Tekken has never had a reputation as approachable, especially when compared to other fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Despite Namco-Bandai chipping away at that reputation over the last few entries, Tekken games still feel prohibitive to many players.
This makes sense, given the technical controls, multiple stances, and branching combo patterns featured in the game. Given that lots of new players will come into the fold with Tekken 8, a definitive list of the most approachable Tekken characters could help new folks acclimate even more.
1. Paul Pheonix
Paul remains known as one of the better power characters. His combos keep things simple with heavy hits that stun opponents and often fling them across the stage. With a bit of practice, players can master the timings needed for Paul’s punches and kicks to land, and put up a decent fight against more seasoned assailants. Longer combos remain an option, but memorizing a handful of Paul’s two or three-hit combos will get the ball rolling.
When ready to move on, players can get a handle on his larger hits with longer build-ups and his throw combos for a more complex set of options. Paul’s weakness remains the moments between hits that create openings for the opponent. This makes him a potential mismatch for more nimble characters like Law or Steve. If the first hit lands, Paul remains tough for anybody to shake off.
2. Nina Williams
Nina’s moveset has grown considerably throughout the series, with lots of complex combos that mix low and high attacks well. This might make her seem tough to play, but rest assured, she retains most of her more straightforward combos from the PS1 days.
Nina also sports a healthy amount of punisher moves that make opponents think they have an opening when, in fact, they do not. Nina becomes rather deceptive and hard to pin down because of these traps. While she’s not great at handling enemies at range, if players can keep the pressure on their opponent by evading and punishing their attacks, Nina can make them regret accepting a challenge.
3. Michelle Chang
Michelle brings a mix of grabs, throws, and martial arts to the table with a moveset that takes getting used to, but rewards that extra bit of effort. Her suplexes and other wrestling-style moves seem out of place to an opponent, literally and figuratively throwing them off if done right.
Her multicultural background reflects well in her moveset with an eclectic style that includes ranged attacks as well as plenty of ways to punish players close-up.
While not immediately understandable, the wackier style of physics-defying moves Yoshimitsu brings to Tekken remains a fun moveset to explore. New players should not apply most of what other characters have taught them and just embrace the insanity.
As an otherworldly character, Yoshimitzu can unleash scads of strange and powerful moves that, if not dealt with, can quickly end a round. After learning just a few power combos and mastering their timing, anybody can erect a decent challenge for opponents. Going further, Yoshimitsu players can experiment with his high-risk-high-reward sword attacks, flying attacks, and confounding stances.
5. Lei Wulong
Lei Wulong plays similarly to Paul Phoenix in that he focuses on short but powerful combos but also introduces more depth. Lei’s “drunken master” stance can yield good results, too. This stance creates a flow of exaggerated movements that makes potential strikes difficult to anticipate.
On top of that, Lei has a handful of fake-outs and blows that can come from lying down and facing away from the opponent. Memorizing only a few of these moves can get new players into a nice winning groove with Lei.
6. Heihachi Mishima
Another power-focused character, Heihachi Mishima remains an easy character to jump into. While he can leave more openings to get hit mid-combo than most characters, Heihachi can still bring tremendous consequences to opponents caught slipping.
With a moveset that feels very standard most of the time, his combos rarely feel weird or unintuitive. Well-timed stomps and launches deal lots of damage and open opponents up to follow-up attacks. Intermediate knowledge of Heihachi can enable players to vaporize large chunks of enemy health bars in no time.
7. Asuka Kazama
The versatile Asuka has a handful of solid counters and punishers for various situations but also a decent selection of combo-starters and follow-ups that make her rather fun to master. She lacks in the low-attack department but makes up for that with powerful combo extenders and surprising general damage.
Players who like to focus on mid-range and close-up combat should give Asuka a shot.
King remains a fan-favorite for many reasons. Chief among those reasons, King has several grabs that can lead to long chains of uninterrupted holds and throws. If done well, these can wipe the floor with scrubs.
King has much more to offer than that though. A few jumping attacks that can close distance and a healthy range of combos that attack on low and high spots make King more versatile than he tends to get credit for. Given that, newcomers could do a lot worse.
9. Bryan Fury
Bryan Fury makes his best movies in isolated and well-timed explosive moments. These massive blows can launch opponents high into the air and across the level, opening them up for more punishment and throwing them off their game plan. His bigger moves can prove risky, as their lead-up animations telegraph the attack.
However, if these moves start while the opponent recovers from a miss or attempts to close distance, Bryan can make them regret wasting those precious few frames.
10. Marshall Law
Marshall Law sports a rare mix of power and agility but also remains relatively easy to get into. Loosely based on Bruce Lee’s iconic style, Marshall Law plays best when baiting opponents into combos that he can counter and translate into long strings of punishing strikes. Even beginners can juggle their enemies with very basic knowledge of Law’s moveset.
Outside of that, Law’s many poking and prodding close-range hits can chip away at enemy health bars if applied at the right moments. To learn Law generally equates to learning Tekken characters. His fundamental concepts of combo management and counter-attacks exemplify many of Tekken's underlying principles.
Some might make the mistake of thinking that Jack plays like a standard slow-but-powerful character. While he does have a somewhat delayed jab, Jack also has a few tricks up his sleeve that make him a fun starter character.
For instance, Jack can poke enemies with speedy low kicks that can lead to juggling if done right. Also, his long arms can sometimes compensate for a bit of undesired distance. Jack also supports players who want to focus on isolated power moves, assuming the player feels ready to master their timing. While not as approachable as Law or Paul, Jack remains a staple among beginners and intermediates.
Lili has a little bit of everything. New players will appreciate her mid-range kicks and distance-closing combos. More experienced Tekken fans can still get more out of the character with her poking attacks and ability to apply lots of pressure.
Either way, Lili makes a great choice for first-timers with a moveset that samples lots of other styles. Learning her moves can help newbies discover what they like and prepare them for branching out into other, more specialty-focused characters.
13. Eddie Gordo
Eddie Gordo remains infamous for his break dance-style spinning and kicking that can juggle opponents in unpredictable ways. While some of that has been toned down since the days of Tekken 3, it remains a big part of his identity. Simply mashing the kick buttons might get new Eddie players in the door, but expanding on this with his dashing and extensive close-range juggling options can create real headaches for opponents.
Between his disorienting movement and quick pokes Eddie remains a good choice for beginners, despite playing fairly unique compared to other characters.
The pugnacious Bob exists among Tekken characters between the risk/reward ratio of Bryan Fury and the erratic fluidity of Yoshimitsu. With surprising speed, Bob can deal lots of damage and widdle down enemy health bars before they even know what hit them. Powerful ranged hits can bully opponents into playing in a more conservative and predictable manner, making them easier to counter.
Bob might not have a lot of options in close quarters, but he shines bright with a bit of distance and multiple long-range slams and kicks. Since maintaining distance comes naturally to most newcomers, Bob remains a great introductory character.