30 Best Neo Geo Games Of All Time (Ranked & Reviewed)

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While the company is better known for their many fighting franchises, many of which remain active to this day, SNK used to be a leader in gaming hardware.

Not only was their cartridge-based Neo Geo arcade machine one of the most versatile game cabinets throughout the 1990s, but their premium home consoles(the Neo Geo AES and Neo Geo CD) brought the power of arcades to the living room in a way no other console could compete with.

To this day, the Neo Geo and its games remain some of the most collectible gaming items ever released. And the bright red cabinet is a symbol of a bygone era.

Whether you’re just here to reminisce or you want to see what all the fuss was about back in the day, you’ll enjoy this ranking of the top 30 best Neo Geo games ever made.

30. Money Puzzle Exchanger

Money Puzzle Exchanger gameplay

Released: January 17, 1997

Our first entry is one of those games that make you wonder whether what you’re seeing on screen is ironic, or if the developers had too many poppy seeds on their bagels every morning before work.

Developed by Face, this 1997 puzzler title plays like more well-known titles such as Puzzle Bobble or Magical Drop.

But instead of bubbles or colorful spheres, you’re shooting currency.

The whole game has a weird financial aesthetic, and even the machine-controlled opponents have names like Debtmiser or Eldylabor.

 

29. Neo Drift Out: New Technology

Neo Drift Out: New Technology gameplay

Released: July 26, 1996

For something more normal I’d suggest trying Neo Drift Out, a 1996 title developed by Visco Corp.

This puts you at the wheel of a classic rally car racing on six courses from all around the world.

One of this game’s most charming features other than its tight controls and exciting gameplay is the cars from which it lets you choose – a Mitsubishi Lancer, a Toyota Celica or a Subaru Impreza.

All in all, it’s like playing an Initial D game. And it’s really fun.

 

28. Super Sidekicks 3: The Next Glory

Super Sidekicks 3 NeoGeo

Released: March 7, 1995

For the sports fans out there, the Neo Geo had a pretty healthy selection of games.

And SNK’s “Super” series was among the best.

The third entry in the Super Sidekicks series came out in 1995, and it’s easily the best one in the trilogy.

It does everything Super Sidekicks 2 did right while also overhauling the presentation, turning an already engaging game into a visually striking one.

With quite a few gameplay options ranging from quickplay to regional cups, this was easily one of the best soccer games of the decade.

 

27. Puzzle Bobble

Puzzle Bobble screenshot on NeoGeo

Released: December 21, 1994

If you’re anything like me, a game having cutesy graphics is already reason enough to consider playing it.

If the game is as fun as Puzzle Bobble, then it’s a must-play.

This 1994 title developed by Taito was hardly the first color-matching puzzle game. But it’s one of the most influential due to its massive popularity in arcades.

That’s mostly due to how intense multiplayer matches can get despite the game’s simple puzzler gameplay.

 

26. Last Resort

Last Resort game screenshot

Released: March 23, 1992

I’ve always been a fan of shoot-em-ups in any presentation. And while I recognize there are some better options, my local arcade only had SNK’s Last Resort for most of its lifespan.

Not that I mind!

This 1992 game has fantastic graphics and pretty fluid enemy animations.

It’s also very hard, so even though I played it plenty as a child, I was never able to clear it.

Luckily for me, it became available on several systems as part of the SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1. I was finally able to experience its five levels and amazing bosses in their entirety.

 

25. Spinmaster

Spinmaster Neo Geo gameplay

Released: December 16, 1993

One of the Neo Geo’s most aesthetically unique games is Data East’s Spinmaster, which looks like a Japanese take on Western cartoons.

The result is something you might call Saturday Morning’s Doraemon.

But Spinmaster is much more than a pretty face. This platformer plays a lot like the legendary Metal Slug, except your weapons are stuff like a yoyo or shuriken rather than firearms.

The co-op is also just as good!

 

24. Twinkle Star Sprites

Twinkle Star Sprites Neo Geo gameplay

Released: November 25, 1996

One of the most undoubtedly Japanese games to make it to Western audiences back in the 90s has to be Twinkle Star Sprites, a top-down shoot-em-up with a cutesy Magical Girl aesthetic not usually seen in Western games.

Developed by ADK, this 1996 title has you take control of an adorable anime girl and shoot magical beams at – get this – colored puffs with faces that can only be described as “uwu”.

Really, it doesn’t get any cuter than this on the Neo Geo.

But cute or not, what really made this game climb to the top was the frantic multiplayer and intense gameplay. You’ll have to carefully chain explode enemies together for maximum effect, not easy but very fun.

