Neo Geo (system)

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Neo Geo
Neo Geo full on.png
Neo Geo AES console (top) and 4-slot MVS arcade cabinet (bottom)
ManufacturerSNK Corporation
Product familyNeo Geo
TypeArcade system board
Home video game console
GenerationFourth generation
Release date[1]

Neo Geo Multi Video System

  • JP: April 26, 1990
  • NA: August 22, 1990
  • EU: 1991

Neo Geo Rental System/Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System

  • JP: April 26, 1990 (rental), July 1, 1991 (home)
  • NA: July 1, 1991
  • EU: 1991
Introductory priceUS$649.99
DiscontinuedDecember 1997 (hardware)
July 2004 (software)
August 2007 (technical support)
Units sold1 million
MediaROM cartridge
CPUMotorola 68000 @ 12MHz, Zilog Z80A @ 4MHz
Memory64KB RAM, 84KB VRAM, 2KB Sound Memory
StorageMemory card
Display320×224 resolution, 4096 on-screen colors out of a palette of 65536
SoundYamaha YM2610
Power8 W older Systems
5 W newer Systems
Dimensions325 × 237 × 60 mm
SuccessorNeo Geo CD (1994)
Hyper Neo Geo 64 (1997)

The Neo Geo (Japanese: ネオジオ, Hepburn: Neojio), stylised as NEO•GEO, also written as NEOGEO, is a cartridge-based arcade system board and fourth-generation home video game console released on April 26, 1990, by Japanese game company SNK Corporation. It was the first system in SNK's Neo Geo family. The Neo Geo was marketed as 24-bit; its CPU is technically a 16/32-bit 68000-based system with an 8-bit Z80 coprocessor, while its GPU chipset has a 24-bit graphics data bus.

The Neo Geo originally launched as the MVS (Multi Video System) coin-operated arcade machine. The MVS offers owners the ability to put up to six different cartridges into a single cabinet, a unique feature that was also a key economic consideration for operators with limited floorspace, as well as saving money long-term.[2] With its games stored on self-contained cartridges, a game cabinet can be exchanged for a different game title by swapping the game's ROM cartridge and cabinet artwork. A home console version was also made, called AES (Advanced Entertainment System). It was originally launched as a rental console for video game stores in Japan (called Neo Geo Rental System), with its high price causing SNK not to release it for home use – this was later reversed due to high demand and it came into the market as a luxury console.[citation needed]As of 2013 it was the most expensive home video game console ever released, costing US$649.99 (equivalent to $1,235 in 2020).[3] The AES had the same raw specs as the MVS and had full compatibility, allowing home users to play the games exactly as they were in the arcades.[4] The Neo Geo was revived along with the brand overall in December 2012 through the introduction of the Neo Geo X handheld and home system.[5][6][7][8]

The Neo Geo was a very powerful system when released, more powerful than any video game console at the time, and many arcade systems such as rival Capcom's CPS, which did not surpass it until the CP System II in 1993.[9] The Neo Geo MVS was a success during the 1990s due to the cabinet's low cost, six ROM slots, and compact size. Several successful video game series were released for the platform, such as Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Samurai Shodown, World Heroes, The King of Fighters and Metal Slug. The AES had a very niche market in Japan, though sales were very low in the U.S. due to its high price for both the hardware and software, but it has since gained a cult following and is now considered a collectable. Neo Geo hardware production lasted seven years, being discontinued in 1997, whereas game software production lasted until 2004,[10] making Neo Geo the longest supported arcade system of all time.[11] The AES console was succeeded by the Neo Geo CD and the MVS arcade by the Hyper Neo Geo 64. As of March 1997, the Neo Geo and the Neo Geo CD combined had sold 980,000 units worldwide.[12] In 2009, the Neo Geo was ranked 19th out of the 25 best video game consoles of all time by video game website IGN.[13]


The Neo Geo AES shipped with large, arcade-style controllers.

