Doctor Brown, a scientist, perfected a time travel machine, and organized the "World Heroes" tournament for various fighters throughout all of history to combat each other. True to this plot, many of the fighters are based on actual historical figures.
According to ADK World, other famous people considered for the cast were Al Capone, Billy the Kid, Musashi Miyamoto, Napoleon, and Jack the Ripper. An Egyptian and a Korean warrior (the game's intended sub-boss) were also in the works. Out of the entire prototype lineup, Hanzo was the only one kept for the final product. Jack was redesigned and later added to the cast in World Heroes 2 Jet.
World Heroes was a 2D fighter by ADK, and was clearly an attempt at cashing in on Capcon's smash arcade hit, Street Fighter 2, among other big fighting games at the time. World Heroes follows the same format as many of the other fighting games out in 1992, but instead of a 6-button layout, World Heroes uses only 3 of the standard 4 Neo-Geo buttons: one for punching, another for kicking, and the last for throwing. The former two buttons can be held pressed longer in order to deliver stronger attacks. Overall the game is accepted as a decent fighter, but one overshadowed by its competitors at the time.