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Street Fighter 5 guide: Special moves

Special moves are cool

Of course, Street Fighter 5 is not a bare-hands-only fighting game series like Virtua Fighter or Tekken (though Tekken does have lasers and rocket punches these days). It's known for flashy special moves that define the way we play. There are so, so many,but we're going to discuss the major categories, which apply to many fighters.

(There is an appendix to this section about the actual execution of these moves and controls in general, but in this section we're just going to discuss certain key special moves.)


Surely videogame characters spit flames before, but the hadoken establishes certain fundamental rules, and a game of sorts emerged from them.

The fabled hadouken

Ryu can attack from a long range with the hadoken, with a tradeoff: He has to remain in place for a bit.

Punishing a hadouken

This means a hadoken up close is not a great idea: The other player can anticipate it, jump over you and hurt you badly.

Diego and a hadouken

Rather, put a bigger distance between you and your foe. Mix up your timing and the different speeds of the move itself to strike safely at a distance and annoy your opponent. In this clip, Ryu simply throws fast fireballs over and over again, until Laura hops over at a bad angle and gets punished.

Trapping with a shoryuken

Eventually, your opponent is going to want to jump in on you, at which point you've hopefully already recovered from throwing your hadoken and can counterattack.

This is applicable to Ken as well, but his recovery is much longer, so it's not really the game he wants to play. Ken really shouldn't use fireballs up close, especially not in his big combos.


The way to deal with fireballs is, like many things in Street Fighter 5, patiently. Block, and when it looks like your opponent wants you to jump over them, jump straight up instead. Frustrate them by refusing to play along. An opening will come, especially if they get too predictable about it. If you let them frustrate you and jump in carelessly, you've already lost … and, most embarrassingly, to yourself.


The hadoken might be the cultural icon, but this move is game-defining, and so important that the fighting game community's key website and biggest tournament organization, Shoryuken, is named after it.

Why is this particular move so revered? The shoryuken represents the most important guessing game in Street Fighter.

The fabled shoryuken

It's a nearly invincible attack: you (generally) cannot be hit out of a shoryuken. However, the tradeoff is that once you land, you're completely vulnerable to attack. This is fine if you manage to hit, but if the opponent saw the shoryuken coming and blocked, you're in big trouble.

Zangief punishes a shoryuken

As this video demonstrates, the crush counter system in this game makes the shoryuken an extremely high-risk maneuver, as it effectively guarantees a high-damage combo to the player who correctly defends against it.

Most characters have some kind of invincible move, but they vary by character. As of Season 2, all invincible moves are EX special moves, which cost meter (all of which we'll get to shortly). Some characters, like Birdie and Bison, have to go all the way to their strongest and most costly techniques (critical arts) to get a truly invincible attack. Whether or not your character has an invincible attack is a major consideration. It determines how easy it is for them to get out of trouble.

Screw piledriver

Zangief’s spinning pile driver

Originally the spinning piledriver, this is the essential special throw and the lifeblood of grapplers like Zangief, Birdie and Laura. Obviously, it does a lot more damage than a normal throw, but why else might you use it?

Something that's often overlooked about Zangief, but is core to his character, is just how far the screw piledriver reaches. It's well beyond the range at which anybody else in the game can throw. At maximum range, it can look like a glitch or magic, but that's what's intended. The light punch version (used here) reaches the furthest, but it does the least damage. The other two do more damage with less reach. When in doubt, use light.

Grapplers' trick is that once they're in, they have the ability to keep the other player scared of a throw, even at longer distances. Your opponent will jump around to get away, and if you see a jump coming, this too is an opportunity for punishment. Grapplers usually come equipped with strong anti-air moves like Zangief’s air SPD, Birdie’s chains or Laura’s jumping elbow. It’s for this reason that these moves exist.

  1. Intro
  2. What am I trying to do in this game?
  3. Controls
  4. Basic movement
  5. Basic attacks
  6. The poke game
  7. Knockdowns
  8. Special moves
  9. Control and execution
  10. Combos
  11. Counter and crush counter
  12. Critical meter and critical arts
  13. V-System
  14. Stun gauge
  15. Dealing damage and combos
  16. Character select
  17. Advanced techniques
  18. Good buttons
  19. What’s different in Street Fighter 5 Season 2?
  20. This is just the beginning

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