Dead or Alive (Japanese: デッドオアアライブ Hepburn: Deddo oa Araibu) is a video game series produced by Tecmo and developed by Team Ninja that is primarily composed of fast-paced 3D fighting games. Its story and characters are the creation of Tomonobu Itagaki, who has since left the company and is no longer working on the series.

In addition to its innovative countering system, the franchise is arguably as well known for its cast of busty female characters and the animation of their breasts. This aspect of the game's popularity led to the creation of the spin-off game Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball and its sequels, where the women and their sex appeal play a more focal role than it does in the core Dead or Alive series.


DOA tag attack

Dead or Alive 3's combination throw with a partner in tag team battle mode

The Dead or Alive series focuses on fast-paced gameplay in a three-dimensional playing field. In comparison to others in the fighting game genre, such as Virtua Fighter, the series places emphasis on striking characters quickly and efficiently. There is an emphasis on quick combos and air-juggles since the game's countering system and fast recovery times prevent slow, technical sets of moves in most instances.

One of the series' most innovative additions to the genre is its countering system. Beginning with the original Dead or Alive, players could tap the guard button and a direction corresponding with the anticipated attack, which would do a powerful counterattack. Counter holds must be timed correctly and match the direction of the attack being countered.

Like other modern fighting games that attempt to emulate real life martial arts, DOA's input system is designed so controls correspond game character's actions; if the character moves forward with a punch, the controls most likely would include the punch input and pressing forward on the directional pad.

The series controls also make the instances of speed and simplicity more congruent with the focus of timing and combos in mind, as the commands for basic attacks are widely considered more straightforward than most video games. There is only one button for punch, kick, throw and guard, with the player rarely having to combine more than two different input schemes together at a time.

In Dead or Alive 2, the series implemented its tag fighting system, allowing characters to switch back and forth for combo attacks and even attack simultaneously when timed correctly. The tag mode also included special throws unique to certain pairs of characters and allows for the participation of four players, something not common in the genre.


The Dead or Alive series depicts several skilled martial artists in a worldwide competition named the "Dead or Alive tournament". DOATEC (Dead or Alive Tournament Executive Committee), a massive corporation with unknown motives, holds the fighting competition in arenas ranging from the North Pole to the Amazon rain forest.

  • Dead or Alive, the first game in the series, introduces the characters and their reasons for entering the tournament. For example, Zack enters for profit. Kasumi, a runaway female ninja, enters the tournament to seek revenge against Raidou who crippled her brother Hayate. In the end, the strict laws of ninja society prevent Kasumi from returning to her village, and she became a hunted fugitive. Kasumi won the first DOA tournament.
  • Dead or Alive 2 is set less than a year later. Here, a tengu known as the Gohyakumine Bankotsubo threatens the world's peace and stability. Kasumi's brother Hayate, previously injured by Raidou, returns from being a subject in DOATEC's bio-weapon experiment Epsilon. New fighters include Ein, Helena Douglas and Leon. Eventually, Ryu defeats Tengu and thus wins the tournament.
  • The third game, Dead or Alive 3, takes place shortly after Ryu Hayabusa's defeat of the Gohyakumine Bankotsubo. This game's plot concerns DOATEC's secret goal to produce the ultimate fighter, called the Omega project. Through Epsilon and Alpha stages, DOATEC wipes the ninja Genra's memory and turns him into the vicious Omega. A third tournament is held to test Omega's abilities. In the end, Ayane and Hayate destroy the Omega entity. The game introduces four more fighters, Hayate, Hitomi, Brad Wong, and Christie.
  • Dead or Alive 4 again explores DOATEC's attempts to create the ultimate bio-weapon, which is a powerful clone of Kasumi created by the Alpha project. The various fighters discover the true nature of DOATEC and set out to stop it. Helena wins the tournament and decides to give the title to Zack.
  • The fifth game, Dead or Alive 5, follows the last game's series of events and the explosion DOATEC's tri-tower. Set two years later, DOATEC is newly reformed with Helena still in control and Zack appearing to be in employ. Jann Lee beat Hitomi in the last round of the tournament, thus winning the tournament.

