The Games That Defined the Neo-Geo

Best Neo-Geo Games That Define Its History

Presented by Dylan, Daito_Kid, Beak and Racketboy

SNK’s Neo-Geo platform is a vintage marvel that many of us have never had the priveledge of owning in our homes.  For those of us that grew up in the early 90s, it was the console that only the really rich kids had (and I didn’t know any).   However, many of us have had the opportunity to experience the Neo-Geo arcade cabinets (MVS) or in ports or compliations on other consoles.

While most console manufacturers moved onto new machines every few years, SNK continued to support the Neo-Geo with new games for 14 years (from 1990 to 2004).  Because of the continued improvement in the games over more than a decade, the Neo-Geo has a nice lineup of 2D games to keep retro fans busy (especially if you enjoy fighting games).

Since not everyone can afford real Neo-Geo games (not to mention the hardware), the eBay and Amazon links below each game entry will show you all the releases of a certain series for a diverse number of platforms — hope you find this guide useful!   Also: If you’re looking for some lesser-known titles that are excellent as well, check out our Hidden Gems of the Neo-Geo.

Also: See the rest of our “Games That Defined” series

The King of Fighters Series

The King of FightersOne of the Neo Geo’s most popular and ubiquitous franchises, King of Fighters quickly secured an enormous presence in the fighting genre.  Borrowing from previous titles created by SNK, King of Fighters was originally a crossover fighting game using characters from games such as Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting; ultimately it would end up eclipsing all of these titles.

When King of Fighters debuted in 1994, it was quickly set apart for its unique gameplay mechanics.  Foremost it featured a team battle system, which allowed players to select teams of fighters rather than just individual fighters.  This replaced the “two out of three” system usually seen in fighters at the time.  This added a depth to the matches which hadn’t been seen in any like game before, and many fighting games to this day feature some variation on the concept.

The sheer number of other mechanics in The King of Fighters series is incredible.  Earlier entries featured methods of dodging opponents’ attacks, either with a quick period of invincibility or with a rolling dodge that avoided the enemy attack and changed the character’s position.  In the earlier games, each character had a meter that slowly charged, and once it was full, the respective character would power up, rewarding players who could make their fighters last (this would later be known as “Extra” mode).  Starting with King of Fighters ’97, in addition to Extra mode there was an option for “Advance” mode, which filled up the player’s super gauge as they attacked their opponent.  These modifiers allowed multiple styles of play, though Advance mode would become the norm in later games.  The purpose of these gauges was to allow players to use either Super special moves or enter MAX mode, which buffed the character’s attack and defense temporarily.

Finally, the last mechanic that would show up would be the striker system, which allowed characters to be called into the fight to assist with one of their attacks.  These characters could not be used as standalone fighters when selected as strikers.  This would see multiple incarnations: some games had you select characters specifically to be strikers, some allowed you to select up to 4 characters and then let you use up to 3 of them as strikers.  Judging by the exhaustive list of varying gameplay mechanics, it can be seen that King of Fighters has an incredible diversity of play within its own series.

King of Fighters also holds a massive cast, widely praised for both its size and the quality of its individual characters.  A good example of this would be King of Fighters ’98 Dream Match, the final version of the game featuring a whopping 45 different characters, many with alternate modes to choose from.  If there was one element these games didn’t lack, it was a deep and diverse group of characters.

SNK capitalized on the success of the series, and released yearly entries from 1994 to 2003.  Since then development on new entries has slowed.  The large number of games available in the series adds some noticeable variation between titles, with personal favorites varying wildly among gamers.  It’s worth noting that King of Fighters ’98 is a majority favorite, loved for its solid mechanics and positively enormous roster.

Always changing yet solidly interesting game mechanics as well as a massive selection of different characters helped make playing King of Fighters a deep experience.  While the series’ popularity has dwindled in past years, the quality of these games is still top notch and any fan of fighting games owes it to themselves to give it a shot.
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Samurai Shodown Series

Samurai ShodownWhile many games still hadn’t bothered to distance themselves from the basic gameplay elements Street Fighter II had set forth, Samurai Shodown distinguished itself with great success from many of the bread and butter fighters of the time (and even from other fighters produced on the Neo Geo).  This series reinvented a lot of the conventions found in common fighters, with a unique battle system and a pronounced emphasis on tactical play.

