The Best Undiscovered Sega Genesis / Megadrive Games

Have you already explored all the big-name games for Sega’s 16-bit powerhouse? (if not, check out the best Games That Defined the Sega Genesis and The Best Sega Genesis Games Under $10)  The following mega-list will help you explore some of the under-appreciated gems in the Genesis/Megadrive library.

Note from Racketboy: Almost 4 Years ago, I started the Hidden Gems series with the Sega Genesis guide.  I didn’t quite have a feel for what I wanted to do with the series, so I wasn’t ultimately happy with the results of that piece.  This is a complete re-write of the guide with more specific genres, more featured games, and a slightly higher obsurity level.  Thanks to many of the forum members for suggestions and writeups that were included below.

Read More About My Criteria For Hidden Gems
See All The Hidden Gems Articles

Platformers

Obvious Choices:
Sonic the Hedgehog,, Toe Jam & Earl, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mania, Disney’s Aladdin, Disney’s Lion King, Wonderboy, Alex Kidd

Ristar

Ristar Unlike many of the glut of platformers from the 16-bit era, Ristar boasted a 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 — essentially,  grabbing onto whatever you can — to destroy things, to advance to new places, to get cool secrets.

From Nintendo Life’s Review: “The play control in Ristar is a bit slow-paced in design, but that’s more due to the game’s unique level designs and forcing the player to come to grips with the game’s unique style of game play. The control itself is quite responsive and even making use of the grab move will soon become second nature to anyone that spends a significant amount of time with the game. The game even features quite a few puzzle elements to add even more challenge to the levels and the boss fights you’ll endure at the end of each planet are extremely well designed and implemented. It’s clear from the moment you begin playing the game that Sonic Team wanted to take a radically different approach to the design with this game and it really paid off in the finished product. ”
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Dynamite Headdy

Dynamite Headdy This Treasure action/platformer was not quite as spectacular as the popular Gunstar Heroes, but Dynamite Headdy has everything you look for in a Treasure game: Crazy special effects, tons of sprites with little to no slowdown, an interesting weapons system, psychotic bosses, and trademark Treasure strangeness.  Most of the levels consist of fighting bosses with only small sections of normal battling in between. As a result, the game is incredibly varied, featuring an incredible array of ideas and fast-paced action, while retaining the platform-game mechanic.

From PixelSurgeon’s Review: Headdy takes Gunstar’s principal idea – visually stunning and highly original boss encounters, lots of them, in quick succession – and places it within the structure and control scheme of a platform game instead of a run ‘n’ gunner. It then expands on Gunstar by making the lead-in levels to these bosses innovative and entertaining experiences in their own right…   Headdy is full of ideas, frequently used once and then discarded. Each sub-level is so distinct from the next that they may as well be entirely different games, sharing only a control scheme. What you see here is a game developer at the height of its powers, so confident in its abilities that it’s prepared to waste what might, for other developers, be a decade’s worth of concepts in a single game. A game that, with a fair amount of practice, can be completed in about an hour.
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Rocket Knight Adventures

Rocket Knight Adventures In the avalanche of 2D platformers during the 16-bit era, it was easy for a game like Konami’s Rocket Night Adventures to get lost in the shuffle. Rocket Knight Adventures has more technique and plot than any other platform of the era.  The slick effects and big bosses alone can carry the game. It may have its flaws — mainly with the replay value, but overall, Rocket Knight Adventures is a solid value for the Genesis

From Sega-16’s Review: “The best games are usually the ones you can jump right into, with simple and effective control, and RKA provides easy access. Attacking and jumping are the only things you need to do and holding down the attack button will charge your jetpack, giving you a limited boost to reach ledges and goodies such as 1ups, life fruit, and bonus gems. A neat twist to this is that boosting at an angle into a wall will bounce you up to higher levels not accessible otherwise. Many of these points are identified with arrows on the wall, so don’t worry about getting lost. ”
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Marvel Land

Marvel LandLike all good platformers, Marvel Land starts out easy and quickly gets hard. Each of the four worlds has six or seven areas plus a boss level. Only the most skilled gamer can beat all thirty levels without using the warps. Only then can one defeat the final boss: The Mole King!  The level design, the character design, and the powerups all stand out. The whole game takes place in a colorful amusement park. Some levels are on roller coasters, on Ferris wheels, or on swinging pirate ship rides. The enemies are colorful and original; my favorites are the carnivorous hamburger, the home-run-hitting grasshopper, and the pirate with the boomerang hat. The character designers didn’t slouch on Prince Talmit’s design either.

From Sega-16’s Review: “Called Talmit’s Adventure in Europe, Marvel Land is an old, forgotten platforming gem by Namco. It was released as a coin-op in 1989, and it bears a resemblance to other run-‘n-jump games of the day, such as Blue’s Journey and Alex Kidd, featuring bright, colorful artwork and upbeat sound… Do you like to die? If so, you’re in for a treat because this game is really hard. Harder than Sonic the Hedgehog, but not as hard as, say, Shadowgate or Legacy of the Wizard. Anyone with patience or the level select code should be able to beat it eventually. The jumping, as you might expect, is very precise and unforgiving, which I love. In fact, I wish there were new games of this style, where the computer is brash to the player, catching him off guard and wasting your “quarters.””
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Garfield: Caught in the Act

Garfield Caught in the ActIf you’re looking for a platformer that is a bit more friendly and enjoyable instead of especially challenging, Garfield: Caught in the Act is a wonderful gem to play.  In this 16-bit adventure, Garfield gets sucked into his television and he has to find his way back out. Gafiield’s weapons change depending on what level you are playing. The levels are also based off of old movies but are changed to Garfield style, i.e. Casablanca is now called “Catsablanca” and Count Dracula is now “Count Slobula”. A lot of the bosses are Odie the dog from the comic strip but in different characters.

From Sega-16’s Review: “Garfield himself seamlessly crosses over in this video game debut: he is well-sized, smoothly animated and has a vast set of moves at his disposition, from his various attacks to his unique gestures as he pushes blocks/rocks, looks around or simply stands still. The cartoon’s deadpan humor has been kept intact and shines throughout: Garfield adapts to the various settings with amusing touches – he wears a cape in the vampire-themed level; he has fangs in the prehistoric stage; he wears a hat in level four, etc. ”
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Other Games To Try

  • Donald in Maui Mallard
  • Pulseman
  • Cool Spot
  • Wiz ‘N’ Liz
  • Quackshot Starring Donald Duck
  • Puggsy
  • Taz-Mania
  • Kid Chameleon

Action/Adventure

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

Mega Man: The Wily Wars

Mega Man The Wily Wars Of course, most Mega Man games wouldn’t be considered a “hidden gem”, but this one is a special case.  The Wily Wars was a colorful but true Mario All-Stars style port of Megaman, Megaman 2, and Megaman 3. Exclusive to the game were several extra levels called Wily’s Tower. This was unlocked with completion of the main game. Each level contained an exclusive boss and you were able to mix and match items and weapons from the first three games to tackle the challenge.   It was only released on cartridge in Europe with a Sega Channel release in the states. The only Mega Man game on the Genesis / Megadrive hardware.

From GAF’s Review: “Graphically, the Mega Man games are updated modestly from the NES games. Mega Man himself is still a little blue bundle of action, but now he has a couple of shades on him. Just about every enemy in this collection has improvements like that. But the big improvements are done to the stage backdrops…  It’s just the right amount of visual upgrade to already-acknowledged NES classics. The music also gets a nice update, thanks to the Genesis’ more superior sound engine. The Mega Man 2 intro theme never sounded cooler….  But perhaps the neatest addition to Wily Wars is the ‘Wily Tower’ stage, exclusive only to this game. By completing all three Mega Man games, a new game will open up, where you will have the chance to fight three all-new exclusive robots, never seen in any Mega Man before or ever since. And beating the Wily Tower will treat you to yet another ending. So there is much more to strive for here. ”
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Flashback: The Quest for Identity

FlashbackTouted 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.

