25 Years Later, This Iconic Fighting Game Finally Gets The Respect It Deserves

Riding a viral wave to claim its rightful spot as a GOAT.

cover art for Street Fighter 3: Third Strike

Vindication can be bittersweet. In order to experience it, after all, you must first endure the shame of being told you’re wrong, you failed, and everyone else knows better than you. The actual vindication comes later, when the world finally catches up to your ideas. Oftentimes it’s too little too late. Van Gogh only sold one painting while he was alive. Edgar Allen Poe was paid a paltry $9 for The Raven. And Capcom’s Street Fight 3: Third Strike didn’t get its due for decades.

Street Fighter 3: Third Strike is widely regarded as the one of the best fighting games ever created. Fight game devotees see it as a complete package. It’s got a dynamic visual style, a soundtrack that goes hard, and some of the most responsive and strategic under-the-hood mechanics anywhere in the genre. But when it launched in 1999, the scene was different. Fans weren’t impressed and the industry considered Capcom’s most ambitious entry in the franchise to be a failure. What happened?

The 90’s were one of the most exciting period in gaming history. The decade started off with 16-bit console wars between Sega and Nintendo and ended with Sony’s 3D powerhouse PlayStation brand dominating the market just as Microsoft entered the scene. The marketing drumbeat behind gaming in the 90’s was graphics, graphics, graphics. Hardware technology accelerated at a breakneck pace, making it possible to do once-impossible things. Many a 90’s kid has memory-holed the mind-blowing experience of moving Mario around a three-dimensional map, convinced it was the most realistic thing they’d ever seen in a game.

Fighting games were not immune to this trend. Some of the most celebrated franchises in the game, like Virtua Fighter and Tekken, were born in the 3D era. Players and critics alike couldn’t get enough of that sweet, sweet Y-axis. Over at Capcom, though, internal troubles made Street Fighter 3 a struggle to complete, let alone reinvent as a 3D title.

Impressive art and 2D spritework wasn’t enough for Capcom to go toe-to-toe with the 3D fighting game revolution of the 90s.


Street Fighter 3: Third Strike is, as the name implies, the third iteration of the title. The launch of the initial title, Street Fighter 3, was kind of a mess. This oral history has loads of details, but the gist of it is that Capcom decided to overhaul the internal structure of the company. This led to the creation of a lot of new producer roles, which were filled by experienced devs.

This caused two issues. First, being a producer and being a developer require different skill sets, so it took time for everyone to fit into their new roles. The second, pulling the most experienced devs into management meant there weren’t experienced devs to make the games. A lot of inexperienced people ended up on Street Fighter 3, which made it take a lot longer than expected. Gamers are an impatient bunch, so even diehards were agitated by the wait. By the time Street Fighter 3 released in 1997 fans weren’t ready to accept anything other than absolute perfection.

Further complicating the relationship with fans was the controversial decision to introduce a new roster of characters that only included Ken and Ryu. Put it all together and it's not hard to see why there were issues. A delayed launch of a 2D fighting game during the height of the 3D frenzy that didn’t have any fan favorites? Not surprising, it was one of the worst-selling games in Capcom’s history. However, vindication was coming.

The Street Fighter 3: Third Strike roster really puts the “who?” in “who’s who.”


Capcom knew it had a problem. Fighting game fans essentially dismissed 1997’s Street Fighter 3 outright because it was “just” a 2D game, and ultimately felt like more of the same ol’ Street Fighter but with less popular characters. A revamped version titled Street Fighter 3: Second Impact came out the same year featuring newer, flashier stages meant to sell the 2D style as visually superior if graphically inferior.

It didn’t work as Capcom had hoped, so a third and final release was planned. Street Fighter 3: Third Strike hit arcades in 1999, and Sega Saturn, PS2 and Xbox soon after. The addition of fighting game icon Chun-Li to the roster garnered the most attention, but a series of changes to the mechanics led to one of the most well-balanced fighting games ever created.

Street Fighter 3: Third Strike started to get the recognition it deserved when it made its way into the lineup for EVO in 2001. It wasn’t until 2004 when Street Fighter 3: Third Strike would be catapulted into the mainstream by way of one of the most viral moments in gaming history: the Daigo Parry.

Even if you don’t know anything about fighting games, the video clip is impressive. Daigo, playing as Ken, is down to a sliver of health. His opponent, Justin Wong as Chun Li, comes in with her special — a flurry of lightning speed kicks. If Daigo had tried to block, he would have lost due to “chip damage” e.g. the small amount of damage you take during a block. But it’s the innovative parry system that keeps Daigo in the game.

To properly parry, a player has 1/10th of a second to intercept the move by tapping the joystick towards their opponent. Mind you, that’s to parry a single strike. Chun-Li’s special has 17 strikes in a matter of seconds, and Daigo parried every single one. Parrying Chun-Li’s special was thought to be impossible until this moment. Daigo didn’t even go on to win the tournament, but it didn’t matter. A legend was born.

The video made the rounds in the fighting game scene, and when it eventually hit YouTube it absolutely exploded. Suddenly, Capcom’s failed 90s sequel was a must-try game for casuals and pros alike. To their surprise it wasn’t just good, it was damn near perfect. IGN declared Street Fighter 3: Third Strike to be the best fighting game of all-time in 2022. Suck it, Tekken.

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