Since its debut in 1994, Tekken has been a mainstay in the fighting game world, coupling over-the-top, brutal action with a signature cheeky style. 30 years after its premiere, Tekken has only continued to improve and Tekken 8 is another clear sign of that progress. Developed by Bandai Namco Studios and Arika, Tekken 8 is an onslaught of quality 3D fighting content, including addictive modes for any type of fan. A dedicated story mode, the “Arcade Quest” mode, refined online multiplayer, and an unbelievably helpful replay system are just a few of the things that make Tekken 8 one of the best in the series.
A Tournament of Gods
At this point in the Tekken story, things have gone absolutely crazy, as the feud between Jin Kazama and his father, the evil Kazuya Mishima, has increased to ridiculous measures. After an explosive opening, the story falls back into a familiar pace, following a renewed King of the Iron Fist Tournament, but it’s not long before the narrative gets gleefully ridiculous.
There are over a dozen chapters in the Tekken 8 story, and near the halfway point, all elements of realism go directly out the window. Long ago, Tekken leaned into the realism of its fighting, but now, it fully embraces the zany nature of anime-style storytelling. Despite its entirely nonsensical narrative, the campaign in Tekken 8 was wild enough to keep me engaged for about 3 to 4 hours, although it feels a bit padded out toward the end.
In the main campaign, there are some clever opportunities for players to control different combatants, but each fighter gets their time to shine in the Character Episodes mode. These quick, non-canonical stories feature 5 fights and custom ending cutscenes, often wrapping up with a quirky or humorous twist. There’s wavering quality between some of the episodes, but overall, it’s an entertaining way to explore extra stories while continuing to engage in ruthless battle.
Harder, Faster, Stronger
Tekken has a distinct 3D fighting style that has been refined over the years, and was nearly perfected in the last game, Tekken 7. In Tekken 8, not much has changed, but there’s an obvious emphasis on heightened aggression due to a few new gameplay mechanics. Fighters can now activate a “Heat” gauge once per round, which adds a handful of benefits for a short period of time, and can be punctuated with a special Heat move.
Similar to the “Fatal Blow” system in recent Mortal Kombat games, Tekken 8 also adds a devastating “Rage Art” special move once you’ve reached low health. These two mechanics combined create the Tekken fighting you know and love (complete with tornadoes leading into air juggling), just much faster, more aggressive, and with a higher element of risk and reward.
Tekken 8 also contains an awesome roster of characters, lending to a great mix of fighting styles. You have a handful of classic fighters like Paul, Law, and Kazuya, and newcomers Azucena, Reina, and Victor are all surprisingly fun to play. Azucena is a quirky coffee-loving brawler, while Reina harbors her inner Mishima technique for hard-hitting combos. Victor is the only new character that I feel middling about, but the overwhelming majority are exciting to fight with.
King of the Arcade
One of the best new modes in Tekken 8 is “Arcade Quest”, which has you customize a virtual avatar, and then travel around in-game arcades to become the ultimate Tekken champion. Between the chibi character models, fun ranking, and customized skins for each character, the mode has tons of personality.
Arcade Quest serves a dual purpose; it acts as a virtual emulation of becoming a real-world competitive Tekken player, but it’s also a great training ground to learn new characters and get ready for online play. You get to dabble in tournaments, practice with different characters, and generally have a good time doing it. I really enjoyed the premise and execution of Arcade Quest, but I will admit that the associated “storyline” is pretty underwhelming.
Fighting Around the World (Then Watching the Tape)
As to not waste your time and get straight to the point, online play in Tekken 8 is lovely. Unless you run into an opponent with a shoddy connection, online multiplayer contains everything you’d expect or want out of a competitive Tekken experience. You can host player match lobbies, grind out ranked play, dabble in some quick matches, or even play the much-adored Tekken Ball! All of this is accessible via menus or the “Tekken Player’s Lounge”, which functions as a basic online hub.
It might sound silly, but the replay system in Tekken 8 is also absolutely incredible. Not only does it offer expert tips and analysis on your replays, but you can effortlessly transfer into training mode from a given replay, and figure out how to improve your play. The replay system is complex, impressive, and such an immensely good training tool that I would be remiss to not include it in the conversation. Replays systems in most fighting games range from average to great, but Tekken 8‘s is probably the best I’ve seen in a long time.
The Bottom Line on Tekken 8
At every turn, Tekken 8 presents its signature 3D fighting formula in the best way possible, with excellent visuals, booming audio, and an abundance of great content. New gameplay mechanics like the Heat gauge encourage more aggressive fighting, making matches excitable and fast. The roster of 32 fighters is not only a great mix of new and old, but each fighter is a joy to learn, thanks to modes like Character Episodes and the replay system.
Plain and simple, Tekken 8 is as good as modern Tekken gets. It’s a joy to play, regardless of whether you’re a button masher or master of the air juggle. You can dive deep into a hefty helping of single-player story content, hone your training with some incredibly impressive tools, or take the fight online with a suite of multiplayer modes. If you like the Tekken franchise or fighting games in general, Tekken 8 should be in your library.
Note: This game was reviewed on Xbox Series X using a review copy provided by the publisher.
- Exciting fighting system that encourages aggression
- Modes offer great variety for both solo and multiplayer content
- Stunning visual and audio design
- Consistently enjoyable online multiplayer (ranked Tekken Ball!)
- Wildly impressive replay system serves as a perfect training tool
- Bumpy pacing weakens the main Story mode
- Some Character Episodes feel more handcrafted than others
- Waiting in online lobbies can be a drag