Yep, it’s hard to believe that 30 years ago today, we got the Sega Genesis, a true 16-bit console, introduced to the market. With it, we received greater possibilities with our gaming, including true-to-life arcade ports like Strider and Midnight Resistance; as well as bold original games like LandStalker and Dynamite Headdy, amongst countless others.
The system started out as a competitor to the NES on the market, with Sega trying to get a jump on Nintendo before it could produce the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The tactic worked, and the system ended up selling over 30 million original units in its lifespan, along with other models including Majesco and Tec-Toy produced Genesis consoles.
It would also see a number of innovative releases over the years, including Mortal Kombat, with all its gore intact with the help of a special code (ABACABB, anyone?); as well as Virtua Racing, a game that would bring the arcade experience home with the help of a special chip. (Unfortunately, it also boosted the game’s price over $100.)
So what games helped define the Sega Genesis over the past 30 years? Let’s take a look back at some of its greatest triumphs! (Note: we’re looking at Sega releases for this list, so if you don’t see classics like Castlevania Bloodlines or the Madden NFL games, don’t fret.)
We begin with this speedy little wonder, who made his debut in 1991 and changed the console wars forever, giving Sega some much needed ammunition when it came to going against Mario. Sonic would star in a number of key titles on the Genesis system, from spin-offs like Sonic Spinball and Sonic 3D Blast to platforming favorites, like the revolutionary Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (and to some extent, 3).
But his original adventure is still sweetly remembered, and can be enjoyed on a number of platforms, including Sega Genesis Classics for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC; as well as a separate Sega Ages release for Nintendo Switch. If you haven’t experienced it before, make sure you fix that.
Although Final Fight did its part when it came to revolutionizing the beat-em-up genre, Sega solidified it with this iconic sequel, featuring a trailblazing soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro, along with fun two player brawling tactics, as you took on Mr. X’s evil forces in the hopes of saving the city.
The original Streets of Rage is a blast; and Streets of Rage 3, despite some odd decision making in the design department, is good too. But when it comes to a game that truly defines where the best beat-em-up action was, you couldn’t beat the second helping of Rage.
“Toejam!” “Big Earl!” Who knew that two hip-hop aliens would have so much fun in a game such as this? Toejam and Earl helped redefine the era of 16- bit gaming thanks to a number of innovative features, such as being able to play in two-player co-op; earning a ranking through a system that, at one point, labels you a “weiner”; and the open world generation, which was never the same way twice. Throw in a sound effects mode and hours of fun exploration, and you have a game for the ages.
And that sets a nice stage for the return of the series with Back In the Groove, which is set to hit platforms early next year. Because you just can’t keep an alien hip-hop party down. Jammin’!
One of Sega’s unlikeliest hits came from one of its “out of the blue” partners. Treasure, a team made up of former Konami employees that wanted to try something new, produced the game literally out of nowhere. But Gunstar’s legacy suddenly grew, and the next thing you know, it became one of the most popular games for the platform. Packing exciting run and gun action with sharp visual effects and fun stage design, Gunstar packs a punch with each turn it takes.
We’ve seen Gunstar Super Heroes since then for the Game Boy Advance, as well as a number of ports for new systems. But it’s about time we get a true sequel that shows what this gun-running duo is made of. What say you, Treasure?
While some players may argue that The Revenge of Shinobi is the true sequel in the series (particularly with guest appearances by Batman and Spider-Man -- unofficially, mind you), we dig Shinobi III and everything it has to offer. With better visuals and music combined with razor sharp gameplay and thrilling scenarios (the surfing stage is still tops in our list), Shinobi III helped redefine ninja action as we know it, standing tall alongside Ninja Gaiden for the original NES.
Now we could use another go around with Joe Musashi, especially since he’s still got his ninja magic intact. C’mon, Sega!
A truly wild title from one of Sega’s smaller development teams, Comix Zone created a unique beat-em-up experience like no other. In it, the creator of a comic book finds himself sucked into his own world, taking on adversaries while trying to fight his way out of the pages. With a number of sweet power-ups -- and a helpful pet rat -- this game won us over with its approach and stylish design. Not to mention that it’s fun as hell smacking people through comic panels. Let’s see Batman do that.
We’ll probably never see a sequel, but the original game is still celebrated in collections like Sega Genesis Classics. So at least you can see where the whole story began…
While the Sega Genesis was the king of platformers, we didn’t really see too many that set a gold standard. However, Disney’s Aladdin was something special, featuring the savvy of David Perry and his team at Virgin, along with music from Tommy Tallarico and full support from Disney. That means the game was jam-packed with official animation from the studio, along with fun platforming antics that matched the rhythm of the animated film. As a result, Aladdin became one of the most authentic -- and beloved -- movie-to-game ports ever made.
And this would later lead to other releases that did quite well in the platforming department, including Earthworm Jim and Rocket Knight Adventures. Hey, the more the merrier!
The Sega Genesis was home to a number of near-perfect arcade ports that were truly satisfying to play. However, one game that set the mark right off the map is Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, a faithful translation of the Capcom arcade game. In it, Arthur returns to rescue his princess once more, taking on a slew of new stages filled with dangerous enemies. All the while, he can power up with new weapons to clean house with -- which he’ll need, considering the bosses in this game pose a greater threat.
Obviously, we’d see even sharper arcade games for Genesis down the road, but, man, there was something magical about those Ghouls…
We’re obviously getting some wonderful comic book games these days, but back on the Genesis, you really didn’t see them that often. That said, the original X-Men was pretty good. But leave it to Clone Wars to go above and beyond, providing you access to even more characters, as well as a story ripped straight out of the comic book pages.
Not only that, but X-Men 2 is simply a joy to play, packed with special abilities for each character (not just Wolverine) that are fun to execute. Plus Beast finally gets a turn to kick butt and take names. And boy, does he.
While we’re a fan of other games that came down the pike as well (looking at you, Amazing Spider-Man), we can’t help but recommend X-Men 2 the most. These Clone Wars rock.
When it came to role-playing games, the Sega Genesis got its fair share, including some Phantasy Star sequels, as well as oddball favorites like Crusader of Centy. But fans of tactical role-playing action knew they could depend on the Shining Force series, particularly the second game, which stands as one of the strongest, if not the strongest, entries in the series. Featuring an incredible amount of depth within its story and battle tactics, Shining Force II could be played for hours and never lose an ounce of its freshness, mainly due to engaging characters and lots of surprises.
While we don’t see too many classics to turn to these days, Shining Force II is a treat that no well-deserving fan of the genre should resist.
Some of you might be going, “What the hell is Herzog Zwei?” Well, it’s a real-time strategy game made for the Sega Genesis, featuring transforming techs that you can utilize for strong forms of combat. The game was developed by Technosoft, the developers behind the Thunder Force series, and while it wasn’t your typical shooter, it did develop some amazing strategies that would stick with players for some time. It would also set up the MOBA genre as we know it, with its real-time battle tactics and spiffy visuals.
Oh, and you can totally play against a friend. We didn’t see too many Genesis games that offered this ability, so, yes, we’ll happily take it. There’s a good reason why the folks that made Warcraft and Starcraft were heavily inspired by this classic.
What are your favorite Genesis games?