How TEKKEN Revolutionised Fighting Games

Wilson Alonge
14 Jan 2024 . 5 min read

I remember my cousins forcing me to ask my parents to buy this new fighting game that had just come out on the PS2. I followed their instructions and begged profusely until one day my dad came home with both TEKKEN 4 and TEKKEN Tag Tournament. I was hooked. The introduction trailer to the game captivated me, the way the characters movements looked so real, the cool character designs, everything about the game grabbed my attention. After many years of playing TEKKEN, I believe that it is one of the most innovative fighting games ever created.

Originally created and released in 1994 by Namco, TEKKEN has become a renowned Fighting Game since its conception almost 30 years ago with over:

  • 8 games in the main series
  • 2 games of the standalone series TEKKEN Tag Tournament
  • 11 Spin-offs

Interestingly, what makes this game so revolutionary are that the mechanics created within TEKKEN have had monumental impacts on Fighting games, building on the foundations of classics like Street Fighter 2, Battle Arena Toshiden and Virtua Fighter.

With an innovative take on the 3D Fighting Game experience, new and creative characters, and detailed lore and narrative, we look at what makes TEKKEN so revolutionary!

Early Days in Namco

Starting as a case study for Namco to develop 3D characters for the first time, TEKKEN was not intended to be a fighting game. The project was simply a way for Namco to incorporate texture mapping, however the sense of personality resulted in a game that took the arcade scene by storm.

Initially titled ‘Rave War’, TEKKEN was a more ambitious undertaking that aimed to take realism of 3D fighting to greater heights within the genre by introducing players to a bold new control system and popularise 3D fighters.

The game had similar sported polygon-based graphics much like its predecessor Virtua Fighter and was initially dismissed by Fighting Game Fans. However, once Virtua Fighter director Seiichi Ishi decided to work with Namco on Tekken, the game was able to distinguish itself in various ways.

Gareth Bale’s Rowbots

What Made TEKKEN Different?

With a higher frame rate and more detailed textures, there were obvious differences between previous 3D fighters and TEKKEN, however it was TEKKEN’s innovative system and cast of characters that set it apart.

Most fighters at the time favoured a system of buttons that correspond with the strength of attack, but TEKKEN dared to be different, dedicating a button to each of the characters limbs.

Although it was disorientating at the time for 3D Fighter fans, many of whom were Street Fighter 2 fans, players soon realised that it was a more innovative and intuitive approach to 3D combat.


While Mortal Kombat was all about bringing a group of Earth Realm’s greatest fighters together for a battle with the legions of a totalitarian realm, Tekken took a surprisingly different approach with its narrative.

Centering on the Mishima family and, notably, Kazuya Mishima who inherits the supernatural abilities of the Devil Gene, it birthed a story of heated rivalries between family, friends, foes, and factions.

What made this particularly special however, was the various motivations of its fighters for competing. Whether it was Kazuya’s journey of vengeance against his father, Heihachi; Hwoarang’s rivalry with Jin Kazama; or Kings pursuit to win the Tournament cash prize for his orphanage in Mexico, all stories converged in a burst of spectacular fights that made each mix-and-match confrontation quite enjoyable.

Gareth Bale’s Rowbots

Innovation of Fighting Mechanics

The easy accessibility of Tekken through its brilliant and varied characters and stories, coupled with its more intricate mechanics of wildly diverse combos and move sets, made it an extremely appealing fighting game on the market.

Unlike many other fighting games, though, Tekken didn’t funnel you into learning a list of combos to make the most out of the game. It prided itself on being immensely flexible with its gameplay.

TEKKEN’s greatest strength was how a player could simply pick up and memorize a couple of combos, and still string them together in incredibly unique and varied ways thanks to the smooth flow of combat and its animations.

TEKKEN’s fights boiled down to an elaborate dance of moves, counters, parries, and combos that were spurred on as a direct result of their opponent’s moves. There was a flow to each fight that made it supremely addictive, even when you knew little about the actual mechanics.

Gareth Bale’s Rowbots


TEKKEN became a landmark which inspired both gaming and martial arts enthusiasts as the attention to detail by the development team for the in-game fighting styles were truly spot on.

Through its amazing innovations, TEKKEN has been able to solidify itself within Fighting gaming culture.

The original two entries (TEKKEN & TEKKEN 2) were in the Guinness World Records Gamers Edition, for becoming the ‘First PlayStation Game to Sell a Million Copies’ and for becoming the ‘First Fighting Game to Feature Simulated 3D’.

TEKKEN has even solidified itself in this generation’s consoles, maintaining a strong winning streak at major fighting game tournaments like EVO and several other world events.