Why UFC Undisputed 3 Is Still the Best MMA Game

UFC Undisputed 3 is still the best MMA game ever made. Why is it that a game with an outdated roster and PS3 graphics still holds a special place in the hearts of so many players? Let's take a look at the major differences between THQ and EA's approach to MMA gaming.

Why UFC Undisputed 3 is Still the Best MMA Game

If you look at EA Sports UFC 4, especially on YouTube, someone in the comments will always remind you that UFC Undisputed 3 was really the best. It holds such a soft spot in the hearts of players. Many (myself included) keep their PS3s out just to play this one game, whilst completely ignoring the newer versions out there. Looking at the difference in graphics, animation, and rosters, it might seem strange that this is the case. EA has been making games on better hardware, with more money and more expansive fighter deals. Yet, they have never come close to replicating the quality of gameplay available in Undisputed 3.

If you are an MMA fan or even just a fighting game fanatic, read on to see why the game might be just what you’re missing.

How UFC Undisputed 3 gets the feeling of the best fights right

If we take realism to mean games looking like real life, then by no means can it be said that Undisputed 3 is more realistic than EA UFC. UFC Undisputed 3 had pretty great graphics for the time, but they are no longer looking their best. However, simply looking like reality is not all that gives the appearance of being real, or verisimilitude if we are being fancy. The actual feeling of an MMA fight is less apparent in noticing every line of a tattoo than the movements and the push and pull of competition.

All of these are from the same UFC 4 video

All of these are from the same UFC 4 video

Just look at the animations shared by the MMA community, where fans can easily guess the fighter simply by the movements of their outline. The looping shots and ragdoll animations of the newer games completely fail to capture this. Most egregious is the effectiveness of wild spinning attacks. Sure, huge attacks make fantastic highlight reels, but what makes them highlights is, in part, their rarity. 

In Undisputed 3, the strategies that work in real life tend to work in-game. Wrestling against the fence and landing quick jabs are core fundamentals in both. Even if they aren’t as visually exciting, more options add a greater layer of strategy and help the bigger moments of flair shine. This also keeps each bout fresh and different from the last.

Even with the limited roster, you can still reverse this cursed outcome

Even with the limited roster, you can still reverse this cursed outcome

Why UFC Undisputed 3 still has the best grappling

It almost seems crazy to think that a game released in 2012 still has better grappling than the latest editions. I struggle to wrap my head around how bad the latest systems are. Opening a little menu to move between set positions is incredibly immersion-breaking. When you have a dynamic-looking and dynamic-feeling system sitting right there, its absence is almost criminal. Is there some sunk cost fallacy at play? Why stick with menus?

Most sports games struggle with a lack of flow. Every action seeming to exist in isolation from those around it can make a game look completely unlike reality. This is still somewhat true for UFC Undisputed 3, but it does the best job yet of keeping this from being too noticeable in a combat sports sim. There is very little dead time waiting for things to happen, you are always doing something, even if that is just holding on to force a pause in the action.

The decision to include both simplified and traditional/pro controls means that it is still easy to get the hang of the basics. Meanwhile, the newer games seem afraid to even expect the player to remember what their options are at any time without putting them in the middle of the screen. Especially in simplified mode, Undisputed 3 made your options intuitive even to MMA beginners. 

He shouldn't have let him get close

He shouldn’t have let him get close


As we MMA fans all know, Pride never dies. Through UFC Undisputed 3, you can keep it that way through Pride mode. Being able to take your career mode to Japan and fire off soccer kicks and knees to the head feels worth more than all the modern fighters in the world. The entire meta-game completely shifts in this mode, with completely different positions becoming the most dangerous. Since the fall of Pride, this is all absent from the newer games. This leaves the player with far less variety in the ruleset for fights. What variety does remain, such as KO mode, now lacks the grounding of representing real fight promotions.

The difference in variety extends to the fighters. Though the roster is far more expansive in the newer games, Undisputed 3 made its fighters feel more distinct. The shared move-set, available to every fighter, was incredibly limited. It was necessary to really make use of the fighter’s techniques and avoid situations a fighter is not suited for. Though everyone could go back to their bread-and-butter jabs and crosses, you almost felt you benefited from seeing a fighter IRL as you knew what to aim for. This is in stark contrast to the wide availability of head kicks and spinning techniques in the EA games. It is not just a wide variety of options that make fighters feel real, but also placing specific restrictions on those options. 

Alongside the fantastic core gameplay, it’s this same variety that can keep players coming back to UFC Undisputed 3 even after all these years and the lack of multiplayer support.

UFC Undisputed 3 Gameplay: Alistair Overeem vs. Brock Lesnar (Cpu vs. Cpu)

(Video by Sports Gaming Universe.)


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