There are few fighting game franchises with a longer or more storied history than Tekken. Developed by Namco, now Bandai Namco, the Tekken series made its debut in arcades in December of 1994 before being brought over to the original PlayStation less than a year later. Since then, the series has been a fighting game mainstay and cultural phenomenon, with a movie, crossovers with other games and a burgeoning eSports scene. You might not be the most familiar with fighting games as a whole, but you’ll have heard of Tekken, though which are the best Tekken games?
With a series that spans at least 10 games, and even more if you include ports like Tekken Advance for the GBA, it can be hard to know which is the definitive Tekken ranking. Fortunately for you, we’ve compiled a list of all the mainline entries in the Tekken series (plus one spin-off just so we can laugh at it together) to tell you which one is best. I guarantee the word Tekken will lose all meaning by the end of this.
Ranking The Tekken Games
11. Death By Degrees
Much in a similar fashion to our Mortal Kombat ranking list, it’s a spin-off that occupies the worst spot on this list, as 3D action adventure/beat ‘em up Death By Degrees is about as many degrees separate from a good game as you could possibly get. It might have Tekken’s resident lady assassin Nina Williams as the lead character, but Death By Degrees retains pretty much none of the quality you’d come to expect from the series.
Death By Degrees is mostly a new story with new characters, only with Nina and her sister/rival Anna thrown in for good measure, but there’s a few nods, references and cameos to the Tekken series as a whole. The key gimmick for Death By Degrees was that your attacks were controlled by the right analog stick, which didn’t feel even halfway as satisfying as just the regular Tekken Force mode, or even Tekken 5’s Devil Within mode.
Say what you want, but Bandai Namco are kind of trendsetters in the sense that they were exploring the free-to-play live service space before a lot of big publishers. It doesn’t mean that the ensuing product, Tekken Revolution, was any good, though. It was Tekken, but it was also a pay-to-win mess that long-time fans struggled to get behind.
In fairness, there’s some good qualities in Revolution. The game uses Tekken Tag Tournament 2 as a basis, which is a decent fighting game in its own right, and Revolution introduced Special Moves and Critical Arts, which could be argued that they went on to inspire Tekken 7’s Rage Arts. Still, you had to level up the stats of characters even when playing online, meaning new players could easily be flattened by someone playing online.
Either way, the game ceased operations in 2017.
9. Tekken 4
The first “modern” Tekken was always going to be a rough transition period, and that was felt in Tekken 4. To be fair, Tekken 4 isn’t a bad game, and has plenty of attributes to love, but the series had clearly established its brand of fast-paced 3D fighting in infinite arenas, while Tekken 4 introduced walls, hills and other environmental obstacles to the fray.
On the one hand, there’s a certain novelty to seeing Paul and Law have a bit of a scrap on an escalator in a mall, and the larger arenas with multiple spawn points created more varied backdrops as a result. Plus, the walls would become a key part of Tekken’s formula and hype going forward.
History will look back on Tekken 4 as the first important step towards the improvements the series made going forward, but at the time, some saw it as standing in dog poop.
8. Tekken 1
Time catches up to us all, and while the original Tekken is the trailblazer upon which all of this has been possible, it’s hard not to look upon those opening moments as a little barebones compared to what the series has become. Just a handful of characters, a slower pace and less interesting arenas and music means the first game in the series doesn’t match up.
However, Tekken, taking clear inspiration from the already released Virtua Fighter, would revolutionise the fighting game scene. Opting for a button for each limb, Tekken created a control system that players could easily grasp, or at the very least could mash buttons to perform cool stuff.
All legacies have to be built on a solid foundation, and Tekken 1 was that.
7. Tekken 6
You know something, the Xbox Series X | S might make Tekken 6 worthy of a higher spot on this list, purely on the basis that the loading times for the original game were a load of garbage. It wasn’t unheard of for players to be waiting up to a half a minute on the “get ready for the next battle” screen in arcade mode, waiting for that next battle. How long do you want us to wait here Namco? With the Xbox Series X | S, load times are so much better, but how it plays on non-native tech shouldn’t come into play. As it stood when it was released, Tekken 6 was a decent, if flawed release.
Tekken 6 saw the series well into its “we actually have walls now” era, meaning that the developers were finally comfortable with the gameplay those obstacles introduced. Tekken 6 even introduced a 3D beat ‘em up style Story Mode that added some significant run time to the overall game, and while the actual fighting was great, it felt somewhat lacking compared to what came before and after. It also introduced “Bound” attacks, which bounce enemies off the ground for follow-up juggle damage, a feature that’s been a staple of Tekken ever since.
6. Tekken 2
Building on the foundations of the original game, Tekken 2 was a marked improvement over the original game, with more characters to choose from, more moves for each character to play, including altered move-sets for some characters, and more modes for home console owners. It was also here where the boxing kangaroo and dinosaur duo of Roger and Alex were introduced, allowing the series to veer more into the comedic and ridiculous aspects that the series would be defined by in the future.
All the changes and improvements to the overall formula proved to pay dividends, as Tekken 2 was nothing short of a critical and commercial success. It apparently was also responsible for professional goalkeeper David James’ decline in quality during football matches, which is fair enough.
