Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers | Sega Genesis 1993 | Vega
Like many of the other guys here, my introduction to the fighting scene was with the original SF2. While I was able to sneak out to the arcade with a fistful of quarters every now and then at my local mall or movie theater, I didn't get a copy of the game until Super Street Fighter II on the Genesis.
I didn't really have a main in SSFII. I played the game pretty casually with some friends cycling through a roster of Ryu, Guile, and Blanka, but the character that I enjoyed using most (and ultimately got banned from playing as) was Vega/Claw. Looking back on it now, I suspect that the moment I found out about Vega's sliding sweep was the day I started trolling. This little image sums up my strategy pretty well:
The computer couldn't counter it, my friends couldn't get away from those sliding legs of death, and the big devilish grin on my face had no equal. Though I'm sure if I tried to pull the same thing at the arcade then I would've gotten double perfected, it didn't make it any less fun to try.
Super Smash Bros. | Nintendo 64 1999 | Ness
Legitimacy as an "actual fighting game" aside, when Super Smash Bros hit the N64 my friends and I had a new go-to game for the next two years. The premise alone of Mario, Link, and co. fighting up a storm was pretty much any Nintendo fan's fantasy come true. Heck, even our mothers' liked it because at the end of every match everyone would clap for the winner! None of that derogatory "family man" business.
While I moved on to Zelda/Shiek and Captain Olimar in the subsiquent entries in the series, Ness will always have a special place in my fighting-game-heart for the pure amount of arse-kickery that he was capable of in SSB. Was he overpowered? Probably, but at least he sure took some skill to unlock his full potential. There are very few things short of grabbing a hammer in that game that are as satisfying as turning yourself into a missile with a PK Thunder attack and sending a cluster of your friends rocketing off screen.
...well okay, maybe sacrificing a life with DK or Kirby.
Super Street Fighter IV | Xbox 360/PS3 2010 | Ibuki
Oh Street Fighter, it's amazing how much I've missed you all these years! While I spent a bit of time with the Alpha series, Capcom's various Vs. titles, and SFIII; none of those efforts were able to grab me the way SFIV did. For me it struck the perfect chord of old, new, and slightly obscure that keeps me hooked for hours on end.
I like ninjas a whole lot. They're sneaky and deadly and all sorts of other fun stuff. While Ibuki isn't really your typical ninja (unless you're thinking ninja schoolgirl... which case she's pretty much the epitome of that caricature), she's a ton of fun to play as with her expansive SFIII special move set, imaginative combo possibilities, and fast rushdown style. While there were definitely a huge population of neck breaker spammers when SSFIV first came out (yeah I hate them too), it wasn't nearly as bad as the flowchart Kens.
(Super) Primal Rage | Sega Genesis 1995 | Diablo
Of all the things that I like in the world (and I do like a lot of things), dinosaurs are probably one of the only things that could possibly rival ninjas. Before finally getting my own copy of SF2, I rented it. But when my local Blockbuster and Warehouse was out of SF2, I had to settle for the next best thing: Primal Rage. Okay, so not really, but as a kid with an unhealthy obsession with extinct reptiles, it was one hell of a game.
What's not to love? You had a fireball shooting T-Rex, farting monkeys, weird worshiping people in the background, and dino-fatalities! Since there was a severe (though understandable) lack of my favorite dinosaur in the game, the Brachiosaurus, I opted for the coolest looking of the bunch: Diablo. Breaths fire? Yep. Annoying as all hell teleporting move? Check. Ability to barbecue your opponents like good 'ol Scorpion? Used it every time. Heck, I even had Diablo's little Mighty-Max-like playset.
Looking back at youtube videos now though, I miss the days when my overactive imagination could make up for a game's shortcomings.