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Franchise / The King of Fighters

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And this isn't even all of them...note 

It all began in '94.
Kept on rollin' in '95.
Pieces fell in place in '96
It came to the end in '97.
And now it comes and here we go.
The KOF is here again.
Nothing's gonna stop it's 1998.
Cipher, Thematic Theme Tune of The King of Fighters '98

The King of Fighters series started out as a crossover fighting game, featuring some of the most popular characters from SNK's fighting game franchises: Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, as well as classic SNK games such as Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier, splitting them up into teams of three (four in the NESTS Saga), duking it out in one-on-one battles similar to its major competition at the time, Street Fighter.

Although the first game was merely intended to be a simple crossover and Spin-Off, the series became more popular than the other series that inspired it, and an overreaching plot soon developed that took the other SNK fighters along for the ride.

There are currently five major story arcs:
  • The original King of Fighters (known alternatively as the Rugal Saga), focuses on notorious crime lord Rugal Bernstein and his attempt to establish himself as the world's strongest fighter by staging a grand tournament and inviting contenders from all across the globe. It is strongly associated with the artist Shinkiro, as were most of SNK's franchises of the time. Though some consider the first two games their own arc, it is sometimes thrown together with the next arc.
  • The Orochi Saga arc ('95 - '97note ), which concerns Kyo Kusanagi (the winner of the first King of Fighters tournament) and a thousand-year blood feud with the Yagami family, who have gained demonic power thanks to a pact with a being known as "Orochi." Shinkiro continued to be the lead artist.
  • The NESTS Chronicles saga ('99 - '01note ) about the eponymous organization and their conspiracy to create weaponized clones of the most powerful warriors in the world. As Kyo is absent for the majority of this arc (he doesn't show until the end of '99 and remains a supporting character for the remainder of the saga), the main protagonist is a new character called K' (pronounced "Kay Dash"). It is strongly linked with the artist Styleos, although Shinkiro handled art in the '99 and 2000 versions before SNK went under and he left the company; Nona took over as official artist for 2001 and 2002, both by Korean developer Eolith.
  • The Tales of Ash saga ('03 - XIIInote ), which introduces androgynous French pretty boy Ash Crimson as the new main character. The story involves a sinister plot to capture the powers of the Kusanagi, Yagami, and Kagura clans and use them to seize the sealed power of Orochi, as well as the question of just whose side Ash is on. The main enemy of this arc is a band of enigmatic people named "Those from the Past". It had Nona, Falcoon, Shinkiro's unofficial "successor" Hiroaki and Eisuke Ogura as artists. It also experienced a change of hardware platforms multiple times ('03 on Neo Geo as with all the previous games, XI on Atomiswave and XII and XIII on Taito Type X2) the first in-game Art Shift ever, and turmoil in the parent company, but managed to get on Steam in the end. This is also where the series drops the yearly naming convention in favor of numbered sequels starting with XI.
  • The New Age saga (XIV - XV), which introduces Shun'ei, a student of Tung Fu Rue as the new protagonist, as well as finally the official addition of another one of SNK's fighting game juggernaut titles, Samurai Shodown, via their mascot/heroine Nakoruru. The game itself uses 3D graphics (through an inhouse engine in XIV and Unreal Engine 4 in XV) while still retaining its roots as a two-dimensional playing field, similar to games such as Street Fighter IV or Mortal Kombat 9. This arc is notable as the first to not be developed first for the arcades, with Playstation 4 serving as the lead platform for XIV.

More detailed summaries of each arc (and the individual games) can be found in the Recap section.

The home versions of the games were initially released on the (ridiculously expensive) Neo Geo home arcade system, so they had a hard time catching on with North American home gamers, but remained very popular in Japan, as well as with arcade gamers worldwide. It released new editions of the game every year with Madden-like regularity, introducing new characters and rosters into the storyline, while the old characters have seemingly retained their basic sets of special moves throughout the series, probably to dodge the problem of the older games being So Last Season.

In addition to the game entries that compose the main KOF story arcs, there are multiple spin-offs, remakes and "dream match" titles (that combine all the characters of that particular saga into one game).

Aside from fighting games and tie-ins, there were the rather infamous Dating Sim games for mobiles and Nintendo DS, Days of Memories allowed the player character to venture in Southtown and date most of the fighting divas from the series (and from others); later versions also allowed a girl player character to date the male fighters as well. An animated web series loosely adapting the events of the Rugal Saga (as well as the first Fatal Fury game) called The King of Fighters: Destiny began streaming in 2017.

In 2010 a film adaptation was released, starring Maggie Q, Will Yun Lee and Ray Park.

A spin-off game, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, stars the majority of the female cast of the XIV title (plus Shermie and a gender-bent Terry Bogard) as a 2v2 fighter, released on September 18, 2018.

A manga adaptation of King Of Fighters XIV, titled The King of Fighters: A New Beginning started serialization in January 2018. The same person behind that Manga, Kyotaro Azuma, would later release a new Manga starring Shingo Yabuki, The King of Fighters Gaiden: Honoo no Kigen - Shingo, Timeslip! Ikkimasu!, on July 19, 2021.

This is the character sheet. Be warned, though: in this series, SNK most certainly ran away with the concept of having tons of characters.

List of the KOF media:

    open/close all folders 

    Main Games 


The Orochi Saga:

The NESTS Chronicles:

Tales of Ash:

The New Age:

    Other Games 
Fighting Games

Portable Games:

  • King of Fighters R-1 (1998)
  • King of Fighters R-2 (1999)
  • The King of Fighters EX: Neo Blood (2002)
  • The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood (2003)


Mobile Games
  • The King of Fighters: Volleyball (2005)
  • The King of Fighters: Mobile (2005)
  • The King of Reversi (2006)
  • The King of Fighters-i (2011)
  • The King of Fighters Android (2012)
  • The Rhythm of Fighters (2014)
  • The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match Online (2014)
  • The King of Fighters '97 OL (2015)
  • The King of Fighters: World (2017)
  • The King of Fighters Destiny (2018)
  • The King of Fighters All Star (2018)
  • The King of Fighters M: Fighting Stars Assembly (2019)
  • The King of Fighters for Girls (2019)
  • KOF: Chronicle (2019)
  • The King of Fighters Survival City (2023)

Pachislot Games
  • The King of Fighters (2006)
  • The King of Fighters: Chapter of NESTS (2007)
  • The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact (2009)
  • The King of Fighters III (2012)
  • CR: The King of Fighters (2015)

Other Spin-offs
  • Quiz King of Fighters (1995)
  • The King of Fighters: Kyo (1998)
  • The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise (2000)
  • King of Fighters: Sky Stage (2010)
  • The King of Fighters Online (2013)
  • The King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match Web (2017)


    Other Media 
Film — Live-Action
Web Animation

This series names the following tropes:

  • Dream Match Game: Both the trope namer (thanks to the Japanese subtitle of '98, Dream Match Never Ends) and trope codifier.
    • Specifically, '98 and '02 are non-canon and include large rosters and characters that are dead in the storyline. While XII is also non-canon, it isn't really a "dream match" like the other two.
    • The Maximum Impact series has its own Dream Match in the form of Regulation A, which also restores the 3 vs. 3 traditional King of Fighters team format (however there aren't any designated teams like in the proper series).
    • It is worth noting that predecessor series Fatal Fury was the very first to employ the term "Dream Match" (when fighting Ryo Sakazaki in the second game), but otherwise it referred only to that battle instead of a whole game.


