Sega Genesis: 25 Favorites

I was doing my usual rounds of the interwebz today and ran across this article on Polygon. The author wrote the post a few days ago (on the 14th) and was talking about the 25th anniversary of the Sega Genesis console’s release in North America. He posed the question, “what games did you love the most?” He did mention some of my favorites, but skipped over many that I thought were awesome games. As a result, I decided that since it was a milestone anniversary, and the Genesis was my favorite console of that era, I’d make a list of 25 of my favorite titles. That list follows in no particular order:

1. Shining Force


The Shining Force games were absolutely my all-time favorite series on the Genesis. I’ve spoken about them before at length, but they seriously ate up a huge amount of gaming hours in my early gaming career. If memory serves, I didn’t own this title first, I simply rented it. That was rectified later on. The game still haunts me, and I still love playing it (though these days it’s through emulation on my phone), and I really wish some kickstarter would give us another title in the series.

2. Shining Force II


You knew this was coming. I ended up with a copy of this game before I owned the original, and I played this one more times than I can count. It didn’t do too much to change up the formula established in the first game, but it added a new story and all new characters (plus more hidden gems). I loved trying to make sub-optimal groups to add to the level of challenge, just to say I could do it. For a rather linear game, I still managed to find ways to keep it fresh, and would still play it right now if I had a Genesis sitting in front of me. If you haven’t played either game, do yourself a favor. The games really stand the test of time and are very playable today.

3. Phantasy Star III


I never played the original Phantasy Star as it was released only on the Master System (8-bit precursor to the Genesis), and I didn’t really even discover the series until the fourth title released. Later, I picked up a copy of this game, and at first I was not impressed. The battle screen was a step-backwards, the animations therein as well, and some of the menus felt rather archaic. However, where PS3 shined was in its storyline, and the choices you could make throughout. It was really the first game of its kind that I had ever played, in that at points in the story you can choose one of two options, which determines the next generation of the family that you get to play. This happens two times during the campaign, which meant there were multiple endings dependent on your choices. I know that I only played through once, but the concept is rather innovative for its era and that’s why it’s included in this list.

4. Phantasy Star IV


Phantasy Star IV was the first game in the series I played, and I instantly fell in love. The Sci-Fi meets High Fantasy world was dynamic and interesting. The combat was more detailed, actually showing animations of what your characters were doing. You were stuck with certain characters during portions of the game, but each time you gained a new ally, the combat mechanics would change. Another really awesome feature was the fact that you could use certain abilities that would combo together to make even better effects, and thought that’s been done elsewhere (Chrono Trigger comes to mind) it was the first time I had seen it. Overall the storyline was more limited in that there was really only one ending, it was still an altogether more pleasing package. It’s a shame we haven’t seen a newer iteration of this series.

5. Sonic the Hedgehog 3


I played ever single Sonic game on the Genesis, and they all had their charm and individual features that made them great. The reason I chose to put the 3rd iteration here is because it was the first time you could play as someone besides Sonic. In the first game, Sonic rolled solo. In the sequel, Tails was introduced as his companion, though you couldn’t play as him. In this game, you could finally choose to play as Tails, or even have a friend play along side you. That feature alone sold me on this being my favorite title in the series (at the time). Everyone knows Sonic, so I don’t need to go into it further.

6. Sonic & Knuckles

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Sonic & Knuckles introduced a new character to the fray, Knuckles. Otherwise, the game stuck to the tried and true formula the series was known for. What was more interesting than the game itself was the cartridge itself. Pictured above, the game had a flip-top, which exposed circuitry similar to the receiving end inside the console itself. This allowed you to plug in any of the previous Sonic titles, adding new features to them (mainly being able to play through the old games with Knuckles, but also adding Tails to the S&K base game). As an added easter egg, nearly any other cartridge that was plugged in could be used to access sonic levels not available otherwise. The mini-games are collectively known as “Blue Sphere” in some newer Sonic collection. I though this was simply the coolest thing ever when I was a kid.

7. Desert Strike

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The Strike Series started with this gem (followed by Jungle Strike, and later Urban Strike). This wasn’t a Genesis exclusive, but that’s where I played it first, so it makes this list. It was an isometric flight/combat sim where you would be given mission parameters that included rescuing P.O.W.’s, blowing up enemy artillery, and dog fighting with other aircraft. Ground forces would also attack, down to the actual foot soldiers. It had a very simple approach, but was a ton of fun and I’d be hard pressed to turn down a newer updated version of the game. Man I could make a kickstarter remake wishlist from this post.

8. TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist

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Around the time this game released TMNT was all the rage. I was susceptible to its charms, having watched the cartoon, played many iterations of the games (including the original Arcade Classic), and even eaten the cereal (anyone else remember that?). Most people will look back on that era and think of TMNT: Turtles in Time, which was the SNES classic and counterpart to this game. For whatever reason, Turtles in Time didn’t make it to the Genesis, and instead we were presented with The Hyperstone Heist. This was simply the best TMNT game I’ve ever played, and I’ve played most of them. I still rank it higher than Turtles in Time, but that’s mainly due to bias. I can admit that the SNES TMNT games were equally good now, but my 12 (ish) year old self would disagree. It was really the first TMNT title I can say ranks up there with the original arcade machine.

9. Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts


The successor to Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins (Arcade, NES), Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts was a punishing platformer. I’ve spoke about it before when reveling in nostalgia. The boss pictured above is so iconic in my mind that this deviant art makes me yearn for the game. With a simple concept, a fantasy setting, and fun gameplay, I cannot recommend it enough. It’s counterpart on the SNES was called Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, but from what I understand, outside of concept they are completely different games. This was one of the first titles I picked up for the Genesis, and I played it throughout the system’s life. Can I add this to the indie-remake-wishlist too?

10. Aladdin

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Another heated debate probably occurred during those years when this classic platforming title (obviously based on the same-era Disney animated movie) released two separate versions for the Genesis and SNES. Of course I lean towards the Genesis version due to bias, but I did actually play the game on both systems, so from what I remember it was a smidge better. Apparently that argument resurfaced on Kotaku not that long ago. Looking at the poll results, most people agreed that the Sega version was superior, but I’m sure both had their moments. I remember the game being fairly easy, but the animation was really well done and the music and character pulled it all together. Consider me a fan, despite not being the Disney-loving sort.

11. Mutant League Football

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The closest thing to a remake that’s occurred with this fantastic sports title is the Blood Bowl series, based on a rule variant for the Warhammer tabletop game. I’ve seen that one in action, and it’s really not the same. I want a real remake of this game, using a current football (Madden) game engine. It was basically that, a Madden variant that included Orcs, Undead, and other Mutants that played real football, with a twist. Audibles could be called at the line that would cause the bomb to explode, where you would purposely throw an interception just to injure the other team. Fields sometimes had traps or pitfalls or other obstacles. It basically took the game of Football (which I already love) and made it more interesting, and comical.

12. General Chaos


General Chaos was such an odd-ball game during the console years. EA released the title, and it was a Genesis exclusive. It was a 5v5 slugfest, centered around different classes whom  you could switch between on the fly. There was a tactical map during the campaign, and each battle moved you closer to taking your enemy’s city. General Chaos and General Havoc had been at this for years, apparently. The battlefields were tiny, but had differing environments, places to take cover, and hindrances (like the water patch pictured). Of course the real replay value came in versus mode where you could duke it out with a friend. One of the game’s original creators actually tried to Kickstart the sequel, but was unsuccessful. A shame.

13. Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition


We all know that Street Fighter had a metric fuck-ton of iterations. The original Arcade classic, the SNES port, Turbo, Super, Champion Edition. The game never came to the Genesis until this Special Champion Edition, which allowed you to play as the 4 bosses of the original game: M.Bison, Vega, Sagat and Balrog. My love for Street Fighter was founded in this era, but not really solidified until the Alpha series (though Marvel vs. Capcom is my favorite fighting game series of all time). You all know the game, nuff said.

14. Golden Axe


If you aren’t old enough to have played this game in the arcade, I feel for you. Truly a classic side-scrolling beat-em-up, that was set in a Conan the Barbarian type world. The story line was rather flat, but didn’t really matter. The magic system took some time to learn. The levels were linear and the badguys pretty generic, but overall this game deserves a spot on this list, not only because of the nostalgia factor, but because the series continued on and stayed true the entire time. Games are still being made that fit this mold (Dragon’s Crown is a great example) with some added features. Having a friend along added to the fun.

15. Streets of Rage II

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The Streets of Rage series is very similar to Golden Axe (there were quite a few different titles that adhered to this formula) but is in a contemporary setting. I played 1-3, but the second game of the series always sat the best with me. It was more polished, prettier to look at and instead of having one generic special attack, each of the four playable characters had their own. I should also add that the original game only had 3 characters, so the fourth was an additional feature. Really, if you’ve played on of these games you’ve played them all, but this one was my favorite.

16. Earthworm Jim


EJ wasn’t a Genesis exclusive, but it single handedly reinvigorated the platformer genre for me. I had a period of time where those were king, but by ’94 when this title released I was in full-on RPG mode. It had a level of satire in a kid’s game that wasn’t common in the era. When I say kid’s game, I mean a game that would be rated “E” these days, and catered towards a younger audience. The satire wasn’t apparent until I was older, but a good example of it is that the damsel in distress whom Jim is trying to rescue is called “Princess What’s-her-name.” A great way to make some commentary about how the damsels in these games were basically throwaway characters. Overall, I appreciated the game’s wacky take on the genre.