The Neo Geo hardware was an evolution of an older SNK/Alpha Denshi M68000 arcade platform that was used in Time Soldiers in 1987, further developed in the SNK M68000 hardware platform as used for P.O.W.: Prisoners of War in 1988. Contrary to other popular arcade hardware of the time, the SNK/Alpha Denshi hardware used sprite strips instead of the more common tilemap-based backgrounds.[14] The Neo Geo hardware was essentially developed by Alpha Denshi's Eiji Fukatsu, adding sprite scaling through the use of scaling tables stored in ROM as well as support for a much higher amount of data on cartridges and better sound hardware.[15][16][17]

Takashi Nishiyama left Capcom, where he had created the fighting game Street Fighter (1987), to join SNK after they invited him to join the company. There, he was involved in developing the Neo Geo. He proposed the concept of an arcade system that uses ROM cartridges like a game console, and also proposed a home console version of the system. His reasons for these proposals was to make the system cheaper for markets such as China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Central America, and South America, where it was difficult to sell dedicated arcade games due to piracy. Nishiyama also created the Fatal Fury fighting game franchise, as a spiritual successor to the original Street Fighter. He also worked on the fighting game franchises Art of Fighting and The King of Fighters, as well as the run-and-gun shooter series Metal Slug.[18]

The Neo Geo was announced and demonstrated on January 31, 1990, in Osaka, Japan.[19][20][21] SNK exhibited several Neo Geo games at Japan's Amusement Machine Operators' Union (AOU) show in February 1990, including NAM-1975, Magician Lord, Baseball Stars Professional, Top Player's Golf and Riding Hero.[22] The Neo Geo then made its overseas debut at Chicago's American Coin Machine Exposition (ACME) in March 1990, with several games demonstrated.[23][24][21] The system was then released in Japan on April 26, 1990.[25] Initially, the AES home system was only available for rent to commercial establishments,[26] such as hotel chains, bars and restaurants. When customer response indicated that some gamers were willing to buy a US$650 console, SNK expanded sales and marketing into the home console market in 1991.

Neo Geo's graphics and sound are largely superior to other contemporary home consoles, arcades, and even computers such as the Sharp X68000. Unlike earlier systems, the Neo Geo AES was intended to reproduce the same quality of game as the arcade MVS system. The MVS was one of the most powerful arcade units at the time, allowing the game ROM to be loaded from interchangeable cartridges instead of using custom, dedicated hardware cabinets for each game.[27]

In the United States, the console's debut price was planned to be US$599 and included two joystick controllers and a game: either Baseball Stars Professional or NAM-1975. However, the price was raised and its American launch debuted as the Gold System at US$649.99 (equivalent to $1,235 in 2020). Later, the Gold System was bundled with Magician Lord and Fatal Fury. The Silver System package, launched at US$399.99, included one joystick controller and no pack-in game. Other games were launched at about US$200 and up. At double or quadruple the price of the competition, the console and its games were accessible only to a niche market.[28] However, its full compatibility meant that no additional money was being spent on porting or marketing for the AES, since the MVS' success was automatically feeding the AES, making the console profitable for SNK.[citation needed]

When real-time 3D graphics became the norm in the arcade industry, the Neo Geo's 2D hardware was unable to do likewise. Despite this, Neo Geo arcade games retained profitability through the mid-1990s,[29] and the system was one of three 1995 recipients of the American Amusement Machine Association's Diamond Awards (which are based strictly on sales achievements).[30] SNK developed a new console in 1994, called the Neo Geo CD. A new arcade was also made in 1997, called Hyper Neo Geo 64. However these two systems had low popularity and only a few games.

While it ceased manufacturing home consoles by the end of 1997, SNK continued making software for the original 2D Neo Geo. Despite being very aged by the end of the decade, the Neo Geo continued getting popular releases, such as the critically acclaimed The King of Fighters 2002. The last official game by SNK for the Neo Geo system, Samurai Shodown V Special, was released in 2004, 14 years after the system's introduction.

On August 31, 2007, SNK stopped offering maintenance and repairs to Neo Geo home consoles, handhelds, and games.[31]

The Neo Geo X, an officially licensed device with a collection of Neo Geo games pre-installed, was first released in 2012 by TOMMO Inc. After just one year and a lukewarm reception due to its price and poor quality of the emulation, on October 2, 2013, SNK Playmore terminated the license agreement and demanded an immediate cease and desist of distribution and sales of all licensed products.[32]


The Neo Geo was a commercial success in arcades. In North America, three Neo Geo games were among the ten top-grossing arcade software conversion kits in December 1992: Art of Fighting at number one, World Heroes at number two, and King of the Monsters 2 at number ten.[33][34]

At the 1991 AMOA Awards held by the Amusement & Music Operators Association (AMOA), the Neo Geo won the "Most Innovative New Technology" award.[35]

In a 1993 review, GamePro gave the Neo Geo a "thumbs up". Though they voiced several criticisms, noting that the system was not as powerful as the soon-to-launch 3DO and had few releases which were not fighting games, they generally praised both the hardware and games library, and recommended that gamers who could not afford the console (which was still priced at $649.99) play the games in the arcade.[36]

Technical details[edit]

Inside a four cartridge Neo Geo arcade machine
The Neo Geo AES motherboard.

