Tekken 8 is on the horizon, but which Tekken game is currently the GOAT?
Which Tekken game do you consider to be the greatest of all-time?
With Tekken 8 on the horizon I decided to personally rank every canon Tekken game from the first game to Tekken 7. I did not include the tag games because those don’t include the storyline which is an element that I am taking into consideration. Let me know what your own rank of all the games are! Feel free to be as disrespectful as you’d like. 😊
8. Tekken 7
I ranked Tekken 7 last because I got the game once it came out and I didn’t play it much. The music in the game all meshed and sounded the same and to date I can’t name a single song I genuinely enjoyed. The character select music and narrator are dull and character portraits are good, but not amazing. The new rage art element was fun and a great new touch to the fighting, but I still found myself heavily disinterested.
New characters like Lucky Chloe were silly and the games story seemed to focus on complete redemption for Heihachi and all the horrible things he had done. Also, cinematics in Tekken 7 (as well as Tekken 6) had lost some of their charm and realism. The games with the release of the PS3 and onward reverted to clean graphics in which so many characters look the same and no longer have real facial expressions. The case was Tekken 7 was nice and the final showdown with Kazuya and Heihachi was well done and one scene that really stood out to me was how Kazuya saw his father as the young man who he was defenseless towards starting his lifelong hatred for him. I think the final battle between showed Kazuya who is still a wounded child at the hands of his father’s abuse.
The announcement for Tekken 8 has me thinking that I need to go back and play it’s predecessor and give it another shot.
The very first Tekken was an incredible introduction of what was to come. I don’t think any of us fans were aware of how invested we would be in the series. I was a small child, but one of my most cherished and oldest memories is my older brother borrowing TEKKEN and showing me how to play. I couldn’t have been older than 3 years old making sense because TEKKEN was released in North America in November of 1995 and I would turn 3 in May of 1996. I remember being taught how to grab your opponent with Law. I even recall it was his throw where he did a flip in the air and yelled, “HIYAAAA”.
I was born and raised in Chicago and the Chicago theme seemed to play in a loop in my head and my brain had tricked me into remembering the song with the stadium level which was the only stage I have remembered. The first Tekken included real martial arts and a solid storyline with Kazuya front and center with one goal—to defeat Heihachi and take control of the Mishima Zaibatsu. The music in this game is great, being so memorable that even a 3 year old child like myself could remember the Chicago theme exactly when the song drops beautifully. The King George Island Theme in this game feels like you’re fighting and freezing to death at the same time. The cover art and opening for the first game were epic and at the time the graphics were top-tier. The endings for this game all had the same light-hearted tune and the graphics were as good as they could be for the year. The opening was well done introducing the main characters and Kazuya’s canon ending shows his toes and foot pads which look more like rectangular bear claws while he throws his father off the cliff and giving us his signature smirk thanking the player on finally getting his revenge. Kuma looks like a tree & the game only has Arcade and VS mode. Plus, it also takes an eternity to get up in this game. The portraits for the character select are also a bit horrifying, but a wonderful introduction of what is to come with the series.
6. Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection
Tekken 5 : Dark Resurrection was an extension of Tekken 5 and I actually got a PSP in order to get the game and play as one of the new characters Lili. The Snow Castle theme was reason enough to buy the game. Tekken 5 DR was only for the PSP and the fact that I could now play a game with solid graphics on the go was amazing. The new stages and tracks were beautiful and shattered dreams together with snow castle were masterpieces and made up for the missing Tekken 5 levels. Despite being an extension of Tekken 5 it was different enough to stand on its own and it came with an entirely different opening as well which had a catchy almost doomsday tune which introduces how Lili was kidnapped and took out her captors and who could forget that scene with Dragunov looking on as humans on fire were falling to their deaths.
5. Tekken 6
Tekken 6 was the first game in which I remember my cousin who is also a Tekken fan calling me because the trailer for the game had dropped on YouTube. This had to be the first time I was waiting for the new game to come out. The music delivered with the theme that we would all know as “Urban War Zone” and the stages in Tekken 6 were gorgeous. The music in Tekken 6 was wonderful and exceeded my expectations. Lightning Storm and Electric Fountain are masterpieces and Urban War Zone sounds exactly like the title. The prologue with the black and white art that recaps the main events and the story of the Mishimas was tastefully done, especially hearing Kazuya mention Jun Kazama and the moment where we catch a glimpse of Jun on a ship most likely returning to Yakushima pregnant with Jin was powerful.
The one thing about Tekken 6 that was unfortunate was how story mode had taken a different turn than the two previous games. There is no narrator and you are expected to read with a light futuristic beat playing that sounds like you’ve entered a dark laboratory. Another reason why I ranked Tekken 6 below Tekken 5 was how some characters faces have gone a little too anime-like and lost their realism. Hwoarang for example was much more expressive in Tekken 5 than he was in Tekken 6 almost as if he has gotten botox. The realism that was achieved in Tekken 4 & 5 had taken a backseat with Tekken 6. Features on faces became more similar to each other losing their individuality.
