I don't think I ever read the manual to any of those games, but maybe they contained a full list of all attacks per character?

And in the arcade, maybe it said them on the machine?

So it was all about memorizing and then the dexterity of doing it quickly in the game? Or was it also about actually discovering the right combination by aimlessly mashing buttons endlessly? I was never able to do any special move no matter what combination I tried in any of those games, except for some basic ones and only by accident.

Basically, would reading a guide online listing the attacks be cheating and bypassing the point of the game?

  • Not an answer, but I DO remember that (some) official cabinets did have a list of movements printed on them
    – Josh Part
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 15:17
  • 6
    Kids these days expect all the answers to be handed to them.. Gone are the days of exploring, and figuring out, and wonder.. Merci, YouTube!
    – Caius Jard
    Commented May 4, 2022 at 11:22
  • 2
    Don't worry, the discussion on what would be considered an unfair advantage will be there for eternity.
    – MiG
    Commented May 4, 2022 at 11:39

8 Answers 8


I was a kid back when Street Fighter II came out, and the Arcade Cabinets I saw did not have any moves on them, you just had to figure it out.

Though research on the internet suggests that the console version on the SNES did apparently have a list of moves in the manual, so other console versions may have.

As for similar games, I recall having to use a notebook and write down the moves we figured out for Mortal Kombat. That and buying gaming magazines (the internet wasn't much of a thing back then).

Even back before the days of wide spread Internet access you could often buy magazines/guides that listed the moves for stuff like this, so I doubt anyone cares about this being "missing the point".

  • 1
    How to complete all the Triple Triad quests in FFVIII? You don't w/o the $20 book. Which is now worth $60? ... not in the condition mine's in.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 2, 2022 at 15:12
  • 3
    Also, fighting games often did (and still do) share inputs. Trying qcf and other common directional inputs +every attack button is first thing you will probably do in a new fighting game. Commented May 2, 2022 at 17:31
  • 30
    You shouldn't underestimate how much 'secrets' spread via word of mouth. How many would figure out what pressing down on the white blocks in Mario 3 would do all on their own, or find all of the warp whistles? When random button presses accidentally reveals special moves, people are going to talk about it, and very quickly a secret becomes common knowledge. Commented May 2, 2022 at 18:31
  • 14
    There were also hotlines you could call for tips, the most popular being the Nintendo Hotline Commented May 3, 2022 at 7:35
  • 4
    @aherocalledFrog In retrospective it's a marvel to me how much I knew prior to having the Internet at my disposal about some games. Word-of-mouth and a much higher tolerance for trial and error bullshit are powerful tools.
    – xLeitix
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 14:59

The moves weren't listed on the cabs until later versions of the arcade. SF2:WW continued the Japanese tradition of hiding things in their games that rewarded a player for trying to truly master the game.

I.e., in Pac-man there's a hidden mechanic where Pacman can cut corners while the ghosts cannot. This allows Pacman to outrun even the fastest ghosts by zig-zagging through the maze.

In Donkey Kong there's a hidden mechanic where Mario can climb the ladder twice as fast by double-tapping up.

Street Fighter 1 had different motions for the hidden attacks. Street Fighter '89 introduced quarter circle and zig-zag motions which re-appeared in Street Fighter 2.

Nowadays the motions are intended as part of a balancing factor for an attack's strength and utility, and "the real game" part of fighting games is less about playing the game than playing the other player.

  • 8
    Do you have a citation for the hidden mechanic where Pacman can cut corners while the ghosts cannot? I've never heard of this before.
    – studog
    Commented May 2, 2022 at 18:36
  • 6
    @studog The Pac-Man Dossier has a fairly detailed explanation in the "Cornering" section. Commented May 2, 2022 at 23:51
  • 1
    Correction; Street Fighter '89 was the early name for Final Fight. The original SF1 was the one that introduced the 236 and 623 motions; they were just really hard to pull off.
    – Jimmy
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 1:06
  • 1
    Don't forget, Ski Free on Windows 3 had a hidden boost to escape the yeti by simply pressing F. That one remained largely undiscovered.
    – BlackThorn
    Commented May 4, 2022 at 15:30

I first played Street Fighter II (world warrior) in the arcade around 91/92 time, before getting it as a pack-in game with my Super Nintendo.