The most apparent feature in Samurai Shodown is its weapon based fighting system.  While this series didn’t invent the weapon based fighter, it was one of the first to use that concept with great success.  Samurai Shodown deemphasized combos and encouraged quick, strong blows.  Additionally it featured the concept of blocking at the last possible instant to stun your opponent, allowing a counterattack.  This system of countering would be seen in later fighters as well.

Additionally, each character had a POW meter that filled up as they received damage.  Once full, it drastically increased the strength of their attacks.  This could also be used to perform super moves, which could break the opponent’s weapon if they connected and left them defenseless for a brief period; weapon breaking or disarming was a common ability in the series.  One of the more bizarre elements in the first few games was a delivery man who would run across the background on occasion, throwing items that would either hurt or heal the players.

These features created a very deep technical element to the gameplay, giving it a much different pace and flow from other games at the time.  While most fighters were combo-oriented, Samurai Shodown slowed things down a notch and made the individual attacks more important, making the player plan their moves much more carefully; missing a strong attack was practically suicide.  This gives a tactical element to the series that stood out in terms of strategy from other games at the time.  It also made Samurai Shodown one of the most intense fighters ever created: a single big mistake could just about lose an entire round.

The cast is another strong point for the series, which, while not remarkably large, had diverse and interesting character designs.  Particularly, there were characters which actually had separate animals onscreen which could be commanded to attack their opponents.  Per the usual many different locations have representative fighters from places like Japan, Europe, America, and even Hell.
Samurai Shodown II is largely considered the best in the series, with later entries getting less attention.  When a lot of people think Neo Geo, it’s what comes to mind.  In spite of this, Samurai Shodown IV and Samurai Shodown V Special still remain popular among fans.

This series had an enormous impact on the fighting game genre, and for good reason.  With many considering the best and most unique fighter of its time, Samurai Shodown is a truly excellent model of a divergent and well made fighter.
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Metal Slug Series

Metal SlugA series well known for its quirky personality, excellent artwork, and intuitive fast paced action, Metal Slug is perhaps the epitome of the run ‘n gun genre.  The games were simple but challenging; the mechanics were easy to grab a hold of but never dull.  Metal Slug became one of the most universally popular franchises the Neo Geo had to offer.
The gameplay in Metal Slug is known for its simple controls and blistering speed, as well as its excellent co-operative play.  Throughout the game you have access to a large repertoire of weapons, anything from a heavy machine gun to a rocket launcher to a laser gun.  This, combined with a large presence of enemies on the screen at most times, created an atmosphere of pure mayhem while you blast your way through successive waves of enemies.  The pulse-quickening pace of these games is excellent, and there’s never a dull moment to be experienced.

There are numerous other interesting modifiers to the gameplay, most notably hopping into various vehicles (known as slugs) and powering through your opposition.  While originally this was restricted to tanks, the slug family branched out to include everything from submarines to airplanes.  Some entries even allow for the player to transform into different “modes”, which altered their properties.  A good example of this would be “zombie mode” in Metal Slug 3, which slows the player’s movement to a crawl but changes their grenades into a screen filling special attack.

One of the most loved aspects of Metal Slug is its absolutely gorgeous hand drawn sprites.  All of the art in these games is highly stylized and all of the animation is extremely fluid.  This greatly helps contribute to the excellent atmosphere and personality these games possess, giving them a very distinctive charm.  Often the humor in Metal Slug is conveyed through these visual gags, like alarming enemy soldiers by catching them off guard or your character popping like a balloon when killed in fat mode.  Another time that the art and creativity in this game really shines is against bosses, with each battle on a more epic scale than the next.  You can expect to go up against giant robots, huge alien monsters, military war machines, you name it.

Metal Slug 3 is generally the most popular in the series, but for the most part all of the games have received high praise with the exception of 4 (it’s worth noting that 4 wasn’t handled by the same developers as previous entries and was outsourced to a Korean developer).  Overall, the Metal Slug experience can be easily had from nearly any entry in the series.