From HG101’s Review: “On the surface, Flashback doesn’t seem much more than a Prince of Persia clone. Sure, you climb platforms, perform running jumps, hit switches, solve little puzzles to proceed – the usual stuff. Conrad actually controls quite a bit better than the old Prince ever did – pressing left or right makes Conrad walk in that direction (as opposed to running). If you need to jump on a higher ledge, you can just run towards it and Conrad will automatically leap up to it. Little tweaks in the old formula make Flashback much smoother than the game that inspired it…. The Amiga, Genesis and PC disk versions were the first to the hit the market. While the Genesis version had slightly inferior graphics due to the limited color palette, it still managed to look quite good – the only real noticeable difference are in the details of the sprites.”
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X-Men 2: Clone Wars

Xmen 2 The Clone WarsBecause of its late release, this X-Men game didn’t nearly get the attention it deserved.  There are a variety of X-men characters with different weapons and abilities to choose from.  Clone Wars competes quite well with the best action games on the Genesis in single-player mode, but it’s also a blast in co-op.  In addition, Clone Wars has an excellent 16-bit soundtrack that just completes the experience.

From The Video Game Critic’s Review: “Although released four years after the first Genesis X-Men, this cartridge managed to atone for many of its predecessor’s sins. First, the graphics are MUCH improved. The characters are larger, sharper, and more detailed. The music is menacing, and the sound effects are high quality. The stages are more interesting, including a snow stage in Siberia. Although there’s still plenty of jumping, the platforms are larger and much more forgiving. Your special moves are no longer limited, allowing you to be more aggressive…. X-Men 2 is a much better game, but it’s still very difficult, and there aren’t any checkpoints.”
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Red Zone

Red ZoneIf you want a action title that shows off some of the graphical capabilities of the Genesis while giving a C64 Broderbund chopper game vibe, Red Zone is your ticket.   Red Zone features an overhead view like that in the arcade version of  Thunderblade in overhead mode.   Instead of typical shmup gameplay, you spend  more time exploring to find the next target.

From Sega-16’s Review: “One of my favorite Genesis developers is, without a doubt, Zyrinx. That may sound a little odd, since they only released three games for the system, but you have to respect the unabashed pride these people had in their products. Just look at one of Red Zone’s introductory screens! The graphical triumphs that abound in this game are lauded in big lettering: rotating textured backgrounds, full motion video compression, polygons, real-time zooming, and vector graphics. “All running without additional hardware.”.. Red Zone is played with a top-down perspective in both the compound infiltration and helicopter flight stages. Note that this is not the same as the isometric camera angle in the popular Strike series of helicopter games. In Red Zone you are viewing the game from directly above your ship, much like in vertical shmups such as Raiden Trad and M.U.S.H.A. This viewpoint allows for some awesome visuals rarely seen anywhere else on the console. The landscape is a single rotating polygon, which means that the entire world will turn in a fluid motion as you twist and turn your way through power lines and buildings.”
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Adventures of Batman & Robin

Adventures of Batman & RobinThe Batman franchise has had quite a few video game interpretation, but unfortunately, not a lot of them have been timeless creations.  While it doesn’t reach perfection, the Genesis version of The Adventures of Batman & Robin is a beautiful example of 16-bit graphics and solid 2D action gameplay.

From Sega-16’s Review: “Adventures is also a nice game to look at. The graphics are clear and well drawn and the use of color is consistent with the cartoon, so fans will not be disappointed. Even Batman’s famous jaw is present and accounted for! Sprites may seem small but that’s a good thing considering the amount of action going on at any given time. Explosions are typically Genesis and not too impressive (there’s some flicker) but the lack of slowdown overall shows that even at the late date this title was released, the system was still capable of pushing itself.

Speaking of pushing, wait until you see what this game makes your Genesis do. With the exception of Gunstar Heroes, no game its library has the sheer amount of incredible effects found in AoB&R. Sprite and background rotation, scaling, multiple parallax; just about all the eye candy you can think of has been squeezed out the hardware.

Once you’ve gotten past the difficulty and questionable musical choices, there’s really a great game beneath that’s worth checking out. With a Game Genie and a friend, it can be quite enjoyable. Just don’t expect an easy ride. Batman has tried repeatedly to be a successful game character and Clockwork Tortoise has come as close as anyone to making that happen.”
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Bonanza Brothers

Bonanza BrothersBonanza Bros, it is some sort of mix between a stealth game and a shooter. The graphic are ok and the music is catchy. You play as a thief who has to collect a set of items in each stage and find the exit while avoiding different kind of guards; while the single player mode is nothing to write home about, the game really shines in multiplayer. Each player controls one of the characters and must cooperate to get the items as fast as possible, the cool thing is that it is played split screen, so you can go together to cover each other back, or you can split to get the items faster.

From NintendoLife’s Review: “Bonanza Bros. harkens back to the early 80’s arcade titles with their simple, yet addictive play control ideas. While there are obvious Keystone Kapers and Elevator Action influences throughout the game, the overall gameplay design is at least original enough to stand on its own two feet…  You can run around in all directions and you even have the ability to jump and shoot off your gun. But you’ll have to move fast as your gun will only temporarily stun the guards and then they’ll be back on your tail again. You’ll also have to deal with crazy waiters, soda cans you’ll trip on, and various other dangers around each and every corner of the game. Luckily you’ll also have the ability to use certain items and doors in each level to knock out the guards and other people that stand in your way. While these obstacles start off quite easy to deal with, as you progress through the game, they’ll become much more diligent and bothersome.”
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Other Games To Try

  • Phantom 2040
  • Alisia Dragoon
  • Cannon Fodder
  • Zombies Ate My Neighbors
  • BatteTech: A Game of Armored Combat
  • Jungle Strike
  • X-Men
  • Dick Tracy
  • Outlander
  • Techno-Cop

Run-N-Gun Shooters

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

Ranger X

Ranger XIf you’re looking for an affordable scrolling shooter that is something out of the ordinary and that will show off some of the Genesis’s technical capabilities, Ranger X is a safe bet.   It feels like a bit of a mix between a run-and-gun and a traditional horizontal shmup.  It has a pretty interesting control setup and will make full use of a six-button controller if you have one available.

From HG101’s Review: “The game play is pretty intense, as enemies as constantly shooting at you, even on the Easy difficulty setting. It takes awhile to get used to the controls, and it doesn’t help that Ranger X is such a huge target. You’re given limited continues, which respawn you right at the point where you died, although you can gain more credits by earning points.  Although Ranger X is notable for intense gameplay, it also ranks up next to Gunstar Heroes as featuring some of the most impressive graphics on the Genesis. Working with the limited 64 color palette of the system, Ranger X produces some extremely colorful visuals, Certain areas have some cool parallax scrolling effects, which gives them a nice 3D look, There are also plenty of unique bosses, most of whom take up very large portions of the screen.”
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Target Earth (Assault Suit Leynos)

Target EarthI’m guessing the American title and cover art probably didn’t help the widespread adoption of this action platformer.  Some of you might be more familiar with the Japanese name “Assault Suit Leynos” and the Assault Suit series as a whole (which also included Cybernator on the SNES).  Target Earth is the first game in the series, and much like its predecessors, it is an intensely-challenging side scroller that allows you free movement and a variety of weapons.   It isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you love shooting platformers with a challenge, you need to track down this bargain.

From HG101’s Review: “In Target Earth, you control a mecha which can arm itself with up to six pieces of equipment. You start off with a standard machine gun (the only weapon to have unlimited ammo), but you also get a spread gun and a strange weapon that seems to fire chaff. Most of the missions have goals beyond simply reaching the end. In the first stage, once you reach a certain point, you need to destroy a huge battleship before it reaches your home base. In the third stage, you need to protect your battleship while bouncing around in zero-g, and make it back in time before it takes off without you. At the end of each level, you’re graded on your performance, which in turn will grant you new weapons. All and all, it’s a pretty sizable arsenal, with over twenty different weapons. You can also equip armor, to increase your defense, or the B-Pack, a jetpack which lets you hover in mid-air for a few seconds. In some levels, you’re accompanied by some NPC helpers, giving the impression that at least you’re not the only soldier on the battlefield like so many other video games, but they also tend to get killed pretty quickly… It’s such a remarkably difficult game that it’s hard to really enjoy it without turning on the invincibility code, which was added to the North American release. (Just hit Start on controller 2 during play.) ”
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Alien Soldier

Alien Soldier This 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.

