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  • Accidental Innuendo:
    • Ralf's special intro in XV with Whip can be easy to interpret as such since he asks Whip to take out her frustrations on him. Let be known that Whip, well, uses a Whip and considering that Ralf is basically asking for it...
    • One of Chizuru's win quotes in XV can be easily taken as such even with context.
      Chizuru: Even though this isn't my first time, I still get slightly nervous in front of the camera.
  • Adorkable: A few examples.
    • The most notable of which is Shingo. If his unique intro with Kyo isn't enough of an indicator, there's his HSDM in 2002 UM where he wails on the opponent for a bit, but then forgets what he was doing mid-combo, pulls out his notebook in a hurry (as the opponent is still stunned in place, no less), and then finishes wailing on them!
    • King every time she gets flustered by Ryo. Especially in their XIV pre-battle cutscene.
    • Leona also shows some shades of this from time to time, too. Particularly in SNK Heroines where she treats the whole thing as another mission instead of stopping to wonder just what the hell is going on. Her reaction to Terry getting turned into a girl also takes the cake.
      Leona: Huh? I-Is that you... Terry? Terry Bogard, right?
      Fem!Terry: Hm? Oh, if it isn't Leona! You've got a gloomy look on your face as usual. What's the matter? Not getting enough to eat?
      Leona: I-I never imagined you were into that kind of fun, Terry...
    • Rock Howard of all people also comes off as this. Especially with his interactions with much of the female roster. Vanessa's not one to shy away from teasing him.
    • Compared to his usual stoic and aloof self, XV sees K' at his dorkiest, be it intentionally or otherwise. Between his interactions with Kula (which make him come off as a huge tsundere; and it goes both ways for him and Kula, too) and the entirety of the Legendary Heroes team ending with Kyo and Ash making him come off endearingly awkward as he tries to say Kyo's catchphrase so earnestly.
    • Speaking of which, Ash also shows shades of this in XV, too. Barring the above-mentioned Edit Team ending, he's also got a few moments, namely during his interview with Clemence on XV's site and his interaction with Isla.
  • Alas, Poor Scrappy: In XIII, Ash gives one last smile before he disappears from existence entirely. Suffice to say, Elizabeth wasn't the only one heartbroken that day. And then came the Offical Invitation's Team Ending and KOF XV...
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • One that extends to the entire New Faces Team: were they generally nice and decent, unassuming citizens whose personalities were permanently overridden by their true selves, or were they always that evil, their current persona being a ruse with the trio letting pieces of their malicious nature slip through the cracks every now and then note  until there was no longer a need to keep up the charade? Or, to take another route, when their status as Heavenly Kings was revealed, did they go along with the plan to resurrect Orochi, not because of their loyalty or the pleasure that evildoing brought, but because they couldn't turn back and go against their fate? Or maybe did they start as nice and decent people note , but once they set in their places as Heavenly Kings, they decided it was more fun/convenient to side with Orochi and willingly threw themselves in their roles?
    • In XIII, Mature and Vice warn Iori that if he takes back the Yasakani-no-Magatama, he'll be subjected to his clan's curse once more. Seeing as they're agents of Orochi, it's possible that they were hoping that if Yagami didn't take the Yasakani-no-Magatama, the Three Sacred Treasures would no longer be complete and Orochi would finally be freed from its seal once the time came. However, it could also qualify as a Pet the Dog moment; maybe they did care about Iori enough to place his well being over their mission to resurrect Orochi. This is heavily implied to be the case in Team Iori's ending on XIV: Mature and Vice let Iori go fight Orochi and just sit aside to watch, with Mature commenting how fun it is to be around Iori.
    • Athena's crush on Kyo. While supplementary materials (the '98 CD drama note  and the 2000 CD drama note ) readily adopted the idea from KOF: KYO, there's been very little to show for it in the main series itself, raising the question of whether or not she has such a crush in the main canon. If Athena did have a crush on Kyo, did it die out over time? In the more interaction rich games like XIII and XIV, Athena does not express any such interest in Kyo (the only particularly romance-related dialog they have is Athena telling Kyo that Yuki—his offscreen girlfriend—still supports him) and Kensou does not see him as a romantic rival.
    • In XIII, more than half the cast points out the indecency of what little Mai's wearing, with some telling her to Please Put Some Clothes On. But is it an amusing subversion of her usual status, or are they all Slut-Shaming her?
      Daimon: (angrily, at Mai) Filth! How DARE you dress like that in front of other people!? You give Japanese women a bad name!
      Shen: Not only do you lack modesty, but you've got a big mouth too! Your mom must be proud of you.
  • Americans Hate Tingle: Ash Crimson. The Japanese fanbase pretty much loves Ash. The West hates him with a passion for coming across as an Invincible Villain, if not an outright sue (his end fate notwithstanding). In Ash's case, however, much of the hate has died down since XIII, to the point his return in XV was met with open arms. Nevermind that he isn't the main protagonist of the game anymore and his relationship with Elisabeth is one of the series' more touching moments.
  • Anti-Climax Boss:
    • Orochi. Not of his game (KOF '97 was rather easy anyway), but of the Orochi Saga as a whole. He remains one of the easiest end bosses to beat.
    • Clone Zero. Despite the fact that he's got a fast-loading super meter and abuses his supers on a regular basis, he's surprisingly easy to defeat, much easier than Krizalid. Mainly because his AI was badly programmed and is very glitchy, making him pretty much the easiest Final Boss in the entire NESTS saga if not the entire series.
    • Dark Ash. Same deal as Clone Zero, except whereas C.Zero had a unique moveset, Dark Ash is just, well, Ash, but with black flames and enough fireball spam to put even Goenitz to shame. Like C.Zero, his AI is dumber than a sack of peanuts, being prone to sweeps or spam himself, particularly with Vice's Splash or Daimon's Jiraishin. Observe.
    • Verse. While its moveset is very much unique compared to Dark Ash, it's not as difficult as the SNK Bosses of yesteryear, instead being quite reasonable and easy enough to beat with one character, somewhere in between the above-mentioned Orochi and Clone Zero in terms of difficulty, but without the bad AI. Helps that Verse is also playable from the get-go as opposed to either being unlockable or just not playable at all.
  • Audience-Alienating Era: The time period after the original SNK's bankruptcy, starting with KOF 2001, is perceived as when the series took a huge slump.
    • KOF 2001 was a disappointment that derailed the series' problems and had poor music that cannot compare to any KOF before, placing itself as one of the weakest in the series. This was also when the Executive Meddling hit it hard, as Eolith, the publisher of 2001 and 2002, forced some changes into the games, including a few of character designs (although a scant few, like May Lee, were more favorably received). SNK reclaimed the wheel (as a new name SNK Playmore) beginning with 2003, but that game was also controversial for the new direction it took.
    • The question of when SNK truly recovered differs between fans; the games after the discontinuation of Neo Geo were generally seen a return to form, with games like KOF XI, '98 UM, and 2002 UM considered some of the best in the series, but some would claim the series was never the same after the bankruptcy, citing poor decisions constantly made by the new SNK like the questionable release of XII, the below-average 3D graphics introduced in XIV, and reckless licensing (including gacha games) that they perceive as a cheap cash-in.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • After the three previous protagonists were mostly characterized as jerkasses (especially Ash, even when it was all revealed to be an act; though with Kyo, it's a bit more subdued), Shun'ei in XIV is comparatively much nicer and friendlier than his predecessors... regardless of how you might feel about his design. Likewise, whereas the previous protagonists are a little on the harder side to use (again, Ash especially in XIII), Shun'ei is one of the more beginner-friendly characters on the roster - having some fairly easy combos to execute paired with a straightforward and fundamental gameplan and overall versatile playstyle. Also helps that he was actually top tier later on in XIV's lifecycle, too.
      • On the topic of Ash, he himself went from one of the harder characters to play in XIII, to an outright beginner-friendly character in XVnote , as he's nowhere near as reliant on Sans-culotte for damaging combos as he was previously (not that it isn't any less useful, though). Paired with the lack of the Drive Cancel system from XIII (as that was a contributing factor to his difficulty) and a more footsies-oriented style of play for XV overall (which is something he excels in), and Ash may just be the most accessible of the four protagonists second to Shun'ei. He's also a lot nicer than he was in prior games; more on that in Rescued from the Scrappy Heap below.
    • KOF: Maximum Impact Regulation A was made to appeal to classic KOF fans who were turned off by the changes made in the Spin-Off Maximum Impact series. The traditional 3-on-3 format was restored (as opposed to the solo battles of the previous MI games), changes were made to improve the gameplay flow and balance (including the removal of the notoriously broken Armor Ralf), and the title even received a proper arcade release.
    • The developers were clearly aware of the poor response to XIV's graphics, and although few would call it a particularly pretty game, it's clear they put a lot of work into polishing them to a more presentable state, even after the game's release.
      • On a related note, the visuals in XV are already seen as a significant step in the right direction, looking far better than its predecessor and more like a current-generation title with cel-shaded visuals instead of the sixth generation-era visuals of XIV. Just watch this side-by-side comparison of Andy's XIV and XV counterparts to see the difference.
    • After years of the cast of Fatal Fury slowly becoming more and more Demoted to Comic Relief and Flanderized on top of that, XIV attempts to give them a bit of Character Rerailment. Team Fatal Fury's wacky antics are somewhat toned down, Kim is placed on a team with his master to reemphasize his taekwondo skills rather than his obsession with justice, and Tung Fu Rue is given plot relevance as Shun'ei's master (and potentially a friendly rival to Terry since the two share the same master in Tung).
    • After Kyo's redesign in XIV proved to be massively controversial for making him unrecognizable, XV plays it safe by being a mix of several features from older tried-and-true designs, such as his old XIII jacket and bringing back his headband, which he hasn't worn in canon for over 20 years' worth of games. Reception has been largely positive.
    • Likewise, Iori's redesign in XIV was also met with some rather lukewarm reception, as noted in What The Hell, Costuming Department? and They Changed It, Now It Sucks! below. His XV design on the other hand is a much more stylish shade of black and red that is a logical update of his signature look while also serving as a neat callback to Another Iori from 2000.
    • One of the biggest gripes that many South American players had with the South America team in XIV was that, for a team that supposedly represents South America, only one of its three members hail from a South American country other than Brazil (and even then, Zarina is a resident of Brazil and has more Brazilian elements to her design, anyway). And then comes the reveal that Isla hails from Chile, which remedies this a bit, especially since the only other Chilean character one can possibly think of in fiction is none other than Gus Fring.
