The best puppet characters in fighting games

In fighting games, a puppet character is a fighter who moves and commands a secondary person or entity on screen with them. They tend to be difficult to learn, as they require you to successfully manage two or more characters at the same time. But if you can master their complexities, the pressure they generate is unmatched, and they can be some of the strongest characters in their respective games.


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Admittedly, who is considered a puppet and who is not, falls into gray areas. Is a puppet character a character that can place and control other things on screen, or is that just setplay? Is it still a puppet character when you have a duo, but do they generally move and attack as a unit? While many setplay-oriented characters could control various on-screen objects and fit the archetype, here’s a list of ten standout modern-day puppet types if you really want the experience of two fighters in one.

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10/10 Sorceress – DNF duel

Lantern firebomb special move of the sorceress in DNF duel

DNF Duel’s sorceress truly embodies what it means to be a puppeteer, literally pulling the magic strings on her bear puppet, Madd. She has her own useful spells that can set off fireballs, drain the opponent’s magic or even turn them into a puppet. But when she activates Madd, both can work together to produce some of the game’s most technical and unstoppable combos.

There are many strong characters in DNF Duel that are much easier to learn, so it’s not a popular choice. But if you take the time to learn them, you’ll be rewarded with a tricky character that most players aren’t used to fighting.

9/10 Rosalina and Luma – Super Smash Bros.

Rosalina and Luma Smash Bros. Ultimate

The Ice Climbers are probably the first fighters that come to mind when thinking of Smash Bros. characters working as a duo. But they mainly move and fight together, while Rosalina and Luma must divide and conquer.

Rosalina can launch Luma like a projectile and then continue attacking with him from afar, even as she keeps moving and doing her own thing. Don’t get caught between the two or you’ll be adorably double teamed in a barrage of tiny punches and star bits.

8/10 Ken Amada and Koromaru – Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

Ken Amada and Koromaru in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is essentially a game full of puppet characters, as most fight alongside their Personas. But Ken and his dog Koromaru play more asynchronously, with Ken using his long spear and using Koromaru for separate canine attacks.

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Ken’s moves have long range but are slow, so consider using Koromaru to fill in those gaps in his offense. If you like puppet fighters but tend to find them overly complicated, they’re a great choice for beginners, while still having plenty to offer more competitive players.

7/10 Dragon Knight – DNF duel

Dragon Knight performs Dragon Wing Dash Forward MP special move in DNF duel

While puppet characters are one of the least common fighting game archetypes, here’s another one from DNF Duel that’s actually one of the game’s most popular characters – the Dragon Knight. She commands her dragon Astra at her side in battle, and when they work together they have explosive combo and confusion potential.

DNF Duel hasn’t attracted a large player base which is a shame given their excellent roster. If you’re looking for a competitive puppet type that’s still fairly easy to pick up, Dragon Knight is another character that’s great for both beginners and pros alike.

6/10 Zooey – Granblue Fantasy: Versus

Granblue Fantasy: Versus Zooey in RPG mode

Zooey from Granblue Fantasy: Versus is another swordswoman with a dragon helper, and given their similarities, she was likely an influence on the team at DNF Duel when they adapted DNF Duel’s Dragon Knight from Dungeon Fighter Online into DNF Duel.

Zooey has a little more control over her dragon Wyrn’s positioning and movements, but he has his own gauge that she must monitor as well. She actually plays very differently from Dragon Knight and is one of Granblue’s funniest and most versatile characters. But since they have so much in common, it makes sense to put Zooey right after her on this list.

5/10 Shadow Labrys – Persona 4 Arena Ultimate

Shadow Labrys in Persona 4 Arena Ultimate

While Ken and Koromaru are Persona 4 Arena’s cuter duo, if you’re looking for a more technical character from the game, try Shadow Labrys (or “Shabrys” as she’s sometimes called) and her gargantuan Persona, Asterius.

Asterius is huge and just floats in the bottom next to Shabrys, popping up for punches, lasers, and other screen-filling attacks. And while Shabrys can count on him for effective cover and has solid moves of her own, she also has the lowest health in the game, making mistakes costly.

4/10 Tom and Jerry – MultiVersus

Tom and Jerry MultiVersus

Tom and Jerry fight as a team in MultiVersus, but many of their attacks actually see Tom going after Jerry with a hammer, trash can lids, and all sorts of crazy props. Seemingly more concerned about each other than their opponents, the damage they wreak is the random byproduct and devastation of Tom’s pursuit.

It’s a brilliant way to bring the sensibility of a classic Tom and Jerry cartoon to the battlefield, but the furry foes can also work together. Once separated from Tom, Jerry can attack from afar, and they can even play tennis and smack a ball projectile back and forth between them.

3/10 Jack-O’ – Guilty Gear

Jack-O' plays with her robot minions in Guilty Gear Strive

In Guilty Gear Strive, Jack-O has been completely remastered with puppet mechanics and more direct control over her spirit minions. She can throw up to three ghosts onto the field at once, telling them to attack, protect, or even explode.

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While she has some decent normal attacks herself, she really needs to apply pressure with her minions to succeed, leading to chaotic situations where there are at least five different characters on-screen between you, your spirits, and your opponent at one time . She’s a rewarding, effective character puzzle for those who figure her out. But even if you don’t, the hilarious climbing while juggling a stage full of misplaced ghosts is some of the funniest you’ll ever have in a fighting game.

2/10 Carl Clover- BlazBlue

BlazBlue, Nirvana defends Carl Clover

Carl Clover has been with BlazBlue since its inception, and few characters are as emblematic of the puppetry style as he is. Carl fights alongside his automaton Nirvana (who was actually his sister – that’s a long story) and is all about the confusion that can arise when situations arise where it’s really two against one.

It’s good strategy to try and keep Nirvana between you and your opponent, and while she’s brawling, Carl can use his speed to create unblockable setups and some of the strongest pressures in the game. He has low health and a steep learning curve, as is usual for puppeteers. But he plays a big part in the BlazBlue competitive meta and likely helped inspire the designs of many of the other characters on this list.

1/10 Zato-1 – Guilty equipment

Zato-1 in Guilty Gear Strive

Puppet fighters are more of a modern phenomenon, but one of the founding fathers of the archetype is Guilty Gear’s Zato-1, who’s been around since 1998. Zato is an assassin who fights with the Forbidden Beast Eddie, a black amorphous creature that inhabits his shadow.

As Zato, you guide Eddie across the ground and he can transform into all sorts of helpful things, including drills, a sword and even a shark. In Guilty Gear’s long history, Zato died and was controlled by Eddie for a time before later being revived. But for many in the fighting game community, the fan base for this true master of puppetry remains undying nearly 25 years later.

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