All in all, Metal Slug is an experience unlike anything else out there.  Excelling in nearly all departments, these games lack few qualities.  Many a player will find themselves drawn in by not only the great personality of the series, but the great gameplay as well.
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Fatal Fury Series

Fatal FurySNK’s first foray into the fighting genre, Fatal Fury was released at about the same time as Street Fighter II.  It was often panned as a Street Fighter clone, though this stigma was not deserved.  While most of SNK’s series tended to decay in their more recent iterations, Fatal Fury started off sluggishly and then gained momentum.  With each game the series progressed, the final result of this evolution was what is considered by many fighting fans as the greatest fighter of all time: Garou: Mark of the Wolves.

Fatal Fury has generally in some form or another included a multiple plane battle system, which has served as the gimmick for the series (though was dropped by the end).  In this battle system, characters could jump between planes in the foreground and background to dodge enemy attacks.  This element became more important starting with Fatal Fury 2.

The variance in gameplay between the Fatal Fury games is at times significant.  Fatal Fury 2 and Fatal Fury Special expanded greatly on the original Fatal Fury and Special become one of the more popular entries in the series.  Fatal Fury 3 was rebuilt from the ground up and felt completely different from earlier entries, and wasn’t very well received.  Real Bout Fatal Fury and its iterations are generally praised for their more fluid and all around better feeling game engine, and are also among the most popular.  Garou: Mark of the Wolves came last, and is by far considered the greatest entry in the series.
Fatal Fury Special is generally praised as the first really good entry in the series.  This game is also the most comparable to Street Fighter II.  It could almost be imagined that if SNK made Street Fighter II it would have come out as Fatal Fury 2/Special.  This is likely not coincidence, so, while the gameplay is much like most fighters at the time, it’s a very solid version of the early post Street Fighter II fighter.  However, the game does feel more reaction oriented than Street Fighter II, and has different pacing.  Fatal Fury wasn’t really setting itself apart yet at this time, but it was building a reputation as a competitive fighter.

Real Bout Fatal Fury and its iterations became another big success in the series.  The most notable changes made to Real Bout were the increased pace of the game as well as a very open combo system.  This allowed the game to feel faster and more fluidic than its predecessors.  By this point in the series the character roster was also much more developed, allowing for a greater number of fighters to choose from, not to mention the EX versions of characters.  While the first version had 3 planes, starting with Real Bout Special, that was reduced to 2, which greatly improved the pace of the game.  Overall, these entries were a lot easier to get into and had more depth than their predecessors.
The final entry in the Fatal Fury series culminated perfectly with Garou: Mark of the Wolves.  The first thing to note for this Fatal Fury game is that it dropped the multiple plane system present in all of the earlier entries.  Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this game is its incredibly deep mechanics; the number of technical maneuvers and attack modifiers is incredible.  One of the more prevalent elements is the TOP (Tactical Offensive Positioning) system. This system is activated at a point that you set on your health where, once that point is reached, you gain access to special abilities and attributes.  In all, this game’s incredible roster and positively beautiful, fluid graphics make this perhaps one of the greatest fighters ever made.

Fatal Fury is all over the place in terms of how the games feel, play, and look.  The number of varied experiences this series has to offer is impressive; if you don’t like one there’s always the possibility you’ll like the next.  While Garou: Mark of the Wolves now receives the most attention, the series has some other high quality titles that shouldn’t be overlooked.
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The Last Blade

The Last BladeThe other contender for “greatest fighter ever made by SNK”, Last Blade and Last Blade 2 are, at the very least, criminally underappreciated.  Last Blade was another weapon-based fighter, but is much different than SNK’s other weapon-based fighting series Samurai Shodown.  Though one may expect them to play similarly, they are very different feeling games.   These games are oozing with style and quality, from the combat system all the way up to the artwork.

The gameplay in Last Blade, like many of SNK’s fighting games in the late 90’s, is very technical.  Unlike a lot of SNK’s fighters however, Last Blade had an emphasis on chain combos.  Due to the way this system worked, nearly all of the characters had good combos, making nearly all of them useful and contributing to a very well balanced roster.  In fact, this series is often cited as one of the most balanced fighters ever created.