Each joystick controller is 280mm (width) × 190mm (depth) × 95mm (height) ( 11 × 8 × 2.5 in.) and contains the same four-button layout as the arcade MVS cabinet.

The arcade machines have a memory card system by which a player could save a game to return to at a later time and could also be used to continue play on the SNK home console of the same name.[37]

The arcade version of the video game hardware is often referred to as the "MVS," or Multi Video System (available in 1-slot, 2-slot, 4-slot, and 6-slot variations, differing in the amount of game cartridges loaded into the machine at the time), with its console counterpart referred to as the "AES", or Advanced Entertainment System. Early motherboard revisions contain daughterboards, used to enhance the clarity of the video output.

The MVS and AES hardware can execute identical machine code. Owners can move EPROMs from one type to the other, and the game will still run. The program specifics for both MVS and AES game options are contained on every game ROM, whether the cartridge is intended for home or arcade use. However, the arcade and home cartridges do have a different pinout. They were designed this way to prevent arcade operators from buying the cheaper home carts and then using them in arcades. It has been found that in a few home version games[which?], one could unlock the arcade version of the game by inputting a special code[which?][citation needed].

ROM sizes and startup screens[edit]

The original specification for ROM size is up to 330 megabits, hence the system displaying "Max 330 Mega Pro-Gear Spec" upon startup. While no technical advances were required to achieve it, some games over 100 megabits, such as Top Hunter, followed this screen by displaying an animation proclaiming "The 100Mega Shock!". The original ROM size specification was later enhanced on cartridges with bank switching memory technology, increasing the maximum cartridge size to around 716 megabits. These new cartridges also cause the system to display "Giga Power Pro-Gear Spec" upon startup or during attract mode, indicating this enhancement.


The game cartridges measure 19 centimetres (7.5 in) by 13.6 centimetres (5.4 in)

The system uses seven different specialist processors, which divide the workload for the visuals, audio and gameplay.[38]



RAM: 214 KB SRAM[40]

  • Main 68000 RAM: 64 KB (32 KB SRAM ×2)
  • Video RAM: 84 KB SRAM
    • Main VRAM: 64 KB (32 KB SRAM ×2)
    • Palette memory: 16 KB (8 KB SRAM ×2)
    • Fast video sprite RAM: 4 KB (2 KB SRAM ×2)
  • Z80 sound RAM: 2 KB SRAM
  • Battery-backup save NVRAM: 64 KB SRAM

On-board ROM: 512 KB[40]

  • Zoom look-up table: 128 KB
  • Fix layer graphics: 128 KB
  • Z80 sound: 128 KB
  • 68000 BIOS: 128 KB


The SNK custom video chipset allows the system to draw sprites in vertical strips which are 16 pixels wide, and can be 16 to 512 pixels tall; it can draw up to 96 sprites per scanline for a total of 380 sprites on the screen at a time. Unlike most other video game consoles of its time, the Neo Geo does not use scrolling tilemap background layers. Instead, it has a single non-scrolling tilemap layer called the fix layer, while any scrolling layers rely exclusively on drawing sprites to create the scrolling backgrounds (like the Sega Y Board). By laying multiple sprites side by side, the system can simulate a tilemap background layer. The Neo Geo sprite system represents a step between conventional sprites and tilemaps.[40]

  • GPU chipset:[41]
    • SNK LSPC2-A2 (line sprite generator & VRAM interface) @ 24 MHz[40]
    • SNK PRO-B0 (palette arbiter)[42]
    • SNK PRO-A0, NEO-B1, NEO-GRC[43]
  • GPU graphics data bus: 24-bit[44][45]
  • Display resolution: 320×224 px (many games only use the centermost 304 px),[40] progressive scan
  • Color palette: 65,536 (16-bit) (not RGB565, but RGB666, where the lowest bit of each channel is shared, being common to the three RGB components)[40]
  • Maximum colors on screen: 4096 (12-bit)
  • Maximum sprites on screen: 380
  • Minimum sprite size: 16×16 px
  • Maximum sprite size: 16×512 px
  • Maximum sprites per scanline: 96
  • Maximum sprite pixels per scanline: 1536 px[40]
  • Static tilemap plane: 1 (512×256 px fix layer)[40]
  • Background planes: Up to 3 planes,[23] which enable parallax scrolling (large sprites can be chained together to make objects that function similarly to tilemap backgrounds)[40]
  • Aspect ratio: 4:3
  • A/V output: RF, composite video/RCA audio, RGB (with separate 21 pin RGB cable FCG-9, or European standard RGB SCART cable).


The onboard Yamaha YM2610 sound chip gives the system 15 channels of sound.


  • Source: separate DC 5 V (older systems) and DC 9 V adapter (newer systems).
  • Consumption: 8 W older Systems, 5 W newer Systems
  • Console: 325 mm (width) × 237 mm (depth) × 60 mm (height).
  • Controller: 280 mm (width) × 190 mm (depth) × 95 mm (height).
Neo Geo Memory Card
Console storage
  • Removable memory card: 2KB or 68-pin JEIDA ver. 3 spec memory. Any 68-pin memory that fits the JEIDA version 3 spec will work.
Arcade storage
  • Removable memory card: 68-pin. Cartridge is composed of 2 PCBs.[47]


The Neo Geo is the first home game console to feature a removable memory card for saved games.[48]

The GameTap subscription service has included a Neo Geo emulator and a small library of Neo Geo games. In 2007 Nintendo announced that Neo Geo games would appear on the Wii's Virtual Console,[49][50][51][52] starting with Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, Art of Fighting, The King of Fighters '94, and World Heroes. Neo Geo games were released through Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network (For the PlayStation 3/PlayStation Network, the service was called NEOGEO Station), including Fatal Fury Special, Samurai Shodown II, Metal Slug 3, Garou: Mark of the Wolves and The King of Fighters '98. Many Neo Geo games were released on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, and Nintendo Switch through the Arcade Archives service.

Homebrew activity began after the console's discontinuation, both by noncommercial hobbyists and commercially.[53]