  • 2½D: XIV and XV moved away from dot-art sprites to 3D models. Previously the only installments of the franchise to use 3D graphics were the Maximum Impact games (not counting XII and XIII's use of 3D graphics as development templates for their character sprites). Unlike those games, however, this game remains a 2D fighting game gameplay-wise.
  • Aborted Arc:
    • The "Dragon Spirit" residing inside Kensou, which is said to be the source of his powers and the reason why he and Bao alternated between having powers or not. Despite the tease at the ending of 2001 that Ron would target him for his power, said to be greater than whatever NESTS could amass, this plot point is never brought up again (XI has Kensou gain control of the power and Lin is revealed to be in league with Ron but XIII does not venture into this plotline). XIV seems to be dabbling with this again, although it's too early to tell whether or not SNK will stick it out this time or just continue to kick the can down the road.
    • The Maximum Impact saga ended on a cliffhanger, with Soiree being abducted by Addes. However, after Regulation A, SNK stopped bothering with this spin-off title, thereby putting it on an eternal cliffhanger.
    • In 2003, Malin was implied to be working for an organization that would have played a major role for the rest of the arc. Come XI and that has since been dropped, relegating her to comic relief.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Usually present in home ports, which tend to add (at the very least) new characters to the roster.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Krizalid in '99. His horror upon realizing that he was going to die by Clone Zero's will was enough to evoke pity, but the custom team ending takes it further, it is revealed that he was brainwashed to serve NESTS the entire time and dies not knowing who he truly is. It gets even worse in the Ikari team's ending where he 'mistakes' Whip for his lost sister, only for her to reveal that NESTS gave him a false memory of it and that he's actually a clone of K', rather than the other way around. This gets expanded in the Ikari team's ending 2000, when Clone Zero tells Whip that she's actually a clone of the dead sister of K', making Krizalid die without knowing that Whip really was his biological sister. No wonder why SNK originally planned for Krizalid to be brought Back from the Dead.
  • All Myths Are True: As far as the King of Fighters continuity is concerned, it's hard to tell where this ends and One Myth to Explain Them All begins. It plays heavily with the Japanese myth, with Orochi and the three Imperial Regalia of Japan; however, Orochi is said to be the progeny of Gaia of Greek myth, and apparently is the self-proclaimed "enforcer of Gaia's will". Gaia herself has never appeared in any shape or form. From the series outside KOF that appears here, there's the stuff from Athena, Samurai Shodown, and (indirectly) Last Blade, with their own myths and lores. If you count SVC Chaos, then the Mars People also exist in the verse.
  • Alternate Continuity:
    • The Maximum Impact series, the EX series, the R series, Neowave (the latter of which has no proper story), and Days of Memories (with changes going up to the characters' personalities themselves).
    • KOF itself is an alternate continuity to both Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. This was intentionally done so that SNK could pit characters from both series without having to reconcile their ages (since Art of Fighting was set ten years before Fatal Fury).
  • Amazon Brigade: Women Fighters Team, in its various incarnations. In 2003, the High School Girls Team replaced the Psycho Soldiers Team, which consisted of Athena, Hinako, and Malin.
  • An Ice Person: Kula Diamond, who was made this specifically to combat K'.
  • The Anime of the Game: Another Day and later the Chinese web series Destiny.
  • Announcer Chatter: In the Maximum Impact series. This might be the only announcer in the series to rival those of Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, and Capcom vs. SNK 2. And that's saying something. At the very least he mostly kept quiet in Maximum Impact and MI2.
    "First attack!"
    "Ooooh! A counter hit!"
    "That one's gonna leave a bruise!"
    "Here we go! The battle begins!"
    "We're just getting started here!"
    "Crank it up and get ready for more!"
    "The moment of truth for our contestants arrives!"
    "Final Round! Ready?"
    • There's also his waxing poetic on the mood the battlegrounds set in Regulation A. They really should have just gotten a native English speaker to handle this role...
    • The female announcer in XIV also spouts random quips every time someone gets knocked out.
  • The Artifact:
    • It's what happens when you're not the protagonist, regardless of whether or not you've been a mainstay. The biggest cases of this are probably Terry Bogard, Mai Shiranui, Kim Kaphwan and the Sakazaki siblings. While they are still around more than the others whom are generally Demoted to Extra or just mysteriously disappear, they are generally only kept in to appease older fans. Really, this can apply to anyone who isn't original to the series; you'll be there for the veterans but have little to no impact on the actual plot.
    • K' got hit with rather nastily after the Nest-saga concluded. While Kyo retains a level of relevancy to the central plots of the Tales of Ash and New Age sagas due to being the original poster-boy of the franchise, K's connection to the central plot has been tenuous at best. In the more recent entries, his connection to the story is solely on the basis of being a hired gun along with Maxima for Heidern and the Ikari Warriors.
  • Art Evolution: Patch 1.10 of XIV includes a significant graphical upgrade that fixes the lighting on the models, making it look much better and less like a PS2 game as it was derided before. See for yourself
  • Art Shift:
    • The games have a completely new look with higher definition sprites starting with XII. XI, '98UM, and 2002UM in particular were the last games to use the old sprites.
    • XIV is the first of the main series with 3D graphics (the Maximum Impact games were spin-offs).
  • Ascended Extra: Nakoruru and Tung Fu Rue have actually appeared in KOF games ('95 Gameboy and as an alternate Striker in '00 for the former, XI for the latter), but only as guest fighters with no bearings on the plot. In XIV, they have their own teams, with Tung accompanying his student Shun'ei (the new protagonist), and Nakoruru leading the Another World team, apparently yanked away from her home series like her teammates.
  • Assist Character:
  • Audio Adaptation: There are numerous drama CDs for the series, usually one or two per game, with individual characters sometimes getting their own CDs. They go from very cracky skits bordering on Gag Dubs, to pretty interesting characterization-wise (i.e. Dengeki Bunko explains how both the Japan Team and the Women's Team came to be among other things, The Sun and The Moon chronicles Iori Yagami's life outside KOF and the Yagami/Kusanagi feud at an unspecified time in the past, and KOF 2000 gives more background on K' and his group while also featuring Athena's misadventures through the world until she finds Kyo and they have a more serious talk about how everyone misses him at home).
  • Award-Bait Song: XV has "Here I Am", a Surprisingly Gentle Song that serves as the ending theme of the game.
  • Badass Crew: Most of the (earlier) teams fit this bill (i.e. Team Japan, Art of Fighting Team, Fatal Fury Team, Ikari Team, etc.), as many of them are family members and close friends who have known each other for a good deal of time and decide to team up. More recent examples would include Women Fighters Team and the K' Team. At this point, most of these teams have at least two or three characters that function as True Companions.
  • Badass Family: The Kusanagi, Sakazaki, and Howard families, natch.
    • Also the Bogards, even if there's just two brothers by now.
  • Balance, Speed, Strength Trio:
    • If well there're various teams that have this setting, the most known in all the series is the "Korea Team" or the "Kim Kaphwan Team", generally composed by Kim as the balance, Choi Bounge as the speed and Chang Koehan as the strength.
    • Another good (and classic) example is the "Japan Team", specially his classic formation with Kyo Kusanagi (balance), Benimaru Nikaido (speed) and Goro Daimon (strength).
  • Bar Brawl: The Women Fighters Team's ending in XIII is a particularly catty example. At the Pao Pao Café, King, Mai, and Yuri, all smashed from their victory celebration, start bickering with each other over who's the best fighter on the team, which in turn strikes a nerve with B. Jenet, Kasumi, Malin, and Xiangfei. This leads to a free-for-all overlooked by an amused Vanessa (who muses to herself that "it's nice to be young"), the worried pair of Hotaru and Hinako, and an utterly distraught Richard.
  • Battle Trophy: Rugal Bernstein: it's revealed in his debut game that he preserves the bodies of the countless martial artists he's defeated over the years by subjecting them to a grisly liquid metal bath, making them living trophies.
  • Big Bad: Each entry in the series has it’s own main villain but the Saga villains are the most powerful and the most dangerous.
    • Orochi Saga: Orochi
    • NESTS Saga: Igniz
    • Tales of Ash Saga: Saiki
    • Current arc: Verse, or whatever he is a fragment of.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Most of the games up to 2002 will have at least one totally bizarre line that becomes almost way too funny. At a serious scene, just one slip up in translations and BAM: INSTANT NARMAGE.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Mature, Vice and Iori Yagami, whenever they form the Yagami Team.
  • Blue Means Cold: Kula Diamond's hair turns blue whenever she uses her ice powers.
