There was a time in the '80s and '90s when SNK gave Capcom a run for its money. No, flagship fighter Fatal Fury never could compete with Street Fighter, but with quirky and experimental games like Breakers, Art of Fighting, and King of Monsters, SNK carved out a niche for fighting game fans who'd grown tired of Ryu and Ken.
The advent of home consoles meant the fight for players' attention shifted from the arcades to the players' homes, and SNK needed to adapt. SNK found the perfect partner in Takara, a lesser-known software maker with a knack for squeezing power out of every available bit.
I want to highlight the incredible work Takara did in bringing SNK's greatest fighters to the Game Boy. It wasn't just a technical challenge, though I'm sure porting a full-color arcade cabinet game over to the tiny Game Boy was no easy task; it was a creative one, too. SNK fighters were designed to be played with an eight-way joystick and at least four face buttons. The Game Boy has a squishy four-way d-pad, an A button, and a B button.
These are the five forgotten SNK fighting games on Game Boy. Each title here isn't just visually impressive (for the Game Boy, at least), it's also crazy fun to play.
Real Bout Fatal Fury Special
Real Bout Fatal Fury Special combines strategy, speed and style into one amazing package. The game features a cast of memorable characters, each with their own unique moves and personalities, making it the perfect fighting game for fans of the genre.
What sets Real Bout Fatal Fury Special apart from other titles is its polished gameplay mechanics. The controls are fluid and responsive, allowing for quick input of complex combos and special moves. The graphics are also top-notch, with detailed backgrounds and character animations that bring each battle to life.
King of Fighters '95
King of Fighters '95 on the Game Boy is a fantastic fighter for many reasons. Firstly, its unique roster of over 30 fighters provides endless possibilities for customizing your gameplay experience. Secondly, its intuitive controls make it easy to pick up and play, while still allowing for complex moves and combos.
The graphics and animations, although simple by today's standards, are still charming and pleasing to the eye. The game's soundtrack is also worth noting, with memorable tunes that perfectly capture the vibe of a classic fighting game.
King of Fighters '96
King of Fighters '96 on the Game Boy is an incredible fighting game that lets you bring the excitement of the arcade on the road. It takes the gameplay of King of Fighters '95 and improves it in every way possible.
For starters, the graphics and animations are much smoother and more polished. The controls are more responsive, making it easier to execute combos and special moves. The character roster has been expanded to include popular fighters like Leona and Orochi. The addition of the Striker System also adds an extra layer of strategy to battles, allowing players to call in assist characters for attacks.
King of Fighters '96 on the Game Boy is a fantastic fighting game that deserves a spot in any retro gaming collection.
Samurai Shodown III
Samurai Shodown III on the Game Boy is a masterful port of a criminally underrated game. The game features an incredible cast of characters, each with their own distinct fighting styles and special moves. The controls are tight and responsive, allowing for precise movements and combos.
The graphics are impressive as well, with fluid animations detailed sprites that bring the world of Samurai Shodown to life. It's surprisingly deep, too. There are so many different strategies and tactics to master, from using your character's unique abilities to countering your opponent's moves.
When it comes to retro fighting games, Samurai Shodown III on the Game Boy is among the very best.
World Heroes 2 Jet
World Heroes 2 Jet on the Game Boy may not be the most well-known game, but it's definitely one of the best fighting games available on the system. It features a cast of unique and interesting characters, each with their own fighting styles and special moves.
The gameplay itself is fast and fluid, making for intense and satisfying battles. The controls are well-designed and responsive, providing a great level of precision. The graphics and sound are also impressive for a Game Boy game, with detailed character sprites and a soundtrack that has no business being this good.
SNK in the '90s was all about making great fighting games, and it was that devotion to quality that made SNK the ultimate underdog, a company of gamers you could really root for. The company's downfall began the moment it started getting complacent, allowing third-party developers to bring messy ports of their games to market.
In 2019, Masahiro Sakurai excitedly unveiled Terry Bogard of Fatal Fury fame as the upcoming DLC character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. And fghting fans were shockingly apathetic. Some were confused: who is Terry Bogard?
Has SNK's flagship fighter really been reduced to a footnote in fighting game history? Not on my watch! Hopefully, this list of the forgotten SNK fighting games for Game Boy has sparked your curiosity about SNK and their weird, wild, and original fighters. Now get out there and start fighting, ya big silly.