    • Krohnen is basically one big apology letter to K9999 fans. Nameless was a brand new character created to replace the legal minefield that was K9999, but was considered bland and stuck in Dream Match or unofficial story limbo to boot. Meanwhile, Krohnen is introduced in a canon entry and retains most aspects of K9999's appearance and personality while changing just enough to no longer be an overly blatant ripoff of Tetsuo Shima, such as having a different voice actor, giving him Nameless's hairstyle, and exchanging K9999's organic-based abilities for Nameless' mechanical ones. Fans found it a good compromise, and it showed to embittered K9999 fans that even if SNK considered him a Creator's Pest, they did like him enough to try to salvage him (and the infamously messy NESTS Aborted Arc in general) after all. For fans of the Maximum Impact games, his design also takes some inspiration from Alba Meira.
  • Awesome Animation:
    • One thing that really got it noticed back in 94 and made it a contender against Street Fighter. The sprite animation in the earlier games is utterly gorgeous and still holds up well to this day. By 2003 they were really getting it down pat, just look how smoothly Ash throws his fireball at the screen in the intro. That's all sprite animated!
    • Also, XIII (and by extension, XII), which replaced the old MVS-style graphics with high-resolution sprites. Even if some characters look a bit too buff, the animations are impressively fluid and the backgrounds are very rich in detail and movement (even though they can be on the bizarre side sometimes).
  • Awesome Music: Many.
  • Badass Decay: Terry, Andy, Ryo, and Robert were originally the heroes of their respective games (from Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting respectively). But ever since joining the KOF roster, they've steadily been pushed further into the background. Few of their team endings ever have anything to do with what's going on at the tournament, as they've mainly become comic relief.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Plenty of characters throughout the series have their fans and detractors, but these take the cake as far as their divisiveness is concerned.
    • Sylvie. An adorable modern idol with a hidden sadistic streak and a surprisingly Dark and Troubled Past (if SNK Heroines is anything to go by) tying her to the NESTS Saga, or a visually messy and out-of-place abomination that suffers from Sweetness Aversion? She proved divisive as soon as XIV's concept art leaked.
    • Many South American fans (excluding Brazilians) don't like the South American Team, or at least say they should've called Team Brazil. Why? Because despite the name of the team, its members are all Brazilian. Even Zarina, despite being Colombian, lives in Brazil and has more Brazilian elements than Colombians in her design.
    • Nakoruru's teammates from the Another World Team (Mui Mui and Love Heart). One part thinks they're pretty cool additions and showing that SNK is pretty fair to even their Pachinko titles even as they are leaving the venture behind. The other camp is the camp that assumes that they're instantly bad characters solely because of how reviled Pachislot games are to just them at least after the bad taste to Pachinko left by Konami. Or just people who were pretty salty that SNK did not use actual old arcade series that they'd know already, like those featured in NeoGeo Battle Coliseum (majorly World Heroes and The Last Blade). Even sometimes Nakoruru took small heat on it because they thought her team is 'Team Pachinko', only to be reminded that Samurai Shodown existed long before Pachinko (though the series did get several Pachislot series after getting a Franchise Killer game... at least until Samurai Shodown (2019) came along, anyway.)
    • Speaking of Pachislot games, Alice. Some players like her bubbly personality, her Ascended Fangirl tendencies toward Terry, and fun moveset (which is a composite of Team Fatal Fury's - namely Andy, Joe, and especially Terry - respective moves) while others aren't as fond of her because of her rather generic design and gameplay, or the fact that she too hails from a Pachislot title, in this case being Garou Densetsu: The Legend of the Wild Wolf (not helping her case are the coin showers that accompany her hit effects, like Special Wolf Combination).
    • Rock Howard. Some fans, especially those who remember him from Garou: Mark of the Wolves and Capcom vs. SNK 2 are generally happy at his inclusion in the KoF cast. However, other longtime series fans dismiss him as a boring, generic, anime pretty boy who copies some of Terry and Geese's moves but doesn't have what makes them interesting to play. Being historically low tier in most of his appearances up until his reworked set in XV has not helped.
    • As the new protagonist of the NESTS arc, K' had big shoes to fill, and how well he fills them is hotly debated among fans. Many see him as a perfect headliner for the saga, serving as a Contrasting Sequel Protagonist for the shift from Japanese mythology and martial arts to dark science fiction. Some feel he's a stylish, memorable character in his own right who is merely subject to a disproportionate amount of Character Shilling. On the other hand, detractors, especially veteran fans, consider him a poor man's version of Kyo at best, while others strongly dislike his abrasive attitude and "edgy" persona.
    • Bao is often derided not only for being a fairly ordinary kid who nevertheless manages to be extremely powerful, but fans of Kensou dislike him for being the reason why Kensou temporarily lost his Psycho Powers during the Nests arc. He does have fans of his own, however, either for his unique playstyle or for being a friendly, cheerful little guy in a series full of cocky adult and teenage fighters.
    • Shun'ei, mostly due to his design. Common detractions include it being inchorenet, especially with his jacket worn like a cape, his headphones, and his one folded pant leg on top of an utter mess of a color scheme. On the other hand, others like him for being both simple and effective to play and being the nicest KOF protagonist out of the four, albeit rather aloof otherwise.
  • Broken Base:
    • The series going 3D again in the KOF XIV announcement trailer. Some welcome it, believing that 3D models will be much more efficient and allow them to put more characters into the game and shorten development time (especially taking into account the fiasco of XII being an Obvious Beta which would take another full year to be developed into XIII), while others believe the initial graphics presented in the trailer look like a PS2 game, drudging up memories of the already-divisive Maximum Impact series, and others still believe that the new entry should have either kept the high-quality sprites of XIII or went with a graphics style more like that of Guilty Gear Xrd or Dragon Ball Fighterz (3D models with shading to make them look like sprites). Due to this, the graphics update in 1.10 is warmly accepted by the fanbase.
    • K9999 vs. Nameless. The first camp believes that K9999 really is that badly designed of a carbon copy of Tetsuo and a sign of a Audience-Alienating Era better left forgotten (and it doesn't help that he's a complete Jerkass), while Nameless is really a more compelling original Tragic Hero or Tragic Villain character. The other camp believes that Nameless came off as really dull due to his monotone delivery and that K9999 while being a complete jerk and a shameless ripoff, at least still has a personality (even if a nasty one) to entertain them; some of them even like the overt Tetsuo reference. Proving that, yes, as much as some members of SNK themselves hated the guy, K9999 still has fans. Turns out, SNK's hatred for K9999 was overstated, and they eventually retooled K9999 into Krohnen and toned down the AKIRA aspects. It also doesn't help the conflict that when one of them's being promoted, the other guy is Demoted to Extra at best, or subjected to Bury Your Art at worst.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • In general, beating an SNK Boss in any KOF game (especially Rugal) is one of the most satisfying things one can achieve besides their first Super Cancel.
    • If you want to make the above even better, fighting fire with fire by using said SNK Boss yourself - particularly in the Dream Match games ('98 and 2002) - against another SNK Boss. It's especially satisfying to take Omega Rugal down in '02 UM using Krizalid or even Nightmare Geese.
    • From a canon standpoint, there's Saiki's Villainous Breakdown in XIII. After having established himself as an even bigger smug Jerkass than his own descendant (which is saying something) who was more than willing to off one of his own underlings simply for speaking up against him, it's immensely satisfying to watch Saiki realize the inevitability of his impending demise... even if that also means going through Ash's own death immediately afterward.
  • Complete Monster:
    • Rugal Bernstein, the Big Bad of the very first game, does evil for the sake of being evil, and considers himself a God. He is a wealthy and powerful Arms Dealer who killed many martial artists just to bathe their bodies in liquid bronze and make them into decorative statues for his yacht. In Heidern's backstory, we find out that Rugal slaughtered all 50 soldiers in the guy's squad before killing his wife and daughter, who he had previously kidnapped, just for the fun of it, and topping it off with gouging out Heidern's left eye and leaving him to live in despair. He also beat Saisyu Kusanagi to near-death and tried to blow up his own ship upon defeat so that the Japan Team would die with him. Rugal survives and hosts the 1995 tournament, where he seeks revenge for his plans being foiled. He has Saisyu brainwashed and forced to fight his son. Rugal openly treasures his evil heart and hates justice. He lacks ambitions of world domination, but his atrocities make him stand out among other KOF villains.
    • Clone Zero may not be the leader of NESTS, but stands as its most wicked member. At the conclusion of the 2000 tournament, he reveals his ultimate plan: using the fighters' energy to fuel his Kill Sat, the Zero Cannon. This would be the key step in Zero's desire to create a new world order where he would rule supreme, not NESTS. Before the fight, he demonstrates the cannon's power by destroying the city of Southtown. After being defeated and his device shut down for good, he reveals to Whip in his dying breath that she is a clone of K's sister, angering her enough to shoot him dead. The game's story reveals more of Zero's deeds: he murdered Heidern's close friend Ling and impersonated him, creating a clone of the murdered man to act as his spy in the Ikari Warriors. He also killed Krizalid in '99 for failing him. Unlike the other NESTS villains, Clone Zero has no sympathetic traits. He is an utter hypocrite who hates traitors while being one himself, and his desire to Take Over the World led to the destruction of an entire city. He stands out in the saga for his sheer and absolute malevolence.
  • Contested Sequel: XIII is one of the most divisive entries in the series. Americans, especially those who came into the series through it, love the game and especially the Awesome Art sprite work, wishing future games would be able to do more like it. However, many veterans from Asia and Latin America (and even a few North Americans) are quick to point out how its many systems and combo-heavy nature make it play very differently from other KOF games and feel that the expensive, time-consuming sprites were not worth the sacrifices to the rosternote  or move animationsnote .
  • Crack Pairing:
    • Iori and Kasumi. It is perhaps the most popular non-Ho Yay pairing despite the fact that they've probably never even met. And the one time they did in SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos?
      Iori : ...Pathetic.
    • Shingo/Kasumi. Less cracky by nature, but the fact remains that it's a fan pairing between two characters with minimal (if any) interaction in canon stemming solely from the fact that she criticizes Shingo for relying too heavily on his notebook (thus holding up their fight) in their 2002UM intro pose.
    • Kyo/Yuri. It has a surprising fan following that's quite impressive for two characters who are on decent terms but barely know each other. Two official KOF pictures of them together only added more fuel to the fire.
