Advertised as a "hypermedia personal computer," the Towns retained compatibility with Fujitsu's FMR series of MS-DOS business computers, but offered many more features, including a 32-bit Intel CPU, 32,768 simultaneous colors (like the Sharp X68000, but unlike the more popular PC-98) out of a 16.78 million color palette, and a built-in CD-ROM drive. Indeed, the system's graphical operating system, TownsOS, booted straight from a CD. The FM Towns, being more expensive than the PC-98, was marketed to high-income households and educational institutions, and thus its market niche in early-1990s Japan became somewhat similar to that occupied by the Apple Macintosh in Western countries.
The fact that TownsOS is basically MS-DOS with the DOS/V Japanese language supplement and a custom launcher GUI slapped on meant that it is compatible with common Japanese MS-DOS programs written for Japanese IBM PCs, and simpler textmode-only programs will work across the FM Towns, NEC PC-98 and IBM PC platforms unmodified. However, the reverse is not true, as games written specifically for the FM Towns machines require the specialized graphics and sound chipset to always be present, meaning it can not run on PC-98 or IBM PC machines.
Video games were available on the FM Towns from the start, though few exclusive titles emerged on the system. The system's game library thrived on high-quality Arcade Perfect Ports, some of which never appeared on other home systems, and enhanced versions of PC-98 and Western computer games.
In 1993, Fujitsu launched the FM Towns Marty, a console version that sold for half the price of the computer. The Marty was compatible with most but not all FM Towns games, including those released on floppy disks. Like many other companies' attempts at creating console versions of popular computers, the Marty never really caught on.
The FM Towns was ultimately discontinued in 1997. In a reverse of what happened with the PC-98 where the platform folded back into the main IBM Personal Computer platform, the FM Towns machines gradually lost their uniqueness as PC hardware caught up and Fujitsu gradually co-opted PC standard hardware while throwing out their unique graphic and sound chipset under the bus (compatiblity is still maintained for older software, but developers were encouraged to develop for Windows 95 in general instead. Indeed, on the last FM Towns machines, the dedicated sound and video chipset was compressed into a single PCI card, meaning anyone with access to said card can theoretically turn any PC into a FM Towns machine). FM Towns machines too ran Windows 95 by the time they were discontinued.
- Central Processing Unit: 80386SX at 16MHz in the original Towns and all versions of the Marty. Many later models of the Towns upgraded this to a faster CPU in the x86 line (80486, Pentium).
- Minimum of 1 MB RAM.
- 1 MB video RAM, including 128 KB for sprites.
- Video modes: 320×200 to 1024×768 resolution, with 16 to 32,768 simultaneous colors out of a palette of up to 16.7 million. Video modes could be combined.
- Sprites: 16×16 size, 1024 maximum on screen.
- Ricoh RF5C68, eight PCM voices.
- Yamaha YM2612, six FM channels.
- Redbook audio playable from CD.
- After Burner II
- After Burner III
- ALLTYNEX (see: ALLTYNEX Second, a modern remake of ALLTYNEX)
- Alone in the Dark
- Asuka 120% BURNING Fest.
- Battle Chess
- Bubble Bobble
- Chase HQ
- Flying Shark
- Genocide^2: Genocide Square, a compilation of Genocide and Genocide 2: Master of the Dark Communion
- Image Fight
- Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
- Kyuukyoku Tiger (a.k.a. Twin Cobra)
- Last Survivor
- Mad Stalker: Full Metal Force
- Mahou Daisakusen
- Muscle Bomber
- The NewZealand Story
- Operation Wolf
- Prince of Persia
- Princess Maker 2
- Puyo Puyo
- Raiden Densetsu
- Rainbow Islands Extra
- Samurai Spirits
- Scavenger 4
- The Secret of Monkey Island
- Shadow of the Beast
- Shooting Towns
- Super Shooting Towns
- Super Street Fighter II
- Super Real Mahjong
- Super Real Mahjong PII & PIII
- Super Real Mahjong PIV
- Tatsujin-Oh II (a.k.a. Truxton)
- Turbo OutRun
- Ultima Trilogy (compilation of Ultima I, II and III with both, Japanese and English support)
- Wing Commander
- Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished ~ Omen
- Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders