Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Top 10 Genesis/Mega Drive Games

with 9 comments

You asked, we’re delivering.  Each month for quite some time Fred and Jam will be getting into the ring to debate our version of the top 10 games of each console, beginning with Sega’s 16-bit giant the Genesis/Mega Drive.  Sure, it’s mostly just a video for people to love/hate on, but we also include a podcast containing our debate over the list and how we got to each game.  Needless to say many of you will disagree, so have at it in the comments and maybe you’ll win a game for the beloved console.

Wanna hear how we got there?  Here’s the podcast containing the debate:

Download this episode (right click and save)

Are you the written type?  Alright, well here’s the top 10 provided in text form:

NHLPA_Hockey_'93_Coverart10. NHLPA ’93

It has been one of the longest running misconceptions in the history of sports games and popular culture, and even Fred screwed it up in the discussion debate, but that beloved glitch-filled no team having blood on the ice game we all remember is, in fact, NHLPA ’93.  I know most people don’t even know what the difference between an NHLPA license and an NHL license is, but the short answer is the name of the team.  So while Chris Chelios of the Chicago Blackhawks is present in NHLPA ’93 he’s on a team simply known as “Chicago” instead of “Chicago Blackhawks”.  From there the debate will devolve into a diatribe of the breakaway move, which was in both ’93 and ’94, glitches, one-shots, and of course the creme de la creme and why it’s on this list: fighting.  The fact of the matter is, no matter what the movie Swingers said, fighting is not in NHL ’94 and the head bleed on the ice won’t return when fighting does in NHL ’95.  If you want that no holds barred attitute that was only found on the Genesis/Mega Drive, it’s in NHLPA ’93 and that’s why this is number 10 on our list of top titles.

Thunder_Force_III_cover9. Thunder Force III

Being the avid shmup fan, it’s nearly impossible to talk about Genesis shooters and not come across the Thunder Force series.  This is because while the series was born on a handful of microcomputers in Japan only, the popularity of the series, especially outside of Japan, and most of the gameplay staples came from the Genesis/Mega Drive sequels.  Of those three sequels Thunder Force III is significant for changing the series to solely horizontal style shooting making it more akin to Gradius or R-Typeas well as taking full advantage of Sega’s 16-bit console with some great parallax scrolling.  This title was so popular, in fact, that it received an arcade cabinet port called Thunder Force AC that almost looked identical to the home port offering.  It even got ported to the SNES as Thunder Spirits, but with some features cut out like the level select, which is significant because the levels are so hard you’ll want to memorize them one at a time by playing a specific one over and over.  Either way, the Genesis/Mega Drive original version of Thunder Force III is notable as a rock solid horizontal shooter that started a legacy.  For giving Sega’s console a shooter series to be proud of, Thunder Force III stands as our number nine.

story_of_thor_box_eu8. Beyond Oasis (US)/Story of Thor (Europe)

We love the title of this game in Europe, Story of Thor.  Jam is still not entirely sure why the name was changed, especially since Thor is only has a small reference in the story. Beyond Oasis/Story of Thor felt like a fresh twist on the top down action adventure game. Of course, fans will cry out and say “Zelda: Link to the Past is better!” however, Story of Thor really brings its own style to the genre. To Jam it felt like what would happen if the developers of Streets of Rage decided to do a Zelda game. Combat has more a emphasis on brawling and is genuinely quite satisfying. You also have multiple wepons to use, which are stronger against specific enemy types. Then there are the spirits you can summon, which are a really handy buddy that tags along for the ride when you need them. The ability to summon these spirits from the games enviroment felt very unique at the time.  Although not the longest game in the world, it is an incredibly fun campaign to play through.  This new take on an old formula makes Beyond Oasis/Story of Thor our number eight.

mk_gen_box7. Mortal Kombat

Permit us to devolve into immature 13-year-olds for a moment.  Blood.  Blood, blood, blood, blood, fatalities, and blood.  With one simple code, ABACABB, the Genesis/Mega Drive port of Mortal Kombat became the only home version of the game you wanted and it’s all because of that splotchy crimson.  Let’s face it, the violence is the only real draw Mortal Kombat had over competition Street Fighter II so keeping that intact was the only selling point for the game.  While Sega didn’t actively advertise that the game contained a code to unlock all the violence, especially since it cleverly rated the game MA-13, the only way you could play this arcade classic in full violent detail was on Sega’s console.  In at time where the SNES was blowing away the Genesis/Mega Drive in console releases and graphical fidelity, Mortal Kombat was a clear reminder that Sega brought edge to gaming.  It was so significant, in fact, that Nintendo would restore all the violence for the sequel and senate hearings on violence in video games became realities thanks in part to the Genesis/Mega Drive port of Mortal Kombat.  That’s why it’s our number seven.

