In America and other parts of the western world during the 1990s, one of the playground arguments of those days were which was the better fighting game, Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter II. In Japan, the only game rivaling Street Fighter was SNK’s Fatal Fury series. Fatal Fury happens to be a product of the legendary fighting game pioneer who also co-created Street Fighter, Nishiyama Takashi. In fact, he was the creator of the Hadouken technique, which was inspired by the Hadouhou from Space Battleship Yamato.
Though Fatal Fury became a big hit in Japan, it only gained a cult following outside of its home country. However, its domestic success was enough for SNK to produce numerous sequels, spin-off the King of Fighters series, and even have three anime adaptations! So for today’s list, we will cover a part of its legacy by breaking down whom we think are its top 10 characters.
10. Laocorn Gaudeamus
Kicking off this list is the anime exclusive villain, Laocorn, a 17-year-old descendant of a Macedonian ruler who once possessed the Armor of Mars. After losing his father, his sole quest is to find all the pieces of the armor and gain unlimited power. Even with just a few pieces, he manages to make easy work of Terry with wind projectiles, flight, and teleportation granted to him by the armor. The fact that he was one of the first characters in an SNK product to possess the power of a god makes him a terrifying opponent.
Unfortunately, the only one capable of hurting him was his twin sister Sulia, who was also Terry’s new love interest. Their connection was so strong that whenever she was in pain, he would also feel it. Sulia would use this to her advantage to put a stop to him when his power became too great. Even after losing the armor, his lust for power would not vanquish but still had enough love for his sister left to protect her one more time. The fact that he had no weaknesses other than his own flesh and blood makes him an unstoppable opponent that requires great sacrifice. Despite SNK’s eternal reputation for its bosses, Laocorn has never been adapted into any of the games despite his god status fitting him to that criterion, but maybe someday.
9. Raiden/Big Bear
Introduced in the first game, Raiden was a heel wrestler working as a henchman for Geese Howard. After that, he took off his mask, became a good guy and re-branded himself as Big Bear. For many wrestling fans that are reading this list, you probably know that he was based on Big Van Vader, who may not have had a big name in the U.S., but was a tremendous draw in Japan. Despite having around 400 pounds of girth, they share amazing speed and agility with techniques such as the backflip moonsault.
In addition, he uses some of Vader’s other arsenal of techniques that show off his devastating power such as the power bomb and a belly flop splash. Though unseen in American wrestling, one of his moves that happen to be common in Japanese wrestling is spitting out mist to blind an opponent. Because of this character’s excellent representation of wrestling and how it fits with the game, he is included on this list in addition to being one of the first characters to go from bad to good and that anyone can reform.
8. Blue Mary
Though Terry may be cursed with the ladies in the anime, thankfully he has found love with Special Agent Mary Ryan aka Blue Mary, first introduced in the third Fatal Fury. As most of our readers and fans could probably tell, her design takes inspiration from Android 18 of Dragon Ball Z. However, her outfit is obviously different with her heavy looking but short, jacket, loose pants, and tight shirt (in some instances it could just be a bra or bikini top). Though her grandfather was a Japanese martial arts master (who happened to have trained Geese), her style of choice is the Russian martial art of Sambo which mixes judo, striking, and paralyzing leg locks.
Due to the real life nature of her fighting style, she is most effective and close range. However, some of her specials combos can be pulled off at longer distances but like all super combos, timing is everything. Like Geese and in real life Sambo, she does have some grappling counters to opponent’s striking attacks. With her captivating design mixed with the challenges of mastering her character’s moves, her overall effectiveness gives her great worth for any player who puts in the time and effort.
7. Mai Shiranui
Ranking in at lucky seven is the franchise’s first ever and one of the leading ladies of fighting games, is the scantily clad Mai Shiranui. Just take one good look at her and you can see why she is popular in a surface definition. Though made iconic in Tecmo’s Dead or Alive series, the first to pave way for jiggling breasts is Mai herself, though some non-Japanese releases have done away with this animation and put more clothing on her costume.
At the time, the feature was considered something along the lines of a technological achievement. The reason for this apparent feature is because of old tales of kunoichi’s using seduction in order to win. Overall, her design is intended to represent the ideal Japanese woman. Even though some find her design as sexist, many female cosplayers around the world have dressed as her to express their love for the character.
But enough about her fashion, what about her function? Many of her attacks can be used from close to mid-range, and her projectiles center around fire. Though she may not be strong, she is faster than average and her techniques are very easy to pull off. Throw in some punches in bunches and finish it with a Ryuuenbu at close range and you are guaranteed a victory.
6. Rock Howard
At number six we have Rock Howard, the son of Geese. First introduced in Mark of the Wolves, Rock has been featured in numerous installments of the King of Fighters series though fans have yet to be treated to a sequel to his breakout game (which is supposed to continue his story). Thanks to Terry’s upbringing, Rock is a really nice guy and cares about others. Due to being trained by both Geese and Terry, he possesses an effective combination of some of their moves such as Geese’s Reppuken and his menacing Deadly Storm and uses Terry’s Rising Tackle and his own version of the Burn Knuckle, the Shining Knuckle. Thanks to these features, Rock is unarguably one of the strongest characters in the series, but some fans accuse him of being unbalanced.
But the character shines with charisma and how his story is at the core of Mark of the Wolves is what drives fans to him. Upon his ending, we learn that Kain is his uncle through his mother and that his mother is (allegedly) still alive. Unfortunately, his other appearances in other SNK fighters have yet to advance this part of the story and the fact that there is mystery shrouded to him makes followers ponder how far he can develop.
