When you add a console to your collection, the first thing you want to do is get a handful of games to keep you busy with your new toy. However, most of us can’t spend afford to spend fat pile of cash for a few games. This budget-friendly list should help you quickly find which games will start you off well without emptying your wallet. (Prices listed are an average eBay price for US games, including shipping)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2: $3
There is no doubt in my mind that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the best value on the Sega Genesis. In my humble opinion, this game alone is my favorite 16-bit game of all time and is the pinnacle of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. From the Emereld Hill Zone to the Death Egg battles, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a pure thrill. Those skeptics that claim all you have to do in the old Sonic games is “hold down on ‘right'” obviously haven’t made it past the first zone. Many Genesis owners, including myself, received Sonic 2 as a pack-in with their Genesis system, so this Sonic cartridge is ultra-common and dirt cheap. The original Sonic the Hedgehog is nearly as cheap and common, but hasn’t aged quite as well.
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Sonic and Knuckles: $9
Sonic and Knuckles was not only one of the best Sonic games ever, but also allowed you to plug in older Sonic games and play them with Knuckles. The S&K game is worth the low price on its own, but adding some extra replay value to your older games is icing on the cake. The only challenge for collectors is trying to find a complete copy in good condition since it used those cheap cardboard retail boxes.
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Vectorman & Vectorman 2: $9 each
As an answer to Nintendo and Rare’s Donkey Kong Country series and it’s pre-rendered, 3D-like graphics, Sega fought back with the Vectorman series. These run-and-gun shooters feature their own 3D-ish character and lots of 16-bit eye-candy in addition to lots of stuff blowing up. I still find both of these games to be guilty pleasures on a regular basis.
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Streets of Rage: $8
The original Sega brawler that is still a solid favorite. The series took the brawler genre to a whole new level, with more attacks, realistic-looking characters, and interesting backdrops. While not quite as popular as its sequel, the initial Streets of Rage can be found under the $10 mark and is a solid foundation for any Genesis collection.
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Comix Zone: $9
This brawler is an extremely original and visually impressive game which immerses you in a comic book world (you are literally pulled into the pages of a comic book). Comix Zone is probably one of the most stylish games on the Genesis and includes some subtle features and a difficulty level that aren’t found in most brawlers.
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Ecco The Dolphin: $6
To diversify from the Sonic-like mascot games, Sega used their trademark innovation to create a game in which you guided a dolphin through the ocean, completing tasks and navigating unsafe waters. Ecco had more of a story than most platformers at the time and features some challenging puzzles that turned off many a casual gamer. However, if you like a thinking man’s 16-bit adventure, Ecco will be worth every cent of its low price tag.
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Thunder Force IV (Lightening Force): $6
Thunder Force IV went by the name Lightening Force (sic) in the States and is possibly one of the best shooters on the Genny. It became a seminal and classic sidescroller, and one that paved the way for the remaining innovations to come in the shmup scene.
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Disney’s Aladdin: $8
Aladdin remains as one of the finest licensed Disney games of all time. It captured the look and feel of the animated film beautifully while presenting some entertaining gameplay. Fortunately for us mere mortals, Aladdin didn’t have quite the high difficulty level of Capcom’s Disney games on the NES (Although, I did have to re-do that Magic Carpet escape level many, many times). Overall, Aladdin is a well-balanced and engaging title that is a must-try for both kids and adults.
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Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine: $6
If you want a good puzzle game for your Genesis, look no further than Mean Bean Machine. The game is essentially a straightforward Puyo Puyo clone with characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog TV series. Playing against a human opponent is most likely to deliver the most fun, the one-player mode is surprisingly well-executed. Each round you play again a new Dr. Robotnik sidekick and each has their own disticting approach to the game and has a gradual difficulty level. The game will start you out slow and work your way up to mastery before facing Dr. Robotnik himself (good luck with that one).
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Genesis 6-Pak: $9
This would typically go near the top of the list since it essentially such a great value. But I figured I would discuss the individual games first and then mention this compilation cartridge. The Genesis 6-Pak is a very common collection of some of the early essentials from the Genesis. It includes the original Sonic The Hedgehog , Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, Columns, Revenge of Shinobi, and Super Hang-On. So this game pack is a great start for a Genesis collection that will give you a taste of excellent platforming, action, beatemups, puzzle, and racing gameplay.