 

23. Mutation Nation

Mutation Nation Neo Geo screenshot

Released: March 16, 1992

Gameplay-wise, SNK’s Mutation Nation is an average beat-em-up, of which there were many on the Neo Geo.

But what it lacks in innovation, it makes up for in spades with personality.

The game takes place in urban slums where a gene-modifying virus has spread, turning the local hoodlums into mutants. This allowed developers to go all out in designing bizarre wacky enemies.

This, coupled with a fantastic soundtrack and crisp colorful graphics, made it into one of the greats.

 

22. Pulstar

Pulstar NeoGeo gameplay screenshot

Released: August 28, 1995

Many games in the Neo Geo took inspiration from the classic shoot-em-up R-Type and tried to re-create its space-monster-fighting charm.

But few were as influential as Aicom’s Pulstar.

Released in 1995, this side-scrolling shoot-em-up features the same kind of challenging gameplay as its spiritual predecessor, requiring players to strategize on-the-go if they want to survive.

An exciting addition to the formula was the use of pre-rendered graphics that mimic 3D.

While some people find this too much of a gimmick, it was also pushing boundaries. And the result isn’t half bad.

 

21. Windjammers

Windjammers NeoGeo game screenshot

Released: February 17, 1994

Windjammers is probably my favorite sports game on the Neo Geo because this air-hockey title feels much more like a fighter than a sports game.

Developed by Data East and released in 1994, the game pits two muscular characters against each other. Both trying their hardest to get a puck past their opponent and into the goal – just like air hockey.

However the top-down perspective makes it play a bit like PONG, and the inclusion of “super throws” to disorient the opposing player is reminiscent of modern faux-sports games like Super Mario Strikers.

With many different courts to play in, plus fun graphics, and one of the best voice acting performances on the Neo Geo, it’s no wonder this unique game is still cited as a favorite by many fans.

 

20. Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy

Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy screenshot

Released: May 18, 1994

If we’re speaking of unique games, it would be silly not to mention Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy. Arguably one of the best combat-oriented platformers on the system.

As one of SNK’s in-house games, the high quality of this 1994 title shouldn’t come as a surprise.

What’s surprising is how well they managed to blend the absolute silliness of its character design with outstanding gameplay, which places great emphasis on grabbing and throwing items with your stretchy arms.

 

19. Waku Waku 7

Waku Waku 7 screenshot

Released: November 20, 1996

Way before there was Jump Force, there was Waku Waku 7: a unique fighter starring parodies of many popular anime and videogame archetypes.

For example, the game’s characters include Mauru, a purple forest creature oddly similar to Ghibli’s Totoro, and Dandy-J, who’s a thinly veiled reference to Joseph Joestar from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders.

Luckily for video game historians interested in playing the game, this 1996 title recently became available on the Nintendo Switch as part of the Arcade Archive collection.

 

18. Viewpoint

Viewpoint gameplay screenshot

Released: November 20, 1992

Whereas all other shoot-em-ups on the console so far had been either side-scrolling or seen from a top-down perspective, 1992’s Viewpoint featured an isometric viewpoint (get it?).

This made it very visually appealing, and it quickly set itself apart from the competition.

The idea to make an isometric shoot-em-up wasn’t actually new, as the game takes inspiration from 1982’s Zaxxon.

It was only the first game to do it with such impressive graphics on the Neo Geo.

 

17. SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos

SNK vs. Capcom screenshot gameplay

Released: July 24, 2003

Surprisingly for a gaming system with such a high focus on fighting games, the Neo Geo doesn’t carry too many crossover fighters.

Among the very best is SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos, developed by SNK after merging with Playmore.

Unlike most games produced in such situations, this 2003 title was fantastic in almost every way. Including its graphics and its TKoF-like combat system.

It includes characters from Samurai Shodown, Street Fighter, TKoF, and Darkstalkers.

It’s truly a dream match! Watching Mai Shiranui and Chun-Li duking it out is nothing short of legendary.

 

16. Baseball Stars 2

Baseball Stars 2 screenshot gameplay

Released: April 15, 1992

If you ask anyone who actually owned it what their favorite games on the Neo Geo MVS home console were, they’re likely to mention 1992’s Baseball Stars 2.

The reason is chiefly how fast-paced and dynamic SNK managed to make this baseball simulator, which isn’t exactly easy to achieve.

It also has eye-catching visuals and tight controls so it plays well.

Couple that with fantastic sound design that makes every action in the game feel exciting, and you’ll begin to understand the appeal of this excellent sports game.

