Please note that this article contains spoilers for the whole of the Tekken franchise, including the titular Tekken 8. You have been warned.

Let's Iron FistTekken has quietly been one of the most reliable fighting games in videogame history. Street Fighter took years off while it tried to find itself after the fall of arcades, Mortal Kombat went 2-D to 3-D to 2-D again (and started some kart racing somewhere in there), and BlazBlue is currently missing with whereabouts unknown. But ol’ reliable Tekken has not missed a single iteration of the Playstation, even taking the time to grace the Playstation Portable with a unique port. And it has always been Tekken! If you play as a character that has been in every single Tekken title (like Paul Kuma) you will find they are consistent in graphics and gameplay from 1994 straight through to 2024. You cannot say that about taking Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury to Maximum Impact.

So we now have an even thirty years of Tekken titles. With such a steady franchise, how do you compare the individual games? Simple! You look at their final bosses! That should give us a good look at how the franchise has evolved over the decades.

Final Boss:
Heihachi Mishima

Primitive!A year after Virtua Fighter, the arcades were graced with a 3-D fighter featuring no less than two cat people. Tekken showcased a glorious future of polygons fighting to see who would be the sharpest cube in the world. And Tekken had another significant innovation: it was filled with assholes. Most fighting games attempt to include characters that are sympathetic or heroic (or, at the very least, not likely to murder you in your sleep). Tekken made its “hero” a trust fund brat that really wants to kill his dad (and maybe everyone else on the planet), and left the rest of the cast to either be generic as heck (Law, Paul), or nebulously murderous (Nina, Yoshimitsu, Jack). King the Luchador and Michelle the token Native American were the best (morally) of the bunch, but they also barely had anything to do with The King of the Iron Fist Tournament. So who was the champion this time? Heihachi.

Heihachi is definitely a “first entry” final boss. In a game containing bears, robots, and robot ninja, Heihachi is just a dude that has no fear of showing off his abs. And that’s Sagat! That’s Raidou! But perhaps it is a statement of strength that this man can pummel robots and assassins alike with his bare (iron) fists. And he has some manner of plot relevance. As Heihachi is the abusive father of Kazuya, the dude with iconic gloves and a wannabe dragon punch, his standing as the final obstacle to overcome makes sense. Boring, but appropriate.

And then they had to take it up a notch…

Tekken 2
Final Boss:
Devil Kazuya Mishima

LASER BLOCKSTekken 2 earned a whole new iterative number, but it is basically Super Tekken: Championship Edition. Same general gameplay, marginally expanded roster, new moves, and a graphical upgrade that one would expect from evolving polygons born of the mid-90’s. But there is one significant reason that Tekken 2 earned its title: the plot did actually move forward. Kazuya defeated Heihachi at the finale of Tekken, and now he is not only the boss of the enterprise, but he is a literal demon to boot.

Somehow this boss made the biggest impact on Tekken as a whole. Was it because Tekken 2 was immensely popular? Or because the protagonist turning into an evil wannabe vampire worked for Legacy of Kain? Whatever the source, Kazuya gaining the moderate fighting upgrade/skin of devilry transformed this otherwise forgettable dude without a shirt into the driving force of the franchise. “The Devil Gene” would become the most important part of the overall Tekken plot, and Kazuya was firmly proven to be the eternal bad boy of Tekken (even worse than his first-boss father!).

So, in retrospect, it is kind of weird when they immediately killed ‘em…

Tekken 3
Final Boss:
True Ogre

FIRE TIMETekken 3 was the most obvious step forward the Tekken franchise ever experienced: it is a “time-skip” story where old fighters have become old (well, at least Paul and Law), and a new generation of warriors are available. And what happened to the fighters who did not return? Ogre ate ‘em! Ogre, a hulking green god, “borrowed” moves from a bevy of missing fighters, and it was heavily implied that any veterans not appearing in Tekken 3 had been defeated and absorbed by the latest antagonist. And, man, you just don’t see that kind of final boss clout anymore. Ogre was lean, mean (green), and responsible for the deaths of dozens of fighters. And you have to fight him! What chance would you have!? And then when you beat his “human” form, he transforms like Kazuya, except his True Ogre form is gigantic and unprecedented in this or any other fighting game franchise. Gill might have been able to restore his own life bar, but he didn’t take up half the screen…

Unfortunately, history has not been kind to Ogre. As of Tekken 8, it has been confirmed that Ogre had a body count of zero, and all those missing fighters just happened to take the day off for Tekken 3. Ogre also has never returned to the franchise in anything but a non-canon appearance, which is more than we can say for…

Tekken 4
Final Boss:
Heihachi Mishima (again)

Diaper TimeIt probably should have been noted (no time for editing now!) that Tekken 3’s new hotness was the son of Kazuya, Jin. Jin was the literal posterchild of the game, and his optimistic quest to defeat a malevolent god that murdered his mom was a strikingly straightforward change of pace for the series. The protagonist is an undeniable hero! Naturally, we had to wade back into the gray for Tekken 4, where Jin gets all sad about his grandfather turning out to be Karate Hitler, and his father (Kazuya!) is revived through dark sciences. Jin now has to grapple with his devilish lineage, and the main thrust of the plot is that he is wearing a Sad Hoodie until conditions improve.

