It was 30 years ago today, Sega released their 16-bit follow up to the Sega Master System – the Sega Genesis(or Mega Drive outside North America). For this occasion, I have made a list of my 11 favorite Genesis games. Sega’s foray into the video game home console market began with the SG-1000 which was released in 1983 in Japan oddly enough, the very same day Nintendo released the Family Computer, or Famicom. The follow up – Sega Master System was the first Sega console to be released in North America in 1986(Japan in 1985). By the late 80’s the home console market has prospered greatly and Sega was in the midst of the of a console arms race. The Sega Genesis was released on August 14, 1989 in limited areas, with the rest of North America by the end of the year. The Genesis was by far Sega’s most successful console with over 30 million units sold.
I remember our family getting a Sega Genesis for Christmas of 1993. It was the Gen. 2 model that came with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 packed in, “Santa Claus” had brought us a copy of the Aladdin game too. I remember sitting in my sister’s room playing Sonic 2 and Aladdin the rest of Christmas break from school and spending countless hours over the next several years buying and renting games. I wrote down a list of my 10 favorite Genesis games, only to discover I can’t count….so…these are my 11 favorite games.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Sega’s mascot debuted on the Master System, but Sonic 2 launched the blue hedgehog to a level of popularity that only Mario had seemed capable of reaching. Sonic’s spin dash was added as well as new sidekick Tails, which added some co-op elements to the game. With memorable levels and an iconic soundtrack, Sonic 2 is the quintessential Sega Genesis game.
Aladdin – There were many great Disney games during the 80’s and 90’s, and Aladdin is certainly one of them. An argument has always been which version of the game was better, Genesis or SNES? I prefer the former as my favorite version. The graphics, while nothing spectacular now, were quite impressive for its time. The level that always gave me the most problems as a kid was escaping the Cave of Wonders on the magic carpet, that and sitting on the edge of the screen throwing apples at Snake Jafar so I could finally beat the game.
Gunstar Heroes – I wrote about Treasure’s Gunstar Heroes a while back, saying that I always felt the game was a bit under appreciated compared to the likes of Contra or Metal Slug games. I got the game as a birthday present not knowing anything about it, but quickly became enamored what a great run and gun co-op experience it provided. Gunstar Heroes has aged remarkably well, and being included in the upcoming Mini Sega Genesis being released this September.
Street Fighter 2: Special Champion Edition – While SCE may not be considered the best version of Street Fighter 2 that Capcom released(there were MANY), it is the one that got me hooked on playing Street Fighter games. In general, fighting games on the Genesis are viewed as inferior, mostly due to the standard controller only have 3 main buttons versus the 4 face and 2 shoulder buttons of the SNES controller. I had one of the Genesis 6-button controllers so that criticism wasn’t applicable to me. I remember picking out Street Fighter 2: SCE at a Kay-Bee Toys; having previously rented the game from a local convenience store after thinking the turquoise/black cover with Guile and M. Bison fighting looked awesome.
NBA Jam – An arcade staple that most of us growing up in the 90’s will remember, Acclaim’s NBA Jam popularized arcade sports in the 90’s with its fast-paced gameplay and over-the-top dunks and announcer commentary – “BOOM-shakalaka!” “Is it the shoes?!?”. You could even play as team mascots and then-President of the USA , Bill Clinton. This was the kind of game that would gather friends around the family living room to play for hours.
The Lion King – Another Disney/Virgin Interactive game, The Lion King boasted impressive graphics and sound for 16-bit consoles, but has since become better known for being quite difficult, with a huge difficulty spike and erratic(at best) hit-detection. I played the game recently, and don’t remember for the life of me how I was able to beat this game. I remember being able to finish the game in about 30 minutes as a kid, what happened? Regardless of the game’s shortcomings, it still holds a place on my favorites list from playing this as a kid.
Vectorman – One of the first games that spring to mind when I think of my favorite Genesis games; Vectorman is an excellent action-platformer released near the end of the Genesis’ life cycle. The year is 2043 and Earth is has been rendered uninhabitable, humanity has migrated to colonies in Space(as if written by Jeff Bezos…) and left behind robots to clean up the mess. The story may bit a bit generic, but the tight gameplay and interesting levels more than made up for that. There was even a contest where you had to play through to the end of the game to find out if you won $25,000…which I didn’t <sigh>, but Vectorman is still one of my favorites.
Quackshot – I don’t exactly remember how I was first introduced to this game, but I’m glad I got to play the game. Quackshot is a Disney adventure game with Donald Duck embarking across the globe with Huey, Dewey, and Louie to find the Great Duck Treasure before Pete and his goons can get to it. An interesting element of the game was your weapons – a gun that shoots, popcorn, bubblegum, and plungers; being a Disney game after all… Quackshot in hindsight may seem pretty much “Indiana Jones meets Donald Duck”, but it remains as a really fun adventure title on the Genesis that not many people seem to remember.
Streets of Rage 2 – The Streets of Rage games are some of the most beloved games on the Sega Genesis, with Streets of Rage 2 usually being the favorite. Fighting your way through the streets and alleys as Axel or Blaze provided some of the best memories on the console, even if I still hate the elevator levels that seemed to be in every beat ’em up game back then. SNES may have had the Final Fight series, but I always preferred Streets of Rage.
Contra: Hard Corps – The Contra series is most closely associated with Nintendo consoles, along with the Konami Code – Up, UP, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start. Contra 3: Alien Wars may be the more popular game, but my favorite has always been Hard Corps on the Genesis. I don’t believe I was ever able to beat this game as a kid, only reaching the final bosses a couple times. Contra: Hard Corps has the weird characters, huge bosses, and tons of blowin’ shit up…everything you’d expect from a Contra game 🙂
Earthworm Jim – While not an exclusive, Earthworm Jim still may be my favorite Sega Genesis game as a kid. You play as Jim, an earthworm being hunted down by a psychotic crow named…Psycrow, as he is trying to save Princess What’s-her-name from the Evil Queen Slug-for-a-Butt. I loved the goofy tone and humor of this as a kid, which probably influenced my own sense of humor…for better or worse 😉 One of my favorite moments of the game is the second level – What the Heck?! in which you make your way through the fiery realm of Heck before fighting Evil the Cat. The level soundtrack begins with a snippet of composer Modest Mussorgsky’s – Night on Bald Mountain, which establishes an ominous mood, before cutting away to elevator music(muzak?) complete with pained screams in the background; the elevator music still playing as you’re being attacked by lawyers who shoot papers from their briefcase. If the game sounds weird, that’s because it is…and that’s what I love about it!
The Sega Genesis was also home to some great RPGs such the Phantasy Star games, or Shining Force; the genres of games listed stick mostly to action/adventure games as I was still learning to expand my “gaming palette”. Have you played any of the games mentioned above? What are some of your favorite Genesis games? Let me know in the comments. Until next time…