While the Rock and Cena are obviously ridiculously strong, don't sleep on Seth.
This article explains why the best are the best. The simple list of current top characters are back on the home page.
Starting the Game As said before, the Kyo, Terry and Ryo that you picked when you started the game, can be put to the side. Why? Because they are Bronze characters. This chapter will cover which characters to start with in the game and then go into detail about the differences. Ultimately you'll need a team of five gold rated characters of the five element colours.
If you don’t know anything about the King of Fighters characters, the most important thing to know is that at the beginning of the game, the gold characters are the best. If you’re playing casually, it won’t matter, bronze characters can still destroy opponents, so pick anyone that you like, but for the later stages of the game, you’ll need the strongest characters possible, and those are gold, simply as a matter of base statistics, which are overall represented as Combat Points (CP).
If you do know the King of Fighters characters, the characters from KOF 94-98 are available with a few guests such as K’ and Maxima, at the start of the game. Because the game events revolve around the calendar, other characters appear depending on the date.
The typical strategy is to choose your favourite character and put all your efforts into them. This isn’t actually efficient but at the start of the game, you can raise your character to levels of super power where it doesn’t matter. Either way, you will start to collect and raise a team of five different element colours. We’ll cover the color system in the Fighting section of this guide, let’s focus on choosing the characters first.
Before you make your final decisions, the game will actually provide you with the following characters if you do their quests.
All these characters are gold rated and will be raised to level 80 if you complete the festivals in this order; this is huge because the time and cost to raise a character is much higher, so if you want to get through the game quickly or don’t have a preference for characters, use these! In fact, these characters will definitely be useful in the future. You will be using them sooner or later. Commentary: while doing these quests you'll find you will be able to raise Iori 97, a silver rated character with a really poor defence! With the souls you'll collect he can be easily raised to 90 but bear in mind when he gets hit he'll be blown away like a leaf in the wind … this might seem pointless right now but (much) later on there are missions that need a character exactly like him… it’s not a priority but don’t salvage those souls until you completely max out the character!!!
Step up has been replaced with the Unified banner but just in case it comes back ...
The Step Up selection from the summon section guarantees one of the fighters on offer (at a cost of 2,700 rubies), and they are gold rated. They will be offered at level 1 so you’ll have to raise them without any help from the game. They are certainly strong characters… In comparison getting a festival character can take 27,000 rubies... Step Up begins with Kyo 95 and K’, then Maxima 99 and King 97, then Mr Big and Xiangfei and continues…
For your full element team you should be aiming for Kyo 95 or anyone who is a blue element.
One strong character can take you through level 50 difficulty quests without worrying about the other two in your team, while you set the game to automatic mode. Because of the leverage color system, your character has a weakness against a certain colour type and will get hit for 50% more damage, but if the difference between you and your opponent’s level is high enough, it won’t matter. When it does, with some manual tagging out or taking control in tougher fights, you can get through a lot of the game.
For the fans of KOF, start with your favourite, hopefully a gold version, and then level them up until you find more five star characters that come along, taking one of each colour. Do not start with two of the same colour in your team (unless you really love them)! You will still need the gold characters that the game gives you to get through certain quests but you can level them up when needed.
But what if you have no gold characters at the start? That’s when the infinite summon ticket comes into play.
The Summon Ticket
When you start you should have one summon ticket to use and the game is more likely to give you a gold character when you have none. There is no point saving this ticket, the selection of characters is limited and will not change.
From the first line up, these characters are highly rated. In fact, pretty much all the 5 star characters are great. They appear as red icons in the summon lottery. When summoning (aka going for a pull) the box can shine yellow then change to red, or even change to red at the line up screen so don’t lose hope when watching! Keep going till you get a 5 star that you like.
Arguably any of the 5 star characters are awesome but some have a little extra to stand above the others. Looking at the international community discussion, it's more or less out of these:
Considering that the game wants you to spend money, the gold and ultra rare characters must be stronger than the rest and this is evidenced in the tier lists. There's still a few things to consider first, however...
Kyo95 is a great choice, and you can get him from the step up. My recommendation is to do the re-roll until you get Mai 95. The problem with getting a character is that after you get them, you need to get their super move card. You get Mai's action card as a reward for doing early quests and you can get her souls every day from the expert mode in KOF98. She's fantastic in PvP mode too.
If you have King's quest available (the most precious thing to King) then you could go for her because you'll get her action card from that quest. Note that if you get Kyo 95, you'll get purple Kyo, yellow Terry, red vice, green mature, giving you a full element team.
