In 1987 Capcom developed a 3D version of Fighting Fist calling it Dragon Fighter, name with which the series will be famous, abandoning definitely 2D mechanics. It was the the first arcade fighting game to feature fully 3D polygon graphics. The images were created using wireframe and flat-shaded quads. Beyond 3D, it retained the staple of multiple characters, each with their own distinctive moves. Unlike Fighting Fist, Dragon Fighter allows the player to control each of the fighter's four limbs independently. The player can watch the animation on screen and figure out the appropriate command (if the character kicks low with their right leg, the move is likely to be executed by pressing down and right kick, or a similar variation).
Dragon Fighter was the first one-on-one fighting game to give players a choice from a variety of player characters (both two main characters and all the unplayable ones from the previous version with four inedited ones), an option which created hitherto unknown levels of depth and replay value for an arcade game. Each player character had a fighting style with roughly 30 or more moves, including previously nonexistent grappling moves such as throws, as well as two or three special hidden attacks per character. In the game's single-player mode, the player's chosen character is pitted against eight other main characters before confronting the final two opponents (Adon and Sagat). Like in Fighting Fist, a second player could join in and compete against the other player in competitive matches, with the multiple available characters allowing for more varied matches. The objective of each round is to deplete the opponent's vitality before the timer runs out. By default, there will be two rounds of combat. However, the players have a choice from one to five rounds, as well as options for the time limit of each round. If the winning character retains all of his or her health without the time having run out, the announcer will say, "Perfect!" If the winning character is near knock out, the announcer will call, "Great!" Occasionally, both characters will be knocked out simultaneously, and the announcer will call "Double Knock Out". If the time limit for the round expires, the character with more health will be declared the winner. If one does not exist, is declared and additional rounds will be played until sudden death.
- Adon (hidden sub-boss)
- Sagat (hidden final boss)
- In this game, as well as Fighting Fist, there is no female character.