Nintendo dominated the American video game market in 1991, with the then-recent release of the SNES and classic titles like Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Sega, however, had other intentions.
The Sega Genesis was unable to match the power of the SNES, nor did it have the trademark recognition as Nintendo's new console. However, due to its fast blue mascot, a slew of excellent arcade ports, and a marketing strategy that targeted older gamers, the Genesis provided the Super Nintendo the competitive advantage it sorely needed.
Sega established itself as a gaming leader for a brief period, dating back 20 years. With one of the finest console libraries ever assembled, here are the top 15 Sega Genesis games ever.
Ironically, we start near the end of the Sega Genesis's lifetime with what is arguably the console's last great game. By 1995, most gamers had already turned their attention to the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Nintendo had just demonstrated there was still life in the then-revolutionary Donkey Kong Country graphics, and Sega desperately needed a response.
Vectorman, an action platformer that used vector piece animation to animate the main character with 23 individual sprites rather than just one big sprite, is in many ways the better 16-bit game. Despite the fact that Vectorman remains one of the most enjoyable platformers on the Genesis, it is a shame that it isn't an action platformer.
14.Dr. Robotniks Mean Bean Machine
Puyo Puyo is one of the most popular match-four puzzle games of all time, but Sega decided that it needed a Sonic-sized injection to boost sales, so they painted the cover with the blue blurs archnemesis, putting the game in a decent (if overly difficult) story mode.
The real star here is this games wonderful multiplayer mode, which remains extremely addictive, and the Dr. Robotnik aesthetic adds to the game more character than if Sega had stuck more closely to the source material.
NHL 94 is a unique sports title with annual release schedules and minor yearly improvements.
NHL 94 isn't the most feature-rich game, but the action on the ice has just the right balance of realisticity and arcade speed to make each game feel unique. The arena-specific organ music and goal horns remain iconic, despite EA's decision to re-release the game for modern consoles in 2020.
12.Mortal Kombat 2
Many gamers continue to think that Mortal Kombat II is the best and most balanced entry in the long-running series despite so many incredible Mortal Kombat experiences. As youve probably guessed, I also believe that the Genesis adaptation of the arcade game is one of the consoles finest experiences.
The Genesis version of Mortal Kombat II has all of the arcade games, stages, fatalities, and secrets, and the Genesis six-button control provides the ultimate way to experience the iconic fighting game from the comfort of your home. That's a debate over whether or not the Genesis version is still superior.
11.Contra: Hard Corps
During the 16-bit era, it was much more common for each console to receive significant exclusives, or, at the very least, radical different versions of the same game. This was largely due to the significant differences in programming for the Genesis and the SNES. So, while the Super Nintendo received the excellent Contra III: The Alien Wars, the Segas console received a Contra game that is probably even better.
Contra: Hard Corps is clearly a continuation of the series' run and gun gameplay, but it also benefits from some of the greatest music in the series, a then-unprecedented roster of four playable characters, and a multi-path storyline. Honestly, it is still the best Contra game ever made.
10.ToeJam & Earl
ToeJam & Earl is a game that is both roguelike and platformer, and it's just a fun, weird, and funny combination. It's one of the Genesis's most popular games, and it continues to hold up today thanks to its humor, one of the best soundtracks, and an innovative cooperative mode.
ToeJam & Earls initial sales were sadly lower than expected. A few more ToeJam & Earl adventures were eventually released, but they failed to capture the originality of the original game. As time goes on, it becomes easier to appreciate this title as the truly exceptional experiment it was.
9.Streets of Rage 2
In the early 1990s, beat em ups were a shambles. However, Streets of Rage 2 stood out far above its competition.
Segas' familiarity with Genesis hardware by 1992 can be attributed to a portion of the games' exceptional graphics. They even managed to make one of the best soundtracks of the decade with the Genesis underpowered sound chip.
Streets of Rage 2 plays better than so many other beat-em-up titles. Even now, you can grab a friend, a pizza, and a copy of the game for a great Friday night.
