The Best Undiscovered Sega Genesis / Megadrive, Sega CD, and 32X Games


Usually, when you get a new-to-you console, you can usually find or remember the major games to check out. But what happens when you need something different to play? This is where the “Hidden Gems” come in.
Read More About My Criteria For Hidden Gems
See All The Hidden Gems Articles

Platformers

Obvious Choices:
Sonic the Hedgehog,, Toe Jam & Earl,

Featured Game: Ristar
Ristar ScreenshotPlatformers were all the rage in the 16-bit era, so there were a number of gems that got lost in the mix. Ristar was a fresh adventure game in which the main character actually had some interesting capabilities. Ristar’s gimmick is simple, but effective: Ristar can’t jump very high, or do any feats of extreme acrobatics. Instead, he can stretch his arms about two Ristar-Lengths ahead of him, he can grab onto ledges, walls, handholds, ladders, and enemies. He can even climb walls by touching the wall multiple times, climbing up slowly.

As Ristar, you must use your arms as your weapons, grabbing onto whatever you can — to destroy things, to advance to new places, to get cool secrets. You can grab onto flying enemies, who will bring you to previously unreachable places. You can nimbly swing from poles and branches, among other things, without your feet ever touching the ground for moments at a time. Needless to say, Ristar will keep you fascinated for quite a while if you give it a chance.
Find Ristar on eBay

More Great Games:
Rocket Knight Adventures
Dynamite Headdy
Knuckles Chaotix (32X)
Bonanza Brothers
Donald in Maui Mallard
Pulseman
Cool Spot
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mania
Disney’s Aladdin
Disney’s Lion King
Wiz ‘N’ Liz
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
Wonder Boy in Monster World
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
Quackshot Starring Donald Duck
Puggsy
Taz-Mania
Kid Chameleon
Marvel Land
Tempo (32x)

Action/Adventure

Obvious Choices:
Revenge of Shinobi, Ecco The Dolphin, Castlevania Bloodlines

Featured Game: Flashback: The Quest for Identity
Flashback ScreenshotTouted as a “CD-ROM Game on a Cartridge”, Flashback: The Quest for Identity was one of the most graphically impressive Genesis games in its day.

The game features fully hand-drawn backdrops and for its time remarkably fluid rotoscoped animation of walking, running and jumping movements, reminiscent of the earlier Prince of Persia.

In addition to is beautiful graphics, Flashback has some of the most engrossing gameplay and puzzles that you will find on the Genesis.
Find Flashback: The Quest for Identity on eBay

More Great Games:
Phantom 2040
Alisia Dragoon
Cannon Fodder
Adventures of Batman & Robin
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
BatteTech: A Game of Armored Combat
Jungle Strike
X-Men
Splatterhouse 3
Blackthorne (32x)
Adventures of Willy Beamish (Sega CD)
Road Avenger (Sega CD)
Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin (Sega CD)

Run-N-Gun Shooters

Obvious Choices:
Gunstar Heroes, Contra: Hard Corps, Vectorman, Earthworm Jim

Featured Game: Alien Soldier
Alien Soldier ScreenshotThis run-n-gun is considered one of the hardest games ever developed by the cult-classic factory, Treasure, and was released only in Japan and Europe. It is very difficult to find in either region.

As usual, Treasure really put a lot of creativity into Alien Soldier’s graphics and animation. The characters are large, extremely detailed and fluidly animated. And as opposed to most other side-scrolling shooters, the levels are notably short and easy before reaching a boss. This results in the game being mostly large boss fights.
Find Alien Soldier on eBay

More Great Games
Ranger-X
Target Earth
MERCS
Mega Turrican
Rolling Thunder 2
Rolling Thunder 3
Rambo III
Soldiers of Fortune

