The 100 Best Sega Genesis Games…Ever (100-81)!

evolveteam August 11, 2014 2
Best Sega Genesis Games
Words by Anthony Barbetta, Collin Hughes, Ian Freeman, Jager Robinson, Ryan Scott, and Alex Bracetti

A quarter-century ago, Sega made a power move that would define its legacy in the gaming industry—ushering in the 16-bit era with the Genesis aka Mega Drive. Granted the company’s previous console, the Master System, achieved moderate success in the states, the Hawaii-founded business still found itself playing second fiddle to Nintendo and its industry leading NES console. Looking towards the future, Sega not only created a game-changer that made all 8-bit machines look inferior, but also propelled the brand to mainstream success.

Great hardware, solid graphics, and a variety of flagship titles that dominated most of the ‘90s gaming scene, the gaming community had much to be thankful for. So in celebration of the console’s 25th Anniversary on the US market, Evolve goes into nostalgic mode and ranks the 100 Best Sega Genesis Games…Ever!

We’re kicking things off by running through 100 – 81. Stay tuned and see where your favorites land, as we’ll be counting down to the No. 1 spot throughout the week.

100. Altered Beast

Developer/Publisher: Sega
Year: 1989
After garnering such a huge response on the arcade scene, Sega made Altered Beast a primary launch title for the Genesis system. Featuring a resurrected centurion whom Zeus sends on a mission to rescue his daughter Athena and blessed with hybrid transformation powers, the game pushed the envelope in terms of cinematics and multifaceted gameplay. The ability to change into different creatures such as a bear, half dragon, and werewolf really exemplified the console’s raw graphical power, becoming one of the better arcade ports out. Rise from your grave! —Freeman

99. Mega Man: The Wily Wars

Developer/Publisher: Minakuchi Engineering/Capcom
Year: 1995
The first Mega Man installment to appear on a console that wasn’t manufactured by Nintendo, Wily Wars was a collection of the first three games in the series, remade for the 16-bit machine. Capcom upgraded the visuals to present a refreshing take on the original titles, re-drawing all of the characters minus Protoman, while granting access to choose from any 8 of the 22 Robot Master weapons when entering the Wily Tower. Controls and gameplay remained identical to its NES counterparts, which was welcoming for platform fanatics. Overall, Wily Wars was a great collection for any newbie to own that never experienced the Blue Bomber during his glory days. —Bracetti

98. Ultimate Mortal Kombat III

Developer/Publisher: Midway
Year: 1995
Essentially an update on MK3, this version was a significant improvement that made fans appreciate and re-enjoy the original. Bringing back the ninja characters Kiatana, Jade, Reptile, and Scorpion that were removed from the previous title, two new modes that allowed for even more bloody chaos, and revised graphics, Midway took an already amazing game and enhanced it in almost every way. The tournament mode was always a great way to bring friends together for a competitive slaughter. Beating enemies on the ‘Master’ difficulty also yielded greater rewards than on standard or hard mode. Gaining the chance to play as Shao Khan and Motaro as well gave this game a competitive edge it never lost. —Barbetta


Developer/Publisher: Sega
Year: 1990
The futuristic side-scrolling shooter stole its inspiration from the original Robocop film, taking a cop who is transformed into a cyborg to clean up the streets of a future mega-tropolis. However, whereas Robocop assumes his robot half relatively early in his movie, the transition is more drawn out in ESWAT, taking place incrementally as the player progresses through the levels. The weaponry is far more awesome—one of the more powerful unlockable guns is actually named the Kill Everyone Fire Weapon. Not to mention the honest-to-goodness rocket launcher. The graphics are detailed and the color pallet is vibrant, perfectly complementing the futuristic, but wacky tone of the game. —Scott

96. Chakan: The Forever Man

Developer/Publisher: Extended Play Productions/Sega
Year: 1992
Based on Robert A. Kraus’ comic book, the action platformer gained attention for its “uncommonly dark premise” and absurdly high difficulty level. Thrown into a central hub where players have the luxury of choosing one of four elemental-based worlds–Air, Earth, Fire, and Water–Chakan must go through each world and its three levels. Even with an array of weapons and infinite lives, the game proved to be a torture fest for hardcore gamers determined to beat it. The potion system was one that required mastering, as it was the only way to survive a world, though all hand-created potions were extremely limited. It was an accomplishment alone to reach the boss battles. And knowing that if you died and were sent back to the hub, just to go through the same plane, only encouraged one to be on their A-game. —Bracetti

95. Virtual Bart

Developer/Publisher: Sculptured Software/Acclaim
Year: 1994
Virtual Bart was an ideal Simpsons game based heavily on the humor of the television show. Bart finds himself in a virtual world where he must complete six missions to get back home. We’re talking typical old-school video game story here. Each level consisted of fun and whacky themes like dirt bike riding to hurling throwing tomatoes at the Springfield Elementary staff and students. Each level pretty much played out like a different genre of video game, adding to its authenticity. It’s goofy by default, but the notion of playing as Springfield’s most infamous prankster was enough to draw most fans into playing it. —Hughes

94. Side Pocket

Developer/Publisher: Data East
Year: 1992
Side Pocket is arguably the greatest billiards simulation ever created, and for several reasons. It carried a realistic approach from the “photo-realistic” player models to the smooth shot mechanics that made the cue sport more fun to play at home than at the local bar. The trick shot mini-games and mode became addictive at times, as perfecting all 19 challenges was the only real way of progressing to the final round. Making your way across the nation at various tournaments only spurred us on with every victory, each one being tougher than the previous. —Bracetti

93. Rambo III

Developer/Publisher: Ocean/Taito, Sega
Year: 1989
Based on the popular film sequel, Rambo III was your classic run and gunner in the style of Commando and Mercs, but with the added wrinkle of changing visual perspectives. For the majority of the game, you controlled Rambo from an overhead mode–bombing, knifing, and shooting baddids–then jump into a POV-esque view to take down enemy choppers with explosive arrows. Presentation was on-point. —Freeman

92. Ys III: Wanderers From Ys

Developer/Publisher: Riot/Various
Year: 1991
Slightly different from its predecessors, this third installment in the Ys series ditched the traditional top-down perspective in favor of the side-scrolling approach. Ys III is often praised for its immense amount of depth and interesting RPG mechanics such as active statistics, shopping, experience system, and magic elements. In fact, many gamers have gone on record stating they’ve played more than 25 hours of gameplay. Talk about an incredible feat for one of the 16-bit generation’s earlier RPGs. —Robinson

91. After Burner II

Developer/Publisher: Sega AM2/Sega
Year: 1990
Riding on the popularity of Top Gun, After Burner II put players in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat directly from the comforts of their living room. This sequel added a throttle for controlling speed, faster missile firing, and a handful more stages to the fun that the original offered. Can’t forget the cool wait-for-start sequence with the rotating spheres being blasted by missiles. What didn’t get added was absolutely ANY power-ups to help you in this hectic version. The levels grew to become frenetic and the hectic pacing added to the thrill ride. —Hughes

90. Gain Ground

Developer/Publisher: Sega
Year: 1988
One of the classic co-op action-strategy games of the late ‘80s, Gain Ground has proven successful enough to be re-released numerous times in a variety of platforms. Players control a party of three characters (out of 20 playable choices) plowing through 50 hostile levels. Weapon choices were fantastic, offering you the option to take down opponents with everything from bazookas to tridents. The cramped view accommodated the game’s pace, especially when navigating characters out of levels. Ten newly designed levels made the Genesis version the definitive one to own. —Scott

89. Dune II: Battle for Arrakis

Developer/Publisher: Westwood Studios / Virgin INteractive
Year: 1993
Based on the 1984 sci-fi cult-classic novel, Dune II was a successor that surpassed the original Dune video game. While it wasn’t the first RTS, many view it as a cornerstone for the genre that influenced several other major franchises: including Command and Conquer, Starcraft and many others. Players relied on boldness and strategy to conquer and explore the landscape. Taking control of houses and trying to rest control from the other houses by building, mining, and defending them against other threats like giant sandworms was all in a day’s work. —Freeman

88. Sunset Riders

Developer/Publisher: Konami
Year: 1992
A side-scrolling shoot’em up that places you in the shoes of two bounty hunters in the Old West, the Genesis version of Sunset Riders redesigned the stages of the arcade original and added new bonus challenges and a two-player versus mode. The game is entirely tongue-in-cheek, and presents a wacky, yet hilarious vision of the gunslinger era. Unlike the dusty monochromatic landscape we’ve seen in most Hollywood films, the environments of Sunset Riders are vibrant and exploding with color. The characters are no exception either from their wardrobe to their weapons. It was Konami’s answer to Gun.Smoke, only more rad. —Scott

87. Madden ‘95

Developer/Publisher: High Score Productions/EA Sports
Year: 1994
EA’s signature football franchise scored huge on Sega’s platform, which was always viewed as the superior console in terms of sports games. Everyone has their favorite Madden entry, but it was the ’95 version that really boasted numerous firsts and helped place it higher than its predecessors. It was the first game in the series to showcase no passing windows, while tracking individual player stats: in game and through the entire season. The inclusion of expansion teams (Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars) via cheat code allowed players to experience a more authentic ’95 NFL season, despite those rosters boasting the highest player ratings in the game. —Bracetti

86. Batman

Developer/Publisher: Sunsoft/Sega
Year: 1990
One of the bright spots in the Dark Knight’s gaming history was the appropriately titled Batman for the Genesis. It was based heavily off of the Tim Burton-directed film, and actually stays fairly true to the plot of the big screen adaptation, minus a few small changes. The game was basically a solidly made beat’em up, punctuated with a few vehicle-driving levels featuring both the Batmobile and Batwing. It was just as well received as the NES version. —Hughes

85. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine

Developer/Publisher: Sega Technical Institute/Sega
Year: 1993
Sonic wasn’t the only character from Sega’s flagship franchise to receive his own game, as archenemy Dr. Robotnik also received his shine with this funky little bubble-busting puzzler. In order to stop all music and fun in Mobius, the rotund mad scientist captures all the beings in Beanville and stuffs them into a giant robotizer to transform them into ‘Mean-Beans’. And the player, though not Sonic, must stop this and save Mobius. The game played very similar to most Tetris clones, match colored beans into a group of at least 4 similarly colored ones to ear points. Three different modes, a wonderful soundtrack, and various Sonic villain cameos made DRMBM all the more fun for Sonic fans. —Barbetta

84. Robocop vs. Terminator

Developer/Publisher: Virgin Games
Year: 1994
Take two of the most popular film robots of the past century, pit them against each other, and you got the action gorefest known as Robocop vs. Terminator. Virgin’s platformer creates an original storyline that connects both franchises—suggesting the technology behind our favorite robotic cop is responsible for Skynet and the post-apocalyptic future. Keeping the trigger button down and collecting power-ups along the way was the only safe cause of action, increasing the stakes past each board. The beauty behind the Genesis version was the several cheat codes that presented tons of uncensored content like blood-filled explosions and Pamela Anderson-like baddies. It certainly pushed the boundaries on violence for a 16-bit cartridge.

83. Ranger X

Developer/Publisher: GAU Entertainment/Sega
Year: 1993
When it comes to cool factor, Ranger X has it in spades. First off, piloting a giant mech will always be unquestionably awesome. The life-sized robot came equipped with a pulse rifle (basic weapon, unlimited ammo), but also had access to an array of special weapons like napalm bombs and a flamethrower. As if that wasn’t good enough, Ranger X also featured a couple of futuristic vehicles that added to the awesome playability. During gameplay, you can choose to combine these vehicles, or disengage from completely (they’ll still follow you and shoot at enemies). It’s an intense game, with a lot of meters to keep up with on the HUD, and enemies constantly firing at you from all over the screen at all times, even in the easy setting. Despite Sega doing little to market this gem when released, it remains a cult-favorite amongst console owners. —Hughes

82. Virtua Racing

Developer/Publisher: Sega AM2/Sega
Year: 1994
For today’s standards, it hardly looks like anything impressive. But when Virtua Racing was first released, it represented a huge leap forward in racing games and the use of 3D polygonal graphics. Perhaps just as significant, Sega’s racer stood out for allowing players to choose from multiple viewing angles when driving on virtual racing tracks. Though the arcade graphics had to be significantly downgraded for the Genesis, this 16-bit version still looked impressive for its day and the gameplay remained phenomenal. The game was successful enough to receive a deluxe version compatible with the Sega 32X add-on; the added power provided by the next-gen console allowed Virtua Racing Deluxe to perform much close to its arcade counterpart. —Scott

81. Battletoads & Double Dragon

Developer/Publisher: Rare/Tradewest
Year: 1993
This wild brawler delivered a great-sounding soundtrack, sharp animations, and user-friend controls that let players get more comfortable with its insane difficulty. It’s a fun offshoot of the Double Dragon franchise packed with some sweet co-op action and cool fighting combos. Fast and intuitive combat elevated the gameplay as well. —Bracetti