Number 5: Sabrewulf, Killer Instinct
Yes, we are cheating on our very first pick, but Sabrewulf’s story is just so metal we didn’t want to leave it out!
Count Konrad von Sabrewulf can be considered a normal human being, all be it a very drunken and rich one, who one day stumbled, quite literally, on his family legacy as monster hunters. In an ironic twist taken straight out of fairy tales, the legacy he fell into included a sharp set of werewolf claws that cut deep into his flesh, turning him into one himself.
Of course, he was mortified by this and began to work towards reversing that curse by working through the mountains of artifacts his family had collected over the years. But the beast that now lived inside of him hungered, and it would go out and hunt during the full moon.
Eventually, he is captured by UltraTech, the baddies of the Killer Instinct universe, so they could experiment on his body, replacing his arms with cybernetics and forcing him to stay in his werewolf form for as long as they wish.
Thankfully, our good friend escaped the corporation’s grasp, tearing his cybernetic arms off and using what he had learned in his family archives to grow them back.
Time will tell if we ever get yet another reboot of the beloved Killer Instinct, and if we do, what ill fate will befall the Count next and even if we don’t, the 2013 version of the game certainly showcased why monsters in fighting games are such a great vehicle for flashy violence.
Gameplay-wise, Sabrewulf is the quintessential rushdown character, as his general physic shows, he is a damage-focused fast character. Although the archetype can be found in other games, we feel he really shines in Killer Instinct’s high-impact visuals and gameplay.
It should not be surprising to learn that he is only one of 7 characters in the series to have an appearance in every game of the franchise, and although we are not talking about Killer Instinct as a household name like Tekken, Mortal Kombat, or Street Fighter, it is worth pondering the question of what if KI was as popular as its contemporaries in the late 90s, would we have SabreWulf in Fortnite? Ok, maybe that is a touch too far onto our next pick.
Number 4: D'Vorah, Mortal Kombat
From a poor bastard who got unlucky rolls in their DnD campaign, we move on to a hive mind, indeed D'Vorah for all her humanoid appearance at first glance, is nothing more than part of an insect hive known as the Kytinn.
These scary little fellas borrow their larvae inside their victims' bodies; over time, the maggot infects its host, forcing it to transform, growing wings and eventually falling in line with the rest of the Hive.
If that is not enough to worry you about those mosquito bites, then it's worth noting that in the Mortal Kombat universe, if a Kytinn were able to lay strong enough larvae inside an Elder God, like Cetrion, the resulting fully adult Kytinn would be even more powerful than the original deity.
Interestingly enough, as far as the games are concerned, we have never seen male or otherwise non-female versions of the Kytinn, leaving the door open for fans to speculate as to how they look like or what part of the Hive’s hierarchy they fit in.
This hive of wasp-like beings was native to the Arnyek Islands, which were eventually conquered by Shao Khan in his expansion of the Outworld Empire. D’Vorah would pledge her alliance to the emperor and became the de facto leader of the hive in their duties to the rest of the outworld.
By nature, the Kytinn are crafty, treacherous, and ambitious. Even though they are a hive, there is some level of individuality to them, and they chose to use that little bit of personality to really hammer home the point that any insect that is capable of killing you with just its claw hands is no insect you should be close with.
Given that nasty trait, it should not be a surprise to learn that D'Vorah was more than ready to leave Shao Khan behind when Kotal set in motion his rebellion. Or how later on she would also betray the trust of Mileena, or Earthrealm forces, or really anybody who ever put any trust in her to do a mission.
To be fair, D'Vorah has a unique set of skills that she has perfected through her servitude to Shao and Kotal Khan. That of an assassin. Her deadly venom is truly your one-stop when trying to get rid of someone. We even got to see it in action during Mortal Kombat 11 when she kills our main timeline Scorpion.
D’vorah is fierce, and given how she was able to escape death after becoming one of Kronika’s allies, we might yet see her again, scheming and betraying yet another faction in the Mortal Kombat universe.
Number 3: Blanka, Street Fighter
Blanka from Street Fighter earned his high place on this list. Without a doubt one of the most recognizable characters in the Fighting Games Community. Now, like Saberwulf before, on a very technical level, Blanka was a human, but after a particularly nasty plane crash, he was lost to the jungles of brazil as a kid. There he mutated, gaining his iconic green skin color and the ability to generate his own electricity!