  • Bootstrapped Theme: Aside from the repeated use of "Geese Ni," nearly every theme for the Art of Fighting Team is based off of Ryuhaku Todoh's theme from the first AOF. To date, the only notable exceptions are "Kamikirimushi" ("Praying Mantis") from '96 and "Fight to the Limit" from 2001.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Almost everyone ("Ko-oh Ken!", "Psycho Ball!", "Shingo Kick!", "Zetsuei.", "Get away from me!" etc.). Very often subverted when the characters yell something other than the move's name (like Iori, whose voice samples translate to things like "What's wrong?!" and "Die!"); there are some less talkative characters (Daimon, Leona) and Orochi, whose moves didn't even had actual names until '98 UM.
  • The Cameo: The entire gamut is enough to probably warrant its own page.
  • Canon Discontinuity: XIII starts where XI left off, with XII treated as a Dream Match.
  • Canon Foreigner: Quite a number of 'em, going by the spinoff games like the EX series, Maximum Impact series, and Neowave, not to mention the manga adaptations having more.
    • Most notably, Nakoruru, as well as her team-mates, Mui Mui and Love Heart, are stuck in the King of Fighters possibly permanently, making them Exiled from Continuity from their ORIGINAL universes!
      • And on top of THAT, Love Heart herself has been sold to Highlights Entertainment… only for them to close their doors in 2019, taking the character with them as she is truly gone for good. At least she isn't a Creator's Pest to SNK like K9999 was, though.
  • Canon Immigrant: The idea of a "Heroine" Team consisting of Athena, Mai, and Yuri was introduced in the Neo Geo Pocket game King of Fighters R-1 (a heavily-simplified adaptation of '97), which had a low number of characters relative to the main series and thus bunched them together for the sake of convenience. More than 20 years later, the trio officially teamed up in XV as Team Super Heroine.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Half of the male cast is made up of pretty boys. Nagase, the tech-head ninja from Maximum Impact 2, dislikes each and every last one of them.
  • Character Customization: While it's still impossible to change costumes in XIII because of 2D, SNK have been very creative with color palettes (Robert Garcia with very convincing Terry Bogard palette for example), especially with skin color and skintight clothing (most notable are "no pants" Yuri and Raiden's many "costumes"). And then, as soon as the arcade version was released, it's been revealed that there's alternate palettes that give certain characters actual headswaps: Yuri gets her long hair back, Raiden loses his mask (revealing that he is, in fact, Big Bear), and Takuma gets his Mr. Karate tengu mask back.
    • The console version adds to this with Kyo getting his old '94-'98 school uniform back (and this is without counting his DLC form which comes with a whole new costume—his NESTS-era look, to be specific—altogether).
    • On a lesser scale, the PS2 ports of KOF games from Neowave up to 2002: Unlimited Match had a colour edit feature allowing players to create their own custom palettes. KOF XI onward let you edit their special moves' colours too.
  • Character Roster Global Warming: As far as Mighty Glaciers go, the series started with Daimon, Ralf, Clark, and Chang. It took them about six years to add Maxima, a year to add Seth, three years to add Tizoc, about another six to add Raiden, and yet another six (or seven) to add King of Dinosaurs (if he even counts, considering that he's actually Tizoc).
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Many of the fighters are powerful simply because they trained.
  • Cherry Tapping: In 2003 onward, if you defeat an opponent with a weak punch / kick, they will have an alternate defeat animation wherein they would fall to their knees.
  • Clone Army: '99 had the endgame involve armies of Kyo clones being staged across the world by Krizalid in an attempt to take over the world. Even if he were to succeed, which he did not, the governing body that created him had shut down his connections and the endboss of the next game, Zero, personally terminated Krizalid because of how out-of-control he got.
  • Clone by Conversion: K' is one of Kyo. Although he's still considered a clone despite only being injected with Kyo's genes and retaining his own appearance.
  • Cloneopoly: The King of Fighters: Battle De Paradise is a Neo Geo Pocket Color game made by SNK where you can play a version of KOF as if was a Monopoly game mixed with Sugoroku, having four original player characters (one of them appeared as The Cameo in NeoGeo Battle Coliseum) and many references and other characters from KOF. Also released in Japan only.
  • Clothing Damage: Both King and Yuri can suffer this in '94, '95, XIII, XIV, and XV if they are defeated with any special attack, as a nod to their origins from Art of Fighting. Curiously, this doesn't happen to Ryo or Robert, even though they originated from the same game series.
  • Colony Drop: Igniz tries this in 2001. It fails.
  • Comic-Book Time: After '95, SNK froze all of the ages of their characters to keep the cast roughly youthful. While there are a few illusions of the passage of times (such as Kyo changing his outfit to show that he's dropped out of high school), the earlier characters remain in their teens and twenties whereas most of them should be about a full decade older. This also extends to cameo characters and newer entrants. This is why characters like Kim's sons Jae Hoon and Dong Hwan from Garou: Mark of the Wolves, as well as fan-favorite Rock Howard (SNK Playmore's desire to save Rock for the Garou sequel which will probably never come to pass aside) will probably never make a playable appearance in a future 2D KOF; they appear as children and will stay that way unless there is some sort of retcon Plot-Relevant Age-Up involved. However, Rock has been promoted to the main roster as of XIV, though as a non-canonical DLC character.
  • Compilation Rerelease: Three so far:
    • The King of Fighters Orochi Hen (PS2): A Japanese release comprising of '95, '96, and '97: the Orochi Saga.
    • The King of Fighters NESTS Hen (PS2): Same as above, only it includes '99 (plus the Dreamcast port, '99 Evolution), 2000 and 2001. Basically, the NESTS Chronicles.
    • The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga (PS2, PSP, Wii): The US and European equivalent of the first collection, only it also includes the series' progenitor '94 and the popular '98. This package also includes a Challenge mode but lacks the online mode, soundtrack selection, and customizable palettes from the Japanese compilations.
    • The NESTS games have never been released together in western markets, but double packs of 2000/2001 and 2002/2003 were made for the PS2 years before the aforementioned collections.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: In some games, particularly the early ones, the AI has a serious tendency to use charge moves without charging them. Heidern, the character with most charge moves in the Rugal Arc, is particularly bad for this and it makes him arguably the hardest to fight non-boss character in those games.
  • Continuity Creep: What was envisioned as a relatively story-less Mascot Fighter began to kick into overdrive starting in '95. The story has since become more and more complex, to the point that you'd be lost if you currently jumped into the games without knowledge of at least the first and third sagas (i.e. the arcs revolving around Orochi and the Three Sacred Treasures). And that's not even counting all of the plot elements and allusions carried over from Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Ikari Warriors, Psycho Soldier, Samurai Shodown, The Last Blade, Savage Reign/Kizuna Encounter... A few more titles and we might very well approach full-on Continuity Porn/Continuity Lockout.
  • Costume Porn: The Maximum Impact games, especially the second one, wherein Falcoon went as wild as possible with the fighters' costumes. Nagase and Luise are two big examples, and then there are alternate outfits.
  • Creator Provincialism: Japan Team is always based in Osaka, where SNK themselves is based. You can even see their headquarters on their KOF '96 stage.
  • Creepy Child:
    • Chris himself becomes this when in his Orochi form.
    • When working under NESTS, Kula had shades of this too, being essentially engineered as a bio-weapon designed to counteract defectors.
    • Rimelo, one of the two kids in the Ikari Team's XI ending. Rimelo reappears during a handful of cutscenes in XIII with the creepy factor arguably toned down.
  • Crossover: Goes without saying for this series, but more notably, Maximum Impact 2 includes Fio Germi and Hanzo Hattori. Regulation A has Makoto Mizoguchi as a playable character as well.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The Orochi bloodline, which has Elemental Powers and blade-fingers by default for most members. Then the Riot of the Blood happens and things get a little messy for everyone nearby. Also an example of Hereditary Curse.
    • It's also been stated that members of the Yagami bloodline have a tendency to die young, most likely due to the Riot. Puking up all that blood on a regular basis can't be healthy...
    • Specifically, mixed bloodlines (i.e. Leona and Iori) can't fully control the power of Orochi, making it easy for Orochi or one of Four Heavenly Kings (Goenitz, Yashiro, Shermie, or Chris) to induce a violent, mindless rampage.
  • Death is Cheap:
    • Dead characters only return in the non-canonical Dream Match games, but that's not the case with Vice and Mature, who not only appeared in '98 and 2002, but also XIII note  as full-fledged members of Iori's team only for the duo to fade into darkness again after they become champions., and again in XIV.
    • This is the result of Verse's defeat in XIV, which brings many formerly dead characters back to life, including Ash as well as various Death by Origin Story characters like the New Faces / Orochi Team, which came back for XV.
  • Demoted to Extra: The American Sports Team from KOF '94. Their only other appearance as playable characters (rather than just background and ending cameos) was in KOF '98, which brought back almost every playable character in the series up to that point.