 

15. Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers

Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 screenshot

Released: March 19, 1998

There were plenty of Fatal Fury titles on the Neo Geo, as the franchise was one of SNK’s most well-known and top-grossing series.

As the system’s life cycle drew to an end, the developers shifted gears from innovation to maximum polish – and this 1998 title is the result.

Not only does it feature an all-star cast with picks from every title in the series, but the spritework and fluid animation were utterly stunning.

On top of that, this fluidity extended to the actual combat system. Chaining attacks together had never felt so natural.

 

14. Aero Fighters 2

Aero Fighters 2 screenshot

Released: July 18, 1994

One of the most “realistic” shoot-em-ups in the Neo Geo’s roster was also one of the very best – Video System’s Aero Fighters 2.

Instead of giant Lovecraftian monstrosities, this game pits you against enemy tanks and aircraft while commanding one of eight planes, including the F-14 Tomcat and the F-15 Eagle.

If you want a shoot-em-up where your objective is satisfactorily blowing everything up, this 1994 title is the one for you.

 

13. The Last Blade

The Last Blade NeoGeo screenshot

Released: December 5, 1997

I love games with a heavy Japanese aesthetic. Samurai, Shinto priests, and other colorful Japanese staples are all right up my alley – and, therefore, The Last Blade is too.

Developed by SNK and released for the Neo Geo in 1997, this weapon-based fighter was the alternative to the long-running Samurai Shodown series.

It emphasizes story and worldbuilding along with more subtle character designs.

With incredibly sharp sprites, detailed backgrounds, and special attacks that were wonderfully flashy, this game quickly rose to legendary status among Neo Geo fans. Absolutely worth a try if you can find it anywhere(or find a working ROM of it).

 

12. The Last Blade 2

The Last Blade 2 game screenshot

Released: November 25, 1998

A year later, SNK released The Last Blade 2, an upgraded and polished successor to the original arcade hit.

The sequel focuses on a more fast-paced and varied gameplay.

It introduces combat styles focused on either speed or power, giving players more freedom to develop their own strategies.

The Neo Geo CD version features the shortest loading times and an amazing orchestral arrangement of the original soundtrack, so play that one if you get the chance.

 

11. Neo Turf Masters

Neo Turf Masters Gameplay

Released: January 29, 1996

One of the most surprising hits on the Neo Geo is Nazca Corporation’s Neo Turf Masters, a quick-paced arcade golf game released in 1996.

While golf might not sound like something that’d translate well to the system, this beautiful-looking game managed to make it fun by simplifying it as much as possible.

You can pick it up and play with no prior experience, and you’ll most likely hold your own. At least better than playing real golf.

Even if you’re not a sports game person, this title’s relaxing soundtrack and beautiful visuals make it worth a try.

 

10. Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3 game screenshot

Released: March 12, 1996

You can’t talk about the Neo Geo or SNK as a whole without mentioning the Art of Fighting series, which began with the original AoF back in 1992.

While the first title in the series is iconic, the third release from 1996 is the most polished product.

Plus this last release also introduces some mechanics from newer franchises, such as juggle combos, which made it a more complete game.

Among my favorite things about AoF3 is the characters’ fluidity of movement, achieved by using motion capture techniques in the making of both sprites and animation.

 

9. Shock Troopers 2

Shock Troopers 2 screenshot

Released: November 6, 1998

Developed by Saurus as a top-down answer to SNK’s Metal Slug franchise, Shock Troopers 2 is one of the most satisfying yet challenging action shooters on the system.

Just like Metal Slug, the game features a charming cast of characters going all out against tanks, enemy soldiers, and a wide array of other high-octane opponents.

This includes bosses that felt four times as epic thanks to how successfully the game hyped-up each fight.

Ideally you’d play this game with a friend or a sibling, but you can have plenty of fun by yourself too.

 

8. Magician Lord

Magician Lord game screenshot

Released: April 26, 1990

As one of the Neo Geo’s flagship titles, ADK’s Magician Lord did a great job of showing audiences precisely what the system was capable of. Both in visual and technical aspects.

This 1990 title follows the Elta the Magician in his quest to defeat the evil sorcerer Gal Agiese. On his way, the pointy hat hero must defeat hordes of demons and other monstrosities, and even shape-shift into different creatures to overcome diverse challenges.

The gameplay was excellent. But the game was also incredibly colorful and detailed, which made it the perfect game to draw players towards the big red Neo Geo cabinet.

