When it comes to any sort of game, competitive or otherwise, players always want to know who is the best or worst in the game. It's entirely possible that Street Fighter II started that trend. Any character can win a match, but some characters are more likely to win than others, so fans are rabid to know about tiers. For example, Pokémon games have a highly debated tier list, as fans question where someone like Charizard falls on the list. Sometimes you get a community popping up and setting down a standard. To use Pokémon again as an example, you have Smogon University setting their own standard on which Pokémon are good or not, with the official Nintendo Pokémon Video Games Championship Series or VGC doing the same. You have different communities implementing their own standards on which characters are good and what’s the optimal way to play the game. And Street Fighter is no different. You have websites like EventHubs giving out a tier list and even high profile players like Justin Wong and Infiltration have their own personal tier list. Obviously, tier lists aren’t set in stone, as they tend to fluctuate with every update.
Despite it being a controversial topic among fighting game fans, we're going to attempt to create a tier list of our own for this classic game. In May of 2017, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is slated to release on the Nintendo Switch. However, before we get there, let's take a look rank the fighters from Super Street Fighter II.
Let’s start this list off with Zangief. He was never a good character in the more vanilla Street Fighter II. He’s the slowest character in the game and his special moves are really complicated to pull off. Honestly, they’re almost impossible to pull off on a gamepad. Credit where credit is due, Zangief is powerful and his high stamina allows him to take hits well. He’s great when he’s up close and in your face, but has trouble getting close. Sadly, his slow speed and large size make it hard for him to get close though. Projectiles do great at keeping Zangief away, as you can zone the guy to death. In Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, the latest version of SF2, Zangief becomes a better character and his moves are easier to execute, but he's still outclassed by everybody else.
The Brazilian Beast, Blanka has great mobility. Blanka’s roll became faster in the HD remix with a quicker start-up time and quicker recovery and his roll allows Blanka to do damage and close gaps. His up roll is a great anti air and Blanka’s back step roll gives the beast man a jerky motion to help him surprise opponents. Also, Blanka has his signature biting attack. The biting attack is a grabbing move, has a big range and hits multiple times.
However, expert players know the biting attack’s timing and how to execute the combos that combay it. With that, Blanka has trouble against a lot of other fighters, specifically against fighters with projectiles. You’ll notice that a lot of the characters on this list have a hard time dealing with Hadoukens and Sonic Booms. And as strong as his rolling attacks are, they can easily be countered.
T. Hawk is a lot like Zangief, as he’s powerful up close and does great damage. He also has high stamina, so he takes damage really well. Unlike Zangief, however, T. Hawk is more mobile and doesn’t have too hard of a time getting in close to fighters. Normally, T.Hawk gets in close with his Condor Dive, but the Dive can be dealt with if you use a well timed jump attack against it. It’s worth mentioning in the first Turbo game, T. Hawk has an unbreakable throwing loop. T. Hawk is more of a offensive character, meant to dive in and grapple, so he has a hard time against players who turtle, meaning players who play defensively, or naturally defensive fighters like Guile. As strong as T. Hawk is, he can easily be countered, leaving him lower on our list.
Cammy is a bit of a mixed bag. In Turbo HD Remix, Cammy plays more like her Street Fighter IV version. Before that , Cammy had difficult inputs in the original Turbo version. Her Hooligan Throw was hard to execute and a missed or blocked Cannon Drill left Cammy wide open. But, Cammy in Turbo HD Remix is a lot better. The Hooligan Throw is easier to execute and the Cannon Drill is now safe (for the most part). And her Spinning Backfist allows Cammy to by pass fireballs, emulating her Street Fighter IV strategy.
However, her tactics and strategies aren’t consistent enough to win fights. While Cammy can string together combos, they are not the combos of Street Fighter IV, nor is Cammy as powerful as she is in SFIV. Cammy is usually strong yet fragile, but in Turbo HD Remix, she’s fragile, but lacks the strength and seed to make her threatening. Like previous characters, she has a hard time against projectiles and defensive characters.
