One player may compete against the computer, or two players may simultaneously compete against each other. Each player has an 8-way joystick and 4 buttons.
The buttons on the arcade are typically laid out in the following fashion:
Though they might as well be laid out like this:
The joystick works intuitively in that pressing left will generally move your character left, and pressing right will generally move your character right. But it is more important to think in terms of relative direction.
- If your character is facing to the right, then pressing left on the joystick means backward, and pressing right on the joystick means forward.
- If your character is facing to the left, then pressing left on the joystick means forward, and pressing right on the joystick means backward.
For this reason, all movelists assume that your character in standing on the left side, facing right. If you are standing on the opposite side, reverse directions.
 How to Play
Each battle consists of 3 rounds between you and your opponent. At the start of each round, both player's life or health bars are full. The first player to drive the other player's health bar to zero wins the round. The first player to win 2 rounds wins the match and moves on to the next opponent. If a single player loses to the computer, the game is over and the player must continue to rematch the recent opponent.
To win a round, the player must use his or her character's attack moves to damage the opponent, and block or dodge the opponent's attacks. Each player may attack from a standing or crouching position, or they may jump in to the air and attack. To attack from a standing position, press any single attack button. To attack from a crouching position, pull the joystick in a downward direction (including both diagonals) and press any single attack button. To attack from the air, direct your character to jump straight up, or jump in a diagonal position, and press any single attack button in mid-air.
To block an attack, a player must push backwards on the joystick when the opponent attacks (otherwise, pressing back on the joystick moves the player away from the opponent.) Blocking can be done standing which blocks middle and high attacks, as well as attacks in the air, but does not block attacks which are low to the ground. Blocking can also be down crouching by pressing the joystick diagonally down and back. A Crouching block will successfully block low and middle attacks. High attacks will usually go over your character's head if they are crouching, but a crouching block does not defend against air attacks.
 Special Attacks
In addition to normal attacks there are attacks known as command moves and special moves. Command moves are special combinations of a joystick direction and a particular attack button that produces a different attack than when the button is pressed alone. A special move is a move that requires a more complicated joystick motion and an attack button to perform. Special attacks can be blocked like any other attack, but they do what's known as "tick damage." That is, even when blocked, they removed a single hit point from your health bar. Most special moves have a pause associated with them that leave you vulnerable to attack if you miss the opponent, or "whiff".
Fatal Fury 1, Fatal Fury 2 and Fatal Fury Special include a special system, where your fighters can fight on 2 different planes. When you and your opponent are on different planes, it is not possible to perform special attacks. You can still move around on your plane, but each normal attack causes a so called 'plane attack', which means that your fighter will jump onto the other plane to attack the opponent. In FF1, only opponents can initialize plane switches, but in FF2 and FFS fighters can switch planes by pressing +.
Fatal Fury 3 uses a different system with 3 instead of 2 planes. Your fighters are usually at the middle plane, but plane switches can be performed to move either to the upper (+) or the lower (+) plane. But in difference to the earlier Fatal Fury games, these plane switches are only temporary. This means that the fighters will return to the middle plane by themselves after a few seconds.
The last form of attack available in this game is a throw. Throws are executed by standing immediately next to your opponent, pressing the joystick either towards or away, and pressing a certain button (usually or ). If performed correctly, your character will grab the opponent and toss them to the ground in a manner specific to your character's fighting style. Different characters might have a different array of throws with more complicated commands associated with them. Throws are unblockable.
 Taunting (FF2 & onward)
By pressing the C Button while far away from the opponent, you can taunt your enemy. This doesn't have any real impact on the game, but makes it more likely that a human player will attack you. Taunting always leaves you vulnerable for enemy attacks, so it should be used with caution.
 Quick Escape (FF2 & onward)
By pressing the joystick in the backward direction twice make a fast retreat (to get out of a dangerous situation). The joystick must be pressed pretty fast for the escape to work. Fatal Fury 3 also allows you to press the joystick in the forward direction twice to dash toward the opponent and make a surprise attack.
 Desperation Moves
After the player character lost a certain amount of life energy, his life bar will start flashing. This allows you to perform a desperation move. Desperation usually include a complicated input pattern, but the also inflict large amounts of damage.
 Hidden Desperation Moves (FF3 only)
Fatal Fury 3 allows you to perform special Desperation moves called Hidden Desperation Moves. There is a complete page dedicated to those moves here.