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The Franchise Report: SNK

The Franchise Report: SNK

Kris Randazzo
7 minute read

Welcome to The Franchise Report, where we take a look at a 3rd party game publisher and see how their biggest franchises are doing these days.

Today we look at SNK, a company that’s been around for a very long time but never quite hit the mainstream like its contemporaries like Capcom or Konami. Still SNK has a rich history, and a lot of awesome brands under its belt. Let’s see how they’re doing.

Ikari Warriors

Originally released in 1986, Ikari Warriors was a crazy awesome game in arcades thanks to its fast action and unique controls. Its NES port was… questionable, but it still left quite an impression. Ikari quickly became a franchise for SNK, with two sequels fast tracked and released in arcades and home consoles in no time. In fact, Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road came out the same year as the first game!

Health rating: Not so good

In 2006, a Japan-only mobile game called Ikari: Leona Gekitohen was released, which was the first proper sequel the series had gotten since 1989’s Ikari III. It obviously didn’t set the world on fire and is the last time there’s been an Ikari release to date. Still, the series is frequently referenced whenever there’s some sort of SNK crossover, so it’s far from a forgotten series. It’s just been a while since there’s been anything new.


Crystalis is a sort of Zelda-like action adventure game that earned itself quite a following back in the NES days. Lauded for its graphics, sound, story, and gameplay, Crystalis was a bonafide hit and is still revered today as one of the console’s must-play titles.

Health rating: Shockingly bad

With all the love Crystalis gets, it’s genuinely surprising just how little content the brand has elicited over the years. There’s the NES game and… that’s it. No sequels of any kind were ever made as far as I can tell. There was a Game Boy Color port in 2000, but most people feel that was vastly inferior to the NES original. Will there even be more Crystalis? Who knows?

Baseball Stars

Baseball games on the NES were plentiful, but there was always this one mythical title that stood above the rest. It wasn’t all that common, but everyone seemed to know that one kid who had Baseball Stars, and everyone else playing RBI, MLB, or Tecmo Baseball would marvel at its stat tracking and other options with envy. It earned its reputation as the baseball game only the realest of fans gravitated toward, and that’s quite a reputation to have!

Health rating: Not so good

Baseball Stars got itself a number of sequels in the years following its release, but the last one came in 1998 with a new version of the classic for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Since then, it’s been all quiet on the Baseball Stars front. Following the whole “EA buys NFL and ruins sports games forever” thing, it’s not terribly surprising to see the series become dormant, but there’s been a bit of a resurgence in smaller budget baseball games in recent years. Perhaps SNK will get in on that action sometime soon?

Metal Slug

It’s like Contra, except way goofier and with a super cool tank. Metal Slug has been an SNK mainstay since 1996 and has an absolutely astounding number of sequels and ports. And with good reason! Metal Slug is super fun and has a really great personality. The most recent release was in 2021 with Metal Slug Infinity, a mobile game that’s an IDLE RPG, whatever that is. I don’t know mobile games.

Health rating: Excellent

Metal Slug has seen regular ports and re-releases since the beginning. The series has never gone longer than 2 years between releases, which is really quite a feat. There’s even a fancy new Metal Slug Tactics game on the way. That game was recently delayed into 2023, but there’s no reason to think there’s any sort of real trouble in the series' future. Metal Slug is doubtlessly here to stay.

King of Fighters

King of Fighters may only be one of SNK’s many fighting game brands, but it’s easily the most recognizable one of the lot. Originally spinning out of Fatal Fury, King of Fighters has become a darn near annual release. Its rivalry with Capcom’s Street fighter series came to a head at one point, but the rivals seem to have both buried the hatchet and found a way to coexist. King of Fighters has more than earned its place in the pantheon of the world’s greatest fighting game franchises.

Health rating: Excellent

King of Fighters XV came out in February 2022, and it wasn’t exactly a long desired revival. There have been a few periods of silence here and there, but for at least the last few years King of Fighters has not only been alive, it’s been thriving. It’s been promoted in EVO, Terry Bogard was added to Super Smash Bros., the works. It still hasn’t quite reached mainstream popularity on the level of Tekken or Street Fighter, but King of Fighters is a huge name. It isn’t going anywhere.

Samurai Shodown

If King of Fighters is SNK’s Tekken, Samurai Shodown is their Soul Calibur. Samurai Shodown made huge waves when it originally released in 1993. Where most 2D fighting games were based in hand to hand martial arts where people can mysteriously throw fireballs, Samurai Shodown was a weapons based fighter with one heck of a bold personality. It quickly stood out for its colorful cast of characters, methodical combat, and the ability to occasionally cut your opponents in half, and it never really slowed down since. There have been so many Samurai Shodown follow ups since that the series has gotten its own compilations multiple times!

Health rating: Excellent

Samurai Shodown is in excellent condition. The most recent release was just called Samurai Shodown (I hate it when games do that) and it got major character DLC as recently as 2021. It might be a while before we see anything new from the series, but that’s only because what’s here now is still so new. The series' unique gameplay style and fun character design continues to keep things fresh, and thankfully it’s all been working out quite well.

That should about wrap things up for SNK. The company’s ownership raises some red flags, but barring where SNK gets its money from, its game output has been pretty solid. It may not release a ton of new stuff in terms of its legacy brands, but the recent 40th Anniversary collection from Digital Eclipse was really quite special, so it’s nice to know that SNK still has a healthy respect for where it came from.

Join us next time when we finally start tackling the first parties. Sort of. We’re going to look at Atari, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary as a company. They’ve been pretty busy lately, and while they still publish for other consoles, they technically do have their own platform in the world with the bizarre yet lovable Atari VCS. It should be a good time. 

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