Before the Castlevania game Symphony of the Night, Konami released Bloodlines, youll soon realize that the game was not quite certain about the next evolution of the franchise. Neither of the two playable characters are named Belmont, and instead of taking place entirely in Draculas castle, Bloodlines six expansive levels are set across Europe.
A game with a similar identity crisis would be a recipe for disaster. With Bloodlines, though, almost every change and new concept ultimately not only works, but works so well that youll wish there were more Castlevania games like it. Such as it is, this remains one of the most distinctive and enjoyable games in the series.
Beyond Oasis, released late into the Genesis' life cycle, was largely overshadowed by the hype for the next generation of consoles. Of course, the fact that the game represented a different IP and strongly resembled The Legend of Zelda certainly did not help.
Beyond Oasis is packed with some of the finest Genesis sprites and animation, as well as a slew of combat options that make the most of the game's incredible arsenal of weapons and magic. It's an absolute must-see game if you missed it at the release.
6.Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
Even at Sega's height, the company struggled to find new franchises that could stand up to Nintendo's most powerful hitters. For a brief period, though, Shinobi was almost as compelling a reason to own a Genesis as Sonic the Hedgehog was. However, few games have ever matched Joe Musashi's speed and variety of moves in Return of the Ninja Master.
Shinobi III is about the closest a 16-bit game could get to looking and feeling like a big-budget action film.
5.Sonic the Hedgehog 2
The first Sonic game was fantastic. It's arguably the game that kept the Genesis afloat after its rough first couple of years. However, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is far better. Through the introduction of concepts like the spin dash move and running through levels with the assistance of Tails, this game changed the still fresh Sonic formula and established a standard the series has arguably been chasing to this day.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 contains some of the best levels in the Sonic series (including Chemical Plant and Casino Hill) but returning to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is always an excellent reminder of how fantastic these games can be when they're firing on all cylinders.
4.Monster World IV
Monster World IV appears to be a typical 90s platformer (albeit quite the colorful one). However, once you start playing it, you realize just how much depth it has. (Including the incredible ability to attack in many directions in the air).
Sega gave an official North American remake of this classic game in the 1990s. It's easy to track down official versions now (including a fantastic 2021 remake), but it's something of a mystery why Sega did not give a wider release to one of the best console games.
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Gunstar Heroes was initially assumed by a group of Konami employees who successfully pitched the game to their employer. Treasure was also rejected by Sega, who also refused to approve the project. Despite all odds, Gunstar Heroes is still one of the greatest action games of all time.
Gunstar Heroes is a fast-paced shooter that draws on other run-and-gun shooters (like Konami's own Contra series), but it's just not the greatest. Both Gunstar Red and Gunstar Blue have far more acrobatic moves at their disposal, allowing them to slide and grab enemies as they go through the game's seven epic levels.
2.Phantasy Star IV
RPGs were the Sega Genesis' biggest fault, while SquareSoft pumped out hit after hit for Nintendo, but the Genesis got, well, nothing at all. Except for Phantasy Star, which is a terrific RPG, nonetheless. Thanks to its expansive interstellar narrative and an innovative combat system, Phantasy Star IV remains one of the best RPGs ever made.
Phantasy Star IV demonstrated that even if the SNES remained the primary console for RPG gamers, those who despise the Genesis RPG library can claim some irreplaceable experiences.
1.Sonic 3 & Knuckles
Yes, this is technically two games, but Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were originally created as a single massive Sonic game, and, due to the revolutionary lock-on technology, they could be played as such, despite being released a year apart from each other.
From the moment Eggman sets Angel Island on fire in the opening level of Sonic 3, to the introduction of Knuckles to the Alice in Wonderland-inspired Mushroom Hill Zone in Sonic & Knuckles, and the thrilling conclusion in the Death Egg and Doomsday Zones, it's all set to some of the greatest music in the series (thanks no doubt to Michael Jackson's involvement).
Sonic 3 & Knuckles is a must-see platformer for any platformer of the time, on the Genesis or the SNES. This is the finest Genesis experience, and to this day it is quite possibly the greatest Sonic game ever made.