The SEGA Genesis was one of the biggest consoles ever created. After Nintendo put themselves at the forefront of the gaming industry, SEGA believed that they could do the same thing, but better (anyone remember “Genesis does what Nintendon’t”?). As such, the Genesis was the beginning of gaming consoles that hyped up performance and more grown-up-oriented games as opposed to experiences that were fun for everyone. It was a bitter rivalry, and Nintendo took home the gold in the end.
Despite eventually dropping out of the console race, SEGA had a great run with the Genesis. As it stands now, it has a library of some of the most beloved games ever released. From brutally-difficult Disney tie-in games to gory fighters, there was no telling what the next release would be for the Genesis. A lot of people gravitated toward the system as a result.
Now that the console is a legacy system over anything else, many of its games have stood the test of time and remain, to this day, some of the highest-rated games of all time. The problem with that is a lot of the games that are remembered aren’t the best on the console. They’re thought of fondly largely because they were either bundled with the console or had a big push back in the day. They aren’t bad games, they just get a bit too much credit.
With that out of the way, we’ll discuss 15 overrated SEGA Genesis games (and 15 that deserve a second chance).
You probably saw this coming. While Sonic the Hedgehog became SEGA’s biggest character, his first adventure came with its fair share of problems. Despite marketing it as a game where speed was the best way to proceed, it was frustrating to find that SEGA had made a game that punished players for going to fast. Couple that with some almost unfair and monotonous levels between standing on a slow-moving block and surviving water in the Labyrinth Zone, and there’s a lot to dislike with the game.
There were several platformers on the Genesis back in the day, but one of the least-mentioned ones is Ristar. Players take control of a star character and travel from planet to planet, defeating evil minions one by one before finding the last boss to save the universe. It’s a simple premise, but the charm is in the game’s presentation. Every environment looks stunning, and every animation is on point. It has a simple control scheme, but it’s utilized well in each level.
Altered Beast was a game a lot of people remembered fondly. You’ll see it in many lists for the best games on the console. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t hold up that well. You start the adventure with an iconic bit of dialogue before being thrust into an action game where the camera automatically scrolls. Each combat scenario feels awkward as a result, and that’s enhanced by the stiff controls. The music also feels strangely out of place. It’s not awful, but it’s far from the best.
When it comes to action platformers, The Revenge of Shinobi understands just about everything necessary for success. It was difficult but fair. The name of the game was knowing your opponent’s attack patterns and exploiting their openings. Keep in mind that you take control of a ninja who rushes through several insane levels set to a stellar soundtrack. He comes in contact with foes that strongly resemble the likes of Godzilla, Rambo, and even Batman himself. Why wouldn’t you want to play this game?
Mortal Kombat, as a series, has improved since it first began on the Genesis. The first entry was a corny, barebones fighting game that marketed itself around a single gimmick: gore. Achieving a fatality was the success that many players strived for, but that was about it. A lot of the character designs were basic at best, and the fighting mechanics were stale when compared to something like Street Fighter or even Streets of Rage. At least you throw your opponents into spikes, though.
Kid Chameleon is a game that hasn’t received the best reviews after its release. However, we’re here to tell you that it’s one of the most smartly-made games on the Genesis. It’s difficult to the point where you want to knock your own teeth out, but everything is done so carefully and intentionally that there’s no denying how good it is. The level design is tight, each obstacle and enemy teaching you to learn its mechanics like they’re an entirely new language. It’s hard, but we’ll be darned if it isn’t good.
Ecco the Dolphin has some unique controls, allowing you to dash through the water and leap along the surface. The problem with the game is that it’s very confusing. By opening the ocean to players at the start, most get confused as to where they need to go. Many people proclaim how much they love the game, but without any proper indication that there’s a purpose behind all the swimming, it’s difficult to see where the enjoyment is. At least the controls are decent.
Most products that are so obviously from the 90s don’t stand the test of time all that well. However, the time-sensitive ridiculousness of ToeJam and Earl allows it to hold up phenomenally. You and a friend go through levels from a top-down perspective, throwing tomatoes at any foe that dare get in your way. It’s a wacky and stylistic game that just kicks back to have a good time with itself. If you like this game, you’ll be pleased to know that the series is being revived.
