The 100 Best Sega Genesis Games…Ever (40-21)!

evolveteam August 14, 2014 0
Best Sega Genesis Games
Words by Anthony Barbetta, Collin Hughes, Ian Freeman, Jager Robinson, Ryan Scott, and Alex Bracetti

If you didn’t know, today marks the official 25th anniversary of the Sega Genesis launch in the US. The weeklong celebration continues as we head into Day 4 of the countdown. From game-changing RPGs to several underrated platformers, see which titles come in at 40 – 21.

The 100 Best Sega Genesis Games…Ever (100-81)
The 100 Best Sega Genesis Games…Ever (80-61)
The 100 Best Sega Genesis Games…Ever (60-41)

40. Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole

Developer/Publisher: Climax Entertainment/Sega
Year: 1993
The isometric action-RPG deviates from the epic battles and life-or-death stakes of traditional role-playing games to tell the tale of a conceited treasure hunter, Nigel, searching for the buried loot of the titular deceased King Nole. Though this story may sound boring to gamers reared on Final Fantasy, its quirky writing and phenomenal character development make Landstalker’s narrative surprisingly endearing. It also deviates significantly from other RPGs in terms of the combat system, as there are no experience points, and you can only improve Nigel’s capabilities by finding better weapons and Life Points scattered throughout the game world. The game is sometimes hampered by a clunky control scheme, but its dungeons are well designed and the puzzles are legitimately challenging. Landstalker was supposed to get a remake for the PSP back in 2005, but since it seems that was not in the cards, we’ll content ourselves with the 16-bit version. —Scott

39. Quackshot

Developer/Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios/Sega
Year: 1991
Quackshot was basically Indiana Jones set in the Disney universe, only with a more temperamental protagonist in Donald Duck. The adventure platformer took Donald and his nephews across the globe on a treasure hunt, presenting comical dialogue, fun environments, and familiar characters along the way. Despite many claiming it was too easy, make no mistake, as it took several tries to master the campaign. The quick travel menu and whacky weapon selection that included bubbles, popcorn, and different colored plungers with special capabilities made it feel like an small-screen Disney cinematic. —Robinson

38. Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Developer/Publisher: Sonic Team/Sega
Year: 1994
There was a time, believe it or not, when people looked forward to a new Sonic the Hedgehog installment. The series’ third entry is a definite highlight of Sega’s Golden Age, and it’s notable for the introduction of the Master Emerald, and of course, Knuckles. Though the red-haired echidna was not playable at this point. Sonic 3’s narrative isn’t the most creative—seeing Dr. Robotnik trying to steal the Chaos Emeralds…again—but the game’s real-world development history is a fascinating tale. It originally included the content that comprises of Sonic and Knuckles, before developmental problems forced Sonic Team to split the two games apart. Additionally, Michael Jackson was supposed to compose music for the game, but ended up leaving the project because he was unhappy with the sound reproduction qualities of the Genesis. Rumor has it that several of the game’s background tracks still feature music composed by Jackson. —Scott

37. Populous

Developer/Publisher: Bullfrog/EA
Year: 1990
If there is one thing that strategy titles like Populous have taught us is that playing a deity is not only challenging, but also massively rewarding. Playing the part of a God with the job of manipulating people in order to establish a civilization, for the sake of conquering the force of another deity, the game was a refreshing take on the genre that caught the interest of most PCers. With over 500 levels where citizens and enemies can live, it required a distinct level of micromanagement to keep this game going for longer stretches. The player also had a Mana bar that allowed them to use their divine powers and increase their civilian counts by having them build houses. The advantage of an Isometric view and icons helped pan out the view to see more of what was transpiring on screen. Sigh, just another example of Peter Molyneux being ahead of the curve.——Barbetta

36. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist

Developer/Publisher: Konami
Year: 1992
After achieving massive success on the NES and SNES platforms with the Turtles franchise, Konami offered up an original title for the Genesis—the first and only TMNT platformer the console would ever see. Nonetheless, it was worthy of owning. It borrowed heavily from Turtles in Time, but had the heroes in a half shell face off against old foe Shredder, who is in possession the Hyperstone and is now planning on using it to rule the world. Two-player co-op remained fun, bringing that same arcade action to the home entertainment system with fluid combat, special moves, and a variety of combos that worked great when swamped by tons of Foot Clan members. —Freeman

35. Ristar

Developer/Publisher: Sega
Year: 1995
You want to talk underrated? Throw this cutesy platformer into any gaming conversation and see what surprising reactions you garner. Ristar borrowed a series of elements from other titles in the platformer genre, though it executed them far better than most. The combination of side-scrolling action and puzzle solving made it exciting enough to land on most critics’ radars, with the crowd falling for its fun soundtrack and vivid animations. It was one of those titles where you couldn’t knock it till trying it, and those who did found great enjoyment. —Bracetti

34. Rolling Thunder 3

Developer/Publisher: Now Production/Namco
Year: 1993
The third installment proved to be the best in the series, not only because it worked out the kinks of the first two, but also because Namco added a ton of new special weapons to make playing a covert agent all the more exciting. Flamethrowers, shotguns, and hand grenades…dope. Expanding on the gameplay was the inclusion of vehicle-based levels via jet ski and motorcycle, along with the clever fake out towards the end when you think the villain has been taken down, only to have your plane ride home hijacked by terrorists, where two more playable levels lead you to the actual final confrontation. Rolling Thunder 3 had the firepower to hold its own as one of the elite action-adventure games of its generation. —Hughes

33. Super Street Fighter 2

Developer/Publisher: Capcom
Year: 1993
Following in the success of its previous Street Fighter II releases, Capcom brought its latest arcade upgrade to home consoles, retaining its crisp presentation and adding four new characters to the soiree: Cammy, Dee Jay, Fei Long, and T.Hawk. The developers implemented a number of adjustments from new moves to polished attacks, along with a scoring system that kept track of combo points based on ‘First Hit’ and ‘Counters’ executions. Throw in higher definition graphics and smoother gameplay, it was hard to walk way from Super Street Fighter II. —Barbetta

32. Columns

Developer/Publisher: Sega
Year: 1990
During the late ‘80s, Tetris had everyone on smash and made all other puzzlers irrelevant. That was until Sega launched its own jewel-dropping-and-matching offering in Columns. The ability to customize challenges when in two-player mode provided a fresh take on the genre, along with the originally composed soundtrack. Columns became addictive the more you played it and remains one of the top puzzlers to play with friends. —Bracetti

31. Gaiares

Developer/Publisher: Telenet Japan/Renovation
Year: 1990
Top-down shooters were extremely prevalent for early-gen systems and Gaiares was a prime example. In the year 3000, humans have made Earth uninhabitable and a group of space pirates wish to use the pollution to create weapons of mass destruction. Stepping in the space aircraft of Dan Dare, it’s on you to defeat the pirates or risk Earth’s existence. Unquestionably one of the console’s tougher games, let alone the genre, Gaiares was simply Ghouls N’ Ghosts hard from the way you collected weapons by copying them to the boss battles that pushed the hardware to its very limits. Nothing about the game seems small, and its impact is still felt amongst space shooter conformists. —Barbetta

30. Rocket Knight Adventures

Developer/Publisher: Konami
Year: 1993
From the same mind that created Contra III: Alien Wars and Hard Corps, Nobuya Nazakato, this fast-paced action platformer is revered as a cult-classic by the hardcore community. The charming story and soundtrack were just two of the many facets that made the game awesome. Though it was in the more intricate details such as the intense gameplay, sharp controls, and striking level design that crushed our expectations. Considering Konami’s track record at the time, we should’ve known better. And now we do. —Bracetti

29. Shining in the Darkness

Developer/Publisher: Climax Entertainment, Sonic! Software Planning/Sega
Year: 1991
An RPG beloved by most Sega fanboys, this dungeon crawler stood out from the competition thanks to its intriguing approach. Its play style followed the basic role-playing formula with dungeons, predetermined boss monsters, and random encounters. However, the simplistic interface featuring icons and menu options made the game simpler to play (and understand). Not to mention it was one of the first to offer “optional” tasks in any dungeon, changing the outcome of the story by rescuing people. Bright it all in with a compelling story of heroism and you’ve got an elite RPG for the ages. —Barbetta

28. Splatterhouse 3

Developer/Publisher: Now Production/Namco
Year: 1993
The third volume in the Splatterhouse saga puts Rick, our hero 5 years removed from the events of the previous game, against a plague of monsters and the Evil One who now has eyes on his family. Rick must again put on the Terror Mask to save the day. Splatterhouse 3 ratched things up by featuring more bloodshed and moving away from its side-scrolling roots, becoming more of a non-linear exploration game that had you racing through levels before time ran out. Every time the clock hit zero, the outcome of the game changed dramatically and affected the ending, which was one of four players could encounter. Did you save your wife? Is your son still alive? Could you save either of them? The near-choose-your-own-adventure tinge presented by this timing element was purely sinister and added to the game’s dramatic presence, especially when reaching the end and being unaware of the consequences bestowed onto the characters. It was one of the first games that Sega’s Videogame Rating Council reviewed and rated, earning an MA-13 rating because of its gore and violence. That never stopped 12 year olds from renting a copy. —Freeman

27. Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker

Developer/Publisher: AM7/Sega
Year: 1990
Bizarre in beauty, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker is ostensibly based on the 1998 film of the same name. Though while the film is nothing more than a collection of the musician’s music videos, the Genesis version was a enhanced arcade port that offered more substance. Players controlled Jackson as he rescued children from the villainous Mr. Big, using combat moves based on similar dance routines: including leg kicks and the trademark fedora fling across the screen. Playing off the small-screen featurette, the game also featured the musician transforming into a cyborg via comet, even closing with a first-person flight simulator level that let you control Jackson as a spaceship to fight Mr. Big’s personal war craft. Hands down one of the best arcade ports ever made. —Scott

26. Strider

Developer/Publisher: Capcom/SEGA
Year: 1990
Capcom’s domination of 1990 was summed up best by this platformer. Strider dominated the arcade scene with its high-flying action and original gameplay, which translated great on the 16-bit console, therefore becoming the company’s first major hit of the decade pre-Street Fighter II. Everything from the controls to the extreme storyline of Strider Hiryu saving the world from the evil Grandmaster Meio resonated with gamers. Though it was the boss battles, primarily the encounter against the mechanical monkey known as Mecha Pon, that remains engraved in our minds. —Robinson

25. Mutant League Football

Developer/Publisher: EA
Year: 1993
While most sports fans developed an infatuation for the Madden series, many can all agree that EA’s post-apocalyptic football game was just more fun to play. Mutant League Football ran on the Madden ‘93 engine, but took gridiron action to a more extreme level by placing aliens, monsters, robots, and yes, humans on the field. It embraced the concept of cheating by letting players bribe referee to make calls in their favor. Then there was the option to send an entire team to kill him, resulting in a standard penalty. Smashmouth football at its finest. —Bracetti

24. The Revenge of Shinobi

Developer/Publisher: Sega
Year: 1989
As one of Sega’s earlier and more prestige franchises in the late ’80s, Revenge of Shinobi had big shoes to fill because of its well-received predecessor on the Master System. The follow-up didn’t disappoint, stepping into the role of master ninja Joe Musashi as he fights the evil Neo Zeed organization to save his kidnapped girlfriend. The shurikens and simple sword play were fun, though the main character’s unique ninja powers pushed the gameplay further, being able to deliver a room-clearing special that wiped out the baddies. Each level was creatively designed, demonstrating back- and foregrounds that Joe can jump between, adding an interesting level of strategy to navigating the terrain. Speaking of terrain, each level has you traversing through crazy 90’s-esque cityscapes with enemies like soldiers, evil ninjas, and nuns that turn out to be psycho stripper killer ladies–all elements that make for a cool ninja game. —Hughes

23. Flashback: The Quest of Identity

Developer/Publisher: Delphine Software/U.S. Gold
Year: 1992
Fun fact: Flashback is currently the best-selling French game of all time. While overlooked by domestic audiences, those who actually Blockbuster’d the cinematic platformer enjoyed its wonderful design and presentation. Flashback featured wonderfully hand-drawn backdrops and is one of few games to use rotoscope-style animation. This fluidity in graphics allowed the player to be more immersed in the storyline. A standard guy named Conrad losing all his memory and venturing through a story arc where he must claim back his past sounds straightforward, but the game proved to be anything but predictable. It was an overlooked gem that’s earned its spot on every major Top 100 list. —Robinson

22. X-Men 2: The Clone Wars

Developer/Publisher: Headgames/Sega
Year: 1995
This sequel brought some great changes to the fold including easier difficulty levels, more fluid gameplay, and a wider variety of playable characters from the comic series—each boasting their own signature powers that were advantageous during certain levels. From the moment the console was powered on, Clone Wars began on a strong note, presenting what was known as a ‘Cold Open,’ which involved throwing players into the game immediately before seeing the title screen. The story being well adapted from the comic arc running at the time of release captured the interest of fans, becoming the greatest Marvel game on the Genesis. —Barbetta

21. Wonderboy in Monster World

Developer/Publisher: Westone/Sega
Year: 1992
The follow-up to the universally praised Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap originally released on the Master System had been anticipated for years. Sega finally released it on the Genesis to great fanfare. Following the story of hero Shion as he looks to restore peace in Monster World, the game emphasized strongly on adventure-esque elements that didn’t stray to far away from the Legend of Zelda franchise, only more platformer-inspired. Combat remains standard with the ability to equip several forms of armor, items, and weapons: all upgradeable. Using inns as save points eased the difficulty level. The inclusion of several companion characters such as a dwarf who can dig up items and a reaper that throw sickles was fun as well. Overall, Monster World was a successful transition point for the series that deserved its own follow-up. —Barbetta