Top 10 Best Neo Geo CD Games Still Worth Playing Today

Tags: #NeoGeo ,   #RetroGaming ,   #RetroGames ,   #ClassicGaming ,   #SNK

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-05-16 06:00:08

As the Neo Geo console was powerful but expensive, SNK released the Neo Geo CD in 1994. This platform allowed for much more affordable software that mainly was arcade perfect or had a few hardly noticeable cuts. Plus, those compromises were much worse on Saturn and especially PlayStation. While most of almost a hundred published games were straight Neo Geo ports, the console still had a few original titles. Furthermore, it sometimes offered additional content. On this list, we'll rank the top best ten Neo Geo CD games that still stand the test of time, as they are either the best on this platform or superior to other ports. This includes the original Neo Geo MVS and AES hardware, which might surprise you.

10. Real Bout Fatal Fury

There are no extras in Real Bout Fatal Fury for Neo Geo CD, apart from the excellent music upgrade
Best qualities: Brilliant soundtrack, solid gameplay
Improvements over Neo Geo version: CD audio soundtrack
Loading times on real hardware: Tolerable
Try also: Fatal Fury 3

As SNK wasn't satisfied with Fatal Fury 3, we got Real Bout Fatal Fury a few months later. Despite the title change, this game keeps its traditional appeal and characters, including Mai Shiranui, the Bogard brothers, or Blue Mary. Yet the gameplay is more fluid, and now you can toss your opponents out of the ring. While the graphics are gorgeous, it's strange that you have to beat three opponents before moving to another stage. Consequently, there are only five of them.

This version of the game is identical to the original Neo Geo edition, and while the loading times aren't great, they are still tolerable on real hardware. Despite not having any bonuses, this version is a must-have due to its beautiful CD-audio soundtrack. While PlayStation and Saturn releases are also available, they suffer from animation cuts or muffled audio.

9. Street Hoop

Street Hoop is a timeless classic, and this version is the best
Best qualities: Easy and addictive gameplay, gorgeous stages
Improvements over Neo Geo version: CD audio soundtrack
Loading times on real hardware: Short
Try also: Other arcade sports, including Baseball Stars 2

Neo Geo CD has only one basketball title, but luckily, Street Hoop is among the best arcade sports ever! Also known as Street Slam and Dunk Dream, this game is all about fast three-on-three action. While it appeared during the NBA Jam madness, Street Hoop is a very different game. Yet, there are almost no rules, as even goaltending is allowed. What we love are the beautiful graphics, with some of the most creative and well-animated courts. Plus, the game is relatively fair, unlike NBA Jam. There's no visible catch-up logic, so with a bit of luck, you can finish the game with a single credit.

One of the top things about this game is its weird and superb soundtrack. This Neo Geo CD edition sounds much clearer, so you'll be bopping to the beats while repeating strange and often cheesy lyrics. Yet, they add so much to the atmosphere! Even if you play on the original hardware, Street Hoop won't test your patience with long loading times. As one of the timeless classics, you need it in your collection.

8. Crossed Swords II

Crossed Swords II is a much better game then its predecessor
Best qualities: Cooperative mode, RPG elements added
Improvements over Neo Geo version: Neo Geo CD exclusive
Loading times on real hardware: Pretty short
Try also: The first Crossed Swords

In the early days of Neo Geo, SNK wasn't all about fighting games. Instead, we also got some experimental titles like the original Crossed Swords. This third-person hack and slash title is primarily about defending yourself before going into a counter-attack. The sequel is a vast improvement, as you can choose between three warriors, all unique in their abilities. Furthermore, it also introduces experience points, so you can continually upgrade your character. Finally, there are additional ways to defend yourself from the enemy.

Like the original, the game is the best in cooperative mode, but a single-player experience is also worth your time. After you complete the adventure, you can test your ability in survival mode. Coming five years after the original, Crossed Swords II also significantly improves the graphics. This particular version of the game is essential because it's exclusive - it's not available on any other platform, including other Neo Geo systems! The Neo Geo CD version was published only in Japan to make it even more obscure. 

7. Ironclad

Ironclad is surprisingly fun and fair
Best qualities: Balanced difficulty, choice of few ships
Improvements over Neo Geo version: Neo Geo CD exclusive
Loading times on real hardware: Short
Try also: Almost every other shooter on the platform

Like Crossed Swords 2, Ironclad is one of the rare Neo Geo CD exclusive titles and was also released only in Japan. Luckily, Saurus knew how to use the console's power, creating one of the best-looking 2D shooters. That is unless you don't enjoy its prerendered looks, which were very popular at the time. Thankfully, the gameplay is even better, as this game isn't insanely difficult. Therefore, you'll always have a fair chance of survival. Even better, the game is non-linear! This means that there are branching paths and multiple endings.