17. Fatal Labyrinth


Outside of Angband, this would have been one of my earliest Rogue-like experiences. It is basically a graphical representation of that game, but I didn’t know it existed until a few years ago. I played it in “Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection,” which was a compilation disc for the PS3/Xbox 360. I know that I would have dumped a lot of time into this had I owned it back in the day, but I still played it quite a bit in the comp. It’s turn based, and levels are randomly generated. Death isn’t permanent though, as there are checkpoints every 5th level (out of 30 total levels) where you will return if you die. I never beat it, but it’s still a good example of an early Rogue-like (and still looks very similar to some games I have been playing more recently).

18. Kid Chameleon

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I never owned this game, just rented it multiple times (enough to beat it). It was basically Mario Brothers in a darker world. Your character would go through a series of levels with a bunch of platforming, secrets to find, and combat. The gimmick here was a number of masks that could be found that either helped you get beyond particular obstacles, or be more effective at killing enemies. This reminds me of the power ups found in Super Mario Bros 3, though they were more varied in KC. Outside of that, it was standard platformer faire.

19. Landstalker

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Landstalker came out of nowhere. I don’t remember reading about it or any of my friends telling me about it either. All I remember is seeing it, being interested enough in it to make the purchase, and then loving/hating it over the years. I loved the game because it was different. It had RPG elements. It had puzzle and platform elements. It had an interesting story. I hated it because as you can see in the above picture, it was an isometric game with platforming that could be rather frustrating. I did eventually beat it, and I even re-purchased it on the Virtual Console when I had a Wii years later. I’d play it again. I think it would play better with a revamped-for-modern-consoles version.

20. Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World

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M&M2 was the first of the series to be ported to the Genesis. The 3rd iteration was also ported, but this is the only one I played (and the only M&M game I played outside of the Heroes series, and the newest M&M X). The game was deep, way deeper than my young mind could understand. I loved the fact that you could build an entire group of adventurers from scratch, and I distinctly remember having an obsession with the ninja class. The game looked just as it does in the picture above, and had a bunch of menus with very little action, but I still had a lot of fun with it. I know I never came close to beating the game, I’d always end up dying fairly early. Most of you probably played the computer version and can attest to its unforgiving nature. Still a great title and one I have fond memories of.

21. Road Rash

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I absolutely adored the Road Rash series, and played the shit out of it. It started off exclusively on the Genesis, but was later ported to other systems. Further iterations in the series usually started on the Genesis as well, but also were ported around. The series died eventually, but there is a spiritual successor on Steam Early Access called Road Redemption now. I’m looking forward to getting my nostalgic fix there. Anyway, the game centered around illegal street racing on motorcycles, where you would face off against a variety of opponents. Getting to the finish line would require you to dodge traffic, knock other racers off their bikes with varying weapons, and avoid the police (sometimes also smashing them off their bikes). It was a lot of fun, as were most of the sequels that I tried.

22. Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage

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In the early 90’s I was a huge comic book fan, and most of the time that revolved around Spider-Man. Maximum Carnage was a crossover series that told a drawn out tale of how Spider-Man, Venom and many other characters from the Marvel Universe faced off against Carnage and a slew of Super-Villains. The game itself followed the standard side-scrolling beat-em-up formula of Golden Axe and like titles, but was cool just because of the story content. That’s really all I got. If you took away the source material, it might have fallen flat.

23. Tyrants: Fight Through Time

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Tyrants (Mega Lo Mania outside of NA) was one of my first forays into the God-simulator/RTS genre. Honestly, this isn’t the type of game that would appeal to everyone, and it’s a rather obscure title. I still fondly remember playing through this game quite a few times, and it was different every time. I really don’t want to make more word spam for it, so here’s a video instead:

24. Sword of Vermillion

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Sword of Vermilion was another rather weird hybrid RPG. The game normally looked like the isometric view on the left, while you were in towns or normal battles. When you left town, you would go to a Might and Magic style screen, where the dungeon crawl would commence. Later once you made it to boss battles, the view would change to the side-scroller format, pictured at right. I don’t remember the story being thought-provoking, but it was suitable enough. I spent a lot of time with this title, and it’s one of the few on this list that I could care less if I ever played again. I just thought that the combination of different mechanics was a novel idea.

25. Beyond Oasis

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For the final game on the list, a neat little title called Beyond Oasis. This was Sega’s answer to The Legend of Zelda series. It had nearly every mechanic, and played so similarly that you could say it’s a direct copy. But the storyline is centered on Prince Ali, in a more Arabian Nights type setting, and graphically it’s a bit different in terms of style. I loved the game, and even played the next game Legend of Oasis on the Sega Saturn. I know you all have played a Zelda style game, so no further commentary needed.

So there you have it. 25 games for 25 years. I’m sure I missed some killer titles in there, but these were some of my all-time favorites back in the day. What are some of your favorite Genesis titles?

#blaugust #list #sega #genesis