    • Due to rotating protagonist duties, the main heroes of each Story Arc are bumped down a few notches in plotline importance to make way for the next guy, whom the task of wrapping up the new saga falls to. The old guard still contributes to the overarching story (for example, K' and his team fight Mukai in 2003 and the Three Sacred Treasures remain pivotal players throughout the Tales of Ash), just not as heavily as back when they were the headliners.
  • Depending on the Artist: Iori's hair is either a gravity-defying pompadour or a more realistic bang that covers part of his face. Sometimes it's in-between the two styles!
    • K' usually has a (relatively) normal hairstyle, disheveled with a fair amount of bangs. This is consistent throughout the series in terms of sprites and most artwork, but his hair will sometimes appear thick and bushy like a miniature afro, slicked, or even straight-up Shonen Hair.
    • The exact Moe-ness of Athena also varies from game to game due to different artists.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • In the endgame of The King of Fighters '97, players will either fight Orochi Iori or Orochi Leona if Iori is already on their team. If both Iori and Leona are on their team, they will face Orochi Iori but Iori and Leona briefly wonder what happened to Iori's "twin" after the fight.
    • In KOF XV, whenever Iori performs his Climax Super — Ura 1131 Shiki: Hozuki — against a member of Team Orochi (e.g., Yashiro, Shermie, or Chris), his eyes won't turn red and he won't have the Voice of the Legion whenever he speaks to the victim since, in this case, he's actually fighting against Orochi's influence.
  • Devil Complex: Igniz at first declared himself a god before our heroes fight him. After he's defeated, however, he claims himself the devil instead and aims to crash the satellite he's on towards the Earth.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Orochi is supposed to be able to bring The End of the World as We Know It, Goenitz is capable of catastrophic destruction (with hints that Chris, Shermie, and Yashiro can do it too), yet it is never even hinted that more than three fighters were needed to defeat any of them; and in fact, Kyo is usually given all the credit for the defeat of Orochi.
    • To his defense, at the time Orochi has just been incarnated into Chris' body, therefore not at his full-strength. Yet, the Three Sacred Treasures' attack on him did little damage, and Kyo was only able to defeat Orochi with the help from (Blood Rioting) Iori and Chizuru.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Only in the comical, non-serious "ending" of 2002, though: Shermie makes several suggestive poses and many male characters (including Andy Bogard!) run around trying to get a good look. Clark just runs up and tackles her.
  • Divergent Character Evolution:
    • Clark and Ralf used to be basically the exact same character; little more than headswaps. Over time, they evolved to the point it was downright bizarre to think they were ever similar (Ralf likes to punch things, Clark tosses you around). Fan reaction was extremely negative when Clark was brought back to the rank of "Ralf 2" in XII. This has since been rectified in XIV where Clark gets more of his grabs back.
    • Mature and Vice. The former is more speed-oriented, while the latter is a grappler; they only share one move, Deicide (two if you count their XIII Neo MAX).
    • The Kyo clones, whose differentiation came in 2002: Unlimited Match.
    • Kyo and Iori were actually Ryu and Ken in '95 note  but then became wildly different in the next game; in fact, when Iori lost his flames and became a more physical fighter a la Kyo post-'95, Kyo went back to his old moveset.
    • The console version of XIII then added the original flames Iori and "rekka" style NESTS-saga Kyo as DLC playable characters thus restoring the Kyo-Iori side of this trope two-fold (so you can have old "rekka" Kyo versus new "melee" Iori or new/old "fireball" Kyo versus old "flames" Iori).
  • Doomed by Canon: The New Faces/Orochi Team die in their ending, for crying out loud!
    • In fact, there's a 90% or greater chance that the main villains of each title will die by the game's close.
  • Doomed Hometown: Southtown, the setting of sister series/Alternate Continuity Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, is all but systematically wiped out by Clone Zero's Kill Sat at the end of 2000 in his attempt to rebel against the NESTS cartel. (This does lead to Takuma's CMOA where he redirects the Zero Cannon's laser with a Max-Power Haoh Shi Koh Ken/Suburu Ou Shikoh Ken to save King.) However, this plot point is absent in the next game, and by the time of 2003, the citizens seemingly have worked together to rebuild the shambled city.
  • Downloadable Content: XIII has 3 characters made DLC, all three of them being different versions of existing characters basically serving as nostalgia.
    • "Iori with the Power of Flames" is Iori as he used to be, using his old moveset from other KOF games before Ash stole his powers. He also claims the SDM version of his Ya Otome from KOF '99, his Yamisogi DM from KOF 2000, and his Neomax is the Homurahotogi HSDM from 2002 with a much, MUCH larger explosion that triggers the very moment he grabs your head (Unlike in 2002 where there was a brief pause when he did.)
    • "NESTS-style Kyo" is Kyo in his KOF '99 outfit with his signature "rekka" moveset from '96 to '98. He loses his aerial Orochinagi DM but reclaims his Mu Shiki DM. His Neomax "Totsuka" is a whole new move involving a charging fire punch that causes a gigantic explosion.
    • "Mr. Karate" is Takuma in his classic Art of Fighting boss persona (he has it as an alt. costume of sorts but here it's a legitimate EX moveset). His moves (and by the looks of things, his personality here) are based around Serious Mr. Karate from SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos while his Neomax is a whole new move starting with a punch and ending with a flashy, explosive karate chop with Mr. Karate powered by the golden spirit of a real tengu.
    • XIV has a fair bit of DLC.
      • A classic Kyo Kusanagi ('94-'98) skin for preorders. Additionally Athena Asamiya and Iori Yagami also received classic retro outfits. Geese Howard received a zombie-fied version of his infamous "Nightmare" form.
      • Extra outfits for Shun'ei and Nakoruru (both Japanese school uniforms). Extra outfits for Sylvie, Angel, Meitenkun, and Kula are also available.
      • Two retro stages were released (a KoF-themed version of Terry Bogard's Fatal Fury 2 train stage and the Monaco racetrack stage from '97).
      • Most excitingly, there are four DLC characters. Whip is the first revealed, followed by 3 others thereafter. Them being Yamazaki, Vanessa, and to everyone's surprise, an unexpected candidate to the main KOF series: Rock Howard! (Though he did appear in the Maximum Impact games beforehand.) A new character, a Saudi woman named "Najd", also joined the cast as a downloadable character later on, as well as three more veterans: Oswald, Heidern and Blue Mary.
    • XV so far has two alternate costumes (Terry's Garou outfit and Leona's classic attire), as well as four teams and a single entry character (revealed to be Omega Rugal, complete with a Boss Challenge) for the first season of DLC. Four teams are Team Garou (Rock, Jenet and Gato), Team Southtown (Geese, Billy and Yamazaki), Team Awakened Orochi (The Orochi forms of Yashiro, Shermie and Chris, and Team Samurai (Haohamaru, Nakoruru and Darli). While thye on't have enough
  • Dramatic Wind: A few characters have these in their intro or win poses. This includes Kyo and Iori's special introduction in 2000 which is made funny if the wind in one of the backgrounds is blowing the other way around.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Two things not found in KOF '94: The ability to create your own team of fightersnote  and recurring antagonist Iori Yagami.
    • Additionally, the ability to run and roll didn't become staple gameplay elements until '96 (which is a main factor in why the third game is generally seen as the point where the series took off). In the first two games, characters could only hop forward and sidestep dodge, respectively. The power gauge also operated somewhat abnormally by fighting game standards throughout the Orochi Saga: from '94-'96, as well as '97 and '98's Extra Mode, the gauge had to be manually charged and otherwise would only fill up when taking damage or blocking specials and DMs. Upon reaching MAX, the power gauge functioned identically to the POW/Rage Gauge, meaning that stocks couldn't be held, the player dealt more damage, and the bar would empty completely after a certain period of time.
    • Mai Shiranui's fighting stance in '94 and '95, which was replaced by the more familiar one in '96 to date.
  • Easter Egg:
    • In XI, certain characters have alternate taunts depending on who they're facing. Iori has specific taunts for Kyo and Ash. Ash has the same in regards to Kyo and Iori. Oswald happens to have three different poses for his taunt, although it's not character-specific. The special intros and idle animations throughout the series could also count. Try holding down with Bao for example.
    • In XIII, Yuri is the only character to have three variations of her taunt/personal action: she either a) looks at the screen, b) looks at the screen with bulgy eyes (resembling a stock shocked anime expression), or c) she flashes a V-sign similar to her artwork.
  • Elite Four: Goenitz, Yashiro, Shermie, and Chris are the Four Heavenly Kings of Orochi. Mature, Vice, Yamazaki, and Gaidel (Leona's biological father) are the Four Earthly Kings of Orochi. They complete the Hakkesshu that represent the eight heads of Orochi.