Shmups

Obvious Choices:
Zero Wing

Featured Game: MUSHA
MUSHA Screenshot

This one’s pretty hard to find, but it’s not uncommon for shmup fans to pay up to obtain the best of the best.  M.U.S.H.A. (Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor) .  Just about every aspect of this gem is impressive — solid controls, interesting mechanics, and beautiful visuals.
Find M.U.S.H.A. on eBay

More Great Games
Robo Aleste (Sega CD)
Thunder Force II
Thunder Force III
Thunder Force IV (Lightening Force)
Panorama Cotton
Android Assault: Revenge of Bari-Arm (Sega CD)
Lords of Thunder (Sega CD)
Silpheed (Sega CD)
Soul Star (Sega CD)
Keio Flying Squadron (Sega CD)
Air Buster
Twinkle Tale
Sub-Terrania
Super Thunder Blade
Super Fantasy Zone
Fire Shark
Super Thunder Blade
Twinkle Tale
Eliminate Down
Forgotten Worlds

Dangerous Seed
Bio-Hazard Battle

Sagaia/ Darius 2
Afterburner Complete (32X)
Shadow Squadron(32X)
Space Harrier (32X)
Kolibri (32X)

Fighting/Beatemups/Hack-N-Slash

Obvious Choices:
Streets of Rage Series, Golden Axe, Street Fighter II: SCE, Mortal Kombat II, Eternal Champions, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, Samurai Shodown, Strider, Battletoads, Double Dragon

Featured Game: Comix Zone
Comix Zone ScreenshotThis brawler is an extremely original and visually impressive game which immerses you in a comic book world. It’s probably one of the coolest games on the Genesis. Instead of featuring a character that simply walked down a city street and beat people up, Comix Zone had the game’s hero sucked into his own comic book creation and battle the villains within actual panels of comic book pages.

You can leap out of the page and back down into the next panel, perhaps even shortcut to the panels below. Add in the ability to rip loose chunks of the page itself to make deadly paper airplanes, or the power to punch an enemy through the ink boundaries of the panel and you have a fresh twist to the beatemup genre.
Find Comix Zone on eBay

More Great Games
Yu Yu Hakuso: Makyo Toitsusen
Battletoads & Double Dragon
TMNT: Tournament Fighters
TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist
The Lost Vikings
King of Monsters
Gauntlet IV
Saturday Night Slam Masters
The Punisher
Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon
Dragon Ball Z: Bu Yu Retsuden

RPG

Obvious Choices
Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III, Phantasy Star IV, Lunar the Silver Star (Sega CD), Lunar Eternal Blue (Sega CD) , Snatcher (Sega CD)

Featured Game: Shadowrun
Shadowrun ScreenshotBased on a pen and paper RPG, the console versions of Shadowrun are an RPG that is set in a dark future. The gameplay is more similar to Western PC RPGs as opposed to traditional Japanese console RPGs. Because of this, it seemed to stay under the radar of mainstream console gamers.

Shadowrun offers the player an open style of gameplay, where one controls the main character, Joshua, in third person perspective during both exploration and combat. Battles are real time, and although of varying difficulty, tend to be brutally short. Initially, the player is restricted to a single area of the game, but shortly gains access to almost all other areas. Access to other areas is accomplished primarily by taxi, although various restrictions and other modes of travel also exist, such as requiring a visa, or bypassing the visa check with use of a helicopter.

Instead of using experience points that you find in most RPGs, which allow you to move up levels, Shadowrun uses karma points, which you earn one at a time. These Karma points are used to make your character more powerful in the aspects of your choosing.
Find Shadowrun on eBay

More Great Games
Dark Wizard (Sega CD)
Popful Mail (Sega CD)
Beyond Oasis
Beggar Prince
Eye of the Beholder (Sega CD)
Monster World IV
Warsong (Langrisser 1)
Crusader of Centy
Light Crusader
Landstalker
Shining in the Darkness
Faery Tale Adventure
Dungeon Explorer (Sega CD)
Vay (Sega CD)

Strategy

Obvious Choices:
Shining Force, Shining Force II

Featured Game: Herzog Zwei
 Combining elements of real-time strategy and resource management into a shmup, Herzog Zwei is possibly one of the best games on Sega’s 16-bit powerhouse. Herzog Zwei is a two-player game in which the object is to destroy the enemy’s base. To accomplish this, the player was able to construct an assortment of units — including tanks, anti-aircraft guns, attack boats, infantry and armored cars.

