Tom's Guide Verdict
Tekken 8 is a classy fighter that wisely never takes itself too seriously. Sweeping and silly, it uses cutting-edge graphical tech to deliver an experience that is both bruising and beautiful. However, it has too many self-indulgent story mode cutscenes.
Looks and feels superb
Runs brilliantly on Unreal Engine 5
A generous array of modes
Yoshimitsu is still badass
Story mode is too drawn-out
Purists may dislike streamlined controls
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
Platforms: PC, PS5 (reviewed), Xbox Series X/S
Release Date: January 26, 2024
This will make me sound older than the Great Pyramids of Giza: I’ve been playing Tekken since 1998. Ugh. Though that statement probably reads like my knees are about to disintegrate at any second, it points to the undoubted enduring quality of Bandai Namco’s legendary fighting series. Tekken 3 was amazing at the turn of the millennium and it’s a relief to say Tekken 8 operates at a similarly excellent level a quarter of a century on.
Obviously much has changed since the third entry became one of the most iconic games in PS1 history, though the core fundamentals remain similar. Whether playing on an Xbox Series X gamepad or a PS5 DualSense, your fighter’s primary attacks are still mapped to the face buttons — two control your legs, the other two are assigned to punches.
As most iconic gaming franchises invariably do, Bandai Namco has added many layers to its near-mythic fighter over the years. It may not feel like it, but Tekken has been out of the limelight for more than a hot minute. It’s strange to think Tekken 8 is the first game in the series to grace the current console generation. 2017’s Tekken 7 was a fine fighter for its time, but its successor feels more important, taking measured steps forward in a way few flagship titles in this genre have managed in recent times (other than last year’s awesome Street Fighter 6). Find out why it’s one of the best fighting games in a good while in our Tekken 8 review.
The Heat is on
Mechanically, Tekken 8 throws in some new features that add to the spectacle of bouts while simultaneously ensuring a “it’s not over until it’s over” mentality. The last game’s Rage system has been reworked as a new stance called “Heat”. When this state is activated, it grants fighters access to additional combos, alongside bout-changing moves like “Heat Bursts” and a last-gasp “Heat Smash” that eats up a quarter of your opponent’s health bar if you land it.
I personally like these showy tweaks to the formula — mainly because they give players who aren’t very good at Tekken (a.k.a. me) a chance in single-player bouts when the AI goes on a combo rampage. If you’re a skilled series veteran, though, your mileage may vary.
This is a big, broad-reaching fighting game. It’s grand, it’s ambitious and it’s utterly stupid. That last point isn’t intended as a dig, either. I love the fact Tekken can still just about pull off a one-sided love affair/rivalry between a bear and a panda, have them knock seven shades of stuffing out of each other and keep a semi-straight face while doing so.
Tekken 8 is a generous package which somehow avoids feeling overstuffed despite offering a plethora of modes. Spanning a 30-strong roster of fighters (from metallic ninjas who spin like a face-punching carousel to a sage material arts expert with an adorable American Bully), an ambitious (if self-serving) central story mode called “The Dark Awakens” and the cute, evening-eating online Arcade Quest, there’s a lot going on here. Hell, Bandai Namco has even found an excuse to bring Tekken Ball back — the series’ weirdly compelling obsession with beach volleyball is going on three decades.
The Dark Awakens is Tekken at its most Tekken: Knowingly farcical theater that makes most daytime soap operas look highbrow. Yes, father/son duo Kazuya and Jin Kazama are still fighting over their Devil blood in a feud with the fate of the world at stake. And yes, the story is still absolute nonsense.
I do appreciate Bandai Namco’s commitment to the bit, however. Dark Awakens is probably too long, but its production levels are through the roof. Mainly placing you in the shoes of Jin, this globe-hopping, cutscene-heavy campaign revels in silly spectacle and if nothing else, it acts as a strong tutorial for first-time Tekken players; skillfully teaching you new techniques like crouch blocks and throws in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
Arcade Quest is the other major addition. This online mode proves an equally viable method for learning Tekken 8’s beat ‘em up basics, letting you customize a cartoon avatar before competing in virtual arcade tournaments against both AI and human opponents — the game supports crossplay that spans PC, PS5, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S — for virtual cash that can be spent on cosmetic items.
