When fighting games really began to take off in the mid-90s there were two companies taking up the majority 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.
Their fighting games have a reputation for great animation, graphics, and play control. Many of these franchises are still being updated and seeing releases on modern consoles. If you want to try some of these games you’re probably going to have to play them via emulation since some of them were exclusive to the Neo Geo console from SNK.
10 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, Mai Shiranui are just a few of the more notable characters. The game set itself apart by allowing the players to move across two planes – the foreground and background.
There were major improvement in the controls, specifically their responsiveness, between the first Fatal Fury and Real Bout 2. The graphics and animation are good, and the sound effects and music are pretty good. The game has a respectable roster of characters to choose from too.
9 Samurai Showdown V Special
Samurai Showdown V is actually the eighth in the series, and the series was almost perfected with this entry. 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 great in this game, but the fighting action is where this title stands out. Matches can get really intense due to the responsive controls. Samurai Showdown V also has overkill moves that allow you to defeat your opponent instantly.
8 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. There are nice details added to SNK Vs. Capcom; especially in the backgrounds. This game also has hidden characters to unlock, like Firebrand from the Ghost and Goblins and Demon’s Crest games.
7 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 perfectly suited for a moody fighter like this, and the cut-scenes between the matches are nice 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.
6 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 teams matches with a very unique roster of characters to choose from.
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 that has a “juggling” fighting style and keeps track of the length of combos.
5 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 franchise. The original King of Fighters ‘98 was a AAA game for its time and has all the added details to prove it. The UM version, released in 2008, added new characters and tightened the control to make it more responsive.
This is a three-on-three fighter; without the ability to tag during fights. The roster of characters to choose from in KoF ’98 is enormous, as it incorporates characters from the many SNK fighting games. There are balance issues with some of the characters, but it isn’t that much of an issue. Definitely give this one a try.
4 Waku Waku 7
This fighting game was developed by Sunsoft, but published by SNK. The roster of characters is somewhat small with only 7 playable characters, but they are all uniquely different and nicely balanced. The music and sound effects are awesome in Waku Waku 7, but this isn’t a surprise for a Sunsoft game.
The special moves seem a little easier 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 prior to writing it, and Waku Waku 7 was the one that we had the hardest time quitting because it is so much fun.
3 King Of Fighters XIII
This entry in the King of Fighters series won numerous awards when it was released in 2009 – including many for 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 tag-team style which has become the hallmark of the franchise. Since this is a recently developed game the graphics are a lot more detailed and the animations more fluid than most of the other games on this list. This title really shows off SNK’s experience at making great fighting games.
2 Garou: Mark Of The Wolves
This 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 it was chosen by gamers during a poll. The game is almost twenty years old, and this was the game players chose – and we're willing to bet a large number of you reading this have never heard of this game.
Nearly every aspect of this game is perfect. The graphics are well-drawn and colorful, the animation is fluid, the backgrounds are excellently drawn, and the controls are absolutely spot-on. Seriously, if you like fighting games then download this one immediately while you still can.
1 Samurai Showdown (2019)
Released on June 27th of this year, this polished SNK fighter was one of the games featured at EVO 2019. The characters are large are highly detailed in this entry to the Samurai Showdown series.
It is easy to see that, once again, SNK is challenging Capcom’s Street Fighter series with one of their own franchises – and to be honest SNK may have won this round. SNK borrowed heavily from Street Fighter V when making Samurai Showdown and it shows. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is noticeable. The gameplay involves a surprising amount of strategy; players must keep track of distance, and the parrying system is well designed.