After years of living in the wilderness, he eventually rejoins it via the World Warrior tournament, where he is recognized by his mother and has the opportunity to return to his family. Once back into society, he felt like an outcast, leading him to move to Hong Kong.
Even as visually striking as Blanka’s features are, his story mostly revolves around him being a kind-hearted beast. He enjoys helping others, and in the later games, he is seen as a nature guide in his home, as well as an environmental protection advocate.
Blanka’s core gameplay revolves around his speed and unusual, one would say non-human, figure. His beast-like movement is often on display inside games as special hitboxes making fighting against Blanka an interesting challenge of moves, for example, high hits that miss instead.
Part of this exaggerated mobility comes in the form of backward dashes, quick jumps, slides and more. Making Blanka the character of choice for players that want to move quickly, hit hard, and do so while looking like an absolute unit.
He will undoubtedly be a fantastic character in Street Fighter 6, and we can’t wait to see his graphical upgrade when it releases in June 2023.
Number 2: Goro, Mortal Kombat
Although certainly humanoid, the Shokan are brutal four-armed warriors from the outworld. Goro himself is the prince of the Shokan and the former champion of the Mortal Kombat Tournament. He is an unforgettable boss of the first game, and has shown up intermittently as a playable character in the series ever since.
His name may not adorn the roster screens of the latest Mortal Kombat games. That honor often goes to another Shokan commander, Sheeva, but Goro’s legacy relies almost entirely on his incredible staying power in popular culture.
Besides the series’ mainline core characters, like Scorpion, Sub-zero, and Kitana, who all frequently appear in both games and other media. Goro has remained in the spotlight thanks to live-action, animated movies, toys, comic books, and more. These depictions of the four-armed prince have all pushed him front and center of much of Mortal Kombat’s cultural mythos.
Fun fact, if you were to consider Goro as an actor, he would have been the highest-paid member of the original Mortal Kombat movie. If you want to learn more about that story, as well as the other media around Mortal Kombat, DashFight has a video on it that you can check out!
His popularity is even more impressive considering that Goro’s design is not necessarily unique, as the idea of a monster featuring more extremities had been a staple of fantasy books and even tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons.
He has been able to become something of a base template for the archetype and has been the source of countless parodies and satires of both Mortal Kombat’s gratuitous violence, as well as the criticism of it.
Special Mention: Donkey Kong, Super Smash Bros
Yes, we did set out a rule that it needed to be an original character for the series. But there is no way we would feel this list makes justice to its theme without mentioning Donkey Kong, specifically its multiple appearances in the Super Smash Brothers franchise.
What is remarkable about DK is the fact that even though he comes from his own very successful line of games, the newer generations are likely most familiar with his appearance in other Nintendo games, Smash among them.
DK is a force of nature in those games. He might not be an S-tier character, but every time you see a DK player in the bracket at your local, signing up for a major tournament, or even being invited to participate in a closed major, you know shenanigans will be plenty.
There is no day on this earth that we are not thankful for the existence of the greatest BM move in the smash brothers franchise. To grab your opponent as DK, walk off the edge and bounce them off the platform for the stock. Truly, one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Number 1: Panda, Tekken
There could have only been one, and for us, that is Panda. Sorry, Kuma, we know you came first in the series, but we think even he can agree that the most memorable nonhuman fighter for the fighting game scene is Panda.
Beyond the basic idea of her being a literal fighting panda, over the years of Tekken games, it has become clear that she has a very human personality, enjoys spending time with her friends, and is even a popular celebrity outside of the King of Iron Fist Tournament.
Panda was trained by Heihachi Mishima in a martial art called “Bear Fighting”, as she is Ling Xiaoyu’s personal security, eventually joining the Iron Fist Tournament to keep her safe. This would happen many times after, with Panda growing tired of the tournament but still driven to help Xiaoyu in all her endeavors.
As mentioned earlier, Panda shares a fighting style with Kuma, who was part of the original Tekken, and its first sequel. But starting with Tekken 3, it has been all Panda.
Panda’s gameplay revolves around the aforementioned bear fighting style. She has slow movement and attack speed, but her hitboxes are big enough to connect with most opponents leading to some great neutral control. Favoring chip damage from ma mid-distance in between striking opponents down some killer counterattacks.
Time will tell where the story will take her next with Tekken 8 on the horizon, as the last time we saw her, she was searching for Xiaoyu.
There obviously are a few more characters that we could have fitted here, and some of the ones we did not pick might be your favorites, so let us know what your list of best nonhuman characters is!