Learning fighting games as a whole is always a very love it or hate it kind of experience. There’s a reason fighting games have and will always be a niche genre of games. They require practice before you can even play it at all the way it is designed to be played – at least now adays. That said, I think playing fighting games the way they used to be played, IE, just playing against the CPU and scrubby players and such is a perfectly valid way to get a loose handle on playing the game as a whole, and it’s generally less stressful. But let’s go over a few things first…
It’s true that most fighting game players use a stick, for various reasons, it is generally the better option in the long run, if you plan to play fighting games competitively. Simply put, they give you access to all of the buttons in a much more accessible way. However, learning a stick is like learning an instrument, it takes A LOT of time to get used to one, months in-fact, depending on the person. It’s for this reason, that is you plan to use a stick, starting off with one is the best option, because I’ve seen people break really bad when trying to learn a stick after they’ve been playing with a pad, because suddenly, they just took like 3,000 steps backwards in how well they can perform. Suddenly just doing a hadoken is near impossible.
Keyboards are most similar to arcade sticks or I guess most similar to a hitbox. Realistically, you could play at a high level on a keyboard pretty easily, it’s just awkward for most people.
Pads are the easiest way to go. Generally learning basic things like motions is much more forgiving on a pad, though you may not have the cleanest inputs around. I would say start with a pad, of whatever your choosing. I still use a pad for certain fighting games, and I just use my PS2 controller.
How do you enjoy fighting games? Do you like to do well and win, or do you like to just play the game and hit buttons? If you actually want to get good at fighting games and you take joy in doing well and knowing the game better than your opponent, then you obviously need to practice. If you just enjoy the simplicity of hitting buttons and seeing stuff happen, then you can probably enjoy fighting games without the commitment of practicing very much.
The biggest obstacle for fighting games has always been and should always be, the giant hurdle of learning the game(s). Learning your execution, learning your character, learning the mechanics of the game and how they function with one another. Learning fighting games takes years, literal years – if you plan to play them at a competitive level. Now, newer fighting games in particular are MUCH easier execution wise and even in terms of game depth, typically speaking, so practicing perfect execution isn’t quite as time consuming, but it’s still something you should do.
All fighting game practice starts with execution, if you can’t do the moves, you can’t play the character. Pick whatever game fancies your choosing and practice the motions for your character’s special/super moves on both sides every day until it’s consistent. It takes thousands upon thousands of times before something becomes muscle memory, so do keep that in mind when playing fighting games – you’re going to drop your inputs, it’ll always happen. What’s important is to make sure that when that muscle memory does cement into your brain, that it’s of a PROPER input. Clean inputs are a must, try and do your special moves with just the necessary inputs and nothing more.
Once you’ve got execution, you have to learn your character, and build fundamentals based on it. I recommend watching this series, even if the game is irrelevant right now, you can learn a lot about basics here…
Find a game:
Playing all the games at the start is probably a bit of an overload. Since you made this post, you probably had SOME game spark your interest in fighting games, so I would say pick whatever that is. If not, it’s sort of up to you on what type of fighting game you want to learn, it’s about what you like.
Some good/popular footsie fighters are:**
Street Fighter IV
Street Fighter III: Third Strike
Street Fighter Alpha 2/3
Uniel (I feel like it’s more of a footsie fighter than an anime fighter, but that’s from having never played it personally. Though this game’s popularity fell off pretty fast.)
Some popular anime fighters:
Guilty Gear XX series
Guilty Gear Xrd series (newest)
Marvel vs Capcom 2/3
Persona 4 Arena
Some popular Jojo’s fighters are:
Fuckin’ Jojo’s dude – hah! (No, don’t play that to start, heh heh.)
The main difference between a footsie fighter and an anime fighter is really about the pacing. Footsie fighters are generally much slower as far as what is happening on screen, and how versatile your character’s movement options are. That speed difference however isn’t really in the numbers, more in just the freedom of movement, it makes the game feel like a lot more is happening and could potentially be happening, as people are always moving and can strike from any position pretty quickly. There’s also a pretty big difference in terms of how zoning/footsies work in the games.
Don’t play to win, just play to play. Try and learn something through every match, be it with a player or CPU.
When you’re not playing and you want to learn a bit more about fighting games, their terminology, by all means just browse around on the internet, watch videos and what not, there’s a lot of info out there, it’s just kind of spread around. Even if you can’t understand exactly what might be going on if you watch some high level play of a game, you might get that spark in you that makes you say “I want to do that!”
Some people take fighting games too seriously and don’t even really seem like they’re having fun when they play. Ignore them. I have a smile on my face whenever I’m facing someone better or of equal skill to me in my game of choice (Third Strike), because I know I am going to learn something, and I know I’m going to have to be thinking, and adapting, and god damn it’s just so much fun. Fighting games at a high level are EXCEPTIONALLY fun and satisfying, even if you lose, you can look at the match and be like “That was a pretty epic looking match.”