closed out my fighting game year damn near perfectly by getting my favorite character in the game to the very end of the biggest Street Fighter 5 event of 2018. I could not have cheered harder for Itazan if I tried.

MajinTenshinhan: I'm a hardcore character loyalist for the most part, and fighting games are no exception. As I believe the case is for most people who are suffering from this affliction, one of the best things that can happen is to see your typically underrepresented character come out in full force on the big stage, and that's what was granted to me at the Tekken Tokyo Masters event last year.

Most people who follow competitive Tekken know that it's basically impossible to cite a proper main character for ROX|Knee, since he keeps using different characters for almost every match even at the very top level, so when he first brought out Lili in top 8 against my fellow character loyalist UYU|Qudans, I was over the moon, though the joy was fairly shortlived since he switched off of her when he lost a game, and then went to the loser's bracket.

After that, though, Knee clawed his way back up to Grand Finals, and not only did he pick my favorite, Lili, again, but he used her so masterfully that he did a 6-0 clean sweep on Qudans to take the entire event.

Maybe it's just me not being good enough at Tekken to tell, but looking at those matches, it felt like he'd mained Lili for years upon years, and judging by how one-sided the result was against Qudans, the 2017 Tekken World Tour champion, I'm guessing that's what it felt like going up against Knee, as well.

Knee would go on to try the Lili pick against Qudans again later in 2018, though not with the same success, so this is definitely the match that stands out in my mind as the best Lili play I've seen in tournament in Tekken 7's lifespan.

MajinTenshinhan: Another match that stood out for me this year, as I'm sure it did for many, was the set commonly referred to as "the best Dragon Ball FighterZ match we've seen so far", and I never felt like that title was taken from it, either.

I am of course talking about that legendary set from CEO 2018 between Smash prodigy TSM|Leffen and arcade god CO|Go1 when they squared off in the Top 32 of Dragon Ball FighterZ.

Since I work with covering tournaments, it's very rare for me to go back and watch any match. I have a good memory, so I remember most of what impressed me about any given match, and I already spend so much time on watching tournaments that I usually want to spend my free time on other things.

Despite this, I've probably seen this match 10 times over, and the only bad thing about it is that my countryman and friend TSM|Leffen didn't take the victory in the end.

This is the epitome of both offensive and defensive play in Dragon Ball FighterZ, and even the game's staunchest haters should be able to admit that this match shows that the game has a lot to offer at the very highest levels.

My colleague John "Velociraptor" Guerrero wrote up a whole article on how good the set was, and you can find his piece as well as the multitude of highlights it brings here.

Dragon Ball FighterZ takes over the FGC

DarkHorse: Dragon Ball FighterZ managed to build new bridges and bring the fighting game community together in a way that I've never seen before. The game was obviously set up to grab the attention of the Marvel vs. Capcom fans with its 3v3 gameplay, but its reach became even greater thanks to the strength of the IP and visual flare it brought to the table.

Street Fighter players, Marvel players, anime fighting game players and Smash Bros. players all came together to enjoy the game at the start of its life cycle giving us crazy match ups we never would have thought of like SonicFox vs. GGP|Kazunoko or TSM|Leffen vs. Go1. Hopefully the game can get over its current hurdles to make it back with another strong year in 2019 with more new characters to play around with.

Catalyst: The FGC had been hoping for a competitive DBZ game for years, upon years. Bringing in ArcSys and Bandai Namco was a terrific marriage. While we had seen other head to head DBZ titles, this was the first one the looked to be catered directly to competitive gamers. We got a Pro Tour and a ton of hype and magic.

Arcade Edition, Tekken 7 Season 2 and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Big titles received continued support throughout 2018

DarkHorse: Street Fighter 5 had a rocky launch to say the least in 2016, but the arrival of Arcade Edition last year brought with it what many considered to be the true final product. We finally got Arcade Mode after two years, but more importantly we got new V-Triggers which breathed new life into some characters like Kolin while other classic fighters finally made their return as DLC with Sagat, Cody, Sakura and even Blanka.

While mostly everything included with Arcade Edition worked out well, I think my favorite thing from the expansion is actually the crossover costumes its given us through Extra Battle and the store. It lets us officially dress up as some of our favorite Capcom characters from other games which is the best we're going to do in the realm of fighting games for now following the fate of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.

Dreamking: There were a lot of exciting reveals in 2018, but I don't think any of them were quite as impactful as Negan in Tekken 7. The Bandai Namco team popped the lid on the first DLC characters set to join the cast in Season 2, beginning with the unveiling of Tekken classics Anna Williams and Lei Wulong.

For the big finish, Bandai Namco fired off a reveal way out of left field — Negan from The Walking Dead as a playable character. I still remember watching the teaser trailer, hearing Negan's trademark whistle, and still not even realizing that it was him.

