With the release of Street Fighter V, a new roster has been established for players to argue over obsessively for the next few weeks. A clutch of new fighters change up the landscape, while a few old faces have received a new set of tools and utilities.
Without doubt there will be long, angry discussions of tier lists for months, if not years, to come (that’s part of what we love about fighting games, right?). Until the “definitive” list is nailed down, here’s a quick ranking of every combatant based on how much trouble they’ve given me in my time with Street Fighter V, from the easiest to beat to the hardest. There are also a few tips on their strengths and weaknesses so you won’t have to wallow in the online mire as long as I have.
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16. Bison: The big man with the Psycho Power is, sadly, one of the least impressive fighters you'll encounter. There's no doubt that someone out there is likely working up a powerful Bison and will likely wipe the floor with me for putting him at the bottom, but for the most part, this dictator remains tricky to use and less impressive than most. His key moves mostly involve using his surprising bursts of agility and aptitude for dealing with fireball zoning to keep one step ahead of your opponents, so be sure to master his V-Skill timing.
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15. Necalli: An ancient warrior god hell-bent on consuming the souls of the Street Fighter V cast, Necalli feels oddly similar to E. Honda in execution. You can put out a lot of powerful strikes and your combos can get pretty fierce if your opponent can't block well, but I found Necalli lacking in options to deal with some of the more slippery fighters. You're going to need to figure out the maximum limits of Necalli's power and make sure you can read the enemy fighter as well as they can read you.
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14. Zangief: I really like the Red Cyclone as a character, but you have to be pretty good at full-circle inputs if you want to take Zangief to the top of the ladder. He's a bit unwieldy at times, but he does have a number of EX moves that give him armor (attacks that let you absorb hits without flinching), so closing the distance is a little easier if you're willing to burn some meter. Master the inputs and lose any fear of getting too close to the enemy, and you'll make at least a decent Zangief.
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13. Dhalsim: The ancient yogi has even more float and reach in Street Fighter V, able to suspend himself mid-air with his V-Skill to throw off an opponent's carefully laid trap. That said, Dhalsim does have difficulty recovering if he gets caught, leading to some issues against rush-down fighters. You'll need to make use of his many long-reaching punches and kicks, as well as have a Spidey Sense for timing your V-Skill.
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12. R. Mika: There's no one as stylish or exuberant in Street Fighter as the Japanese amateur wrestler Rainbow Mika. This high-flying grappler and her tag-team partner aren't to be underestimated, as you'll lose any bout with her in close-range. Mastering her many specials and throws, as well as when to call in your tag-team partner, is a blast. Her issues stem from having not many options to deal with fireballs, but if the trade-off is being able to deliver a killer hype speech mid-match, it might be worth it for some.
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11. Vega: The mask and claw return to Street Fighter V in extravagant fashion, as Vega offers an agile and quick playstyle that can quickly confuse opponents. The trick, though, is knowing how to control his speed and deliver precise attacks, as Vega needs to land significant combos to match up to the power of other fighter's hits. If you're dexterous and tricky enough, you can easily master Vega's many moves and specials. Just don't get lost in all the dashes and slashes.
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10. Chun-Li: Chun-Li brings significant offensive prowess to the ring, able to unleash a massive flurry of kicks in close range, or control the mid-range with reaching sweeps and projectiles. Her kicks and punches are fast and furious, but she needs to keep up the pressure to maintain her advantage, as she doesn't handle control as well as others. Get in someone's face, though, and Chun-Li can do some damage and keep them cornered. Definitely someone to consider if you're an offensive fighter.
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9. Laura: An odd mix of grappler and mid-range fighter, Laura can prove unpredictable and tricky for those not accustomed to her moveset. She has a short-range projectile and quick, powerful hits, but can also move into several throws and grapple specials out of her combos with ease. Keeping up the pressure is key to Laura, as you can force your opponent into a guard defense and then punish them for holding back on the stick with a throw or grapple. Using her short projectile to keep pressure and hit them on the wake-up from a throw, you can really force the other fighter into a situation they don't want to be in.
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8. Birdie: A fierce, monstrous returning fighter from the Alpha series, Birdie is able to catch you out of place at almost any range with his chains. Grappling from a distance or up close, delivering punishing headbutts to those who try to rush in on him, Birdie's biggest disadvantages are his size and speed. He has power and a fierce range, but is a much slower fighter than most others. Mix in his slow speed, and each move you make is a deliberate choice. You can punish a smaller foe heavily with Birdie's big hits, as long as you can read and anticipate what they're doing.
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7. Ryu: The standard shoto and posterboy for Street Fighter, Ryu is easily the best option for newcomers to the series. He has a wide variety of specials available to him, a V-Skill that lets him parry just about any move, and he's able to handle just about everything. But as the saying goes, the jack of all trades is the master of none; Ryu doesn't particularly excel at anything, instead offering a standard and solid approach to every range and situation. He's a solid fighter and definitely the one that new players should cut their teeth on, though, because of that versatility.