There comes a time during every fighting game when you have to choose who's going to be your main avatar. The choice can be based on the character's fighting style move list, or their overall design and persona. the task becomes more challenging when the roster includes dozens of unique and colorful figures as it's the case with the King of Fighters series.
Unlike most articles of this blog, I'll put aside the lore behind the characters this time and focus mainly on the gameplay aspect. But as you may know, I'm not a very good player I mean I can do some basic combos of course but I'm aware that my skill is lacking That being said, I spent enough time with this series to know what each character is capable of and have my all-time favorites among its rich roster.
Again, like in the previous posts, this list is the result of my own opinion and by no means represents a general consensus. These are the fighters that I'm comfortable playing as and enjoy using.
If you are new to the series, I hope this article will give you a basic insight into their strengths and weaknesses and encourage you to give them a try. For the rest, you're bound to have a different opinion which is totally normal and I would love you to share it with us in the comments.
So without further ado, here are the top ten most picked characters in the KOF games.
10. Terry Bogard:
You know it was a hard list to make when you see that the poster boy himself is number 10. Being the main protagonist from another franchise, Terry Bogard is a well-balanced character with an easy to remember moveset. His techniques are diverse and simple to pull out. They include projectiles, of different kinds some times. Crack shoot, an attack that can act as an overhead and avoid earth-based projectiles. and the Burn Knuckle, a fast move that can surprise the opponent and effectively close the distance between Terry and them. He also has two types of uppercuts, with different reach and properties.
Although his Power Geyser super is not the best in the series, being very slow with a long recovery time, it can be an effective anti-air move if timed correctly. Terry is one of the characters with moves that deal with the most amount of damage, especially in KOF XIV.
Additionally, his defense is also quite good. He can take many destructive attacks and remains standing. All in all, Terry is a reliable fighter. He is one of those characters that you can't go wrong with when you don't know who to pick.
9. Kyo Kusanagi:
Kyo Kusanagi true protagonist of the KOF series. Also known as the character who changes his fighting style more than his jackets.
The thing with Kyo is, unlike the majority of the main protagonist in other fighting games, he is not as easy or straightforward to control. Depending on which game we're talking about, his moveset can be drastically different.
In early games, he had long-ranged projectiles and an anti-air that was perfect to finish his combos but extremely punishable if blocked or whiffed.
Starting from 96, he adopted a new fighting style that dropped his projectiles for more elaborate chains and Rekkas. which was perfected in 98 and is also the most popular version of Kyo and my personal favorite too.
This is the version that was adopted in XIV as well with some additions. During the Nests Saga, he came up with more techniques and chains that made his combos very difficult to execute but also extremely devastating and satisfying.
What I like about Kyo is even though he is relatively difficult to completely master, he is still quite strong and fun to use for average players like me.
8. Blue Mary:
The first female character in this list is also another comer from the Fatal Fury series. Blue Mary is one of the most versatile fighters out there. Mastering the Russian discipline known as Commando Sambo her fighting style includes a good balance of striking, grappling, and countering moves.
Many of her attacks can be followed with a grappling finisher such as her Dragon Punch, Vertical arrow, or charging move, Slicer. She can perform a side step while remaining in her position which is perfect to avoid her opponent's attack and counter it with her painful German Suplex.
Despite her delicate figure, Mary is pretty tough and can lift and smash people on the ground pretty easily.
She also doesn't hesitate to use weapons, like her Taser during a fight. Not very honorable from her, but I guess she believe in the end justifies the means. Blue Mary made a comeback in KOF XIV, as one of the last DLC characters added to the roster. But she quickly became a staple pick for most professional players. She is just extremely good in that game and I hope she remains as such in the next iteration.
7. Robert Garcia:
The other pillar of the Art of Fighting team, Robert often takes a backseat in the team so that the main leader, Ryo can shine. But that is just Story and Lore wise because when it comes to gameplay Robert is just as important if not preferred by the players depending on the game.
Although his moveset shares some similarities with Ryo's, they are different enough to set him apart from his best friend.
Robert relies more on his feet to deliver his attacks, His Hien Senpuu Kyaku and Gen-ei Kyaku being the prime example. That also includes his projectiles, like that time when he used his legs instead of arms to throw his Ryuu-Geki Ken.
He's also much more mobile and has better control in the air, especially with his Hien Ryuujin Kyaku. and even though his dragon punch is not as strong as Ryo's, he does have a second one using, you guessed it, his legs.
A special mention to his alternate version in the Nests saga when he became a fully charge based character, which completely changed the way he plays. But his 97 version is still my favorite.
6. Iori Yagami:
Of course what kind of KOF player who doesn't like Iori? the red-headed fighter became a fan favorite the moment he first appeared in 95 and his popularity just kept getting stronger with each episode.
Putting aside his attitude, design, and backstory, Iori is an extremely good pick no matter what game he's in. Being an all-around fighter, his moveset includes pretty much everything a player, either a newbie or a skilled veteran would need.
From a fast and long-ranged projectile to a very good anti-air uppercut. His techniques include a command grab that nullifies his opponent's guard and a Rekka that is very effective at its best and totally broken, unfair, and infinite at its worst. Iori uses his ancestor's fighting style, as a base for his moves, in addition to his own instinct. which gives him this predatory aura during the fight, adding more to his charisma.
With the exception of that time in KOF 13 when he lost his flames, Iori's moves remained mostly the same since his beginning with very minimal changes. That is why all versions of Iori, much like his themes, are consistently good and he is always a very safe pick regardless of the iteration.
