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During the 1980s publications used the terms "fighting game" and "beat ’em up" interchangeably, along with other terms such as "martial arts simulation" (or more specific terms such as "judo simulator"). With hindsight, critics have argued that the two types of game gradually became dichotomous as they evolved, though the two terms may still be conflated. Fighting games are sometimes grouped with games that feature boxing, MMA, or wrestling.

Virtua Fighter 5 lacked an online mode but still achieved success both on home consoles and in arcades; players practiced at home and went to arcades to compete face-to-face with opponents. In addition to Virtua Fighter and Tekken, the Soul and Dead or Alive franchises continued to release installments.

As such, boxing games, mixed martial arts games, and wrestling games are often described as distinct genres, without comparison to fighting games, and belong more into the Sports game genre. SNK did a great job pushing the limits of what we could expect from fighting games. they didn’t stop at emulating Capcom, they wanted to be better.

Classic Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games were re-released on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, allowing internet play, and in some cases, HD graphics. In retrospect, multiple developers attribute the decline of the fighting genre to its increasing complexity and specialization.

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Tecmo released Dead or Alive in the arcades in 1996, porting it for the PlayStation in 1998. It spawned a long running franchise, known for its fast-paced control system, innovative counterattacks, and environmental hazards. The series again included titles important to the success of their respective consoles, such as Dead or Alive 3 for the Xbox and Dead or Alive 4 for the Xbox 360. In most fighting games, players may select from a variety of playable characters who have unique fighting styles and special moves.

This became a strong convention for the genre with the release of Street Fighter II, and these character choices have led to deeper game strategy and replay value. This genre is distinct from beat ’em ups, another action genre involving combat, where the player character must fight many weaker enemies at the same time.

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This complexity shut out casual players, and the market for fighting games became smaller and more specialized. Furthermore, arcades gradually became download link less profitable throughout the 1990s due to the increased technical power and popularity of home consoles. Even as popularity dwindled, the fighting game genre continued to evolve; several strong 3D fighting games also emerged in the late 1990s. Namco’s Tekken proved critical to the PlayStation’s early success, with its sequels also becoming some of the console’s most important titles. The Soul series of weapon-based fighting games also achieved considerable critical success, beginning with 1995’s Soul Edge to Soulcalibur VI in 2018.