A celebration of gaming’s most satisfying mechanic

Is there anything in gaming more satisfying than nailing a perfect parry? Brushing away damage with a risky counter never gets old, and with a few games adding their own lately, we decided to look back at some of the best.

The parry is a mainstay of modern combat-centric games, giving players an alternative to blocking or dodging where the risk is much greater than the safer options, but the reward is potentially much greater if you do manage to pull it off. This element of having to actively put yourself in harm’s way to get the flashy outcome you’re going for makes every successful parry feel incredible, and the mechanic is one that can not only lead to games that use it well being absolutely incredible to watch when played even slightly well, but also to empowering players with a tool that is both satisfying in itself — partially thanks to effects and audio that celebrate your success in real-time — and rewarding from a gameplay perspective, often leading to severe punishes.

The first game featured here might be one of the most iconic titles to feature parrying, but it was far from the first, with the mechanic dating way back to the early years of gaming. 1986 Famicom Disk System Zelda-like The Mysterious Murasame Castle was one of the earliest examples, letting players deflect projectiles with a well-timed swing of their sword to make the chaotic samurai action a little more manageable (and entertaining), with parrying later normalised in fighting games by 1994’s Samurai Shodown II. There have been so many great examples over the years that we’re spoiled for choice these days when it comes to parrying. Still, here are just a few fantastic Xbox games from over the years where the simple act of brushing off damage makes you feel like a living legend.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike’s Evo Moment #37 is pure hype

If we’re going to talk about parrying, there’s no other place we could start than with Street Fighter III. Capcom’s 1997 fighter New Generation introduced the mechanic, but it would be 1999 revision 3rd Strike that was responsible for making it a sensation thanks to one of the most impressive and well-known competitive gaming moments — Daigo’s seemingly impossible comeback against Justin Wong in the semi-finals of Evo 2004. Parrying in Street Fighter III involves making a forwards input precisely as an attack lands, meaning you forgo the option to block in exchange for potentially getting frame advantage and negating chip damage. Here, Chun-Li’s super would have chipped Ken to take the KO had Daigo blocked, so that incredible 15-strong perfect parry string, which even has to be predicted before the super flash goes off, was Daigo’s only out, and the snazzy air parry on the last hit gave Daigo just enough extra damage with the jumping attack opener of the punish combo to take the round and move on to the final. Where he would ultimately lose, but nobody talks about that… they just talk about the time a player was able to nail 15 consecutive perfect parries and a perfect punish in the final stages of a top-level tournament while the crowd was absolutely losing their collective mind. The ‘Daigo parry’ would even feature as a challenge in XBLA re-release Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition, although even if you’re only parrying the odd fireball here and there or baiting out and punishing anti-airs with empty jump-ins, 3rd Strike has one of the all-time great parries.

Monster Hunter Rise Sword & Shield players can swag it up with Metsu Shoryugeki

For weapons that are able to block in Monster Hunter (which is only a few of them), Iceborne introduced a new skill that rewarded perfectly-timed blocks in Offensive Guard, and the skill returns in Rise. This gives you a short but significant damage boost after perfectly timing a block, so the reward here is not so much a bigger window of opportunity to respond as in many games, rather a pure stat boost for your efforts. Some weapons have ‘guard points’ baked into specific moves or combos, so timing these to eat incoming damage with Offensive Guard equipped effectively turns them into parries, and you can take it even further. A handful of moves also retaliate when the guard point is activated, with Sword and Shield’s new Silkbind attack Metsu Shoryugeki being perhaps the flashiest — combine this dragon punch with Offensive Guard and perfectly timing your attack to meet an incoming blow can do ridiculous damage and easily knock out monsters, too. You could argue this is perhaps more a counter than a parry, but unlike typical counter moves, the attack still comes out (albeit as a much weaker version) if you miss the timing, and coupled with the parry properties of Offensive Guard, I think it fits the bill, and it’s just as gratifying as any of the other options covered here. And heck, I’m not going to stop shouting “get parried!” at pretend dragons every time I land it even if it doesn’t count.

SoulCalibur has all kinds of parries going on

SoulCalibur’s suite of defensive options has changed a lot over the years, but it has long had a fine selection of parries to help players knock attacks away instead of just turtling through block strings. Guard Impact (GI) is the most notable, typically assigned to forwards and the block button to deflect an attack and give a window to push the offensive, but its history through the series is too muddled to fully explore here — one version for some reason let opponents cancel the stagger to make GIs actively worse than blocking, another added a ‘draw’ version using back to pull opponents closer rather than knocking them back, and later games would make this parry cost super meter once that was introduced. SCV is a fun one, though, since while Guard Impact itself was changed to drain meter on use, another new option was added to help you style on opponents and create openings — Just Guard. Perfectly timing a quick tap of the block button (as with the Just Frame moves a few characters like Alpha Patroklos were built around) would just ignore damage and chip from any attack, even unblockables for ultimate showboating if you were feeling fancy and with GIs getting adjusted to consume meter, this became the go-to technique for dealing with predictable attacks. Sadly, SoulCalibur VI would remove Just Guard, although a lot more moves and combos seem to have baked-in Guard Impacts so there’s still no shortage of parrying fun to be had if you know what you’re doing.

Devil May Cry’s Royal Guard style turns defence into offence

Devil May Cry 3 was one of the most important action games of (relatively) modern times, and the ability to switch out not only weapons but entire fighting styles is part of what made it so brilliant. Trickster offered agile movement and nimble combos; Gunslinger prioritised ranged damage for those who wanted to play a bit safer; Swordmaster was all about the big melee combos. But it was Royal Guard that proved the flashiest, granting Dante a parry unique to this style that could be used to accrue charge for each successful deflection that could later unleash all that stockpiled power in potentially one of the most powerful attacks in the game. In its original incarnation, picking Royal Guard meant giving up some amazing melee, ranged, and mobility options just to have access to tools that only experts could make full use of, but later games would allow Dante to switch between styles at will, meaning you could eat those slower, more obvious attacks when needed but still have access to the rest of your kit as well — it’s what makes high-level Dante play the most exciting thing to watch in the entire genre as the potential is near-bottomless.

Tekken 7’s universal low parry lets you humiliate fools

Tekken has its fair share of character-specific counter moves, not unlike Dead or Alive’s universal Hold mechanic, but it’s the ability to stuff lows with any character that earns it a mention here. Low jabs in 3D fighting games tend to be among the quickest options available, and on top of that, Tekken is designed around many canned combos that mix up attack height… and if you know when a low is coming, you can absolutely exploit it. Tapping down-forwards to meet an incoming low blow pushes the hit away and throws the opponent to the ground with a bounce that can set up big punishes for many characters. While it’s not easy to land this on reaction to a crouching jab that comes out in a few frames, getting low parries in against characters whose bread-and-butter combos alternate between high, mid, and low is much easier — standing block the first few high/mid hits of a combo then read and punish a later low hit and the tables can turn very quickly.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is literally built around parrying

Stylish action games are rife with parries, but few games have them so deeply embedded into their core systems as Revengeance. Just by sprinting, you naturally repel all gunfire with Raiden’s blade, but it goes far deeper than that. One of the game’s key mechanics is that attacking into an incoming blow with proper timing will knock it aside, so you can’t just mash buttons and see cool things happen — you need to properly time and direct your strikes or you’ll be bleeding out before you know it. This leads to some amazing clashes, especially in certain boss fights (and we all know how good Revengeance’s boss battles are, I would hope) and is a crucial part of not taking damage, which is vital for a bunch of the game’s trickier achievements. Rumours abound about something happening around Revengeance for its 10-year anniversary in late February and we really hope something comes of this — not since 3rd Strike have we seen a game where parrying is such a fundamental part of the game, and it’s a big part of what makes Platinum’s Metal Gear spin-off such a blast.

If you can’t parry, you can’t complete Battle Fantasia

ArcSys’ Battle Fantasia is another fighter that has a parry feature and with its own button, no less. For the most part, the timing of this is really quite lenient (to the point where you can just mash it after the first catch with many multi-hit attacks), but there’s one especially notable exception to this, since it serves as a gatekeeper for the full 1,000G completion. Battle Fantasia’s Perfect Hero achievement asks you to defeat Arcade mode’s final boss on Very Hard difficulty with a perfect victory, so you need to parry absolutely everything he throws at you — including a 22-hit super — to avoid chip damage and grab that P. This means learning to parry several variations of his dash attack, not to mention getting the rhythm down to nail 22 parries in a row when Deathbringer decides it’s time to super. Each of these attacks is fully punishable and parrying earns you a ton of meter, so you realistically ‘only’ need to deflect a few multi-hit dash attacks and that big ol’ super so long as your punishes are on point, but still, it’s not as easy as it looks.

Parrying in Souls games is always rewarding

Bong. That unmistakable metallic boom when you perfectly parry an attack in a Souls game is just marvellous, and while some players prefer to just tank up and eat the hit or roll around like dark fantasy Sonic in the hope of avoiding it, it’s awesome to see the team continually rewarding those who would rather take the risk, and the follow-up attacks are always absolutely brutal. Also, how often do you see a final boss whose attacks can be knocked aside just like the mobs in the starting area? Sure, there are plenty of attacks that can’t be parried across and beyond From’s franchise, but these are fights designed to be learned over the course of multiple runs if needs be, giving those more ambitious players who can’t resist a good parry plenty of time to work out which particular moves they want to be baiting out and punishing. The games even offer non-shield and specifically geared options for parrying (as well as even bigger shields for those who don’t care for having the option… it’s the best of both worlds), with disturbingly good PS exclusive Bloodborne even shifting the mechanic to be based on shooting enemies with limited ammo in order to exploit the opening for a powerful counter.

Capcom vs. SNK 2 lets you mix and match parries from different games

Capcom’s crossover fighters were once reliably some of the best in the genre, but after Street Fighter X Tekken and Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite, it seems they’re not exactly the benchmark they once were. Still, going back to an old favourite that got a release on the original Xbox, CvS2 pulled together characters and mechanics from all kinds of different franchises, down to having a Groove system that determined which systems your team would be able to use. Roll cancelling was so busted that only the Grooves that had access to it were really competitively viable at high level (C, A, and N), but the home port added a neat feature that let you build your own custom Groove using whichever mechanics you wanted from each. Notably for today’s talking point, this included mixing and matching P-Groove’s parry from Street Fighter III with K-Groove’s Just Defend from SNK’s equivalent fighters of the time to create a mashup system that let you swap between both parry variants at will. Even without this, you could still just use those original Grooves for their specific rewards and benefits and have a great time, but custom Grooves were a glorious playground for anyone who loves a good parry, even if neither Groove proved competitively viable.

Hi-Fi Rush’s beat-based parry makes perfect sense

Finally, we reach the game that prompted this discussion. I mentioned in my Hi-Fi Rush first impressions how much of a game-changer its parry turned out to be, and given that everything happens to the beat, it’s theoretically the easiest one on this list to nail consistently. Parries feel great in most games that feature them, but having them sync up with the soundtrack makes them feel even more special, even though as explained just above, this technically makes them less difficult to land. It almost feels like playing Revengeance to a metronome at times, continuining your own attacks when you can but pausing to knock away incoming ones in time with the music as and when you spot them, and it’s a big part of what make’s Tango’s newcomer one of the best games on Game Pass. It feels far more natural so if you’re new to the wonderful world of parrying, this Game Pass delight is a perfect starting point (even if you have to wait until the third level to get the ability), and you can hopefully see from all the wonders presented here how deep the parrying rabbit role goes once you get a taste for it.

Well, those are some of our favourite parries, but what are yours? Any of these particularly special to you, or is there something else we’re missing that deserves a mention? Let us know!

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