Top 10 Neo Geo Games Still Great to Play

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

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-05-28 17:55:38

Neo Geo is a fascinating gaming platform that inspired many books, now more popular than ever. This isn't a surprise, as when adjusted for inflation, the console initially sold for $1500! Furthermore, the regular game price was close to $600. This was because the system was way beyond what SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive could offer, making it the most powerful console. Therefore, many could experience Neo Geo only at the arcades, which shared hardware with the home version. In its long lifespan, lasting for 15 years, the platform gave us many timeless games, so it takes work to choose the best ten. Yet, to make things easier, we'll limit each series to one game. However, we'll recommend other titles in the franchise worthy of your time. Finally, some games are available only in MVS (arcade) and not AES (home) versions. Nonetheless, they may also be on a much cheaper Neo Geo CD.

10. Neo Geo Cup ’98: The Road to the Victory

Even the groups are the same as in the real World Cup in France
Initial release: 1998
Best qualities: Excellent graphics, top football game on Neo Geo
Skip if: You already played Super Sidekicks 3 to death
Try also: Super Sidekicks 3: The Next Glory, The Ultimate 11: SNK Football Championship
Game info

The World Cup craze was stronger than ever in 1998, as many companies released their games inspired by the competition. Of course, SNK had no license, but they did their best to emulate the tournament. Therefore, the contest system and the qualified nations are true to life. Furthermore, you can recognize players not only by their slightly modified names but also by their appearance. Finally, you'll always play a qualifying match inspired by real-life events.

Weirdly, this title is based on Super Sidekicks 3: The Next Glory instead of The Ultimate 11, which is a newer release. Yet, SNK probably decided to play it safe, as SS3 was the most popular in the series. Despite only slight changes to the graphics and gameplay, this remains the best Super Sidekicks game. The visuals are gorgeous, while the gameplay is fun and fair! Consequently, this is one of the rare arcade sports titles you can beat with a single credit, as AI doesn't cheat. Therefore, it's also a timeless sports game classic

9. Neo Turf Masters

The wind wildly changes in Neo Turf Masters, so pay attention
Initial release: 1996
Best qualities: The best sports game on Neo Geo, easy to play
Skip if: You have zero patience
Try also: Top Player's Golf
Game info

It seems that more people are enjoying golf video games than watching or playing the real thing! Yet, that's easy to understand once you try Neo Turf Masters. Instead of flashy moves and the absence of rules, this arcade title is surprisingly realistic. Yet, it's way faster because the control system is so intuitive. Despite this, you have complete control over your swing. Hence, you decide the shot's distance, power, and height. Likewise, you may apply a hook or slice. Finally, while the game chooses clubs for you, you may change them.

Big Tournament Golf (the alternate name for this title) lets you select six golfers with unique attributes. Consequently, they may be great at drive, precision, putting, stamina, or technique. Yet, you also have all-rounder George Spinner, who might be the best for beginners. Neo Turf Masters uses digitized assets, but it still looks gorgeous, while the soundtrack is almost perfect. This is the finest Neo Geo golf game and the best arcade golf game ever!!

8. Samurai Shodown IV: Amakusa's Revenge

Samurai Shodown 4 has an incredible atmosphere
Initial release: 1996
Best qualities: Incredible atmosphere, highly technical gameplay
Skip if: You need a faster, less tactical fighter
Try also: The rest of the Samurai Shodown series
Game info

Samurai Shodown is a signature Neo Geo series making a difference when it was introduced. Instead of fast, combo-based gameplay, it was all about strategy and avoiding attacks. You could quickly destroy your opponent with a few moves, even slicing it in half! While the second game is a favorite to many, the fourth is our choice. After the highly experimental Samurai Shodown III, this title brings back everything fans loved. This includes some favorite characters returning, with a few new ones.

The gameplay is faster than before, as there are no air blocks or the ability to charge the "POW "scale. Morbidly, you can now commit suicide, giving you the full "POW "gauge in the next round! Unlike the third game, this one is way more colorful and easier on the eyes. With incredible stage design and atmospheric music, you'll really be back in time!

7. Real Bout Fatal Fury Special

Real Bout Fatal Fury Special is smooth, fast, and pretty
Initial release: 1997
Best qualities: Pulling special moves is easy, gorgeous graphics
Skip if: You don't enjoy changing lines in the Fatal Fury series
Try also: Fatal Fury Special, Fatal Fury 3, Real Bout Fatal Fury, Real Bout Fatal Fury 2
Game info

The original Fatal Fury is one of the first fighting games for Neo Geo console, but not one of the best Neo Geo games. Yet the series kept improving, becoming a fan favorite in a few years. However, a massive change came with Real Bout Fatal Fury Special. Judging by the name, you might assume this is just a slight upgrade over the Real Bout Fatal Fury. Yet, it's an entirely new game, which improves everything about its predecessor. Therefore, it's hard to explain why SNK named it this way.

