The 100 Best Sega Genesis Games…Ever (20-1)!

evolveteam August 15, 2014 1
Best Sega Games Ever
Words by Anthony Barbetta, Collin Hughes, Ian Freeman, Jager Robinson, Ryan Scott, and Alex Bracetti

We’ve come into the final stretch of our countdown, ready to unveil the No. 1 game of the Sega Genesis era. The competition is tough, as we reminisce on critically acclaimed RPGs, game-changing shooters, and perennial platformers that defined the console’s legacy. Indulge in the nostalgia as we go through the final 20 entries and conclude our feature on the 100 Best Sega Genesis Games…Ever!

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

20. Mega Bomberman

Developer/Publisher: Hudson Soft/Sega
Year: 1994
The only game in the Bomberman series to be released on the Sega console, this variation is actually a port of the TurboGrafx-16 version, and just as fun. Though some music cues were changed in the port, the classic Bomberman gameplay remains intact, and the developers even integrated some exclusive coin-collecting bonus levels for good measure. The puzzler boasts a story mode revolving around the invasion of Bomber Planet by the evil Bagular forces, leaving the protagonist White Bomber to locate mystical coin fragments for the sake of saving the planet. OK. So coherent narratives are not the strong suite of the series. But no one plays a Bomberman game for the story. And the phenomenal puzzle mechanics more than make up for any narrative shortcomings. —Scott

19. Comix Zone

Developer/Publisher: Sega Technical Institute/Sega
Year: 1995
A live-action comic in the form of a video game, Comix Zone oozed of geek fodder. Players controlled a comic artist who after his book is struck by lightning; the graphic novel’s villain gains consciousness and seeks to venture into the real world. Once pulled into the comic, it’s on you to save the world you created by defeating the baddies, getting the girl, and returning home. Comix Zone shined most because of its comic panel presentation, impressive detailing, and vibrant graphics, which took full advantage of the console’s processing power. It was pretty much like playing your favorite graphic novel. —Freeman

18. Shadow Dancer

Developer/Publisher: Sega
Year: 1990
Sega fanboys will argue that the other Shinobi Genesis installments were superior to Shadow Dancer. Keep telling yourself that. This spin-off brought the most originality from the 16-bit entries. The side-scroller featured difficult boss battles and introduced a controllable sidekick in the form of a dog that attacked enemies when melee attacks were out of the question. Even the level designs were on point, as we ventured throughout New York City wiping out ninjas and found ourselves fighting near the top of the Statue of Liberty at one point. Mixing things up were the game’s bonus levels, in which the protagonist falls from the top of a building, throwing shurikens down at climbing enemies—think Galaga but in reverse. —Scott

17. Contra: Hard Corps

Developer/Publisher: Konami
Year: 1994
Before hand, the only way to play a Contra game was at the arcade or on a Nintendo system (Game Boy, NES or SNES). Konami not only demonstrated their third-party love for Sega, but also showed its support for the franchise, creating an all-new adventure for the Genesis. Hard Corps was a marvel on so many different levels from its extended roster of playable characters to the multiple story paths. The game stood true to the series roots, keeping intact the shoot’em up format and insanely difficult boss battles. Interestingly enough, the Konami Code isn’t present in this here, which crushed our spirits when considering the Japanese version of the game allowed for multiple hits before death. Despite the one-hit eliminations, Sega devotees praised Hard Corps for its chaotic backdrops and levels, along with its unrelenting difficulty. —Robinson

16. Desert Strike

Developer/Publisher: EA
Year: 1992
Only EA to could make a game that banked off of the Gulf War. And while morally it sounds reprehensible for modern-day standards, we all loved playing it. The story was pretty straightforward; a crazy general seizes control of a wealthy Gulf emirate and installs himself as dictator. The US and the world are horrified by these actions, but while other countries seek diplomacy, the US is ready to kick ass by sending out its best Apache pilots. Players took control of the helicopter and pilot it through waves of soldiers and artillery. The formula for gameplay was identical to other shooters, though it offered some subtle tweaks like the ability to choose different co-pilots, each one having a different effect on the battlefield. Think the Bushes received a co-writing credit for this? —Freemanc

15. Streets of Rage

Developer/Publisher: Sega
Year: 1991
The original Streets of Rage paved the way for ‘90s brawlers with its combo-heavy gameplay, brilliant soundtrack, diverse character lineup, and unique level design. Sega’s beat’em up welcomed many innovative gameplay elements at the time from tag-team combat to calling the police for assistance, in which they’d appear in a squad car and make it rain bullets, rockets, etc. onto threatening crowds. Plus the fact that you can engage in co-op play via story mode, then choose to fight each other at the end to become the head of a crime syndicate was unprecedented at the time. While it didn’t reinvent the genre, SOR certainly upped the ante in terms of diversity. —Robinson