Another interesting element is what’s known as the “sword gauge”, an option that modifies how your character plays.  This system has 2 options: speed and power.  Speed allows your character to combo easily and enter into a custom combo mode, but scales down your attack strength.  Power greatly increases the strength of your attacks and lets you use super desperation moves, but in turn minimizes your ability to combo.  This means that you can either play the game with an emphasis on well-timed powerful attacks, or on rapid quick hits and sustained momentum.

Another fantastic quality in Last Blade is the artwork.  The characters are all well designed and have very fluid movements, and the amount of visual detail in the backgrounds is astounding.  Very few games at the time could match the graphical quality of this title, and even games that came out on the Neo Geo later had a hard time trying to match it.  The stage designs are some of the best you’ll ever see, the most frequently cited example being the stage in which the characters fight inside of a burning building.  The atmosphere in this game is excellent as well.  The game is set in Japan, but you can see the Western influence moving through the country side as an era comes to an end, tinged with a very melancholic, almost twilight feeling.

Last Blade is deep, but still accessible.  The visual appeal and somewhat melancholic atmosphere are brilliant and engaging.  The gameplay is smooth and accommodates multiple styles of play, without sparing a very well balanced roster.  Don’t let this game’s lack of mainstream presence fool you: it’s not a contender for “greatest SNK fighter of all time” for no reason.
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Art of Fighting Series

Art of FightingSNK’s second foray into the fighting genre, Art of Fighting is extremely relevant despite receiving less attention than other series.  Art of Fighting is notably divergent when compared to the general feel of SNK fighters; like the early Fatal Fury games, it’s very comparable to Street Fighter II.  It’s worth noting that Art of Fighting is set as a prequel to Fatal Fury, and lent a good number of its characters to King of Fighters.

The first thing most people would notice about this series is the very large, detailed sprites.  At any time the characters take up a large part of the screen.  To counter this, SNK incorporated a zooming camera, so that the fighters could distance themselves.  This feature would later be included in other SNK games, like Samurai Showdown.  The graphics in this game were very impressive for 1992, being virtually unparalleled on the fighting scene.  The characters in the game even took visible damage as the fight went on, accruing cuts and bruises as they took damage.  While Art of Fighting may not have been the deepest fighter of its time, it was certainly the best looking.

The actual combat in Art of Fighting also includes features that would be seen in future SNK titles, most notably the use of “Desperation Supers”.  Art of Fighting had a very simple layout, one button for a punch and a kick, and one for a fierce attack.  This game did not incorporate combos in any way.  There was also a Ki meter at the bottom of the screen, which could be used to pull of supers or Desperation Supers if the player’s health was low enough.  This meter drained with every special used, and refilled slowly.  This is one of the earliest examples of a game punishing a player for spamming, a concept that would become popular with players and seen in various forms as the genre developed.
While there were interesting battle features in Art of Fighting, the quality of the controls varies from game to game.  In the original Art of Fighting were somewhat stiff and awkward, a huge penalty in any fighting game.  Fortunately, this was much improved in Art of Fighting 2, as well as 3.  The series saw much development in between releases, but it never managed to get as big as other SNK franchises.

Art of Fighting is an interesting series if for no reason other than getting to see the early development of the SNK fighter.  Unfortunately, it was somewhat thrown to the wayside in the wake of other fighters.  Art of Fighting is a very relevant series, because it is a series in which you can see SNK experimenting with some features that would become staples in their other fighters.  Art of Fighting also contributed to King of Fighters roster, and as King of Fighters was originally made as a crossover series Art of Fighting is jointly responsible in the existence of that massive series.

While these games have definitely aged and feel somewhat primitive, Art of Fighting 2 and 3 can still hold their own as solid fighters.  But perhaps the biggest impact that the series had was on future SNK games: Art of Fighting helped shape the type of fighting games SNK would be releasing in their heyday, which is certainly an accomplishment in itself.
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Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move

Puzzle BobbleOne of the Neo Geo’s few but good offerings in the puzzle genre, Puzzle Bobble (known as Bust-A-Move in the US) is easily the most prominent game of the genre.  Puzzle Bobble was developed by Taito and based on the Bubble Bobble series of games.  Like most good Puzzle Games, Puzzle Bobble is both simple and engaging.

