Easily one of the fastest growing segments of the video game industry, eSports is currently dominated by two genres: First-person shooters and fighting games.
Ask anyone on the street what a first-person shooter video game is and most will answer DOOM. A testament to the power of the brand, indeed, but what about fighting games? Well, the answer is easy: Street Fighter II. And, while Street Fighter II may have popularized the genre, like DOOM, it is preceded by its own Wolfenstein in the form of an arcade title called Karate Champ.

So often we forget about the pioneering games that really establish a genre, choosing instead to focus on what was popular and ubiquitous. Though Karate Champ inspired Street Fighter II, it is a markedly different game and that alone gives good grounds for forgiving someone for not knowing about this founder of the fighting genre. But a classic it is and a must-play title for gamers who pride themselves on knowing their history.
Developed by Technos Japan and published by Data East in 1984, Karate Champ establishes such fighting game tropes as three-round matches, dual joystick arcade cabinets, and bonus rounds in between matches. A later iteration of the game, Karate Champ – Player vs Player, emphasized competition against an opponent.
Karate Champ Arcade Cabinet
Unlike modern fighters, Karate Champ does not have a health bar gauge at the top of the screen but, instead, uses a traditional martial arts tournament points system. Points are awarded when players land hits with the first player to reach 2 points winning that round.
Your opponent doesn’t change but the background shifts from match to match and the difficulty ramps up as well. In what can only be a clear prototype for Ryu and Ken, the character avatars are depicted as either wearing a white or red