Twenty years ago today, SNK took a gamble. The new Fatal Fury wouldn't be Fatal Fury, but a new title and set years in the future. Garou: Mark of the Wolves hit arcades worldwide on November 26, 1999, and there hasn't been a new Garou since, even as rumors have often circled about a sequel.
Much like Street Fighter 3's leap into a new generation and era, Garou: Mark of the Wolves jumped the timeline ahead ten years, centering the story on a new set of characters. It was a revolutionary game, introducing a "T.O.P." system that placed emphasis on your health bar; a rewarding Just Defend mechanic, and a memorable cast of fighters. It proved so popular that it still receives modern ports to this day, and was even praised by Super Smash Bros. lead Masahiro Sakurai during Terry Bogard's introduction to the Smash universe.
Despite both Garou's prestige and several King of Fighters games in the decades since, we've never seen another one. But that's not for lack of trying. According to several interviews, it seems like another Garou has been sitting somewhere for ages, and it's just waiting for the right time and push.
In 2016, a 4Gamers interview (via Eventhubs) showed what sprites for a Garou: Mark of the Wolves sequel would have looked like, including fighters like Rock Howard, Terry Bogard, and my favorite, Khushnood Butt. The same year, King of Fighters 14 director Yasuyuki Oda responded to fan questions about a new Garou.
"I think people here are thinking, 'Hey, what are you doing, aren't you forgetting about Garou?'" Oda says (via Shoryuken). "I'm going to do something about it before I die, so please keep on supporting us."
Then, in 2018, Famitsu (via Siliconera) held a roundtable interview with developers who worked on many Neo Geo classics, including Naoto Abe, Kazuhiro Tanaka, Hideki Asanaka, and Nobuyuki Kuroki. In the exchange, both Abe and Kuroki recounted details of a Garou sequel.
Kuroki: "I've been asked this a lot, but I don't know the story of [Garou: Mark of the Wolves 2]. I think none of us did."
Abe: "Huh? I read the scenario for 2."
Abe: "I'm pretty sure it was written up to the ending."
Abe goes on to say the characters were finished, including several new characters, and Kuroki backs him up, saying he remembers coming up with new moves for Rock and B. Jenet.
"However, old SNK was dissolved during development, so it's all been archived," Kuroki told Famitsu. "Yasuyuki Oda keeps saying that he'll make it, so if fans speak up, continued development on Garou 2 might become a reality."
It's frankly a little mind-boggling to me that a near-finished Garou: Mark of the Wolves sequel might be sitting somewhere in an archive or filing cabinet right now. I've been on a recent retro fighting game kick, and even playing Garou: Mark of the Wolves this last weekend on my Switch, it emphatically withstands the test of time. If passion is what's needed for it to see the light of day again, I'm happy to wave the banner.
If you're still aching to relive the nostalgic glory days of 2D fighting games with gorgeous sprite art and a bopping soundtrack, the good news is that Garou: Mark of the Wolves has been ported to a lot of modern consoles. And if just a DualShock won't do it for you, SNK is working on a retro Arcade Stick Pro loaded with many of its fighting game classics, Garou included.