Herzog Zwei was neglected by Sega at its release and was literally years ahead of its time. Nevertheless, it ultimately laid the foundation for games like Dune 2, Warcraft, BattleZone, and Command & Conquer by introducing most of the modern RTS conventions. The mechanics of Herzog Zwei make it a game with a slower feel than most modern RTS games, making for more
thoughtful play. I always find hybrid games like this to be interesting and such a neglected yet groundbreaking title should be shared with future gaming generations.

The single player game was good on its own, but it was Herzog Zwei’s multiplayer set the game apart. Players could engage each other on any of the game’s eight maps through the use of a vertical split screen. Against an actual breathing opponent, the game became much more complex and could make for hours of intense fun.
Find Herzog Zwei on eBay

More Great Games
Gain Ground
General Chaos
Aerobiz Supersonic
Dune: The Battle for Arrakis
Populous
Masters of Monsters
Gemfire
Starflight

Puzzle/Maze

Obvious Choices:
Ms. Pac-Man, Mega Bomberman

Featured Game: Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
 Even though the game wasn’t promoted a whole lot (other than the Sonic tie-in), Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is the best puzzle games on the Genesis. The game itself is actually based on the established Puyo Puyo series that had been keeping Japanese gamers occupied for years.

There is not much complexity in the Mean Bean Machine’s gameplay. The player must group 4 or more different colored beans together so that they erase, and send Refugee Beans (aka Garbage) to the opponent. The more beans that link up, the more garbage is sent. Players may also activate step chains so that even more garbage is scored.

The one-player gameplay is very good as each “opponent” has a different technique and skill level. These different levels do an excellent job of testing your mastery of the game and have a great pace of difficulty. Beginners will not feel overwhelmed by the first level and will eventually progress until the final battle with Dr. Robotnik that will challenge even the most hardcore puzzle addicts.
Find Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine on eBay

More Great Games
Zoop
Panic! (Sega CD)
Klax
Pac-Attack
Snow Bros. Starring Nick & Tom

Sports/Racing

Obvious Choices:
World Series Baseball, NBA Jam TE, NFL With Joe Montana, Virtua Racing, Road Rash, OutRun

Featured Game: Zany Golf
 Zany Golf is an amazing mini golf game that started on the Apple IIGS and PC, but was later ported to the Genesis. It was programmed mostly by the man behind Marble Madness, Will Harvey. The gameplay is very similar to standard mini golf, but you must complete the course in a specific number of strokes. If you finish a hole within a specified time period or if you hit specific targets, you can earn bonus strokes.

Zany Golf featured a stunning 3D isometric viewpoint and was filled with nine inventive holes of mini golf. What made Zany Golf’s course so interesting is that each hole had a creative theme and features different obsticales that are not physically possible in real life such as jumping hamburgers, telportation devices, and moving anthills.

Zany golf had intuitive and precise controls, but still offered quite a challenge. Many gamers will need to play a hole a few times through to be able to get through it without running out of strokes. I still remember being filled with anticipation when I was able to clear one hole and see what mind-blowing course would greet me next.
Find Zany Golf on eBay

More Great Games
Skitchin’
Championship Pro-Am
Super Baseball 2020
Micro Machines
Combat Cars

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65 Comments

kevinski says:

Timerever, action and adventure are two separate genres. I agree that action games are generally hard to define, and it certainly does make sense to list some of the include games as platformers and whatnot.

However, adventure games are probably best left separate from action games, as they’re actually more similar to RPG’s than other genres. They simply lack a lot of the depth that RPG’s have.