 

7. Metal Slug 4 & 5

Metal Slug 4 gameplay screenshot

Released: 2002/2003

After SNK went into bankruptcy in 2001, its intellectual properties went up for grabs in a public auction.

One of these was the famous shooter-platformer Metal Slug.

The fourth and fifth installments in the series were developed by retro-engineering Metal Slug X and taking things from there.

The result is a surprisingly good pair of games with lots of new characters, scenarios, and the same quality gameplay.

Opinions are mixed on whether they’re any better than their predecessors or if they lost their soul. But they’re still some of the best games on the system.

 

6. The King of Fighters ’98

King of Fighters 98 gameplay NeoGeo

Released: July 23, 1998

Choosing the best out of a series as prolific as SNK’s The King of Fighters isn’t easy. But ’98 is definitely the most representative of the franchise’s run on the Neo Geo.

With an all-star cast of characters, this dream match took a minimalist approach in development, focusing on polishing what was already good from ’97 rather than trying to shake things up.

The result is a game with tight controls, beautiful sprites, and genuinely fun gameplay.

You can sink weeks into this game without feeling repetitive as you try out every character to find the perfect one for you.

 

5. Blazing Star

Blazing Star NeoGeo gameplay

Released: January 19, 1998

Blazing Star is the graphically updated spiritual sequel to 1995’s Pulstar, keeping the same side-scrolling shoot-em-up goodness while introducing some new gimmicks.

Like its predecessor, Blazing Star features pre-rendered pseudo-3D sprites that give its giant bosses a truly massive sense of scale.

It also allowed developers to add much more dynamic movement to otherwise static enemies, even if it’s only visual.

It’s a bit easier than its predecessor, but also comes with fun co-op, amazing anime cutscenes, and excellent gameplay. It’s positively one for the history books.

 

4. Samurai Shodown (Series)

Samurai Shodown 1 gameplay NeoGeo

Released: 1993-1996

There was a lot of interest in the Japanese Samurai back in the day. And SNK’s Samurai Shodown was one of the franchises that fanned the flames in the hearts of young arcade-goers.

Beginning in 1993, this weapon-based fighter featured several Samurai and contenders from other Japanese backgrounds.

Rather than focusing on endless combos, this game values landing the right hit or parrying at the right time to turn the tide of battle.

While the second installment is widely recognized as the best by long-time fans, subsequent releases introduced plenty of technical and graphical improvements that warrant giving them a try.

 

3. Sengoku 3

Sengoku 3 game screenshot

Released: July 18, 2001

Another absolutely fantastic game with a Japanese aesthetic focusing on the country’s warring states period is Sengoku 3, developed by Noise Factory and released in 2001. This was very late into the system’s life cycle so it’s often overlooked

This game was made by developers who knew the system inside-out, allowing them to push it to its very limits.

This resulted in killer animations, flashy visual effects, and wonderful spritework. All coupled with tight, responsive controls that make combat in this beat-em-up a thing of beauty.

With deep combo systems and a lot more character variety than its predecessors, this is one of the best beat-em-ups on the Neo Geo and the genre in general.

 

2. Garou: Mark of the Wolves

Garou: Mark of the Wolves screenshot

Released: November 26, 1999

Like Sengoku 3, Garou: Mark of the Wolves was made to push the Neo Geo as far as it could go in terms of graphics and fluidity.

It was SNK’s answer to Capcom’s Street Fighter 3, a sort of reboot of the Fatal Fury franchise with a refined combat system.

Its most innovative feature was allowing you to customize your health bar to switch between defensive and aggressive fighting styles depending on where it stood.

However, what I like the most about Garou has to be its presentation.

The graphics are truly superb, and that soundtrack is one of the best I’ve ever heard on a fighting game. Especially for an older retro home console.

 

1. Metal Slug 1, 2 & 3

Metal Slug 1 gameplay NeoGeo

Released: 1996-2000

Despite Garou: Mark of the Wolves being a more technically impressive and good-looking game, it can’t hold a candle to the mere fun factor and broad appeal of the Metal Slug series.

Developed by SNK until their bankruptcy in 2001, this run-and-gun platformer flew high thanks to an absolutely chaotic and incredibly fun co-op experience. Not to mention its charming characters and quirky enemy designs.

Everything in this game, from the bizarre animations to the camels outfitted with machine guns, has a particular style that’s just “Metal Slug”.

The second installment was notorious for introducing the female characters Fio and Eri, and the remastered Metal Slug X is easily the best game on the Neo Geo.

If you’re going to play any games from this era, absolutely give the Metal Slug series a try.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.