From NintendoLife’s Review: “The stages are broken up into short sections where you take out all the little nasties to collect the power needed to beat the big bosses. Unlike most games of this ilk, which save the big boss until the end of the stage, Alien Soldier will throw a boss your way every few minutes, usually 3 or 4 per stage….The action is fast and furious, so if that sounds like your bag then this could be the game for you. Given the similarities to Treasure’s own Gunstar Heroes, however, Alien Soldier sort of falls short, mainly because the platforming elements are not as good. It is also frustratingly difficult at times as well, which may put off some gamers. Still, this is an enjoyable run n’ gun game in its own right and well worth a look for fans of the genre.”
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Other Games To Try

  • MERCS
  • Atomic Runner
  • Mega Turrican
  • Rolling Thunder 2
  • Rolling Thunder 3
  • Rambo III
  • Soldiers of Fortune

Shmups

Obvious Choices:
Thunder Force Series, MUSHA, Zero Wing

Elemental Master

Elemental MasterTechno-Soft arguably had their best years making Genesis/Mega Drive games. While not as well know as the Thunder Force series, Elemental Master stands as a worthy addition to their catalog of games. The levels are designed to look like different landscapes, each offering various non-lethal obstacles and of course, tons of bad guys. Laden can fire any selected weapon up or down. Graphically Elemental master does not shine as brightly as Techno Soft’s other two shmup masterpieces, Thunder Force 3 or 4, but it does not trail but much.

From Sega-16’s Review: “Elemental Master’s success lie in it not being like any other shooter, and players should understand that going in. It’s a terrific, fairly original take on the vertical scrolling shooter and yet another feather in Technosoft’s cap. Though “hardcore” shooter fans looking for a tough challenge or great scoring opportunities may be disappointed, anyone willing to step into Laden’s shoes will have a great time killing his brother and anything else that dare step in his way.”
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Air Buster (Aero Blasters)

Air BusterAir Buster features plenty of the dodging and shooting you’d expect, Kaneko did however, add some variety to keep the player interested. On stage two the play will be forced to move at full blast-processing speed through a variety of corridors that take twitch reflexes or memorization to navigate through. Stages three and four change the game physics to mimic zero gravity, and stage six has Ikaruga-like maze elements.  This game is worth checking out if you are going to explore the Genesis’ shmup library. It’s a competent game that offers a good challenge without getting frustrating. While everyone may not agree about Air Buster being a great game, few shmup fans will call it a bad one.

From Mark1bdi’s Review on GameFAQs: “Although weapons systems in shooting games are never perfect, the difficulty of Aero Blasters makes the complete stripping of upgrades upon death seem overly harsh. But despite this and despite its other problems, Aero Blasters is a challenging and attractive game that is strangely compelling to play and subsequently (with time and patience) beat. Whether it be the excellent way in which the game is broken up into distinct areas or the amount of replay time the game offers with its three difficulty settings and adjustable life span, Aero Blasters stands as a good example of shooting games of the period and is an enjoyable distraction whatever style of game you normally enjoy.”
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Biohazard Battle

Biohazard BattleBioHazard Battle didn’t really offer any ground-breaking gameplay or revolutionary appeal, but it’s a solid shooter that is inspired by the likes of Gradius or R-Type.  There’s a slight learning curve because of how the weapons work and many of the levels can be quite challenging.  It also offers the rarely seen two-player option and the levels show off some nice animations and scrolling effects.   It you want a formulaic, but challenging alternative to the standard shmup franchises, Biohazard Battle is one of the more affordable options.
From Nintendo Life’s Review: “The gameplay doesn’t stray too far from the standard set by Gradius and R-Type. There are eight horizontally scrolling stages and a choice of 4 different crafts with differing weapons. You can pick up weapon orbs which follow your craft about giving additional firepower. The design of the ships is pretty original; they resemble mutated insects and other animals, and this at least sets the game apart from the flood of spaceship-based blasters from the same era… If you’re looking to bring a pal along for the ride, it’s worth noting the multiplayer aspects of this game. Two players can play simultaneously which isn’t seen often in the shoot-em-up genre. ”
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Gleylancer

GreylancerGreylancer is one of the more exciting Japanese exclusives on the Megadrive (it has since shown up in other regions on the Wii Virtual Consoles).  This is one of those rare shmups that offers a wide range of options to the player before they even launch. For example, you can have your ships fire in the direction opposite to your movement.  Of course, this may initially seem gimmicky, but as you invest more time into the game you realize that the different choices directly affect your strategy and exploring the myriad of possibilities available boosts the amount of playtime Gleylancer offers.

From HG101’s Review: “While the level design lacks polish, the ability to aim your weapons really opens up new doors for shmup gameplay – after playing Gleylancer, every other game seems so strict, with just the ability to shoot forward. That’s the trademark of an excellent game, and Gleylancer is one of the finest that the 16-bit era had to offer. Unfortunately, it’s excellence combined with its relative rarity means it’s something of an expensive gem, but Mega Drive shooters fans will find any price well worth it.”
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Truxton

Truxton This is what a balls out, high difficulty, manly shooter was like before bullet hell shmups came around. In addition to great gameplay, this game had a great art direction (the skeletons just scream 80’s Heavy Metal) and great music.

From Sega-16’s Review: “The first time I saw the arcade game Truxton, the power that the player’s ship could wield truly awed me: seeing five huge beams of lightning pour from my ship and command most of the screen, then lock, track, and pummel a boss while I zigged and zagged to avoid incoming bullets was an absolute blast. The Genesis port of the game faithfully replicates the joy of the arcade game, and despite attempts to squeeze the game layout into a screen that has been chopped vertically, smart design concessions in the port largely offset the unavoidable drawbacks, resulting in a great game… Truxton on Genesis is a great game with tons of replay value for shmup fans. The graphics – though not outstanding – are solid 16-bit fare, the sound and music are slightly above average, and the controls are perfect. Truxton is well worth collecting and playing, despite some frustration caused by unavoidable design compromises.”
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Granada

Granada This game is a game by WolfTeam put out in 1990, an unconventional shooter that involves you being in an upgradeable tank, freeroaming around the level destroying the bunkers one by one until all are clear and you have to face a giant level boss. This game is amazingly fun, easy to control and not very well known probably because it wasn’t very well advertised. Each level is uniquely challenging, and requires quick reactions and pits you against new enemies each level. All of this and a race against the clock makes for a severely under appreciated genesis title.

From jdig99’s Review on GameFAQs: “There are many different varieties of enemies. The bosses are fairly unique, and they seem to be just challenging enough in the beginning and somewhat difficult in later levels. The level design for this game was great. You do not have to follow a set path through the level, you can take out the targets that you are required to destroy in any order that you wish. There are also several, well hidden power-ups throughout the levels for you to find that make you shoot missiles for more damage. You use two main weapons in the game, a fast firing weapon, and a slower weapon that deals more damage. You will need to develop some strategy to determine witch works best on different enemies/bosses.”
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Sub-Terrania

SubterraniaNot your ordinary shmup, Sub-Terrania was rather interesting for its time due to how important physics were to the gameplay. You had to learn how to handle your ship properly so as not to damage it and how to fight gravity on a regular basis by using fuel to boost your ship upwards. These things made the game challenging in a different kind of way than other shooters, where the main challenge comes from combat. Though, the game had that as well. It is one of the purest examples I’ve seen of a skill oriented game because unlike many other shooters, this game required you to actually get a firm grip on actually HANDLING your ship properly before you could even think about engaging your enemies in combat. Playing the game for the first time felt like the first time you drove a car or rode a bike.  Also, you had to rescue people in each stage which meant learning how to fight your enemies without causing casualties. It’s these realistic gameplay elements, along with the genuinely skill oriented gameplay that made the game stand out.