    • The Hizoku clan is divided up into four subgroups, with the best assassins and leaders of those groups collectively known as The Four Devas (not those ones). Three of the Devas are NPCs who primarily appear around Lin, but the fourth was Ron, father of Duo Lon and Xiao Lon, who formerly served as the head of the entire clan until he betrayed them to lend his services to NESTS (and the fourth position is covered by Lin afterwards).
  • Embedded Precursor: Of sorts. '94: Re-Bout, '98: Ultimate Match and 2002: Unlimited Match all have the original Neo Geo AES versions they were remade from included, although only in the PS2 version in 2K2UM's case.
  • Enemy Mine: Kyo and Iori teaming up occasionally; Gato with the Outlaw Team in 2003 (though Gato has no friends or enemies, from his point of view).
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Four Heavenly Kings of Orochi, genuinely seem to care about one another. They drop the menacing act during their special intros with each other even in their alternate personas, and while Yashiro isn't averse to killing the other two to revive Orochi, he's apologetic about it and immediately kills himself afterward as an offering, too. Goentiz's interactions with the other three indicate the same in the non-canon '98 Ultimate Match and 2002/Unlimited Match, if his intros with them are anything to go by. This is also partly why Gaidel chose not to be involved with the Orochi business anymore, and Vice and Mature also shows some concern for Iori.
  • EX Special Attack: XIII introduces these, although they cost one full bar of meter, as much as a regular DM. You can also perform EX DMs for 2 bars. XIV introduces MAX Mode, which reduces the cost to 20% of a bar.
  • Family Extermination: In the backstory, Goenitz, one of the "8 Heads of Orochi", visited a fellow member, Gaidel, to ask him for his aid in resurrecting Orochi. Gaidel refused, saying that he chose to live free with his family. Disappointed by his non-cooperation, Goenitz induced "Riot of the Blood" on Gaidel's daughter Leona, who proceeded to murder her family and relatives. The sheer trauma she got after she went back to normal left her with amnesia.
  • Fell Asleep Standing Up: K' has an Idle Animation where he slowly and surely goes asleep while standing up. He's simply bored with the prospect of fighting in the KOF tournaments.
  • Freddie Mercopy: An expy of an expy can be counted on 2000 with (Clone) Zero, which was entirely based on Hokuto no Ken's Han, who was based on Freddie.
  • Game Mod: No matter which Neo Geo installment of the series you pick, there's always a hack of it. Primarily they tend to make bosses playable though some add new arenas, graphics and bump up character's attacks to ludicrous levels. Sometimes you get the odd mod that adds new characters, such as a hack of the arcade 2002 that adds the console port's extra characters (King, Shingo, Orochi Iori, Goenitz and Geese).
  • Girls Like Musicians: A part of Athena and Kensou's backstories is that, as a guitarist in Athena's Idol Singer concerts, Kensou gets his own fangirls too, from which he gets a lot of gifts. Athena is also his Love Interest, although she acts more like his caring best friend.
  • Girls with Moustaches: In XI, the Kyokugen Team's ending has Yuri, of all people, don a fake moustache as part of her disguise. Needless to say, Ryo and King aren't fooled, nor are they amused.
  • Grapple Move: Pretty much a staple. Everyone has their normal grab moves, while a few characters have command grabs; a few characters are the designated "grapplers" such as Clark, Daimon and Vice.
  • Ground Punch: Some characters do this in order to create a short-lived barrier or projectile. The most notable example of this is Terry Bogard, who retains this trick from his series of origin.
  • Guest Fighter: Being that the series is itself meant to be a Shared Universe game among SNK's properties, the idea of a "guest" character isn't as clearly defined but it has happened on some occasions. XI includes characters from Savage Reign and Buriki One (although Buriki One is itself part of said shared universe, as Ryo Sakazaki is a playable character in that game) while the Maximum Impact games include Hanzo Hattori (which may or may not be part of the shared universe; not taking XIV into account), Fio, and Makoto Mizoguchi. Nakoruru has served as both a guest character (in the Game Boy edition of '95) and a canonical participant (in XIV, which may once and for all confirm Samurai Shodown as a canonical piece of the shared universe).
  • Hidden Depths: Take the time to find the official bios for each character, and you'll be surprised by some of their hobbies and other aspects of their lifestyles. For example, Kyo is literally a Warrior Poet (albeit a poor one) and several characters are quite the talented musicians.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: 2001 had an extreme case of this.
  • Hong Kong Dub: Largely played straight with the Maximum Impact dub. Inverted in that the original Japanese audio doesn't always sync properly with the lip movements either, although it's far less frequent.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: With a roster so big and numerous games under its belt, there are plenty of characters that are considered staples of the series now that were relatively late additions:
    • The King of Fighters '95 introduced Iori Yagami, The Rival to the game's protagonist, Kyo. His popularity, which was spurred by his appearance and personality, managed to make him so recognizable that he not only kept being used as an icon for the series in later iterations but also became a major Breakout Character.
    • Leona Heidern, adopted daughter of Heidern and one of the major players of the Orochi saga was introduced until The King of Fighters '96, the third title of the series.
    • K', Kula Diamond, and Ángel were introduced until the NESTS saga, the series second arc, in The King of Fighters '99, The King of Fighters '00, and The King of Fighters '01, respectively.
  • Idle Animation: K''s is notable in that it doesn't loop, which is unique for a sprite. To add to that, his eyes close progressively slower till he's outright fallen asleep. The only way to see him in his fighting stance again after he's put his hands in his pockets is to move him from his spot. Other characters have slight idle animations too such as Clark wriggling his fingers to keep them from stiffening, Ralf hopping back and forth in place, Leona standing straight, and Andy, who would change stances a few times in his animation, one of which was his classic stance from older Fatal Fury games. Bao has a variant of this if you hold crouch, where he'll start drawing on the ground and then fall asleep.
    • This even extended to the characters on your team who waited their turn on the sidelines (from '94 to '98) as you fought. The combatants who had yet to fight would stand and react accordingly (positive gestures if you landed a hit, not-so-positive ones if you were getting your block knocked off); KO'ed fighters would sit there silently in a defeated slump, only acknowledging the ongoing fight if their teammate(s) managed to avenge them. If you were stunned or being grabbed by your opponent and nearby your teammates, you could mash buttons and one of them could jump out and briefly attack your enemy.
    • Other characters have started having idle animations that don't loop, particularly by the HD upgrade in XII. Things like Iori shrugging his shoulders or Ash twisting his hips and playing with his bangs follow K' as non-looping fighting stances.
  • I Have Your Wife: The God's Caliber Team ending, which is expanded in the Spin-Off game KOF: KYO. Your girlfriend, who for all accounts is an Ordinary High-School Student, turns out to be the Barrier Maiden who will be subjected to a Human Sacrifice by the antagonists. And depending on the game, the Quirky Miniboss Squad is either about to abduct her or has already had her in their clutches for at least two days.
  • Image Song: A crapload. Besides the numerous individual ones for the more popular characters (see the individual character sheet), SNK decided to create an entire band off of this concept called "The Band of Fighters." The lineup was Kyo (guitarist), Iori (bassist), Athena (lead vocalist), Terry (drummer), and Nakoruru (pianist) as a band in some bizarre Alternate Universe. On occasion, other characters will lend their vocal talents to the group. Perhaps their best known song is "The Song of Fighters II" and its live version, "Bright & Fly."
  • The Imperial Regalia: Treasures of Amaterasu make up a major part of the plot of the Orochi Saga as well as the Tales of Ash.
  • Impersonation-Exclusive Character: Ling has not only one, but two impersonators, both a regular clone of himself and Zero, both introduced before the real Ling. Practically all that's known about him is that he was the man Vanessa and Seth were working under and that he had a nice mustache.
  • Jiggle Physics: Many of the more buxom female characters' chests jiggle, but Mai Shiranui takes it to the next level.
  • Keeping the Handicap: During the "Tales of Ash" arc (2003, XI and XIII), Iori loses his power due to Ash Crimson stealing his power. The power Iori wields is from a family curse due to his clan making a deal with Orochi in the ancient days (Long story, basically it was made out of misguided jealously). While Iori can fight without it, when all's said and done at the end of KOF 13, he's given the chance to let said power disappear into the ether and live a normal life. He decides he Can't Stay Normal and takes the power back within himself.
  • Lag Cancel: As expected from a Fighting Game, this game generally allows the chain of normal attacks -> command normals -> special attacks -> Desperation Moves -> "Final" Desperation Moves where available. Later games also allow "Drive cancels", i.e cancelling a special attack to another; this requires emptying a certain gauge to perform, and characters are able to enter "Hyper Drive mode" where you can do more Drive Cancels in a combo easily (though often with the tradeoff of being unable to gain meter when it's active).
  • Large Ham:
    • Krauser's "I'll chisel your gravestone! SLEEP WELL!" is hilariously cheesy.
