To become competent at a fighting game, it takes hours upon hours of hard work, dedication, patience, study and, above all else, miniature custom-made ice packs for your not-yet calloused thumbs. After all, in order to brawl with the best, competitive players are expected to learn frame-perfect combos, pixel-precise spacing techniques, character-specific damage set ups, and how the fighter they’re controlling matches up against the rest of the roster (which ranges from ultra-“spammy” projectile practitioners to uber-aggressive rushdown fighters). It’s a tough road to become the top dog of a fighting game, but no technique or play style is more difficult to master than the subtle art of taunting.
Not only does this sacred form of humiliation enrage opponents and allow passage to a fighter’s most precious weapon; the mind, but it also builds hype for the underdog, gets the crowd going and forces a game’s imminent conclusion – the aftershocks of which create rivalries that will last a lifetime.
Now, we know what you’re asking yourself: “But how can I get into this glamorous lifestyle and taunt my way to victory after effortless victory?” Well, dear reader, it’s simple. Much like forms of martial arts, there are many forms of taunters that inhabit the world. Each and every one uses a smile, finger wag or muscle flex to make a statement and gain the upper hand in battle. The only question I have for you is: how, specifically, would you like to demean your opponent?
Take a look at these glorious forms of instigation and choose your destiny.
Warning: This guide could lead you down a path of hate, loneliness and overall trollery. These styles are not meant for the faint of heart or anybody who doesn’t want to turn their console of choice into a constant hub for hate mail.
First we’ll start off with a more laid-back style, so we don’t scare anybody off. However, don’t let this seemingly subdued form fool you. A fighter with this taunting demeanor can be just as rage-inducing as the rest of them. I speak of none other than:
The Apathetic Warrior
So you’re down a few stocks in Smash Bros. or you’ve lost the first two matches in a best of three set in Street Fighter. Who cares? Certainly not you! This carefree form often lulls opponents into a false sense of security, giving masters of the technique the perfect opportunity to strike when a guard is lowered. After all, who wants to Falcon Punch someone if they’re just going to shrug at you after the fact? Popular characters for this form include:
- Pac-Man in SSB4 with his daydream taunt. I never took him for a dreamer, but he has come a long way since his glory days as a two-dimensional yellow circle.
- King Dedede in Super Smash Bros. Brawl with his lie-down animation. Although it isn’t technically a taunt, it quickly turned into a fan favorite with players of the royal penguin.
- Cody in Street Fighter 4 with his yawn taunt, coupled with the line, “You’re making me sleepy.” His fourth taunt has him lying on the ground saying, “I’m ready for a nap”, and another taunt where he sits on the floor and says, “You’re boring the crap outta’ me.”
The Prop Professional
There’s a very niche audience for this sort of taunter, but chances are if you enjoyed show and tell as a kid, you’re going to love these materialistic monsters. Why fight, when you can show the world your favorite family heirloom? The thought behind this style is to make your opponent so envious of what you have that they focus more on how to get their own; essentially consuming your opponent with a paralyzing greed. Envy can be a devastating emotion. Fighters characterized by this style include:
- Captain Commando in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, with his cowboy outfit and acoustic guitar. When western manliness meets Eastern charm, all bets are off.
- Young Link in Super Smash Bros. Melee with his bottle of Lon Lon Milk. *gulp, gulp, gulp… AH!*
- Guile in SF4 and Squirtle in Project: M when they put on their shades.
The Insult to Injurist
Most taunts serve little offensive purpose besides getting under your opponent’s skin, and almost all of them leave players wide open for a risk-free counter attack. A problematic dilemma some might say. That is, until I introduce to you one of the most diabolical taunting techniques characterized by high risk, high reward fighters whose sole purpose is to live and lose by way of the cheeky remark. A group so obsessed with instigation that their taunts can even be used as deadly weapons. When some fighters see a taunt, they will immediately rush in for the kill. Seeing this might make them think twice.
- Rogue from MvC 2 seems like all fun and games when she flirtatiously blows a kiss across screen, but stand close enough and this smooch will send you flying!
- Dudley from Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike and SF4 might just be the classiest gentlemen to ever throw a punch. However, don’t let his curly Q moustache and calm demeanor fool you! When you see this upper-class Brit toss a rose your way, think twice before throwing yourself back at him. The foreboding flower might only take away a tiny sliver of your health, but the combo that follows will leave you with your tail between your legs and a new found fear of floral arrangements.
- Dan Hibiki may very well be a mid-fight insult embodied. This fighter has almost completely created a reputation from butt wiggles and fighting stances of Power Ranger–proportions. Not only does this bozo-like brawler boost his special bar with a patented fist pump, but he also has a super move that takes the form of an elaborate comedy routine. This pink-wearing, personable provocateur lives, eats, breathes and sweats salt-inducing satire. He is the true master of tomfoolery and will hurt anybody who ventures too close to his shifty shenanigans.
- While Luigi will always be second to Mario, his antics in Smash Bros. have landed him the number two spot, right behind Dan. Although he doesn’t get as much out of his taunts as Hibiki, he no doubt beats him when it comes to the most deceptively destructive taunt ever known to mankind: The humble shoe swing!