From Sega-16’s Review: “Though this is a shooting game, you have a lot more to worry about than just the pesky aliens. Since you’re not in open space, you also have to contend against the rigors of gravity that’s constantly pulling you towards the ground. You have a limited shield, indicated by the ship-shaped life icons in the lower-left corner of your screen that fill up and turn red when you’re hit. When they’re completely full, your shield fails and your ship explodes. Moreover, hitting the floor or any other part of the subterranean landscape will drain your shield incredibly fast. It’s not all bad though, as you’re able to land properly and this becomes one of the most important features in the game, making it reminiscent of the PC classic Lunar Lander. If you land too hard or too fast you’ll do damage to your ship, so finesse is needed. Landing becomes necessary to pick up fuel and shield restore pods… the game looks, sounds, and smells like the average shooter but as it turns out it’s more of a strategic puzzle that values piloting skills over twitch reflexes and manic shooting. The game’s worth looking into if you’re a hardcore gamer who’s bored of the usual shooter and looking for something original, but it’s definitely not for everyone.”
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Other Games To Try

  • Twinkle Tale
  • Gynoug
  • Steel Empire
  • Fire Shark
  • Aero Blasters
  • Viewpoint
  • Eliminate Down
  • Forgotten Worlds
  • Dangerous Seed
  • Sagaia/ Darius 2
  • Battle Mania/Trouble Shooter Series

Rail Shooters

Obvious Choices: Spare Harrier 2

Panorama Cotton

Panorama Cotton Behind the cutesy exterior is a technically impressive and challenging Rail shooter based heavily on Sega’s 80s arcade classics at its core, but with several new additions to the formula such as multiple paths, destructible scenery, a level up system, special attacks and an end of level minigame involving falling teabags. Furthermore there are huge bosses with creative patterns and multiple forms, and beautifully drawn cutscenes between each level.  As to why it didn’t leave Japan, its hard to say. After pushing the MD to its limits in many areas and making a game that at its core would surely cater to Sega fans, the game had a ridiculously small print run even in Japan.

From SamIAm’s Review on GameFAQs: “The true beauty of Panorama Cotton’s gameplay design comes through in the form of the construction of the stages. Other chase shooters seem to know only how to move forward “into the screen”, but Panorama Cotton takes the opportunity to scroll horizontally, vertically, diagonally, and at all sorts of other angles while maintaining the “chase-view”. On top of that, each stage is quite unique to the others, and several of them utilize multiple stage paths. Realizing all this, game’s world takes on a depth much greater than any of its relatively bland peers.

The other great asset of Panorama Cotton’s gameplay is the placing and behavior of the enemies. No other chase-view offers so much variety in this department, yet there are no shortcomings to be found in this game whatsoever. All enemies and obstacles are completely fair; when they hit you, it’s your fault. This game also lives up to the series’ reputation of having exceptionally creative enemies, even to the point that they take on their own character. Few games can boast that.”
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Other Games To Try

  • Super Thunder Blade
  • Super Fantasy Zone

Beatemups/Hack-N-Slash

Obvious Choices:
Streets of Rage Series, Golden Axe, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts,  Strider, Battletoads, Double Dragon, Comix Zone, Gauntlet IV, Battletoads & Double Dragon, TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist

Cyborg Justice

Cyborg JusticeCreate a customizable cyborg (when you start a game, you choose a body, legs, and weapon, and there are about 7 of each) and go kill other cyborgs in classic beat-em-up style. Add in the ability to rip enemies apart and steal their weapon or legs (or absorb their body to regain some health) as well as an impressive number of different moves that can be pulled off , and you’ve got what I consider a true Genesis hidden gem.   They crammed a lot of stuff into 3 buttons, and some moves are a lot more effective than others.  Cyborg Justice also features a two player dueling mode, which is pretty fun, as well as a two player coop (which is pretty standard for beat ’em ups).

From Sega-16’s Review: “After selecting your arm, legs, and body beforehand, you enter the beginning of the game and simply walk in a straight line with the same background scrolling endlessly from behind. And every other 5-10 seconds, you’ll be stopped by one or two cyborgs that you’ll have to battle, a la Double Dragon. You can move all over the ground that’s visible on screen, but you’re essentially moving in a straight line.

Of course, this is where the game becomes unique and actually a little fun. You have your choice of six arms to choose from at the beginning of the game: a normal arm, a lance arm, a large cutting blade arm, a flamethrower arm, a gamma ray arm, and another one which is the stupidest choice I’ve ever seen. It literally shoots your arm out of its socket at the enemy, whereas you’ll have to walk over, pick it up, and reattach it to yourself… The fighting moves are plentiful too and also offer lots of variety in fighting. There are many general moves, crouching block moves, punch moves, kick moves, few different jumps (depending on what legs you have), and different body attacks where you can latch onto other borgs and bash them with your arms, pick them up and throw them, or my most favorite move (which is all I try to do) which is to rip their arm off, and then rip their body off, a move combo which takes a cyborg down relatively quickly, as long as your don’t suffer a cheap shot, which this game is full of. It’s also really entertaining to watch, and listen to it pop off of them. Ha! The best part of these moves is that you can attach an enemy’s arm to yourself and use it, giving you the freedom to change your arm many times throughout the game. Once you rip their body off, you can steal its energy which replenishes some of your life meter back, and you can pick up and attach their legs to yourself too. See something on your enemy you like? Just rip that sucker off!”
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Mazin Saga: Mutant Fighter

Mazin SagaThis is an awesome beat-em-up based on a comic that is a solid compliment to the Streets of Rage series, but is utilizes 2D fighting segments for the massive bosses.

From SegaAddict’s Review:  “I’ve expressed my love of variety in game mechanics before, and Mazin Saga’s boss battles again reaffirm that undying adoration.  Through most of the game, you fight as a little human-sized knight, fighting off other human-sized creatures.  At the end of each stage, you transform into a giant version of yourself, Power Rangers style, to fight the final boss eye-to-eye.  The game transforms into a very simple fighting game, a change in gameplay which can be an extremely welcome respite from the regular sword-slashing rigamarole.

The intensity of these battles is driven skyward, largely by the insane difficultly, but even more so by the distinct disadvantage your character now has.  The limber, spinning Mazinger-Z of the hack n’ slash has been traded for a slow, hulking version with a much more cumbersome fighting style.  Your foes carry maces, shoot fireballs, and can charge at you repeatedly at impressive speeds, while you only have your sword swing to protect you.  This really forces the player to strategize, finding just what tactics of Mazinger-Z’s limited arsenal will help him hold out until the beast has been slain.  Sometimes this can make for a rather interesting battle, other times it can feel frustratingly unfair…

It is this incredible difficulty that will drive many players away from this fun little experience.  Mazin Saga is only five levels long, with each level split into three stages.  This length works, considering the fact that so few people will have the patience to go through later half’s grueling duels over and over again.   By the end, the challenge they provide makes up for it.  I’ve played this game on-and-off for more than a decade, and I’ve only just recently beaten it…  And I couldn’t be more satisfied.  Then again, I tend to be a sucker for punishment.”
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Other Games To Try

  • The Lost Vikings
  • Saturday Night Slam Masters
  • The Punisher

Fighting

Obvious Choices:
Street Fighter II: SCE, Mortal Kombat Series, Samurai Shodown

Eternal Champions

Eternal ChampionsWhen Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat were burning up the sales charts, Sega thought they needed to get in on the action with their own 2D fighter (before they took on 3D fighting with the Virtua Fighter series).  Eternal Champions was a solid contender and received quite a bit of marketing at the time of is release.  Since then, it has lost quite a bit of mindshare and has been reduced to a cult favorite among Sega fans.

From NintendoLife’s Review: “Eternal Champions may share many of the same features of Capcom’s and Midway’s fighters, but it does everything it can to distance itself from these titles and carve out a niche of its own. For one thing, the plot is actually quite good. Each of the characters is a combat expert of his (or her) time period, and they’ve all been saved from the brink of death by the mysterious ‘Eternal Champion’ to participate in good old brawling tournament. The reward is to return to their era and escape death, having proved themselves worthy to defend the interests of the human race against malevolent forces… All in all, Eternal Champions is still a worthwhile purchase if you like your 2D fighters. And, as a Western-developed title it feels subtly different most other games in a genre dominated by Japanese developers.”

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Weaponlord

WeaponlordI can see why most people would be put off by Weaponlord’s AI, but the same goes for Eternal Champions which is already included. In any case, even really high quality Fighters tend to be lacking in the AI department, so it is fair to rate Weaponlord based purely on the multiplayer – which will surely please most Fighter fans. The thrust-blocking allows for very intense and drawn out fights. Weaponlord is originally for SNES

From Sega-16’s Review:” On first glance the game can be dismissed as Samurai Shodown in a fantasy setting, but that would overlook the depth of WeaponLord’s combat engine which includes the ability to break weapons, deflecting attacks, unblockable strikes, the aforementioned thrust “aggressive” blocking, and more. Combos can be extended by getting an opponent to stagger with a “double over” hit or by knocking them over with a “take down” move. Finally, WeaponLord features multiple special moves which double as (and can be combo-ed into) Mortal Kombat-style fatalities, allowing the victor to gut, behead, and otherwise defile the loser’s corpse without breaking the flow of the game. If that’s not enough humiliation, the game also lets players cut off clothing and hair during the match itself with a well timed strike.  If that sounds ridiculously complex, it is, especially considering the competition at the time. Further adding to WeaponLord’s complexity was its use of Street Fighter II-style special moves (D-pad motion then button press) along with Primal Rage-type inputs (hold button, motion D-pad, then release). Each of the seven combatants in WeaponLord sports about ten or so special moves, with roughly half of them belonging to each input method. While fighting games of this complexity are common today, they also benefit from having a training mode, which WeaponLord lacks..”
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Other Games To Try

  • Yu Yu Hakusho: Makyo Toitsusen
  • TMNT: Tournament Fighters
  • King of Monsters
  • Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon
  • Dragon Ball Z: Bu Yu Retsuden

RPG

Obvious Choices
Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III, Phantasy Star IV

Shadowrun

Shadowrun Based 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.

