14 Best Dead or Alive Games Ever Made (Our Top Picks)

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Few fighter franchises can claim the consistent quality that Tecmo’s Dead or Alive has been delivering ever since its inception in the mid-’90s.

It’s a series that prides itself on its stunning graphical achievements, along with a beginner-friendly combat system that still manages enough depth to keep veterans hooked.

Created by Tomonobu Itagaraki and his Team Ninja to save Tecmo from video game ruin, the series has always managed to set itself apart from other fighters with fast-paced combat revolving around counters and throws rather than strings of 20-hit combos.

That and, of course, the sex-appeal of its characters.

Given the insane amount of releases and re-releases the DOA franchise is known for, I’ve taken it upon myself to rank the best version of each game in the franchise(and its spin-offs) including some that you might be surprised even exist.

Whether you’re here for the badass ninjas or the scantily-clad ladies, let’s dive into the list.

14. Girls of DOA: Blackjack (2009)

Girls of DOA: Blackjack (2009) Kasumi Version

Do you know what’s better than blackjack on your iPhone?

Licensed blackjack with a hot girl as a dealer!

True as that may be, I only included this here as a reminder of what a badly managed IP looks like.

This iOS game had nothing going for it other than Kasumi’s cute face, and has since been taken down from the App Store.

Normally, I deeply regret almost any game being lost to the sands of time. This is an exception.

13. Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 (2006)

Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 (2006) Xbox360 Longplay

Dead or Alive’s Xtreme spin-off series gets a lot of bad press nowadays, and I totally get why.

Where the original DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball was an interesting experiment with beautiful graphics and fun gameplay, DOA Xtreme 2 focuses solely on showcasing the female cast’s many attributes.

Which isn’t usually enough to make a game worth playing.

Still, it’s the first Dead or Alive to feature jiggle physics, which is exactly what I want to see if I’m getting anything from the Xtreme series.

12. Dead or Alive Paradise (2010)

Dead or Alive Paradise (2010) PSP Gameplay

And if you’re one of the reportedly few who enjoyed DOAX2, you’ll be pleased to know an enhanced remake is also available on-the-go.

And that’s probably where it belongs, as a game full of scantily-clad cute girls doing cute things in a beach resort is better suited to take you mind off your commute or the anxiety-inducing wait at the dentist’s office rather than whatever it’s supposed to accomplish in your living room’s TV.

Plus I’m a sucker for the PSP in general.

And despite the gameplay being little more than flirting with the girls and enjoying the view, I like watching the graphics this little widescreen machine is capable of delivering.

11. Dead or Alive (1996)

Dead or Alive (1996) Arcade Version

Don’t read this relatively low position on the list as a lack of appreciation for the original Dead or Alive, but rather as a celebration of the progress Team Ninja managed in subsequent releases.

The developer’s objective with DOA was to put out a game that would sell and garner a fanbase, and questions of innovation or creativity were frankly secondary.

The game can and has been described as a sexy version of Virtua Fighter 2, but it’s different enough not to feel like a mere clone.

Its easy-to-learn fighting mechanics and beautiful graphics made it a fan favorite on the Sega Saturn and PS1, paving the way for future releases.

10. Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Scarlet (2019)

Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Scarlet (2019) Playthrough

Look, I perfectly understand the arguments made against DOAX3 in most professional reviews.

But as a fan of the series, I think critics are missing the point entirely.

While it’s true that the game lacks substance in gameplay terms, that’s not what people are playing the Xtreme series for.

They play them for the girls, for the dream of sharing an easy life in a tropical paradise with unrealistically cute ladies.

And this game goes above and beyond to deliver just that.

The characters look gorgeous, the events are fun to watch – even the “butt battles” – and the PS4 version even has VR functionality.

It’s a state-of-the-art happiness simulator, and I’ll stand by it until I’m canceled on Twitter.

9. Dead or Alive 4 (2005)

Dead or Alive 4 (2005) Xbox360 Longplay

This XBOX360 launch title was also the last game with Tomonobu Itagaraki at the helm, after which he resigned from Tecmo, saying he’d done all he wanted with the DOA franchise.

While I’d normally be appalled that the series went on without him, much like I am that Metal Gear Survive is a thing after Kojima left Konami, this is a… different situation.

You see, the game tries hard to shake up DOA’s frankly stagnant combat by making counter-moves harder to pull off and tweaking some other things.

