Street Fighter 2 was the first game to introduce many arcade denizens to the joys of beating on each other. While the original Street Fighter
game was not widely played, its sequel was enormously popular, launching a long line of arcade and console
fighting games. SF2
allowed you to pick one of eight characters to play as. If you played against the computer, you would fight the remaining seven characters, and then four boss characters. Or, if anyone was around, you could test your skillz
against a human opponent.
Later extension games of Street Fighter 2 (eg Champion Edition, Hyper Fighting, etc) added various features, such as new special moves, new characters including the bosses, different colors, better graphics, and the ability to play the same character as your opponent. Today the most recent heir of the Street Fighter legacy is probably Capcom vs SNK 2, which has all the characters from SF2 and a whole lot more.
The orginal cast of characters was:
Ryu: The middle-of-the-road character. Ryu had a generous learning curve, and was usually the first character a new player would start with. Ryu's main strategy was to throw a fireball, then hit the other player when they jumped over it. (can't block while in the air)
Ken: Same as Ryu, but with different graphics.
Blanka: Good jumping ability, strong attacks. With no terrific special moves, Blanka relied on air superiority and that long crouching punch that people always seem to fall for.
Chun Li: The token female character. Fast, with weak attacks and excellent jumping ability. Chun Li's strategy was to use her speed to throw opponents. (which would usually get people to cry about 'cheapness')
E. Honda: Slow but strong. Honda was difficult to play and tended to get outmatched by the other characters. He got better in later versions of Street Fighter, but in this one he didn't have much going for him.
Guile: Another popular character. Guile had lots of good multiple hit combos and would severely fuck you up in the hands of an expert player.
Zangief: Big, strong, and slow. Zangief's claim to fame was the spinning piledriver, which was difficult to pull off but amounted to the entirety of Zangeif's strategy.
Dhalsim: Crazy Indian guy with elastic limbs that could punch and kick across half the screen. A tough character to learn, and probably not the most successful, but you did get style points for going that route.
Once you had beaten the final boss, M. Bison, you got a different ending for each character. Then the credits would scroll as pairs of the characters fought. If you beat the game without losing a round, they would fight in fast-motion.