From RPGFans’ Review: “When I first heard about this game, I thought I was going to be just as disappointed as I was with the original Shadowrun for the SNES. After playing it through (twice I might add), I am proud to announce that this game is far superior to its predecessor in almost every way. All Genesis owners who are looking for a worthy RPG experience should go out and find it. Unless you hate futuristic RPGs, you’ll get your money’s worth.”
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Rings of Power

Rings of PowerIn this free-roaming RPG, you’ll encounter a ton of characters and you must pay close attention to anyone and everything, as they might offer up a clue to where you need to go on your quest.  The game has a bit of a difficulty curve at the beginning, but if you can get past the first town of the game, you will probably forgive these issues, and want to continue on.  The game supports multiple ways of transportation to navigate the vast map. There are no map markers, quest journals, or any other hand holding in this game.  If you are a fan of adventure games, or western RPGs (or both), you will probably love this game. If you are more of a jRPG person, you might want to pass on this one.

From yatesy’s Review on GameFAQs: “While technically far from perfect, the game has a hidden charm far beneath its unappealing looks. The first time I played the game, I was a little disappointed and didn’t return to it for a while. When I actually gave the game a chance, and put a little time in to it, I became hooked. For the next few months, the game captivated me, keeping me coming back to find that next ring, while at the same time frustrating me with some of the most annoying puzzles I have ever seen. Not everyone is going to like this game, that is for certain, but for those who do give it a chance, there is a very good game waiting to suck you in – I’d just give it a try, and see if you are one of them. ”
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Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday

Buck Rogers: Countdown to DoomsdayCountdown to Doomsday has a real “d20 table top game” feel, and many of your choices actually determine aspects of that game such as encountering combat. Throughout your journey, you will also earn more experience with the correct decision that leads to avoiding than you would if you encounter the battle and defeat all the enemies.

From EmP’s Review on GameFAQs: “The bones of this game is that of a turn based strategy. People who have played turned based futuristic strategy games (such as either early X-Com) will feel right at home in Buck Rogers. Indeed, it often feels like a stripped down simpler version of games of that ilk. For players, like myself, that are existing fans of this genre, it can only be a good thing, and for those who perhaps are not familiar, this is simple enough to be an excellent starting title.  The game is split into the ground based missions, and the transportation that occurs in space. Both contain their own turn based combat system, so whilst on foot, you can make use of various weaponry and armour you can collect or purchase throughout the game, whereas in space combat, you are asked to man the futuristic gun turret, and rain down laser fueled doom on the opposing spacecraft. ”
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Other Games To Try

  • Beyond Oasis
  • Beggar Prince
  • Monster World IV
  • Warsong (Langrisser 1)
  • Langrisser 2
  • Crusader of Centy
  • Light Crusader
  • Landstalker
  • Shining in the Darkness
  • Faery Tale Adventure

Strategy

Obvious Choices:
Shining Force, Shining Force II

Herzog Zwei

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.

From Racketboy’s Review: “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.”

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General Chaos

General ChaosThere’s not too many games that qualify as a party strategy game, but General Chaos can be placed at the top of the short list.   The game is fun as a single-player game, but you’ll really see it shine when you bring some friends on-board.

From Sega-16’s Review: “Here’s how the game works: it’s five-on-five warfare between two teams. You choose your set of five men before every battle and there are various types of soldiers like a flame thrower, a gunmen, and a bazooka launcher guy. I believe you get limits on how many of each kind of man you can use. A battle proceeds and if one of your men loses all his life, he’ll lay out on the field for a certain amount of time, during that time, you can move your soldier by him and by pressing the C button, you call out for a medic to come and ”revive” him and he’ll be brought back into battle. There are also power ups on the field to pick up for newer weapons.

For play modes, there’s a campaign mode where you and up to three of your buddies(with a multi player adaptor of course) can go against the computer in a set of battles with each proceeding one being harder. There is also a mode where up to four players can team up or go against each other in combat play. The last mode is boot camp, which is essentially a training mode, so you’ll get learn the game mechanics and adapt to playing the game, learning everything about all the units, calling out medics, etc.

Believe it or not, General Chaos is really a simple and addictive game. The rudimentary war concept makes it so much fun to blast your opponents away. Throw in some human opponents and you’ve got yourself even more fun coming.”
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Aerobiz Supersonic

Aerobiz SupersonicIf you’re a fan of games like Sim City or would like to test some of your business skills in game form, Aerobiz Supersonic is worth a look.  Complete copies of the game can come at a bit of a premium, but there aren’t too many other titles like it.  Of course, it’s not for everyone, but if the premise catches your interest, you really should dive in.

From Sega-16’s Review: “As someone who loves the business side of most every industry out there, I find this game to be a god-send. It gives me a chance to flex my business sense and see if I can run something as well as I think I’m able to. I was pleasantly surprised when I was soundly trounced by my competitors in my first few play sessions with the game. I don’t mind losing, and with this title, you learn in the process. After figuring out what I was doing wrong and what I could do to correct my mistakes, I got right back into the game. I went full-boar into it. I wouldn’t allow anything to stand in my way. I thought my way through any and all obstacles that stood in my path, and that strategy enabled me to succeed. All it took was a little thought to get my way through. Don’t allow the game’s heavy emphasis on the business side of things to negatively influence your thoughts. All it takes is a bit of trial and error, and the ability to learn from your mistakes, and you’ll be fine.

The replay value is through the roof. As I mentioned earlier, this is a game that really gives you a chance to test your business sense. Anyone interested in the business world should definitely give it a shot. Those who aren’t interested in the business world, yet love strategy games, will love Aerobiz Supersonic as well. It’s a thinking-man’s game that tests every fiber of your being. Those looking for a game that will let them test their problem-solving abilities should look no farther.”
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Starflight

Star FlightThis free-roaming space voyage is a shooter/RPG hybrid and is actually a port of a classic title, originally released for DOS and Tandy (and later other personal computing platforms).   The Genesis/Megadrive version was completely remade with graphics and gameplay.   It isn’t without its flaws, but strategy role-playing fans that enjoy Star Trek-like adventures and a different take on the genre should investigate this gem.

From Sega-16’s Review: “Fans of Star Trek will feel instantly at home, as you begin the game you’re given your mission objectives and one is literally “… to seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no man has gone before.” If you haven’t already inferred from the title, you’re in command of a starship, only unlike a shmup I mean you’re literally in command. You’re the captain in charge of hiring and training your crew, naming your proud vessel, purchasing upgrades for it and making all of the decisions in regard to your boldly-going…. Starflight truly is a landmark game lost to time like other genius mold-breakers such as Herzog Zwei. Today we take open ended adventures for granted, thanks to series like Grand Theft Auto, but back in the day we had titles such as Starflight and Elite, which have been long forgotten for their innovations. If you’re looking for a fast action shmup — although the combat is satisfying — you should look elsewhere because this is a game of exploration and not combat. If you’re a fan of Star Trek, or an RPG or strategy gamer looking for something a little different, then Starflight is right up your alley. You may spend upwards of sixty hours before you “beat” it, though even then the vast universe is still left open for you to explore and find whatever you may have missed on the over one hundred planets you can visit.”

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Other Games To Try

  • Gain Ground
  • Dune: The Battle for Arrakis
  • Populous
  • Masters of Monsters
  • Gemfire

Puzzle/Maze

Obvious Choices:
Ms. Pac-Man, Mega Bomberman

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine

Mean Bean MachineEven 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.   The single-player mode offers interesting challenges 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.

