Fans of pop culture continually engage in debates about who they think would win in a fight between icons of different intellectual properties. It’s exciting to imagine a clash of characters in order to put their varying skills to the test and see who comes out on top. Goku vs. Superman. Gandalf vs. Dumbledore. Homer Simpson vs. Peter Griffin. Forums on the internet are filled with these scenarios, so naturally, the internet had to make a game with that idea in mind.
M.U.G.E.N. (or MUGEN) is an open source freeware fighting game that contains an ever-growing archive of thousands of playable characters and stages. The word mugen in Japanese means “dream,” “fantasy,” or “infinite,” All of which describe this game. It was originally released in 1999 and continues to have a fanbase to this day. The code of the game is written in C and anyone has the opportunity to upload their own customized characters and stages.
MUGEN can be downloaded from a plethora of archive websites but the most popular and organized site is MUGEN Archive. The latest downloadable version of MUGEN is MUGEN 1.1 Beta 1. Initially, the game will only have two characters available in the built in roster: Kung Fu Man 1 and Kung Fu Man 2.
Getting more characters from the game will require downloading them individually or within packs from the archive sites. The packs normally are built around popular fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Super Smash Bros., and Marvel vs. Capcom. These specific packs copy the mechanics of the games they are based off of. If there are any characters who were not originally from a fighting game, their move set will normally be based off of characters that are.
This means that you might find the Pope doing Ryu’s Hurricane Kick against Mr. Rogers. Anyone who appeared in video game form will be modeled after the video game they appeared in. For example, if you play as Michael Jackson, the sprites will match the appearance of the character from Sega’s 1990 game Michael Jackson Moonwalker.
The stages can be just as fun as the characters. You can download in packs to get your favorite stages from popular fighting games or you can literally fight in front of the Windows XP background. With the incredible amount of downloadable features, everyone will have their own collection to create a unique MUGEN experience.
Although you may be eager to get this kind of fun started, it should be noted that MUGEN does not have a user-friendly interface and will require some tech savviness to get it up and running properly. People who don’t know what they’re doing might accidentally give their computer coronavirus. However, there are plenty of resources online to guide you through properly operating the game and tips on how to organize your roster. If you do that, you will have a roster so large you can’t even see most of whoever is in it.
A game with unlimited possibilities such as this does come with its problems. For starters, the user-generated content varies widely in quality. You could be getting a carbon copy of Jin Kazama from Tekken or you could get a very sad attempt at a fighting refrigerator. If you’re fortunate enough, you might be able to be trolled by the developer, who might be playing as a meme character with very distracting abilities. There is a playable Spider-Man copy named ‘Don’t worry…these pizzas are in good hands’ who has large pizzas shoot out of him when he gets hit while memed voice lines from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 play such as, “he stole that guy’s pizza!”
The other major problem is that the infinite roster has created a major issue of unbalanced fighting. It’s impossible to account for the many move sets devised by amateur developers around the world. This makes it so Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory can kill Saitama with one punch. It just doesn’t make any sense.
Even with these issues, following the advice of the MUGEN community on the archive sites and databases will make for a great fighting game experience. The idea of pitting lots of different characters against each other has sort of lost some of the appeal it had decades ago. Nowadays, it’s not too much of a shock that you can unlock Sephiroth in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and play as Rambo in Mortal Kombat 11. But the idea that you can create a fighting match between anything and anybody no matter how ridiculous the match-up is still makes MUGEN a very special game.