Back in 2014—during the height of Flappy Bird ‘s popularity—I would not have believed anyone if they said that five years later there’d be a fighting game released based on it. Here we are now, though: It’s 2019, Flappy Fighter exists, and it also just so happens to be the most competent mobile fighter there is.
Last week, Flappy Fighter dropped on the App Store, and it’s been quickly gaining attention. This is for good reason. The game is an homage to Street Fighter that uses Flappy Bird for its character design, and—within seconds of booting it up—you can tell it’s made with a lot of love and attention to detail.
Flappy Fighter captures the look and feel of classic Capcom fighting games extremely effectively. More important than that though is the way Flappy Bird actually plays. Using a simplified set of on-screen buttons, players can execute Street Fighter-style moves like the Shoryuken or Hadouken with just a tap. The game also uses dash-based movement buttons that can be held to block. All of it is very simple, yes, but it also has a bit of hidden depth to it that can let you perform things like combos, mixups, cancels, and other kinds of things you’d expect from a conventional fighting game.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. Flappy Fighter certainly demonstrates it has competent fighting game DNA, but it doesn’t do a whole lot more than that. At present, it only has one fighter and is only playable in a single-player mode against an AI using the same character. There is a promise of more characters to come, but even addition that won’t make Flappy Fighter a top-notch fighter.
With what little Flappy Fighter has though, it shows that fighting games can and should be good on mobile where many others have failed. There’s no need to try and shoehorn a console-quality game onto phones or adapt existing properties in a way that makes them glorified gacha games. Instead, the key is to create a game that captures the essence of the genre and present it using accessible controls given the mobile platform.
The key to a good fighting game is the ability for players to effectively read and react to each other’s actions. With its simplified and tight controls, Flappy Fighter delivers on this front with a special kind of purity. You don’t have to worry about putting in complicated commands or leveling up a particular fighter. All you have to do is make good decisions against your opponent. If you do that well enough, you win. If you don’t, you lose.
This kind of aggressively fair approach to game design is extremely refreshing to see on a platform rife with pay-to-win titles. It’s a good reminder of how games don’t have to be overcomplicated with leveling systems, randomized loot, or endless checklists. Sometimes, it’s just fun to test your skills on a completely level playing field, and Flappy Fighter provides exactly that.