Street Fighter. The name alone represents over 20 years of dominance in fighting games. When I say “Do a Hadoken”, the quarter circle motion shouldn't even be more than a second thought. With Street Fighter IV essentially resurrecting the fighting game genre, I feel it's only right that we as gamers finally decide which Street Fighter game was truly the best one. When I say best, I mean which one was the most balanced, most intuitive, deepest and most enjoyable to play. Let the debate begin:
Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
This list is already controversial because I'm not including the original Super Turbo, but the high definition remade edition. However I think HD Remix balanced out ST, just by adding simple little tweaks to it. Guile has an overhead, Ken's Dragon Punch isn't unstoppable, and Akuma isn't god like. ST may be the most balanced Street Fighter game ever. Each character was tournament level ready in the right hands and tier was not an issue.The addition of a real combo system and Super moves were priceless additions that every SF game after has followed.
Street Fighter Alpha 3
The first two Alpha games were fun, but extremely flawed simply because Ryu and Ken were way too strong. Alpha 3 fixed most those issues in its “ism” fighting system. The standard playing style, A-ism, is based on the previous Alpha games, in which the player has a three-level Super Combo gauge with access to several Super Combo moves. X-ism is a simple style based on Super Street Fighter II Turbo, in which the player has a single-level Super Combo gauge and access to a single (but powerful) Super Combo move. The third style, V-ism, a unique style that allows the player to perform custom combos similar to the ones in Street Fighter Alpha 2. In X-ism, players cannot air-block nor use Alpha Counters. Alpha 3 also introduces a “Guard Power Gauge” which depletes each time the player blocks – if the gauge is completely depleted, then the player will remain vulnerable for an attack. Also the character roster remains the biggest in Street Fighter history, so there was no shortage in experimentation.
Street Fighter III: Third Strike
Many Street Fighter (and fighting game) enthusiast retain that Third Strike is the deepest and best in the series. Sure, Ken and Chun-Li were easily the top tier characters, but not to the point where they were dominant. Third Strike introduced the intricate parry system, in which timing an attack and pressing forward at the right time allowed you to counter attack your opponent. This addition to the game could change the momentum in a fight (EVO 2004 Justin Wong Vs. Daigo). The character roster was basically brand new except for Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, and Akuma. Many had issues with this, but if you look back the whole roster changed from SF to SFII. It was necessary to try and introduce new characters to the arena to expand the game.
Super Street Fighter IV
The current king of fighting games, and rightfully so. The entire cast from ST return in addition to favorites from Alpha and Third Strike, and new characters like Abel and Juri and different fighting elements to the game. New to this entry are focus attacks, which allow you to absorb one hit to counter attack your opponent. Holding the focus down for more that 2 seconds makes your attack unblockable, yet some moves can be Focus Cancelled leading to bigger and much more explosive combos. Ultra Combos are more powerful versions of Super Moves that are only available once the you've taken damage (borrowing from Samurai Showdown's Rage meter concept). A well placed focus into Ultra can change a fight, making them invaluable while keeping your opponent weary to his/her situation.
There really is no wrong answer. Each of these games are classics and still get played in tournaments to this day. You decide which Street Fighter holds the throne.