The first thing that gets you are the visuals which are more in line with Street Fighter Alpha games. Yet, RBFFS looks better with its massive sprites, gorgeous animation, and destructible backgrounds. Once more, the music is excellent, as this is one of the finest video game soundtracks in history! More importantly, the gameplay is excellent. The action is fast, and pulling off special moves is easy. Accordingly, the gameplay looks way more attractive, with a potential for massive combos. This makes it suitable for beginners while offering depth to the series veterans. 

6. Blazing Star

Well-balanced and pretty, Blazing Star is hard to resist
Initial release: 1998
Best qualities: Fair difficulty, excellent use of prerendered graphics
Skip if: You are more into vertical shooters
Try also: Pulstar
Game info

While Neo Geo is overloaded with fighters, it also has a great library of shoot 'em ups. Yet, we have no doubt that Blazing Star is the best among them. As a side-scrolling game, Blazing Star reminds us of the legendary R-Type. Yet, you can choose between a few ships with different speeds, power, and shoot types here. Of course, you can charge your shot and collect power-ups to improve your offense. Therefore, the gameplay remains engaging until the end of the campaign.

Blazing Star has to be praised for its slow pace and fairness, so it won't frustrate you with cheap deaths. Therefore, it's an excellent choice even for beginners, unlike its predecessor, Pulstar. Despite using prerendered graphics, the game still looks excellent today. The backgrounds are gorgeous, and the animation is rich. Furthermore, the boss design is excellent, as these are massive beasts you'll need to tackle. While the game has some difficulty spikes and is short, you should try it.

5. The Last Blade 2

Even legendary Justin Wong loves The Last Blade 2
Initial release: 1998
Best qualities: Beautiful presentation, excellent control system
Skip if: You want fast gameplay
Try also: The Last Blade
Game info

Many were surprised when SNK released The Last Blade, as it was another period weapon-based fighter. Naturally, it's often compared with Samurai Shodown, which came before it. Yet, the similarity exists, but only on the basic level. The Last Blade and its only sequel are closer to traditional fighters, as they are much faster. Furthermore, it's more about special moves and combo series. Still, there's a lot of strategy here since you need to block attacks and know when to strike. You have two styles, but even if you choose Speed instead of Power, be careful.

A patient player will have a lot of success, as the enemy AI plays fair, allowing you to beat it even on higher difficulties. The Last Blade 2 shines in the visual department and is a step above Samurai Shodown. Everything from the characters to the arenas looks gorgeous, and there are some impressive pre-fight animations. Furthermore, the console version offers many additional modes and features. The only thing lacking is music, as it's hard to notice. Yet, that may have been the intention to put more emphasis on brutal combat. Neo Geo AES version is a better choice, as it offers additional modes.

4. Shock Troopers

There's nothing like Shock Troopers - it might be the greatest overhead run and gun ever!
Initial release: 1997
Best qualities: Branching path, excellent choice of characters
Skip if: The action is too quick for you
Try also: Shock Troopers: 2nd Squad
Game info

While Cyber-Lip was one of the early Neo Geo run-and-gun shooters, it could have been a better game. Yet, in 1997, Saurus introduced the phenomenal Shock Troopers as Neo Geo MVS exclusive. Surprisingly, you could choose between eight warriors, all with different weapons. Additionally, their running speed is different, so take that into account. Yet, you don't have to select a single character! In Team Battle mode, you pick three soldiers and switch them anytime. However, there are two versions of the game, as in one, every character has an individual life meter. Therefore, if they die, they are gone for good. Thus, a revision with a single life meter is better. Alternatively, you can play as a single character with more energy.

The action is fast and scrolls in all eight directions, but it never becomes chaotic. While using a roll, you are invisible, so you'll have to learn how to utilize it. Luckily, shooting is enjoyable, as you can lock the direction by choosing the angle and holding fire. Despite being released on the arcade, the game is well-balanced and offers many power-ups and health items. Shock Troopers also implements branching paths, giving it a high replay value. Additionally, the graphics are excellent, with a pumping drum and bass soundtrack you'll enjoy. We still rate it as one of the best run-and-gun games ever!

