Roundtable: Our favorite Genesis games
As you might be aware, today marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of the SEGA Genesis in North America. It’s kinda a big deal because it marked the beginning of the infamous Console Wars between SEGA and Nintendo, but it also introduced many of us to the greatness of SEGA and forever changed the video game industry.
With that in mind, the SEGA Nerds team has picked each of their favorite SEGA Genesis games and explained why they’re special to them.
Andrew – Ranger X
As with anything, it is hard to pick a favourite. The criteria for a favourite anything is intagible and nebulous at best. That said when you find something that becomes your favourite, you just immediately know. That is how I felt about Ranger X, or Ex-Ranzer.
I didn’t even know what this game was when I was offered a box of Mega Drive games to paw through at my local game store. I pulled out a couple of guaranteed winners like Splatterhouse 2 and then my eyes fell on Ranger X. I put it in my Mega Drive and almost instantly fell in love. The graphics were detailed, almost as good as the box art of so many games I had seen that had disappointed me in the past.
The gameplay was so fresh. You controlled two sprites on screen seamlessly in a ballet of explosions and mecha combat. It was fast, furious and utterly gorgeous and although my heart aches when I think about the days I spent playing Columns or Sonic the Hedgehog as a kid in my crappy little flat in Cornwall, this game was better looking, more fun and more engrossing than those two games could ever be.
Ranger X was obviously so painstakingly designed that it is difficult to fault it. Smooth 3D animation awaits the player at the start of each level, only to offer them a perfectly balanced challenge once the level begins. The screen then fills with a huge, multi-sprite boss and then another level starts with reflective water that looks amazing and then the next level has even more parallax, 3D effects and exciting gunplay than you could ever hope for.
Given the notion that a favourite is something you hold dear to your heart for a reason, I would have to say Ranger X not only gave me hours of unbridled excitement and fun, but it showed me that the Mega Drive had so much more to show me than I had seen before. That is why it is my favourite Mega Drive game.
Chris – Shining Force
I’ve espoused my love for Shining Force many times over the years, and it still holds up as one of my favorite RPGs of all time. I still remember borrowing the game from a close friend and sitting down to play it the first time. I really wish games today could give me that sense of joy and wonderment that Shining Force and several other amazing Genesis games provided me back then.
I was instantly captivated by the excellent hand-drawn character portraits, and the animated battle sequences were such a drastic change from anything I had ever seen before up to that point.
I loved the idea of building a small army, choosing which friends I wanted to take with me in battle and fighting the forces of Darksol. Each character had their own unique identity and original look, and I loved building the game’s protagonist, Max, up to a really high level and see him become a beast on the battlefield, capable of defeating enemy after enemy with barely a scratch to show for it.
Oh, and how can I not mention the beautiful music? It accentuated the cute, brightly-colored characters and environments you traveled to throughout your journey perfectly. Man, I really want to go play some Shining Force now.
Graham – World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
Now here’s the thing, I often struggle to choose a genuine favourite game on any console, so World of Illusion may not be my all time favourite game, but it’s one that holds some fond memories for me. Firstly, World of Illusion is a fantastic platform adventure game, part of the Mickey Mouse ‘Illusion’ franchise of games that were exclusive to SEGA consoles back in the day. The visuals were wonderful, with great animations not only of Mickey and Donald, but pretty much everything in game. Plus, the level designs were imaginative and enjoyable, with some cracking boss battles. And the music flowed with the gameplay and changed throughout the levels.
But what made the game so damn good was the co-op mode. You see the single player adventure differed ever so slightly from the co-op mode, as you came across basic puzzles or game mechanics in each level – they operated in a different way in the co-op mode. In single player, you just played as Mickey, but in two-player one plays as Mickey and the other (you guessed it) as Donald Duck and those puzzles and game mechanics became genuine co-operative gameplay elements that you and your second player had to work together on to make it through the game. For example, one level you have to operate a mine cart by pumping a lever up and down – you and your friend had to do so in synchronicity to effectively beat that part of the level.
And this is where my fond memories come in. I had plenty of game-loving friends living down my road as I grew up and often played videogames with them, but I rarely played games with my brother. Like a lot of brothers we used to just argue all the time and him being the elder, didn’t really want to hang around with a kid three years’ his junior. But there were a handful of games that really brought us together and World of Illusion was by far the one we played the most. I had some fantastic times playing this game with my brother – and I know that it’s one of his favourite games growing up too.
James – Super Hang-On
Like many gamers, it wasn’t until I got a little bit older that I realized the truth to why I love certain games. More than just pleasant leisure activity, video games have the ability to transport us to a different place in time. Especially with retro games, this place in time is often a happy place from ones childhood. It’s for just such a reason that my favorite game for the Sega Genesis is Super Hang-On, the cross-continent motorcycle rally designed by the incomparable Yu Suzuki.