This game has a relatively basic structure: each stage begins with a series of colored bubbles on the top of the screen.  The player controls a mechanism that fires the same colored bubbles, and if they connect with two or more of the same color on the ceiling those bubbles disappear, as well as any bubbles “hanging” from the bottom of them.  As time passes, the ceiling gets closer and closer to the player.  If any of the colored bubbles pass a certain point on the bottom of the screen, the player loses.  There was also a two player mode, in which the players tried to pop their bubbles faster to send more to their opponent’s side–the victor being the one who stays alive.

Puzzle Bobble is accessible in a way the other Neo Geo games, and a lot of games in general, are not; it’s the sort of game that you’re perfectly prepared to play just by watching the brief intro that tells you how it works.  While SNK’s fighters were excellent, a fighter isn’t usually the sort of thing you can just hop into and excel at.  And while Puzzle Bobble was no walk in the park at later levels, there was always the appeal of how intuitive its gameplay is.  This helped give the game an appeal that differed from the Neo Geo’s other offerings, and helped round it its library with titles from other genres.

Like the series it’s based off of, Puzzle Bobble has a very cutesy atmosphere to it.  While this won’t appeal to all gamers, it’s not overdone to the point of being a detriment to the game.  In fact, it can often be contrasted amusingly with the stressful situations that are happening on the screen as the player nears a loss.

Puzzle Bobble is one of the Neo Geo’s more diverse offerings, and an excellent puzzle game both for the system and for puzzle games as a whole.  Its basic design has been mimicked often, and most players would understand or recognize the game just by a simple screen shot.  As one of the games that showed the Neo Geo had more to offer than just fighters, Puzzle Bobble is an excellent puzzle game that’s worth looking into.
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World Heroes Series

Another early fighter on the Neo Geo, World Heroes feels a whole lot like Street Fighter.  Despite this, the series developed nicely over time and became a good fighter in its own right.  Like many Neo Geo fighters at the time, there were twists thrown into the gameplay to help make it stand out.
One of the most noteworthy elements to this series’ earlier titles is their “death match” mode.  In this mode, there were various obstacles added to the stage while the players fought on it.  This could be things like fire, spikes, mines, etc.  This element was popular among a lot of the series’ fans, and its removal in later titles was somewhat controversial.  This is also one of the earliest examples of stage hazards in a fighting game, something that would be seen through various incarnations in future games.

The control and feel of the games was rather clunky at first, but developed nicely by the series’ end.  While the early entries in the series are forgettable, World Heroes Perfect is the ideal realization of its potential.  This particular entry in the series threw out most of the stuff that until then had made it feel like a 3rd rate fighter, and reworked the game engine.  Also included were desperation supers and a “hero meter”, which charged as the player performed combos and could also be used for powered up versions of special attacks.  This led to much faster, deeper gameplay than World Heroes had possessed in the past, with this entry standing head and shoulders above the rest.

World Heroes was written off as a Street Fighter clone pretty quickly.  There was certainly truth to this, but like other Neo Geo games that felt like Street Fighter, World Heroes had a unique twist to it.  The death matches would help differentiate it somewhat, but by the creation of World Heroes Perfect it was much more recognizable as its own game.  Unfortunately, its slow takeoff meant that it didn’t get much attention by the time Perfect was released, cutting its potential short.

World Heroes had a pretty rocky start, like a lot of The Neo Geo’s early fighters.  It’s a shame, because the series finally hit its stride right as its time was up.  While it’s not the most diverse or exemplary entry in the Neo Geo fighting library, there’s something here that’s worth checking out.  Once again, this is especially true for World Heroes Perfect.
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Sengoku Series

One of the earliest titles to grace the Neo Geo was the original Sengoku, released in December of 1991. Then two sequels followed: Sengoku 2, and Sengoku 3 or 2001, if you’re in Japan. All of the titles feature the option of one or two player cooperative play, in classic beat-em-up style fighting, but with a twist. The twist was that, once you defeat certain bosses, you can transform to different shapes, such as a fighter, a samurai, and a wolf. Each of the transformations are much powerful than your human form, but the transformation is quick and only lasts sixty seconds.