Mega_Man_-_The_Wily_Wars_Coverart6. Mega Man: The Wily Wars (Europe Only)

There is a good chance that this title would be more significant had it come out in any region other than Europe (with a short stint on the US Sega Channel).  Mega Man: The Wily Wars combines all three of the first Mega Man titles, updates the graphics, and adds saving to them.  It was Capcom’s version of the Super Mario All-Stars collection except that these were the three most beloved titles from the series and they all started out as NES games.  It was a jump unlike any other and at the time I can’t think of a single Sega fan that wouldn’t have killed to have it on their Genesis/Mega Drive.  And European viewers (readers), don’t go thinking because it came out in your neck of the woods the journey is any easier, because it’s super rare and complete copies start at around 400 Euros.  Thanks to emulation (or a hacked ROM on a flash cart), many of us can enjoy this updated collection that is chock full of beneficial updates – although we do have to tolerate the Mega Drive controller as a concession.  This fantastic and rare collection is easily our number six.

Wonder_Boy_in_Monster_World5. Wonderboy in Monster World (US/UK)/Monster World III (Japan)

The Wonder Boy series is one of those games that really evolved with each iteration and brought something new and exciting to the table. Wonderboy in Monster World on the Mega Drive/Genesis plays out like a wonderful 2D adventure where you explore multiple locations, meet many colourful characters, and gradually see your character Shion turn into a legendary hero.  In addition, it still holds true to its roots and you can still see where the original Wonderboy, also known as Adventure Island on the NES, came from.  As opposed to just going from point A to point B in dungeons killing monsters, the game would throw surprising twists into the gameplay making the experience fresh and consistently fun. The boss battles in this game as some of the most memorable on the console, you’ll feel like you are facing a impossible foe at times, and on one occasion you need to rely more on your knowledge of the game than your fighting skills to see you through. Wonder Boy is a forgotten franchise that still to this day needs a spiritual successor but until a indie developer takes up the task we still have this great game to play.  Wonderboy in Monster World is clearly our number five.

dr_mbm_gen_box4. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (US/UK)/Puyo Puyo (Japan)

We are actually really glad this game made our top ten list. For a lot of people this will be the game you look at and really scratch your head as to why we added it. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is a game you grow to love. It’s a simple puzzle game where you have to match four bean colours, and if you’re really skillful chain them together to make life incredibly difficult for your opponent. Playing against the AI in this game is very difficult but you feel so good about yourself when you finally conquer one of Robotnik’s Badniks that it’s totally worth it. The biggest draw to the game is playing with a friend. There really is no such thing as a quick game of Mean Bean Machine. You will start by saying, “first to 3 wins,” then that will extend to 5, then 7 … well you get the point. Simple to pick up, tough to master but just a ton of fun to play no matter what skill level you are. Yes, it may seem shocking we didn’t put a Sonic game on the list (*spoilers*) but honestly we go back and play Mean Bean Machine more than the entire Sonic franchise, sorry fans.

musha_box3. M.U.S.H.A. (US/UK)/Musha Aleste (Japan)

Speaking of great games developed by Compile, there is no better or more unique shooter on the Genesis/Mega Drive than M.U.S.H.A.  Short for Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor (thank you Japan for your lovely acronyms), you don’t play as a ship in this game but rather a human in a large flying mech.  It’s part of the larger Aleste series in Japan, but over here in the West we were fine just receiving a handful of which M.U.S.H.A. is hands down the best.  Fast paced, wonderful graphics, and a soundtrack that keeps your heart pumping, there’s no other vertical shooter with some of the longest levels in history quite like it.  It’s on the Wii Virtual Console so now this rare and expensive gem can be had for only 800 points, do yourself a favor and check it out.

bloodlines_box2. Castlevania: Bloodlines (US)/Castlevania: The New Generation (UK)/Vampire Killer (Japan)

Castlevania on Mega Drive was the game that proved the Mega Drive was capable of some suprising feats. Just looking at gameplay footage of this game unaware of its consoles origin and you will be greeted to a incredible soundtrack that holds up even to games on the SNES.  Konami wanted to give support to Nintendo’s 16-bit console but the Genesis/Mega Drive proved to be too large a market to ignore, which led to experimental titles like this.  Among games like Contra: Hard Corps and TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist, these were technologically impressive iterations on familiar series that really separate Sega’s 16-bit console from the rest.  Of these examples, there’s no denying that Castlevania is the most impressive.  With multiple playable characters, branching paths, and secrets for completing the game on harder difficulties, any avid fan should have this in their collection.