The original Bruce Lee rip-off character, Fei Long is fast and fierce. To repeat the previous characters, Fei Long has a hard time getting up close though. Projectiles are key in Super Street Fighter II, as Fei Long is awesome up close, but struggles against those who can fend him off. Fei Long has great pressure tactics and can trap fighters in the corner. Although, Fei Long is aggressive and has great offensive tactics, you still have to pick and choose how you attack. Fei Long can’t mindlessly attack, otherwise he’s wide open. To properly play as Fei Long, you have to mix up your combos quickly while being unpredictable. There’s an art to fighting as Fei Long and it’s one of his flaws. As strong as he is, it’s going to take a while to learn how to properly use Fei Long. And like Cammy, he falls against defensive fighters and projectiles, leaving him on the lower half of this list.
As you would expect from list so far, E. Honda has trouble with fireball throwers. If you have a projectile, you can pretty easily beat E. Honda. Although he has trouble with projectiles, Honda has more tools to deal with them than some of the fighters we've covered already. His Flying Headbutt negates projectiles in Turbo HD Remix and his Sumo Splash jumps over projectiles, but it does leave Honda open to anti-air attacks. That being said, E. Honda is powerful against non-projectile fighters. He beats them hands down. Honda has high stamina and his Oicho Throw can trap fighters in and never let go. The combos capable with that throw are insane, as fighters are trapped and can’t escape.
As an all around good fighter, Ken is a ton of fun to play as. He’s flashy and he’s simple to understand. Honestly, it doesn’t take a whole lot to learn how to play as Ken. If you know how to use Ryu, you also can use Ken. But, Ken’s flair and charisma are a part of his appeal. Yeah, his fireballs aren’t great, as they’re weaker and smaller compared to Ryu’s Hadoukens. But Ken is a high risk/high reward character, as he’s a lot more in your face than Ryu. Ken has good combos, but if he messes up a combo, it leaves him wide open. He has average stamina and he’s fast as well. It’s all or nothing with Ken and that can be too risky for some, meaning he's not one of the preferred characters to use in the game.
Guile is the premiere defensive character in the character. His Sonic Booms keep fighters at bay and if anybody stupidly jumps in, Guile Flash Kicks them out of the air. With that arsenal, Guile can goat his opponents into jumping, as Guile can throw his Sonic Boom, or annoys them by poking them into jumping, and when a fighter gets too desperate, Guile is ready with a Flash Kick. Guile is really good at controlling the space. When he wants to leave, he can. If he wants to taunt you and watch you take his bait, he can. His normal attacks are still good at anti-air if you don’t have a Flash Kick charged.
Even though he is good defensively, he has trouble against the strongest characters and the pressure they can inflict. Guile can’t pressure fighters well and it takes time to learn how to play him well.
An all around decent character, there’s not much to complain about with Dee Jay, as he can do everything pretty well. Dee Jay has a projectile that lets him play defensively and has a decent up-close game as well. With all that, Dee Jay can effectively apply pressure. However, superior projectiles overpower Dee Jay’s fireball. Ryu and Sagat have far stronger projectiles, giving them an easier time against the Jamaican. And his Rolling Sobat kick can leave Dee Jay wide open.
The good part is that Dee Jay has tricky combos and can be unpredictable. He can juggle his opponents and keep them in the corner. Also, if you have good timing, Dee Jay can use his Machine Gun Upper to block fireballs. All in all, Dee Jay is a solid character, it’s just that there are better fighters to use.
Another good all-around character, Ryu is the most balanced character on the roster. Ryu doesn’t have glaring flaws, but he also isn’t particularly special. His up-close game is top notch and the best thing about Ryu is that he’s easy to pick up. Everybody has played as Ryu at some point and most people know the Hadouken, the Shoryuken, and the Tatsumaki. In Turbo HD Remix, Ryu has the ability to throw fake Hadoukens, adding a level of mind games to Ryu’s skill set. Ryu has trouble against the stronger characters on this list, but, even then, he still has a solid chance at winning the fight. In particular, Vega is difficult to fight against as Ryu, but he can still somewhat hold his own. Ryu may be the poster boy of the franchise, but top level players know that there are better characters to use.
