Now that you're familiar with the basics, we can start to talk about what kind of character you might like to play. We've listed the characters in a rough order of general accessibility, but this stuff is subjective and you may disagree. That's OK. Try out as many characters as you can. You might find something that clicks with the way you play the game.
Update Jan. 31, 2018
We've updated our guide with the new characters in Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition.
Table of contents
- Rainbow Mika
- M. Bison
The Coke Classic of Street Fighters. Good at keeping his opponents at a distance with hadokens. Equally good at getting in close and pressing the offense. Extremely easy to play. An all-rounder who is good at everything: however, in Season 2 his offense was weakened significantly along with the change to his shoryuken.
Ken has always been an offense-oriented variant of Ryu, but in Street Fighter 5 he goes from being subtly to fundamentally different than his rival. Though he again trades Ryu's long-range and zoning game for up-close offense, those moves have all changed fundamentally, and that core of his game is brand new. His normal attacks are strong and tricky, his air hurricane kicks can be a great confusion tool (particularly in V-Trigger), and his V-Skill makes him run in, which should tell you a little something about how to play him. He's the most popular beginner's choice by a mile. Just take it easy with the shoryukens.
The great thing about handing Chun-Li to a beginner is that they can just start pressing buttons and things start to happen. Though her superlative long-range kicks and punches make her the undisputed queen of the poke game, players will use this version of Chun-Li in a surprisingly aggressive way with her powerful V-Trigger and versatile V-Skill. Not as overpowering as her terrifying Season 1 version, but still quite simple and strong.
The classical defensive wall character: simple to pick up with a long road to mastery. Most comfortable hanging back with and throwing sonic booms, forcing the opponent to move around them to approach. As they begin to close the distance, Guile starts poking with his excellent long-range normal attacks. If they are fool enough to jump, the Somersault kick is waiting.
Street Fighter 5 gives Guile a few attack-oriented extras, but his play style remains the same. One of the simplest characters to learn and use effectively, but will take patience and practice to get the most of out of him.
"I don't need fancy tricks", she says, and indeed Cammy doesn't. What Cammy has is speed, a strong set of pokes, a bunch of risky but powerful special moves and good damage. What Cammy doesn't have is fancy tricks. Her strikes are extremely efficient and precise, but her attack pattern is so straightforward that she can be more readable than other characters, and she has no long-range game to speak of. Cammy players need to be patient and keep pushing.
Another all-rounder with a little something for every situation. Necalli is so straightforward that all his normal moves are literally straight lines. Along with a powerful move set, has the ability to transform into an even stronger form that will either be a lifesaver or deal a finishing blow . Another popular competitive choice, Necalli was only very slightly weakened for Season 2.
The first of the 2017 season characters is a fan favorite, especially among advanced players who relish sacrificing their defense on the altar of raw offensive power.
Akuma lacks the versatile, many-ranged attacks of Ryu or the speed of Ken, but he makes up for it with an arsenal of tricky techniques, combo ability, and the crushing power to make any one hit truly hurt.
Akuma pays for his abilities by setting the new record for lowest HP in the game: two big combos will put him out. Choosing Akuma is saying that you’re good enough not to get hit in the first place. Make sure you can back that up.
A strong heavy who's nearly an all-rounder, Birdie's real disadvantages are his size, his slow speed and how very unsafe his special moves are. He has tools for every range, a solid set of normal attacks, and his damage is extremely high. Against Birdie you'll want to be patient, but stay moving. If you stand still, he'll pounce, and if you get too close, he'll smash you with a headbutt. This character makes big bets: If he's right he wins big, but if he's wrong, he's dead. Mind readers love him. In Season 2 the designers offset the risks of playing Birdie by giving him, at the very least, a few relatively safe moves.
This big guy has a great ability to control the screen and keep the other player away. His normal attacks have superb reach, and his projectile attacks are strong: He doesn’t really have to approach unless he feels like it.
When he gets in, Urien’s pressure game is strong: his powerful V-Trigger is meant to lock the opponent in place, allowing him to attack however he likes.
Urien will chip away at your life bar gradually and suddenly rush in to smash you up-close. His only major weak point is when he’s put on the defensive himself, so keep your opponent playing your game at all times. As a result of the Season 2 changes, which made an already strong character even stronger, Urien is in the running for top character in the game along with Guile and Cammy.
Contrary to prior appearances, Charlie Nash is not, not, like Guile. While he pushes enemies back and holds them in place with his slow-moving Sonic Booms, Nash does so with the end goal of approaching in a flash and scoring a damaging combo. Because he walks so slowly, Nash has to deliberately create the opportunity to charge in with special moves like the Moonsault and Tragedy Assault.