On top of the transformations, orbs also can be collected which power your character and when combined with your transformed self. A whole new level of fury can be unleashed from mirroring yourself to fight twice the amount of enemies, releasing lighting from the sky, and creating powerful blasts.

Each of these has their perks, and it’s best to use certain transformations for other bosses. As the game series progresses, the fighting systems have become more in depth, with the original Sengoku being a button mash fest, while the sequel Sengoku 2 adds blocking and takes advantage of all four buttons of the Neo-Geo controller, allowing for a more tactful approach when playing, instead of the button mashing seen in the first installment. The third game in the series adds a combo system that allows you to fill up a combo meter that can be used to do special moves.

The games are known for their long levels. The first two games level design is non-linear, while in Sengoku 3, the choice for which path to take is yours. Some can reach up to ten minutes as you fight on Earth, and Heaven, against demons from the Sengoku period of Japan. This is fairly consistent throughout the three games; the story is non-linear throughout the series, and loosely connected between the first two. The third, however, is somewhere in right field, since none of the characters from the first two game make an appearance and a different development studio took over the process. The game’s price tends to increase as you go further in the series; the first is the cheapest, and the third is the most expensive, but the second is the most sought after.
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Need More Neo-Geo Classics?  Check out our guide to the Hidden Gems of the Neo-Geo


blackmetalmike says:

neo geo was all about metal slug, and fighting games. probably why it didnt do so well unfortunately.

David Carrington says:

.I still play the games now on my GP2X .I like the style of the games the way they make you feel that your in the arcade.The metal slug games still look good today.The sega saturn had some of the neo geo titles ported to it so i got hold of the king of fighters 96,97 boxset and got two arcade sticks to play it.Then i got hold of the wii and metal slug collection.This is so cool to have all the games on one disk.Im still on the lookout for a neogeo but they are so exspensive plus times change kids are born and your dreams are crushed so till then my GP2X will play host to my need for these games.

Playing BLUR on the xbox SIN AND PUNISHMENT on wii at the moment.

the7k says:

If I had all these games in an arcade, I think the first thing people would ask would be:
“Where the hell is Magical Drop?”

Seriously though, maybe I live in a weird place, but Magical Drop would be right behind Samurai Shodown and Metal Slug in terms of importance.

pakopako says:

I agree with the series, but the order of introduction might be better rearranged in chronological order, especially with the fighting games, to show a progression of technology (specifically all the innovation from “Fatal Fury” and “Art of Fighting” before the glitz of “Last Blade” or “Samurai Shodown” or the final amalgamation: “King of Fighters”).

Ignoring all the arcade games (Magician Lord, Baseball 2020, Crossed Swords, Aero Fighter, Windjammers, King of Monsters, and yes, Magical Drop…) this article sems like the SERIES that Defined SNK rather than the GAMES that Defined the Neo-Geo itself.

And Slugs went on to become airplanes and subs… but also Camels, Elephants, Ostriches…

JWK says:

I love these “games that defined” series. But I have to agree with the complaints about missing games. Remember that Magical Drop had three in the series, so even if you were going for a “series that defined the neo geo” thing, Magical Drop 1, 2, and 3 would have to be included. I’ve always been partial to Magician Lord myself, but the fact that you’re missing Baseball Stars 2 is a TRAGEDY!!! Baseball Stars 2 built on everything that made the first entry the best baseball game on the NES. As it stands now, Baseball Stars 2 is probably my favorite baseball video game of all time and should have easily made this list. Otherwise, this is a great addition to your already impressive Neo Geo section. Cheers.

racketboy says:

Thanks for the feedback, guys!
I admit, the list of titles on this one is a bit shorter. And the Neo-Geo is a bit different to cover than most other platforms. The people that actually follow the platfrom are pretty die-hard and see many of the titles as “defining” ones, whereas those that don’t follow the system would view many of the other games mentioned here in the comments as “hidden gems”.

