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M.U.G.E.N: The potential of 2D fighters

Fighting games are some of the biggest games of in the world of esports. They come in all shapes and sizes. You have arena fighters like Tekken, and Soul Caliber, platform fighters like Smash, and tag fighters like Dragon Ball FighterZ. Of course, you then have your traditional 2D fighters like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. In the last few years however, the bigger 2D fighters have become 2.5D fighters. Instead of using old school 2D graphics, most games opt to use 3D models. However, there are still a lot of old-school styled 2D fighters out there. Some are from Arc System Works, but most come from the M.U.G.E.N community.


Screenshot of base M.U.G.E.N

This is base M.U.G.E.N which includes two variants of one character (Kung Fu Man), and two stages

M.U.G.E.N is a fighting game engine, or more accurately: a customizable fighting game. The original builds of the engine were first made public in July of 1999, and received releases on DOS and Linux by its creator Elecbyte. The original developer had planned a Windows release at some point in 2003, but Elecbyte would seemingly disappear for the next 10 years. An early build of M.U.G.E.N on Windows was later leaked to the public, and was since call “Winmugen”. In 2011, Elecbyte would return and release M.U.G.E.N 1.0 exclusively on Windows, followed up by M.U.G.E.N 1.1b, before disappearing yet again.

With the absence of Elecbyte, it was left to the games community to pick up the pieces. Slowly but surely, the M.U.G.E.N community would grow to the thriving community it is today.


While it doesn’t come with the flashiest roster imaginable at the start, and is actually pretty bland with its base content, the base content was never the appeal of M.U.G.E.N. What drives the community forward is the truly incredible heights this game can reach. The base game only gives you 2 (really 1) fighters to work with, and 2 stages, one of which being the training stage. Put in enough time however, and you can have a roster of close to or over 100 different characters.

M.U.G.E.N roster with a huge cast of characters.

M.U.G.E.N is often cited as being the weirdest fighting game ever, which is an undeniable fact. You can have a roster in which Megatron from Transformers can fight Sailor Moon, or one in which DIO from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure can fight Ronald McDonald. Point is, if you can think of a matchup, M.U.G.E.N can get the job done.

How is this important for the growth of 2D fighters you may ask? Well for one, it’s a way to preserve some of the old-school fighting games. Lets say someway, somehow in the future there was no way to play the original Mortal Kombat Trilogy. There was no way to get them officially, and all ROMs of them are gone. What then? You would turn to the Mortal Kombat Project. These versions of Mortal Kombat play almost the exact same as the classics. Should anything happen to the originals, these would be good substitutes.

Ease of access

M.U.G.E.N is a very easy to use engine when compared to its more often used counterparts Unity and Unreal. Using the tools Fighter Factory Classic and Fighter Factory 3, creating a character can be done in no time, especially with the multiple templates and tutorials out there. Of course, this can lead to really bad M.U.G.E.N characters, but in the right hands, amazing fighters can be made.

Original Games

More importantly is it’s ability to create entirely original games, such as 2014’s Hyper Dragon Ball Z, which is built entirely in M.U.G.E.N by a group called Team Z2. Another very impressive game is Mega Man – Robot Master Mayhem by Douglas Baldan on Game Jolt. These are games built from the ground up made entirely in M.U.G.E.N. The potential this engine has for completely original 2D fighting game IPs is the highest it’s ever been. It’s here however, where that potential seemingly ends.


As of the writing of this article, M.U.G.E.N as powerful as it is, is not an open source engine. This means that any game modes or bugs found within the engine are permanent and can only be changed or fixed by the developer Elecbyte – who has a tendency to go inactive for long periods of time.

M.U.G.E.Ns default main menu
What you see is what you get.

This has in a way made M.U.G.E.N a bit outdated when compared to it’s modern counterparts. For reference, base M.U.G.E.N has no online, no story mode, no extra game modes that deviate from just fighting, and no way to fight the CPU outside of Arcade mode or it’s variants. This combined with Elecbytes infrequent updates has forced some members of the community to make their own fixes to M.U.G.E.N.

M.U.G.E.N Story Mode

M.U.G.E.N Story Mode is a version of M.U.G.E.N that comes packaged with a story creation tool which allows for full-fledge stories to be made albite with some limitations. The creator kamiloxnumetal has also given this tool the ability to unlock fighters, which can add replay value to M.U.G.E.N games.

UNO Tag Team Patcher

In base M.U.G.E.N, there is a game mode option that allows two characters to fight on a team at once called ‘Simul’. There is also one called ‘Turns’, which switches characters based on whether the player has won or lost. Yet there is no tag team system, a la Marvel vs Capcom.

Uno’s tag team patcher allows this iconic function of versus fighters return, but at the cost of the Simul option.


Probably the biggest addition to M.U.G.E.N that the community has seen is IKEMEN. The two major improvements it has are these: It has online, and it’s open source. This means that additional game modes, including the aforementioned story mode could be added if one so chooses. The online component of course allows these games to reach a wider audience and help build a community. Even better is the fact that IKEMEN is essentially M.U.G.E.N, so developers can just pick up where they left off.

M.U.G.E.N as an engine is very important to the fighting game community, as it a gateway for future 2D fighters. It is probably one of the most powerful engines of all time and has much more room to grow. Really, it’s up to the developers of IKEMEN and Elecbyte to help this new generation of 2D fighting games grow into something large.

For new FGC members, this could be a very fun experiment. For veterans, it could be a way to make your dream game a reality.


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