Anyway, racketboy has already stated that this particular list is a work-in-progress, so it’ll likely see some serious revisions in coming weeks. That said, don’t take this list too seriously in its current form.

Also, Light Crusader is one of my favorite Genesis games. It offers a lot of depth, although you wouldn’t really know it without playing it extensively. I prefer it to Gunstar Heroes, honestly. It’s hard to place into a genre, though.

Now, some constructive criticism: First off, I’m very surprised that you left Truxton out of the shmups section. It’s a great game, albeit not a terribly original one. It’s very solid, though. Also, you need to add Battletoads & Double Dragon to the beat-em-up section, as it’s easily better than either of the separate games.

racketboy says:

Timerever, I will go ahead and delete your comment since I’ve resolved most of the them except splitting the fighters and brawlers. I realize they are separate, but I don’t feel like breaking them up quite yet. I will in the future.

And also, I forgot to mention that Popful Mail is a Sega CD games, not Genesis.

gord says:

do they really count as hidden gems if those are the games you normaly play anyway? 😛

racketboy says:

Keep in mind I’m trying to keep this list on the semi-newbie level. Not everyone that reads this site is experienced with all these games.

It is hard to place the line of what is well-known as what is not. I could draw the line at the really obscure, but then some fairly new people might miss out on some great titles (or have a really long “obvious” list) and more of the “gems” would be of lesser quality.

I’m hoping that the more experienced retro gamers will be able to pick a small handful of games from the list that they haven’t played much and suggest other games that should be added.

Again, this is a work in progress and over time I hope to fine tune this list. I could work on this forever on my own before publishing it, but I decided I should at least post what I have so far and go with it.

Timerever says:

Mega CD and 32X games don’t count? Meh… whatever there were only a few good Mega CD games anyway and they are easy to spot, same with 32X but even easier.

Anyway …
woot! Puggsy got onto the list! It’s a very intresting and long platformer with a lot of puzzles in the mix, it’s a really unique game. shame Sega-16 didn’t reviewed it yet.

But they did review the other games Bio-Hazard Battle (I’d give it 8 instead of 7) -> http://www.sega-16.com/Review-%20Biohazard%20Battle.php

Dragon Ball Z: Bu Yu Retsuden (LOL I severely mistyped this game name X-D) -> http://www.sega-16.com/Review-%20Dragon%20Ball%20Bu%20Yu%20Retsuden.php

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon -> No review, but this is the game correct name, have fun kicking badies with teen girls in tiny squirts 😀

Since you deleted my post I can’t remember what else did I rant (short memory >_<) but I bet everything is covered, if I remember anything else I'll post.

All Hail The New Flesh says:

So happy that you menchen Comix Zone, Thats always been one of my favorite games for the Genesis/Mega Drive. I’ve still play that game on my Genesis since then. The only problem with it that theres only 3 levels, I dunno I always find that disappointing, its just by the time you where just having fun then all of a sudden, its over!

Anonymous says:

No Kid Chameleon or Tazmania? Those are probably the toughest quality platformers out there. KC may even be the hardest game ever made. It makes Super G&G look like Super Mario World, but its still fun.

Timerever says:

Some more stuff:

Action/Adventure
You placed Revenge of Shinobi as an Action game, so Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master should also be under Action games.

Shmups
Under the shmup category I’d say that Zero Wing was the most well known shmup so I think it may go under the obvious choices. Thunder Force and MUSHA (Aleste) were also well known… at least among shmup fans but I guess the average gamer didn’t know any of these.

