Getting into the Neo-Geo is daunting - three hardware variants to choose from, and even more variations within those parameters to consider. Prices for games across all three main variants are wildly different, and there are no concrete price guides in the modern era due to the volitility of the Neo-Geo market. The Neo-Geo is, for all intents and purposes, a collector only machine these days - even the lower priced variants like the MVS and CD. If you're thinking of getting into the Neo, consider modern emulation or FPGA solutions first. If you simply must have a physical Neo-Geo library, though, this guide will help you decide which variant is right for you. 

AES (Home System)

Image: By Evan-Amos - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

If money is no object, then the Neo-Geo AES is the choice for you. While the system itself won't set you back more than $500 for an unmodded and unboxed console (with appropriate hookups), a complete in box console will cost upward of $800. And a modded system that will work with different, more modern AV types will cost between $400 and $1000 depending on options. For some reason US consoles are more sought after in the 2023 collector market despite having some serious drawbacks that I'll cover below. It's not the price of the console that is the barrier of entry, though. No, that goes to the price of the games. 

Neo-Geo AES games are vastly more expensive than other Neo hardware variants or even any other retro game console. To be frank, what is affordable to Neo-Geo AES collectors could be the difference of having food to feed your family for a few weeks, or even months to a year for many, many people. Titles which released in 1990 – 1995 are mostly reasonable in price, with many of the more popular titles in this date range costing between $80 and $150 USD for a complete Japanese version. Beginning in 1996 SNK began producing far less AES games compared to years prior, and the prices reflect that. While you can still get some must have titles like King of Fighters 98 or Real Bout Special for under $350, be prepared to pay well over $500 for many of the console’s best titles from 1996 - 2004. For example: unless you truly have money to burn, you’ll have to skip the entire Metal Slug series - which would cost you roughly $50,000 to have all 6 games that released on the AES - and that's just the Japanese versions. I'm not exaggerating.

If that doesn’t sound expensive enough, US and European game variants were produced in far fewer quantities, so expect to pay at the very least double the price of the Japanese version for any game in the library (if a Western version exists). Many, many US titles are FAR more expensive, though, costing the collector thousands (yes, thousands) more than the Japanese variant. On the low end, a $350 game like Real Bout Special in Japan becomes a $10,000 game for the US version - yes, you read that correctly. On the high end, that Metal Slug series example I mentioned above? For a US branded set, that'll be well over $100,000! At the end of the day, whether you purchase Japanese or US versions of games, having a full set of official releases - or even a select few games - is still only a pipe dream for many, many fans.  

All Neo-Geo AES games use the exact same PCBs and Mask ROM Chips across regions (aside from a few exceptions), so the only difference in the games is the language on the case insert, the manual, and the cartridge label. Due to this, all games have multiple languages and censorship modes included for all regions in all copies of the game. As the AES is a region free console, the language displayed, and even censorship is dictated by the region coded to the console's bios chip and not the game itself. 

This is the sticking point with US consoles versus Japanese consoles. Japanese consoles will display the game in Japanese, but generally will not have any censorship. Most games have an option to switch the language to English, so this is largely a non-issue for the vast majority of games. Because these are arcade games, all the important information is often in English regardless - aside from some Quiz and Mahjong games. US/Euro consoles will display games in English, but many games include seemingly random censorship you cannot remove with a stock console. For example: games like Samurai Shodown 2 display with green blood, and Mai’s breast bounce animation is eliminated in many King of Fighters games. Curiously, other bloody games like the Last Blade 1 have no censorship.

If you would like an AES for easy hookup to your TV, you’re also out of luck. While the console does support RGB SCART right out of the box if you have the correct cable and display, you will still need some sort of intermediary device to hook up the Neo to a modern display. Thankfully there are a litany of options, but at the very least you’ll need to budget an extra $100 to $700 depending on the device you choose. Additionally, the composite video out on the console is crap, so even if you hook up your AES to a CRT (old tube TV) you'll want to explore getting at least an S-Video mod for cleaner output.

Additionally, consoles with a serial number above 200k or so have a video output issue called "jailbars" which degrade the quality of the video by a significant margin even if running via RGB. This can be fixed on these late model consoles, but seeking out an earlier release console will eliminate the need to fix this unsightly issue. Very early models of the AES also run on a very picky 5v power supply, while later production models run on a more standard 9v supply. The early 5v models will brick completely if using any more than 5v, so you must be extra careful. There are numerous caveats to this rule, but generally you'll want a console with a "Pro-Pow 3 or E" moniker on the serial number sticker to denote the 9/10v consoles. Check out this excellent primer from FirebrandX on AES PCB. 

Finally, there are a few options for those that just want an AES for hardware accuracy but don’t care about collecting the physical games. Most retro consoles have a cartridge device that allows you to put the entire rom collection for the console on an SD card and select the game you want to play from a list. These SD cartridge solutions cost an average of $300 or more new and run into the thousands if used (as they are often in short supply). You can also get MVS adapters which allow you to play the (vastly cheaper) arcade versions of the games on your AES. There are a few more options you have when purchasing AES games, like conversions or reproductions, and the 161-In-1 cartridges. Check out the How to Buy Games article for more information on these options. For more detailed information on the MVS/AES, check out the full review.

I recommend the AES for these types of gamers:


The MVS is the arcade version of the Neo-Geo. It came in 4 varieties: 1 slot, 2 slot, 4 slot, and 6 slot. The MVS is even more complicated to hook up to modern displays, and is even relatively complicated to hook up to a CRT due to the video signal being different than NTSC standard. At minimum for a CRT you will need to purchase the MVS board of your choice plus a device called a SuperGun that converts the Jamma arcade signal from the board to something your TV can use. If on a modern display you must then run the SuperGun through another external upscaling device or line-doubler, which can run you an extra $100 to $400. You can also purchase "consolized" MVS 1-slot boards from various online retailers which is a much easier plug-n-play solution that eliminates the need for a Supergun, but you'll still need another device to hook up to a modern display unless it has an HDMI out. There is also the arcade cabinet route, but I only recommend this option if you like to tinker with old electronics or are an arcade enthusiast. You can get a one slot, Big Red cabinet for as cheap as $800 if you're patient.

Games for the MVS are MUCH MUCH cheaper than AES. For example, an authentic copy of Metal Slug 1 costs upwards of $15,000 for a Japanese AES release, but can be had on MVS for less than $200. This price difference is due to the sheer number of MVS games produced compared to their AES counter parts. For more detailed information on the MVS/AES, check out the full review.

I recommend the MVS for these types of gamers:

The Neo-Geo CD

The Neo-Geo CDZ - Circa 1996

The cheapest of the bunch, the Neo-Geo CD comes in three flavors:

While the Neo CD may have been made to make the Neo-Geo more affordable at home, it doesn't come without a few caveats. For more detailed information on the history of the console, check out the full review.

While you should heavily consider the caveats listed above before diving into a Neo CD purchase, there are some upsides. Many multi-thousand-dollar games can be had for a few hundred bucks. For example, the stellar horizontal shooter Pulstar cost over $3000 on AES but less than $200 on CD. All versions of the Neo CD have a multi-AV out on the back like an AES console, but they also have dedicated RCA outs for video and stereo audio, and even a dedicated S-Video out! The S-video out is quite handy as the composite video on these consoles is absolute trash. Additionally, most games have arranged soundtracks which are actually pretty good overall (although, I prefer the cartridge music in most cases). 

I recommend the Neo CD to these types of gamers: