In the 1980s the Shin Nihon Kikaku (SNK) corporation was a 3rd party game developer for the 8bit Nintendo Entertainment System. With such hits as the Ikari Warriors and Baseball Stars, SNK was a hot commodity. However, SNK wanted more so in 1989 they released into the Japanese arcades the 16-bit NeoGeo MVS. When they did this, they also took the arcade motherboard and placed it in a console shell. Thus we have the Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System, otherwise known as the Home Cart System.
This console was originally slated as a rental only unit in Japan. Due to a huge demand by their customers, SNK killed the rental model and in 1990 released the Home Cart to the general public for a hefty $650 + $200 per game. This price was outrageous to many, but you have to remember that this was an extremely expensive machine to make. Building ROM cartridges are still expensive to this very day.
Back in 1990 all the parts were expensive, much more than any previous console. SNK never intended to sell retail, the Neo Geo was arcade hardware and it showed. This was also a blessing. The Neo Geo AES was the baddest game console and it really made the competition look pathetic. With games like Nam-75 and Crossed Swords in the arcades, many arcade gamers wanted these great games in their homes. Compared to the cost of the MVS setup the Home Neo was quite a bargain. The Neo took off to be one of the more popular systems, but was relatively unheard of in the USA until 1993.
Enter Samurai Shodown. This game hit the arcades like a flashfire. It was very popular in arcades and was not eclipsed until Samurai Shodown 2 in 1994. This is the one time when SNK was more popular than Capcom's blockbuster Street Fighter series. At least in the US that is. In Asia, SNK has been strong competition at every turn.
Known for its fighters, but also loved for its puzzle and shooter games, the Neo Geo is a great game system that appeals to many! Almost all Neo games are designed for pay for play action, so if you're looking for rpg's or in-depth strategy games, you are better off looking elsewhere.