Recently, we’ve been looking at the best games in Hamster’s Arcade Archives line of arcade game re-releases. With hundreds of games available in the line, it can be a little hard to find the cream of the crop. In our previous lists, we first took a look at the best shoot-em-ups, then the finest of the beat-em-ups, and even the best puzzle games. Today we’re checking out the best fighting games in the line, which admittedly is going to involve a lot of NEOGEO games. One rule: only one game per series. Otherwise we’d have a bunch of The King of Fighters. In no particular order, here are our ten favorite fighting games in the catalog.
The King of Fighters ’98 ($7.99)
There are tons of games in this series, and the bulk of them are available through Arcade Archives. While every installment is someone’s favorite, the one that seems to lead the pack more often than the rest is The King of Fighters ’98. As one of the Dream Match installments, it doesn’t have to worry about contributing to the story canon and instead just throws in as many fighters as possible for a big throwdown. It’s a ton of fun, with plenty of viable characters and teams to enjoy.
Samurai Shodown 2 ($7.99)
Another series where people will argue about which one is the best, but for my money the victory goes to Samurai Shodown 2. The gameplay balance is excellent, the fights feel brutal without being too short, the roster has a little something for everyone, and rides the line between silly and serious almost perfectly. The gameplay mechanics would get a lot more convoluted after this chapter, and I think there’s a lot of character in this purer approach to the concept.
World Heroes Perfect ($7.99)
The idea behind World Heroes is a cool one, bringing together characters from different times and places for one big fight. The first game was a bit clumsy in its execution, the second one kind of got things together, but it’s this third installment where everything really came up aces. The bizarre cast of fighters is the highlight in this game, and it really does have a feel all its own.
Yie Ar Kung Fu ($7.99)
Let’s get away from the NEOGEO fighting games for a second and dive into the history books a little bit. Konami’s Yie Ar Kung Fu is one of the foundations of the one-on-one fighting game, and although it doesn’t offer the ability to fight against a friend it’s still a really good time in single player. Being as early an example as it is, Yie Ar Kung Fu has some eccentricities you’ll have to learn to deal with, but it’s a great time once you get your head in the right space to enjoy it.
Touki Denshou Angel Eyes ($7.99)
Some of the games are here because they are among the finest examples of the genre, while others are here for the sake of exploring the more unusual and not entirely unsuccessful corners of the Arcade Archives line-up. Touki Denshou Angel Eyes is more of the latter, but its unique graphical approach and novel fighting mechanics make for a nice variety pick out of the sea of games chasing Street Fighter II‘s tail. Its exciting aerial battles feel like something out of a Capcom Vs game and reflect its relatively late release among the rest of the non-NEOGEO Arcade Archives games.
Garou: Mark of the Wolves ($7.99)
To date the last game in the Fatal Fury line, and I’m using the name as a technicality to include it on this list with another game from the series. Released in 1999, it follows a new generation of fighters with a healthy mix of returning favorites and fresh faces. The T.O.P. system adds an extra bit of tension to the last seconds of every round, and the Just Defend mechanic is an exciting parry system for those who master it. Add in some of the more gorgeous visuals in a NEOGEO game and this is a must-have for all fans of the genre.
Waku Waku 7 ($7.99)
Alright, back to a more off-beat choice. Waku Waku 7 is one of the later games from Sunsoft before it pulled up sticks and left the game business for a while. The roster is small, with just seven fighters all-up, but each one is absolutely brimming with personality. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Capcom’s Darkstalkers series. It has great stylized visuals, some really unusual mechanics, and a strong sense of humor. It’s also a far rarer rerelease than many of the other NEOGEO fighting games out there, making it a fresh addition to your fighting library.
Ninja Master’s ($7.99)
This one comes from ADK, the maker of the World Heroes series, and is the last fighting game it ever produced. Does all that experience pay off? Opinions are split on Ninja Master’s, but I say it’s a good one. I like the mechanic where you can choose between fighting bare-handed or using your character’s weapon, and the feudal Japan theme is really well-realized and consistent. And hey, it’s the only game on this list whose last boss is Nobunaga Oda. That counts for something in my books.
Fatal Fury Special ($7.99)
Of all the games with ‘Fatal Fury‘ in the title, I think this is the best one. It’s a tough call because this is a really strong series, but I’m drawing the line here. Essentially a refined second kick at the can of Fatal Fury 2, the effort to polish an already-good game paid off. The gameplay is faster and more enjoyable, the roster has been bumped up to a respectable fifteen characters, and the balance is near perfect. In Street Fighter terms, this is the Super Street Fighter II Turbo of the Fatal Fury series.
The Last Blade 2 ($7.99)
While The Last Blade and its follow-up were never among the most popular NEOGEO fighters, appreciation for them has grown significantly over the years. It’s easy to see why. The visuals are great. The emphasis on chain combos provides a rewarding skill ceiling for expert players. The balance between the characters and the various forms is exquisite. The sequel is the way to go of these two, but you really can’t go wrong with either one. Certainly a series that deserves more attention for its unique charms.
And that’s the lot, friends. I hope this list helps you find some new games to play, and if you have any Arcade Archives fighting games you would like to recommend, please comment below. We’re all looking for more good stuff to add to our libraries, after all. Thanks again for reading!