I only had one fight at school. I was about five years old and the biggest kid in the class was getting on my nerves for being so big. So I went up to him and hit him in his midriff. Big mistake. I was very soon on my arse on the floor with a bloodied nose. I learnt something important that day. I am not a fighter. I am much better at learning, reading and playing games than beating the living daylights out of people. I never got into a fight with anyone again.
That is probably a good thing but it has left me with a slight sense of inadequacy - a feeling that I have missed out on something that is at the core of being a real man. Perhaps I watched too many John Wayne movies as a kid and have a distorted view of masculinity but I can't help thinking that to be a real man you have to be able to hold your own in a fist fight.
This probably explains my addiction to fighting games. I might not be a real man in real life but when I am playing fighting games like the ten listed below, I can at least pretend I am a John Wayne style hardman; fearless, heroic and master of the uppercut.
1 Chaos Faction 2
This is an absolute romp of a game. You and your pal battle through a series of weird and wonderful levels, trying to beat the hell out of anyone or anything you come across. You will find yourself fighting everything from crazed cats on a farm to spearman high up in the canopy of a rain forest, and you will have at your disposal a wide range of weapons: boxer gloves, machine guns, slingshots… the list is endless.
As you progress through the game's 15 levels, you unlock new characters, weapons and moves. And when you finally finish the game, the fun need not end, because Chaos Faction 2 comes with a level editor. You can even create your own custom deathmatch games with your own rules and settings. In short, Chaos Faction 2 has everything any gaming fighting enthusiast could want. Play the game here. An earlier version of the game can be played here.
2 Dino Strike
Clearly inspired by the arcade classics of the 1980s and 1990s (Streets of Rage anyone?), Dino Strike is a beautifully-designed side-scrolling beat 'em up. The major innovation it brings to the genre are the dinosaurs. You see, in this game's world, dinosaurs have been enslaved by evil human criminals. Computer chips have been inserted in their brains, subjugating them to the will of man.
You play a futuristic animal rights activist committed to releasing the dinosaurs from this evil form of captivity. No easy task this, as the dinosaurs are protected by an almost never-ending stream of thugs bent on nothing less than your destruction. Worse still, while under the control of humans, the dinosaurs will attack you on sight. Only by defeating the dinosaurs in battle can you remove the brain chips and release them. Play Dino Strike here.
3 Arm of Revenge
Game studio Funnaut has been responsible for some of the best-looking Flash games of recent times, including classics such as RPG action game Arcuz and innovative zombie defence game Zombie Trapper. The company's latest game is Arm of Revenge, a side-scrolling brawler game set in a post-apocalyptic world where the remnants of humanity battle with each other for scarce resources.
The game is typical of Funnaut's work in that the graphics and character animation are first-rate. The game also has an interesting game-play-mechanic. Your character - who is on a mission to avenge a great misdeed inflicted on him - has a bionic arm that can be upgraded to perform ever more powerful attacks. My only criticism of the game is that the action could be a bit faster. Arm of Revenge can be played here.
4 Hobo Prison Brawl
You play an incarcerated tramp who gets picked on by a fellow inmate at the prison. Big mistake. Mr Hobo might appear like a typically unhealthy tramp but beneath his rags and body odour he is something of a superman. And the inmate soon gets his comeuppance. Hobo's rage however is not sated, and he embarks on a prison wide brawl, punching and kicking anyone who comes into range.
Not just punching and kicking, actually, because Mr Hobo has some special moves, including such delights as vomiting on enemies, shitting on them and gobbing in their eyes. Lovely! Play the game here.
In Sonny - a fighter RPG with impressively high production values - you don't kill zombies but, in an unusual plot twist, play the part of a zombie. Sonny wasn't always a zombie. He used to be a normal bloke. But then he was involved in a accident on a ship. He should have died but instead he became a zombie. Now he is an all-out battle for survival.
One of the highest rated Flash games of all time, Sonny features challenging turn-based game-play where you and up two comrades battle it out with a series of increasingly difficult enemies. As you progress, you find bigger and better weapons and armour, and are able to upgrade your skills and magical powers. Play Sonny here. A competent sequel to the game can be played here.
6 Street Fighter 2
I wasted an incalculable amount of time playing Street Fighter 2 on the N64 when I was at university and now, thanks to this Flash port of the game, I can relive those fond memories with nothing more than a browser. Of all the classic games that have been remade in Flash, this is in my opinion the one that has aged the best.
Despite having none of the bells and whistles of its successors, Street Fighter II remains my favourite game in the series. It's perfectly formed: easy for a beginner to get to grips with but at the same time rewarding to those who put many hours into it. And best of all, you can play it right now in your browser here for free. Haaaadooouukkeeennnn!
7 Karate Blazers
This remake of the 1991 game of the same name is a fast and furious side-scrolling fighting action game featuring fun street-fighter style sprites. There is not much of plot but you don't really expect one in this genre. It is the fighting that is important.
In Karate Blazers, you battle against a weird and wonderful cast of characters, launching flying kicks at them, punching them in the face and performing special attacks (by clicking the kick and punch keys at the same time). There are four different characters you can play, each with their own moves, and the character animations for each are beautifully done. A better retro fighting game you'd be hard pressed to find. Play Karate Blazers here.
8 Rose Camellia
Unusually for the fighting genre, this Japanese game - Rose Camellia - has an intriguing plot. You play the part of Reiko, a commoner who has married into a rich aristocratic family, the Tsubakikojis. The day after the marriage, Reiko's husband, Shunsuke, dies in suspicious circumstances. Shunsuke was the eldest son in the family and was set to take ownership of much of the family's property. Rather than give up this wealth, Reiko decides to take on the entire Tsubakikoji family with the aim of clinching what she believes is rightfully hers.
The game features an innovative combat method, whereby you have to click and drag the mouse to perform attacking and defensive actions. I should warn you, the game is seriously hard, even on what is meant to be the easy level. Rose Camellia is an unusual take on the fighting genre but is certainly worth your time. Play the game here.
9 Brawler Whirled
This side-scrolling hack and slash game has more of an RPG feel than your average action fighting game. You will spend some of your time collecting new weapons, coins and health potions. However, the fighting mechanic is reasonably well developed, giving you the option to perform quick light attacks or slower but more powerful heavy attacks. You can also choose between a variety of weapons, including swords and bows. In a nice touch, the game has a multiplayer mode, allowing you to play with a friend.
Brawler Whirled is not particularly innovative but what it does, it does well, and the character sprites and environments are among the best on this list. Play the game here.
10 Alley Fighter
With Alley Fighter, game developer Jo Silver has reduced the fighting game to its bare minimum, and the game is all the better for it. The character sprites are as basic as they come, made up of only a handful of blocks of colour, and yet the game works better than many with far higher production values.
As is typical of the genre, your aim is simply to kick or punch the living daylights out of everyone you come across. As you advance, you will encounter ever stronger and more intelligent enemies who - no matter how many new weapons you find - will eventually overwhelm you. The longer you survive the more points you gain. Alley Fighter can be played here.