4. Tekken 2
Tekken 2 was called the best fighting game on the planet and indeed it was. I remember being a kid and we had that PlayStation Demo Disc that included Tekken 2 and I remember being able to play as Jun or Lei and Jun’s death cry would get stuck in my head. Tekken 2 was everything a sequel should have been. It was released only a year after the first game and now it felt like an actual finished game and not a prototype. The opening movie itself was incredible to watch and with only a few seconds we were able to get a glimpse into every character’s story and personality. The guitar riff while King is falling drunkenly and Armor King throws his mask telling him it’s time to get his sh*t together gives me goosebumps. Tekken 2 is also one of the darkest games in the series as the manual even informs you it is rumored Kazuya made a deal with the devil at this time. Every character in Tekken 2 has their own ending and the character designs are exponentially better than they were in the previous game. So many of these endings are just beautiful–Michelle’s, Juns and Baeks endings just to name a few. This is the only game together with Tekken 3 where every character has their own stage and theme.
Tekken 2 stands out because each character’s theme fits their personality like a glove. At this time in video games personality was difficult to get across, so the only information you had about your fighter was with the manual. If you didn’t have the manual then you had nothing, but the music in their stage to give you a clue. Jun’s theme is tranquil and indicative of her pacifist lifestyle, Michelle’s theme is rowdy and ready for action, Nina’s theme sounds like an epic fashion show but the model starts attacking. King’s theme transports you into a Mexican church with an organ blasting through the stained glass windows while he’s throwing you around until you die. Kazuya and Devil’s theme are especially important in this game. Once you get to Stage 9 and face Kazuya his menacing eyes are waiting for you on the VS screen. You can sense the internal conflict Kazuya is having with himself and his theme is one that speaks to your heart and soul. This theme represents how interacting with Jun was affecting him, but eventually he gave into his devil and even devils theme perfectly encapsulates that he can never go back and has lost. He has transformed and the darkness has consumed him and Tekken 2’s home screen also changed when you completed the game and once again have Kazuya staring at you through the letters like he was watching you all along.
3. Tekken 5
Tekken 5 is interesting because it took all the negative feedback that Tekken 4 received and went back to what worked and was familiar. Levels were no longer uneven and gameplay became more fluid and better than the previous installment. Tekken 5’s prologues like Tekken 4 inform you onto why the character you selected is entering the King of Iron Fist Tournament 5, but with a lighter tone and the music is guiding you through their story calmly. The artwork for the prologues are very nicely drawn as well.
The character select screen sounds like you’re at a tournament and ready to battle while the select screen gives off a stadium and competition vibe. The music in Tekken 5 was decent giving us possibly the most memorable and most popular song of the series “Moonlit Wilderness”. There isn’t a better theme for Jin and Hwoarang’s fight or for Asuka to find Feng. I personally blast Poolside whenever I’m at a pool or by a body of water. Tekken 5 also added humor to the game with Heihachi’s endings of sending his father, son and grandson into outer space, Anna’s ending resulting in Nina busting out of her armor. Asuka’s ending with punching Jin after he accidentally motorboats her is hilarious.
Tekken 5 was also the last time Devil Jin looked absolutely terrifying like an actual Demon who can instill fear into you just by their glare like in Hwoarang’s ending. It was also the last time we would see Jin as the conflicted hero he was before his personality would shift and he would be so consumed and drunk with power that he would start World War III and ultimately be so terrible the public thought G Corporation led by his father were the good guys. One thing that stood out to me in Tekken 5 was how Jin’s design looked more blocky and weird than Tekken 4. His lack of nipples was strange and the realism achieved in Tekken 4 was fading and would eventually get worse. The opening of Tekken 5 started right where we left off and Kazuya and Heihachi fighting the JACKS off was epic. One thing I didn’t like was how in this game Heihachi was playable, but in reality he was never there. Also, this game introduced Asuka Kazama in which we all know has no real role in the game, but being Lili’s rival.
2. Tekken 3
Tekken 3 is perfect. There are so many reasons why it is the 5th best selling PlayStation game of all time. I actually busted my nose and started bleeding when I was 5 because I tried to copy Xiaoyu’s winning pose when she does a split and falls perfectly with her knees and hands clasped in her knees.
The intro is phenomenal and indicates how far graphics had come in just several years. The soundtrack for Tekken 3 has nothing but bangers. Sidestepping was brand new resulting in newer throws, faster gameplay and a much faster recovery than the previous two games. The camera angles were insane and made victory so much sweeter, even the death cries were epic as characters now had multiple ones and man did they sound like they were dying. Tekken 3 is also the big shift in the series where 20 years passed and now we have a literal fusion (not only in his looks) but in his fighting style of Kazuya and Jun.
The introduction of Jin Kazama made the storyline more interesting than ever and Namco was able to surpass it’s previous two games. Tekken 3 is a perfect example of how even the sequel to the sequel was miles ahead of its previous installments. The announcer does his job magnificently and once you hit the start button to get to the home screen you immediately get hooked.