14. Aladdin

Developer/Publisher: Virgin Games/SEGA
Year: 1993
The debate has been open for discussion for the past two decades. That being which is better: the Genesis or SNES version of Aladdin? No matter the decision, we can all agree the gaming adaptation of the classic film remains one of finer points of the 16-bit era. Virgin Games managed to recreate the authentic experience of the movie by contracting the original Disney animators, delivering a signature style of animation only present in the studio’s big-screen outings. Although simple in nature, following Aladdin through memorable locations within the movie seemed special. Aladdin would go on to win several Best Sega Genesis awards throughout the year, while remaining one of the console’s top rentals. —Robinson

13. NHL ‘94

Developer/Publisher: EA Canada and High Score Productions/ EA Sports
Year: 1993
Considered one of the best sports games of all time, NHL ‘94 built upon the revolutionary ‘93 engine built for NHLPA. Using four game modes—Exhibition, Playoffs (single game), Playoffs (seven game series) and Shootout Mini Games—EA’s hockey game was accepted for its realism and style. The game even helped generate buzz for several teams and caused people to become enthralled in the sport. One player in particular, Jeremy Roenick, actually became the most popular NHL player of 1994 due to the games high rating for the Chicago Blackhawks player. In a controversial move, fighting was taken out of the game to promote safe gameplay, but surprisingly the removed mechanic helped the game excel in all other facets. Overall, NHL ‘94 changed many gamers opinions on the genre and stands as the greatest Genesis sports game ever. —Robinson

12. Street Fighter II: Special Championship Edition

Developer/Publisher: Capcom
Year: 1993
Capcom’s decision to bring its biggest fighting game ever to the console was huge. But the fact that it bundled not one, but two versions—Championship Edition and Turbo—into one cartridge was epic. The ports translated incredibly well from the arcade to the Genesis, as the animations and fighting was seamless in execution. Nevertheless, the game was most remembered for serving as the main platform to introduce what’s arguably the greatest video game controller ever: the six-button gamepad. From there, Sega’s three-button peripheral became an artifact to most gamers.—Bracetti

11. Shining Force II

Developer/Publisher: Sonic! Software Planning/Sega
Year: 1994
One of the first JRPGs to win over a western audience, Shining Force II was, and still is an incredible role player that is always mentioned in most “Top 100 Games of All Time” lists. The secret behind its popularity was in its simplicity: a strategy-based RPG game, much like Fire Emblem, that focuses heavily on tactics by making choices actually count for something. Many of the gameplay elements employed began trends in gaming conventions that live on today. For one thing, the sheer amount of characters that could join a team, and all the different weapons and abilities at their disposal was amazing, letting you level and upgrade each character’s job class, some in multiple ways. Character development affected overall team performance, so they needed to be strengthened in advance before entering a bind with an unbalanced party. —Hughes

10. Vectorman

Developer/Publisher: BlueSky Software/Sega
Year: 1995
An original run-and-gunner developed under the Sega umbrella, Vectorman is notable for its pre-rendered 3D models and backgrounds, which gave it some of the best-looking graphics ever seen for a 16-bit title. In fact, the game was made in response to the marketing campaign of Rare’s first Donkey Kong Country, which claimed that the pre-rendered 3D sprites of that game would be impossible on the Genesis. Though not particularly long, lasting only 16 levels, VM was surprisingly difficult and remained frustrating on the first playthrough. However, its non-stop action and the variety of ways in which Vectorman could wreak havoc on his enemies—besides the many guns available, Vectorman can turn into a drill and bomb—made it a must-have for Genesis owners. —Scott

9. Castlevania: Bloodlines

Developer/Publisher: Konami
Year: 1994
With so many installments in the Castlevania line having been released up to this point, it was great to see such a marveling addition to the franchise in the form of Bloodlines. The storyline revolved around Dracula’s niece Elizabeth Bartley plotting a war in order to revive her uncle, but has her plans foiled by demon slayers Eric Lecarde and John Morris. Between the title’s distinct level designs, extremely intense boss fights, and the introduction of branching levels based on character choice, Bloodline’s variety of gameplay was unmatched. While it’s easily a Top 10 selection for any Genesis roundup, it is arguably one of the franchise’s 5 best installments. —Barbetta

8. M.U.S.H.A.

Developer/Publisher: Compile/Toaplan/Seismic
Year: 1990
The vertical-scrolling shooter was the most wanted Genesis import ever. Wait…what? Yes, M.U.S.H.A. was never released in the US and only reserved for international crowds, until its Virtual Console launch several years back. Advanced gameplay mechanics and visuals were just two of the main reasons why hardcore gamers yearned for a hands-on with the game. The ability to control extra drones that follow you for extra firepower was awesome, offering dynamic controls that allowed the flying robots to be managed separately or run in free mode. Impressive on all fronts, it certainly tested our will to survive a barrage of baddies and bullets, earning its spot on most top 10 shooter lists. —Robinson

