Mixed martial arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championships, in particular, is one of the fastest rising sports in the world. It combines boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, and more into one fine-tuned combat sport.
When it comes to adapting the sport for videogames it is a lot more difficult for developers than it may seem despite there being an endless number of fighting games on the market. Not only do developers have to make sure the stand-up works but the ground game featuring transitions, submissions, and grappling needs to be as close to the excitement of a big fight as possible. It is not surprising then that there is an equally terrible number of UFC and MMA videogames as there are good ones.
Updated by Michael Llewellyn on January 09, 2021: The sport of MMA has grown from a niche combat sport to a mainstream entertainment medium that in many ways has overtaken boxing and even the WWE. However, despite its rising popularity and other MMA organizations like Bellator positioning themselves legit rivals there still aren’t many MMA videogames for fans to choose from.
Thanks to the UFC owners purchasing former rivals like Strikeforce FC, World Fighting Alliance, World Extreme Cagefighting Championships, and Pride FC there are more fighting games under the UFC banner good and bad that need to be observed by fans.
14 Good: UFC Undisputed 2009
UFC: Undisputed 2009 was the first UFC game from developers Yukes who are more famed for developing the WWE 2K series. It was also the first UFC game to receive critical acclaim for actually capturing the intricacies of mixed martial arts.
The combat system is complex and very in-depth and the ground game will take some getting used to but the submission and reversal system is far easier to learn than the new UFC titles from EA. There were some clipping issues and southpaw fighters were left off the roster as a result.
13 Bad: EA Sports UFC
EA Sports UFC on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One was the first game from the same team behind the Fight Night franchise EA’s MMA. Unfortunately, it wasn’t anywhere near as polished or as enjoyable as its boxing counterpart or as accessible and feature-packed as its THQ published predecessor.
It was visually impressive but the ground-game is a horrible and fiddly mess and the stand-up while impressive feels far too arcade-like to be considered an MMA sim. Instead, the game allows fighters to take devastating shots Muay Thai knee shots that should have ended the fight carry on as if nothing happened.
12 Good: Pride FC: Fighting Championships
Released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2, Pride FC: Fighting Championships wasn’t technically a UFC game at the time but the former Japanese MMA promotion and all its properties are now owned by Zuffa, LLC which also owns the UFC.
Developed by THQ, Pride FC was something of a precursor series to THQ’s UFC: Undisputed series. It’s true that the game isn’t without its issues but the gameplay mechanics are still solid and the more brutal rule set that’s illegal in American combat sports – like foot stomps and soccer kicks – compared to the UFC makes for an interesting fighter.
11 Good: EA Sports UFC 2
Released in 2014, UFC 2 was the second game in EA’s new combat sports franchise and it was a big improvement over the lackluster original. The game shipped with top-notch visuals, a larger roster of fighters, and the inclusion of female fighters like Ronda Rousey.
UFC 2’s stand-up game is smooth and fast and fighters are able to move around the Octagon in a realistic manner. Outside of kickboxing, the game has a steep learning curve when it comes to the ground game and there was still a lack of content.
10 Bad: UFC Sudden Impact
UFC Sudden Impact was released on the PlayStation 2 in 2004 it was developed by Opus the same team responsible for the disastrous Fighter’s Destiny series on the Nintendo 64. The game featured a progressive championship mode with around 40 fighters to choose from like some current UFC Hall of Famers Chuck Lidell, Tito Ortiz, and Bas Rutten.
The career mode is dull as is the story that accompanies it and players will struggle to stay awake through any of it. It would have been somewhat forgivable if the actual fighting was any good but it’s not and it’s more of an arcade fighter than an MMA sim.
9 Good: EA’s MMA
Before EA made a deal with the UFC, they created their own game to rival THQ’s Undisputed series in EA Sports MMA. The game focused on the now-defunct MMA organization Strikeforce and a variation of Pride FC which are both owned by the UFC.
EA’s MMA didn’t play as well as UFC: Undisputed on a technical level and the implementation of the control sticks felt awkward, but the animations were smooth and the graphics looked great at the time. Despite some mechanical changes to the controls, EA MMA is very much the prototype of EA’s current UFC videogame series.