Games Edit

Overview Edit

Titles in the Dead or Alive series
Title Release Arcade 5th Gen 6th Gen 7th Gen Handheld Windows
Dead or Alive/++ 1996-11 Arcade Saturn, PlayStation N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 2 1999-11 Arcade N/A Dreamcast, PS2 N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 2 Millennium 2000–01 Arcade N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 2/Limited Edition 2000–09 N/A N/A Dreamcast N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore 2000–10 N/A N/A PS2 N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 2: Hard*core 2000–12 N/A N/A PS2 N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 3 2001–11 N/A N/A Xbox N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2003-01 N/A N/A Xbox N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive Ultimate 2004–10 N/A N/A Xbox N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 4 2006-01 N/A N/A N/A Xbox 360 N/A N/A
Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 2006–11 N/A N/A N/A Xbox 360 N/A N/A
The Girls of Dead or Alive: Blackjack 2009–?? N/A N/A N/A N/A iOS N/A
Dead or Alive Online 2009-08 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Windows
Dead or Alive Paradise 2010-03 N/A N/A N/A N/A PSP N/A
Dead or Alive: Dimensions 2011-05 N/A N/A N/A N/A 3DS N/A
Dead or Alive 5 2012-09 N/A N/A N/A Xbox 360, PS3 N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 5 Plus 2013-03 N/A N/A N/A N/A PS Vita N/A
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate 2013-09 N/A N/A N/A Xbox 360, PS3 N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate: Arcade 2013 Fall Arcade N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Dead or Alive for the Sega Saturn cover

Main series Edit

Dead or Alive has spawned five main sequels which have continued the storyline and six overall. Of the six games in total, four of them focus on the fighting genre of gameplay. This number excludes the numerous updated editions, ports and remakes of each title.

Dead or Alive Edit

The original Dead or Alive was inspired by Virtua Fighter, as noted by Itagaki in an interview. In comparison to other 3D fighters, such as Tekken (which gained a substantial market base in Japan and North America), DOA introduced a countering system unique to the genre and an added emphasis on speed, as well as a rich graphics engine that lacked many jaggies and incorporated very smooth surfaces. The original DOA game was first released for the arcades and Sega Saturn in 1996. In graphical comparison, the arcade version featured superior detail, using fully three-dimensional backgrounds and high quality music. When released for the Saturn, the game sacrificed quality in the character models and used pre-rendered images for background stages.[1] Additionally, in a review of the game's moveset, it was discovered by players that the move lists included were not aligned properly with the game.[2] In 1998, a PlayStation version was released in Japan, with the North American and European versions following shortly thereafter. It introduced new characters, improved graphics, "remixed" stage designs and additional unlockable costumes for the player. This was also re-released in the arcades and named Dead or Alive ++ due to its upgraded content.[3]

Dead or Alive 2 Edit

The second installment, Dead or Alive 2, was released in 2000, and like its predecessor, improved upon the graphics engine by using NAOMI hardware.[1] Notable features included introducing CG cutscenes in line with the plot, replacing the original "danger zone areas" in stages with fully interactive ones, allowing players to juggle each other into walls, propelling characters from landmarks for more damage (the first game to implement this feature was Samurai Shodown 64), and upon completing the game, presenting the player with (sometimes ambiguous) endings for each character using the game's standard engine.

Dead or Alive 2 has spawned the most upgrades and remakes in the series to date, with the original arcade version and North American Dreamcast version serving as the starting point. When the PlayStation 2 was launched in Japan, a DOA2 port was released for it as well. Although this version was considered graphically inferior to any of the previous versions, lacked the 4 player Tag Team feature, and was never released outside of Japan, it did include extra backgrounds and costumes. The extras from this version were then included in the belated Japanese Dreamcast release,[4] which was available in both Regular Edition and Limited Edition versions. Another remake was released in October of that year for the PS2 in North America, titled DOA2: Hardcore. This version provided improvements larger in scope than any previous franchise entry. It expanded the unlockable costumes, amended graphical problems prevalent in the Dreamcast versions, added new game modes and included English voice acting. (Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore is one of the only installments in the series with the ability to switch between English and Japanese voice acting.) After this, a final version of DOA2 was released in Japan dubbed Dead or Alive 2: Hard*core which was essentially the North American/European version but with a few extras; it was considered the most up to date version until the Xbox version.