I can't remember if the arcade cabinet had the moves printed on the cabinet in the version I played or not, but I remember being fluent with at least Ryu and Kens moves.

One thing to remember is that from the get-go SFII was getting major hype. This meant that it was getting extensive coverage in game magazines.

I would suggest that most people (including myself) learned the moves from magazines and word of mouth.

Word of mouth in the arcade especially as the SFII cabinet usually has a crowd of people around it waiting for their turn or simply watching the action, and many of these people were not shy about giving advice on how to play the game.

The first console version was the SNES (I think) in the NTSC and PAL versions of the games, the special moves were printedin the manual, which you can read here.

Extract from the manual:

SNES SFII manual


There were many ways to discover moves.

Gamers would methodically try combinations with different characters to discover new moves. These spread by word of mouth amongst local communities, which further spread globally.

Media would publish marketing pieces from the studios, or similar material produced in house. Studios wanted to build hype around their product to improve sales, so they would put out marketing with character biographies and moves in magazines. The magazines themselves wanted to sell ads, so even if a studio was not paying for the material it was in their own interest to write material covering top games. Books, play guides, and similar were also available with varying degrees of studio involvement.

While the modern Internet world wide web as we know it today did not exist, the pre-web Internet was thriving. Enthusiasts had access to pre-web communications such as Gopher, IRC, and messaging forums to exchange information on any topic including gaming. This was also the heyday of BBS bulletin board systems, which individually may or may not have also linked various types of Internet sources with more local content. It was easy to publish or download a walk-thru or study guide for many games.

For Street Fighter II specifically I recall my roommate staying up for hours many nights reading forums and studying downloaded FAQs, then dropping quarters like a waterfall at the arcade during the day.


For fighting games on consoles, manuals would often include at least some of the special moves, along with short stats and biographies of each character. Sometimes they would not include all of the special moves, leaving some of the more powerful ones for players to discover on their own, or for word-of-mouth (and of course the strategy guides and magazines).

In the arcades, some fighting games would list some of the moves on the cabinet, and sometimes list them in-game (such as on the demo when it is not being played, showing a few moves and the button inputs required).


Basically, would reading a guide online listing the attacks be cheating and bypassing the point of the game?


By this logic it would be "cheating" to play the game without a guide for 40 hours while your friend has only been able to play for 10.

Without practice and reproducible success, both button-mashing and reading a guide are useless methods of knowledge acquisition.

Cheating would be something more like a pre-programmed macro controller which requires just a single button press to execute a 7-button combo.

Albeit, if both players have a macro controller then it's no longer cheating but it certainly does bypass the point of the game.

However, if you were to ask:

Is it unbalanced and unfun for a knowledgeable player to play against an unknowledgeable one?

Yes, absolutely.

You cannot improve if you keep getting decimated into the dirt and you also cannot improve if you are decimating amateurs into the dirt.


Special moves are one thing. You can figure those out given enough free time and time spent playing the game. You just have to play it enough. I was able to figure out Marvel vs Capcom 2 and that was Playstation 2 era so long past the era of arcades.

It can also actually works against you in the beginning to be too coordinated. Mashing buttons you did not mean to mash can trigger special moves which tell you something is there and approximately what you did. Then you hunt it down.

But things like Finishing moves like Mortal Kombat are an entirely different story since the sequence is much longer, are distance dependent on your character and you only have a limited time window per fight to enter them. I think magazines were the source for these. They can be difficult to execute even if you know the combination.


I can still remember playing Street Fighter II and just randomly pressing buttons until I accidentally pull some special moves. Until now, I still don't know how to do a super power attack with characters like Guile and Zangief.

To be honest, back in the days, we only learn through the game demo before you insert a coin or press the start button. They mostly only play like 30 seconds though, and just shows the basic punch+kick.

  • I'm not sure this really answers the question..
    – pinckerman
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 23:34
  • Why not? My answer was randomly pressing buttons. Games are meant for kids anyway. I was 5 years old when I first played a Street Fighter game. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 3:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .