In 1989—when Nintendo was still king of the home game market—Sega released its 16-bit console, the Genesis. With an impressive stable of arcade ports, sports games, and original titles aimed at an older audience, it quickly grew in popularity and even overtook Nintendo’s console offerings in the US market for a time.
During its 9-year run, publishers released over 700 games for the Genesis, including well-known classics such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star IV, Streets of Rage II, and more. Of course, with such a huge library of titles, more than a handful of great games fell through the cracks of history.
Below, we take a look at seven often overlooked gems of the American Sega Genesis catalog. It was very hard to pick only 7—while trying to decide, I made a list of about 30 great games, so by no means is this a statement on the best of them. Still, you can’t go wrong with playing any of these seven games today.
When you’re done reading, I’d love to hear about some of your personal Sega Genesis favorites in the comments.
1Comix Zone (1995)
This inventive side-scrolling beat-em-up landed on the Genesis relatively late in its lifespan, so despite its technical achievements—presenting arcade action and light puzzle-solving inside colorful, comic book-style frames—few have heard of it. But its production values are absolutely top notch. Sega has since released this game on iOS, PS3, Xbox 360, and Windows, but it has still flown surprisingly far under the radar for just about everyone who isn’t a diehard Sega fan.
2Beyond Oasis (1994)
Perhaps the most underrated game on our list, Beyond Oasis packs tons of play value and high quality into an overhead action RPG elements, reminiscent of the Zelda series but with a more Sega-style beat-em-up feel to it. Like Zelda, this title also involves collecting keys and solving puzzles, but it does so in a satisfying Persian-esque setting.
3ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron (1993)
As a sequel to the endearing cult classic ToeJam & Earl, this side-scrolling psychedelic platformer doesn’t get as much attention as its precursor, but I personally like it better. That’s because its two-player mode has provided some of my fondest co-op gaming memories on any platform. In the game, you and a pal explore the colorful planet Funkotron, hitting wayward earthlings with jars to transport them back home (it’s exactly as weird as it sounds). Funky music and neat sound samples enhance the experience.
4Gauntlet IV (1993)
Not only is Gauntlet IV probably the best-ever home port of the arcade classic Gauntlet, but it also features a little-known lite-RPG mode where you can power up your characters over time while exploring special mazes and fighting bosses. Add in the fact that you can play either mode with up to four simultaneous players, and you have a definite classic on your hands.
5Mutant League Football (1993)
I have a friend who swears that Mutant League Football got him through college back in the 1990s. Even today, this rowdy game remains as entertaining for a group of onlookers as it is for people actually playing the game. With two teams of monsters facing off on the gridiron, Mutant League retains just enough of its sports pedigree to satisfy a football fan, while its brutal action element provide cathartic stress relief.
It would be fair to call Landstalker a well-made isometric fantasy action RPG inspired by Zelda. You play as Nigel, an elfin treasure hunter with huge clown boots. The controls can be tough at times (due to the perspective), but if you stick with it, you’ll adventure through an enchanting world full of whimsical and scary creatures on your quest to recover a legendary stature. And like Link, you’ll be solving lots of puzzles along the way.
7Splatterhouse 3 (1993)
The Splatterhouse series is known for delivering over-the-top, visceral gore in the form of a horror-themed beat-em-up. It’s not a thinking man’s series. But there’s something special about Splatterhouse 3 that is hard to put my finger on. You play as a monstrous guy killing monsters as usual, but you have to plot your way through a mansion using an on-screen map, trying to get to a boss before time runs out. Just this extra level of strategy adds an appealing layer onto what would otherwise be a mindless button masher.
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