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A Few Must-Haves Slightly Over $10…
Sonic the Hedgehog 3: $15
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is right up there with the second installment as the best Sonic game of all time. It has better animation, additional power-ups and some amazing landscapes, but it’s a matter of personal preference when it comes to level and boss design. No matter if I enjoy Sonic 2 more, Sonic 3 is a game that is not to be missed! Side Note: Keep in mind that there are two case variations (both plastic and cardboard are out there for Sonic 3). The plastic case is easier to keep in good condition, but may be harder to find.
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Sonic 3-in-1 Classics: $10
This relatively unknown cartridge contains the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2, and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (all mentioned above). Not only will this compilation let you play all three of these games without changing the cartridge, but you can also save a little bit of cash if you are thinking about buying all three.
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Phantasy Star II: $15
As one of the greatest turn-based RPG series of the 16-bit era, the Phantasy Star games had rich storyline in a futuristic setting with several worlds to explore. The story itself is half fantasy and half science fiction. As the series developed, it became less like a standard D&D game, as the fantasy aspects become intertwined with the technology. The second installment (and the first on the Genesis) along with Phantasy Star IV (which, unfortunately will cost you a bit more) are reveared as the best in the series and some of Sega’s best RPG work ever.
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Gunstar Heroes: $16
This landmark game in the run-n-gun genre of shooter was the first from the development house, Treasure, and remains a cult classic and one of the most timeless Genesis games. Gunstar Heroes not only featured deep and challenging shooter gameplay, but also served as a technical demo for what the Sega Genesis could do graphically.
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Earthworm Jim: $12
Earthworm Jim reinvigorated the stale platforming genre with its unique gameplay, artistic flair, and wicked sense of humor. Jim is practically an institution to some Genesis fans, but gamers new to the series may be discouraged by the game’s excessive difficulty. Clearly, Earthworm Jim was programmed by experts for experts. Its superb animation, crisp control, and amazing audio pushes the system’s capabilities. Earthworm Jim is certainly one of a kind, though casual gamers may find it somewhat frustrating.
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Contra: Hard Corps: $14
One of the toughest Genesis games around – but balanced and fair in its own strange way. The only truly annoying thing about Contra Hard Corps is this difficulty – it doesn’t make you sit through long talks, or restart areas after dying. It’s just hard, on par with the system’s Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, but less annoying. Deaths come when you weren’t sharp or wary enough, not because you didn’t execute a well-known jump perfectly. You spend a great deal of time memorizing patterns, but the experience is far from routine. Take just one hit and you’re dead, the standard for an oldschool Contra title; you have three lives and five continues. Good luck.
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Other Cheap Favorites:
Road Rash II: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
Dynamite Headdy: $6 – eBay
Mickey Mania: $7 – eBay / Amazon.com
Battletoads & Double Dragon: $7 – eBay / Amazon.com
Rocket Knight Adventures: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
Revenge of Shinobi: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
Ranger-X: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
Target Earth: $9 – eBay / Amazon.com
Phantasy Star III: $9 – eBay / Amazon.com
Street Fighter II: SCE: $4 – eBay / Amazon.com
NBA Jam TE: $4 – eBay / Amazon.com
Cool Spot: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
X-Men: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
The Lost Vikings: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
Quackshot Starring Donald Duck: $7 – eBay / Amazon.com
Ecco Tides of Time: $7 – eBay / Amazon.com
Phantom 2040: $7 – eBay / Amazon.com
Eternal Champions: $7 – eBay / Amazon.com
Taz-Mania: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
Sub-Terrania: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
Super Thunder Blade: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
Sonic Spinball: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
Sonic 3D Blast: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
MERCS: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
Strider: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
Mortal Kombat II: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
Disney’s Lion King: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
Jungle Strike: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
Golden Axe: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
Samurai Shodown: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
My Starter Picks For $50 Budget
If I only had $50 to spend on starting out a Genesis collection, here would be my top picks (in order of priority):
Sonic Classics: $10
Genesis 6-Pak: $9
Gunstar Heroes: $16
Lightening Force: $6