Of special note is what's probably the most useful critical art in the game: When Nash has full meter and you leave the tiniest opening, he'll dash in and chop you in half.
His competitive stock has fallen quite a bit in Season 2, with even Evo 2016 champ Infiltration openly expressing his displeasure at the character being weakened across the board.
In previous entries, the boxer was perhaps the second most defense-oriented character after Guile, with huge, fast punches that kept the opponent at bay.
In Street Fighter 5, the outfighter has become an infighter. Attacks that were formerly long-range pokes are now largely fast and safe point-blank jabs, along with strong high/low mixups at that close range. Any solid hit leads to big damage, much higher than the average character. Balrog’s job is to get in and keep punching.
Not a difficult character in a basic sense, but will take an expert to really reap the rewards. One of the characters who benefitted the most from the Season 2 changes, as Balrog players start to fill up the leaderboards.
A grappler who has to get close or die. Laura has a very hard time in the all-important mid-range poking game, but if she hits you once or knocks you down, it's going to be very hard to get her off you. Of particular note is her slow-moving fireball, designed to trap opponents while they're knocked down so that she can apply even more pressure.
A grappler whose real specialty is massive striking attacks. Get caught by his big boot hard kick, his powerful anti-air grab or his power bomb, and you're going to be pretty miserable. Alex is a monster at inflicting stun damage, and his V-Skill, which forces a crush counter hit, gives him a particular advantage in a dizzy situation. Like leading a bull, beating Alex involves getting him to charge in at the wrong time.
Karin is a pressure machine at medium and close range who can stay in medium kick range and poke endlessly, or confuse opponents with her many options at close range. Her Guren-Ken V-Trigger attack is surprisingly fast with the range of a poke and leads to a number of damaging, if readable, offensive setups. Despite a number of risky anti-fireball moves, Karin suffers at long range, particularly against projectiles and pays for her offensive might with very low HP.
In a game full of well-rounded grapplers, Zangief's great advantage is the singular power of his throw techniques. His famous spinning piledriver has nigh-magical range. A moment of indecision from his opponent will get them slammed into the ground. If they try to beat his throws by jumping around him, Zangief can handle that with his lariat and his strong anti-air moves. However, Zangief is slow, and despite his strong vacuum V-Trigger, getting him into the position where he needs to be is an uphill battle. Possibly the single most-improved character in Season 2, shooting from the bottom of the list to a respectable position.
One of the most radically altered characters, the Spanish ninja now has two move sets: one with his claw and one without.
With his claw on, Vega has extra range and moves centered on evading danger. When Vega gets in on an opponent, he can take off the claw for better up-close attacks, including a powerful command throw. Vega sacrifices straightforward power for extreme versatility, and in either mode he's gifted in the poke game. While he's not exactly a beginner choice, and he's in trouble once finally caught, Vega's claw has a lot to offer.
R. Mika is an all-in character who's good at one thing: her devastating close-range game. This character shoves you into the corner and forces you to choose between getting thrown (really hard) or taking a big combo.
We call this a 50/50 character because once she's in there, your chance of survival is only 50 percent. Her cons? Everything else. Mika players must get in at all costs, and her enemies have to keep her out at all costs. No longer the touch of death character she was in Season 1, Mika’s strongest moves were weakened and she has a much tougher road to walk. People are still going to hate you, though. Disregard the weak and go for that rainbow!
Bison plays very in-character as an evil boss: His play style revolves around actually driving opponents into despair, making them feel like they can't catch his runaway defense or suppress his persistent offense. Excellent poke and pressure attacks, including what is probably the best crush counter in the game.
However, his movement is very limited. Bison players must be precise, deliberate and patient in their movements and their attacks. Those fighting him should stay on the defensive: the moment it’s most tempting to attack is exactly the moment Bison wants you to play into his hands. (His knee, specifically.)
A character with great movement and a varied array of tricks and gimmicks, Rashid sacrifices raw damage for confusing offensive mix-ups. His run, unique to him, throws his opponents off as they have no idea whether he's going to attack, throw or stop … which is effectively the whole of his game plan.
Staying unpredictable is key for Rashid. Things get really crazy when he throws out the V-Trigger hurricane and flies on its winds, giving him even more ways to confuse the opponent.
A tall order of a character, definitely for experts. Playing a decent Ibuki will require full understanding of the largest move list in the game, as well as keeping track of her supply of throwing knives.
Once you have a handle on Ibuki, she will quite literally run circles around the enemy with her many attack patterns. Long combos end with confusing setups, and unsuspecting opponents won’t know whether to move left or right.