Perhaps as a metaphor for depression, this sucks all the fantasy out of the franchise for a game, and the vast majority of combatants are normal dudes and ladies with normal dude and lady problems (and one Spank Bot). So the final boss is once again Heihachi, and all the imagination of the franchise had to stick to Tekken Tag Tournament with the half-werewolf, half-naked lady (long story).

Tekken 5
Final Boss:
Jinpachi Mishima

EAT GRAMPANow we are striking a balance: The final boss of Tekken 5 is a Mishima, Jinpachi, the father of Heihachi. But! He was entombed by his son a couple decades back, was possessed by an angry ghost, and is now a monster man with multiple mouths and the ability to spew fire. That’s the good stuff! Jinpachi is a final boss of the highest caliber, as he is plot-relevant, franchise-relevant, reveals a new facet to a significant chunk of the cast, and is just plain cool. Going to go ahead and call this here: this is the best final boss that has ever appeared in the franchise. Tekken 5 can sleepwalk into accolades, even if it did inexplicably include a mundane 105-year-old on the roster.

Tekken 6
Final Boss:

I don't feel like playing Tekken 6 right now… And then they went too far. It was only a matter of time before someone wanted to toss an origin for the Mishima Devil Gene in there, so we got a demon death god that had been sealed for thousands of years and was only awakened thanks to Jin and Kazuya punching each other. And, while fighting mythological creatures has worked before, Azazel is… kind of confusing. Ogre succeeded because he was a threat to the main character, 90% of the playable cast, and 100% of the absent cast (‘cuz he killed ‘em all). Azazel is a threat to the world at large, but only a couple of newbies (that, I might add, feel like characters that would be more at home in SoulCalibur) seem to care that he exists at all. The main focus of Tekken 6’s story wound up being another Mishima sibling (Lars! The Swede!) and his robot girlfriend, so the final conflict of Tekken 6 is once again a cross battle between super strong warriors with terrible haircuts. Azazel is a MacGuffin amongst the usual family drama, and thus defeating a death monster is somehow anticlimactic. According to Tekken lore, Azazel used to literally rule the world until humanity overthrew him… but can we just get back to deposing the guy that isn’t wearing a shirt?

Tekken 7
Final Boss:
Kazumi Mishima

Akuma was better, thoughThe final boss is a woman for the first time in a canon game! That took forever! And she finally fills in the gap on the family tree of explaining what kind of weirdo would marry Heihachi (she’s friends with Akuma, so she clearly cannot perceive personality disorders, and she may or may not be in the relationship for murder-adjacent reasons) and how that lovely Devil Gene dodged the family patriarch (it’s on Kazuya’s mother’s side). Kazumi (naturally) kicks ass as a martial artist (how else could she survive a love affair with Heihachi?), and her ability to go devil mode means we get an excellent redux of the finale of Tekken 2 (but now with tigers!). And, while we technically do not have parity between story mode and arcade mode for Tekken 7, the finale of T7’s story mode is all about the rivalry between Kazuya and Heihachi, and you better believe mama’s influence is felt throughout the fight. Oedipus complexes aren’t just for Final Fantasy protagonists!

Tekken 8
Final Boss:
Devil Kazuya Mishima (again)

Stop having so many eyesAnd we end where we began (kinda): the final boss of Tekken 8 is (mostly) Kazuya. Stupid ol’ Azazel takes center stage for a handful of arcade characters, but Kazuya is the be-all, end-all in every other situation. He even absorbs Azazel and upgrades to True Devil Kazuya in story mode! So we have regular Kazuya boss fights for the pathos, Devil Kazuya boss fights to have something cool and difficult, and True Devil Kazuya for when everybody gets launched into space and we have to have an RPG boss fight as the capper for a thirty-year-long story. Way to go, Tekken 8! It took a long while to get here, but you finally have a final boss that fits every available criteria perfectly! Laser eyes and anguish! What more could we need!?