From Sega-16’s Review: “First off, the Puyo Puyo game play style is addictive in its own right. The simple goal of defeating your foe quickly becomes a journey due to the difficulty of the game. You’ll find yourself on the losing end of the stick more times than you might like, but once you beat an opponent, you will get a nice feeling of satisfaction. The game play revolves around connecting four jellybeans of the same color together, and then doing that over and over again with other colors (or the same color, depending on the situation) and chaining them all together to form combinations that will cause junk to be dropped on your opponent’s play area, making things all the more difficult for him. Conversely, this can be done to you, so be sure to beat your foe to the punch if you want to have a hope in hell of winning.”

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Other Games To Try

  • Zoop
  • Snow Bros
  • Klax
  • Pac-Attack

Racing

Virtua Racing, Road Rash, OutRun

Championship ProAm

Championship Pro AmDid you ever get a kick out of RC ProAm on the NES or Super RC ProAm on the Game Boy?  Well, Championship ProAm is essentially the series follow-up on the Sega 16-bit hardware.

From Sega-16s Review: ” Championship Pro-Am is an adaptation of the classic NES racer, but has its fair share of differences. For example, in this game, you face more drone racers and are timed for running laps. Furthermore, to get a new racer, you have to collect bonus letters to spell “Champion”? (in R.C. Pro-Am, you had to collect bonus letters to spell “Nintendo”).

The gameplay is awesome, sporting some tight control and making great use of the stock Genny pad. Simplicity is the rule of the day- button A is used to accelerate and buttons B & C attack or sound the horn. No one expects complex control from an early 16-bit title about remote-controlled cars, so the basic design is quite fitting.  This game does retain the classic formula as its source material. The tracks are also the same as in R.C. Pro-AM. Just as before, you can mod your racer to improve performance with any of the multitude of items available. You can collect super sticky tires, as well as turbo acceleration & high-performance engines. You can also collect missiles to shoot at your opponents ahead of you and bombs to prevent opponents from coming up past you from behind. Roll cages render you invincible from crashing, but you had to be careful , since your opponents can also make use of it. Other items, like Zippers, give you a speed boost.”
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Road Blasters

Road BlastersThe Genesis version of this arcade classics is one of the best home versions you’ll play (it’s also hard to emulate the controls well in MAME, in case you were wondering).   If you haven’t played the arcade version, the racing dynamic is similar to Outrun where you’re trying to make checkpoints, but with fuel constraints instead of time limits.  Thrown into the mix are weapons and enemies to take out.  The combination makes for one of the underrated arcade racing experiences ever.

From JPeeples’s Review on GameFAQs: “The majority of your time in Road Blasters will be spent driving down the many levels in this game (50 in all) shooting the living daylights out of your rivals. You’ll be facing off with enemy cars, bikers, and even some roadside gun turrets. On top of those rivals, you will also have to stay sharp and make sure to avoid the many water puddles in the middle of the road that can, and will cause you to spin out of control, potentially sending you into enemy cars and blowing you up. Along the way, you’ll have to collect green orbs to keep your car from running out of fuel. You can get these puppies by destroying vehicles or by finding them scattered across the road. Be sure to have an itchy trigger finger when you go for the ones in the enemy vehicles, because while some cars only take one shot to kill, some take more, and you’ve got to be ready for anything in this game. ”
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Micro Machines Series

Micro MachinesThis racing series based on the 90’s toy series debuted on the NES and Gameboy, but eventually made it to the Genesis as well.  Even though many mainstream gamers have forgotten about the series, it still has a lot of fans because of it’s varied gameplay and whimsical courses.   The original Micro Machines made it to North America, but the sequels, Micro Machines 2 and Micro Machines ’96 were limited to the Megadrive in the UK and Japan

From Sega-16’s Review: “Micro Machines is about eleven Micro Drivers who have devised a tournament to see which one is the fastest racer. Basically, it’s an overhead racing game with thirty-two different tracks (five of which are bonus), nine vehicles (one of which is bonus), and nine different environments. The range of vehicles is large, each has its own different handling, and they are all wonderfully balanced. They go from power boats, to choppers and 4x4s, to sports cars. The stages are also varied, ranging from sandy beaches to pool tables and breakfast tables…

Overall Micro Machines can be quite tedious after a while in the single-player mode, but it’s the two-player mode in which it really shines. It will be playable forever with a friend, in my opinion. I’m still playing this game on a regular basis fourteen years after it was released on the Mega Drive, and it was really popular in its heyday. Personally my favourite stage is the pool table with the Formula 1 cars but they really are excellent it has to be said I know this game is a bit inferior when compared with the 2, Turbo Tournament ’96, and Military; but this was the beginning of the great franchise so it deserves respect for the standards it set all those years ago. This game is a credit to Codemasters and as they say in the Micro Machines intro “ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!” – and they got it spot on.”
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Other Games To Try

  • Rock N Roll Racing
  • Outrunners
  • Combat Cars
  • Outrun 2019
  • Super Monaco GP
  • Test Drive: The Duel
  • Top Gear 2

Sports

Obvious Choices:
World Series Baseball, NBA Jam TE, NFL With Joe Montana, Madden Football

Mutant League Football

Mutant League FootballThe Mutant League series actually fits quite well as sports games for people that aren’t into sports games.   Just like NBA Jam and it’s predecessors, Mutant League Football mixed up the standard American Football formula to make it more enjoyable for a gaming audience that wasn’t looking for as much of a real football simulation in addition to mixing in some relatively violent, but goofy content (that caught some slack in the heat of the Mortal Kombat debate).

From RandomBullseye’s Review: “Another cool difference between real football and Mutant League is hazards around the football fields. Sometimes you’ll come across mines. Actual land mines. Occasionally there are pits or fire pits. If you’re on a playing field in outer space, run of the edge for a good laugh. You little football players are sucked away off to their doom. It is always hilarious. Another field is made of a rubber like substance that has everyone bouncing around. The major draw of playing Mutant League is the various ways your players can die. Tackle a guy or just bump him enough times and you’ll make him EXPLODE into pieces. Blood flies out and if I’m not mistaken I saw a little gore as well. Trolls, humans, skeletons, aliens, and even the robots are all wonderful to see die. Killing the ref is always awesome, but even more awesome is that you can pick a play that lets you bribe the ref. The ref then calls penalties on the opposing players team for things like picking boogers. No seriously. Also hilarious are the things the players say in little cartoon boxes while a picture of them laughs. Usually occurs if a team is beating the other ones face in or if you’ve just killed another player.”
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Mutant League Hockey

Mutant League HockeyThe team at EA took a lot of gamer feedback from Mutant League Football to improve the formula and bring it to the world of Hockey.   The result was a rock-solid effort and an entertaining alternative to standard 16-bit hockey games.

From the Examiner’s Review: “Mutant League Hockey was no great leap forward for the series, but it did manage to tighten up a number of things on a technical level. For starters the graphics are a major step up from a game released a mere year before, looking much cleaner and leaving no doubt that a player is skeleton and not a robot or some such. The controls are a bit tighter, though the entire game is of course played on ice so there’s always some skid. The quotes from the players and coaches are also a lot funnier and more varied, vastly improving the mystique of lethal contact sports…. The presentation is what really makes this game stand out above its football predecessor, which is arguably the entire point of a game where the living dead and mutants show off their take on contact sports. The game isn’t worth repeated playthroughs unless it’s against your friends, but realizing the loser of a fight gets more time in the penalty box than a guy who just got into a fight is one of those things that makes you realize you’re not playing another NHL game.”
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Super Baseball 2020

Super Baseball 2020Even though this title originated on the Neo-Geo, the Genesis port of this interesting baseball title is still worth a look.   While some people might find weaknesses in it, I personally spent a lot of time with this game back in the 90s and I still enjoy going back to it.   I loved regular baseball games like Sega’s World Series Baseball, but Super Baseball 2020 gave a fast-paced and fresh spin on the sport and combined it will a futuristic, sci-fi theme.  Being able to upgrade both your human and robotic players with the money you earn along the way adds a lot of depth to this very affordable gem.

