Genesis does what Nintendon't! That iconic catchphrase sums up Sega's classic 16-bit console perfectly. Yet, while the war is dead and gone, we can't help but find ourselves arguing over which console was better. Sure, Nintendo won the war, but for a brief period of time, it looked like they might not make it out of that battle.
Now, decades later, Sega doesn't make hardware, and Nintendo has revolutionized how we play games with the Switch, yet both companies have rolled out their retro consoles once again in miniature form. For Sega, they arrived to the fad a little late to the party, but now that the Sega Genesis Mini is here, we can't help but analyze its 40-large roster. So, with that in mind, here is Sega Genesis Classic: 5 Essential Games Included (& 5 That Were Left Off).
10 Essential: Sonic The Hedgehog 3
While other titles in the Sonic The Hedgehog series hold a little more historical importance than the third entry in the series, when comparing the original three, this is a very solid entry. With massive levels that encourage gamers to play through in different ways and three characters with vastly different styles, this game has unimaginable replayability. Mix that with the best music in the series — some of which were composed by Michael Jackson — this is easily one of the best platformers of its time.
There's something special about this era of Sonic games and this is the top-tier when it comes to the genre and can line up with the best there is to offer, even from Nintendo's console.
9 Left Off: Ristar
When talking about the great platformers of the world, Ristar is often overlooked. Developed by Sonic team, with Yuji Naka at the helm, Sega bet on the studio that made the Genesis great when it came to making another fantastic platformer. The result was a unique experience that focused on an interesting character from a design perspective that revolved around stretching and reaching along with traditional platformer gameplay. It's so good, in fact, Sega loves to trot it out in most of their Genesis/Mega-Drive collections.
That's what makes this game's absence so strange on the Genesis Mini. While it's not the most popular game on the console, it really is a unique platformer that should be enjoyed by everyone who ever picked up Sega's classic 16-bit console.
8 Essential: Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Phantasy Star has always been one of the crown jewels in Sega's library. Always considered the Genesis' answer to Final Fantasy, that title was always a little unfair. Phantasy Star's futuristic setting always made it feel a little different in a more basic generation of RPGs. While this game didn't feel like the next big step the franchise needed in an era where JRPGs were making massive leaps, Phantasy Star IV is a solid followup in the franchise that capitalizes on some unforgettable moments.
7 Left Off: Phantasy Star II
While we enjoy Phantasy Star IV, the second game in the entry is the definitive game in the franchise. As the game that put the franchise on the map, players take control of a government agent tasked with figuring out why the planet's protector has started malfunctioning. Released in 1989, this is a very basic RPG, and you can even get it for free on your mobile device, but this game was essential in ensuring the success of the Genesis.
To start, it was the largest game of its time which proved that this console is different from Nintendo. That helped build a big — for its time — world that was ripe for exploration as players explore the sci-fi story presented to them. It's also one of the first RPGs to kill of a major character, so it's pretty groundbreaking.
6 Essential: Comix Zone
If you don't like Comix Zone, you don't like video games. Look, we don't make the rules here. As a side-scrolling beat-em-up that sees a comic book artist trapped in the pages of his own book, players must punch and kick their way through each panel, smashing enemies across the pages. The 16-bit graphics compliment the game immensely too, as the subtle mix of realism and comic book aesthetic the game is going for, making Comix Zone one of the most visually appealing games of its era.
To be fair, this game is a little on the more difficult side for players who aren't used to it, and some of the things that cause you to lose even the slightest bit of health are infuriating. Yet, once you get past that, there's a rewarding game underneath it all.
5 Left Off: Mortal Kombat
When the lines of war between Sega and Nintendo were drawn, one of the biggest battles came with Mortal Kombat. While we won't say which version was better, it was the game that separated the SNES and the Genesis in one major way — blood. The iconic fighting game hit the scene in 1993, an era where games were not regulated, but its presence sparked the fire that leads to the ESRB rating board we know today. On the more "adult" Genesis, there was a code that allowed blood, while the SNES removed that feature, and took away any reference to killing your opponent.
We understand that there would be some licensing issues to get this game on the system, but it's such an important title in the history of the console war that we wish it could be included.
4 Essential: Gunstar Heroes
Much like Contra or Metal Slug, Gunstar Heroes is an action-packed run-and-gun adventure. Yet, unlike the titles listed prior, the Genesis' answer to the genre is much more fast-paced and frantic, making it the perfect shooter for the popular console. It's no surprise it's this good either, it's developed by a team of ex-Konami all-stars!
With tons of variety in the gameplay department, things change just enough throughout each level that the game never feels boring. Enemies fly at you from everywhere, and you've got to make them pay. On top of that, the game is designed with co-op in mind, so grab a friend and a controller and get ready to shoot stuff!
3 Left Off: Rocket Knight Adventure
When talking about classic genesis titles, Rocket Knight Adventure is right up there with Sonic The Hedgehog and Phantasy Star. Developed by Konami, this classic rodent-based title mixes a little bit of beat-em-up sensibilities, with platforming elements and even a little bit of shooting elements. Oh, and there's a jet pack — which instantly knocks any game up a few points.
In an era where anthropomorphic mascots had difficulty standing out in a crowd that included Sonic the Hedgehog, somehow, Konami made a title that didn't feel like a cheap knockoff of the games it was clearly inspired by. In fact, it stood out and surpassed them in many ways.
2 Essential: Golden Axe
Everyone expected to see Golden Axe on the Sega Genesis Mini. As the definitive beat-em-up on the console, Golden Axe lets players choose between a sword-wielding muscle dude, an ax brandishing dwarf, or a swordswoman, as they fight across the high fantasy world as they try to rescue the king and his daughter, both of whom were kidnapped by the evil Death Adder. It won't be easy, however, as the dastardly bad guy also got his hands on the mythical Golden Axe. So, hack and slash your way through each level, ride dragons, cast spells, and kick elves in one of the best the genre has to offer.
1 Left Off: NBA Jam
Look, we don't know how the licensing would work on something like this, but considering the Sega Genesis Mini got some of the console's Disney classics like Mickey and The Castle of Illusion, we're going to assume it can be done. And for anything, some of that legal wizardry should be done for NBA Jam. Available on the Genesis and the SNES, and arcade, NBA Jam captivated fans with some fantastic over the top two-on-two basketball.
Whether it was the great commentary, surprisingly tight controls, or the impressive visuals, this game is one of the best sports titles of all time, and it should have been included in the Genesis Mini.