Similar to Ryu, Chun-Li is a pretty balanced character, as she doesn’t have a whole lot of weaknesses. Her anti-air isn’t the greatest in the game, but it's still effective. Her Kikosho is good projectile and her overall best aspect is her speed. Chun-Li’s movement speed is fast and her attacks come out quickly. Chun-Li has good pokes too, which are important in determining distance and keeping opponents off, or making the rush. It all depends on the situation you want to create. A common tactic with Chun-Li is rushing opponents and finishing the combo off with a powerful throw. However, Chun-Li can be predictable as she doesn’t have a wide variety of combos and her hits don’t pack as much of a punch as other fighters. Rely on her speed to lead you to victory.
The big bad villain of Street Fighter, M. Bison is a completely offensive character. Bison can easily go from cross up to combo and make his opponent dizzy. From there, he can do the same cross up to combo again to defeat the opponent. His ability to dizzy his opponents comes from his high strength and speed. Quite simply, Bison is tricky, as he has a lot of tools at his disposal and can mess with his opponents. Naturally, because of this, it takes a while to learn how to fight as him effectively. Bison is a high skill fighter and takes a while to learn his nuances. On top of the learning curve, his overall defensive game is weak as well. It’s easy to put Bison in the corner and keep him there. Bison is meant to be a rush down character and needs to be played aggressively.
God, I hate Vega so much. When I used to play Street Fighter II on a some what competitive level, I would hate fighting against Vega. Vega has a large range, his punches and kicks go far, and he's one of the fastest characters in the game. Because of those factors, it’s extremely hard to get close to the guy. He has no projectiles, so fighters can use that to their advantage, but even though he has no projectiles, it’s difficult to get close to Vega because of his agility. His wall dives are difficult to deal with and cause a great deal of confusion. His only real downside is that he's Vega predictable, as he doesn’t have a lot in terms of combos. He’ll focus on the wall dives a lot, so, if you can predict his moves, Vega can be beaten.
Balrog is a annoying character, as he can trap his opponents easily in the corner and then go into his super combo, which is one of the best in game. His super combo is pretty simple, as it’s a series of straight punches, but its strength and how easy it is to combo into it is staggering. To add to all of the fun, his walking speed is fast and his Dashes allow Balrog to cover ground and attack at the same time. And he hits like the buffalo he takes after (a lot of his moves are named after the buffalo and it's a fitting name). Even though he got nerfs in Turbo HD Remix, Balrog is still one of the best characters in the game. Balrog does have trouble dealing with projectiles though, but it shouldn’t be too much trouble due to his incredible power and speed.
Dhalsim is a dominating character. Before we get to his strengths, let's take a quick look at Dhalsim’s flaws. He’s slow. Really damn slow. He also doesn’t really have any combos. Dhalsim’s attacks don’t really cancel into one another, as a lot of Dhalsim’s offense comes from singular solid hits. On top of all that, Dhalsim’s signature stretchy limbs can be hit by some moves giving him a really big hit box.
That being said, he has an awesome defensive game. Those same stretchy limbs allow Dhalsim to keep pressure off himself and on the opponent as they struggle to get close to him. He also has great anti-air moves with his Standing Roundhouse Kick and Jumping Punch. His anti-airs, combined with his Yoga Fire, make for a simple, yet devastating combo. Dhalsim has a ton of tools to deal with certain situations. If projectiles become too much for him to handle, then he can teleport close or away. And while slow, his air drills go far and do great damage. He can also slide in and pull off a throw if he needs some breathing room. Dhalsim is a great character with great responses when properly mastered, giving him an extremely cushy spot on this list.
Earlier I mentioned that I hated Vega, well I also hate Sagat, as he’s just so damn powerful. Let's start off again with the negatives here. Sagat is slow. If a fighter avoids a Tiger Shot, then Sagat is wide open and his limbs can be hit after a shot. He also takes a while to play as effectively. Other than that, he’s easily the best character in the game.
Sagat’s attacks take off a lot of damage and his defensive game is on point. HIs High and Low Tiger Shots make a wall that’s difficult to crack through. Sagat also has an insanely powerful uppercut, but it’s one that you need to learn the timing of. If you're too late, you’ll be punished with a combo. If you're too early, you won’t hit hard. With good practice, however, you’ll absolutely dominate as Sagat.