    • Shermie/Shun'ei, entirely due to the fact her KOF XV reveal trailer had Shermie thrashing Shun'ei around. And given some of Shermie's moves and gimmicks made it looks like she was coming on to Shun'ei in her own way. This is mostly Played for Laughs within the KOF community, with Shermie being too eager to jump Shun'ei's bones while poor Shun'ei is scared for his life.
      YouTube Comment: Shun'ei: "Harder, mommy!"
  • Crazy Is Cool:
    • Yamazaki. A guy so off his rocker, not even Goenitznote  would want to come near him for not fulfilling his duties as a member of the Hakkeshu.
    • In addition to being a drop-dead gorgeous Amazonian Beauty, Vice is also... not right in the head, we'll say. Doesn't stop her from scraping your face on the floor or dogpiling you with a well-placed Splash, though.
  • Creator's Pet:
    • Not many people like Ash, yet SNK let him get away with pretty controversial stuff, such as stealing Iori's powers. He got an Alas, Poor Scrappy send-off in XIII that made him gain some people's partial forgiveness. Seems to be gone as of XV since he's no longer in the limelight on top of getting a new redesign that was received warmly upon his reveal.
    • K' serves as this to the Japanese fandom; he's substantially better-received outside of Japan, though.
  • Designated Hero: Compare the actions of Ash, the Villain Protagonist, and his "Hero Team" to that of previous heroes Kyo and K'. XIII revealed that he indeed had an agenda (a good one to boot), but had to go out of his way to make it work.
  • Die for Our Ship:
    • Kyo's girlfriend, Yuki, is loathed by Kyo x (insert: Iori, Shingo, Athena, etc.) shippers.
    • Athena is hated by some Kensou fans (of both genders), who accuse her of ungratefully playing with his feelings. Athena and Kensou are both good friends, but their limited Character Focus is usually the Overly-Long Gag of Kensou being her Dogged Nice Guy and Athena dodging his advances but never actually turning him down. Things probably got worse once the games began treating Kensou's feelings sympathetically, as per his big rescue scene and some of the pre-fight dialog about their relationship in XIII and SNK Heroines.
    • Some Mai fans don't think too highly of Andy's seeming lack of interest in her considering the fact that she's one of the most popular and attractive characters in the franchise, which leads to them bashing him for it. Finally averted in XIV where Mai and Andy are now finally in a relationship.
  • Difficulty Spike: Several games in the series suffer from this, but the three most egregious examples would probably be in '94, '96, and XI. If you reach the first cutscene (in '94), face the Boss Team (in '96), or make it to the sub boss (in XI), expect things to take a turn for the worse.
  • Epileptic Trees: While many fans hope that this doesn't come to pass (or at least not in the terms described), a prevalent theory is that, should SNK ever go bankrupt again (as in, for good), their last action will be to create one final "dream match" title, but up to eleven: a The King of Fighters Universal Match which would bring back every character that was ever in a KOF game for the last hurrah.
  • Estrogen Brigade: This series is notable for its overall popularity with female fans, to the point that at least two official Otome games were made to take advantage of this:
  • Even Better Sequel: A few examples stand out amongst the series' long-running history.
    • KOF '98 is perhaps the biggest example. It takes everything that already worked in the games that came before it, fine-tunes the mechanics (and lets you pick between the old system used from '94 to '96 - Extra Mode - and the current system that we're all familiar with - Advanced), and brings back every character that has ever appeared from the Orochi Saga while also throwing in some extra movesets (e.g., Normal Kyo, being his post '96 moveset, and EX Kyo, being his classic Shotoclone-style '94-'95 moveset) for good measure. Little wonder why this one's universally considered to be one of, if not the best games in the series.
    • Then there's 2002 Unlimited Match, one of the best examples of a Updated Re Release done right. While a certain character ended up being replaced in favor of a lawyer-friendly version (much to the disdain of said character's fanbase), UM more than makes up for that with the biggest roster in the entire series to this day with a whopping 66 characters availablenote  (counting EX characters and the Bosses) to choose from, as well as fine-tuning and improving upon the original 2002 despite being an Eolith-era game. Not to mention that the modern rereleases of the game on PlayStation and Steam (handled by Code Mystics) have also enjoyed the addition of rollback netcode, too.
    • KOF XI is seen by many as one of the more underrated titles in the series. Such is the case with the above entries, it expands on and fine-tunes 2003's mechanics by making character switching faster and more intuitive, bringing back the Blowback buttonnote , having the most unique character roster in the series (on top of omitting staples like Mainote  and Leona), and one of the most acclaimed soundtracks in the series (with tracks like these, it's easy to see why). More than plenty of people are wishing for a proper port of the game with rollback netcode since this is one of the few titles in the series that, sadly, is locked to the PlayStation 2note  to this day.
  • Evil Is Cool:
    • A majority of villains tend to gain this, despite some of them being considered so vile. Most exemplified by Rugal, because he also embodies the brutal challenge of SNK Boss extraordinary AND the original Big Bad of KOF saga that some of his successors fell short in replicating his success, this is the reason SNK kept bringing him back for dream matches. He's just that cool in being an unabashed evil bastard and he also generated some sort of Love to Hate relationship with the fans.
    • Not one to be outdone, there's also Krizalid, the Starter Villain of the NESTS Saga. An awesome design with a Badass Longcoat, a unique and absolutely devastating moveset (especially in '02 UM; "TORNADIS!"), and one of the most badass themes in the series in "Dear Fallen Angel" (which got remixed in UM as "Cutting Edge" and once more in All-Star)... like Rugal before him, most of the villains that came afterward simply don't compare to the cool factor that Krizalid has. Unlike Rugal, he's more of an Anti-Villain who's pitiable (especially in his relationship with Whip) and really more of a Punch-Clock Villain at worst, especially compared to his superiors, Clone Zero and Igniz.
  • Fanon:
    • Orochi Leona's habit of popping up at the wrong time, as well as her pleasured-sounding screams. Three guesses what.
    • Leona's nationality is officially unknown, but many fans peg her as coming from Brazil solely because the Ikari Warriors' base of operation is apparently located there (considering their original designation as Team Brazil), and her backstory implies that she lived nearby.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Iori and Kyo are the most popular ship in the fandom, despite the fact that Kyo has a canonical girlfriend named Yuki who features in the plot. It's gotten to the point that the games themselves take cracks at it sometimes.
  • Fans Prefer The New Him: While Kyo's original school uniform is the most well-known of his various designs on the whole, Japan especially loves Kyo's NESTS-era reinvention outfit of a white jacket, black turtleneck, and jeans, to the point that it shows up as much or more than his gakuran in promotions, crossovers, and fanart.
  • Faux Symbolism:
    • This is the entire theme of Goenitz as a character. To get the ball rolling, he's pretty much the head priest of a Religion of Evil which heralds the advent of a quasi-deity comparable to the Demiurge.
    • Iori skirts the line. There are lots of references to the number eight in his moves and other areas. His signature super/Desperation Move, the Ya Otome, is frequently translated in English as "Eight Maidens". The move also hits exactly 8 times in its base form. Iori's other super, the Ya Sakazuki ("Eight Wine Cups"), launches a fire spark that can explode into eight advancing columns of fire at its maximum; the DM that replaces that is the Yashiori (Eight Ferments), a reference to the Yashiori/Yashio'ori no Sake (Sake of Eight Salt Snappers), the type of wine used by Susano'o to intoxicate the Orochi. All of this is related to Orochi being an 8-headed demon and the legend that he sought out eight maidens to devour. As his family made a pact with the Orochi, this has some meaning but ultimately does not contribute to his character in any significant way, unless one refers to his Villain Override Neck Lift done to Orochi himself at the end of '97... There is also the way his design invokes himself as Kyo's opposite in several ways.
    • Evil Ash has a DM where the screen is filled with black flames, in direct contrast to Elizabeth's Neo MAX, which bathes the screen in white light.
    • The Maximum Impact series is just rife with this. The series' cast features aliens with bizarre powers (even by KOF standards) among their ranks; main antagonist Jivatma is one of said aliens and controls one of the sub-syndicates of Addes, an organization whose seal is that of the Grim Reaper, uses Metatron as its public name, and whose known branches take their names from various corners of angelology and demonology (they're respectively named Children of Kokaviel, Kusiel, Mephistopheles, and Belphegor).
  • First Installment Wins:
    • In terms of lore, the Orochi Saga is considered by many to be the best in the series; at least when compared to the notoriously messy NESTS Chronicles, the very convoluted and confusing Ash Saga (ignoring the title character's reputation and exposure during that era of KOF), and the Shun'ei Saga which got cannednote  before it could even get a third game. Nevermind that the Orochi Saga also introduced many series staple characters that'd go on to be in every KOF afterward (e.g., Iori, Leona, Shingo...), as most of the original characters debuting in the other sagas are anywhere between much-appreciated Dark Horses (i.e., Vanessa, Shen, Luong) or should've never been conceived in the first place (i.e., Bao, Momoko, Gang-il) with no in-between.
    • As far as Dream Matches go for the series, KOF '98 (both vanilla and Ultimate Match) is the one installment everyone and their mother in the KOF community consistently praises and continue to play to this day, being the series' answer to Street Fighter III: Third Strike. 2002, while not without its fans, is a mixed bag for some (both vanilla and Unlimited Match), to put it nicely. And, well... the less said about XII, the better.
  • Foe Yay Shipping:
    • Iori Yagami, who spends roughly ninety-eight percent of his time thinking about what Kyo is doing, following Kyo around, and fantasizing about ways to kill him. (Meanwhile, Kyo just wants to live his life as a fighter at the fullest and be left the heck alone, and not to mention he barely cares about the whole Orochi deal unless either he and/or his friends are directly involved.) This is actually lampshaded in the Dating Sim Spin-Off series, Days of Memories—which sometimes has the two play the role of romantic rivals—and in XIII.
      Maxima: [To NESTS!Kyo, after he asks if he's still "babysitting" K' and Kula] Well, at least I don't have a psychotic stalker!
      Ash Crimson: [to Flames!Iori] You're pathetic. You know what? Kusanagi this and Kusanagi that... What are you? His crazy ex?
    • Shun'ei and Isla, namely with how the latter expresses her anger at the former, coming off less like she's jealous of his abilities and having Tung as an adoptive grandfather and more like a Tsundere that's pent up.