But the results are questionable at best.

For the sake of Itagaraki’s legacy, I’m glad Team Ninja went on to make Dead or Alive 5.

8. Dead or Alive: Dimensions (2011)

Dead or Alive: Dimensions (2011) Gameplay Chapter 1

Where most fighter franchises are contempt with porting downgraded versions of their games for portable consoles and calling it a day, Team Ninja developed Dimensions specifically for the 3DS to make the best possible DOA experience on the system.

The result is a solid fighter which also featured a larger roster than any previously seen in the series.

Dimensions also made history as the first DOA on a Nintendo console.

The gameplay is surprisingly fluid considering the hardware and manages to stay at a stable 60FPS as long as 3D is turned off.

Worth a try if you can get your hands on a copy.

7. Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (2003)

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (2003) Xbox

Who would’ve thought back when DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball came out that the spin-off would spawn such a controversial series?

For my hormone-ridden teen brain, this game was the Holy Grail, and considering the positive reviews it got back in the day, I wasn’t exactly alone in my praise.

Other than the titillating aspects, it was a solid volleyball simulator with some interesting social sim elements for added depth.

This was the first Dead or Alive game I ever noticed. And you can imagine how confused I was to find only fighting games when looking into the franchise.

6. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round (2015)

Dead or Alive 5: Last Round (2015) Kasumi vs Kokoro

Developed by Team Ninja with heavy involvement from Sega AM2, responsible for the Virtua Fighter series, DOA5 was meant to save the franchise from its apparently inevitable decline after DOA4 failed to impress anyone.

With a revamped control system, a robust online element and a heavier emphasis on providing players with a flashy cinematic experience, Dead or Alive 5 did just what it set out to do.

Looking at its stunning graphics, which include realistic dirt and sweat build-up on the characters, it’s honestly amazing this game can remain so fluid.

5. Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore (2000)

Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore (2000) PS2 Gameplay

The second installment in the DOA franchise is also one of the most celebrated, not only because of its stellar graphics – which have aged wonderfully – but because of the innovations it brought with it.

For starters, it introduced Tag Mode. Which featured special throws if the player picked certain characters together.

It also puts a heavier emphasis on the rock-paper-scissors aspect of its combat, settling on throws, holds and blows to define the franchise’s combat from then on.

While also available on arcades and the Dreamcast, only the PS2-exclusive Hardcore edition offers 60FPS gameplay.

4. Dead or Alive 6 (2019)

Dead or Alive 6 (2019) Tamaki Arcade

The latest installment in the DOA franchise shocked players with a much more violent style that keeps with its predecessor’s highly-cinematic combat, making every blow look like it hurts.

While the game feels a bit lacking in modes and single-player content, both the wonderful graphics and super-polished, aggressive gameplay make it into one of the best fighters in the current generation.

Any serious fan of the series should at list give this a shot and see what they think.

3. Dead or Alive 5 Plus (2013)

Dead or Alive 5 Plus (2013) PS VITA Gameplay

Among DOA5’s many releases, DoA Plus is the most amazing due to its achievements on the relatively limited hardware of Sony’s current portable console.

Other than mirroring the same quality and fluidity as the home console version, Plus offers players optional touchscreen-based controls, in the first-person perspective, while holding the Vita sideways.

Say what you want, but there’s no way that wasn’t meant to let you admire the game’s female cast in full-body glory.

2. Dead or Alive 3 (2001)

Dead or Alive 3 (2001) Xbox Gameplay

The third installment in the long-running series is also the most controversial – if you ignore the Xtreme titles, that is.

While some believe this carefully polished version of the classic DOA combat seen in the previous two games to be great for both veterans and beginners, others consider it way too forgiving, and therefore somewhat boring.

Still, I think DOA has always been about reaching the widest audience they can with their gorgeous graphics and easy-to-get-into gameplay rather than appealing to the “serious fighter pro” crowd.

1. Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate (2004)

The Great Stages of Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate (2004)

On the other hand, we have a game virtually everyone who’s played it hails as the single best DOA title in existence.

This greatly enhanced version of DOA2 is included in Dead or Alive Ultimate along with the original Dreamcast game, changing the old graphics engine for a tweaked version of the Xtreme Beach Volleyball one.

With less forgiving gameplay than DOA3 that remains easy enough for beginners and a newly-added online mode, this may just be the definitive classic DOA title that everyone should play at least once.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.