    • A lot of the villains tend to be hammy as well, notably Rugal and Igniz.
  • Latino Is Brown: A lot of the time, South American characters tend to be brown, from the Brazilian Richard Meyer (in Maximum Impact) to the whole South America Team in XIV.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: While several Victory Poses seemed to be aimed at the player directly (such as Yashiro giving a sly pointer gesture, Kim's Twinkle Smile, Benimaru's "I love you" and "Thank you," Shermie blowing multiple kisses, etc.), but they're also combatants in a (usually) televised, wildly popular international fighting tournament, so it's possible that they're also appealing to their fanbase.
  • Left Hanging:
    • Maximum Impact 2 ended on a Sequel Hook, Regulation A was simply an Updated Re-release, and Regulation A2 was canceled. Plans for a third game seem unlikely.
    • Everything surrounding the Dragon Spirit: what exactly it is, how it intertwines with the overall plot or other characters, etc. Ron has said that the power is so absurd that it makes all of NESTS look like nothing and yet this plot point never achieves to be as important as it is implied. It is said that Kensou has mastered controlling it, but still no major changes can be seen through his power level (his personality is slightly more serious but not too much), even when taking into account how much more powerful he should have been if he truly mastered the control of his powers.
  • Light/Fire Juxtaposition: Ash Crimson commands green flames. His rival Elisabeth Blanctorche uses the power of light.
  • Lightning/Fire Juxtaposition: Before the start of the series Kyo and Benimaru were rivals, but nowadays have become great friends. They're based of a Japanese saying: "Lightning strikes ground and creates fire" (with their friend, Goro Daimon, as the "ground").
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: The Neo Geo CD ports of the games, which have loading times so frequent and so ridiculously long (20 to 30 seconds, due to the CDs' slow single-speed drive) that they slow the pacing of all the games to a crawl.
    • KOF 95 for Playstation is a little better, but it still takes ~24 seconds to load a match and ~8 seconds between rounds.
  • Masculine, Feminine, Androgyne Trio: In the Orochi saga, the Sacred Treasures Team are formed by Kyo Kusanagi (male), Chizuru Kagura (female) and Iori Yagami (androgynous). Although they aren't a formal team (more of a Hero, Rival, Baddie Team-Up), they're the canonical team that defeated Orochi in KOF'97. XV finally sees them as a regestered team.
  • Mirror Match: Not just a game mechanic, considering the number of Kyo clones there are. He even complains about how many of them there are in a few games set after the NESTS Saga (namely KOF XI where he jokes that he could make a baseball team out of himself).
    • In 2002: Unlimited Match:
      • Nightmare Geese's Raising Dead End HSDM, wherein his hands glow. If he counters a move then, he rips his shirt off, encases you in a giant Reppuken, and fires it at you. It sounds mundane, and yet the visual delivery is surprisingly epic.
      • Clone Zero traps you in a black hole, follows you in, and seems to Shun Goku Satsu you.
      • Original Zero has Ron whack your soul from your body, and then has his gang of strikers physically smash it to bits before he slots it back in.
      • Igniz traps you in a galaxy and then blows it up. Check it out for yourselves.
      • EX Takuma whipping out his Max Power Suburu Ou Shikoh Ken HSDM, coincidentally the same attack he shows off in the AOF team's 2000 ending.
      • EX Kensou's super repulse touch palm attack HSDM, and keep in mind this version of Kensou was based off of his powerless form from '99 to 2000.
      • Krizalid's Lightning Disaster, where he expels all of his battle data into physical form.
    • Before all of this, there was Orochi in '97, who could rip your soul out of your body, and crush it in the palm of his hand. Your soul. Horribly creepy once it sinks in, but cool in a sense.
    • The above HSDM/MAX2s gain successors in the form of the Neo MAXs from XIII. Here's a compilation of them.
    • Not even the songs are safe! Feel the rhythm! F-f-feel the rhythm!
  • Nebulous Evil Organisation: NESTS, as well as Addes (and its sub-syndicates/branch organizations the Children of Kokaviel, Kusiel, Mephistopheles, and Belphegor) in the MI series. Those from the Past started as this, but quickly became a Standard Evil Organization Squad as time progressed.
  • New Work, Recycled Graphics: From '94 to XI, developers recycled the same sprites to save time as the series was an annual release until 2003, where SNK could no longer keep up.
    • For example, Kim, Ryo, Yuri, Daimon and Mai all use the same sprites from '94 to XI. Some characters, such as Kyo, King, Chang, Choi, Robert, Ralf, and Clark changed the look but remained with the same sprite.
    • Leona, Benimaru, Daimon, Kensou, Robert and Clark have all come out with the same voice sets from '96 to 2002.
  • Night and Day Duo: The protagonist Kyo has the image of the sun on the back of his jacket, and his rival Iori has the image of the moon on the back of his coat. Kyo is lively, confident, full of himself and has fire powers, while Iori is brooding, moody and has power of dark purplish fire. While they occasionally team up against bigger threats, more often than not they meet in the tournaments as opponents.
  • Not Just a Tournament: The game in a nutshell, most prominently during The Orochi Saga ('95-'97) and The Tales of Ash (2003-XIII), where the primary motive of the baddies is to unseal Orochi (although for varying, but no less equally evil purposes). This has happened so frequently that characters start asking why there can't be a regular fighting tournament that doesn't serve as the instrument for The End of the World as We Know It every once in a while.
    • Subverted with The King of Fighters XIV. Antonov is only interested in hosting a grand fighting tournament and buys the rights to the "KOF" name with his vast resources to make it happen. Thus the appearance of Verse is completely disconnected to Antonov and he's not involved in the tournament whatsoever, only showing up to crash the festivities and tear up the joint in an unrelated event that only happens to occur during the King of Fighters finals.
  • Numbered Sequels: Until recently, all of the games had the "The King of Fighters" title, followed by the year the game was released. This tradition changed (but not stopped) with the release of XI, which was released two years after 2003. There is also a bit of confusion about this, since KOF: Maximum Impact 2 was titled "The King of Fighters 2006" in North America.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Oswald's fight with Shen Woo in their team's XI ending. Word of God says that the fight was left open-ended because the fans would be disappointed with the final result.
  • Over-the-Shoulder Murder Shot: Iori does this in one of his Desperation Moves.
  • Parts Unknown: Unlike most fighting games, which mostly restrict this trope to bosses, 26 characters have "unknown" listed against their birthplaces, for one reason or another.
  • Practical Taunt: In earlier iterations, taunting lowers the other player's power bar (though it does the opposite in more recent installments).
    • XIII gives a few characters these. For example, Benimaru's is a botched version of his Benimaru Lancer that shocks Benimaru while still attacking his foe (for minimal damage), Chin takes a swig of his drink (increasing his counter, which in turn increases his damage output), and Kula can set a quickly-dissipating snowman that absorbs most normal projectile specials.
    • Kyo Kusanagi Classic, a throwback version of Kyo with his Orochi Saga appearance and moveset introduced in Maximum Impact 2, is able to, in a direct nod to the pre-'99 installments, manually charge his super meter if the player holds down the taunt button.
  • The Psycho Rangers: In terms of powerset, Team Orochi is this to the Japan Team: Chris has pyrokinesis like Kyo, Shermie can manipulate lightning like Benimaru, and Yashiro's power over the earth is a parallel to Daimon's strength and earth-bound style. It also works in terms of story, considering that the Japan Team were the canon winners of the tournament and it's at this point, as the tournament itself ends, that the truth is revealed.
  • Punch-Kick Layout: KOF uses a four-button system introduced back in Fatal Fury 2; two punches and two kicks. Your throw is tied to your heavy punch button. Throughout many entries in the series, punches and kicks can't simply be strung together freely like other games, instead having very strict timing windows and accessible follow-ups that are specific to most characters.
  • Put on a Bus: This happens a lot. You can't always fit 80+ people in one game.
    • The American Sports Team, who appeared in the first game and has only been back in a non-striker fashion only once for the "Dream Match" game, The King of Fighters '98 (which still had missing characters, like Eiji, Kasumi and the '96 Boss Team! — at least until Ultimate Match).
    • Kula skipped 2003.
    • Leona skipped XI.
    • Andy Bogard skipped 2003 and XI.
    • Joe skipped XI.
    • Angel skipped 2003, XI, XII and XIII.
    • Considerably, May Lee, K9999, and Foxy haven't been seen since 2002. Well, at least K9999 as he used to be.
      • ... while Bao, King, Jhun, Hinako, Xiangfei, Shingo, Lin, Heidern, Kasumi, and Foxy, for some unrevealed reason, skipped the original 2002! King and Shingo, however, were brought back to home versions. As for the others... expect background cameos.
      • Not to mention that 2001 was the only canon installment to include Foxy as a playable character. Officially. Save for 2002UM.
    • Hinako. Put on a bus since 2003.
    • The Ash saga was notable in that several characters that were mainstays throughout the Orochi and NESTS sagas (i.e. Andy, Mai, Robert, Leona, Chang, Choi, Chin, etc.), were dropped from the roster in either 2003 or XI. Not that most of 'em didn't come back in either the home port of XI, XII, or XIII...