In conclusion… get Mai 95 from the summons and get Kyo 95 from the step up.
In the long run, you'll be aiming to collect a boss character for your team, but you don't need to worry about that right now, unless you have a ton of rubies and cash at your disposal.
Commentary: The point is that you'll have more fun if you pick a character that you like seeing on the screen. If you are like the look of a character, pick them! If they are weak, find the strongest character you can to help power them up. If you don't have any favourites, just pick the strongest character you can, you'll have fun destroying the opposition! If you just like winning, then pick Mai and try to get Kyo 95. After getting your first characters, you’ll then be faced with the summonable Festival (FES) characters, who are usually even more amazing. The strongest characters are purple grade (their box has a purple lining) and if the game offers you one, you can stop worrying about all this and just focus on that character. Some characters are good just for their striker abilities, check the fighting section for more info.
Is Gold Worth its weight?
The real difference with Gold grade characters: you can examine the full power of a character by visiting the codex (found in the top right menu button). Look out for their core skills too, some characters have very interesting skills… Ultimately the gold characters with the higher Combat Points (CP) are better overall, and after you have made your choices, you’ll need cards!
With this example, we have Andy 94 (silver). His stats are lower than Andy 98 (gold). The year is irrelevant, some characters are stronger in earlier incarnations.
Briefly, Bronze and Silver characters have a lower CP (combat point) value. You need CP to fight the harder quests and compete in versus mode, as it represents your statistics. The Gold Characters (and above) are simply the best. If you visit the codex page (from the top right menu button) you can compare stats and look at cores, which can give special abilities. Note these stats are given without buffs, so you can still increase them above those listed at level 90.
The stars represent how much you need to evolve them. 3 star characters will max out at 30 and then need to be evolved 3 times to reach level 60, while gold 5 star characters only need to be evolved once. Evolutions are expensive!
Then, after you evolve to level 60, you can limit break to level 90, using character souls, KOF souls, colour souls or rainbow souls.
You cannot use gold souls for bronze and silver characters and vice versa. The silver and bronze souls are more rare to find, making this process more difficult!
The first time to find bronze and silver souls was in the soul Festival but now can be found from Advent bosses (aka drops).
So, it’s just not worth picking a bronze or silver character, unless you really like them! Their stats are generally lower so if we can assume that levelling gives your character the same amount of points, the gold characters will always be ahead of their bronze and silver counterparts.
Notice the stars only represent their max level before you can evolve: 4 stars takes this character to level 40 before you have to evolve, but every character can get to level 90. However, due to base statistics, the gold characters will still be the strongest. Comparing the levels, gold characters simply have higher overall statistics. For the casual player, it doesn't matter, there are still lots of fun to be had, but for the player who wants to do the hardcore quests with the biggest rewards, and player Vs player modes, the overall higher CP will be a distinct advantage.
In various years of KOF, some characters have different moves, losing, gaining or changing them, but this is not accurately represented in the game. Some characters even have new moves which are exclusive to KOFAS. For example, Kensou has a new flying elbow which has added kicks!
Note : AS characters cannot be levelled up with gold, silver or bronze souls. Coloured souls are needed, making them the hardest to level up, in terms of resources. In conclusion: go for gold!!! Don’t waste too much time thinking about this, because ultimately you’ll want a purple FES character...
The FES Characters
While there are some very good characters within the normal selection pool, the Festival (FES) characters are a tier above. Some are even “god tier”, usually in the form of bosses from the actual KOF games.
Zero is a fearsome boss with a pet lion and huge horizontal hurricane blasts. Not to be confused with his clones!
Halloween Kula was the best character out of the set simply due to her freezing side effect if you touched her! This will ruin many attempts to get a perfect in PVP mode, meaning even if you lose the battle, you have won the war. Shermie and Angel are excellent strikers, the former giving a 14% attack buff and the latter inflicting poison damage.
The first festival featured these two monster characters who are fast and highly powered. Orochi Leona was buffed further after launch. In later seasons, Iori was outclassed by newer bosses only due to his lack of super armour (but then the developers gave him super armour and now he’s a monster again). For advice on the summoning procedure, check the summon section.
Getting a FES character is quite the experience. Some take a lot of grinding with hardcore battles, others just require luck, while others just require cash. In fact, as with many features in this game, everything can be acquired with real life currency, otherwise work hard needs to be done, or just get lucky. It can be exhilarating at times and depressing at others. The greatest joy is getting a character you like for free from the summons. Either way, there will always be another stronger character in a future summon. It’s a continuous cycle of getting the strongest character and sitting on top of the hill until the next festival. Good luck!