The favorite Wifu of many players, King is an essential character in the King of Fighters roster as she was present in every single entry, except in the vanilla version of 2002 a mistake that was thankfully rectified in its much better remake.
King uses Muay Thay as her main fighting style. has good normals using both her arms and feet.
Her best asset however is her projectiles, the Venom Strikes. Those fireballs of hers are super fast at the start and take almost no time to recover from throwing them making King one the best zoners of the series.
She has an effective sliding attack, that can catch anyone not guarding low off guard and can be canceled in many other moves, such as her tornado kick a very good and fairly safe on block move that can also work as an anti-air.
Another potential anti-air move is her iconic Trap shot, a technique that, as its name suggests traps her opponent in a defenseless state against her fast and ruthless kicks. All of King's moves and combos are straight forward even her most advanced ones are far less complicated and don't take too much time to master compared to other characters. and that makes King a very simple to use and newbie-friendly character, Which suits me perfectly.
4. Clark Still:
Finally, I get to talk about one of the best grapplers in the series, Clark Still. The second man in the original Ikari warriors uses to have the same moveset as his brother in arms, Ralf.
But with each passing episode, they kept gaining their own separate abilities until they started looking and playing nothing alike. Clark is a pure grappler, his signature move is the famous Argentine backbreaker. a technique that does not only looks cool, it also deals a considerable amount of damage.
In recent iterations, it gained a delayed variation, which is the best addition to Clark moveset in my opinion. It keeps the opponent constantly guessing how their back is going to break, resulting in an exciting and satisfying mind game.
In XIV, this same move can even be canceled into a super or even a climax without any requirements. It's true that most of Clark's moves are command grabs, he does have some striking attacks as well.
However, his anti-air options are limited, but in some games, he has an air grab that will discourage his opponents from jumping all the time.
Although Clark is my favorite fighter among the Ikari warriors, that being said, he is my second best grappler in the franchise, which leads us to talk about...
3. Yashiro Nanakase:
Yashiro Nanakase, the leader of the new faces / Orochi team. For me, his Orochi form is the best grappler, especially in 98. His best tool is without a doubt, the Tempering earth attack.
Yashiro has an invincible grab that opens the door for many possibilities. after throwing his opponent in the air, he can follow that with an attack and execute a combo when they land.
The scariest thing is, Yashiro has enough time to do it from either side of his enemy. This just one of the options he has. He may also choose to do his Crashing Earth technique which takes advantage of his opponent's reflex for blocking or do absolutely nothing and let his victim hit their head on the ground when they fall.
The Crashing Earth move I mentioned earlier is ideal to troll inexperienced players. It can't be blocked, nullifies their guard, and can be followed by any combo your desire.
Yashiro's other form is also quite strong and uses mainly his fast striking abilities. Both firms benefit from Yashiro's big stature and long limbs, which give his normals an advantageous long reach. My only complaint is that Yashiro is not present in many episodes but I hope this issue will be addressed in future games.
I'm aware that I might be a minority when I say that Mature is my favorite member of the Yagami team. Although she made his debut in KOF 96 and was praised for her incredibly strong CD attack I didn't start playing here until 98, where I really fall in love with her fighting style.
Mature's strongest asset is speed. It's the keyword shared by pretty much all of her techniques. She has a very good low kick attack, that can be canceled into many moves most of the time her Death Row Rekka, a chain of slashes that deal tons of damage, even when blocked.
Her Despair leaping attack is perfect to go over low projectiles and is one of her best moves in 2002 UM.
In recent games, Mature's Despair is slower but also jumps higher which can lead to hitting the opponent from behind. She has a projectile called Ebony tears that looks a lot like Heidern's with the exception of being much bigger.
However, it has a long startup time, an understandable downside because, otherwise, this move would be totally overpowered. Rolling to avoid her projectile is a very bad idea because Mature can easily punish that with her Metal massacre which, again in later iterations, can be canceled into a super.
Sadly, she doesn't have many anti-air moves, but she can use on her crouching strong punch. Such an undertreated character.
Before getting to the number 1 spot, here are some honorable mentions.
Kula, Chris, Leona, Kim, Ryo.
1. Ryuji Yamazaki:
If you've been following this blog for a while, you should probably tell who's my favorite fighter. Since he was the first character I made a dedicated lore article for. Of course, it's the loveliest, nicest, most considerate human being ever, Yamazaki.
In addition to his unique over the top attitude, Yamazaki has a very efficient and satisfying fighting style. Much like Yashiro, the enraged Yakuza is a big boy, in other words, far-reaching normals.
Yamazaki is a deadly mid-ranged character and will make his opponent's life a living hell to approach him. He has probably the best far A in the series and can be canceled into his signature move, the Snake Arm.
Jumping on Yamazaki is a bad idea, because not only this move can act as an anti-air, he has a much deadlier answer for that, his Guillotine super.
If his opponent somehow manages to close distance, a couple of devastating surprises could be waiting for them. Yamazaki has a command throw where he head butts his victim with enough strength to create an explosion but even worse, an instant grab super. Yamazaki's only somewhat weak point is his long-ranged capabilities.
But still, while he doesn't have projectiles, he is not helpless against zoners since he has the ability to nullify their projectiles or send them right back at them.
It's true that Yamazaki is not the easiest character to use, his colorful personality coupled with crude yet effective fighting style makes him a fun and unique fighter to play as and that's why Yamazaki is my number one Pick in the King of Fighters series.
Now, why don't you tell me who are your main characters and why you pick them.