I know I never heard of Magical Drop until I stumbled onto it in the Saturn’s library.

Now I did play a lot of King of Monsters as a kid in the arcade, but I figured I was the unusual exception and I still consider it a hidden gem. Same goes for Super Baseball 2020 — I played the Genesis port a TON growing up as well.

I was REALLY close to adding Baseball Stars though. Perhaps we’ll need to add a honorable mention to this guide.

I’m also hoping to flesh out the Hidden Gems piece for the Neo-Geo as well.

daito_kid says:

I was contemplating between Magician Lord, and another great sports game– Dunk Dream. I do have to admit Baseball Stars 2 is a fun game, and deserves an honorable mention at the end of this article. A few other honorable mentions that I’d award would be Nam 1975, and Shock Troopers. Luckily, Shock Troopers received a nod in the Hidden Gems article as well as Dunk Dream.

Kbuzz says:

what, no Karnov’s Revenge!?

J T says:

I was never one of those rich kids who could afford a Neo Geo these ($650 for a console and $200-$300 per game?!? Seriously SNK?). Even my rich kid friends couldn’t convince their parents to buy one of these. Nevertheless, I played a lot of Neo Geo thanks to a place near where I lived called “Just For Fun” where they charged by the hour to let you play any of the latest consoles, which at the time were the NES, Sega Genesis, Turbo Grafx 16, the Japanese Super Famicom (until the SNES released in the US), and the crown jewel of their collection: the Neo Geo AES. They had a private room for the Neo Geo where the system was set up on dual big screen TVs, there was a huges speaker set up, banana chairs, and a little window in the back so people could watch you play without distrubing you. When the Neo Geo was first launched, you had the option of buying the console packaged with a copy of Nam 1975 or Baseball Stars Pro. Later on, you could also buy it with a copy of Magician Lord. It seems strange to me to not include the games that came packaged wtih the system as defining titles. I could see not including Magician Lord because it got unreasonably difficult in later stages or even Baseball Stars Pro, just because sports games are all mostly similar. But Nam 1975 is a classic. To this day, it is still my personal favorite Neo Geo game. I also think The Last Blade is better categorized as a hidden gem. Other than that though, the list is spot on. It’s good to see that this system has been remembered over time, which probably has more to do with the coin-ops for most people. I would love to own one because I love those giant joystick controllers, but it’s always been overpriced, and probably always will be. It was an excellent console though. I think Keith Apicary described it as the Porsche of video game consoles. That seems about right to me.

Dylan says:

It’s good to hear all of the feedback. Selecting the titles for this article was a weird process, not only because of the two stages of the Neo Geo but also because of the position of articles relative to this site. Magical Drop is already in the Hidden Gems section, and based on my own personal experience that’s where it made the most sense. I’ll admit that I goofed with Baseball Stars, I never played it much but it was popular around where I lived. The problem I faced with including titles like Magician Lord or Nam 1975 was that those were titles that defined what I call the “early” Neo Geo. They were popular among fans and early adopters, but they were swept away once the bigger and more popular Neo Geo series came around. They didn’t have a big lasting impact, which is why I didn’t include some of them in the article. I tried to look through the games somewhat objectively, so that bias didn’t get me to put in games that didn’t really deserve to go on there once I took out the nostalgia (for example, I was a huge fan of the shmups on the Neo Geo, but they didn’t truly define the system). I hope that helps explain my thought process on the absent titles.

cynic667 says:

Ah, the NeoGeo, how i love thee. It’s a good list, but somehow I miss one of the best pick-up-and-play fighters from it: Kizuna encounters. Great tag-team fighter in which you can change your fighter on the fly. If it’s not on the defining games, it should be at least a hidden gem ; p

Oh, and Shock troopers… Really great, commando-alike shooter… but only on MVS. But AES and MVS aren’t much apart, so maybe this is something to consider for hidden gems, too.

cynic667 says:

oops, it is. my bad.

sinn1 says:

