It wasn't necessarily that much better than the other consoles on the market at the time, it was just a hell of a lot more expensive. Not only that, but if you managed to somehow survive the $650 price tag the console hit you with, you'd still have to shell out another $200-$300 per game if you wanted anything to play on your shiny new console. It goes without saying that most gamers passed on the Neo Geo system, but the story still managed to have a happy ending. Over the years the Neo Geo consoles and arcade cabinets have become quite collectible around the internet and now these wonderful titles are getting a second chance on the Wii Virtual Console service.
Since Neo Geo titles are finally beginning to hit the Virtual Console at a more consistent pace, I thought it would be nice to take some time and put together a top 10 list of Neo Geo game titles I think would be perfect additions to the Wii Virtual Console. While I'm certainly not what you would call a Neo Geo expert, I have owned a Neo Geo MVS arcade cabinet for almost a decade now and chances are if it's ever been available for the Neo Geo, I've played it at some point. Here are my picks.
10. Neo Mr. Do - Mr. Do was a fantastic arcade classic, but Visco really outdid themselves with their update of the game for the Neo Geo. They took the simple yet addictive play control of the arcade game and whipped up some of the most outrageous and vivid visuals to go along with it. They also added some new tunes to the mix that fit the zany look of the game perfectly. It's a shame that more of the classic 80's arcade titles haven't received the same type of makeover that Mr. Do was given. If you're a classic arcade game fan this is one insane title that you absolutely don't want to miss.
9. World Heroes Perfect - The World Heroes titles have long been considered the dark horses of the Neo Geo fighting games. Most hardcore fighting game fans will generally tell you that the games just don't feature the type of depth found in some of the more respected Neo Geo fighters like Garou: Mark of the Wolves or the King of the Fighters series. While it's true that World Heroes Perfect is a little more basic in design, it certainly doesn't make the game any less enjoyable and is probably a good starting point for gamers interested in getting their feet wet in the fighting game genre. There are several games in the World Heroes lineup, but World Heroes Perfect is easily the best game in the series by a good margin.
8. King of the Fighters '99 - The King of the Fighters series is one of the most respected fighting game series available on the Neo Geo and it won't take you long to understand why that is. The game takes many characters from various Neo Geo fighting titles and throws them into one giant 3-on-3 slugfest. The play control feels a lot like that of the Fatal Fury series, but there are some tweaks here and there to give King of the Fighters an edge all its own. Every game in the King of the Fighters series is a top notch title, but King of the Fighters '99 is the one I find myself playing more than any of the others. King of the Fighters '94 is already available on the Virtual Console and is worth checking out. If you like it, you should definitely consider picking this one up if it ever makes it to the Virtual Console.
7. Prehistoric Isle 2 - While fighting games reigned supreme on the Neo Geo, there were a few gems from other genres that snuck their way into the lineup as well. Prehistoric Isle 2 is one such gem. The game takes the game play from a horizontal shooter and throws in a lot of angry dinosaurs to liven things up. The visuals in the game are outstanding and there are a ton of special effects strung throughout each level to keep the visual eye candy flowing. The play control is tight and responsive and the unique dinosaur theme really makes the game stand out from many of the other shooter offerings from this time period. If you're looking for a break from the never-ending list of fighting titles on the Neo Geo, this game will do the job quite nicely. It's not the best shooter for the Neo Geo, but it's right up there near the top and is unique enough to warrant some attention.
6. Metal Slug 3 - Metal Slug has become one of the most successful series found on the Neo Geo systems and Metal Slug 3 represents the pinnacle of the series. There's enough run-and-gun goodness in this game to satisfy even the most ardent arcade shooter fan. The visuals are fantastic and the soundtrack is one of the best ever heard on the Neo Geo. As good as the previous Metal Slug titles are, Metal Slug 3 is just that much better. If you're fan of games like Contra and Gunstar Heroes, you really owe to yourself to pick this game up if it's released on the Virtual Console. It's easily on par with some of the best run-and-gun action titles out there.