The additional depth comes from choosing your ships, as they have different stats for speed and power. Furthermore, you have the option which you can strategically use to boost your offense or defense. Ironclad is a surprisingly creative and beautiful-looking game, so it's incredible it was only ported to Wii Virtual Console. Yet, maybe that makes it even more desirable.

6. Real Bout Fatal Fury Special

Real Bout Fatal Fury is the best Fatal Fury game on the platform

Best qualities: Gorgeous graphics and music, improved controls
Improvements over Neo Geo version: CD audio soundtrack, special ending
Loading times on real hardware: Surprisingly tolerable
Try also: Real Bout Fatal Fury 2

When you look at this title, you might think that it's some kind of modest upgrade of the Real Bout Fatal Fury. Yet, everything about this game is new. The graphics are vastly improved, as the characters are larger, better drawn, and beautifully animated. All the stages are also fresh, and unlike the previous game, every character has its own background. Visually, it's similar to later Street Fighter Alpha games and even beats them. Likewise, the controls have been upgraded, as they are much more responsive. Therefore, you'll have far less problem pulling out special moves. 

Surprisingly, load times are shorter than in Real Bout Fatal Fury, making them tolerable on real hardware. Yet, the best thing about this game is the soundtrack, which is one of the greatest in the history of video games. The way that game combines guitar rock and mystic sounds of the Far East is hard to describe. Finally, if you complete the story, you'll be rewarded with a music video! Performed by Blue Mary, this is a unique feature in any Neo Geo CD game. Of course, it's not available on the regular Neo Geo.

5. The Last Blade 1 & 2

The Last Blade games are very similar, but also very fun
Best qualities: Presentation, diverse characters
Improvements over Neo Geo version: CD audio soundtrack, additional modes
Loading times on real hardware: Painfully long
Try also: Samurai Shodown series

The Neo Geo CD has many incredible fighting games, so it's impossible to play them all. Yet, The Last Blade duology is not the one to miss. Because it is a weapon-based fighter, this series is often compared to Samurai Shodown. Yet, despite some similarities, these games have their own identity and an incredible atmosphere. The visuals are among the most impressive on the hardware, with only slight cuts compared to the Neo Geo version. Since both titles are so similar, we had to put them together.

As for the additional content, both games have beautiful, atmospheric CD audio soundtracks and a survival mode. Here, you have to defeat as many opponents as possible, as you gain a small amount of health after each win. Additionally, there's a gallery with tons of illustrations, and you can watch all unlocked endings. Both Last Blade games suffer incredibly long loading times on the original hardware. Still, as we said, they are-non existent on modern emulators.

4. Samurai Shodown RPG

Samurai Shodown is translated, but only in French, unfortunately
Best qualities: The only RPG on the platform, nice graphics
Improvements over Neo Geo version: Neo Geo CD exclusive
Loading times on real hardware: Awful
Try also: No real alternative!

If there's such a thing as a cursed game, it must be Samurai Shodown RPG! This title was a Neo Geo CD exclusive, and while it was later ported to other platforms, it was never translated into English! Unfortunately, there's currently no fan translation either. While there was one promising project, it's been left unfinished, and it's not recommended. Of course, this is the only RPG for the platform but even compared with other games in the genre, it still ranks pretty well. Samurai Shodown RPG has a unique battle system, some solid graphics, and many favorite characters.

The Neo Geo CD version beats all others visually, as Saturn and PlayStation suffer some animation cuts. Yet, every version of the game contains unique bonuses after beating it. Still, the Neo CD version has a mini-chapter, arguably better than non-interactive sequences on other platforms. As the English fan translation will eventually appear, keep an eye on this title!

3. The King of Fighters '98 - The Slugfest

The King of Fighters '98 is excellent, unless you play on real hardware
Best qualities: Character choice, excellent controls
Improvements over Neo Geo version: CD audio soundtrack, Gallery mode
Loading times on real hardware: Painfully long
Try also: KOF 96, KOF 97

The King of Fighters '98 is one of the six KOF games on Neo Geo CD (or seven?) and the best among them. This title was the first all-star edition of the game, as it brought back some fan-favorite characters. These include some who died in previous games, like Rugal, Vice, and Mature. While the gameplay hasn't changed much, it was refined, with special moves easier to pull off. Finally, the presentation was excellent, with some of the most iconic stages in the series' history.