Fighting games and Metal Slug are why it didn’t to so well…. No when it released in 1990-91 it was king of the hill. Fighting games were hot I mean red hot in the 90s. The sole reason why arcades lasted as long as they did was because of the fighting games. Particularly from SNK and Capcom, and also Midway with the MK series. The reason the Neo-Geo did not sell that well was because the $650.00 price tag in 1990. Not only that each game cost $250 for the best releases and $199.99 for budget titles. I remember when I was a kid it was my birthday and my mom took me to Toys R Us to buy a new console. I pretty much decided on the Sega Genesis, because the Turbo Grafix didn’t do it for me. Do anyway we get to the store and im like ecstatic, I have my EGM in hand reading the Turbo vs Genesis article. I put it down in the car, and we go in. We walk back to the video game section and I see two kiosks one is the Genesis and the other is the Turbo. I see couple of people playing each one. Then I hear all kinds of yelling and racket in the back and I’m like what is going on. I went back there and I saw at least 15 people surrounding another kiosk. I could just see a few letters on the top of the kiosk N__ _eo. I walked up to it and I saw Super Spy playing and my jaw hit the floor. It made Altered Beast look absolutely ameaturish. I said forget the Genesis I want this. I remember a kid a couple of years older than me say yea right. Well my mom finally caught up with me and said is this what you wany. I said yes, now back then you would grab a card and take it ip to their security room and they would grab said item and ring it up. So my mom was like ok, well you need an extra controller and a couple of games to go with it. At that point everyone turned to look at me as if to proclaim me the luckiest person on the planet. I did not know at the time the Neo-Geo gold came with two controllers. So I grab a card for the Super Spy and Cyberlip, plus one for the controller. Now here is the thing that is funny to me now, the cards did not have a price tag on them. They all said to bring them up to a sales person for pricing. To me now that sends bells and whistles off, that says expensive. So we get to the front and they look at us like either we were rich, or crazy. I will never forget the manager looking at my mother and say are you sure you want all of this. My mother said oooh for Petes sake its just a video game just ring it up. He said ok, and he rings it up it comes out to something like $1,375.00. My mother said that had better be a typo. He said no mam that’s the price, my mother was said I can buy a used car for that. I begged and pleaded, ill be good, I will never ask for anything again. She asked if yhe other new systems were that expensive. I said yes, but the manager said mo they weren’t. My mother said Genesis, Turbo or get a new hobby. I got my Genesis that day, it wasn’t until recently that I got my AES.

sinn1 says:

What is up with my spell checker, sorry guys it was clean after I ran it through and it came out like that. It didn’t clean any of my grammatical errors.

Dan says:

Just pointing out RB, that the screenshot you have for Puzzle Bobble/Bust A Move was from the NG game Puzzle De Pon. Same concept, but not the same game.

r4i says:

If you wanted arcade quality gaming at home… this was the system!!!! Oh the memories of Samurai Shodown are all coming back. Too bad the system was so bloody expensive when it came out. It would have taken over the world of home base systems if it were more economically viable for gamers to go out and buy it.

Still have my Neo Geo home system. With 12 games… Working to collect them all, but need to find an adapter that let’s me use the arcade carts at home.

@J T : I ended up getting mine for about $200 (around a 130 UKP at the time) if I recall correctly. From someone that had no idea what they were holding on to when they were selling it with 8 games included. It was like Christmas, all over again, with a present I actually WANTED!

Mootown says:

You are aware the screenshot on the Puzzle Bobble section isn’t actually Puzzle Bobble? Looks more like Puzzle de Pon to me.

racketboy says:

Puzzle Bobble image has been fixed 🙂

Rob says:

Ahh, the Metal Slug series, pretty much the only thing I really like from SNK, beside some King of Fighters characters, some Fatal Fury characters, 2 Samurai Showdown characters and that Top Hunter something game.

Patrick BBE says:

At least I own SNK ArcDe Classics vol 1. So where is Vol. 2?

Kingcizz says:

Great article, agree with most peoples thoughts on series rather the games that define. Great work, should give wind jammers a mention.

mario says:

come on, you need to add some 2d shooters to this selection. At least Blazing stars .
I’d also add windjammers, still a unique game fondly remebered by many

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