Streets_Of_Rage_2_-EUR-1. Streets of Rage 2 (US/UK)/Bare Knuckle 2 (Japan)

Streets of Rage 2 is one of the first games you think of when you are asked the question, “What are the best Mega Drive/Genesis games?” It is one of the best 2D brawlers period. It is fantastic to play with someone else or by yourself and it has a killer soundtrack. Of course we have huge nostalgia for this game and probably completed it hundreds of times when we were younger, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an amazing title.  With four playable characters, co-op, and enough off the wall levels (including a pirate ship and an alien world) to keep you interested, Streets of Rage 2 is a must play.  Not only that, but the game is so self aware of how badass it is that it has cabinets of the original, known as Bare Knuckle in Japan, in the game for you to smash for items. Streets of Rage 2 is a great game that still holds up against the test of time is available practically everywhere.  If you haven’t already played this game do yourself a favor and check it out, you won’t be disappointed.


All right, have at it, start your complaints and compliments in the comments below.

Written by Fred Rojas

April 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Top 10

Tagged with

9 Responses

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  1. I just finished listening to the podcast, and I’m left wondering, were you trying to troll the audience or what? Keeping Sonic 2 off the list is an unforgivable sin. To top it off, you included NHLPA 93′, Dr Robotniks Mean Bean Machine, and Mega Man: the Wily Wars in said list, you have to be trying to get a rise out of the listeners. Congratulations, it worked. I look at this sorry list, and just have to shake my head in disgust. I could go on and on about other games that should be included – Shining Force I or II, Langrisser/Warsong, Landstalker, etc, but no Sonic 2????

    The game was iconic. It was probably the biggest North American release up until that time with Sonic 2s day. It was great. Having Tails around to keep your little sister quiet, split screen competitive, It all adds up to Sonic 2 being the undisputed champion of the Genesis. I haven’t liked a single Sonic game after Sonic 2 and I can still confidently say it should be number one with a bullet. I vote for a recount.


    April 2, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    • You shall have validation! Jam and I understandably got such an aggressive response, especially about the lack of sonic, that we will have to give a response podcast. That said, I can promise one thing, we were not trying to troll anyone. I assure you we love games, and specifically Genesis/Mega Drive games, as much as you do but we clearly don’t hold the love for Sonic that most of our audience does. We did give a seven hour two part podcast on him, so we know he’s important and try our best to show him love, but he didn’t make our list. There are plenty of other omissions as well. We will be collecting all of these and issuing a response. If you haven’t listened to the podcast about how we got to those decisions – although I don’t think it will ease your mind any – you can see how we got to this list. Next month is the N64 top ten and I’m scared of the response there too. The one thing I ask is please don’t stop listening or reading due to our decisions, I assure you they are just opinions and we do care about the community’s as well, otherwise we wouldn’t issue a response. While we won’t change ours, we will give props to yours.

      Fred Rojas

      April 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    • I totally respect that Sonic 2 gets a lot of love. Ill be honest I would have loved to include the Shinning Force games to but I personally have not invested much time in those games. Fred and I both love the system but we are guilty of not playing every classic. This is very much a opinion list and It is very different from a typical top ten you would see. I think thats what gives it personality. When Fred and I do that N64 list I think well make a better effort to give nods to games that the majority of gamers like even if they don’t agree with our decided list. We will of course discuss the Mega Drive top ten in future episodes to reference Sonic. Thanks for your comment we love feedback.


      April 4, 2015 at 4:21 pm

  2. Can’t wait to play some of the ones you recommended that I’ve never heard of. Here’s my favs:

    1.) Aladdin
    2.) Streets of Rage 2
    3.) Sonic 1
    4.) MK1
    5.) Strider
    6.) Jungle/Urban/Desert Strike
    7.) Road Rash/Skitchin
    8.) FIFA International Soccer
    9.) NBA Jam TE
    10.) EA’s NBA Playoffs games


    April 7, 2015 at 12:21 pm

  3. Well, that’s a very interesting 10 Top Mega Drive list you guys came up with there (loved the podcast but were you trying to prod a sleeping bear *laughs*). I sure there’s a few fellow Retrobates calling for a recount, or your heads to be paraded on pikes through the village. What no Sonic game list? Burn them, burn them all! But each to they’re own, if we all had the same top ten list life would be pretty boring, though saying that I was suprised to see a few games on your list, Mortal Kombat,and Puyo Puyo being a couple that sit awkwardly with me, but hey, that just my opinion.

    Now Jam knows I just love a top ten list so I thought I throw in my Top Ten, so without further-a-do here’s mine Top Ten Mega Drive games.