From DigitPress’s Review: ““Unlike most sports games that set themselves in the future, Super Baseball still maintains what makes the sport enjoyable to play in backyards. The changes to the rules make sense, and haven’t been switched or manipulated simply to make it different. The same number of players enter the game, there are still three strikes, and blasting a shot out of the park is still a homerun… almost.   The major change, aside from the players, is the field of play. A homerun is only good for a run if it hits a specific spot in centerfield. Foul balls are only such if they pop behind the batter. Everything else is fair game, off the glass-topped stands or not. the field will eventually be filled with mines (!), so it’s imperative to watch your step.””
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Zany Golf

Zany Golf Zany Golf is an amazing mini golf game that started on the Apple IIGS and DOS, 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 obstacles that are not physically possible in real life such as jumping hamburgers, teleportation 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.
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Other Games To Try:

  • Skitchin’

59 Comments

  1. Wow, great update to this guide man. Several of these are actually in my line-up for future reviews.

  2. Nick says:

    Try World of Illusion. It’s an amazing platformer, more or less a sequel to Castle of Illusion and Quackshot. It has co-op play, and you can play as Micky or Donald, each of which have unique levels. e.g. Mickey crawls under a gap in the wall to get to one level, while Donald is too ‘wide’ to get in, and goes to a different area. If you play co-op, you get some different levels as well, like the holiday level. It’s a bit on the easy side, but great graphics and music, really fun co-op play, and it’s great for younger kids, or people who are new to platformers. If you enjoy more difficult platformers, you can easily finish it three times (as Mickey, Donald, and co-op) within 2-3 hours and get the complete experience.

  3. green says:

    What an awesome article! I didn’t even know the genesis had such cool games 😀

  4. Luke says:

    Under shmups, I would also recommend that people give “Vapor Trail” a try. There’s nothing that really stands out about it. But it both looks and plays very well, and was considered a very good arcade port to the home console

  5. Derek says:

    Great article. For the rail shooters you only list one game but missed Burning Force, probably one of the better rail shooters and better than Space Harrier 2.

  6. Mike says:

    Great, great article. So thorough, you really did your due diligence!

    People will think I’m crazy but I honestly think Eternal Champions for the SEGA CD is one of the best 2D fighters ever. It had a million fatalities like Mortal Kombat but they were even wackier and they were also interesting and diverse (so was the character selection). There was so much to do. Basically MK2 amped up even more but in my opinion the fighting system was better as well.

    I think Kid Chameleon maybe should have gotten a write up, although I think it falls somewhere in between “obvious choice” and “hidden gem” nowadays. People are just more aware of it with retro gaming becoming a trend. Tons of levels and really good gameplay. To me it was the Sega game a Mario fan would pick up and love.

    Even more props in addition to those above for mentioning General Chaos. Now THAT’S a game even a lot of retro gamers aren’t too familiar with. My friends and I had a blast with it. It’s a pain in the ass to play with a controller (a mouse would’ve made it heavenly) but at the time we didn’t know any better. A game I secretly wish they’d remake on the PC, not that it will ever happen.

    Again great job. I was a Sega kid through and through and you hit all the right notes here.

  7. Salzman says:

    @Luke I agree that Vapor Trail is a must try. I found a complete copy thrifting, and I was amazed at the detail in the game.

    I’d also throw out there the Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey & Minnie. I was floored by the visuals and the music was incredible.

  8. hobie-wan says:

    Aero Blasters is listed both with a picture and in the ‘other games to try’ section of shmups.

    Also… shameless plug I have several of these in my sale thread right now. = D

  9. Chris says:

    Great article, highly recommended for those who think there is only “Sonic” on the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive

  10. Chris says:

    Some correction, Warsong (Langrisser) is more a strategy game, not really a RPG.

    As for my own suggestion, King’s Bounty would be another hidden gem, just like Rings of Power, an under estimated but pretty addictive game, if you like western game style.

  11. Fanfaz says:

    The Adventures of Batman & Robin screenshot is from the SNES version. 🙁 big mistake

  12. Pingfa says:

    Really awesome article!
    I think the only game featured that I don’t quite agree with is Cyborg Justice. I personally found it mostly bland and generic.
    On the other hand, I have another recommendation for the Beat ’em Up section: Two Crude Dudes, an awesome co-op game packed with style

    I agree with Mike about Eternal Champions for Sega CD being epic. It has a massive roster of characters and moves, plus a variety of gory fatalities. I definitely approve of Eternal Champions and Weaponlord being featured ^^

    I also second King’s Bounty. It’s a lot like Mount & Blade

  13. Orion Pimpdaddy says:

    I second Warsong. Great article by the way.

  14. racketboy says:

    Batman screen issues fixed — thanks!

  15. Pingfa says:

    There’s also a spelling error under Adventures of Batman & Robin: unfortunrately

    I just noticed The Lost Vikings is in the Beat ’em Up section, but it should be in the Puzzle section.

  16. grittykitty says:

    really happy to see shadowrun on this list, as it’s such a great game that often gets overlooked… probably because people think it’s a port of the SNES version (no sir!)

    general chaos was also a great game too, and i’m glad to see that get mention here too!

  17. Dave says:

    For sports games, I reckon Wrestleball is worth a look.

    Another vote for Warsong / Rangurissa / Lungrisser in the strategy games pile, and to check out Master Of Monsters from the strategy list too, incredible game. All pale below the might of Herzog Zwei; working that one out from a Japanese manual was a right challenge but completely worth it.

    I can also second the recommendations for Wiz & Liz, Leynos / Target Earth and Elemental Master.

  18. garsh says:

    I sure am glad I discovered this site. No other source is gonna have content like this.

  19. Hatta says:

    At some point these hidden gems become cult classics, which makes them not so hidden anymore. Kind of a catch 22 there, heh.

    Also, major points for mentioning Starflight. If you liked Star Control 2, you must play Starflight. Be sure to get the manual, it’s half an inch thick with tons of back story and clues. With the success of Infinite Space, I think a Starflight HD would be incredibly well received.

  20. Eddie says:

    Very nice rewrite! I see a lot of games that need to be available for download on VC/XBLA/PSN.

  21. rahul says:

    wowies, this is one of the best game guides iv ever read.
    i never knew all these games existed,
    amazing job,
    thanks for the contribution.

  22. Pixel_Crusher says:

    Racketboy, you should consider adding Wolfchild in the Action/Adventure section of your article. It’s by far one of the best overlooked action games available for the Sega Genesis.

  23. Alex says:

    Predecessors should be sequels (target earth). Nice article!

  24. Jesper says:

    Great article!

    I totally agree with your view on the Micro Machines games – they were brilliant and I have played 2 of them for countless hours on SMD. I just recently found out that there existed four games in that series (96 and Military) and luckily I have found and bought both of them 🙂

  25. Niel says:

    i’m looking for a game i played in the nineties, it was action from a top view and you were fighting alien rats and monsters and stuff while running down hallways and entering rooms almost like alien syndrome but only the graphics and music was much more awesome. I think it was on either master system 2 or mega drive or another sega system. its so bloody frustrating because i have looked everywhere and cant find the exact game and of course my stupid memory refuses to give even a clue of what the name of the game was. I wish i could just find this game it was my favourite of all favourites – please help. Sidenote – the music was almost like industrial heavy metal without vocals and the player could upgrage his weapons continously if he stayed alive, and the monsters were small but the graphics still pretty freaky. Once again – please help!

  26. Ramone says:

    @Niel, sounds a bit like The Chaos Engine(Soldiers of Fortune in the US) By Bitmap Brothers.

    As a kid I spent many hours at a friends place battling him in Herzog, but never have seen it anywhere else since. The ROM is a blast to play after all of these years. Would of liked to have seen Gain Ground featured more predominately, a real mostly unheard of gem.

  27. Genesis says:

    Sports Games: Fifa Soccer series, and International Superstar Soccer Deluxe.

  28. ricky says:

    techno cop and fatal Labyrinth and grand slam tennis

  29. Opa Opa says:

    I don’t know when you’ll do another update Racketboy but I found a game that might be interesting for this article. The game is called Dragon’s Fury. It’s a pinball game with a very dark, disturbing atmosphere. The closest thing I can describe it to is Pinball of the Dead on the GBA. As far as gameplay goes it is the standard pinball experience but just looking at the different environments makes you want to keep playing.

  30. racketboy says:

    Cool — thanks for the heads-up — I’ll have to look into that one…

  31. Haha wow, two of my old Sega-16 reviews ended up in here. I’m just happy to see Sub Terrania and Starflight recognized for the gems they are.