3. The King of Fighters '98: The Slugfest

The King of Fighters '98 received a record number of ports and revisions
Initial release: 1998
Best qualities: Excellent choice of fighters, gameplay mechanics
Skip if: You want any story in fighting games
Try also: KOF 96, KOF 97, KOF 99, KOF 2000, KOF 2002
Game info

In 1994, SNK set new standards by introducing its 3-on-3 fighter, The King of Fighters '94. With annual releases, the series quickly improved, reaching its peak with KOF '98. With 38 fighters, this title was way ahead of what everyone else offered. They included the most popular characters from Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, and other SNK series, with many original ones. As this was a "Dream Match" release with no real story, the company brought back even some dead characters.

Yet, the basics were the same: you form a team of three fighters and try to reach the end boss. Special moves are easy to pull off, and there are two playing styles, like in KOF '97. Thus, you can either manually charge your super special move scale or do it automatically. Once again, the graphics are terrific, with many beautifully animated stages. Furthermore, the console version offers much additional content. While it wasn't revolutionary, this edition struck the perfect balance and is loved for it.

2. Metal Slug 3

Metal Slug 3 is way longer than other games in the series
Initial release: 2000
Best qualities: Branching path, surprising length
Skip if: You prefer shorter Metal Slug games
Try also: Metal Slug, Metal Slug X & the rest of the series
Game info

The first Metal Slug game appeared only in 1996 when Neo Geo was already six-years-old! Yet, the developers pushed the system's limits, so later, Saturn and PlayStation ports had to be cut down! After the excellent original that took us to the near future, and Metal Slug X, Metal Slug 3 came just before SNK went bankrupt. While the formula remained the same, this was a much bigger game, adding content wherever it could. This includes new weapons and vehicles to conquer many new enemy types. Per tradition, the boss battles are incredibly fun, as these massive pieces of machinery try to take you out in many ways. Yet, this time you can choose how to face them.

The series offered branching paths for the first time, giving it more replay value. While you still face the same bosses, you will earn different weapons before reaching them. Another surprise is the game's length, as it's much longer than previous entries, with an epic last stage. Thankfully, the graphics are still gorgeous, and even though we prefer Metal Slug X visuals, the difference is minor. This is another timeless classic and still the peak of the series.

1. Garou: Mark of the Wolves

The best demonstration of everything that Neo Geo offers
Initial release: 1999
Best qualities: The best graphics on the system, easy special moves
Skip if: You want plenty of characters in your fighting games
Try also: Fatal Fury Special, Fatal Fury 3, Real Bout Fatal Fury, Real Bout Fatal Fury 2
Game info

Yes, we said, "only one game per series." Yet, Garou: Mark of the Wolves is a different beast to the rest of the Fatal Fury franchise. For example, there are no multiple fighting lanes, as it takes a more traditional path. However, the biggest shock is the roster change, as only Terry Bogard remains. The rest of the cast is new, although some are connected to old characters. One of them is Rock Howard, a son of the villain Geese Howard. While 12 fighters and two end bosses don't sound like much, they are all radically different. The sense of polish is incredible, a step above everything seen on the platform.

Yet, the controls are even more impressive, with special moves easier to pull off than any other Neo Geo fighter. Furthermore, there's the T.O.P. mode in your energy meter, and when active, it gives you benefits. These include stronger attacks, a new special move, and life recovery. Additionally, if you block an attack at the last moment, you'll receive some life and a chance to counter. Garou: Mark of the Wolves offers gorgeous visuals with the best animation on the system. No one even thought that something like this was possible! With practically no flaws, this is the best demonstration of what Neo Geo offers.

The list of honorable mentions would be very long, but here are some. They include Baseball Stars 2, Neo Drift Out (one of the best rally games ever), the Art of Fighting series, and Sengoku 3. Furthermore, there are Neo Bomberman, Rage of the Dragons, Strikers 1945 Plus, Windjammers, and many more. Neo Geo games and hardware remain incredibly expensive, and some rare titles sell for thousands of dollars. Yet, these titles are now available in their original versions on many consoles and Steam. Alternatively, you can always emulate them using MAME. Due to their gorgeous graphics and fast arcade gameplay, these timeless classics will never go away. Instead, they will continue to inspire developers to create similar experiences.

What are some of your favorite Neo Geo games? Do you remember which one you played first?

Cover photo: Retro Megabit



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Dylan Says:

The King of Fighters '97 was my first Neo Geo game ever. I played it in the arcade while on vacation, but I was never good using arcade joysticks. They also had Shock Troopers, and I was in love with that game.

December 13 at 12:59:00 PM

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