    01. Comix Zone
    02. Road Rash 2
    03. Rainbow Islands
    04. Gunstar Heroes
    05. The New Zealand Story
    06. NHLPA ’93
    07. Shadowrun
    08. Forgotten Worlds
    09. Madden ’94
    10. Yu Yu Hakusho


    April 8, 2015 at 7:04 pm



    April 9, 2015 at 9:29 am

  5. Great show guys! Very interesting/bizarre list.

    I was glad to hear all your love for the Castlevania and Contra Genesis games. I feel like a lot people have forgotten how killer those are! Konami was on fire during this era! Maybe you could do an all Konami episode some time?

    I’m excited that you chose Rocket Knight Adventures for the game club. The rocket pack mechanic blew my mind when I was a kid. Looking forward to hearing your impressions Fred, since you’re playing it for the first time. I never bought a Xbox360 or PS3 so unfortunately I haven’t been able to try the new Rocket Knight and Hard Corps games exclusive to those systems yet. Do you guys have any experience with either of those games?

    Here’s my Top 10:

    1. Sonic 3 & Knuckles
    2. Sonic 2
    3. Bare Knuckle 3
    4. Rocket Knight Adventures
    5. Shinobi 3
    6. Castlevania Bloodlines
    7. Gunstar Heros
    8. Contra Hard Corps
    9. Mortal Kombat
    10. NBA Jam T.E.


    April 10, 2015 at 12:30 am

  6. Great podcast guys! Love the idea of the top 10 list podcast and look forward to many more. Here is my top ten:

    1. Sonic 2 (Sad to see it outside if your top ten)
    2. Pier Solar (I know its homebrew, but I just can not leave it off this list)
    3.Shining force II
    4. Contra Hard Corps
    5. Beyond Oasis
    6. Vectorman
    7. Streets of rage
    8. Castlevania Bloodlines
    9. Mortal Kombat 2
    10. Ecco the dolphin

    Thanks, and keep up the good work.


    Jesse D

    April 11, 2015 at 11:03 am

  7. There once was a time where the internet was known as the information super highway, a time when one was encouraged to pick a side – Genesis or SNES. I lived through this time. I am a recovering Sega fanboy, and here are the top ten games I loved during the first console wars.

    Top Ten Genesis Games

    10. Bill Walsh College Football 95
    EA produced sports games really shined on the Genesis. Bill Walsh 95 was revolutionary. It improved upon the original in so many ways. Take Madden, throw in the triple option, and you have awesomeness.

    9. Golden Axe
    Golden Axe was the first game I purchased for the Genesis. I never regretted it. Coop was still a novelty at the time. In the early days of the Genesis there was nothing better than having friends over, kicking back, and taking out Death Adder.

    8. Warsong
    This was a game I never knew existed until late in the Genesis’s life cycle. My brother’s roommate, who strikingly looked like Kip, Napoleon Dynamite’s brother, let me borrow it. I loved it. The strategy, the little animated skirmishes, and the level progression of your characters had me hooked. Think Advance Wars with a fantasy setting released ten years prior.

    7. Landstalker
    Oh Landstalker, how divisive a game are you? People either love it or hate it. An isometric action RPG with difficult platforming and puzzles, I was starved for RPG’s on the Genesis. The art direction was fantastic. Overall, it was worth every penny.

    6. Gunstar Heroes
    Treasure was the savior of the Genesis. Konami was huge back in those days. For a portion of the company to break off and exclusively make games for one console only. It was a very big deal. Gunstar Heroes was frantic, beautiful, had tight controls, and coop was fantastic.

    5. Phantasy Star IV
    Genesis owners were unable to get their hands on many RPG’s. Luckily Sega brought over a gem in Phantasy Star IV. Cool manga type cut scenes, a refreshing sci-fi setting, and twists such as the main heroine dying made for one great Genesis game.

    4. Mortal Kombat
    This is what truly set apart the Genesis from the SNES. All I need to say is two words – Blood Code. Sega was for cool kids and Nintendo was for babies. No other game proved it more to potential console owners than one Mortal Kombat. A true game changer.

    3. Shining Force
    Tactical games were a rarity on the Genesis as were RPG’s. Shining Force combined the two into a slick, challenging, engrossing game. Cool animations for the battles and the pre-Pokemon excitement of trying to “catch all your allies”. Shining Force I & II were gems.

    2. Streets of Rage
    I spent lots of time in the arcade growing up. Final Fight was a game that really caught my eye. Streets of Rage helped me forget what I was missing. Yuzo Koshiro was a master at FM synth. I would often let the attract mode play just to hear the opening. Coop was so good. I love me some Streets of Rage.

    1. Sonic 2
    What more is to be said?


    April 14, 2015 at 1:54 am

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