‘Playing Fighting Games On Keyboard Is Fine, Actually’ Announces Local Weirdo

‘Playing Fighting Games On Keyboard Is Fine, Actually’ Announces Local Weirdo
Image: Arc System Works / Kotaku / Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

Let me get this out of the way early. I am very new to fighting games. Like very, very new. I played a good amount of Smash Ultimate, even went to a local tournament once, but I was never like, y’know…in it. I regret to inform both you, and past me, that I am now, in fact, in it.

Guilty Gear Strive is a very easy game to learn. Its combos are, as far as anime fighters go, relatively simple. It isn’t particularly strict about inputs, and most of the characters have a pretty easily understood game plan. I am glad it was the first game I actually sat down to learn. However, it was not Strive that actually got me in, it was the revelation that playing on keyboard is not only viable, but actively good.

A normal fight stick has switches inside, corresponding to the four directions it can go: up, down, left, and right. They aren’t built to register unique angles. There’s no difference between a 45-degree angle and a 60-degree angle as far as the stick is concerned. As long as the switches are being pressed, the input is being sent. This means that games are built to read digital, switch-based inputs. What buttons are pressed corresponds to what the character does on screen.

Playing on keyboard, or the more common Hit Box, just translates those switches to your fingers instead of your arm and wrist. If you’ve ever played a platformer on PC, it’ll make sense to you immediately. Ring finger goes left, middle finger goes down, index finger goes right. You use your thumb on either hand to jump. You do the buttons like you would on any fightstick.

Read More: Guilty Gear Strive Is Too Stylish For Its Own Good

This doesn’t just make the keyboard an ok way to play, it gives you an active advantage over stick players. The input accuracy of a keyboard, and of your fingers, is way higher. Try typing using only arm and wrist movements and see how fast you can go and how much you fuck up. I promise you’ll understand what I mean. This is why plenty of pros have started switching to Hit Boxes, or generic “buttonboxes.” They look like normal fight sticks, but the stick has been replaced with those four movement buttons I mentioned earlier. Everyone who uses a Hit Box is a coward, unable to admit that they’re just using a big, fucked-up looking keyboard.

I, however, am a proud keyboard pervert. For those of you who are unconvinced, playing on keyboard totally removed all barriers to entry from Guilty Gear Strive that learning to play with stick would normally impose, and allowed me, a total beginner at fighting games, to climb to Floor 10 of Strive’s 11-floor ranking system. Turns out when you can focus on what the moves do instead of how to do them, it gets way easier to improve at fighting games.

Also my keyboard is cute! You can’t beat that!


  • I remember getting pretty good at the Amiga port of Street Fighter II with only keyboard inputs back in the day (our joystick didn’t have enough buttons so keyboard was the only way to play it).

  • Back in High School the only way to play the first three Mortal Kombat games on PC was with a keyboard. Same with all the other games back then. In fact, the recent re-releases of the classic three are those original painful ports.

    We were good at them back then, even if we occasionally keyboard locked each other from hitting the keys at the same time (since you’d do two player on the keyboard)

    Doesn’t mean I can do it nowadays ><

    • All of those games actually supported a 4 button gamepad like the Gravis Gamepad, but trying to play Mortal Kombat with only 4 buttons is…well, just ask Mega Drive owners that tried to play it on the original controllers how painful that was. Nowadays if you want to use a gamepad on those games, you can use an application like joy2key to map keyboard keys to joystick buttons.

      Having said that, they generally played just fine with just a keyboard, except for when lockups happened in 2 player mode, as you said. They needed to alter the inputs of a few moves in order to try to account for lockups too. Those PC ports were actually probably the most arcade accurate of all home conversions at the time.

  • I don’t play fighting games (not since MK Deadly Alliance & Deception at least), but I remember having to play through Devil May Cry 3 using a keyboard and it certainly was not ideal lol because all controls were mapped to the keyboard with no mouse at all. There are very few times where I would ever say a controller is better than kb/m, I’ve played everything from the later DMC games, NFS/GRID/Dirt, Souls & Souls-likes, platformers, twin-stick style games etc without a problem. However fighting games may just be one of those exceptions.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!