The Comeback Kid
From one of the most downright deceitful forms of taunting to one of the most righteous. If professional mockery was a superhero, this would be the Clark Kent of the group. The point behind “The Comeback Kid” is to rally yourself, and often times a crowd that is watching you. I mean, who doesn’t like an underdog? It builds excitement, creates courage and strikes doubt into the cocky contender who may have bested you just moments ago. Some of the greatest match finales were prefaced with a defiant taunt. This technique truly is the choice of champions, if you’re into that sort of thing.
- Mega Man in SSB4 calmly turns his back and shows a brief, uncharacteristic smile while he collects himself for the gripping battle ahead of him.
- Ryu from Street Fighter is filled with heroic one-liners, but none of them are more good-guy cliché than when he meaningfully examines his closed fits and says, “I walk the path of a true warrior.” If Street Fighter ever becomes a daytime drama, the director will have plenty of lines to work with right out of the gate! Still, that’s enough to get any player’s blood pumping.
- In MvC 3, the god of thunder with golden locks, Thor, takes it a step further as he lectures his opponents on his might and majesty. The quote goes as follows, “Heed my words evildoers; if thou doth wish to challenge Odin’s son, thou will face the divine power of mighty Mjolnir! Never shall the god of thunder relent!” Pure poetry!
The Sexy Soldier
You don’t always taunt, but when you do, by God, you look good. It’s going to be hard to beat you down when your opponent is busy contemplating how to put a ring on it. What more is there to a good fight? A few of these fighters include:
- Captain Falcon in Smash Bros. when he does anything. Especially when he does anything in his pink alternate costume. Man nipple hasn’t been that hot since George Clooney in “Batman and Robin.”
- Choi Bounge in King of Fighters with his hip thrust taunt.
- Luigi with his “planking” taunt, that I’m… I’m oddly attracted to and not afraid to admit it.
- Ganondorf with his super, unstoppable old man power thrust.
Historians have fought over the origins of this ancient style for years, but one thing’s for sure: your big brother is a master. Sure, there might not be anything especially unique about this founding form, but this style is a classic for a reason: it gets results. This technique is best used when you’re already so far ahead in one game you’re just mind-f***ing your opponent to ensure victory in the next battle. However, taunting of this nature is best used on people much smaller and weaker than yourself. Sure, you might get a perfect on your friend in the game, but you don’t want to end up with a perfect black eye in real life. A few of the fighters in this boastful bunch are:
- Hulk in MvC 3 does what he does best: Makes terrible grammar choices and calls attention to himself by saying, “Hulk is strongest there is!” Awww, how cute! His first sentence.
- Marth’s taunt in the Super Smash series. His Japanese taunt, “Minna miteite kure!” roughly translates to “Everybody, look at me!” Take it easy, pretty boy.
- Thanos from Marvel vs. Capcom 2 when he turns his back to his opponent, lifts a hand into the air and exclaims “Thanos reigns!”
- When Johnny Cage wins a round in Mortal Kombat he points, smiles and smugly says, “Damn, I’m good!” Again, it’s not a controllable taunt, but a classic nonetheless.
The Last Laugher
Taking a page out of the book of Confucius, these taunters live under the motto, “He who laughs last, laughs best.” Although you might not get in the last hit, you sure as hell aren’t going down until you get that last laugh. After the round is said and done, your opponent will be too thunderstruck to know what to do next. After all, how silly would they feel if they let you get the final chuckle again? Take this opportunity to turn the tables on a taunt-happy foe! This group of gigglers include:
- Doctor Doom lets out a self righteous snicker in MvC 2. What a bastard!
- Fellow MvC 2 fighter, T. Bonne, not only takes a Captain Morgan pose on the face of her mech to let out a boisterous laugh, but her servbot cheers her on while she does it!
- Quite possibly the most iconic giggle is that of Duck Hunt Dog. He’s at it again in the newest Smash Bros. instalment.
The Forsaken Form of Unholy Trolling
Some scholars theorize this despicable technique will one day lead to mankind’s demise. This demonic display of everything that is wrong with existence makes the seven deadly sins, pandora’s box, the black plague and the 1998 Godzilla movie combined look like a walk in a puppy park-complete with tiny cherub Eskimo kisses and rainbow sunshine. It is said that even practicing such an inhumane art leads to immediate neck beard growth and a penchant for cold, dark, damp basement dwelling. The sun becomes a mere figment of your imagination and self respect slips to the point of no return. To go down this path means to throw away all that is dear to one’s self. Family, friends, fun and above all else… hygiene. This unmitigated mish-mash of hatred and agony belongs only to one character in any fighting game… that character is…
- Sonic the Hedgehog in SSBB and SSB4 with his sickening “You’re too slow” taunt. No amount of therapy can make a person unhear those words. Childhood obliterated.
Despite a rather dark turn to this guide, there is much glory to be had with taunts. Will you choose the flashy prop professional route, or go with the more subdued apathetic warrior approach? Do you want to use these powers for good or evil? Do you even play fighting games? If not, hats off to you for sitting through, possibly, one of the most confusing moments of your time on the Internet today. If so, you know how much time and effort goes into the finer details of honing your skills in spacing, combos, patience and aggression. Master those tools and you’ll become a skilled fighter. However, master the way of the taunt and you are a true combatant armed with the potential to instigate earth-shattering upsets or provoke mind games of megaton levels. Until then… everything else is just a game.