    • Shingo hasn't been around since XI but is set to return in XV as DLC.
    • Many Tales of Ash-introduced characters (save for Tung, and he really only comes in XI's console release without any bearing to the plot) don't come back in XIV. Played with in that King of Dinosaurs is almost certainly Tizoc, introduced in 2003, and Ash appears in the Official Invitation Team's ending where Kukri and Elizabeth are looking for him. And Oswald was added later as DLC.
  • Quest for Identity: The focal point of the NESTS Team storyline in 2001. The results aren't pretty, especially for Igniz.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Outlaw Team from 2003 is made up of sub-bosses from the Fatal Fury games (and Gato) — Billy Kane, Gato, and the Ax-Crazy Psycho Knife Nut Ryuji Yamazaki. It was like this in '97 as well, only with Blue Mary completing the threesome with Billy and Yamazaki (Gato would not be created until 1999's Garou: Mark of the Wolves).
    • '97, 2001, and 2002 had the New Faces and NESTS teams. Especially 2002.
  • Real Is Brown: For no reason, 2002 and 2003 had desaturated colors in their stages.
  • Red Is Violent: The series has a lot of good examples of this:
  • Relationship Values: Rare non-RPG example, and stealthily inserted at that. From '94 all the way up to '98, the teammates you chose affected who would actually be willing to contribute to the next teammate's meter stock, or jump in and initiate a Help Attack if their partner in the ring was dazed or being grappled. Allies are more likely to do so if the characters aren't hostile to one another and/or have strong ties (familial, romantic, or platonic) in canon. However, not all characters abide by this rule. Iori, for example, will never bust his neck to help out a teammate, period.
    • You can actually see everyone's attitude towards how their team is set up by holding start at the Order Select screen in '98 (depicted by either an angry, neutral or happy smiley). Beware: Some versions of the game randomize everyone's attitude according to the system's internal clock.
      • To add to the insanity the Dreamcast port, Dream Match 1999, allows you to change everyone's attitude the more you group them together, which means even Kim will help out "evil" characters like Vice and Mature if you play them as a team often enough.
  • Rival Final Boss: In '97, if you beat Orochi in Story Mode with Team Japan's Kyo, his rival Iori will appear as your last opponent.
  • Robot Hair: Candy Diamond, Kula's "sister" from 2000, slides from one type into the other. In her intro with Kula, she's shown to have regular hair, but then sheds her disguise to reveal her true robotic form, which has metallic hair.
  • Roundhouse Kick: Several characters have this as a move.
  • Route Boss: If you get certain special wins in The King of Fighters XI you can fight Gai Tendo, Silber, Sho Hayate or Gyazu. If you can't do some of the requirements for some of them, you have to fight Adel (Rugal's son and Final Boss of KOF 2003) as an obligatory sub-boss.
  • Science Is Bad: The underlying message with the NESTS Chronicles.
  • Secret Project Refugee Family: K', Whip, and Kula have essentially been this post-NESTS saga alongside caretakers Maxima (who functions as the Older Sidekick to K', as well as Kula's Honorary Uncle), Foxy, and Diana (the Team Moms of the group, as well as Kula's maternal figures).
  • Sequential Boss: '97 has five of these, or even six if some conditions are met. The first one is either Orochi Iori if you don't have Iori Yagami in your team, or Orochi Leona if you do. He or she will be followed by the empowered forms of the New Face Team: first you defeat Orochi Chris, then Orochi Shermie, and Orochi Yashiro at last. Not satisfied? Once they're defeated, it's time to fight Orochi himself. But Wait, There's More!! If you fight as the Japan Team and defeat Orochi with Kyo Kusanagi, this will unlock one last match where Kyo fights Iori Yagami (as in, normal Iori without the Riot of the Blood).
  • Serial Escalation: The series had its strongest special moves be quite mild and straight to the point for most of its iterations, even the most impressive looking ones still kept an air of simplicity around them; then XIII happened and SNK just went crazy with the Neo MAX moves, approaching "anime fighter" territory with how grand they looked. However, this direction didn’t become the standard moving forward, XIV and XV went back how the strongest supers used to be, nice and short.
  • Shout-Out: Check the page.
  • Sibling Team: The Bogard Bros., who usually team up in KOF alongside their good buddy Joe. The Tales of Ash saga (at least until XIII) marks the first time Andy wasn't on the roster alongside Terry.
    • Sometimes Ryo and Yuri also go in the same team depending on the year.
  • Similar Squad: Teams that are close relationship-wise to Team Japan will have an equivalent for Kyo (the fire user), Benimaru (the "pretty") and Daimon (the tough brawler), such as Team Yagami (Iori, Mature, Vice), New Face/Orochi Team (Chris, Shermie, Yashironote ), Team K' (K', Whip/Kula, Maxima), Team Ash (Ash, Duo Lon, Shen) and Team China (Shun'einote , Meitenkun, Tung).
  • Situational Damage Attack: In XIII, Raiden has a move known as the Super Drop Kick, a Charged Attack that gets stronger every 4 seconds you charge it.
  • Skill Gate Character: Terry, Ryo, Iori, Shun'ei… quite a few characters for a new player to pick from. And seeing as you'll be using three at a time, you might want to get comfortable and pick wisely. Consult the Dream Cancel Wiki if you need any pointers.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: Level 5 (Full Lockout). There are currently five arcs: the Rugal Saga (the first title, '94), the Orochi Saga ('95-'98), the NESTS Chronicles ('99-2002), the Tales of Ash (2003-XIII) and the current, as-of-now-unnamed arc (the present-day saga, having started in XIV). While it's not too bad with the NESTS Chronicles (as the protagonist of those titles, K', distances himself from previous hero Kyo despite being genetically-engineered with his DNA), the Tales of Ash almost requires that you played the first four games. This is made worse if you look past the main plot and focus on the supporting cast, as you then have to deal with allusions and plot points carried over from Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Ikari Warriors, Athena/Psycho Soldier, The Last Blade, Savage Reign/Kizuna Encounter, Buriki One, etc. While it's Continuity Porn and Fanservice for those who have followed SNK Playmore since its heyday, it's borderline-Continuity Lockout for anyone else. Remember that this series originally existed as a storyless gathering of fighters.
    • And on top of all of that, it looks as though KOF XIV is starting up the Dragon Power arc, a story that SNK's been hinting at for over 16 years. While it's too early to say, you're probably going to get the most out of it if you've watched all of the Psycho Solders' endings from 99 up to XIV, as well as anything to do Lin, Duo Lon, or other members of the Hizoku, as they've all got something to do with the Dragon Power. And never mind anything else that SNK might decide to tie into it...
  • SNK Boss: Pretty much almost every boss in each iteration. For this game, though, it's justified as you tend to battle them 3-on-1 and you just need to defeat them once to win.
  • So Last Season: While newer characters don't tend to experience major changes to their movesets, the longrunners and mainstays tend to experience major overhauls every so often, with the best examples of this being 96 and XII/XIII. In the former, nearly every character from Fatal Fury or Art of Fighting with a long-range projectile (plus Kyo,) had said projectiles replaced with stationary ones or some other such move. (Like Kyo.) And new moves were still given to the rest of the cast across the board. In KOF XIII, SNK doubled back by reverting nearly every FF and AOF character (plus Kyo,) to their original movesets with some changes and additions here and there, while most of the rest of the cast again got some sort of change-up or another.
    • In '99 and 2000, Robert and Kensou experienced major overhauls. Robert had charge motions for his special moves, while Kensou lost his psychic powers entirely and became a more physical fighter. Both were reverted by 2001, but these temporary movesets are available in 2002: Unlimited Match as alternate versions of the two characters.
  • Some Dexterity Required: The series had a problem with this early on. There's the legendary Raging Storm: Down-Back, Half-Circle Back, Down-Forward. K9999'snote  inputs are also ridiculously difficult as are Duck King's in XI. It wouldn't be until XIV that Raging Storm would be replaced by an Orochinagi (qcb~hcf) motion. XV takes it a step further by giving every Climax Super in the game an Orochinagi plus Blowback input as opposed to the varying inputs of prior games.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: The NESTS saga has the bosses be increasingly higher-ranked members of NESTS, starting with officer Krizalid in '99, moving on to his superior, executive Clone Zero in 2000, followed by the second-in-command real Zero and finishing with the NESTS leader Igniz, both of whom debuted in 2001.
  • Source Music: In '97, theme songs are associated only to a few characters (Kyo, Terry, Athena, Iori, Shingo, the '97 Special Teamnote  and the New Face Teamnote , aside from the bosses) rather than their respective teams. For those who don't have them, the fight will be underscored just by background noise. The closest a stage gets to having its own music is arguably the Bali stage.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Goes both ways. The title of the game uses the article, but the in-game tournament doesn't.
