The Sega Genesis Edition of the Totes Mathematical Top Ten Game List for Every Console Ever!

This entry is part 2 of 15 in the series Console Lists

The Sega Genesis is an awesomely, kick ass, ungodly mess of a system. I love the thing to pieces, but good grief. I mean. Take a look at this.

SEGA!

That’s the Genesis and it’s not even in its final form. This is the base system, Sega CD, and the 32X, and this picture doesn’t even show the hard drive or the Master System converter or dozen or so licensed variations to all of the aforementioned parts. Freaking Sega, man. Looking back, you almost have to feel bad for the fan-boys, but on the same note, I totally understand why one would want to be a fan-boy. If I hadn’t been a child when this thing came out, I would have been that guy. I’m the guy who felt the need to purchase every possible Carcassonne expansion. I mean. I get it. Plus. Plus! There was a ton of super awesome games! But more on that in a bit. Behold the system which was nothing like ever before. Genesis was so much more!

As with the all of these lists, I used a weighted ranking system, which includes game sales, user reviews, and professional reviews. I plugged everything into my Excel algorithm and hit enter and out came the list. Copacetic?

Before we get into the games, though, let’s delve into a little history.

The Sega Genesis (Or Mega Drive in the rest of the world.)
Released: 1988 (1989 in the USA)
Generation of Home Consoles: Fourth
Color Depth: 16 Bit
Rating: Awesome but a bit muddled.

Your Whole World...

Your Whole World…

The Sega Genesis was a 16-bit system released in 1988 in Japan. At the time it had two main competitors across the sea and it didn’t fare well against either. The NEC PC Engine (Or Turbo Grafx 16) had been released the year previous and had a strong following. In addition the NES/Famicom was already fairly well entrenched at this point despite it’s far inferior graphics and computing power. The predecessor to the Genesis, the Mark 3 (or Master System), hadn’t done a whole lot to turn the tide against Nintendo and at first, it didn’t seem that the Genesis was going to do a lot either. Luckily there’s always America.

Internally, the Genesis was the best system available. It was first true 16 bit system in the states. (It beat the TurboGrafx to market by two weeks and the TurboGrafx 16 was a bit of a hybrid 8 bit/16 bit system, anyway. More on that in the TurboGrafx 16 article.)

But to be the best, it would need more than just the best stuff. In North America, Sega did a couple of things. Thing one was to make Genesis the first console to really employ the razor and blades business model. They cut the price and essentially took a wash on the system in order to get a cut on more games being sold. They then began an aggressive and hip marketing campaign, began designing games specifically with the U.S. market in mind, (Sports, celebrities, movie tie ins, and games with far more adult content), and finally, they swapped out the original pack in game (Altered Beast) with the current best seller they had. (A little number called Sonic the Hedgehog.)

Sonic the what now?

And it worked! Sega outsold Nintendo for four years running in the U.S. and made a lot of people a lot of money. Two of those years were even up against the SNES! But the world had started moving very quickly. Sega didn’t want to completely abandon their popular console, but they were worried about becoming obsolete. So what they did was start with the add-ons in addition to creating their own next gen system. Video games systems are just ultra specialized computers. And computers, it was reasoned, could be upgraded. That was the direction in which Genesis started moving. They added the CD-Rom to increase the hell out of the storage power for their games and reduce the unit price to print them. Then they invented the 32X to increase the hell out of the computing power of the system itself. This allowed a new generation of games to be played without having to buy a brand new system. Unfortunately many developers found the whole thing incredibly difficult to program for. After a while, Sega gave up the ghost, stopped truly supporting the Genesis and focused solely on the Saturn. A system which really wasn’t a whole lot better than the Base/32X/CD combo which Sega fans currently had.

The whole fiasco was the first of many nails in what would eventually be the Sega coffin. A company who spent tons on R&D and rarely saw the returns. (Or more often, saw other companies make millions off of their ideas.) Anyway…that’s as close to a nutshell as I can make the Genesis. Great system with a ton of fun games, though! So let’s see what the algorithm ranks as the top ten across the life of the unit!

10. Jurassic Park. Base System. 1993. (Bluesky Software) Jurassic Park
What a great start to the list! And it ties into my point above regarding the Sega Genesis marketing plan. (It turns out that I like being correct about things. Woo!) Essentially this was a simple enough platform game where you play as either Dr. Alan Grant or a freaking Velociraptor! Mostly you’re just jumping around and either killing dinosaurs as Dr. Grant or guards and dinosaurs as the raptor. It was a charming game and it wasn’t just an excuse to make a few extra bucks off of a popular franchise. This game was legit, took a long time to make, and was extremely well received. It’s fun! Download this if it becomes available somewhere because it’s great!

9. Lunar: The Silver Star. CD. 1992. (Game Arts) Lunar Silver Star
It’s our first Sega CD game on the list! I was really glad the algorithm spit out CD and 32X games. I was worried I’d have to write three separate articles which would not be fun. In any case, Lunar! As I said above, one of the neat things about the CD was the expansion of size a game could be. It also allowed for video and much better audio. Game Arts put all of that and more into this fun, fantasy RPG. So…you know. Dragons and such. Collect your crew, battle some baddies, save the world. (Moon.) Y’all know what RPGs are. This was a very great one.