SBC #35 Kazuya & Tekken 8

Kazuya in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

He can have his own bear

  • He any Good? Major props to the Smash Bros. team for making a fighting game character that plays like they were just teleported out of their main franchise. Kazuya feels like a Tekken character that just happens to be punching Kirby right now. Given the whole “Iron Fist” thing, some of those specials feel superfluous to punching like a madman, but who could say no to devil transformations? Be the bad guy you were always meant to be, Kazuya!
  • That final smash work? Final Blaster’s laser beams are more of a Gradius thing than a Tekken thing. I do not care if this was canonically used in Tekken 7! It is an immensely useful move (you don’t have to aim lasers), but it is a shame he missed out on the transformation-based final smashes of earlier games. Predicting True Devil a game early would have been fun.
  • The background work? Mishima Dojo is one of those boring fighting game stages that is enhanced by a low ceiling that makes everything entirely too cramped. And cramped is a good thing! I feed on chaos! Heihachi being relegated to a background cameo is vaguely sad, though. It’s his dojo, let the old man participate.
  • Classic Mode: Fighting fists with fists. The opening battle against Ryu would have been more significant if Street Fighter x Tekken hadn’t already happened. Other than that, we have got the usual group of fist-based fighters, with a gang of Mii Brawlers standing in for Tekken Force. The finale is Kazuya followed immediately by Metal Kazuya. Iron Kazuya? Whatever. It is a reference to Tekken 2, and I will take it.
  • Smash Trivia: Kazuya is the only smasher to have committed patricide (or attempted it, if Tekken 7 winds up getting retconned). Oh! Wait! Shulk killed his dad, too. Weird that both of those characters have met KOS-MOS, too.
  • Love the pants

  • Amiibo Corner: A vaguely boring amiibo doing Ken’s general pose in an angrier fashion. The gold piping on the belt and the side of the pants with the slightly off flesh tone of the scar are excellent usages of accents and color.
  • Does Smash Bros Remember Today’s Game? Given Kazuya is more featured in Tekken 8 than any previous Tekken title since Tekken 2, I am willing to say that Smash Bros. including this nepo baby as the Tekken rep bolstered Kazuya’s standing. Without Smash Bros., Tekken 8 might be about that purple girl.

Kazuya in Tekken 8

  • Purple time!System: Playstation 5, Xbox X|S, and PC. Not arcade, though! This is the first Tekken game to not appear in your local arcade ever. So RIP to your local arcade.
  • Number of players: It’s two, right? I only see two fighters on the screen, so it must be two.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: It’s another Tekken game! What more do you need to know? Punch, kick, occasionally remember you have a throw, and eventually you win everything. The gameplay has been consistent for decades, and I am here for it. My only complaint is that the current state of gaming means that “a new fighting game” is practically a beta release, and the rest of the roster will gradually fill in over the next two years. So I have to wait a few months for even the possibility of Michelle…
  • Favorite Character: I barely remember him being in Tekken 7, but Claudio Serafino has a fun moveset. And I can pretend he is just a Qunicy from Bleach with his whole silly quasi-religious exorcist motif. He even has a magical arrow! Come to think of it, it is miraculous this guy hasn’t gained an “angel form” to combat all the devils running around.
  • What about Reina: Reina, one of the few new characters in Tekken 8, plainly states that Heihachi is her father, thus validating every fan theory put forth from the moment she was revealed to the public. Boring! I was really hoping for some nonsense where she was the female body double for Heihachi to return as a teenage girl. There is precedent in the genre! Even if she turns out to be a test tube devil-baby, the fact that she thinks of herself as Kazuya’s sister is rote.
  • Just the worst: It wouldn’t be a Tekken game if the story mode didn’t inexplicably descend into a beat ‘em up game for a chapter or two. And, great news, it is terrible! Just absolute garbage! It seems like the only excuse this time is to find a place to stick all the characters that are ostensibly helping in Story Mode, but do not have an actual opportunity to help the plot move along. So they fought like twenty Jacks, and that saved the day. Great. Now let’s go back to a good beat ‘em up, like Death by Degrees.
  • Watch it, Buddy: Speaking of story mode, we played through that whole thing one night on Even Worse Streams. Here it is!

    We beat all of Story Mode there, with a little bit of arcade mode. Jeanie, BEAT, fanboymaster, Ample Vigour, Cassandralyn and I all miss Beef Not Afraid.

  • Mom is back!Ninja Problems: Both BlazBlue and Tekken introduced characters that were making fun of the concept of cool ninja (Bang and Yoshimitsu, respectively), and then waited a few games before introducing ninja that are treated seriously as grave threats (Hibiki Kohaku and Raven). One of those “it’s weird that it happened twice” moments in gaming. See also: Bob/Rufus, and Sakura-Karin and Asuka-Lili. Wait! Maybe Tekken just doesn’t have an original bone in its body…
  • Translation Issues: Everyone speaks their native language (more or less), which includes Kuma (who speaks bear) and Azazel (who speaks Death God). The only character that has an issue with being multilingual is Bryan. Bryan speaks in maniacal laughter, and nothing else. It is impossible to tell if he understands anybody.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I captured every last moment I was playing Tekken 7, but never found an angle for an article on that one. Probably for the best that I didn’t force it, but sorry all the same.
  • Did you know? Every time a hat gets knocked off someone during a fight, I spend the entire rest of the match wondering if anyone is going to pick it up. No one ever does. I am bothered on a molecular level.
  • Would I play again: It is the latest Tekken game, so of course I am going to be playing it intermittently through this console generation. I am downright hoping for another Tekken 7 situation where the roster is unrecognizable after a season pass or four. And I will keep playing until I find out.

What’s next? Is it getting chilly in here? Because if nobody plays with that thermostat, we might have some ice climbing. Please look forward to it!

I feel like I have seen this move somewhere before

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