  • Stable Time Loop: The whole Tales of Ash saga was revealed to be one in XIII due to Saiki and Those From the Past. It's broken in the ending by Ash's Heroic Sacrifice. This action sets into motion the creation of Verse, a being composed of the souls of dead characters from the series past, who makes his appearance during the finals of the tournament being hosted in XIV. Ash is among them and apparently Verse's defeat released these souls back into the world of the living, which means characters could now come back to life.
  • Submarine Pirates: The Lillien Knights, B. Jenet's band of pirates, goes around with a submarine.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Anyone who is subject to the power of Orochi's blood. When awakened, they gain amazing strength and power, although Orochi hybrids are also subject to insane bloodlust. Leona (and seemingly Iori, since getting his Yasakani powers back at the end of XIII) has been able to tap into her Orochi power without losing her mind, as indicated by some of her desperation attacks turning her hair red.
  • Super Special Move: There are plenty of these across the franchise, though they are rather easy to get interrupted. One case is Benimaru. Many of his moves are riffs on his standard "Raijinken" ("Thunder Quiver Fist"), a burst of electricty from his hand. The Desperation Move, "Raikouken" ("Lightning Fist"), is a stronger variant with more hits and damage. And then there's 'Rai-Kou Ken", which instead fires a massive stream of lightning.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Nameless, who replaces K9999 in 2002: Unlimited Match could be considered a positive rendition of this.
    • As well as Aya and Hermione, Rugal's secretaries from '98, who replaced Mature and Vice after they became ascended extras.
  • Tag Team Twins: Pre-final boss fight in 2003 against Chizuru and Maki Kagura who fit this trope just exactly: not only they're literal twins and they both fight in a two-member tag team (whereas three was the default number), they also share the same lifebar.
  • Team-Based Tournament: The plots of the games typically involve tournaments consisting of three-person teams of fighters from all over the world
  • Technicolor Fire: Originally it was only Iori's purple fire in contrast with Kyo's (and other pyrokinetics) natural red fire, which was quickly explained as a sign of the Yagami's pact with Orochi (further proven when Chris is revealed to manipulate the same color of fire), but it went crazy in the Tales of Ash arc, where in addition to those there's Ash's green flames, Elisabeth's white flames, and lastly, Saiki's black fire (which admittedly looks more like ink than fire).
  • Third Party Stops Attack: In the K-Team ending, K' is surrounded by enemy soldiers aiming their guns at him, only to have Maxima block the bullet with his hand and cover K's retreat.
  • Three Round Deathmatch: One of the first notable aversions in the genre. The team-based gameplay of '94 ensured fights always lasted at least three rounds and can stretch to five. 2003 and XI, being tag-team games, do not use rounds at all and simply have the fighters battle until one team has no more characters it can field. Installments after '94 did include an option for traditional 1v1, "first to two fall" fights, however.
  • Tornado Move: Joe Higashi's moveset includes multiple attacks of this nature, beginning with his "Hurricane Upper" and "Twin Hurricane", which are two of his basic attacks. Followed by his (HS)DMs "Screw Upper" and "Exploding Screw Upper." He first gained "Double Cyclone/Malestrom", which unleashes two Screw Uppers at once, in Capcom vs. SNK 2. And last, but certainly NOT least, there's his NEO MAX, "Screw Straight"! They call him "The Human Storm" for a reason.
    • Also Goenitz's Yonokaze and Krizalid's Typhoon Rage, two moves we just love to hate.
  • Tournament Arc: The point of the entire series, considering that it revolves around the titular fighting tournament. However, KOF always seems to serve as the vehicle for some nefarious person or group with an axe to grind to the point that certain fighters in the Maximum Impact series hope that the next tournament can simply be a test of their skills and not the instrument of the possible destruction of mankind. The King of Fighters XIV manages to be just that, although in-universe Giant Space Flea from Nowhere Verse still shows up to make a mess of things during the finals, very similar to Goenitz in '96.
  • True Final Boss: Several throughout the series.
  • Unblockable Attack: A good number of them, chief among them being Ralf's Galactica Phantom when charged up.
  • Updated Re-release:
    • '94: Rebout, which added Saisyu, Team Edit (missing in the original '94 and didn't become a staple of the series until the next game), enhanced sprites, and a lot of 3D backgrounds.
    • '98: Ultimate Match, which added Eiji from '95, Kasumi, the Boss Team and Goenitz from '96, and Orochi Iori, Orochi Leona, and Orochi himself from '97. Also included a game system option beyond "Advanced" and "Extra" called "Ultimate" that let the player mix elements from Advanced (stock bar, running, and rolling) with Extra mode (charge bar, dashing, and dodging). Certain rules were also tweaked (like having to trigger Extra mode's Max state manually as opposed to just activating on its own when the bar was full).
    • 2002: Unlimited Match, which has EVERYONE who was in the NESTS saga games (except K9999, who gets a Suspiciously Similar Substitute in the form of Nameless), INCLUDING Geese (with his added Nightmare mode from Real Bout Fatal Fury Special, cheapness and all!) and Goenitz, last seen on the PlayStation 2 port of 2002. Though for some reason, Orochi Iori is not present as a playable character though he was found as an unused element.
      • Ultimate Match got its own rerelease with the PGM 2 version, which brings in some balance fixes and new moves.
    • After XIII was given a console release (complete with extra content and DLC), the arcade version received an upgrade entitled The King of Fighters XIII Climax, which features all of these bonuses.
  • Vague Age: The game used to list the ages of characters, but later on the official data lacks it. Most likely have something to do with Comic-Book Time and how some characters don't look their stated age.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: The Maximum Impact spinoffs were the first games to use 3D graphics, followed by XIV being the first main installment to do so.
  • Video Game Long-Runners: "It all began in '94..." All joking aside, the series includes fourteen titles (not including Updated Rereleases like '98 Ultimate Match, 2002: Unlimited Match, and Neowave), with several portable spin-offs, four separate continuities (Maximum Impact, EX, R, Days of Memories; each with a minimum of two games apiece), and various other titles like the RPG-styled KOF: Kyo and pachinko slot games. The King of Fighters XV is currently the latest game.
  • Villains Out Shopping: XV's Team Orochi ending is a humorous pingponging of Chris, Yashiro, and Shermie discussing plans for the band, being interviewed for a magazine aimed at female martial artists, and schemes aimed at kidnapping Kyo's girlfriend to resurrect Orochi once again, in no particular order. The entire ending plays out with a mostly playful, affable air that doesn't favor or emphasize any of the aforementioned subjects.
  • Villain Protagonist: NESTS Team in 2001, if you chose to play as them, of course. Mixes as Quest for Identity.
    • Also the case for the Boss Team in 96, Outlaw Team for 97 and 03, and (likely) Team Southtown and Villains Team in XIV, again if you play as them.
    • Ash himself was billed as this during the Tales of Ash arc. At least, until the end.
  • Wham Episode: XIII, considering its ending.
    • The entire "Tales of Ash" saga is pretty much a Wham Arc (Rugal has children, Chizuru and Iori lose their powers, the seal on Orochi is broken, Ash beats Orochi Iori effortlessly, etc.), but this is all compounded by the death of Ash.
    • Despite being the first installment of its arc, XIV manages to do this with its final boss: Verse is an amalgam of departed souls of various KoF characters who came into being after Ash's Cosmic Retcon/Ret-Gone of himself. Defeating Verse causes these souls to be released, which creates the possibility that once-dead characters such as Orochi or Krizalid (and despite his actions, Ash is also among them) will now be canonically alive again. And not just present-day dead characters, mind you, seeing that one of the souls stored in Verse include a certain Mizuki Rashoujin
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: South Town. While its exact location in the US is never revealed in the games (same goes with the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series), it's heavily implied that it's located in Florida, and the city is inspired by Miami.
  • A Winner Is You: Usually in the case of characters added to home ports of games (who usually receive some sort of congratulatory artwork in place of an actual ending), as well as all the hidden characters in Maximum Impact 2. In either case, this usually also results in no character-specific prologues and cutscenes for the sub-boss and boss. This is also the standard for the dream match editions - since there's no plot, there's no need for a full-fledged ending.
  • With My Dying Breath, I Summon You: 97. The plot revolves around three young adults trying to revive Orochi of Japanese folklore since their leader was defeated in the last game (KOF '96). After you defeat the 3 characters, it is discovered that one of the characters is in fact the vessel that Orochi is being summoned through and with their final strength, the remaining two give their energy and their lives to the character so that he transforms. Thus the final boss battle begins.
  • World of Badass: From young kids to trained professionals, everyone playable qualifies as a badass in their own right.
  • World of Snark: It's been heading this way since Day 1, but XIII firmly cements this with all of the pre-fight intros and a good part of the Story Mode dialogues. Comes complete with Lampshade Hanging and Leaning on the Fourth Wall, too!

Alternative Title(s): The King Of Fighters