Genesis Retrospective

I remember our Sega Genesis. I remember the box it came it, with Altered Beast bundled and pictures of all the different Genesis games on the back. It was our family console, it was my parent’s console. It was the console I played Zany Golf, PGA Tour, Might & Magic, Phelios, Ghouls n’ Ghosts and Sonic the Hedgehog on. It was the console my dad’s friend’s kid had in his room that we played Road Rash II on. It was the console I had stacks of cheat books for, and I’ll never forget the first time I activated Debug Mode in Sonic. I remember Decap Attack…

I want to say our Master System was traded in for it, but it’s entirely possible we were just renting the Master System, back when you could do such a thing. I remember promotional materials cycling through the video store my mom worked at for upcoming Sonic games, and seeing articles about them in GamePro magazine.

I still have my parents’ journal they kept when they played Might & Magic together when I was a kid. Riddles and their possible solutions written down, maps charted and item locations noted. It wouldn’t be until years later that my dad and I would finally beat the game, basking in all of its anticlimactic glory. It’s funny, I was looking a walkthrough on GameFAQs for it the other day and apparently you can beat the whole game in under an hour if you know where to go.

Interestingly, despite all my memories, actually playing Genesis games does little in the way of triggering nostalgia for me. In a way that’s a good thing as I’m able to play through this list of games with a similar mindset to how I went through the Game Boy list. In reality, I’ve only played a handful of these games, so for the most part this was all a new experience for me.

Let’s get to the monthly breakdown!

Month 1:

Games Played – 5
Games Beat – 3
Best Game – Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts (7.5)
Worst Game – Skitchin’ (5.0)

Things started off… interesting. For starters, I hadn’t started using BatchCrop for my images yet, so there’s that. More important was the variety of games, in terms of genre, style and quality, and how that kind of set the tone of the console. We had a Road Rash styled skating game, two takes on the strategy genre, a weird arcade-platformer and a personal favorite that I grew up with but never actually beat.

General Chaos and Tyrants were both unique takes on the RTS genre for consoles, years before we’d ever be playing Command & Conquer, StarCraft or WarCraft II with a controller. Neither game was perfect, but they were both compelling and interesting, and despite the low score I gave it I feel like Tyrants had a lot of offer for those willing to crack the surface. Bonanza Bros was a fun diversion wholly lacking in any real content, and Skitchin’ is the only game here I’d say was actually disappointing given the developer.

Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts was a blast to play, and I really didn’t see myself beating it considering how much trouble I had with it as a kid. To be perfectly honest, however, the fulfillment was somewhat diminished by the fact that the game actually gives you unlimited continues… Still a lot of fun though.

Month 2:

Games Payed – 10
Games Beat – 1
Best Game – Ristar (8.1)
Worst Game – Flicky (5.8)

1 out of 10 games beat, eesh… Still, the one I did beat was well worth the time and I’m of course referring to Ristar. I was really this close *holds up fingers* to dismissing this one as a Sonic knockoff and I’m really glad I didn’t. Ristar turned out to be a really fantastic platformer and, while not my favorite for the console, manages to remain unique and enjoyable.

Mega Turrican is my personal second-favorite for the month, but then I’m a huge fan of these kinds of games anyway. Couldn’t quite beat it, but had a great time trying. Also in the “almost beat but not quite” category is Castle of Illusion. Castle of Illusion was good fun, but between the discomfort of having to play on an emulator at my desk (cartridge fried…) and my simply not being into the game, I decided to call it after getting a proper game over. Finally there was Comix Zone, which was a lot of fun to play but ultimately hampered by its own difficulty.

Golden Axe II, Revenge of Shinobi and Flicky were all just “okay” games, though I expected more from Revenge of Shinobi. Columns is still good fun and my bizarre, slightly hypnotic hour long session still haunts me…

Shadowrun ended up being a dud for me, which sucks because I was actually really interested in it. I think that if it had stuck to being a more traditional, maybe even tactical RPG I would have had a much better time with it. Beyond Oasis just felt terribly average in spite of its great visuals.

This was also the month of the major site redesign, domain registration, and first pass of the updated review process!

Month 3:

Games Played – 10
Games Beat – 1
Best Game – Rocket Knight Adventure (8.3)
Worst Game – Super Monaco GP II (5.3)

This was about the halfway point for the console and if we’re being honest, I was getting tired. These Genesis games were like a roller coaster, offering me spans of games ranging from bad to mediocre to “it’s almost so good but isn’t!” and then, just when I’m missing my Nintendo consoles the most, it throws me a gem like Rocket Knight Adventure. Long before Konami became the devil corporation banning beloved star developers from award events and turning their best franchises into erotic pinball games (seriously) they were one of the best companies around. Seeing that logo and hearing that chime at the beginning of every Konami game provided comfort in knowing you were about to play a good game, and Rocket Knight Adventure was no exception!

Unfortunately, said gem comes sandwiched between games like Strider, Fantastic Dizzy, Marko and Super Monaco GP II. Strider came as a surprise, as I was sure I was going to love that one, but it just had too many technical issues to be enjoyable. Mortal Kombat delivered more than expected, but it’s still only just okay. Quackshot was just boring.

Shining in the Darkness was my first proper RPG for the console, and it had a lot going for it. Unfortunately, the cartography aspect got really old really quick, and the story was too slow to unfold. Landstalker was another one that I was looking forward to, but I just didn’t enjoy playing it at all.


On a completely unrelated note, this was also the month I discovered Danganronpa!

Month 4:

Games Played – 19
Games Beat – 3
Best Game – Sonic 3 & Knuckles (8.9)
Worst Game – Virtua Racing (5.3)

Hoo boy, quite a month!

Despite some disappointing titles like Virtua Racer, Micro Machines, Football and Hockey, this final stretch still served as a major pick-me-up for the console. I was able to beat both Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 3 & Knuckles for the first time, and they were both fantastic. World of Illusion was nice, and solid titles like NBA Jam, Mickey Mania and Aladdin rounded things out. Gunstar Heroes is of course another fantastic game, but I was just short of being able to beat it.

Month 5:

Games Played – 4
Games Beat – 1
Best Game – Sonic 2 and Streets of Rage 2 (8.3)
Worst Game – Phantasy Star IV (7.2)

Despite my interest in the game, and multiple attempts at pressing forward, Phantasy Star IV seemed intent on thwarting me at every turn. I was so ready to love this game, and if not for the accumulated pile of minor issues I probably would have. The story, or more specifically the storytelling, was excellent, but I ended up just having too many problems with the game itself to really enjoy it.

Super Street Fighter II proves that Street Fighter II can basically do no wrong. Streets of Rage 2 was good, save for some major headaches in co-op and the fact that I just don’t like beat ’em ups in general. Finally, Sonic 2 was a solid game which, through the magic of stage select cheats, I almost beat, but ultimately it just didn’t hold up to Sonic 3 at all.


Games per Genre

Once again we see a console dominated by platforming games, and I don’t expect that to change going into the SNES, though RPG’s will certainly get a better representation.

Score per Genre

As for average score in these genres, fighting games take the lead here which isn’t really a surprise considering there are only two of them to average from, and those games are Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II respectively. Still, despite the diversity of scores, platformers manage to come in second alongside RPG’s. Racing games didn’t do too well on the Genesis, and its two strategy offerings weren’t really the best representation of the genre…

Genre per Year

Here we see release years for played games, as well as a per-year genre breakdown. Platformers grow increasingly popular while Comix Zone caps off the console’s life cycle.

Score per Year

Moving on we see how well each year did on average. Average being the key word here, as that’s how the Genesis seemed to fare for the better half of the 90’s.

Finally, here is my top 10 Sega Genesis games.

Top 10 GEN Games


I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why it is I’m so disillusioned with this console and my best guess is that I’ve been spoiled. I remember the day when my dad brought the Super Nintendo home with Super Mario World. I sat there with the box while he hooked it up, and when the system flicked on and I saw Dinosaur Land for the first time, well, the rest was history. As a result, I spent the majority of the 90’s playing SNES games, really really good SNES games.

When I started on the Genesis for this project I was excited to see all the awesome games I missed out on from being a Nintendo kid, and ultimately I’m left disappointed and, frankly, a bit confused. It feels like, no matter how good a Genesis exclusive is, it’s still miles behind a competitor that it really should have been on equal terms with. Great, the Genesis has Beyond Oasis and Landstalker, and they’re both pretty good games, but they’re not even in the same league as Legend of Zelda. Where are the Donkey Kong Country’s or Chrono Trigger’s of the Genesis? Why does it always seem like, compared to its peers, the Genesis’ best is only above average?

Don’t get me wrong, there are some really good games on offer here. Sonic 3 was great and Gunstar Heroes is a classic. Rocket Knight may not be as memorable as Konami’s other titles of the time, but it’s still among the best.

Maybe it’s my own biases getting in the way of fully enjoying what’s actually a great console, but in the end I feel like I was getting a second rate experience…


Sega Genesis


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