5. Joe Higashi
Joe Higashi has been one of the main characters throughout the series’ history. He speaks with a very cheery voice and some of his taunts are provocative such as mooning his opponent in small installments of the games. Though his fighting style of choice is Muay Thai, he does not forget his Japanese roots by wearing a bandana of the Hinomaru, or the Rising Sun printed on it.
The character was made during a time when kickboxing started to progressively become popular in Japan through the rise of the K-1 promotion. Though many of his basic moves are an accurate representation of the science of eight limbs with its elbows, knees and leg kicks, he has some other tricks up his sleeves such as his Hurricane Upper. A combination of his effectiveness and his charisma is what makes him a great addition to this list.
4. Andy Bogard
Ranking in at number four is the second main character and the younger brother of Terry, Andy. In comparison to Terry’s design and fighting style where he is more American, Andy who lived and trained in Japan appropriately comes across as more traditional in his costume design and fighting style. Andy practices a form of Ninjitsu passed within the Shiranui family and during his training, he caught the eye of his master’s granddaughter, Mai. After the defeat of Geese, the only thing that drives Andy in his life is to one day best Terry. Many of his traits are like Ryu from Street Fighter where he is very dedicated to his training, and though he loves Mai himself, he can’t find that balance between being a lover and a fighter along with just being very shy.
As stated before, Terry and Andy’s fighting styles are very much different despite being brothers. With Terry being more power based on his attacks, Andy is about speed and agility due to his ninja training. Thankfully, many of Andy’s moves can be pulled off from any distance but some of his trademark techniques such as his Zan’eiken elbow strike and his Kuhadan drill kick are best pulled off from the opposite side of the screen for maximum damage!
3. Wolfgang Krauser
As we head into our top three, we have the second most iconic boss of the series, Wolfgang Krauser, also the antagonist in the second anime OVA installment. SNK describes him as a strange mix of Mozart and submission wrestling specialist Karl Gotch. But if anybody embodies the qualities of the viciousness of the top of the food chain, it is Krauser himself. In order to claim his birthright as the Earl of Stroheim, he killed his father in cold blood on his sixteenth birthday in one move. Unlike his half-brother Geese who is motivated by power, Krauser cares more about being the strongest. Krauser only fights those who are capable of facing him and shows respect for strong warriors. Though he may be a boss, he is by no means a villain.
If you thought Geese in the first game was tough, Krauser is just a whole new definition of a beast. Don’t let his size fool you. He may be huge like a bodybuilder but has the speed of Usain Bolt and the precision of Connor McGregor. He can attack you from any direction and his attacks do instant and near kill damage such as his Energy Kaiser Wave and Gigantic Cyclone. Many of his physical attacks happen to be based on a mix of European fighting styles such as Kampfringen (German grappling), Pankration (the ancient Olympic form of Mixed Martial Arts), and other pro wrestling moves such as dropkicks and suplexes. So stay away from where he can grab a hold of you!!! Even so, there is still the Blitz Ball to worry about at long range.
2. Geese Howard
Ranking in at second is the original master of disaster himself, Geese Howard. When Terry and Andy were just children, he murdered their father in cold blood. This would spark Terry and Andy to dedicate their life to the martial arts and to avenge their father. He is probably the original SNK boss to set the bar for their advanced difficulties.
In the original game, he is relentlessly on the offense and the only way to beat him is to get to the punch before he does. And his defense is just as equally devastating with his counter uppercuts at close range and counter grapples if you try to attack him from the air. He is the embodiment of no mercy. What also contributes to the uniqueness of the character is though he is American, he is culturally Japanese by wearing an Aikido gi and presenting his home like a traditional Japanese temple/garden. For someone who likes Japanese culture, he has no concept of Japanese values such as peace and harmony.
1. Terry Bogard
At number one we have the mainstay of the franchise himself, Terry. As previously stated, his younger brother is more Japanese in his fighting style, mannerisms, and fashion, but Terry contrasts by being more American due to staying home. His design was later altered in Mark of the Wolves where he loses the hat, slightly cuts his hair, and gets a new jacket. Some of Terry’s mannerisms and moves are influenced by Japanese stereotypes of Americans with his Engrish.
His power dunk, where he does a rising knee followed by a downwards punch, was apparently influenced by the likes of the high-flying abilities of the superstars in the NBA around the early-90s to make him more American. His move list overall is an excellent balance of all ranges and angles. In some versions, his power wave projectile can go across the screen or at short range. In Mark of the Wolves, he is given his Buster Wolf super combo, which is allegedly influenced by the technique he uses to defeat Mars in the anime.
Beyond his tough guy exterior, Terry is overall a friendly guy and appreciates the company of others. The anime portrayal of the character is a bit darker who tends to avoid romantic relationships and has more of Ryu’s personality of finding who the strongest is. But his iconic design still resonates because his fashion has a sense of timelessness to it. In this day in age, you can still wear a red jacket, a white shirt, a red hat, jeans, and converse sneakers, which makes the character timelessly relatable.
For the fans here at Honey's Anime, it is undeniable that compiling this list was difficult. Fatal Fury is a great series with an amazing legacy and the truth is, every character all have their own unique contributions in comparison to numerous fighting games where some characters are intended to be useless and a joke. So we have some honorable mentions such as Hwa Jai, Lawerence Blood, Kain, Kim Kaphwan, and Billy Kane. And if you disagree with this list, we’re cool with it. Just feel free to leave your ideas in the comments and share why you listed them.
Though SNK has been very active with King of Fighters, dedicated fans of Fatal Fury are still waiting on a sequel to the last installment to the franchise, Mark of the Wolves from 1999. Though positively received by critics and hardcore fans alike, SNK has more or less stalled on the sequel probably due to lack of time and resources. Even so, people are still demanding it and maybe we will get it. If it can happen to Shenmue, it can happen to Mark of the Wolves.