Epic Rivals: Ryu and Ken

Jun 11 2020 4 min read

Epic Rivals is a new series in which we take a look at the rivalries that make our favorite fighting games and the FGC burn with passion. Let's dive into Ryu and Ken's rivalry

Epic Rivals is a new series in which we take a look at the rivalries that make our favorite fighting games and the FGC burn with passion. From players to characters, we touch upon their struggles, dreams, and the stories behind it all. Rivalries are synonymous with fighting games, so it makes sense that we start off with one of the oldest of all in the genre; Street Fighter's Ryu and Ken Masters. 

Epic Rivals: Ryu and Ken


Ryu is a Japanese martial artist that was raised by his adoptive father, Ansatsuken master, Gouken. The orphan went on to study the art under the master's tutelage alone but was soon joined by Ken Masters, the son of Gouken’s old friend from America. Heir to a sizeable fortune, Ken was sent to Japan to learn discipline, humility, and respect, lest he become a spoilt child and eventually squander his family's riches. This gave birth to a strong friendship and rivalry that both boys would nurture into adulthood.

In their early 20’s, Gouken eventually declares their training complete, so both young men part ways to pursue their own paths. However, at pivotal moments in their lives, they’ve reunited to stop evil threats, rekindle each other’s fighting spirit, and see who had grown the most since their last meeting.

While Ken went on to became a U.S. martial arts champion, Ryu traveled the world to continue his training. Along the way, they’ve helped thwart the plans of Shadaloo, the Secret Society, and S.I.N.

Epic Rivals: Ryu and Ken


Ken was originally a palette swap of Ryu in the original Street Fighter game (1987) and its sequel, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991). While he did have one move that was visually different from Ryu’s, it wasn’t until the release of Street Fighter II: Champion Edition that Capcom began to define distinct styles for both characters. 

These styles were crafted from their personalities, with Ken's impetuous and adventurous nature being depicted in his flashy combat that employed multiple hits. Ryu on the other hand, a calm and focused character put an emphasis on power and direct hits. These differences were also eventually applied to their outfits as well, with Street Fighter V's Ken not even wearing his gi properly. 

Ryu discovered in his fight against Sagat during the first World Warrior Tournament that he has a darkness within him called the Satsui no Hado or "Surge of Murderous Intent." When overcome by it, he becomes Evil Ryu and uses techniques similar to their master's brother, Akuma, who also succombed to the darker side of Ansatsuken. Eventually Ryu expels this darkness and it manifests itself as Kage, an entity obsessed with defeating him in battle. 

Ryu's best friend also has a dark side called Violent Ken. The product of M. Bison's brainwashing, his first appearance was in Street Fighter spin-off, SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos (2003), as a sub-boss. He later made it into the mainline Street Fighter series in Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers. Violent Ken wields purple flames in his attacks, possesses faster speed and mobility, and his fighting style is generally more brutal than his normal self. He's also appeared in other media, but not necessarily by that name. 

Epic Rivals: Ryu and Ken

The Score

Street Fighter is a multimedia sensation with widely different versions of its characters and story spread across movies, series, video games and comics. However, Ryu and Ken's rivalry remains constant. Ryu currently holds the highest number of wins, but Ken is always nearby to put Ryu on the straight and narrow whenever he falters. 

Even with what appears to be a losing streak, fans of Ken will continue to root for the American martial artist as he's never heard of the word quit and draws strength from his family and best friend. Ryu and Ken, although fictional characters, define what healthy rivalry is and many members of the FGC have taken it to heart without even realizing. 

Our rivals motivate us to get better, earn our respect after defeating us and we root for them because we prefer them to taste defeat at our own hands. Until the next Epic Rival piece, keep training. 


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