The way Vectorman is designed encourages players to speed through levels, shooting and running through everything that gets in their path. The problem is that the camera is far zoomed in that it makes the game more difficult to play. On top of that, there’s no denying that the animations look good, but the graphics themselves (particularly in the color department) haven’t aged all that well. The sound effects can also be so loud and cacophonous that it blasts right through your eardrum.
Flicky is one of the most fun and creative arcade-style games to date. You take control of a little blue bird, whose responsibility is to save chicks scattered throughout a level while avoiding tigers and iguanas. It’s a tense yet adorable game. The sound effects can be a bit harsh when compared to the light soundtrack, but that doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable experience through and through. Those who get good at the game are also rewarded by getting extra lives.
Castle of Illusion is the type of game that benefits more from the popularity of its title character than anything else. Its level design and platforming mechanics are basic if not extremely derivative from Super Mario Bros. If Mickey Mouse weren’t the central character on screen, then we’d wager that no one would care about it after that. It ended up being popular enough to receive a whimsical remake years later that alleviated some of the problems of the game.
It’s a shame that Castle of Illusion got all of the attention, because its sequel, World of Illusion, is arguably a better game. The levels were much more thought out, and the mechanics were nearly perfected with the addition of Donald Duck. When two players were working together, they could reach new heights and access more places in the level. It was a seemingly small change that made the franchise feel like its own thing. However, few people remember it.
There are only a few fighting game franchises that survived past the older days, and that’s because the developers put forth their best effort into ironing out their mechanics. That’s precisely why Streets of Rage failed to be a household name where Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter succeeded. Streets of Rage 2 did little to improve upon its formula and was bogged down by a severe lack of content and fighting mechanics that were only fun for the first few hours.
Ever wanted to be a radioactive slime monster that slowly grew bigger until it took over the world? The Ooze has it all. Players take control of an ooze creature in an enhanced version of Snake. You grow bigger while avoiding obstacles. If you get so small that you’re no longer visible on screen, then it’s a game over. The Ooze is not just a one-trick pony, though. There are genuine challenges that require thought to overcome, and levels that have unique mechanics that teach you how to use the ooze in different ways.
Comix Zone is one of the most graphically creative games on the Genesis. Everything is designed to look like it was ripped out of a comic book, and it’s a treat to watch. However, it’s a difficult game that doesn’t understand how to make something hard yet enjoyable. The game just feels unforgiving for the sake of being unforgiving. Because of this, many players don’t make it very far before turning it off and trying something much more balanced and fair.
Monster World IV was the final entry in the Wonder Boy series that got the short end of the stick. It wasn’t released outside of Japan until years later, meaning that most people in the United States didn’t get a chance to play it. However, this game takes the RPG and Metroidvania-esque elements of the franchise and polishes them. A real narrative is thrown into the mix to offer some more dynamic characters as well as a reason to play the game. Furthermore, it’s graphically the best in the series.
Dynamite Headdy was a game that had the benefit of coming from a developer that was well-respected at the time. However, this caused many critics to over-praise the game. While there are some unique character designs and visuals, Dynamite Headdy is far from Treasure’s best work. It has almost too many mechanics to make it feel cohesive and is a bit slow for a platformer. It’s not an awful game, but it’s not something that needs to be universally praised.
Pulseman was a game developed by Game Freak before they struck gold with the Pokemon franchise. This game stars the titular character who has some clear roots in Mega Man, but plenty of charm and unique moves to differentiate him from the blue bomber. It results in a downright gorgeous game with airtight mechanics. The game understands how to make something fun yet unlike anything else that came before it. Each level is a treat, with great moments to leave a lasting impression.
Moonwalker is a game that will be forever loved simply because you play as a Michael Jackson with the power to take down criminals and dance. Once you get past that, you’re left with an okay action game that can be a bit more tedious than it’s worth. You have to go through every floor and fight bad guys with moves that force you to constantly be in the line of fire. Furthermore, the game doesn’t effectively communicate what you need to do to pass each level, leaving players to do a lot of trial and error.
