The The King of Fighters universe (ザ・キング・オブ・ファイターズ, The King of Fighters) is a canonical crossover fighting game series created by SNK, which brought the characters from other SNK multiverse, such as mostly from Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury series, but set in a different timeline. First released for the Neo Geo MVS Arcade and AES console in 1994, the main timeline KOF games were originally released based on the years of their releases up until 2003, where they abandoned the annual release format and year titling in favour of a Roman numeral system. It stars a multitude of characters whose sights are set on their life goals within SNK multiverse, South Town (the main settings in The King of Fighters and Art of Fighting/Fatal Fury timelines) -- as is the case with its main recurring character and sole playable downloadable fighter debuted in Fatal Fury, Terry Bogard.
By and large, the King of Fighters series is a crossover between various SNK franchises, such as Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Psycho Soldier and Ikari Warriors. Other than the crossover aspect, tor most of the series, the main protagonist is young high school student and martial artist Kyo Kusanagi, a master of a martial art based around his family's ancestral flame powers. Occasionally, other characters take centre stage such as K', a man who is implanted with Kyo’s DNA, or Shun'Ei, a young master of illusionary powers.
The series comprises of a number of "sagas" taking place over a certain number of games. KOFs 94 to 97 focus around Orochi, an ancient god who seeks humanity's destruction. 99 to 2001 focus on the NESTS cartel, who seek to clone Kyo Kusanagi as part of a world domination plan, and 2003 to XIII (XII is skipped, due to being non-canon) focus on the exploits of the mysterious and devious Ash Crimson. The current arc as of XIV centers SNK multiverse crisis relating to Shun'ei’s power caused by Ash back in XIII.
The alternate continuity series, Maximum Impact is a hybrid between main timeline (such as Terry and Ryo being at the same age) and the currently last Fatal Fury mainline game Garou: Mark of the Wolves (where Geese died at the end of Real Bout: Fatal Fury, and Rock is old enough to enter the tournament, though Rock became older in main KOF timeline as of XIV).
List of games in The King of Fighters franchise
- The King of Fighters '94 (1994, Neo Geo)
- The King of Fighters '94: Rebout (2004, Playstation 2)
- The King of Fighters '95 (1995, Neo Geo, Playstation, Sega Saturn)
- The King of Fighters '96 (1996, Neo Geo, Playstation)
- The King of Fighters '97 (1997, Neo Geo, Playstation)
- The King of Fighters '97: Global Match (2018, Playstation 4/Vita, Xbox One, PC)
- The King of Fighters '98 (1998, Neo Geo, Playstation)
- The King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match (2008, Arcade, Playstation 2, Xbox 360, PC)
- The King of Fighters '99 (1999, Neo Geo, Playstation)
- The King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999 (1999, Dreamcast)
- The King of Fighters 2000 (2000, Neo Geo, Sega Dreamcast, Playstation 2)
- The King of Fighters 2001 (2001, Neo Geo, Playstation 2)
- The King of Fighters 2002 (2002, Neo Geo, Playstation 2, Xbox)
- The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match (2009, Playstation 2, Xbox 360, PC)
- The King of Fighters 2003 (2003, Neo Geo, Playstation 2)
- The King of Fighters XI (2005, Arcade, Playstation 2)
- The King of Fighters XII (2009, Arcade, Playstation 3, Xbox 360)
- The King of Fighters XIII (2010, Arcade, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC)
- The King of Fighters XIV (2016, Arcade, Playstation 4, PC)
- SNK Heroines: Tag Team, Frenzy (2018, Arcade, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC) - A spiritual successor to SNK Gals Fighters. Takes place between KOF XIV and XV
- The King of Fighters XV (TBA)
- The King of Fighters EX: Neo Blood (2002, Game Boy Advance)
- The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood (2003, Game Boy Advance)
- The King of Fighters: Neowave (2004, Arcade, Playstation 2, Xbox)
- The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact (2005, Playstation 2)
- The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact 2 (2006, Playstation 2 (released in the US as King of Fighters 2006))
- The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact: Regulation "A" (2008, Playstation 2)
- The King of Fighters: All-Stars (2018, iOS/Android)
The King of Fighters and Art of Fighting/Fatal Fury are the three in one third party universe in Super Smash Bros. series, due to both being fighting games of SNK multiverse. Thus, SNK fighting series multiverse itself is the second known fighting game series in Smash, the first being Street Fighter.