Game Recs

When The Going Gets Tough, You’re Probably Playing Sifu.

This roguelite beat ‘em up masterpiece just hit PS Plus.

The protagonist of 'Sifu' as an old man
Inverse Recommends

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. These immortal words from legendary boxer “Iron” Mike Tyson get repurposed to apply to all sorts of things. It’s great generic advice, as you can only plan so much. It’s even better advice about getting punched in the face, though, and gets at the heart of combat. It’s all about reaction. Improvisation. Perseverance. Things every good fighter needs whether in real life or a complex tale of revenge, martial arts, and organized crime.

Sifu from French indie studio Sloclap, originally launched in 2020 to rave reviews on Metacritic and landed PlayStation Plus as part of the March 2024 lineup. It may look like your average beat ‘em up at first glance, but the moment you dive in and play, you learn the hard way that Sifu is in a class of its own. Centered around your quest for vengeance in the wake of your family’s murder, Sifu quite literally pulls no punches. Button mashers don’t last long, but if you stick around after its proverbial punch in the face, you’ll find a combat grind worth polishing to near perfection.

It’s difficult to tell from watching footage, but Sifu is one of those games you have to feel to believe. The controls seem basic enough at first. Light and heavy attacks, a trip, a throw, and some environmental pickups on offense, plus a special attack. But the best offense is a good defense, and in addition to standard block and parry there is a high/low weave mapped to L1 that ties it all together. A block meter keeps you from spamming too much, so timing is everything.

Your opponents aren’t walking punching bags, either. Like any good roguelite, even the lowliest thug can put a fatal hurt on you so there’s never a dull moment. Defeat comes at a hefty cost, too. Every time you lose, your character ages one year. They gain a little more power but lose overall health. Once you get into your 60s and 70s things are grim (at 80, you’re dead), but not impossible if your grind game is there.

Environmental hazards are a great equalizer.


The challenge most players have to conquer is the barrier of entry. Sifu is not an easy game, and its casual beat ‘em up aesthetics might lull you into expecting a more forgiving experience. But if you’re willing to put in the time to learn what Sifu wants to teach, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most unique and thoughtful action experiences gaming has to offer. Paramount to this experience is the wonderfully atmospheric level design. There are only five levels total, but because of the level of difficulty and the amount of time spent grinding, you won’t just breeze right through them. Sloclap anticipated this and stocked each level full of details big and small that keep you discovering new tactics and shortcuts. Plus, the vibes are immaculate. If you’re a fan of movies like Oldboy or John Wick then you’ll feel right at home in Sifu.

Each level culminates in a boss fight, and these are as difficult as you’d expect based on what the entry-level grunts are capable of. Each boss has unique special attacks and abilities that take considerable practice to master. The magic of Sifu is that even the hardest fights still feel possible, and your progress is tangible. A robust skill tree offers hope in these trying times, too, with a range of combos, weapon attacks, and defensive moves that help you fight smarter, not harder.

You might not think it to look at him, but this is a bad guy.


Sifu is an elegant, interesting action title that never punches down for its audience. It’s a perfect fit for the PlayStation Plus lineup given the “it's not for everyone” approach that may turn off players who don’t have the time, patience, or inclination to dedicate themselves to precision fisticuffs. Those that are willing to figure it out will find a rewarding experience on the other side.

Sifu is available now on PlayStation Plus. It’s also for sale on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC.

Related Tags