Street Fighter II
First Released: 1991
1987's Street Fighter laid much of the groundwork for one of gaming's great series, but it was a rookie pugilist in every way. There was one playable character - two if you counted the blond pallet-swapped fighter Player 2 controlled in the Versus mode - there were three special moves in the entire game, and there was a single button for punch and a single button for kick. Four years later, Capcom built on those meager foundations to create a legend its second time around. Street Fighter II featured a list of colorful characters from around the globe, each with their own set of moves and techniques to be learned. There was a fighter for everyone, whether it was Brazilian beastman Blanka, Chinese cop Chun-Li or the now-iconic duo of Ryu and Ken, returning from the original Street Fighter and now (slightly) more than pallet-swaps.
It's no exaggeration to say that the conventions set by Street Fighter II and its various incarnations still define the fighting genre: Whether it's something so simple as health bars at the top of the screen or best-of-three matches, or more advanced things like combo strings, super attacks and mix-up mindgames. What's even more impressive is that the game has stood the test of time, and Super Street Fighter II Turbo is still a mainstay of tournaments around the world. Without SF2, the gaming scene would be devoid of fireballs and dragon punches - and what a bleak world that would be.