8 Bad: Ultimate Fighting Championships: Tapout
Released on the original Xbox in 2002, Ultimate Fighting Championship: Tapout was one of the most authentic combat sports games ever released. It felt unique compared to boxing games like Fight Night at the time.
However, it wasn’t anywhere near as polished as its boxing counterpart and time hasn’t been kind to the MMA fighting game. Going back to the game today reveals that not only are the animations clunky and robotic but it’s riddled with clipping issues and bugs.
7 Good: UFC Undisputed 2010
UFC: Undisputed 2010 was released in 2010 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was a big improvement over its predecessor and improvements to The Ultimate Fights Mode and a more in-depth Career Mode.
In addition, the clinch and ground grappling systems have been reworked and fighters could now use the cage wall to gain an advantage in the clinch. Some clipping issues remained but UFC: Undisputed 2010 was one of the most technical and brutal fighting games in its generation.
6 Bad: UFC Throwdown
UFC Throwdown was released on the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube in 2002. It was released by Crave Entertainment and was a follow up to Ultimate Fighting Championship on the Sega Dreamcast.
It featured just 28 fighters and the game’s combat system lacked any real depth. The countering system was useless and no amount of strategy could make it work, and the limited grappling system just meant that players would be standing in front of each other throwing punches. However, instead of being an exciting stand-up war, it’s boring and clumsy.
5 Good: EA Sports UFC 3
Aside from too much pandering to its divisive cover star Conor McGregor and the microtransactions, EA Sports UFC 3 is a very accomplished mixed martial arts title.
It also boasts some of the most impressive visuals and facial animations in a combat sports game. As a result, the slow-motion replays look and feel satisfying to watch when the punches connect in such a realistic manner.
In the stand-up game, UFC 3 is unrivaled but the ground game could still use some work and the overly fiddly and often unfair submission system hold it back from being the best combat sports title available.
4 Bad: UFC: Tapout 2
UFC: Tapout 2 was released exclusively on the Xbox in 2003. At the time it was the best-looking UFC game on the market but that didn’t stop it from being just another lackluster entry in the MMA franchise. Additionally, the improved visuals only served to accentuate the robotic looking animations.
While it was simplistic enough for any player to get to grips with, it is this simplicity that prevents it from being the technical fighter that fans wanted. Additionally, the single-player modes were boring and too easy because of the game’s terrible AI.
3 Good: UFC 4
Released in 2020, UFC 4 is the latest game in EA’s MMA series of combat sports games. At launch the game released with a few issues that upset some MMA fans. It has a clinch system that players spam over and over again, and the game removed elbows from the dominant position.
However, UFC 4 has since released several new patches and updates to improve the gameplay and it’s a far more accessible game than its predecessor. There is still room for improvement and patches to clean up the game’s more exploitative mechanics and fighting meta but it’s still one of the best MMA games released.
2 Good: UFC Undisputed 3
UFC: Undisputed 3 was the third final game from developers Yukes under the THQ agreement before the publisher went into liquidation. Despite releasing nearly a decade ago on older generation systems the game remains the best UFC game ever developed.
The adjustments made to the stand-up game and the refined submission system made for a far more accessible fighter that is capable of appealing to fans and non-fans of the sport. Furthermore, MMA fans loved the inclusion of the Japanese PRIDE FC league which feels just as authentic and even more brutal than the UFC.
1 Bad: UFC Personal Trainer
UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System was a PlayStation Eye and Xbox Kinect fitness game released in 2011. The PlayStation 3 version required the player to awkwardly strap the PS Move controllers to their leg but the Xbox 360 version used the more advanced Kinect camera accessory to track full-body movements. Sadly, neither worked particularly well.
While it’s not a terrible idea to have a fitness game on consoles, UFC Personal Trainer was something of a chore to set up. Additionally, it is less a personal trainer providing actual feedback and more a glorified and expensive exercise DVD, only popping in a copy of Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo is much less of a hassle than fiddling around in menus.
NEXT: EA’s UFC 4: 10 Ways To Beat A Pressure Fighter
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