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. 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. As of 2013 it was the most expensive home video game console ever released, costing US$649.99 (equivalent to $1,235 in 2020). 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. 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.
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. The Neo Geo MVS was a success during the 1990s due to the cabinet's low cost, multiple cartridge slots, and compact size. Several successful video game series were released for the platform, such as Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Samurai Shodown, The Last Blade, World Heroes, The King of Fighters, Twinkle Star Sprites 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, making Neo Geo the longest supported arcade system of all time. 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. In 2009, the Neo Geo was ranked 19th out of the 25 best video game consoles of all time by video game website IGN.