7. Sonic & Knuckles

Developer/Publisher: Sonic Team/ Sega Technical Institute/Sega
Year: 1994
Sonic & Knuckles proved Sega was ahead of its time during the ‘90s, setting itself apart from all platformers and even its predecessors via lock-on technology. Nearly identical to Sonic 3, the fourth Genesis title gained acclaim as a standalone game, but mainly for its expansion capabilities, which opened the lane for dual-venture—playing as frenemy, Knuckles–revisiting the previous two sequels as the character. This created am endless exploration experience, as the red Echidna carried the awesome talent of climbing surfaces. It never felt this good to play as baddie. —Robinson

6. Beyond Oasis

Developer/Publisher: Ancient/Sega
Year: 1994
Despite the Wonderboy series serving as Sega’s flagship action-adventure franchise, Beyond Oasis was deemed the company’s real answer to the Legend of Zelda series. Those who ventured into the kingdom of Oasis witnessed the beautifully designed and wonderful environments that were only rivaled by the combat system and puzzle elements. The interesting button layout forced players to use timing cues to activate different attacks, resulting in dynamic and fluid movements. Critics found the gameplay mechanics to be so unique, many have placed it on the same plateau as another timeless RPG: Secret of Mana. What more can be said. —Robinson

5. Shadowrun

Developer/Publisher: BlueSky Software/Sega
Year: 1994
Developed from the cyberpunk pen & paper role-playing game, Shadowrun gained a ton of notoriety for its amazing display of open-ended gameplay—labeling it as the first highly advanced RPG present the time. Granted the game only had one main character, developer BlueSky thought outside of the box by making the protagonist fully customizable through role-playing elements. What made Shadowrun such a landmark title was its incredible landscape. Taking place in 2058 Seattle, the setting is eerily similar to the ‘80’s style cyberpunk cities. With paranoia, overpopulation and trouble brewing everywhere, the environment pretty much replicated the look of Los Angeles in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. In progressing through the game, one can level their “cyberdeck” and gain hacking abilities through “the matrix” more easily. All that including a vast desolate city and extremely advanced matrix system, it’s easy to point out why Shadowrun was outstanding. —Robinson

4. Phantasy Star IV

Developer/Publisher: Sega
Year: 1995
When first released back in late 1995, the fourth installment in the Phantasy Star franchise was met with mixed reviews, primarily because the market was already embracing the 32-bit generation. Upon its revival on the Virtual Console, Genesis enthusiasts witnessed firsthand how incredible the RPG is. Phantasy Star IV was perceived as a masterpiece by role-playing fanatics for its advanced cinematic moments and quirky plot developments, while sticking to the traditional format of top-down, turned-based gameplay. The developers made it possible to view thousands of enemies and choose from hundreds of locations to visit, at the same time creating dynamic dungeons that featured well-paced gameplay. Enhanced graphics, fun battles, and a wonderful soundtrack only added to its overpriced value of a Benjamin. —Robinson

3. Streets of Rage 2

Developer/Publisher: AM7/Sega
Year: 1992
The definitive brawler for the Mega Drive, Streets of Rage 2 elevated the franchise to new heights thanks impart to its significantly improved gameplay and larger variety of playable characters. Each of the four fighters carried their own unique fighting styles, along with two special moves that allowed players to execute sweet combos only witnessed in fighting games till this point. Even the selection of baddies was increased to include jetpack-wielding loonies, Muay Thai kickboxers, and road warriors that look like something out of a Mad Max film. Co-op play proved to be its biggest attribute, as the ability to perform tag-team attacks and swap out players in between continues garnered the sequel tons of praise from the gaming community. Surely you’ll agree. —Scott

2. Gunstar Heroes

Developer/Publisher: Treasure/Sega
Year: 1992
Quite honestly…there is absolutely nothing wrong with Treasure’s shooter. Gunstar Heroes was pretty much Contra on steroids, throwing players into a chaotic storm of bullets and incredible boss fights, as well as unique mutli-layered boss designs that led to the most fluid combat scenarios conceived at the time. Even the melee action was on-point, letting players engage in grab-and-throw and sliding attacks that transitioned smoothly with the run-and-gun tempo. Seamless co-op and gunplay combined to make for an action-platformer that has yet to be rivaled on any gaming platform. —Robinson

1. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Developer/Publisher: Sonic Team/Sega
Year: 1992
Call it predictable or unsurprising, but let’s be honest with each other—Sonic 2 isn’t just the franchise’s tour de force—it’s the biggest title to lock into your Genesis console. The release of the sequel reinforced Sega’s position as a power player and made Nintendo step up Mario’s game heading to the launch of the SNES. It pushed the envelope on so many fronts from the design to gameplay, culminating in a platform experience unparalleled to any other title in the genre at the time. The larger, more colorful levels, innovative bonus rounds, and dynamic two-player mode with Tails had us playing for hours on end. There was no way you got past the Casino level without developing an addiction to gambling, trying to win coins and extra lives when jumping into the several slot machines present on each board. Addictively fun and original, Sonic 2 remains the console’s greatest accomplishment. —Bracetti