    And Target Earth and Ranger X and just about everything on this list, if anyone here hasn’t played them what are you waiting for?

  32. Eric says:

    What about Road Rash 3 for a racing/sport game?

  33. Schtolteheim Reinbach IV says:

    It seems there aren’t very many pure logic games on the Genesis, the only ones I can think of are “Shove It!”(Soukoban), “Shi Kin Joh” and the brilliant “Pyramid Magic” games.
    As for Action-Puzzle games I suggest “Lost Vikings”, “Puggsy”, “Bubba ‘n’ Stix” and “Doki Doki Penguin Land”.
    A platformer with milder puzzle elements is “Animaniacs”, which I find far better than the near unplayable SNES version; the same goes for “Beavis and Butthead”(platformer with an inventory-adventure twist).
    The Codemasters Action-Adventures: “Fantastic Dizzy”, “Cosmic Spacehead”
    Other Platformers: “Flink”, “Rolo to the Rescue” and possibly “Chuck Rock 2”, “Greendog”, “James Pond 2/3”
    Action RPGs: “Cadash”, “Ys III”, “King Colossus”(jp)
    RPGs: “Fatal Labyrinth”(rogue-like), maybe “Sword of Vermilion” and even “Super Hydlide”(which is far better than people think)
    “Jurassic Park: The Lost World” is a unique action-hybrid game, which is quite impressive in several ways.

  34. Arwing904 says:

    I remember buying Herzog Zwei with my pocket money when I was a kid (£9.99 brand new from WH Smiths) and I still think it is the best RTS ever made!!! 🙂 I recently got back into retro gaming and will probably now destroy my street-cred completely by saying that im currently really enjoying Brutal: Paws Of Fury and Brutal: Unleashed … *quietly exits stage right*

  35. hello friend says:

    Do you think i should buy a sega genesis? would $45 be enough

  36. racketboy says:

    I think a Genesis is well worth owning — one of my favorites.
    And for $45 you should get plenty of games with it too. You can usually find a nice machine for $20 to $30.

  37. hello friend says:

    Thanks for your help 🙂 Do you think that the Sega Genesis 16 bit is better than an 1979 intellivistion? i am thinking of buying one and i was wondering which one is the best buy 🙂 p.s i hope you had an amazing easter holiday and got lots of cool things

  38. prost says:

    thanks, i found one of my favourite games, “dangerous seed”
    also, i recommended “kujaku ou 2”, it’s a adventure/action game

  39. racketboy says:

    Hello friend, I’ve never had an Intellivision personally.
    But the Genesis is one of my personal favorites and it’s easy to get lots of good, cheap games
    http://www.racketboy.com/retro/sega/genesis/2010/01/the-best-sega-genesis-games-under-10.html

  40. hello friend says:

    (racketboy) Thanks for your help, i wish i could buy the sega Genesis but i just bought a intellivision so i have to wait a while until i can save up to afford one. How much would you pay for a genesis?

  41. racketboy says:

    $15 to $20 should be a fair price. Shipping costs may add a bunch if ordering online.
    Personally, I think Genesis hardware is some of the best retro values right now.

  42. hello friend says:

    Thanks for your help, i will have to buy one soon 🙂 can’t wait! the reviews looks awesome

  43. Diablo says:

    on hack n slash/ Beatemups, Blades of vengeance. amazing game with a cool D&D theme. awesome co-op. looks amazing as well. Also stands out as my favorite EA genesis game. Did I also mention its Under $10?! I have played through two copies and bought a third. most pricey complete copy was $7.

    I will plug this overlooked gift from god in cart form every chance I get. check it out.

  44. black says:

    Cool article it gave me a list of cool games to play on my sega gopher :).

  45. Someone says:

    I wanted to add Clayfighter to the list for fighting games it was really cool graphics and also unique in the gameplay

  46. Loren Helgeson says:

    This is a great list. The ones that I have played are amazing.

    Among these, I would personally recommend Starflight, X-Men 2, Rocket Knight Adventures and Flashback… especially Rocket Knight!

  47. Patrick says:

    Im getting the Genny for Truxton!

  48. Andrew says:

    Hi,

    I’v been trying to find an old game on the mega drive – it’s a vampire game where you play the vampire. Does anyone know what it was called?

    thanks
    Andrew

  49. salmon_lox says:

    Great list, as always! But I noticed one thing- what is “The Lost Vikings” doing in the Beat-em-up section? It should be under Platformers or Puzzle.

  50. Sirkrozz says:

    Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon is a Beat’em up, not a fighting game.

    Wiz n’ Liz is no match to the rest of the games put there. Even Rolo to the Rescue was better than it.

    Mega Man: The Wily Wars (Rockman Mega World in Japan) is not half as solid as the original NES games, controls were unresponsive sometimes and there was something really wrong with the sound. May be a rarity, but is far from being a masterpiece.

    On the obvious choices Shinobi III: Return of Ninja Master (Super Shinobi III in Japan) should be there. It’s by far the best Shinobi, and clearly, one of the most underrated and unknown action games.

    Also, The Flintstones game was a pretty above average platformer.
    Same with Tiny Toons – Buster’s Hidden treasure.
    (I don’t get what is a game like Wiz n’ Liz doing there, honestly. It was BORING!).

    Robocop vs. The Terminator was also a nice-looking, fine-sounding, hardcore game.

    And TMNT: Tournament Fighters… Fatal Fury I was way more playable than even the SNES version (and sprites were HUGE!).

    It may sound as a ranting or a critic, but i’m far from that.
    I think this list goes great, but I believe there are still games to be known, because i have the feeling some titles are put as a filler rather than over-the-top gaming experiences (all the games i mentioned, i owned them on their time, and for sure, i missed a lot of good other gems).

    This site is wonderful. Keep up the good work.
    Greetings from Argentina

  51. PJ says:

    You should put Aero the Acro-Bat 2 in the platformers part, ’cause is and awesome game underrated because Aero 1 sucked. Besides, how can this list be considered complete without Misadventures of Flink?

    I liked MERCS mentioned, though.

  52. PJ says:

    And THE most underated game of Genesis: Generations Lost.
    Where?

  53. Comet says:

    Speedball II Brutal Deluxe was one of the best games ever. It is still kinda popular in some retro circles, but this is one game I always go back and play. I have had it on Sega Genesis, Amiga, C-64(the first Speedball) and play it on my Dingoo A380 and also Sega Nomad now. If you haven’t tried this one, find it and give it a try. You WILL NOT be disappointed !!!

  54. John E. Brown II says:

    An Amazing list sir!!! I will be seeking out many of these titles…And I’ve got some of them but haven’t played them yet…

    Glad to see Subterrania on the list…strange that nobody ever mentions that your ship controls like the one in Asteroids/Star Castle. That said, my 2 favorite Genesis games were not on the list. First is Dragon’s Fury (as mentioned above). This is the same game as Devil’s Crush/Devil’s Crash on TurboGrafx 16/P C Engine. It also has a very good sequel on Genesis called Dragon’s Revenge. And then my favorite game of All Time for Genesis is Ultimate Qix (called Volfied on the Mega Drive). This is like a souped up version of Tron light cycles/Qix/Surround and it has awesome bosses and power ups that let you shoot or stop time…I can play it every day and not get bored…(and I’m not great at most games, but in this one I’ve covered 99.9% of the screen to beat a level and get 500,000 points)….I recommend it to everybody!

  55. Brox says:

    i’m trying to find a genesis game, that i think it’s american only and was one of the last games for genesis, it has the red label on the cover, which was almost totally black with a sort of robotic-spined backbone and with the name written over it. The game was like a third shooter (you control a guy), and maybe the first stage was in a futuristic city at night.
    these are just kid’s memories, so i hope for your help

  56. Rhaticus says:

    I came to recommend The Misadventure of Flink and see that a couple of visitors have suggested it already (so I’ll add to that). To the staff of this site: you’re missing out on one of the richest games for this system if you’ve never played Flink. The top platformer in graphics and game design.

  57. Rom says:

    Gaiares is a great shoot-em-up. I don’t know how well-known it is having only gotten into shmups recently but it seems to play a little like R-Type in that you have a drone you can fire off and recall. The twist is that when you do so you can inherit the unique firepower of the destroyed enemy. It looks good for a Mega Drive game too.

  58. Darguel says:

    I love genesis games. Nostalgia, nostalgia…