Everyone’s ending movie is stunning to watch and Tekken 3 even gives us audio dialogue with Julia Chang’s ending. This is the game you can play for hours and hours and never get tired of. It represented the late 90’s and how the future of video games and particularly fighting games could never go back. Tekken 3 set the bar incredibly high.
1. Tekken 4
Now *drumroll* for the GOAT of the series… Tekken 4. The greatest Tekken is without a doubt is Tekken 4 – the black sheep of the series. Tekken 4 was released on the PS2 when I was 9 and I had been playing Tekken Tag Tournament which was based on Tekken 3’s model and I loved it. I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. I vividly remember a trip I took to my local Gamestop and just browsing and luckily, I had some money with me and I saw this mysterious handsome man glaring back at me with one eye covered with his black hair and his blue hooded jacket covering his head. “Who is he?”…I looked up and saw it was Tekken 4.
At this time in 2002/2003 there was no internet in many houses and I had no idea of knowing when new games would drop. I remember immediately thinking, “This goes home with me!” I took Tekken 4 home and saw the opening for the first time….I was STUNNED. The ominous “ahhhhh” and drone shot of the volcano showing Heihachi throw Kazuya into it was groundbreaking. Seeing Kazuya take out the Tekken forces one by one with his eye glowing red was insane and the scene of Kazuya walking off the plane and breaking the fourth wall while taking his sunglasses and saying, “They all thought I was out of the game, but I’m holding all the cards now.” is probably the best part of any Tekken opening ever. That was just in the opening, even Tekken 4’s select screen is intimidating. There’s no fun little tune and lights like in Tekken 5. TheGamingBritShow on youtube has a video on the atmosphere of Tekken 4 which describes the character select music as if “you’re taken off to a new plane of existence and the computer demons greet you with this distorted chatter.”
Character portraits in Tekken 4 are the best in the series. Everyone looks phenomenal, but everyone also looks real. The character select portraits look like actual people and Jin never looked better than he did in this game (I still want his blue jumpsuit). Jin is also front and center on the case and on the disc but he’s nowhere to be found until you unlock him. Jin is in hiding and you can tell just by looking at him that he doesn’t want to be seen and that’s reflected in the fact you have to unlock him and he has 0 seconds of screentime in the opening. Tekken 4 did an excellent job bringing Kazuya back and making Jin learn a completely new fighting style because he loathed his lineage so much, but also in the logical sense that Kazuya and Jin would be too similar if he remained with his Mishima-Style Karate fighting style.
Tekken 4’s music has some of the best compositions in the series. The airport theme literally feels like you’re flying amongst the clouds and the one thing that amazed me was how real it all felt. Tekken 4 stages are HUGE and it’s the only game where every stage looks like an actual place and not like a fantasy world like Tekken 5 and onwards. I also liked how in this game the floors didn’t crack, yet you could shove your opponent against little things like guardrails and even stages like the parking lot are limited and have a roof like an actual garage. You were fighting alongside your fighter in Tekken 4, not just selecting them.
The storyline in Tekken 4 was so dark it was enough to scare me. The battle at Honmaru was an iconic part of the series and my personal favorite moment. It was so beautifully done. Heihachi opening the doors and the fire crackling and hearing both of them walk and step on the wood made me feel like I was there. Kazuya’s devil controlling Kazuya and taunting Jin and it was here where we got what would happen if each of them would win. The battle of Honmaru was executed perfectly and I don’t think it could have been done any better. Jin’s sparing the lives of his father and grandfather after seeing Jun and flying off with one white feather falling symbolizing he was still pure was touching. The story would never reach this amount of love and thoughtfulness into any character interactions again.
The prologues and artwork are masterpieces and every character’s story was made to feel equally important. The music introducing the character you selected was dark and the monkeys going off towards the end made you feel as if you had to win the tournament otherwise you die. There is quality over quantity in Tekken 4 and everyone’s ending movie was lovely and included so much more than a fan could have hoped for. All of the characters now had voices, expressions and personalities that we would all get attached to from this moment forward. This was the start of Masanori Shinohara voicing Kazuya and I don’t think any of us could imagine anyone other than him voicing him.
I understand that the gameplay had issues and the uneven terrain and slopes felt different, but Tekken 4 has my favorite health bar as well. It’s so satisfying to look at damage being done in this light blue-white bar where the damage would disappear like magic. Also, the cue to the drums in the Rooftop level when you won or lost made victory was so much more satisfying. This game was made with so much details that I find something new I love every time I watch videos of it.
20 years later I look back at Tekken 4 for what it was which is the introduction to the new millennium. The old blocky models and no dialogue endings were left behind in the 90’s and there was no turning back. Tekken 4 represented the future in every aspect and took chances that were bold and exciting like so many other games of the era. The early 2000’s were mystical where the graphics had jumped beyond our wildest imaginations and everything was dark and cool. You didn’t play Tekken 4, Tekken 4 sucked your very existence and soul through your most likely large heavy television (with the big fat back) and it was the most real and life-like Tekken we have ever gotten to this day.