Half the fun of diving into a fighting game is seeing what crazy characters will be rubbing up against each other. Capcom originated this idea with X-Men: Children of the Atom in 1994, honed it in 1996 with X-Men vs. Street Fighter, and then popularized it with the explosion that was Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes in 1998; but our dreams have run wild since then.
Super Smash Bros., Playstation AllStars Battle Royale, and every mugen game ever created have fed those dreams for decades, but even the most seasoned crossover vet has been tossed a curveball or two when it comes to expected characters. The fighting genre's thrown some real curveballs at us over the years that we can't imagine playing without, and since Namco has announced that Geese Howard of Fatal Fury is joining Tekken 7, we looked around for some of the best the genre surprised us with.
A fighter based entirely around clay characters brought to life by stop-motion animation was always bound to be bizarre; but what could possibly trump a talking snowman or a walking strip of taffy? Fellow Interplay Games character Earthworm Jim made an appearance in the third game Clay Fighter 63 1/3 on the N64, complete with his ray gun and cow tossing powers. He fit right in.
The Battletoads never caught on the way Rare Software thought they would back in the 1990s, but they were itching to get the property back out into view with nostalgia being worth more than gold. Rare surprised fans by including Rash in the newly revived Killer Instinct, the first new appearance of any Battletoad since 1994.
Mortal Kombat is one of the goriest games of all time, so it's surprising that it took them until 2011 to start including actual horror villains in the mix. The first through the gate was A Nightmare On Elm Street's Freddy Kreuger, sporting two knife hands instead of his trademark one, but hellbent on being MK's worst nightmare. His design may have been based on the Jackie Earl Haley version of the character from the 2011 remake, but that furnace fatality was one of the best in the game.
Mascot fighters didn't exist before Super Smash Bros., and it was a hell of an opening for them. By the third game Smash Bros. Brawl, Nintendo decided to answer some fanfic prayers by adding some non-Nintendo characters to the game for the first time. Sonic the Hedgehog was a welcome addition, but Metal Gear Solid's Solid Snake was a shock not many saw coming. His grim and gritty personality fixed with rocket launchers, landmines, and a grenade-launching Final Smash was an odd choice, but one that fans fell in love with all the same.
Namco's undead samurai appears in both Tekken and Soul Calibur, two Namco franchises. No one seems to know why he's in both or whether or not they're even the same person (alternate universes?), but seeing the new Yoshimitsu cosume always one of the little joys of firing up a new version of either game.
Soul Calibur 2 reached for some crazy console exclusive characters for the first time in the series; the Playstation 2 version got Tekken's Heihachi, Gamecube featured Link from The Legend of Zelda, and the Xbox featured Spawn. Malebogia (basically the devil) sent Spawn back in time to find Soul Edge, a sword that every character in these games is searching for, and with his mini-axe and fire beams, Spawn managed to stand out in a field of unique competitors.
Capcom isn't shy when it comes to throwing unexpected characters into their fighting games, but lawyer Phoenix Wright was a sharp left turn. He basically fumbles his way through matches until he collects enough evidence to really lay the hurt down with a damning conviction that's one of the most powerful attacks in the game - because Capcom has a sense of humor.
The Def Jam wrestling games brought hip-hop into the ring back in 2003, but it was the sequel Fight For NY that got ambitious with its characters. Many of them are hip-hop adjacent, like actor Omar Epps and breakdancing legend Crazy Legs, and some, like Black Flag lead Henry Rollins are just...there. But when will you ever get the chance to pit Epps against Flavor Flav ever again?
Pac-Man is more or less Namco's mascot, so it was only a matter of time before they worked their pellt chomping into Tekken, but we weren't expecting it like this. This crossover featured Pac-Man, but he was in a mech shaped like the wooden doll Mokujin. In a game that also features the original chubbier version of Capcom's Mega Man, I guess this isn't so surprising.
Akuma showing up in Tekken 7? Makes sense, considering Street Fighter x Tekken. But Geese Howard? Now that's a curveball. The Final Fight character is throwing his waves into the ring as the first DLC character, which obviously opens the floodgates for Tekken to slip in a DarkStalkers character. Really holding out for Anarkis.