Have You Played… Pit-Fighter?


Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

Has anyone made a fighting game more realistic than Pit-Fighter? Released in arcades in 1990 and to home computers a year later, it used actual people as the models for its characters, digitising them through some sort of sorcery and allowing them to punch and kick one another without causing actual bodily harm.

The realism wasn’t the best thing about Pit-Fighter though. That would be the spiteful people in the crowds who would clobber you or shove you back into the fight if you go too close.

Pit-Fighter isn’t actually the most realistic fighting game I’ve ever played, but I do have vivid memories of seeing it for the first time in the arcade at Megabowl just outside Bury. It wasn’t gory but something about seeing digitised actors hitting one another made it seem just a bit illicit anyhow.

Obviously nobody was getting hurt while me and my friends played, but real people had absolutely pretended to get hurt and to hurt one another in order that the game could exist. We watched enough kung fu movies and wrestling to know that the likes of Jackie Chan and Bret Hart really did get hurt in order to entertain us, but being in control of these little sweaty avatars, fighting in an underground club, was different.

And maybe that all goes back to the crowds. In Street Fighter, people cheered on the fighters in the background of some scenes. Here, the people who formed the sides of the ring were baying for blood, and would hand weapons to the fighters. It felt just that little bit nastier and more brutal.

The truth is, that’s what I remember best about it. How it played, whether it was well-designed, how many fighting styles or arenas it had? I have no idea. The fighting was forgettable, but the grim spectacle of it all was not.


  1. Faldrath says:

    I remember this game causing quite a stir when it was released in Brazil (for the mega drive? Can’t remember now). “OMG it’s too violent! It will corrupt our kids!” Then it sort of vanished.

    • criskywalker says:

      So they left the real concern to when Mortal Kombat was released?

  2. quasiotter says:

    I’m with you on that! I have a thing for hooded-executioner-types too, so it was harrowing to see one being beaten up with such intense graphics. :(

    However, I think more disturbing to me is the Def Jam games and Wu-Tang Shaolin Style. They’re musicians, not fighters! Please stop!

    • vahnn says:

      The Wu-Tang game was originally supposed to be a game called Thrill Kill. It was very dark, brutal, and extremely gory. I had all my allowance and birthday money saved up to buy a PlayStation and Thrill Kill… then it was cancelled. Then I heard later that the project was being revived. Excited! And then it was being made instead into a goofy fighting game starring some stupid rap group I’d never heard of. Sad! Never got a PS1 because of that debacle.

      20 years later, I love Wu-Tang and wish I had gotten that game.

      • AutonomyLost says:

        Yes! I distinctly remember seeing Thrill Kill ads in Official PlayStation Magazine and its ilk way back when. I didn’t have a particular fetish for what it was purporting to be but was still bummed it got straight canceled due to fear/outrage/horseshit etc. Funny.

  3. Chaz says:

    I remember it having the accolade as the worst game available on the SNES. It was always in the bargain buckets and even then you wouldn’t have wanted it.

  4. NetharSpinos says:

    Ahhh, one of my cherished childhood games. My memories of playing it are hazy, and I don’t think I ever got very far in the…story? Tournament? Whatever the progressive narrative was. But it one of our few games for the MS or the MD (I don’t remember quite which one, but we had both) and at the time it was jolly good fun.

  5. mpk says:

    Man, this game was honkingly bad. Pitfighter? More like SHITFIGHTER AMIRITE?



  6. Jac says:

    I’d be interested in playing a spiritual successor called Pat-Fighter.

    Pat Butcher Vs Sun Pat
    Postman Pat Vs Physics Aptitude Tests

    It would be glorious.

    • vorador says:

      It actually wouldn’t be glorious, but don’t let that fact stop you.

  7. criskywalker says:

    I remember being amazed by its digitized graphics back then and that the gameplay was crap.

  8. vorador says:

    One of the first games with digitized actors. It looked pretty impressive on paper.

    Once you saw it on motion, “janky” was the word that defined the graphics and gameplay.

  9. Sin Vega says:

    Had this on the amiga, and it only recognised one joystick button, rendering all but about 3 attacks per fighter useless – anything that didn’t knock an opponent over in one hit would guarantee that they’d simply twat you back even harder before you could follow up.

    My copy was also fatally bugged, so I never got to see the last fight, or possibly the last couple, I forget. I imagine it was very disappointing and extremely unfair. Or “true hardcore oldschool real game”, as such shitty design is called if it’s an rpg.

    Cool intro music, mind.

  10. coppernaut says:

    Hell yeah, many quarters my friends and I pumped through a Pit Fighter cabinet in the “Fun Factory”, our small hometown arcade. It was a very addicting experience back then, since digitized graphics were never used in such a way. This game without a doubt influenced Midway’s Mortal Kombat, another gem from my childhood arcade.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      I think Pit Fighter and Mortal Kombat were made by the same devs. They were definitely both published by Midway.

  11. Turkey says:

    It’s no Rise of the Robots.

  12. DeadCanDance says:

    I remember fighting South Side Jim and his knack for hitting my crotch.

  13. Henke says:

    Played it on the Commodore 64! Remember getting it as a Christmas present, it was bundled with a couple other fighting games, WWF Wrestlemania and Final Fight. Fond memories of Final Fight, barely remember the other two.

  14. Fnord73 says:

    Totally off topic, but what was the name of the arcade console 2 player game where you drove motorcycles with sidecars getting new weapons 1942-style at very high speed? Me and a mate had that down to perfection, and I can not remember the title…

  15. Jabberwock says:

    Isn’t it interesting that those who say the game was bad are those who watched it or read about it? Because if you played it, you would know that you could send a series of flying kicks and when the opponent was down, you could elbow him! Or begin to stomp! Stomp! STOMP!

    Umm… Never mind.