5. Samurai Shodown II - Samurai Shodown was a milestone in the life of the Neo Geo system in the fact that it was the first fighting game released for SNK's system that could actually hold its own against the all-powerful Street Fighter 2. Not many other companies outside of Capcom could claim that at the time with Street Fighter 2's absolute dominance of the fighting game genre during its time period. While Samurai Shodown is an outstanding fighting game, Samurai Shodown II blows it away. It not only adds 4 amazing new characters, it also includes new backgrounds, new musical tracks, and tons of other little goodies to keep Samurai Shodown fans happy. The classic Samurai Shodown fighting engine is back in full force and even brings with it a few new moves for the characters. If you're a fan of Samurai Shodown, and shame on you if you're not, you're in for a real treat when Samurai Shodown II hits the Virtual Console.
4. Twinkle Star Sprites - It would be easy to quickly dismiss Twinkle Star Sprites as just another cute 'em up, but if you do you'll be missing out on an absolutely amazing shooter experience. Instead of just sending you out on a mission to fly your way through a level shooting everything in site, Twinkle Star Sprites forces you to take on another player. By taking out enemies and collecting power-ups you can use to send special attacks at your opponent. You're goal is to take out your opponent before they take you out. It's like a shooter with a fighting game mentality thrown into it. If you think it sounds outrageous, wait until you try it out for yourself. Then you can see why this is one of the most sought-after (and expensive) Neo Geo titles in history.
3. Garou: Mark of the Wolves - The Fatal Fury series was where SNK's quest for fighting game credibility first began. And as the Fatal Fury sequels and spin-offs were released one after another, the games gradually got better and better. Garou: Mark of the Wolves represents the pinnacle of the Fatal Fury series and is easily one of the best fighting games ever created. In fact, most Neo Geo fighting game fanatics will tell you, in no uncertain terms, just how outstanding the game truly is in great detail if you somehow make the mistake of asking them. Very few 2-D fighting games can come close to equaling the unbelievable amount of depth found in Garou's game play engine. If you're a diehard fighting game fan, this is one to put at the top of your Virtual Console wish list.
2. Pulstar - Sure Pulstar is about as blatant an R-Type rip-off as you can get without a full-blown lawsuit. But if you're going to rip off a game, you might as well make it one of the greatest shooters ever made. Pulstar features some outstanding visuals, not to mention enough amazing explosion effects to keep even the most diehard shooter fan giggling. The music in the game is also incredible. It has an uptempo beat, but it's very moody, which fits in with the eerie look of the game. The game play will feel quite familiar to R-Type fans as the two games are very similar in style and execution. As good as the bosses were in R-Type, Pulstar manages to one-up them with some of the biggest and most fierce end of level bosses you're ever likely to encounter. If you can appreciate an amazing shooter experience and don't mind a fairly high degree of difficulty, Pulstar is right up your alley.
1. The Last Blade - As I mentioned earlier, most hardcore Neo Geo fighting game fans will tell you that Garou: Mark of the Wolves is the best fighting game available on the Neo Geo system, but here's where I have to disagree. The Last Blade takes the weapons-style combat of Samurai Shodown and builds a much more fluid play control system around it. The result is a much more "user-friendly" fighting engine that will appeal to fighting game fans of all skill levels. The game just has this smooth, fluid feel to it that makes playing the game a real treat. Couple all of this with gorgeous backdrops and some of the best music you'll hear on the Neo Geo system and you have what I consider the best fighting game ever created by human hands. This is one that everyone should at least consider purchasing when it hits the Virtual Console. It's absolutely spectacular and a game that I play more often than any other Neo Geo title in my collection.
I know that I've left a lot of great Neo Geo titles off the list, but there was only ten spots to be had. It's obvious that fighting game fans are going to get more out of the Neo Geo console than any other type of game fans, but it's worth noting that there are some other fantastic games available for the console that aren't fighting games. You just have to do a little looking. It's a shame that so many gamers missed out on the Neo Geo console for one reason or another, not to mention these outstanding games. I just hope that all ten of these amazing titles eventually get the second chance they all deserve on the Wii Virtual Console. It would be a real shame if they didn't.
If you'd like a more in-depth history of the Neo Geo console, don't forget to check out our Neo Geo Hardware Focus.