It feels both endearing and all-encompassing, and I spent way more time with Arcade Quest than I was initially planning to without spending any actual real-world currency.
The old school Tekken fan in me also loves that this is a series with one foot still planted in 1998. Ticking off 30-odd Character Episodes brings back fond memories of playing Tekken 3 incessantly just for those 20 second closing FMV sequences (a super stupid but wonderful tradition that lingers on).
The part of me that loved pasting fighters with a tiny manga dinosaur called Gon when I was 13 years old to watch his blink and you’ll miss it final cutscene still delights, such is the franchise’s love for knowingly idiotic cinematics.
My favorite? And don’t worry, this isn’t exactly a Sixth Sense-sized spoiler: British boxer Steve Fox pumping so much iron he makes the Incredible Hulk look puny.
As you can probably tell, Tekken 8 is constantly spinning plates across modes. If this sounds overwhelming if you’re either new to the series or haven’t touched it in a console generation or two, but the scope of the game isn’t all that intimidating. First and foremost, this is a fighter that tries to welcome you in.
The addition of “Special Style" (activated via either LB or L1 on a controller) lets those who aren’t natural combo masters execute strings of moves by bashing single buttons. But if you use Signature Style against a savvy online veteran, you’ll probably get your backside handed to you on a silver platter.
Yet there’s no denying this mechanic provides instant flash for players who may not be in the mood to learn exacting movelists, and it’s sure to give those lacking any real talent for Tekken a fighting chance against the computer.
That’s a roundabout way of saying you don’t need to be a pugilist purist to admire or enjoy Tekken 8. Lords know I’m not. You’re currently reading the words of a dude whose go-to character in Tekken 3 was Eddy freakin’ Gordo. I almost certainly ruined a decade-long friendship because I kept spamming X and O on the original DualShock to relentlessly dance my way to victory.
Thankfully, Tekken 8 doesn’t have a character who feels as ruthlessly cheap as the Capoeira master and in general, the roster feels reasonably well-balanced. This is a game that opens its arms to newcomers without patronizing longtime series stalwarts who’ve gone to the trouble of mastering wall splats and ten-hit combos.
From a technical standpoint, Tekken 8 shines. Playing on PS5, Unreal Engine 5 ensures this is a lush-looking fighter with gloriously detailed character models who dominate the screen. In motion, there’s no doubt bouts remix animations that franchise fans will know extremely well, but that doesn’t detract from the presentation. Tekken 8 feels effortlessly slick and self-assured. I can’t think of a single instance where a sustained drop below 60 frames per second occurred, which is the unbreakable promise any fighting game worth its salt needs to keep.
Tekken 8 verdict: A kingly combatant
The best traditional fighting game since Street Fighter 6, Tekken 8 has reignited a dormant passion in me — I liked Tekken 7 but didn’t consider it a must-play. While I think Bandai Namco’s latest entry falls a tiny bit short of being essential for casual PS5 and Xbox Series X owners, it is “must-experience” if you’re a fighting fan.
From beachball to bear brawls, Tekken 8 proves the series never has lost the spirit of what made The King of the Iron Fist Tournament stand out. There aren’t many modern games that make me feel like a kid while also reminding me just how damn old I’m getting.
As long as Tekken keeps serving up such spectacle-leaden clashes, I’ll keep coming back until my decrepit fingers can no longer clutch a gamepad.
Dave is a computing editor at Tom’s Guide and covers everything from cutting edge laptops to ultrawide monitors. When he’s not worrying about dead pixels, Dave enjoys regularly rebuilding his PC for absolutely no reason at all. In a previous life, he worked as a video game journalist for 15 years, with bylines across GamesRadar+, PC Gamer and TechRadar. Despite owning a graphics card that costs roughly the same as your average used car, he still enjoys gaming on the go and is regularly glued to his Switch. Away from tech, most of Dave’s time is taken up by walking his husky, buying new TVs at an embarrassing rate and obsessing over his beloved Arsenal.