  • Franchise Original Sin: Due to XII and XIII's exuberantly expensive sprites, several corners were cut in order to ensure their quality. Many staple characters were cut, all DLC characters use existing assets (every one of them is an alt of a character already in the game, with all of their normals generally being the same and usually sharing a bunch of moves the other version has), and many returning characters were not only mainly made up of counterparts (the Art of Fighting Team being a great example as all of them share a vast majority of each other's moves and special attack effects), but many of the cast themselves are missing several iconic moves such as Terry's Power Dunk and Benimaru's Break Dance Kick. The biggest offenders however were Ralf and Clark, as after roughly ten years of developing the characters so that they're completely unique from each other despite sharing a couple of moves, they basically became flanderized versions of what they were back in '94 by being the same characters of one another, except Ralf punches more and Clark has command grabs, with both characters having a bunch of generic new moves, replacing some of their iconic moves from old and having only four moves that they had originally respectively. Despite XIV using new character models however (making animations cheaper to make as well as allowing for more unique interactions), many of the corners remained cut despite how little of a problem this would have been to resolve, leaving certain characters just not the same as they were from games prior to XII and XIII.
    • XV does rectify this a fair bit by bringing back more classic moves from earlier pre-XIII titles, such as Terry's Power Dunk (which was already in XIV by virtue of being Terry's Climax Super), Leona's Heart Attack (which hasn't been seen since at least 2003), and once again making Ralf and Clark distinct from each other (with Ralf even having two of his moves — Gatling Attack and Dynamite Ralf Punch) being changed from charge motions to standard motion inputs.

    G-M 
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • The series is noted for introducing many Korean characters, more than any other fighting game at the time. This is because SNK had a close relationship to Korean arcade video game import chains. This earned the series its place in Korea. Chang and Choi are more loved than Kim, the intended Korean representative of the series. Now you know why Chang was included in the CvS2 lineup (with Choi along for the ride) and how Choi himself made it into SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos.
    • K' is much more popular in the States than he is in Japan; some American KOF fans regard him to be a better character than previous protagonist Kyo. K' did, at least, receive some backlash before the fans warmed up to him. It may be because of the Western's bigger tolerance to Darker and Edgier and anti-heroic characters (while Kyo is a bit of a jerk, he's still a hero in a traditional sense), and K' just screams of '90s Anti-Hero who is just right in many ways without being overly obnoxious.
    • The series is very popular in Central and South America, where arcade owners found it more cost-effective to utilize Neo Geo cabinets and keep up with the latest entries by simply purchasing new cartridges, as opposed to whole cabinets. As a result, audiences in those regions were more exposed to KOF than its more expensive (and better known elsewhere) competitors such as Street Fighter, and many professional KOF players are Mexicans who started out as the archetypal kid who spent the tortillas' change at the KOF arcade in the corner shop. Characters such as Ramon and Angel (and eventually the Mexico and South America teams) were made to acknowledge the popularity of the games and the audience in those regions. Just look at this reaction video when Terry was confirmed for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
    • Ramon and Ángel were made in response to KOF's popularity in Latin America, especially Mexico. They also happen to be among the most popular characters there for obvious reasons (especially in Ángel's case for being Ms. Fanservice).
    • The series has also had a fair share of popularity in Asian countries such as China for one obvious reason: Piracy, as it is easy to reverse engineer an MVS.
    • You can pretty much tell where a player is from based on what KOF games they like. Latin Americans tend to prefer either '98 or '02 UM. Filipinos love vanilla 2002 (whenever they aren't playing Tekken, anyway). Americans, especially those new to the series, tend to like XIII (or on some occasions, XI). The Chinese prefer '97. In addition to this, the only games in the entire series that are universally loved and revered by everyone are '98 and '02 UM.
  • Goddamned Boss: While this series is the Trope Codifier (and Namer) of the almighty SNK Boss, there are some bosses that are less difficult and more just plain tedious.
    • Goenitz in '96. Fighting him is best summed up in three words — KOKO DESU KAEN ? Funnily enough, even if you manage to get past his never-ending barrage of Yonokazes, you still have to deal with his Yami Doukoku, an almost instantaneous command grab SDM that is sure to make quick work of your health on top of him using it on reaction should you manage to get a successful jump-in against him. Beyond that, he's pretty straightforward compared to Rugal before him.
    • The last two bosses of XIII — True Saiki and Dark Ash — are perhaps some of the most underwhelming pair of final bosses in series history. Unlike most examples in the series, in order to even reach them, you have to get 2.5 million points before Stage 6 in Arcade Mode lest you want your run to end prematurely. And is the effort worth it? Well...
      • True Saiki is somehow harder than the boss that comes after him, and for the wrong reasons. There's generally very little strategy to beating him besides hoping he doesn't hit you with his own projectile, which will trap you in place until he hits you or until it wears off, also slowing the match down to a crawl in the process. The only other attack besides a rock throw (yes, this boss throws rocks at you, of all things) is a very slow command grab where he just punches you repeatedly and flings you across the stage and slows the pace of the match down to a crawl even more than the initial projectile already does. When all else fails, there's always Daimon's Jiraishin or Vice's Splash to fall back on...
      • Dark Ash... oh boy. In case you didn't like fighting Ash already, this version of him takes it well beyond eleven. Let's see now... Projectile Spam that Goenitz would be proud of? Check. Bad AI that's easy to exploit and is also susceptible to spam himself? Check. A Palette Swap of an already existing character that you may not even like? Yep. Check. At least it's appropriate that the Tales of Ash saga begins and ends with Ash himself.
    • Otoma=Raga in XV. Compared to other Final Bosses in the series, she really isn't difficult as she is an inconvenience. She doesn't have anything that's particularly infuriating or hasn't already been used by another SNK Boss as the best she has is her full-screen tendrils which cause a wall bounce (that can be blocked), an Invincible claw swipe (which can catch you off-guard, but armor movesnote  can beat it out if timed properly) and a projectile (also blockable) that does assloads of damage. Once you get close to her, though, it's just a matter of bum rushing hernote  with combos (especially since everyone in XV has a touch of death combo while in MAX Mode) until her health bar expires.
  • Growing the Beard: General consensus is that KOF '96 was the point where the series really began to take off. The Orochi Saga was in full swing, overall gameplay felt smoother and more accessible, forward dashing was omitted in favor of running, rolling replaced the dodge mechanic, and music shined across the board as opposed to the previous two games (arguably) having only a handful of notable tunes.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Aside the Kyo/Iori super hyper Foe Yay? For someone who was apparently said to be Camp Straight by the development team themselves, some of Benimaru's pre-battle quotes against handsome males in XIII were rather... flirty. Especially against Shen and Duo Lon.
    • Shingo's Hero Worship of Kyo can be very easily seen as a man-crush, most noticeable in their special pre-match intros for both '98 and '99.
    • Shermie, dear god, Shermie. Especially if you use her XV Climax Super on any other female character in the game, most of all Chizuru.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In '99, Ralf's victory quote was "I can survive anything—even nukes!" Fast forward to his and Clark's inclusion in Metal Slug 6 where Ralf is the only member of the playable cast who isn't a One-Hit-Point Wonder.
    • With a possible side of Fandom Nod: In the M.U.G.E.N fanbase, the KOF-centric Vans gave his version of Kyo an aerial version of the Orochinagi. Come XIII...
    • K9999's official profile on the KOF 10th Anniversary website blatantly acknowledges his resemblance to Tetsuo. Shortly after 2002: Unlimited Match was released, his picture on the site was mysteriously deleted. And then came Krohnen...
    • Originally unorthodox team-ups in '98, two combinations ended up becoming canon in the series: Benimaru/Daimon/Shingo in 2003 and Kyo/Iori/Shingo in XI.
    • Ash as a whole is basically this with the prominence of Loki. A very pretty Agent Peacock Manipulative Bastard that turns out to be Good All Along (or, at best, an Anti-Hero)? Surely that wouldn't catch on, right? For bonus points, both characters pull a Heroic Sacrifice to save someone they love from the Big Bad - Ash saving Elisabeth and Loki saving Thor - only to turn out to be Not Quite Dead, with Ash being resurrected after the events of XIV while a Variant of Loki survives into his own show. Keep in mind that KOF XIII was released initially in 2010 while Avengers: Infinity War came out eight years later.
    • The Final Boss' leitmotif in XIV, "Independence From An Aggregate", sounding like it came from AKIRA (as per Maximilian Dood), is especially funny with the reveal of K9999's (aka, Tetsuo) successor/alter ego in XV, Krohnen.
    • This pre-fight exchange between Yuri and Kula in XIII is hilarious in light of the events of XV, where an ice cream bribe is exactly how Kula gets recruited to Team Krohnen.
      Yuri: Hey, why don't you join my team once in a while?
      Yuri: Huh? Does that mean if someone else offers you ice cream, you'll betray me just as fast!?
    • One of K9999's alternate color palettes in 2002 is mostly red with white hair and his "Moon..." special is green instead of the usual red. Not a year later and a certain French(-raised) young man with peculiar flames would emerge...
  • Hype Backlash: The announcement of Chizuru for KOF XV, teaming up with Kyo and Iori making the "Three Sacred Treasures" team official for the first time should have been a hype announcement. That SNK did it during a roundtable where most other developers were talking about online play, while not revealing anything about XV's netcode killed a lot of the hype around her trailer. Thankfully, this has been addressed as, according to this article at least, there will be rollback netcode (of the highly acclaimed GGPO variety, no less) in XV. The Main Trailer that premiered at Gamescom all but confirmed it, too.
  • I Am Not Shazam: The Sega Saturn port of '95 refers to him as "Omega Rugal", even when recapping the events of the previous game... when he wasn't Omega Rugal. Likewise, the O in his name stands for Omega, not Orochi, a common misconception, seeing as he draws upon the Orochi power. KOF XV made sure to correct this by having the Omega (Ω) symbol next to Rugal's name compared to the Awakened versions of CYS, which actually have the "O" (e.g., O.Shermie).
  • Iron Woobie:
    • Having lost his wife, daughter, his entire platoon, and an eye to Rugal, it's quite impressive that Heidern is holding up so well in spite of this. Then again, at least he has Leona and the rest of the Ikari Warriors to lead on, as well as the fact that Rugal's been deadnote  since the '95 tournament.
    • It's all too easy to forget that Iori's entire clan made a Deal with the Devil out of spite towards the Kusanagi Clan, pretty much making sure they don't exactly have the longest lifespan (nevermind the thing with the Riot of the Blood, either) as a result. It says a lot about the Yasakani that Iori is the only one who can redeem them (if the Yagami Team's ending in XIII is any indication)... yet he still carries on stalking Kyo despite this.