In 2004, after the release of Dead or Alive 3, Team Ninja once again remade DOA2, this time for the Xbox system. In the planning stages, this new game was named Dead or Alive Online for its addition of online support. On January 14, it was renamed to Dead or Alive Ultimate and promised fresh content, additional characters and an upgraded version of the original Dead or Alive for the Sega Saturn. According to Tecmo, the name change was due to the opinion that "Ultimate would more accurately describe the feeling players feel upon experiences with the game".[5]

Dead or Alive 3 Edit

Dead or Alive 3 was released for the Xbox as one of the system's launch titles for American gamers (as well as Japanese and European). As with previous facets of the series, it took advantage of the system's power to push the range of the graphics and stage sizes farther than DOA2. However, it lacked in unlockable content compared to Hardcore and controls were somewhat more lenient to allow players new to the series to adapt to gameplay. Dead or Alive 3 was one of the best-selling installments in the series; in 2002 Tecmo announced the game had reached sales of over one million copies.[6]

Dead or Alive 4 Edit

Dead or Alive 4 was released later in 2005 as a launch title for the Xbox 360 platform. Initially held back by retailers,[7] like Ultimate, it included online support where players could interact in a similar fashion to an arcade setting, fighting opponents at win/loss intervals. Nevertheless, like DOA3, the game featured a low number of costumes and numerous series characters now had to be unlocked by the player.

Dead or Alive: Dimensions Edit

Dead or Alive: Dimensions, released in 2011 for Nintendo's 3DS platform, is responsible for several firsts for the series: It is the first DOA game released for a Nintendo platform,[8] the first game to be not fully published by Tecmo(It was jointly published with Nintendo in Europe and Australia),[9] the first DOA fighting game released on a handheld (Dead or Alive Paradise, released a year earlier on PSP, is part of the non-fighting "Xtreme" spinoff series), and most notably, the first released without any involvement from series creator Tomonobu Itagaki. It also features the largest character roster of any DOA game to date, with 26 playable characters. As the game doesn't feature any completely new playable characters (except Shiden) and its stages are mostly taken from those in DOA 3 and DOA 4, "Dimensions" can be considered something of a "best of" collection rather than a truly new entry in the series, similar to Mortal Kombat Trilogy. The only substantial new content is the inclusion of a stage based on Metroid: Other M – a Wii game co-developed by Team Ninja with Nintendo – with characters from that game appearing as stage hazards (but not playable fighters).[8][10][11][12]

Kasumi (Dead or Alive)

Dead or Alive 5 features more realistic and detailed character models, as well as dirt and sweat graphic features

Dead or Alive 5 Edit

At the Tokyo Game Show in 2011, Team Ninja revealed a trailer of a pre-alpha build of Dead or Alive 5. A brief battle atop a skyscraper under construction is captured between Ryu Hayabusa and Hayate before the entire building begins to crumble. Producer Yousuke Hiyashi has used the phrase "fighting entertainment" to explain the game's direction and has stated the environment will play a much larger role in DOA5. For the first time in the series' history that the game received a simultaneous release on multiple platforms (being released for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2012). It was also the first to have no involvement from the series creator, Tomonobu Itagaki, who had quit the company before development began.

Spin-off series Edit

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball Edit

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball was released in 2003, shortly after DOA3. The plot is set immediately after the tournament in DOA 3 ended. Gameplay revolves around the women of the DOA series playing various mini-games in the many locations of Zack Island, a reclusive private resort on an island owned by Zack (who is the only male character from the series to appear anywhere in the game). This installment features no fighting engine, instead being much like a simulation game that encourages the player to establish relationships with the AI of characters, and eventually make a two-person team to compete in volleyball competitions. "Zack dollars" earned from completing mini-games and gambling in the island's casino allow the player to purchase hundreds of different swimsuits to wear in the game, many of which are very revealing and make the women appear almost nude in some instances (which lead to the first Mature rating in the series' history). According to Itagaki, who revealed the basis for the game in an interview with video game cable channel G4, the idea for the game took shape after fans' expressed a desire for a beach ball mini-game in DOA2.

Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 Edit

A sequel for this game followed on the Xbox 360 in 2006, with the title shortened slightly to Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, suggesting – and accurately so – that volleyball was no longer at the center of the experience.

Dead or Alive Paradise Edit

Finally, Dead or Alive Paradise, roughly a port of Xtreme 2 with some changes (primarily a greater emphasis on the photography portion of the game), was released for Sony's PlayStation Portable handheld platform in the Spring of 2010. It was the first Dead or Alive title to be released on a handheld system, as well as the first release from the series since the departure of series creator Itagaki from Team Ninja. Regarding Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, when questioned about it, Yosuke Hayashi mentioned that there aren't any current plans on making Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 due to poor sales of Xtreme 2, he has heavily implied that he will consider it if people stated their support for it on Team Ninja's official Twitter account.[13]

Dead or Alive: Code Chronos Edit

A side-story game, named Dead or Alive: Code Chronos, was once in production for the Xbox 360, as confirmed in the July 2006 edition of Play Magazine by Itagaki to "...not be a fighting game" and instead act as a prequel to the series proper, relaying the history of Ayane and Kasumi. Earlier reports had implied the character of Helena would be more heavily involved.[14] However, the game has since been cancelled.[15]

Ninja Gaiden connectionEdit

After Tecmo's classic (but long dormant) Ninja Gaiden series was revived in 2004 by Tomonobu Itagaki and Team Ninja, they began linking it back with Dead or Alive, setting the franchises within the same universe with overlapping characters and events. As it was a complete reboot of the series and didn't continue the canon of any previous Ninja Gaiden titles, the developers were free to do with the universe and its characters as it saw fit, and so the game was implemented into the DOA universe by being set up as a prequel to the first DOA. In addition, Ninja Gaiden protagonist Ryu Hayabusa, who had already been on the roster of every DOA fighting game since the beginning, plays a major role in that series' overarching storyline, which has been fleshed out during the development of the subsequent Ninja Gaiden titles. As the repayment of including Hayabusa in most of Dead or Alive games during a development of Ninja Gaiden reboot, they are allowed to include the character Ayane in most of Ninja Gaiden games. Conversely, several characters from DOA have roles in the rebooted Ninja Gaiden series (which currently stands at six games, including four main entries and numerous ports of the first, third and fourth games with added content), initially only appearing during story sequences but becoming fully playable characters in special modes in later games. Momiji, a character originating from the Ninja Gaiden series, appears in Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate, an updated version of Dead or Alive 5.


  1. 1.0 1.1 DOA analysis at Hardcore Gaming 101. Hardcore Gaming 101 (2005).
  2. Dead or Alive Defective?. IGN (1998).
  3. Dead or Alive news and update. IGN (1998).
  4. Dead or Alive. Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved on August 12, 2011.
  5. Tor Thorsen (2004). Dead or Alive Online now Dead or Alive Ultimate. Gamespot.
  6. Giancarlo Varanini (2002). Dead or Alive reaches 1 million. Gamespot.
  7. Douglas C. Perry (2005). Dead Or Alive 4 Delayed?. IGN.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Tamoor Hussain. News: Dead or Alive 3D screens. Retrieved on August 12, 2011.
  9. Nintendo Europe Beating up Dead Or Alive Dimensons in May. (May 24, 2011). Retrieved on February 20, 2012.
  10. Dead or Alive: Dimensions pictures and screenshots for 3DS. (June 16, 2010). Retrieved on August 12, 2011.
  11. John Tanaka (September 3, 2008). Team Ninja Working on Three New Action Games – Xbox360 News at IGN. Retrieved on August 12, 2011.
  12. Dead or Alive 3DS gets a name | GoNintendo – What are YOU waiting for?. GoNintendo. Retrieved on August 12, 2011.
  13. Matt S. (2013). Team Ninja Head Yosuke Hayashi on Art. Digitally Downloaded.
  14. IGN staff (2001). Q & A With Dead Or Alive 3 Creator, Tomonobu Itagaki. IGN.
  15. Anoop Gantayat (November 5, 2010). Team Ninja's Project Progressive and Dead or Alive Cronus Cancelled. Andriasang. Retrieved on November 3, 2010.

External linksEdit