When the Sega Genesis was released it was promoted as bringing the arcade into your living room. It definitely delivered. The Sega Genesis was a beast of a console that went on to release some of the best games of all time. It introduced us to Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco the Dolphin, and many more iconic games. The Sega Genesis was the beginning of the 16-bit era and in recognition, we’re counting down our top 10 games from the Sega Genesis era.
10. Ecco: The Tides of Time
Ecco: The Tides of Time is an action-adventure game and the sequel to Ecco the Dolphin. Maintaining its aquatic gameplay, Ecco: The Tides of Time continues where the original left off. Just like the first game, its difficulty can be frustrating but extremely rewarding. It’s a game that spans dozens of stages in which you explore bizarre underwater settings and solve highly complex puzzles. I remember kids my age at the time never really getting far in the game due to its difficulty. If you’re patient enough to power through Ecco: The Tides of Time, you will be rewarded with a gaming experience ahead of its time for the 16-bit era.
9. Comix Zone
There aren’t many games like Comix Zone. This side-scroller beat ‘em up takes place within an actual comic. In Comix Zone you rip through the pages of a comic to advance the storyline. A ridiculous storyline that has Sketch Turner’s comic Comix Zone being struck by lightning and bringing its main villain, Mortus, into the real world. Mortus then sends Stretch into the comic and draws enemies in an attempt to kill him. Crazy, I know. It was an extremely difficult game that was visually impressive and fun to play through. Although the game was well-received, Comix Zone released very late in the Sega Genesis lifecycle. Which is probably why it was the last time we would hear about Comix Zone as it was the only game in the series.
8. Phantasy Star II
The original Phantasy Star was a fantastic RPG and its sequel more than lived up to the first one. Gone was the first-person perspective when exploring but keeping the turn-based battle system that made the original so great. If you can manage its difficulty and grind, Phantasy Star II’s story is among the best of the 16-bit era. It was also one of the few RPG’s of its time that takes place entirely in a science fiction setting. Its dramatic twists and ending will be sure to leave you sitting in your thoughts after the credits roll. The Phantasy Star series has gone on to release various games in the series and even a few online action RPG’s as well.
7. Revenge of Shinobi
Revenge of Shinobi is a fantastic side-scrolling action-platformer. Similar to Ninja Gaiden but with a much slower pace. Still, the graphics and platforming were one of the best on the console. Taking place 3 years after the first game, Joe sets off in search of revenge and his bride after he learns that the Neo Zeed organization is planning revenge against the Oboro Clan. The original version of Revenge of Shinobi allowed you to fight characters like Rambo, Godzilla, and even Batman. Although, due to licensing issues Sega re-released the game without these characters.
6. Shining Force II
The Shining Force series is often overlooked during conversations about the greatest RPG’s. A tactical RPG that precedes the days of Final Fantasy Tactics and the Fire Emblem series. Shining Force II was the perfect RPG for the Sega Genesis. From its music to its combat depth, Shining Force II took you on a sprawling adventure that was years ahead of its time. Over the years the series would go on to span dozens of titles on various platforms, but Shining Force II will always be where the series truly shined.
5. Altered Beast
If you spent time at the local arcade in the ’90s then you may have heard “Rise from your grave!” from a nearby Altered Beast cabinet. This late ’80s beat ‘em up arcade game follows players resurrected by Zeus as they are sent out to rescue his daughter Athena from the underworld. Collecting power-ups within each stage players turned into magical beasts such as werewolves, bears, and even dragons. Made all the more fun when partnered up with a friend. Sega went on to create a sequel by the same name for the PlayStation 2, but it didn’t quite capture the magic of the original.
4. Castlevania: Bloodlines
It’s often debated which Castlevania game was the definitive game of the 16-bit era. Super Castlevania IV for Super Nintendo or Castlevania: Bloodlines for Sega Genesis. No matter which side of the coin you’re on, there really is no wrong answer to this long-debated question. Both games are masterpieces of their time. Allowing you to take on the role of either John Morris or Eric Lecarde, Castlevania: Bloodlines sets the player off in search of Dracula’s niece, Elizabeth Bartley, as she tries to incite a sacrificial war in order to bring her uncle back to life. The only Castlevania game to release on the Sega Genesis, Castlevania: Bloodlines is among the best that Sega Genesis has to offer. The amazing soundtrack didn’t hurt either.
3. Gunstar Heroes
In the ’90s Konami was known for their side-scrolling shoot ‘em ups with the likes of Contra and Gradius. A team at Konami began work on Gunstar Heroes only to leave mid-project due to creative differences. The result was the forming of Treasure, the studio that would continue their vision on the Gunstar Heroes resulting in one of Sega Genesis’ greatest games of all time. The action in Gunstar Heroes is so frantic and fast-paced that it’s likely the game was dependent on the Sega Genesis hardware and would not have worked on the Super Nintendo.
2. Streets of Rage 2
The Sega Genesis was the King of side-scrolling beat ‘em ups and Streets of Rage 2 was the game that sat on that throne. Streets of Rage 2 brought back Axel and Blaze and introduced two new characters in Max and Skate. This fantastic multiplayer game brought the feeling of the home arcade right into your living room. There’s nothing like teaming up with a friend and taking down The Syndicate’s bosses and henchmen. Although there were 3 games released in the series, Streets of Rage 2 is often considered the best of the trilogy. That was until the recent release of Streets of Rage 4 for modern consoles.
1. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 improved tremendously on where the first ended without changing the original gameplay. This time around Sonic teams up with Miles “Tails” Power, a two-tailed fox as they try and stop Dr. Robotnik from stealing the Chaos Emeralds. With the introduction of Tails, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 introduced multiplayer, albeit a bit limited as Sonic can speed off-screen leaving Tails to catch up. This is especially true when Sonic collects the Chaos Emeralds and unlocks the ability to turn into Super Sonic. Filled with fantastic thematic levels and a memorable soundtrack, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a must-have for the Sega Genesis and our number one game in our top 10 games of the Sega Genesis era.
If you enjoyed our top 10 games for the Sega Genesis era, be sure to check out our top 10 list for the NES era!