    • K'. If you look past his aloof, stoic nature, the guy's had it rough - what with him and his sister Seirah (aka, Whip) being kidnapped by NESTS as kids, being trained to be a Human Weapon and forcefully infused with Kyo's DNA, and having any memory of his past erased. Also: keep in mind that he's in his mid to late teens, making it all the more impressive that he's able to carry on with his life despite the baggage that he carries with him.
    • Duo Lon also counts by virtue of being Ron's son. You know... the guy who killed his own clan and had several affairs with other women (one of which resulted in Xiao Lon) despite being married? All things considered, he's holding up pretty well despite being labeled as the son of a traitor.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • All things considered with the Yagami/Yasakani's 1600-year blood curse and the hints that Iori is possibly the only one who can redeem his clan, Iori still manages to be a massive Jerkass while doing... practically anything, with few exceptions.
    • Ash might've been a Grade-A douchebag that made Iori look like a sweetheart, but in his case, the "jerkass" part gets subverted when it turns out he was actually Good All Along. Not helping his case is that not only is he an orphan (as he was taken in by the Blanctorche family when he was very young), but he also had to sacrifice his entire existence just to prevent Saiki and Those from the Past from awakening Orochi. Thankfully, he's gotten better come XV.
    • Yashiro in the New Face Team's ending. He kills Chris and Shermie to power up Orochi, but then he cradles the fatally injured Shermie in his arms to comfort her as she bleeds to death — and when she's gone, he offs himself. He and his teammates get better, thankfully.
    • Kukri is definitely a pretty big one with KOF XV shedding some light on his backstory. Prior to meeting Dolores, he was essentially a homeless boy on the streets that struggled to get by. While he was very much still the same Jerkass that he was now, there's no denying he's grateful for Dolores' upbringing that the main reason he joins the tournament is to find a way to bring her back to life. The fact that his Power Incontinence led to her death also puts his actions (notably SNK Heroines) in a new light.
    • As of KOF XV, Krohnen/K9999 can also count. He may have been a grade-A jerkass who is up there with Iori, Ash, and Gato, but you can't deny he's had a rough go of it since the 2001 days. Having a massive Inferiority Superiority Complex towards K' on top of showing some signs of still being a decent person (he gives Kula his prize money in his team's ending and just drops her off with Foxy and Diana in the K' Team ending safe and sound) makes you wonder what his life might've been like if he and Angel hadn't injured Foxy back in 2001. Oh, and that's not even getting into the fact that, technically speaking, he still is a Kyo clone, with all the baggage that comes with it.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships:
  • LGBT Fanbase: Maxima is among the most popular characters in the series for fans of Bara Genre. This was at least partially intended, as Word Of God states that he was designed to be a burlier, more mature male character to contrast the younger bishonen of the series.
  • Memetic Badass:
    • Depending on the community, Terry, Ralf, Yamazaki, Shen Woo, and Gai Tendo.
    • The boss characters, who are so badass that they collectively are the Trope Namer for SNK Boss.
    • An odd example, the combo trials from KOFXIII have been portrayed by the Fighting Game Community as some of the hardest combo trials in any fighting game, with fighting games legends like Justin Wong and Punk having difficulty clearing a single character's trials. Fun part is, a lot of those combos are required to play KOFXIII at a high level of play.
  • Memetic Molester:
    • Shermie is a grappler with a sexual spin, as her command grabs involve hugging her opponent with her legs, not just her arms. This made her earn a reputation for this, which was further fueled by her appearance in XV that has more innuendo.
    • Hotaru Futaba from Fatal Fury continued to carry this title in KOF XI, as her LDM in XI is the memetic Tenshou Ranki.
  • Mis-blamed:
    • Nona received a lot of flak for the artwork on the most recent entries in the series, due to their new art designs. While he was the art director for XII (and draws for the pre-fight exchanges in XIII), it's actually Eisuke Ogura, the artist for NeoGeo Battle Coliseum, who handled the artwork. For some odd reason, Nona would also get blamed from the story developments, an area that he has minimal influence in at best.
    • People have whined against fellow artist Falcoon for his work in Maximum Impact. While he is the artist in charge, it doesn't mean he handles all the decisions in regards to the artwork, and he didn't certainly have ALL the shots in regards to the character roster and story.
  • Moe: Athena (more so starting in XII), Hinako, Kula, Momoko, Yuri, Hotaru, Angel; take your pick. Leona might count, but this overlaps with her status as The Woobie.
    • XIV ups the ante by bringing in SNK's (or Japan's) champion Moe character, Nakoruru, along with some legit Moe characters like Mui Mui and Sylvie... though the last one is a psychotic Moe. And although she's just on the way to doing so, Mian's Shrinking Violet personality might push her into this territory.
    • Meitenkun is a male example, being a sleepy androgynous young boy, his voice helps.
    • Amusingly enough, there also exists a character in the KOF: EX spin-offs whose name is Moe.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Rugal crosses the horizon during a KOF '94 drama CD, in which he kills his servants for making minor goofs and not being "perfect". That same action is repeated in Tatsuya Shinjyouji's KOF '94 manga, where in the second volume he bloodily murders a barely teenaged maid for merely bringing him the wrong wine for dinner. As he slowly approaches the poor little girl, you see him walking and looming over the poor girl as she begs him to not hurt her... and then "SPLAT."
      • He just gets worse after this. In the third volume of the same manga, Rugal orders one of his subordinates to kidnap Kyo's girlfriend Yuki and lock her in a room with a time bomb only to force Kyo, Benimaru and Daimon fight the Women Team in the streets of Osaka, in a sort of Deadly Game where instead of fighting to the death, they fought to rescue poor Yuki. Thank God the bomb was fake and Yuki was rescued in the nick of time. Rugal didn't even really need to have them fight that way, and did just to troll Kyo and co. For the Evulz.
      • And then, there's the wicked pleasure he took on having Saisyu Kusanagi tortured within an inch of his life and then Brainwashed and Crazy to make him his servant in '95. Double when you play with the Japan Team and he gloats about it in front of Saisyu's son Kyo, who understandably ends up screaming "This Is Unforgivable!!"
      • There's also his mauling of Heidern's family and mercenary unit (mind you, this was single-handed and that Heidern's unit was fifty men strong). Apparently done for no other reason than to provoke and slight Heidern. It was also featured in Shinjyouji's manga, with an added bonus: Clara and Sandra were killed while trying to protect the badly injured and now eye-less Heidern.
    • Goenitz's crossing happens when, in response to Gaidel turning down his offer to join him in the attempt to resurrect their master Orochi, awakened Leona's Orochi blood for the first time when she was still a child, causing her to destroy her whole village and kill every inhabitant, her own family included.
      • He continues down the same path in Ryo Takamisaki's KOF: G. First, he gives Mai Shiranui a cruel Breaking Lecture when she's at a very low point, which causes her to go Unstoppable Rage on Kyo and Athena. Second, he wreaks havoc in the finals, and we get to see the people collapse and almost surely die when his power rises and destroys everything, with the side-effect of making Benimaru snap completely on Kyo and sending other fighters into Brainwashed and Crazy states. Third, he almost beats both Kensou and Chizuru to death, and shows up bragging about it while lifting the badly beaten Chizuru by her head. And fourth, remember what he did to Leona in her past? In this version, he does this again, making her go into the Riot of the Blood with words alone so she'll kill everyone for him, with only Clark and Ralf's timely intervention keeping her from doing so.
      • His murder of Maki Kagura in front of her twin sister Chizuru is already bad, but in the KOF: KYO manga it's even worse because, in that particular continuity, Chizuru and Maki were little girls under the age of ten and he was barely a teenager.
    • Yashiro Nanakase, Shermie, and Chris: Revealing themselves as members of the Orochi Clan and becoming the sub-bosses. In the Sacred Team's pre-fight talk, add revealing that they plan to use Yuki as a Human Sacrifice, and mocking her boyfriend Kyo's anger and concern. The last one is worse in the KOF: KYO manga, as in the original '97 game they still have not gone searching for her, but here it's done in front of a restrained Yuki, who has already spent at least two days as their hostage.
    • Clone Zero: Clone Zero was responsible for Krizalid's death at the end of the '99 tournament when the latter had failed him. Later on, he kills Heidern's close friend and fellow mercenary Ling, enabling him to create and send an evil clone of Ling to act as a mole during the KOF 2000 tournament. From within his introduction, he uses the Zero Cannon to destroy a part of South Town. After his defeat, he tries to activate the Zero Cannon again, only to be foiled by Kula and her guardians. Despite this, the Zero Cannon manages to fire one last shot which completely destroys the entire city. Before his death, he gives Whip a hurtful revelation about her past, leading to him being shot and killed by her.
    • Igniz: Upon deeming himself a god, and choosing to use NESTS clones for his own goals, all while playing on all other NESTS members' utopian (or at least utilitarian) ideals and then having (and/or setting up) even the NESTS organization's most faithful servants (Krizalid, Foxy, Diana, Kula Diamond, Candy, Original Zero, Nameless, and Isolde), to be killed off for no longer being useful to him, he has demonstrated that he is a sociopath who has absolutely no respect and value for human life, but only seeing human beings as being like oranges and that he can throw the peel away.
    • Jivatma ordered the death of Lien's parents and family because her father would not join Addes.
    • Ron, former leader of Hizoku, crossed this point when he razed his own village and murdered a sizable number of his clansmen to offer his services to NESTS for reasons unknown. Ron was labelled as a traitor by the clan and nearly every survivor of that massacre who didn't jump ship with Ron is now hunting him down for answers and retribution.
    • Saiki, already established as a massive Jerkass and a master of horrendous underling treatment (despite Those from the Past's plans going off with only the most minor of slip-ups), has his when he callously kills his most loyal and sympathetic servant, Mukai, right after he had offered to fight in his stead. Seeing him take over Ash's body to transform him into Evil Ash and keep fighting the heroes is not much better.
  • More Popular Spin-Off: Of both Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. Even here at this very wiki, people mention some FF and AOF characters as being from The King of Fighters even when those characters, at best, only make cameos in the series.

    N-S 
  • Narm Charm:
    • SNK's Dodgy Engrish usually are downright HILARIOUS in otherwise serious circumstances. From the slightest misspellings to Rugal's almost babyish "I'LL BE BACK... YOU JERKS!" line from '95.
    • Any time anyone insults anyone. Which happens often. "Absolute karate. That's Kyokugenryu. And don't forget it, dweebenheimer!"
    • The English dub of the Maximum Impact games is So Bad, It's Good.