However, skilled players will catch up with your setups, her base damage isn’t great, and her HP is low: the definition of a character who has to work for her wins.
Scrapped from Street Fighter 4 and rebuilt from the ground up, Juri is a fast striker similar in style to Chun-li or Cammy.
However, her move set is a lot more complex: Every attack has a very specific use, and her strongest special moves must be charged by the use of another special move. Juri players will often bide their time charging up until they’re ready to fight on their terms.
With long combos, tricky normal moves and a strong V-Trigger, Juri does not lack for options. That being said, there are so many of them that it will take a very experienced player to understand those options and put them into use. Definitely not a beginner choice.
The extreme tricks and runaway character and another choice for experts, FANG can fill the screen with poison balls and make approaching him extremely difficult. Poison continues to damage his opponents over time, creating a frustrating situation where they’ll want to approach him, thus creating the opportunity for FANG to attack directly.
FANG has much weaker normal moves than others, however, and once caught he has very few ways out of pressure.
Radically different from his previous iteration, the quintessential expert character attacks at the longest range in the game at confusing angles. At the first sign of danger, he teleports out, frustrating his opponents, thus playing them even more into his hands.
Knowing how to get away with Dhalsim is vital. If his opponent ever finally gets in on him, he's in the worst possible trouble, with no easy way out and very low HP.
Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition updates
A character who changes form — and thus his entire fighting style — between young and old versions. Old Zeku specializes in risky long-range offense and tricky setups, and young Zeku boasts powerful close-up rush offense. However, in exchange for his many offensive options, Zeku suffers from low HP and some of the worst defensive options in the game. Young Zeku lacks an invincible attack, and old Zeku has a slow light punch. Attackers can bully this character with impunity, meaning that Zeku has to get on the offensive and stay there to win.
While her damage numbers aren’t great, the ice queen’s true specialty is in intimidation. If she grabs an opponent with one of her powerful counter moves, she not only makes a huge dent in their life bar but throws off their rhythm, shaking their confidence in their usual game plan. When the enemy is shaken, Kolin moves in for the kill.
On offense, Kolin boasts flashy combos that lead to tricky setups that make it very difficult for her opponent to see the next attack coming. It’s bane of predictable players who fall into patterns. To beat her, try to bait out her counters, waiting rather than attacking when you see an opportunity. Kolin can’t predict a player who refuses to attack conventionally, and she suffers when she guesses wrong.
A fortune teller who attacks with her crystal ball, Menat specializes in long-range attacks and tricky offense, using her crystal ball as a projectile that stays out on the screen when thrown. Smart players will use this to lock down their opponent and cut off entire sections of the stage to them. In both configurations, her orb V-Trigger leads to ridiculously long combos and nasty setups once they are through. Menat is a high-technique character who rewards patient players and punishes opponents who rush recklessly. To beat her, play it just as patiently and wait for that opening.
Abigail is a really big guy who dwarfs even Zangief. Similar in style to Guilty Gear’s Potemkin, Abigail moves very slowly, swatting at his opponent with his giant arms and sometimes lunging in with big pushes. He boasts surprising range due to his sheer size, along with a strong offense and the crushing raw attack power you’d expect from a character of his size. If you’re within Abigail’s range, he’s going to make it hurt. To beat Abigail, try to attack from just outside of his range, and keep an eye out for his slower charging moves to counter them.
As Balrog’s protege and M.Bison’s clone, Ed’s mixed parentage gives him an unusual fighting style, combining the trademark kicks and Psycho Power of Bison with the swagger and dirty tricks of Balrog’s violent boxing.
Unlike any other character in Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition, Ed uses simple commands for all of his special moves: Ed players only need combinations like “two punches at the same time” to unleash his whole arsenal of attacks. However, don’t let the easy commands fool you into thinking this is a straightforward character. Ed is another tricky character who uses his psychic blasts to draw opponents in so he can pound them in close.
Ryu’s biggest fan bases her style upon Ryu’s, but she was never one to stick strictly to his moves. Sakura has a long-range projectile game (with even anti-air fireballs!), but her forte is mixing it up at close- to mid-range with her pokes and combo-oriented special moves. When Sakura gets in, she scores big damage, but you may have trouble getting in there in the first place.
- What am I trying to do in this game?
- Basic movement
- Basic attacks
- The poke game
- Special moves
- Control and execution
- Counter and crush counter
- Critical meter and critical arts
- Stun gauge
- Dealing damage and combos
- Character select
- Advanced techniques
- Good buttons
- What’s different in Street Fighter 5 Season 2?
- This is just the beginning