Neo Geo has a community of collectors. Because of the limited production runs received by cartridges amongst the sizable available arcade library, some of the rarest Neo Geo games can sell for well over $1,000. The most valuable game is the European AES version of Kizuna Encounter. The MVS market provides a cheaper alternative to the expensive and rare home cartridges, and complete arcade kits are priced at a premium.[54] It is also possible to play the MVS cartridges, which generally cost much less, on the AES home system through the use of adapters.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Neo-Geo Hardware Specification". 18 June 1991. Retrieved 2014-07-22.
  2. ^ "SNK Neo-Geo 101: A Beginner's Guide - RetroGaming with Racketboy". 20 May 2011.
  3. ^ Plunkett, Luke (December 17, 2013). "36 Years of Console Prices, Adjusted for Inflation". Kotaku. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  4. ^ Slaven, Andy (2002). Video Game Bible, 1985-2002. Trafford Publishing. pp. 338–. ISBN 978-1-55369-731-2.
  5. ^ Plunkett, Luke. "The "New" Neo Geo Handheld Goes on Sale Very Soon". Kotaku. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  6. ^ Dutton, Fred (15 March 2012). "New NeoGeo handheld confirmed". Eurogamer. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  7. ^ "NEOGEO X GOLD ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM Announced for Worldwide Distribution". RetroGamingRoundup. 13 August 2012.
  8. ^ "New console out today as NEO GEO X hits EU/US". Games Radar. Future Publishing. December 18, 2012. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
  9. ^ "Neo Geo History". Neo Geo, Arcade & Retro Games.
  10. ^ Hirohiko Niizumi, [1], GameSpot, July 23, 2004, Accessed June 8, 2008.
  11. ^ "Longest support for an arcade system". Guinness World Records.
  12. ^ Consoles +, issue 73
  13. ^ "NeoGeo is number 19". IGN. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  14. ^ "MAME -".
  15. ^ "ADK会社案内". 3 August 2001. Archived from the original on 3 August 2001.
  16. ^ "ADK".
  17. ^ "100,000 + 1 things you never new about neo - Page 9".
  18. ^ "The Man Who Created Street Fighter from". 3 January 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-01-03. Retrieved 8 January 2019. Lay summary.
  19. ^ "Mortal Shang - Neo-Geo". Mortal Shang. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  20. ^ "News Digest: SNK Smiling With 2 Fine Dedicated Games; Multi-Game System Coming at ACME". RePlay. Vol. 15 no. 5. February 1990. p. 14.
  21. ^ a b "Cover story: SNK Corp. Readies Multi-Game Neo-Geo Video Ssytem For World Release; Stateside Debut Slated for ACME". RePlay. Vol. 15 no. 6. March 1990. pp. 83–6.
  22. ^ "Overseas Readers Column: Many Videos Unveiled At AOU Expo '90 Chiba" (PDF). Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 377. Amusement Press, Inc. 1 April 1990. p. 26.
  23. ^ a b c "ACME: New Product Review". RePlay. Vol. 15 no. 7. April 1990. pp. 50–84.
  24. ^ "Sneak Preview: sizzling new equipment of all stripes will be on display at ACME". RePlay. Vol. 15 no. 6. March 1990. pp. 30–8.
  25. ^ "Arcade Gear - Neo Geo". MArcade Gear. Archived from the original on 2016-10-07. Retrieved 2015-07-11.
  26. ^ "SNK's Neo-Geo Vidgame System is Cooking". RePlay. Vol. 16 no. 1. October 1990. p. 18.
  27. ^ Nicoll, Benjamin (2015). "Bridging the Gap: The Neo Geo, the Media Imaginary, and the Domestication of Arcade Games". Games and Culture. doi:10.1177/1555412015590048. S2CID 147981978.
  28. ^ "Which Game System is the Best!?". Next Generation. No. 12. Imagine Media. December 1995. p. 75. The original Neo-Geo home system basically brought the exact same arcade experience home. Cartridges, however, cost upward of $200, which relegated the system to a very select market.
  29. ^ Webb, Marcus (November 1995). "Arcadia". Next Generation. No. 11. Imagine Media. p. 26. Basically, SNK's Neo Geo system has proved the existence of a die-hard market for lower-cost videogames in arcades ...
  30. ^ "And the Winner Is...". Next Generation. No. 17. Imagine Media. May 1996. p. 21.
  31. ^ "No Love: SNK Stop Neo Geo Support". Archived from the original on 17 July 2012.
  32. ^ "SNK terminates Neo Geo X Gold licensing, Tommo required to cease production". Engadget.
  33. ^ "SNK's First Mega Shock Game Goes Right to #1". RePlay. Vol. 18 no. 4. January 1993. pp. 21–2.
  34. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. Vol. 18 no. 3. December 1992. p. 13.
  35. ^ "Are the Stars Out Tonight?". RePlay. Vol. 17 no. 1. October 1991. p. 128.
  36. ^ "System Shopper". GamePro (63). IDG. December 1993. pp. 46–49.
  37. ^ "This Fall Everything Turns To Gold With Neo-Geo: The Player's Gold Card Keeps Them Coming Back For More". RePlay. Vol. 16 no. 2. November 1990. pp. 26–7.
  38. ^ Elizabeth Olson, "Neo Geo: The Shape of Things to Come?", Game Informer, issue 2 (November–December 1991), page 14
  39. ^ a b "Lud's RetroComputing Info".
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h i MacDonald, Charles. "Neo*Geo MVS Hardware Notes". Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  41. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-12-10. Retrieved 2014-09-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  42. ^ "Category:Chips - NeoGeo Development Wiki".
  43. ^ "SNK Neo Geo AES". ConsoleGen.
  44. ^ P bus, Neo Geo Development
  45. ^ LSPC2-A2, Neo Geo Development
  46. ^ a b "YM2610 - NeoGeo Development Wiki".
  47. ^ "Repairing a Neo-Geo MVS cartridge?". June 2007. Retrieved 2011-12-14.
  48. ^ Nicoll, Benjamin (2015). "Bridging the Gap: The Neo Geo, the Media Imaginary, and the Domestication of Arcade Games". Games and Culture. 12 (2): 1–22. doi:10.1177/1555412015590048. S2CID 147981978.
  49. ^ "The Return of the NeoGeo". Archived from the original on May 5, 2007. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  50. ^ "Virtual Console: NeoGeo Games Coming To Virtual Console". Kotaku.
  51. ^ "Neo Geo Comes to European Virtual Console". Nintendo of Europe. 1 October 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2009. Alt URL
  52. ^ "Wii-kly Update: Three New Classic Games Added to Wii Shop Channel". Nintendo of America. 8 October 2007. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  53. ^ "NG:Dev.Team, a third party NeoGeo publisher". Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  54. ^ "Neo Geo AES price guide". Retrieved 2012-01-26.

External links[edit]