    • Terry's mangled English has become a vital part of his character. As well as Geese's. Which led to his hilariously cheesy reveal trailer at XIV (although this quote was instead taken from his Capcom vs SNK incarnation): "PREDICTABO!!"
    • Heidern's entire moveset. If he were anyone else, most of it would be pretty silly at times (e.g., he does a Finger Gun for his old Blowback/Stinger, his Gae Bolg Climax Super looks like an Ass Shove on some opponents, and he has a mean pose game on top of that), but because the man's a bonafide Colonel Badass and is typically a top tier character in most of his appearances, many are willing to give him a pass.
    • Some of the song names, like "Trash Head", "I Am The Strongest", "Slushy Road", and "Time for revolution It's our generation" are this by way of the music itself being so damn good. At least it makes them easy to remember by name, that's for sure.
  • Old Guard Versus New Blood: Given that this series began as an Intra-Franchise Crossover before spinning off into its own continuity, a good chunk of fans came from the older games like Fatal Fury or Art of Fighting. This sometimes leads to conflicts between them and fans of the Original Generation who've come since, especially since the older games haven't had new entries in decades (at least until EVO 2022 where Fatal Fury fans got thrown a bone, that is), while King of Fighters still gets regular sequels and spinoffs, coupled with the perception that the older characters are being ignored or Flanderized as the series goes on to make way for the latter.
    • The Terry fans versus the Kyo fans has turned into a bit of an internal Fandom Rivalry, albeit mostly one-sided, as Terry was for many years the SNK poster boy until Kyo showed up and took his place. This resulted in Terry's fans becoming annoyed at how Out of Focus he's become and accusing Kyo of becoming a Spotlight-Stealing Squad and his fans of being shallow fangirls. Accentuating the ire of these Terry fans is the way that Kyo is in many ways Terry's antithesisnote . Most Kyo fans on the other hand like Terry's character just fine, but argue that Kyo is just as cool or cooler, and accuse Terry's more zealous fans of being overly sensitive, arguing that Kyo's Anti-Hero traits make him appealing in his own right and that he hasn't been pushed nearly as hard as they think, with Kyo himself having fallen Out of Focus relative to K' and Ash but those two not getting the same kind of flak for it.
    • Likewise, a lot of longstanding Eiji and Billy fans don't look too fondly on Iori, accusing his beatdown of them at the end of '95 as a glaring example in their eyes of KOF treating FF and AOF characters poorly for the sake of Character Shilling.
    • SNK's efforts to balance both sides of Rock Howard's Broken Base can overlap with this, as many supporters of Rock are old-school FF fans who see him as a refreshing breath of fresh air into the franchise, whereas fans who are predominantly into KOF tend to see him as overrated and who see his inclusion as pointless fanservice (where he is still a young child and likely will remain as such due to the KOF universe having slipped into Comic-Book Time).
  • Older Than They Think:
    • Jhun's Zankou Haki Geki HSDM in 2002 Unlimited Match actually first appeared as his MAX2 in the lesser-known Neowave, the sort of alternate 2002 where Jhun was playable.
    • Athena's and Kensou's designs from XII and XIII were only new to the King of Fighters games; the costumes were actually derived from their original appearances in Psycho Soldier.
    • Now that the franchise is a much more popular series in the west, Rock's pose before activating Neo Deadly Rave has caused him to be dubbed a Joestar (in reference to Jojos Bizarre Adventure). But many people falsely claim this is a new animation for Rock, when in fact it has always been the pose he strikes before Neo Deadly Rave, ever since his debut in Garou: Mark of the Wolves.
    • There are quite a few casual fans who don’t know Kaoru is an actual character in the series as opposed to a fan-made character. To be fair, this is because, aside from being a Striker in 2000, she’s an NPC who barely appears in the games.
  • Platonic Writing, Romantic Reading: Kyo and Chizuru are acquaintances, if not good friends (with Chizuru as a Cool Big Sis figure that Kyo can't deny a lot to if Sky Stage is to be believed), and have close roles in guarding the Seal of Orochi. When Kyo became majorly pissed at Ash for stealing Chizuru's powers in 2003 (and pretty much violating the poor woman while doing so), some fans were led to believe that Kyo has beyond brother-sister-friends feelings for her. It doesn't help that Kyo's intro with Ash in XI has him screaming "YOU BASTARD!" at the top of his lungs. Apparently, these fans have forgotten that Kyo has Yuki (To be fair, it's not like poor Yuki has been seen around in years) or the fact Iori similarly cares for her (as shown in XIII). Word Of God also jokes on the Anniversary website that Chizuru must have envisioned Kyo eternally as a schoolboy (i.e. from the time they teamed up during the Orochi Saga) when creating Kusanagi. And then in Sky Stage Kyo claims to Terry that Chizuru is almost babying him and the other fighters. Cue fans claiming she's in some type of a Loving a Shadow relationship with Kyo.
  • Polished Port: The Dreamcast versions of '98 and '99, Dream Match 1999 and '99 Evolution respectively, feature smoothed sprites, 3D backdrops, and arranged music. '99 Evolution also included some extra Striker characters that could be unlocked (including the first appearances of Vanessa and Seth, who would become full characters in 2000).
  • Porting Disaster: Not an extreme case, but KOF: The Orochi Saga was marred by in-game loading, which wasn't present in the arcade versions. The same issue occurred for Metal Slug Anthology for PS2, and both compilations were made by Terminal Reality.
  • Replacement Scrappy:
    • K' was this for a lot of the NESTS arc in Japan, being seen as an underwhelming replacement for Kyo. While he was never outright ated, was well-received in the West, and eventually gained a following of his own, he still pales in popularity compared to his predecessor and especially compared to his eventual rival, Kula.
    • Compared to K', Ash got the full brunt of hatred from fans (in the West, at least), especially when he started actively upstaging Kyo by beating Riot of the Blood Iori. His flamboyant appearance doesn't help, either. Thankfully, XIV's new protagonist Shun'ei managed to avert this: While he wasn't that greatly received (most especially his design), at least he did not generate the massive hate Ash got. And even then, the hate that Ash got has managed to die down over time, to the point many players even welcomed his return in KOF XV.
    • May Lee was once seen as this due to replacing Jhun in 2001 and then replacing longtime regular King in 2002 and taking her spot on the Women Fighters Team alongside fellow vets Yuri and Mai. The Japanese essentially screamed, "I RAGED. HARD" over the latter to the point that not even adding King back in the home ports could undo the damage. Adding fuel to the fire is that back in those days, due to SNK's takeover by the Korean company Eolith, said company demanded a 'female Korean' to be promoted, and this created May Lee, prompting some to see her as Creator's Pet. Most of this scorn has passed over since and May Lee is seen as an Ensemble Dark Horse elsewhere. (She later gets a new voice actress in KOF All Stars but by that time, she's already in the good graces of the fandom so they don't mind)
    • Momoko is sometimes considered as such. To Bao of all people. Frequently cited reasons are her voice, Button Mashing, and the fact that she was based on discharged designs of Bao.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • Ash. While he was a Base-Breaking Character at best, over the years he's gotten a much warmer reception, with him being one of the most interesting and outright different fighting game protagonists ever - being more of a Guile Hero (no pun intended) than, say, Kyo or K' on top of being a charge character - as protagonists like Ryu, Ragna, or Sol are typically motion input characters. His return in KOF XV has been met with open arms, as well as his new design. Also helps he's noticeably nicer to most of the cast than he was in prior games. Granted, some of the old Ash is still there, but he's nowhere near as bad as he was in, say, XIII, for example.
    • K9999 was, like Ash above, another Base-Breaker at best because of his obnoxious personality and very blatant homage (if you can even call it that) to Tetsuo Shima. Come his return as Krohnen McDougall in KOF XV, however, and he's much more bearable. While he's still a bit of an asshole, he's also got his fair share of moments - whether it's giving away his prize money to Kula in his ending, being genuinely impressed with Ryo's old motorcycle in one of the game's Edit Team endings, or even providing some surprisingly hilarious moments through a Funny Background Event in the game's prologue and a few other Edit Team endings, Krohnen is not at all the same character that he once was back in 2001 and 2002.
  • Retroactive Recognition: The announcer for the Maximum Impact games is Mark Okita; Kamen Rider fans were no doubt surprised when they fired up the games and heard Decade's belt talking to them (and vice versa).
  • Sequel Difficulty Drop:
    • KOF XIV is without a doubt the most accessible that KOF has ever been — cancel windows are lenient, the combo system is easy enough to grasp and understand, many of the newcomers (Shun'ei especially) are fairly straightforward and easy to use, and even the Final Boss actually averts the series' patented SNK Boss Syndrome that it's known for.
    • XV takes it a step further by having every Climax Super in the game be a simpler qcb~hcf+CD input, revising the Auto Combo system (more on that in the main page under Anti-Frustration Features), cutting down on half-circle inputsnote , and even implementing an option that allows the player to increase the contrast of the background, thereby reducing background noise and making it easier to focus on both your character and the opponent's.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Bao. Added to the Psycho Soldiers team in '99. Too annoying to fight as, overpowered (at least his first incarnation) to fight against, and stealing Kensou's powers. The strangest thing about this? He was conceptualized as beginner-friendly. How they could screw that up so much is a mystery.
    • Xanadu is one of the most disliked of the new characters from XIV, due to his design being seen as creepy and uncool. Nevermind being one of the worst characters gameplay-wise throughout the game's lifespan, either.
    • Gang-il is also not very well-received due to being a poor man's Kim (which is to say that he does everything his former pupil Kim already does, only worse) who took much of Kim's moves from the older games, leaving the latter as a shell of his former self compared to his earlier appearances. Sharing a passing resemblance to DarkSydePhil on top of debuting alongside the much better-received Luong just added insult to injury.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • Ever wonder why the Striker system never made it past the NESTS Saga? Well... there are definitely quite a few reasons. Most notably is just how useful (or lack thereof in most cases) the strikers actually are - some are straight-up useless (e.g., Whip) while others are outright overpowered (e.g., Rugal). Then there's the fact that you can't really combo into them (though some do grant combo opportunities) and they're liable to be hit by the opponent, limiting their overall use. And finally, 2001 all but ensured that they'll be shelved since you could have up to three strikers at once, pretty much breaking the typical 3-on-3 (or 4-on-4 if we're talking the NESTS Saga) formula that KOF is known for and breaking the game in half in all the wrong places.
