Top Ten Tuesday 11

My Top Ten Sega Genesis Games

Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists, but this one is mine. If you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.


Pre-List Notes

The Sega Genesis was my first foray into 16-bit gaming, as well as my first non Nintendo console, as I wouldn't get an SNES until a year or two later. After salivating over my best friend's Genesis for what seemed like an eternity in kid years, I finally got my own somewhere between '93 and '94. It came with Sonic 2 and that was all I needed for a while. Luckily the Genesis ended up having its own library of really awesome games, from fighters to beat 'em ups to even a few great RPGs. I didn't play all the great games of that generation, but of all the consoles I'd ever own, the Genesis nears the top of my list in most played games.


Top Ten Sega Genesis Games


10) Mortal Kombat 2

The Fighting game craze started with two super popular franchises - Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Of the two, I vastly preferred the darker and bloodier Mortal Kombat series. Maybe I found ninjas and assassins more interesting than whatever Blanka was supposed to be, but Mortal Kombat 2 was my first real foray into 2D, one-on-one fighting. I also discovered that I was not very good at them. Over the years I would keep renting every fighting game derivative and clone but nothing really stood out the way Mortal Kombat did.


9) Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Everyone enjoyed the Sonic series. They were the hip, fast paced platformers that seemed like the logical evolution after Mario. Each game expanded on the fast but fluid gameplay, with the third entry as the pinnacle of Sonic greatness. The levels were distinct and varied and the now classic musical themes were head-bobbling catchy. The only reason Sonic 3 is so low on this list is because I was kind of getting over the whole platforming genre by the time it came out, quickly finding tons of enjoyment in co-op games (Tails doesn't count), RPGs, and more freeform sidescrollers. While I admit that Sonic 3 is definitely the best of the series, it's not my favorite, for reasons you will soon find out.


8) Disney's Aladdin

Disney's Aladdin was anything but your typical movie tie-in game. As I mentioned in my Top Ten NES list, many movie based games were surprisingly awesome, and Aladdin continued the trend. Sporting awesome graphics that were produced by actual Disney animators, Aladdin battled his way through familiar locales with his trusty sword (We've all got swords!) and had fun little mini games involving Abu and the Genie. The catchy tunes from the movie were in constant loop in the background, and one memorable level featured Aladdin riding on the magic carpet dodging rocks and lava. It was more fun than it had any right to be, and as a kid that was obsessed with the movie, Aladdin was an amazing game.


7) Sonic and Knuckles

When I first saw the cartridge for Sonic and Knuckles and witnessed the mind blowing concept of physically attaching game cartridges to each other to add new content, my feverish kid brain thought that this was the future of video games. I'd be able to plug Mario into the world of Aladdin, or maybe tear up the fighters in Mortal Kombat as Earthworm Jim.

Of course the technology only worked for the Sonic games, but it was still amazing - the physical cartridge came equipped with its own slot at the top, in which a copy of Sonic 2 or 3 could be inserted, allowing you to play through the entire games as Knuckles the Echidna. Knuckles had even more attitude than Sonic, all of his dash moves, and he could climb walls and glide. Basically, he was straight awesome. The actual gameplay was very similar to Sonic 3, as both games were developed together, but the added benefit of being able to add Knuckles to the other Sonic games with the sadly never again used "Lock On" technology gives this title the edge in my list.


6) Earthworm Jim

Earthworm Jim was a franchise that deserved better. Yes I say franchise, as the game spawned a Saturday Morning Cartoon that was just as subversive and stupid silly as the game, as well as its own full-fledged sequel (which I also owned). The story involved an advanced space suit that fell to earth and landed on an earthworm, imbuing him with super hero level powers and the ire of intergalactic enemies. The levels were jaw-droppingly awesome, as if you were playing in an actual cartoon, and featured lots of fun platforming, varied boss fights, and tons of visual jokes. The game was also brutally difficult at times, including suffering from Terrible Swimming Segments that involved mazes and time limits.


5) Streets of Rage 3

Side scrolling beat 'em ups were still all the rage into the 16-bit gaming era, though fighting games would soon overtake them in popularity and cloning. The Streets of Rage series were the best the Genesis had to offer in the genre, and it was some of the best all-time. While I fully admit that the second entry in the series is the most popular, the most well regarded, and indeed the best, I never played it until just a few years ago. It was the third one that I owned and played to death with various friends and it was all kinds of punch kicking fun. Plus, you could unlock a semi-secret fifth character in Roo, the boxing kangaroo. Need I say more?


4) Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic was the Mario series of the Sega Genesis, and Sonic quickly became Sega's mascot. While the poor blue hedgehog as become little more than a punchline for the last...decade or so, it should not be forgotten that he reigned supreme in the early and mid 90s. The original Sonic game was great fun with highly interactive and dangerous levels, but the sequel upped the speed factor and added Sonic's recognizable spin dash move, and the rest was history. Sonic 2 came packaged with my Sega Genesis and I played it religiously, for that alone it gets a special place in my gamer history and on this list, but by all rights Sonic 2 is still a great game that holds up even today with tight controls, memorable music, and great level variety. Don't forget that awesome multiplayer mode that first introduced me to the concept of split screen!


3) Toejam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron

The original Toejam and Earl can be found on many lists for the best Genesis games, but I never honestly played it. The sequel, Panic on Funkotron, takes place entirely on the titular duo's home planet, which is now menaced by various annoying Earthlings that hitched a ride. Instead of attacking them, our heroes throw magic jars to capture them, and at the end of the level ship 'em back home. The game's levels were absolutely enormous and freeform, with an astonishing amount of secrets and hidden passageways to the game's psychedelic mini game that was ripped straight from Sonic's speedway tunnels called the Funk Zone. My favorite part was of course the seamless co-op: Both players had to stay on the same screen, but the entire adventure could be completed with simultaneous co-op.


2) Shining Force II

One of my all time favorite RPGs and one of the first I ever played, Shining Force 2 was and still is a rare breed - a tactical strategy game wrapped up in a JRPG world and storyline. While there's a typical overworld or explore with towns to shop in and your usual Great Evil returning/resurrecting/stopping by for tea, the combat is what really sets the Shining Force series apart. Battles took place like grand chess matches with the player controlling up to a dozen heroes of various races, classes and abilities versus a hugely awesome variety of monsters, from your usual fantasy fare to giant boss battles and siege weapons. I've loved tactical strategy games ever since, and Shining Force's combat still holds up to this day. It was also incredibly fun to have more and more heroes join The Force to fill out gaps in your frontlines, find a powerful ranged attacker, or a useful supportive caster, and the game had many hidden areas that bestowed new classes, heroes, and battles. I haven't even touched on the wonderfully sweeping soundtrack that I still hum to this day. If you love turn based strategy games like the recent XCOM remake, then you need to check out this perfect blend of JRPG awesomeness.


1) Wonderboy in Monster World

No surprise if you read my blog, as this Wonderboy entry also neared the top of my Top Ten Metroidvania Games well before that goofy portmanteau ever existed. The fifth game in the Wonderboy series (and third in the Monster World...sub series?) this entry was one of the few given an English release, and I quickly fell in love with the unique blend of side scrolling combat, level exploration, and hidden secrets. Of all the games on this list, Wonderboy was the game I was most obsessed with in the years after I originally played it. The brightly colored levels were fun to explore, from the underwater ruins to the jungle to the desert; while each area's unique boss battles were fun and memorable. It was simply the best 2D side scrolling game I'd ever played, though it would only hold that honor for a year or two.


Honorable Mentions

I've seen Altered Beast make many a list, and I did play it a lot and remember it fondly, but I never considered it a very good game. It was exceedingly slow paced, with very deliberate side scrolling beat 'em up movements. The morphing thing was nifty but it was really just collecting powerups, and good luck trying to beat the boss if you weren't at full beast mode. Still, I give it an honorable mention here if only for the co-op.

The final game I'll mention here is Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition. Now I've read that the SNES Jurassic Park game was utter crap, but this version on the Genesis was pretty damn awesome, if only for the fact that you could choose to play as an oddly commando Dr. Grant, or a badass Velociraptor. The levels were similar, but Grant utilized a large assortment of guns, while the Raptor used melee attacks and its superior jumping skills. The game also gets credit for pulling a lot of its levels from the book (like rafting and the cargo ship) rather than rehashing scenes from the movie. Although I do not recall Dr. Grant fleeing a helicopter on the back of a Gallimimus, but hey, it was a blast to play.


Wrap Up

The other big RPG series aside from Shining Force was Phantasy Star. I tried desperately to get into the series, specifically Phantasy Star IV, but it just never stuck. I'd like to go back and try someday, maybe discover a long lost gem as I currently own it (and other awesome Genesis games) as part of Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, something all classic gaming aficionados should own. That plus the myriad of XBLA titles recently released as Sega Vintage Collections, such as Streets of Rage, Wonderboy, and Golden Axe prove that there's still a strong desire for these classic games.

The Genesis was an awesome game system in an era when a system's entire life span would only last a few years. The co-op titles like Sonic (sort of), Streets of Rage and Toejam & Earl ensured my love of local couch co-op with friends; the Shining Force series laid the groundwork for my love of RPGs and tactical strategy games, and Wonderboy was simply one of the most perfect games I'd ever played at the time. Enjoy your time at the top, Sega, it certainly wouldn't last.