This version of the game improves over the Neo Geo original with CD audio music, which sounds excellent. Furthermore, it takes us behind the scenes, as we can check the art gallery containing tens of illustrations. Beyond the Neo Geo system, KOF 98 was ported only to the first PlayStation. While this version is basically a rework of the Neo Geo CD edition, it features some heavy animation cuts, making it inferior. Keep in mind that KOF on Neo Geo CD features loading between every round. Therefore, playing it on emulators or modded consoles is a must.

2. Neo Turf Masters

There is no better arcade golf experience, and the Neo Geo CD edition adds a lot of content
Best qualities: Smooth gameplay, lots of content
Improvements over Neo Geo version: CD audio soundtrack, additional course
Loading times on real hardware: Surprisingly short
Try also: Top Player's Golf

Nazca Corporation made only two games before joining SNK, but both were spectacular. Besides the original Metal Slug, in 1996, they published one of the best arcade sports games ever. In Neo Turf Masters, you choose between six golfers with very different stats. So while Fernando Almeida is the best at driving, Thomas Stewart has superior technique. Despite the excellent graphics and sound, the game's best element is gameplay. With two clicks, you'll decide the shot's height and strength, with an optional hook and a slice. Therefore, the gameplay is simple, fast, and fun yet still provides space for improvement.

This game never left the Neo Geo ecosystem, with the Neo Geo CD version improving over the original release. This edition brought not only fun extra modes but also an additional course. This is a must-play title as the loading times are minimal on the unmodified hardware. Even if you don't care about golf at all, you'll enjoy this experience.   

1. Metal Slug

Metal Slug on Neo Geo CD adds new mode while keeping the excellent gameplay with minimal loading
Best qualities: Fast and furious gameplay, brilliant graphics
Improvements over Neo Geo version: CD audio soundtrack, additional modes
Loading times on real hardware: Surprisingly short
Try also: Metal Slug 2

Metal Slug series had only two Neo Geo CD releases, and the original is the one to get, as the best Neo Geo CD game. This side-scrolling title is all about shooting tons of enemies and their giant machinery, which often takes the better half of the screen. Luckily, you have tons of weapons to make things even. The best thing about this title is the frantic action combined with incredibly detailed graphics. We only wish the game was longer, as it's the shortest in the series.

Luckily, the lifespan is much longer on the Neo CD version, as the game offers an additional Mission Mode. Therefore, you will have reasons to come back. Furthermore, there's also an art gallery with plenty of content. While Metal Slug 2 is also an excellent game, it suffers from numerous slowdowns. Additionally, it loads mid-level, making it hard to play on the original hardware. Furthermore, it misses some details, although nothing major. Interestingly enough, this title was never ported to non-Neo Geo platforms.

As it launched only three months before the much more powerful PlayStation and Saturn, Neo Geo CD never really stood a chance. Yet, this platform is now a cult classic, and painfully slow loading times are no longer a problem thanks to emulators or SD Loader mod for the console. Therefore, you have to give it a try! Besides the games on our top ten list, many other titles are worth playing. This is as they offer a superior audio experience, with some of the best video game soundtracks ever created. 

Did you play any of these games on any platform? Do you own any gaming platform considered rare and obscure?

Cover photo: WikimediaImages/Pixabay



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Daniel Says:

I was always intrigued with these exotic retro consoles. However, they are now too expensive, even more so then when they were released :/

September 29 at 08:29:41 AM

Shrima Says:

There's actually full French translation for Samurai Shodown RPG, although that doesn't mean much to me. I know that this game wasn't highly regarded in Japan, but everyone would love to play it I guess.

August 17 at 09:09:06 AM

Zeith Says:

It's the end of 2022 and nothing has changed... The best thing to do is to play it Retroarch using automatic translation. I've tried it and it's usable.

November 23 at 03:50:26 PM

James777 Says:

Street Hoop is among my favorite basketball games of all time. I honestly find it more fun than the NBA Jam, at least in single player.

August 15 at 08:02:17 AM

100K Says:

Mine too! I can beat it with a single credit, as the AI is pretty fair.

September 07 at 02:55:34 PM

Slayer938 Says:

I don't think I ever saw Neo Geo CD, so I played some of these games only via emulation. The loading times were just too much but at least that's no problem anymore.

August 12 at 02:51:16 PM

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