    • Thanks to the sour taste that Dragon Ball Fighter Z left when it comes to Auto-Combos, the Rush system in XIV and XV is a mix of both this and Underused Game Mechanic. Many novices and veteran players frown upon Auto-Combos for obvious reasons while in actuality, the Rush Combos themselves really aren't that useful and are only there for the most casual players that just want to mash buttons. XV at least took measures to remedy this by having different finishers depending on the button pressed, but beyond that, don't expect any discerning KOF player to be using the Rush Combos anytime soon.
  • Self-Fanservice: Muscle fetishists tend to fawn over a sizable portion of the female cast (namely the adult ones). They're particularly fond of Leona for some reason, but the list of likely runner-ups for fan artists includes (but certainly is not limited to) Mai, Blue Mary, Athena, Vice, Shermie, Vanessa, Angel, and even Kula.
  • Seasonal Rot: 2001, due to the game being handled by a different team (amongst other issues that it had, really), and KOF XII, due to being an Obvious Beta that went on to do quite a bit of damage to the series in the long term until SNK rebounded with XIV and later XV.
  • Ship Mates:
    • Ryo/King and Robert/Yuri shippers get along very, very well.
    • Kyo/Yuki fans tend to ship Iori with Athena, and sometimes Leona and Chizuru. If not, they'll likely go for Kensou/Athena.
  • Ships That Pass in the Night: Iori/Leona. Likely routed in their common ailment (the Riot of the Blood), the pair hardly seems to think much about each other, let alone anything remotely positive. The most you'll get is Iori expressing some curiosity in XIII that Leona is showing signs of being able to control her powers. To be fair, in the KOF: KYO visual novel it is established they're acquaintances. Iori has visited her on occasion to see how she manages with Orochi's curse, but that's still not saying much given Iori's cold attitude towards the whole thing.
  • Shipping Goggles:
    • All over the place, Relationship Writing Fumbles or not. But let's be honest: every company in charge of KOF is very, very aware that the franchise as a whole is EXTREMELY popular among female gamers of all ages (from teenage girls who are new to the games, to older ladies who grew up either watching others play or played alongside the boys). With the buttloads of Ship Tease, it'd be weirder to NOT have a good part of the fandom all over it.
    • Iori and Athena, believe it or not. They both like music and Iori is seen in Athena's band in Days of Memories. He appears to think she is cute because he thinks she should "be at home baking cookies" instead of fighting in one of their pre-fight dialogues, and Athena is among the few who show some degree of worry for his sake. Also, their battle quotes have to do with Iori telling Athena to take care of herself, in his own way. Finally, in the KOF: KYO manga, Iori and Athena's hearts connect when his attack accidentally hits her; he shows regret for hurting her, she takes the time to look for him, and she tells Kensou how much sorrow she could sense coming from him. Unsurprisingly, this has been followed by the mild popularity of the Iori/Athena ship.
  • Shocking Moments:
    • So you have a character like K9999 who, on top of being a legal liability for SNK, was enough of a Creator's Pest for them that they outright replaced him with a Suspiciously Similar Substitute in Nameless. And then you replace that substitute with another one who is bit of an amalgamation of both designs and you get Krohnen's reveal in KOF XV. He is K9999 in the inside with just a slight redesign and some small cues from Nameless in gameplay and design.
    • Four words that are bound to trigger some bad memories of 2002 UM (or even KOF '94): Omega Rugal is back. And he's come back for his crown as The King of Fighters! The kicker, though? He's FREE!! Now you get to relive the nightmare of Omega Rugal beating your ass free of charge in KOF XV!
  • So Bad, It's Good: The manhuas by Andy Seto. While they loosely follow the canon of the story, there's some questionable designs in the art, ranging from Only Six Faces to You Don't Look Like You, or passing through wrong colouring, to plain standard colouring, and rarely (for dramatic purposes only), full-blown BEAUTIFUL digital colouring looking almost as good as or even better than official art. On the "good" part, the fight scenes are well done and the power attacks look amazing, almost like they were ripped from Dragon Ball Z (but you wouldn't mind it because they look, well... pretty badass).
  • So Okay, It's Average:
    • The '94 manga by Tatsuya Shinjyouji. On one hand, the drawing style is very simplistic and unremarkable and the Cliché Storm is undeniable. On the other, the storytelling flows in a relatively smooth manner despite the cliches and it offers some interesting background tidbits and possible interpretations—like Heidern's story (Sandra and Clara died in an Heroic Sacrifice to save him from Rugal), how the Women's Team met in this continuity (Mai and Yuri become friends over being rejected as prospect members of the AOF and Fatal Fury team and then have to recruit King together), there's a background story in regards to the stages used by the Korea Team (Kyo, Daimon and Benimaru walked into Kim's capture of Chang and Choi, Kim recognized Kyo and immediately challenged him and his group to a fight right there) and the Japan Team (they and the Women Team improvised a stage in the streets of Osaka since Kyo and his friends were caught in a cruel Deadly Game/Hostage Situation with his girlfriend Yuki's life at stake), etc.
    • The graphics for XIV, after numerous patches to bring them up to snuff. Though bland and forgettable compared to the visuals of other fighting games, they're quite functional for the generation they were released in, and don't look as garish as they were upon initial release, not that some people would ever let them off the hook for it.
  • Stoic Woobie:
    • Leona. She lost her parents, is afflicted with the Riot of the Blood like Iori (which led to her going primal in the climax of '97), and is all but terrified of her own powers. That is until she eventually learned to control them since XIV, where she's also doing much better than she has before.
    • Clark, once you learn where his dogtags come from. The man's lost a friend in the past and had the misfortune of seeing Leona go ballistic on him and Ralf thanks to her affliction. All the same, it hasn't stopped him or the rest of the Ikari Warriors from being committed to helping keep her powers in check.
  • Spiritual Successor: It can be argued that the King of Fighters series became, probably by accident, the true sequels to Art of Fighting 2, since most of the series' mechanics were incorporated into KOF '94 (and lasted until the NESTS arc) — and the only AOF title that came after KOF '94's debut was a semi-Gaiden Game with a dose of Later-Installment Weirdness. While KOF '94 borrowed as many mechanics from the Fatal Fury series, the latter managed to hold on its own until SNK's bankruptcy.
  • "Stop Having Fun" Guys:
    • Very prevalent among the Mexican and Brazilian communities, where there is little to no tolerance towards beginners. There's also a consensus that you can't be caught playing as Rugalnote  even for fun, because you will immediately be labeled as a "pussy", "coward" or something similar. Even the phrase "Jugar con Rugal es de maricas" (Playing Rugal is for pussies) has reached memetic status among Latin players.
    • Still on the topic of 2002, to some players, only real men play the Magic Plus version, or some other hacked versions, because if you instead prefer the original one... Heck! Even if you say that you prefer any other game besides 2002, then you are a Scrub (nevermind the Fridge Logic that the Magic Plus version allows for cheap tricks such as switching characters in the middle of battle - before becoming a thing officially in 2003 and XI, anyway - or performing HSDM moves without the requirement of having less than 25% of your life bar or having Kusanagi, Omega Rugal and Orochi Leona as characters with their own slots).
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel:
    • 2002 is seen as this to 2001 for some. Although others hold the game in the same regard to 2001 given Eolith's involvement, it's popularity rivals the first Dream Match game in certain regions. Returning it to the traditional 3-on-3 system without strikers, new mechanics, and seeing the return of several old favorites probably helped. 2002: Unlimited Match is this for people who didn't even like 2002, due to an even larger roster (the biggest in the series,) an improved soundtrack, and Eolith having no involvement in it.
    • XIII is this to XII. It added a lot more characters, including those that were inexplicably missing before, more modes, closed the Tales of Ash saga, and made the fighting more fun overall.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song:
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    T-Z 
  • Tainted by the Preview: It did not take long at all for the reaction to XIV's first trailer to garner this response, due to the noticeably poor appearance of the character models. Though this died down somewhat after more trailers were released, showing that the core gameplay and move animations were intact, and with noticeable improvements to the graphics (as well as giving Kyo his old hair color back as a more targeted response to fan criticisms).
  • Take That, Scrappy!:
    • This exchange between Ash and Terry in XIII can be seen as this to the former's detractors:
      Ash: You can't beat me... Just give up and go home, alright? ...What? What's so funny?
      Terry: It's just funny to hear a squirt like you being overly self-confident. Maybe I'm just getting old, though.
      Ash: Well I'm not laughing, idiot! I'm sick of you and your face!
      Terry: Aww... getting upset over something like that... You're still pretty cute for your age!
    • For those still not fond of Ash even after his redemption in KOF XV, Rock Howard - the above-mentioned adoptive son of Terry Bogard - also gets his licks in on Ash, too.
      Rock: If you can't burn me with your flimsy attacks, what makes you think you can burn me with your weak insults?
  • That One Boss:
    • Rugal in all of his appearances barring '98. Especially his '94 and '02 UM versions.
    • Igniz in 2001. This guy can juggle you for days if he feels like it, has unlimited range to prevent you from getting in, does assloads of damage, and can absorb your projectiles if you try to zone him out. "Loveable" Igniz indeed.
    • Nightmare Geese in '02 UM. It's Geese Howard, but much, much, much worse.
    • Magaki in XI. Considering how this is pretty much invoked on SNK's part by making him as much of a scumbag as possible on top of him turning KOF into a goddamn Touhou Project game, well... mission accomplished.
  • Theme Pairing: Expect to see Kula Diamond paired up with K' — they are fellow NESTS refugees, Kyo "clones", a Red Oni, Blue Oni duo, and of [1] opposing elements (fire and ice).
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • Many of the voice actors were changed en-masse for XIV, with mixed-to-negative reception. Terry'snote  garnered this reaction in particular due to Hashimoto's Large Ham Gratuitous English being particularly memorable with fans while Kondo's take was a lot more subdued.
    • Kyo's XIV redesign is not particularly well-liked due to the fact that he's so Bishōnen it makes him completely unrecognizable. It would have been even more different had fan outcry not pushed them to revert his hair color from black to its original brown.
    • Iori's XIV costume was also rather poorly received for looking garish and falling on the wrong side of Fashion-Victim Villain.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Despite being toted as "the other protagonist" of "The Tales of Ash" saga, Adel Bernstein (noble son of Rugal) plays no role in the climax. Hell, he's not even present in XIII. Only his sister Rose appears. Subverted by the console version, which shows Adel working behind the scenes to help the Ikari Warriors in their investigation of Those from the Past. He's still not playable, despite concept art indicating that he was considered for the roster.
    • This is a general consensus about the revelation that Kyo-1 and Kyo-2 were two of thousands of Kyo clones created by NESTS when it was Left Hanging immediately afterwards.