8. Phantasy Star 4. Base System. 1993. (Sega)
Who said the SNES had all the good RPGs? Well. Lots of people. But the Genesis was no slouch. Phantasy Star IV gets on a lot of best of RPG lists. This game championed a lot of stuff that Square Enix would later steal and perfect (And then abandon completely in the last few years). You play as Chaz and friends and you go around stomping monsters and such until eventually you stomp a cult leader who’s been trying to destroy the world. So. OK. It doesn’t have the most original RPG plot in history, but it’s still REALLY good. Plus look at that boss character! Stare into his eyes and truly know how evil a cult can be. Jonestown has nothing on that guy.

7. Snatcher. CD. 1994. (Konami) Snatcher
I…Oh my. This is a crazy game. It’s a cyberpunk adventure sort of RPG/playable novel. It’s super dense and the graphics were pretty great, but it never really caught on outside of Japan owing to the lack of people caring about the SEGA CD. You play as Gillian Seed and live in a future dystopia where Russia accidentally killed 80% of the world’s population. Then the Bioroids show up and start pod people-ing everyone and your goal is to stop them. There was also a lot of sexual content which was nixed from or changed for the American version. (Which, had that happened today, would probably have caused a ton of people to harass a number or innocent woman working at Konami or SEGA or really wherever, because it’s important to the story that the girl in the shower scene be 14. It’s about ethics, people!)

6. Virtua Fighter. 32X. 1995. (Sega) Virtua Fighter 32X
It’s our first 32X game on the list! Because to be a Virtua Fighter, you need polygons, baby, and to render polygons, you need power, and the 32X was just the overclocking that the Genesis needed to render ALL THE POLYGONS! Basic fighting game, but in 3D! Game was aces and the 32X was a pretty amazing port for the time. I’m guessing that the game will probably show up in the top 3 of the Saturn list as well (though there’s not a lot of competition there). It made a ton of money and spawned a ton of sequels and copycats and everyone just loved it.

5. Gunstar Heroes. Base System. 1993. (Sega) Gunstar Heroes
This here is a “Run ‘N’ Gun”, side scrolling, platformer. You play as…some guy…who very much would like to destroy the evil robot named Golden Silver. To destroy said evil robot, you need to platform the hell out of various stages, save your kidnapped sister, unhypnotize your brother, destroy a number of crystals, blow up anything and everything you see, and cause general mayhem for the vast horde of people the robot was controlling. Super fun and on virtually every top ten list of Genesis games out there. The game didn’t sell particularly well, but it’s been re-released a bunch of times so you could go play it right after reading the last four games on the list!

4. Mortal Kombat II. 32X. 1994. (Midway) Mortal Kombat 2
Mortal Kombat games on the Genesis. Good times for all. Unless you’re a parent group. In which case Mortal Kombat games on the Genesis are the reason your kids are going to turn into a mass murdering jerk of a human! Why SEGA, why!? (Although by this point, Even Nintendo was allowing the blood and gore. It wasn’t just SEGA.) The outrage to the violence (Which by today’s standards is hilarious) caused all sorts of TV news reports, protests, and other nonsense. The early nineties were heady days indeed. This was the sequel to the very popular first game of the series and made a number of improvements over its predecessor (Triple the ninjas!) The game was a HUGE success commercially and clearly the best MK on the Genesis. The 32X just edges out the Base System version by having slightly crisper graphics and gameplay.

3. NBA Jam. Base System. 1994. (Midway) NBA Jam
Great little port of the arcade basketball game of the same name, and probably the first actually fun basketball game to ever be produced. Before coming to the Genesis, this thing made over a billion dollars in the arcades. (In quarters! Remember those?) This game actually helped redirect the sports genre in general by using the amazing concept of the “Making the game fun, first” rule of video game development. It was also the first basketball game to license actual NBA teams and their star players. And you could make them play with BIG heads! There was also a lot of rampant silliness and of course the ability to be “On Fire”. No fouls, no free throws, just fast, fun, frenetic, firey gold.

2. Disney’s Aladdin. Base System. 1993. (Virgin) Aladdin
A video game licensed from a movie which actually snagged the number two spot? The hell you say? The hell I DO say. So you’re a thief named Aladdin who meets a genie and becomes a prince. This was a delightful side scrolling platform game where you bound and swing around locations from the movie, leading up to a final battle with the main antagonist, Jafar. It was the third best selling game for the Genesis coming only after Sonic 1 and 2, and was voted by numerous sources as the top game released for the Genesis in 1993. Beloved by many, and deserving of the number 2 slot.

So that’s the top nine and I feel like we’re missing someone. Who on earth could it be, I wonder? Oh right. Surprising almost nobody…

1. Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Base System. 1992. (Sega)

Sonic 2
Number 1 on the list goes to Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

The good old days when Sonic was great. This was the second entry to the Sonic series and the first time we get to see Tails. Similar to Super Mario Brothers 3 for the NES, this game took their insanely popular packaged with the system game, fixed all of the problems with it, amped up the things that were awesome (Such as making it more running based than jumping based) and delivered a wonderful sophomore effort.

It was the second best selling game on the system, had amazing music, huge, beautiful levels, and remains to this day, a great game to play. It was a critical and financial success to SEGA during the Nintendo console wars and all in all was a big win for the Genesis.

So there we have it! Upset that NHL ’98 didn’t make the cut? Think that America shouldn’t have changed the Snatcher girl in the shower from aged 14 to 18? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Then play some of these games!

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Philippe L.

About Philippe L.

When not out exploring the stars with his good friend Hotblack Desiato, he makes his living here on Earth keeping other people's money safe from the hands of thieves and spinning the occasional yarn. He enjoys beer and coffee very much, but unfortunately he can't eat shellfish or tomatoes.

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