When fighting games began to take off in the mid-90s, two companies were taking up most of the market: Capcom and SNK. Capcom was the trailblazer with its Street Fighter franchise and is still one of the leading developers of fighting games. However, SNK developed many great fighting game franchises that at times rivaled Capcom's games in quality.
SNK's fighting games have a reputation for great animation, graphics, and play control. What's more, many of these franchises are still being updated and seeing releases on modern consoles. Unfortunately, if you want to try some of these games, you're probably going to have to play them via emulation since some were exclusive to the Neo Geo console from SNK.
Updated April 3, 2022, by Christopher Sanfilippo: SNK launched several new fighting games over the past few years. These games include remastered classics, like KOF 2002 Unlimited Match, and re-launched games from SNK's NEO GEO Pocket Color. Still, the developer's most significant launch was The King Of Fighters 15, the latest entry in the company's signature fighting series. So, in light of this new launch, we decided to revisit our list of the company's best fighting games!
12 Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers
Fatal Fury began in 1991 and introduced many characters that still pop up in fighting games today. Terry Bogard, Joe Higashi, and Mai Shiranui are some more notable characters. The game set itself apart by allowing the players to move across two planes – the foreground and the background.
There was a significant improvement in the controls, specifically their responsiveness, between the first Fatal Fury and Real Bout 2. In addition, the graphics and animation are good, and the sound effects and music are pretty good. Plus, the game has a strong roster of characters.
11 Samurai Showdown V Special
Samurai Showdown V is technically the eighth in the series, and it's one of the strongest. The signature feature of this series is that nearly all the fighters use a weapon of some kind. There are 28 characters to choose from, and the characters are expertly balanced.
The character animations and backgrounds are beautiful in this game, but the fighting action is where this title stands out. Matches can get intense due to the responsive controls. Samurai Showdown V also has overkill moves that allow you to defeat your opponent instantly.
10 SNK Vs. Capcom SVC Chaos
This ambitious fighting game combines characters from many of the SNK franchises, like Fatal Fury and Samurai Showdown, with characters from Capcom fighting games like Street Fighter and Darkstalkers. The result is a fun fighting game with a balanced roster of playable characters.
You can tell that SNK was trying to make this game great – they didn't want to make a sub-par fighting game using characters from their main competitor's games. As a result, SVC Chaos boasts lovely details, especially in the stages' backgrounds. This game also has hidden characters to unlock, like Firebrand from the Ghost and Goblins and Demon's Crest games.
9 SNK vs. Capcom: The Match Of The Millennium
While SVC Chaos is SNK's most recent fighting game collaboration with Capcom, one of their most successful is SNK vs. Capcom: The Match Of The Millennium for the NEO-GEO Pocket Color. With a robust roster of twenty-six fighters, tight mechanics, and plenty of modes, this game is one of its generation's best handheld 2D fighters.
Unfortunately, this cult classic was not available for some time after its launch since the NEO-GEO Pocket Color could not compete with Nintendo's Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance. Luckily, SNK's new NEO-GEO Pocket Color Collection initiative ported the game to modern consoles, such as the Nintendo Switch and PC.
8 The Last Blade 2
Almost no one, who isn't a fighting game fanatic, even knows of this series' existence. That is a shame because this is a fantastic franchise. The Last Blade 2 has some of the best character animations of any 2D fighter.
The ambient music is ideally suited for a moody fighter like this, and the cut-scenes between the matches are excellent and help move the plot along. The Last Blade 2, like Samurai Showdown, focuses on weapon-based combat. The controls are excellent, and the fighting has a little strategy added with a parrying maneuver.
7 Rage Of Dragons
Rage of Dragons is a fighting game spin-off of the Double Dragon beat 'em ups. This game features two-on-two tag team matches with a unique roster of characters.
The music and sound effects in Rage of Dragons are impressive for a cartridge-based game; the music is good enough to listen to apart from playing the game. The controls are responsive, the graphics are colorful, and the animation is as good as any fighting game. Rage of Dragons is one of the few SNK fighters with a "juggling" fighting style and keeps track of the length of combos.
6 King Of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match
Many consider King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match (or UM for short) to be the best of the King of Fighters series. The original King of Fighters '98 was a triple-A game for its time and had all the added details to prove it. The UM version, released in 2008, added new characters and tightened the controls to make it more responsive.
KOF'98 UM is a three-on-three fighter; without the ability to tag during fights. The roster of characters to choose from is enormous, as it incorporates characters from the many SNK fighting games. Some characters have balance issues, but it isn't that much of an issue. We encourage you to give this one a try.
5 Waku Waku 7
While published by SNK, Sunsoft developed Waku Waku 7. The roster of characters is somewhat small, with only seven playable characters, but they are all uniquely different and nicely balanced. The music and sound effects are fantastic in Waku Waku 7, but this isn't a surprise for a Sunsoft game.
The special moves seem more straightforward to perform than most SNK fighting games. There is also a level of humor in this game that is not seen much in fighting games. We played every game on this list before writing it, and Waku Waku 7 was the one we couldn't quit because it is so much fun.
4 King Of Fighters XIII
This entry in the King of Fighters series won numerous awards when launched in 2009 – including many for the best fighting game. There are twenty-two characters to choose from, most of them familiar to fans of the franchise.
The game plays in the usual three-on-three team style, which has become the series' hallmark. KOF13 also featured remodeled character sprites, a trend that began with the previous game, KOF12. With stellar visuals and an in-depth cancel mechanic, this title shows SNK's experience in making great fighting games.
3 Garou: Mark Of The Wolves
Garou: Mark Of The Wolves is the final game in the Fatal Fury franchise, and it is by far the best of them. This game was ported to the PS4 and Xbox One because gamers chose it during a poll. That is a considerable achievement considering this game is over twenty years old and less well-known to casual gamers.
Nearly every aspect of this game is perfect. The graphics are well-drawn and colorful, the animation is fluid, the backgrounds are gorgeous, and the controls are spot-on. So seriously, if you like fighting games, download this one immediately while you still can.
2 Samurai Showdown (2019)
Launched on June 27, 2019, this polished SNK fighter was one of the games featured at EVO of that year. Since then, the game has experienced a successful run. Its lifespan included multiple DLC seasons, with guest characters like Baiken, from Guilty Gear.
So much was done right with this significant series revival. The characters are large and highly detailed. Furthermore, the game sets a deliberately slow pace that emphasizes strategy in battle. Finally, the control scheme is more straightforward than its contemporaries, making it a fantastic alternative to more frenetic games like Street Fighter 5.
1 The King Of Fighters 15
The King Of Fighters series experienced a significant transition in 2016 when SNK launched The King Of Fighters 14. This entry was the first KOF title, outside the Maximum Impact series, to go 3D. Unfortunately, while this title had a massive roster and revitalized fighting mechanics, KOF14 was not the best-looking. Therefore, the game received mixed to positive reviews.
However, six years later, The King Of Fighters 15 perfected KOF14's formula with improved graphics, a diverse roster of fighters, and spectacular refinements to systems implemented in the earlier game (like the rush combo mechanic, for instance). In turn, KOF15 has cemented itself as the definitive KOF title of its console generation.
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