    • The Out of Focus status of the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting cast (and some of the characters from the earlier KOF games); they are either Demoted to Extra, become The Artifact, or are a case of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome. SNK seems to be downplaying the fact that the KOF series is supposedly a big crossover of various SNK series and is focusing more on the characters that are more made for this series instead. However, SNK Playmore is showing some signs in trying to rectify this with XIII as they are starting to flesh out the older characters more.

      That being said, more unorthodox decisions for who gets to ride the bus back to KOF can cause a schism in the fanbase. Hwa Jai is perhaps most notorious for this; older fans were glad to see him after some two decades, whereas many others felt he was undeserving of returning to the ring, which was not helped by him playing in a similar fashion to Joe (even if it was mainly from an aesthetic standpoint) and suddenly coming across as somewhat Ax-Crazy, as if he were channeling the more popular Yamazaki. A similar case could be made for Hwa's teammate Raiden, as opposed to, say, Tizoc.
    • A lot of noise is made about Kensou's mysterious Dragon Power only for it to be unceremoniously dropped after XI.
  • Unintentional Uncanny Valley:
    • Sprites before XIII had Kula resembling a human-sized doll with bug eyes. XIV wouldn't be any kinder, though she thankfully looks much better come XV.
    • Due to the increasing realism in Shinkiro's style some of his later work for the series, unfortunately, falls into this.
  • Unexpected Character:
    • Seeing at it was the old SNK's last hurrah, 2000 featured a massive overload of cameos from most of their older titles. The Maniac Strikers in the console versions continue the trend.
    • It happened again with XI, which added the likes of Gai Tendo and Silber from Buriki One and Sho Hayate and Jyazu from Savage Reign/Kizuna Encounter as Secret Characters.
    • Raiden in XII and Hwa Jai in XIII, two characters from the original Fatal Fury that players never expected to see again. Ever. Bonus points for teaming up with Kim.
    • XIV brought with it not only Nakoruru from Samurai Shodown, but also Mui Mui and Love Heart, characters from a couple of obscure Japan-only Pachinko games as part the "Another World Team". The fact that they're appearing in a non-Dream Match Game opens the door to more of these as well.
    • In spite of XV's Tag Line being "Shatter all expectations", most of the changeups it introduced to the teams were rather mild at first, like Benimaru joining up with Shun'ei and Meitenkun to form Team Hero or King joining Team Art of Fighting as its third member (Which she did two times already). Then expectations were finally shattered for real when SNK announced Team Secret Agent, consisting of Vanessa, Blue Mary, and Luong, all three of which have each been on completely different teams before now!
    • Next to no one was expecting the return of K9999, now going under the name Krohnen, due to the character being a blantant ripoff of Tetsuo from AKIRA and SNK clearly not wanting someone so unoriginal in their ranks. The fact they were willing to give him another chance with a new redesign and now making his ultimate less fleshy and more robotic specticale was a surprise to many fans of the series. And even better — he's teaming up with his old teammates (Angel and Kula) for the first time since 2001 (albeit without Foxy) and 2002!
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: The Overly-Long Gag of Kensou being Athena's Dogged Nice Guy and Athena avoiding the issue has created a complicated situation in which Athena is essentially stringing Kensou along and Kensou refuses to take a hint, which has led Athena fans and Kensou fans alike to resent the other character, which has in turn led to some Ron the Death Eater interpretations in which Kensou or Athena do not actually care about the others' feelings or worse.
  • Video-Game Movies Suck:
    • The 2010 live-action movie is a hot mess, essentially being a movie of KOF In Name Only. Problems include (but are not limited to) white-washing Kyo and Mai, turning Mai and Terry into CIA agents for no reason, and a nonsensical plot about a "King of Fighters" dimension.
    • Averted with The King of Fighters: Destiny, a faithful adaptation of the plots of the first KOF games (plus the story of Fatal Fury) with compelling fight scenes.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion:
  • What Measure Is a Non-Badass?:
    • The other reason Yuki was hated. Feeding into the whole Die for Our Ship aspect, the fact that she was a mix of Barrier Maiden and Ordinary High-School Student didn't endear her to fans who would rather see Kyo paired up with someone they felt was more "badass" and proactive.
    • The common sentiment among Bao's detractors. While he is a strong martial artist and prodigious young user of psycho power, being a pretty normal kid doesn't generally endear you to fans of fighting games.
  • Wheelchair Woobie:
    • Kaoru started out as such, but her interactions with the Psycho Soldier Team managed to improve both her health and disposition
    • Chizuru is seen briefly as one, more exactly in the Story Mode of XIII. She gets better in XV, thankfully.
  • Win Back the Crowd:
    • XIII is this by virtue of completing the Obvious Beta that was XII (although the Russia stage from XII is mysteriously absent). Mai and K' are back as well as a true SNK Boss. You'll find every known character that was planned for inclusion in XII in XIII as well.
    • The promotional trailers for XV got off to a rocky start before finally easing fans' concerns about the game:
      • XV, the reveal trailer for Shun'ei was not received well due to its overreliance on jump cuts, resulting in gameplay clips that don't last for more than half a second at the longest. Every other character trailer from Meitenkun's onwards fixes this issue, showcasing the mechanics more thoroughly.
      • After ten trailers that didn't showcase a whole lot in terms of gameplay, Terry's KOF XV trailer has nearly a whole minute of uninterrupted gameplay between him, Andy, and Joe at the end. This eases the concerns that many have over the actual state of the game itself while also satisfying those that just wanted some more actual gameplay footage. Helps that it was released on the week of Terry's birthday, too.
      • Happened again at Gamescom 2021, after over half the cast had been revealed with no other information being detailed, many had gotten burnt out of the regular character trailers. Then the SNK dropped the Gamescom trailer that revealed a massive amount of information about the game.
      • And then came Tokyo Game Show 2021 where players got to play the game for themselves as well as being a well of raw, uncut gameplay for the game. Here's 15 minutes of said gameplay courtesy of IGN.
      • And it only gets better from there — cue the Team Garou trailer with the triumphant return of Rock Howard alongside Gato and B. Jenet. You can bet there was much rejoicing with this trailer alone.
  • The Woobie:
    • While she might be a tad immature, Kula's had quite a rough go of it. Being a human test subject like K', losing Candy and Foxy (though this one would be retconned, fortunately), and being left on the run despite her team working for the Ikari Warriors since XI. Her kidnapping at the hands of Krohnen and Angel in XV certainly doesn't help, either.
    • Being a Barrier Maiden isn't exactly a walk in the park, as Chizuru would find out the hard way when Goenitz would pay her a visit to destroy the seal placed on Orochi. The end result of that is Chizuru losing her sister and having to wrangle Kyo and Iori together to reseal Orochi once and for all. And then Ash ended up getting involved...
    • Hotaru. The poor girl doesn't like violence yet compared to Iori and her older brother Gato, she's a lot nicer and had the misfortune of losing her mother while her brother barely even recognizes her, outright slapping her in the process! For what it's worth, at least she's a lot happier in the KOF continuity than she is in Fatal Fury, often enjoying herself in the Women Fighters' team endings.
    • Working for NESTS as he might be, Krizalid is far and away the most pitiable boss character in the series. Being a clone of K' who thinks Seirah (Whip) is his sister, killed for his failure by his monster of a boss, and being cloned himself really makes one wonder just how villainous Krizalid truly was.
    • Hell, having the misfortune of being a clone of Kyo at all is pretty depressing. No one would know this better than Nameless, who's had to endure Training from Hell courtesy of NESTS, losing his love interest Isolde (who would be the basis for Kula's appearance, hence Nameless' special intro with her), and being permanently Put on a Bus for his troubles, to boot.
    • In case Ron couldn't be enough of an asshole already, there's his treatment of his daughter, Xiao Lon. As per the suggestion of his wife, Ron outright disowned Xiao not long after her mother passed away. Why? Because she looked like her mother (who Ron had an affair with in the first place), that's why. Even sadder is the fact that Xiao actually looked up to Ron before he decided to disown her. And that's not even getting into her relationship with her brother Duo Lon or her lifestyle preventing her from living a normal life.
    • Poor Elisabeth. Having to lose her adoptive brother which she had a loving relationship with, finding out he's the descendant of the leader of Those From The Past (even looking an awful lot like him, too), and losing her entire family beforehand (all she has left are Jaques, her butler, and Ash, of course)... yeah, that's quite a lot to live with. Fortunately, she gets her adoptive brother back thanks to Kukri's efforts and the two are now fighting alongside each other in XV.
    • If you've ever wondered just how brutal NESTS were, look no further than Sylvie's past. Being another former experiment of NESTS hasn't exactly been great for her. If her ending in SNK Heroines is anything to go by (Played for Laughs as it may be), whatever NESTS put her through is NOT pretty.
    • While she might seem like an unreasonable Adult Hater at first and has quite the attitude on top of that, Isla hasn't exactly had the best luck. The orphanage that she grew up in turned out to be less than ideal, and she's had to fend for herself much as Kukri did from a young age. Being a vessel for Re Verse and nearly getting sucked into the Crucible of Souls if not for Shun'ei (or Dolores and Heidern) didn't help matters at all, either.
  • What The Hell, Costuming Department?:
    • General consensus regarding Shun'ei's outfit is that it looks rather overdone and screams "chuunibyou protagonist" all over, what with the half-rolled pants leg, Coat Cape, and headphones. Sylvie gets it even worse, with some deriding her just because of her very flamboyant J-Pop-styled outfit.
    • Isla's design has also gotten this reaction, too - with the very garish yellow raincoat, paint-splashed hat, and the mismatched socks being a common source of complaints.
    • Iori's pimp jacket in XIV. It's overdesigned, suffers from Too Many Belts in awkward places (even for a character who always demonstrated this trope), and comes in a garish shade of maroon. Thankfully the classic costume for Iori is still available, albeit via DLC. His XV design (which is based on his Striker counterpart in 2000) is considerably more well-received.
    • Kyo's XIV jacket gets this as well. While it's a little less cluttered than Iori's, fans still feel that it goes overboard with the pockets, zippers, and insignias, along with that the collar is much too big. Interestingly fans don't mind the outfit as much in official artwork, suggesting the issue comes down to rendering. Again, thankfully, Kyo's classic '94-'98 appearance is available via DLC for those not happy with the outfit or his overall redesign. Likewise, Kyo's XV design is closer to his Ash saga design with the re-addition of his headband that he hasn't worn since '97.

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