The Negan announcement was one of those reveals that sends shock waves throughout the fighting game community and the internet as a whole. We saw a similar effect when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were revealed for Injustice 2, but due to The Walking Dead's massive and current popularity, I think Negan may have surpassed the turtles in terms of impact.

Dreamking: Though I just got through saying that the Negan reveal for Tekken 7 trumped the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in impact, that doesn't mean seeing them join Injustice 2's playable roster wasn't one of my favorite moments of the year.

The turtles were originally announced back in November 2017, but as the final character(s) of Fighter Pack #3, they did not see their release until February 2018.

If you never got the opportunity to play the TMNT in Injustice 2, you should change that immediately. They're incredibly fun, capture the essence and personality of the characters perfectly, and they look fantastic in Injustice 2's highly detailed graphics style. NetherRealm Studios completely knocked it out of the park with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is all the more impressive when you consider how much of a legacy those characters have, how beloved they are, and how easy it would be to mess that up in a fighting game.

MajinTenshinhan: While this isn't exactly in the same vein as the continued support my colleagues mentioned, I was actually overjoyed at one of this year's brand new titles, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, simply because of one thing — Terry Bogard.

When it comes specifically to fighting games as a genre, I've always liked Terry Bogard the best, and having such a nonsensical game built purely around silly fun rope him (or her?) into the mix was just ... well, fun.

Terry's inclusion made me buy the game, and while it isn't something I've grinded for ages or put tons of time into, it was a fun adventure, and a cute love letter to SNK history. Getting to enjoy that through a cheerleader Terry Bogard (or Terri, as I tend to refer to the female verison) was just a blast.

While I'd like to keep Terry the same as he's typically been in the main iterations of Fatal Fury and King of Fighters, this was a fun sidestory. And it became even more fun when they added Miss X (a.k.a. Iori Yagami) with a Kyo-fangirl costume. SNK keep knocking it out of the park, and I love them for it. Can't wait for Samurai Shodown.

A strong year for the entire community with classic titles returning and new bonds forming

Catalyst: The overall health of fighting games are good. While there have definitely been some ups and downs in recent times, the majority of the fighting game developers seem to be in a good spot.

SF5 is doing solid, Tekken 7 is getting a new season of characters, SNK released new DLC for KoF14 and has Samurai Shodown on the way. Soul Calibur 6 came out, Mortal Kombat 11 and Dead or Alive 6 were announced. Arika even resurfaced with Fighting EX Layer.

Dreamking: Back in September, SNK brought back a franchise that fans have been asking about for ages — and brought it back in full force. Samurai Shodown (Samurai Spirits in Japan) was unveiled by way of a teaser trailer, and the footage we were shown looked outstanding.

The upcoming fighter has full 3D character models and backgrounds, moving away from the 2D sprites the series is used to. Samurai Shodown also looks bloody as hell, and the action is big and cinematic. SNK gave us just enough of a taste to leave us dying for more, so I am definitely looking forward to what 2019 will bring.

Accomplishing personal FGC goals

MajinTenshinhan: This isn't really a happening in the FGC, so it feels a bit weird to include it, but it's one of my biggest, if not the very biggest, things to happen in 2018, so I'd be remiss to not include it.

For people who know me well, it comes as no surprise that I've been doing fighting game commentary for many years. I started doing it before I even worked here at EventHubs, and I've been active not only in my homeland of Sweden but across Europe for many years.

But this year was a bit of a turning point for me, in that I actually got to commentate at sponsored tour events, with three appearances on the Capcom Pro Tour, in Belgium, Denmark and Ireland.

Perhaps the most memroable moment was at the Brussels Challenge grand finals when the original commentators, Tyrant and Damascus, had to catch their flight, and I jumped on to do solo-commentary midway through the set between RB|Bonchan and RB|Luffy. A lot of people shouted me out for that, and I'm very grateful for that.

It was also a particular struggle at Headstomper in Copenhagen, Denmark, where flights were cancelled for some of the original commentators, and I had to help organize the commentary duties for Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition and Dragon Ball FighterZ, and did very long shifts of commentary myself on both titles as well.

I want to give my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in running these three events for giving me the opportunity to hone my skills on commentary, and the chance to show what I've got to the world. Please look forward to seeing me more in the future, most likely at Headstomper again in 2019, where I've become something of a mainstay at the commentary desk.

I realize that this isn't a fighting game happening in 2018, but it was gigantic for me, and it felt like all my years of hard work finally started to pay off. I'm very thankful.

DarkHorse: And I somehow managed to get myself a job at EventHubs early on in 2018 which is something I could have only dreamed of in my years of reading this site as I found myself more and more interested in fighting games. I've made new friends here and have coworkers that feel more like friends which is a big turnaround from where my life was at before. If you're reading this and feeling that life is giving you little direction right now, I hope 2019 brings new opportunities or a new spark that will allow you to achieve whatever dream you have in your heart.

Sources: EVO Twitch, Nintendo YouTube, Capcom Fighters YouTube, Bandai Namco YouTube, GameSpot YouTube.

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