Get a few friends together on any Tekken game, and you’re going to be occupied for hours on end, no matter how old it might be. Tekken 2 is no exception.
5. Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Tekken Tag Tournament games are like a special moment, the 3D fighting game equivalent of Smash Bros., throwing logic, story and caution to the wind to just gather Tekken’s biggest characters together for a massive scrap. It’s a wonderful experience, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a wonderful, if a little bit safe, fighting game. If nothing else, the game’s 59 characters (if you include free update DLC characters) are certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 builds on the gameplay introduced both in the original Tag game and Tekken 6. The Bound mechanic has been updated to allow for tag combos, extending the amount of damage players can dole out, while players can now escape tag throws, with unique animations playing out every time.
It’s a celebration of all things Tekken, and it’s hard not to fall in love with something like that. Oh, and there’s also a Snoop Dogg stage, because why not?
4. Tekken 5 + Dark Resurrection
After the shaky release of Tekken 4, Tekken 5 felt like the king (of Iron Fist) returning to their throne to claim what’s rightfully theirs.
The fifth mainline entry, sixth if you want to include the first Tag game, Tekken 5 saw Namco find their feet with the new normal of Tekken, as well as introducing fan favourite characters like Raven and the ability to customise your characters with new clothing and accessories. That customisation has been featured in every Tekken game since, so you know it was a winner.
In a rare moment for the Tekken series specifically, Namco released an updated version of Tekken 5 specifically for the PSP in the form of Dark Resurrection, which introduced more fan favourites in Lili and Dragunov. However, fans wanted to see the game ported to home consoles like all the Tekken games before it, so Dark Resurrection was brought to PS3 and updated with online play, making it the first game in the Tekken series to support online play. If Bandai Namco decided to port Dark Resurrection again to modern consoles, most fans would likely be okay with it.
3. Tekken Tag Tournament
For many, Tekken Tag Tournament is a shining pinnacle for the series as a whole, and it’s not hard to see why. I mean, you could argue that Tag Tournament deserves the top billing on this list because of the Tekken Bowl minigame alone, but the overall experience is still brilliant.
Launching in arcades in 1999, Tag Tournament would receive updated graphics when being ported to the PS2 less than a year later, becoming a stellar standout during the greatest console of all-time’s infancy.
Tekken Tag Tournament is such a well loved and successful game that it was eventually ported to the PS3 as part of Tekken Hybrid, which included Tekken Tag HD, a demo for Tag 2 and the CGI movie Tekken: Blood Vengeance. Honestly, the Hybrid package couldn’t match up to the incredible legacy of the original Tekken Tag, which is still considered a measuring stick for fighting games as a whole.
2. Tekken 7
Arguably the best fighting game that’s active right now, and certainly the best 3D fighter on the market today, Tekken 7 is nothing short of a brilliant game.
A culmination of the work, new features and incremental improvements that the series has made ever since the release of Tekken 4, Tekken 7 is an amazing fighting game that straddles that line brilliantly between accessible gameplay (one button Rage Arts are a welcome addition too), with hard to master techniques and movelists that separate the new players from the veterans. Tekken 7 is as approachable as the series has ever been, while retaining enough depth to reward longtime players.
The game’s extensive DLC campaign, which has spanned across four seasons with a fifth yet to be confirmed, is also further proof of how well this game has sustained its player base in the years since launch. Sure, some of the guest characters might have been questionable (Negan is an odd choice, even if he’s really enjoyable to play), but seeing Tekken 7’s roster fill up with enjoyable characters has been great to see.
If you’re looking for a great place to start playing Tekken, Tekken 7 is your best bet. Unfortunately though, it’s not the best game in the series.
1. Tekken 3
In no uncertain terms, Tekken 3 was a cultural landmark, and a defining game for the PS1. Tekken 2 was already incredibly successful beforehand, but Tekken 3 really accelerated the series into the mainstream in a way that it’s only now managing to replicate, thanks to Tekken 7’s longevity.
Tekken 3 was a juggernaut, and with the gameplay that Tekken 3 offered, it’s not hard to see why. Tekken 3 is one of the fastest games in the series, making for some incredible gameplay, while introducing series favourite characters like Jin Kazama or modes like Tekken Ball. Can we get Tekken Ball added to Tekken 7 or even Tekken 8, please?
On Metacritic, Tekken 3 is tied 25th as one of the best reviewed games of all time at a score of 96, matched by the likes of Half-Life 2, GTA V, the original Bioshock, GoldenEye for the N64 and the GameCube version of Resident Evil 4. It’s an esteemed level of company, and a level of success that’s only been beaten by one other fighting game, Soulcalibur. As for sales, Katsuhiro Harada claimed on Twitter that the game sold 8.36 million copies in its initial run, which is just staggering for a fighting game.
Unfortunately, Tekken 3 is a bit hard to get hold of and play on account of it being a PS1 game, though if you managed to pick up one of those PS1 Minis, you can play Tekken 3 to your heart’s content. In the meantime, Tekken 7 will undoubtedly serve you well as the standard bearer for the iconic fighting games series going into the future. Long live Tekken.
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