Stuff that you might also consider:
– Eliminate Down (O_o HARD GAME! Good graphics and music)

– Sagaia/Darius 2 (Would’ve been more well know if it kept the Darius name in the West)

– AfterBurner (How could you’ve missed these? And the 32X version is great, you should include it)

– Space Harrier (How could you’ve missed these too? Again the 32X version owns)

– Super Thunder Blade (The arcade version is better but you might want to include it)

– Kolibri (32X game, awsome graphics, strange gameplay… Sega-16 puts it as a shmup but I say it should be listed as an adventure game)

Platforms
Ugh… you kept Dynamite Headdy in the list!
DUUUUUDE!
Really, I can see why you wanna keep the game on the list, awsome graphics, sound and whatnot but the game is too hard! Please do the readers a favor and at least list the japanese version of the game instead, put:

Dynamite Headdy – Japanese version/import

since the japanese version is easier than the US/Europe version.

That said I think the 32X and Mega CD games should be included on this list, first these are add-ons, they won’t work by themselfs and the games also use the Mega Drive hardware to work. Second these 2 system have only a few games worth mentioning (especially the 32X) let alone hidden gems so creating a separate list is kinda silly. Just list the MCD/32X games like this:
Some_Game_Name (32X)
Other_Game_Name (MegaCD)

Hope it helped.

racketboy says:

Ok — everything has been updated including some Sega CD and 32X games you didn’t mention.

Thanks for your help!

Timerever says:

Thanks man! This is really an awsome list that I hope many people will enjoy. The Mega Drive is dead, long live the Mega Drive! 😀

Anonymous says:

Hello, I just saw your web and it has a link for the game “snow bros”. I have recently finished a VERY in-deepth guide of the game and put toghether a whole site aprund it (forum and everything).

If you dont mind I would like to have a link on your web pointing teh guide.

It is at http://www.cincinato.org/snowbros/

thank a lot!

🙂

Zandengoff says:

you really should include final fight CD to the list of beatmups, that game was great

Alex says:

I would definitely remove Super Thunder Blade and Taz-Mania. Even though I grew up with both, I can admit that they are pretty lousy games.

Alex says:

I wouldn’t call Zero Wing an obvious choice, I certainly hadn’t heard about it until recently and it’s not even that good a game. Thunder Force 2-4 and Super Fantasy Zone are pretty well known and much better games.

Super Thunder Blade is crap though. Really choppy scrolling, poor controls, repetitive levels and poor sound/gfx.

The Apprentice says:

I think the catagories had too much range. More than one game in each catagory would have helped a lot.

Im surprised you didn’t put the game “Bubble and Squeak” in there…..Thats a great game, really

Kataztrophy says:

Sports Hidden Gems: Mutant League Football and Hockey.

Electronic arts would rather make lazy attempts in the Madden series instead of putting an effort into making these games again.

Steve Rutledge says:

Hi,
Just found your list and enjoyed it very much :-). But you missed 1 of the megadrives greatest gems namely RAINBOW ISLANDS. Which I think is quite rare on cart. Paid a small fortune for my copy from japan. I love this game to bits.

Project23 says:

Wonderful! You did the right thing listing Shadowrun(Genesis) as the featured RPG. Good SciFi is hard to come by and this is a prime example of a great SciFi RPG. The 3 totally different play styles (Decker, Samuri, Shaman) add to the replability and the spot on representation of a Gibsonian Cyberspace is priceless! This is also the most fathful video game representation of the Shadowrun pen and paper RPG to date(2008).

Ristar and Shadowrun are masterpieces. Love them.

Knuckles Chaotix also is great. 😀

racketboy says:

which ones are you referring to?

Marz183 says:

Great list, its great to see a site like this, I would consider myself as a retro gamer, could’nt care for ps3 etc, bring back the 16 bit glory days! Ps2 is my limit in terms of newer systems. I am going to check out some of these games right now, but some/most of the links are dead. Great work.

Free user says:

In fighting/beat em up you missed Final Fight CD, Virtua Fighter 32X and Eternal Champions CD.

racketboy says:

Free user, you’re missing the point — those games aren’t undiscovered….

Free user says:

Yes, but they are not in “Obvious Choices”.

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