One of the many ways to win a fighting game is to keep one’s own life bar topped up as much as possible. That way, even if the player can’t finish their opponent off, they’ll win when the match timer runs out. It always awards the round to whoever has the largest life bar at the end. This is known as ‘laming out’, and the best way to do this is by ‘turtling’- blocking all the time.
Why is it ‘lame’ to ‘lame out’? Because it makes for a boring match, makes the game seem dull, and the player even duller. Luckily, there are ways to break an opponent’s defense, like mixing between high, mid, and low attacks, or cross-ups that change which way they’re supposed to block. From Street Fighter to Soulcalibur, here are the fighting games that went one stage further to punish turtles.
7/7 Guilty Gear
The first two Guilty Gear games were like any other 2D fighter. Its extra maneuverability like air dashes, etc., made turtling difficult already. But it did make evading any errant strikes easy too. Why square off when jumping, dashing, and hopping off the walls is a safer way to lame out? Arc System Works noticed this and, from Guilty Gear X2 onwards, introduced the Negative Penalty.
Basically, if a player just dodges, dashes, and doesn’t do enough attacks, they’ll receive a ‘negative warning’ text by their life bar. If they keep it up, the game will empty out their Tension meter (super gauge) entirely. Since they’re not doing any attacks or Overdrives (super combos), they don’t need all that meter anyway. The Negative Penalty is also in the Xrd games and Strive, so do try to hit the opponent in the match.
Also made by Arc System Works, the BlazBlue games shared DNA with Guilty Gear. Both had the anime look, extra agile midair moves, character designs, and lengthy pre-round intros (“The wheel of fate is turning…”). But it had its own differences from its rockin’ forebear, like having specific conditions for its ‘Astral Finish’ moves (Instant Kills), and crossing over with Persona 4, Under Night In-Birth, and RWBY in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle.
It also has a much harsher Negative Penalty than the one in Guilty Gear. The game’s ‘Barrier Gauge’ also fuels the ‘Barrier Block’- a special guard that avoids chip damage and keeps the player’s life bar pristine. It’s like the parries in Street Fighter 3: Third Strike. If the player lames out, or uses too many Barrier Blocks, their Gauge will empty out, so they can’t do super moves or Barrier Blocks anymore until it fills back up. They’ll also take extra damage from attacks until it reaches 50%.
5/7 Dragon Ball FighterZ
For a breath of fresh air, Arc System Works didn’t put Negative Penalty into their Dragon Ball-based fighting game. Instead, the game is just orientated towards offense by design. Defensive players can block on the ground and in midair, do a Barrier Block-esque move called a Z-Reflect, and cancel into said Reflect or a Vanish (quick teleport) from block.
But Vanishing costs at least 1 bar to do so, and Z-Reflects take skill to master as they can be better or worse depending on what attack’s being reflected. If anything, it takes more effort to turtle in Dragon Ball FighterZ than it does to just go hog wild with the attacks. It’s a game where the best way to fight fire is with more fire. So, learning how to Kamehameha works better than trying to block one all day.
4/7 The Marvel Series
Dragon Ball FighterZ is similar to Capcom’s Marvel games in this respect. Both it and the latter Marvel vs Capcom games were 3-on-3 tag fighters with similar offensive techniques. There were Hyper Combos, Delayed Hyper Combos (tagging from one super into another character’s super), launchers, air combos, and more. The difference is that the Marvel games had fewer defensive options than FighterZ.
Players could block, or push-block to keep the pressure off of them, and that was it. No parries, Reflects, or anything else. They could super jump and dash, but they weren’t quite as nimble as the ones in Guilty Gear. It’s not impossible to lame-out in the Marvel games, but good, offensive players have more tools to crack that defense than turtlers do at keeping it.
The original Darkstalkers game was said to be a precursor for the Marvel and Alpha games’ techniques, like its more accessible gameplay, midair blocks and multiple super combos. They also encouraged high-speed offense. Morrigan and friends moved faster than the Street Fighter gang up to that point and had wilder moves to boot. Vampire Hunter (Darkstalkers 2) emphasized this by having the super meter slowly drain once full. The game didn’t want players to sit on that advantage, it wanted them to use it ASAP.
Vampire Savior (Darkstalkers 3) went one further by giving the player as many meter levels as they wanted and adding in a tiny chunk of recoverable life if they got hit. If the player wanted to regain that chunk, they had to keep the heat on their opponent. Then, if they didn’t want their opponent to regain theirs…they still had to keep the heat on them. Offensive players got the rewards, defensive players got nothing.
2/7 Street Fighter Alpha 3
Rewarding offensive players is one way to dissuade turtle tactics. Street Fighter Alpha 3 punished them directly instead, and arguably in a more fair way than stealing their meter like Guilty Gear and BlazBlue would. The game added a ‘guard gauge’ under the players’ life bars that would drain with each attack blocked. If the player blocked too much, it would drain further until it broke and left them vulnerable to attack.
Each break, or ‘Guard Crush’, would shorten the bar until there was only a tiny chunk left. Once those chunks were gone, they were gone for the rest of the match. The only way to avoid getting ‘Crushed’ was to stop blocking to let the Guard Gauge recover. There were no Marvel-esque dashes or evades to save them this time. They had to fight back. The Capcom Vs SNK games also took on the Guard gauge but didn’t shorten it with each crush, so anyone looking for a little more mercy will find it there.
1/7 Soulcalibur 5 & 6
3D fighters are a different story when it comes to offensive/defensive options. The more maneuverable ones are more about grounded space control, where defensive players can dodge attacks more effectively with sidesteps, 8-way runs, etc. The overly offensive can be left vulnerable to attacks from the side or behind, or get their errant punches or kicks caught in reversal throws. So, turtlers had ways to get ahead…and ways to get punished too. Like Soulcalibur 5 and Soulcalibur 6‘s Guard Crush moves.
They’d leave opponents hurt or stunned long enough to be defenseless against follow-up attacks. The only way an opponent could counter them was to do a Red Impact (essentially a special parry) with some of their super meter, which could only be filled by delivering or taking damage. The Soulcalibur series has also had Ring Out wins since the beginning. If the opponent didn’t throw turtlers out of the ring for an easy win, the dodge-happy ones could end up falling out of it themselves.