I first played Super Hang-On when I was six years old, during a family trip to visit my grandfather in Florida. My first trip away from our home in the frigid Northeast, it’s a time that’s burned into my memory as an important introduction to distant places. I didn’t know my grandfather well, due to the geographical distance between our families, but he took me for rides on his motorcycle and let me play Super Hang-On, and we bonded quickly. The week I spent there as a young boy cemented the reality that hobbies, such as motorcycling and video games, can quickly bridge the distance between relatively unknown people and help create meaningful bonds that last a lifetime.
As I got older, Super Hang-On would fade from my memory, but when I picked up Shenmue for the Dreamcast and discovered a playable version of the game within the hallowed halls of the You Arcade on Dobuita Street, the memories of that week and their importance in my life came flooding back. Soon I found myself loading up Shenmue every night- but not to play Shenmue. I kept coming back for more and more Super Hang-On. The incredible sense of speed is matched only by the perfectly balanced difficulty. It’s an extreme challenge, but it never feels unbeatable. It’s the kind of perfectly designed game that thwarts you constantly, but lets you improve with each play. The music is phenomenal, and is second only to Outrun’s incredible soundtrack (in my opinion). If you’ve never played Super Hang-On, go play it now. Enjoy the ride, and don’t blink!
Lee – Streets of Rage 2
Streets of Rage 2 is bigger and better than the first game – and I mean that quite literally! The sprites are twice the size, the stages longer and the combat is more fleshed out. Addictive and perfectly paced gameplay is matched brilliantly with a cracking soundtrack, creating hands down one of the most iconic and well loved beat-em-ups of all time.
I have fond memories of playing both this and the first game when I was but a wee lad. There is actually home video footage of me playing Streets of Rage 2 when I was around 7 years old. I remember telling my Dad (who was recording the footage at the time) that I liked the game for its awesome graphics. I was totally just trying to cover up the fact it was super violent and I didn’t want him thinking I was going to walk around and kick peoples faces off as I got older.
The Mega Drive is a system I hold close to my heart and I strongly suggest that people go back and check out some of the timeless classics it has to offer. Grab yourself a copy of Streets of Rage 2 and pop it in. I think you might be surprised how polished and fun the game is, even by today’s standards.
The Requiem – Gunstar Heroes
While there are plenty of great Genesis games to choose from, I think it’s still a little easy to pick my favorite game of the bunch: Gunstar Heroes. Despite all the advance attention some magazines gave the game prior to its release, Treasure’s first US outing still caught me by surprise in 1993. Graphically, it’s a 16-bit stunner; the music is some of the best that the Genesis ever cranked out, and the run-n-gun gameplay is tight, well-designed, and has just enough variety throughout to keep each stage interesting. I typically went with a double-laser weapon. How about you guys?
Once I had the game in my hands, I was an unabashed ambassador for Gunstar Heroes. I bought it for my Genesis-owning buddies when their birthdays would roll around (once it went down in price a bit; I wasn’t made of cash). Even when some of my Super Nintendo-faithful friends came over to my house, oftentimes some co-op Gunstar Heroes was the first game they wanted to play despite our hearty library of SNES games.
After all these years, Gunstar Heroes is still in my top five all-time favorite games. If you’ve never played it, there are tons of ways to give it a shot for pretty cheap these days. Just stay away from the iPhone version. Now go fight Melon Bread!
Jayson – Castlevania Bloodlines
Castlevania Bloodlines is my favorite for multiple reasons: it was the first Castlevania I ever played and one of my first Genesis games I played since I got my Nomad as a kid. Usually, Bloodlines is overshadowed by Super Castlevania IV on Super NES, but I think Castlevania Bloodlines is a WAY better game. The creepy atmosphere it sets up, the great gameplay and awesome soundtrack just melds together into an unforgettable Genesis experience. This can qualify as one of the best side-scrollers for the system.
I remember to this day the first time I played Bloodlines, I didn’t even know it as Castlevania back then! I had borrowed the game off a friend for my Nomad and was blown away. I had only played Sonic, Road Rash, and Hard Drivin’ (those were the only games I had), so to see a game that graphically detailed was awesome. The blood and gore kind of added to it, and the soundtrack was amazing as well.
Since I’ve replayed Bloodlines and beaten it multiple times, it has definitely become my favorite Genesis game. I can still go back and play it, no matter how many times I’ve beaten the game. Castlevania Bloodlines will always be my favorite entry in the Castlevania series and my favorite Genesis game.
Köpke – Quackshot
Quackshot is my favorite Disney game of all time. Having Donald on an action platformer was pretty cool, the soundtrack was short but really epic and made you feel like you were in an Indiana Jones movie.
It had some RPG elements, puzzle solving, and you could talk to a lot of popular Disney characters.
The game also required players to master jumps, which was quite a challenging mechanic when you add the green plummer to reach other places and being a more powerful weapon (popcorn being the strongest).
Did I mention that I’m still able to finish this game without losing any life? If SEGA ever gets the chance to remaster this I would be buying it for sure!
And there you have it, folks! Be sure to share your favorite Genesis game with us and your fondest memories with SEGA’s amazing 16-bit, blast processing machine!