Treasure was a top developer during the days of the Genesis, and look no further than Alien Soldier to see why. Despite how generic of a name it is, Alien Soldier is one of the best action games on the system. Period. You go through levels as quickly as possible and gun down a host of enemies. You tackle on larger-than-life bosses that take up half the screen. Everything about the game is dripping quality design. It pushed the limits of what could be done with the system. If only more people remembered it.
Mutant League Football is a fun idea with a decent execution, but it doesn’t have the fleshed out mechanics or style to help it last. Sure, it was popular enough to get a remake/sequel years later, but that just means it was a product of popular demand. The graphics were bare, making the game awfully ugly (even for something released on the Genesis). The music was also hit or miss. A lot of people have good memories of this one, but that doesn’t make it the best game on the console.
It’s crazy that a game like Rocket Knight Adventures has a better grasp of momentum than Sonic the Hedgehog did. This game was a platformer that could stand against the best of the bunch. It had an adorable character, amazing graphics, and a unique mechanic that made the game its own entity. Using the jetpack is a blast. That’s all without mentioning how tight the levels feel, with the titular character taking down foes that are much larger than him.
Gunstar Heroes is a fun game, especially if you have another player joining the fray. However, it’s a game that is held back by its over-the-top style. By throwing hordes of enemies on screen at a time, it’s not hard to get lost in all the noise. Everything is moving all at once at such an incredible pace that figuring out what to do can often get you killed. It has some nice character designs and fun moments, but it doesn’t quite reach the heights of some of Treasure’s other games.
During the time Castlevania Bloodlines came out, most people were enamored with Super Castlevania IV. However, this caused a great game in the franchise to be lost in the years. Bloodlines does have some goofy moments that seem out of place for the series, but it makes up for it with some quality level design, graphics, and difficulty. It managed a balance between the brutal difficulty of the older games in the series while not making it too easy that new players became bored.
The Wonder Boy series went through a lot of changes in The Dragon’s Trap. The introduction of transformations, new worlds to traverse, and secrets to unlock added a lot to the series. Wonder Boy V didn’t add to those changes, even going as far to remove most of them, which is why it feels like a step back in a lot of ways. Despite the upscale to 16-bit, the main character still feels quite lifeless and stiff. It’s a good game, but not the best in the franchise.
In a lot of ways, Chakan: The Forever Man was a precursor to the Dark Souls franchise, and not just because “it’s hard.” The game has some lore behind it, places an emphasis on proper positioning during battle, and forces you to learn its mechanics well, or you perish painfully. It does suffer from some bland graphics, and the aspect ratio makes it a bit more difficult to play, but it’s far from the bad game that people make it out to be.
Pinball and Sonic. It seems like a match made in Heaven. Unfortunately, Sonic Spinball is frustrating and unfair. While the graphics are quite fun, each level (or cabinet) requires some precise hits that are almost impossible to get intentionally. A lot of times, you’ll perish just because you got unlucky and the game decided it was your time to be done. The levels only get harder the farther you go, meaning that you’ll experience a host of losses that you want to throw your Genesis out the window.
Mazin Saga Mutant Fighter deserves to be on this list solely for how bold it was. It looked like a regular beat-em-up that you’d expect to see from the era, but it’s how they shift the combat scenarios that make it much more interesting. When tackling a boss, the game transitions into a fighting game, where the mechanics are suddenly flipped on their head. It was an excellent way of making a boss feel challenging without turning them into a damage sponge.
Earthworm Jim is one of the best-looking games on the Genesis. Period. With its hand-drawn animations and wacky art style, it deserves to be remembered for that alone. In terms of its gameplay, it’s not that exciting when compared to other platformers at the time. The limited directions of aiming meant that it was hard to tackle some enemies on top of players constantly having to stop moving to take down some foes. It’s goofy and fun but has mostly been immortalized for how it looked.
Take the exploration of The Legend of Zelda and the combat of Secret of Mana, and you get a little game called Beyond Oasis. Where the Genesis had a lack of adventure games, this one is arguably one of the best ever made. Complete with challenging puzzles, magic abilities, and pleasing graphics, this was a title that many felt could compete with A Link to the Past on the SNES. The combat with combo attacks and special moves made it feel like a beat-em-up with a greater purpose.