I have been reading Console Wars by Blake J. Harris recently. I have not finished it, but it's been a good read, and very insightful to the goings-on in the early 90's video game scene. The Sega Genesis has been one of my favorite consoles for a good long time now, and may just be my favorite console of all time. This website has already seen a top ten of Genesis games, but I have my own opinion, I swear!
10. Toejam and Earl
Toejam and Earl is an interesting addition to this list, since it's the only one on here I feel really requires two players for full enjoyment. This game is very slow paced, which I feel really helps the co-op focus. Basically, Toejam and his buddy Earl are aliens who have crash landed on earth (a very abstract looking version of earth anyway), and must find all the pieces of their ship to leave back to their planet Funkotron. It's fun to explore around the randomized levels with a friend, trying to find those ship pieces. There's only a few music tracks, but they're all super 90's funky fresh, and I love it.
Back in the 16-bit days, it wasn't uncommon to find good licensed games; these days, it's much harder. The Disney corporation has its hand in a lot of things, but when I think Disney the first thing that comes to mind is animation. True to form, this game features some excellent animation straight from Disney themselves, though it was developed by Virgin Interactive. It's got a very western platformer feel, meaning that the gameplay is a little more floaty and there's a little more emphasis on collecting things, but it's still very solid. You have a sword, and you can throw apples. This leads to some interesting combinations of short and long range attack that you must take advantage of, especially when dealing with enemies. The levels, as you'd expect, all follow scenes from the movie. This game gets really challenging, but I still think it's worth a shot.
8. Earthworm Jim
Another well animated platformer, and another game that was released on various different consoles. However, I personally believe the Genesis version is the best version. Why? Well.. the music honestly. I prefer it even to the Sega CD/PC version. Something about that gritty sawtooth grinding sound I really enjoy. Anyway, the game itself is great fun too. The platforming is a little floaty, but the game makes up for it in all the varieties of gameplay. You platform, ride through space in pseudo-3D, and even battle a giant booger on a bungee cord. This game is just plain wacky, and I love it. This is owed in large part to Doug TenNapel, who had a large hand in this game. Beware though, this game gets pretty dang hard. To beat this one will take some iron clad thumbs. As stated before, this game was really well animated. In many ways it looks like a full proper cartoon in itself.
7. Rocket Knight Adventures
When Sonic the Hedgehog came out, many many "me too" games were to follow. Most of these ended up being pretty bad cash-ins, but there were some genuinely great ones. One such great was Rocket Knight Adventures by Konami (oh how the mighty have fallen). Firstly, the character design of Sparkster the Rocket Knight is pretty cool and original. The gameplay is really smooth, something that's imperative for any good two dimensional platformer. There's a really interesting jetpack mechanic in here, where you can charge up and blast away, which isn't just a pretty cool attack, but leads to some interesting platforming challenges. There's also some shmup-esque sections to vary up the gameplay, which are pretty fun. Basically, this game is the opposite of Bubsy.
Unlike most Sonic "me too" games, this one was created by the Sonic Team themselves. Unlike Sonic, there is no emphasis on speed. Ristar has the ability to stretch his arms. Not only do you his this to grab and fling enemies, but you can grab onto ladders, monkey bars, and all sorts of things. My favorite is the pole you spin around and fling yourself off of. This game has beautiful aethetics, and is probably one of the best looking games on the vanilla Genesis. It actually reminds me a lot of Treasure's games in its look. The music must also be noted, as there are some really catchy songs in this game. Overall, very highly recommended.
5. Knuckles' Chaotix
Okay, I know this is technically cheating since this game is only on 32X, but hey, you do need a Genesis hooked up to play it! To be totally honest, this game isn't on this list because it's quality, technically. I mean, I'm not saying it isn't well put together (it is!), but I appreciate what this game was trying to do. See, this game shakes up the Sonic formula by having you control two characters who are attached by a bungee cable. For some people, this mechanic is needlessly annoying, but for me I quite enjoy it. I've played all the other Sonic games to death, so I guess I can appreciate something that's slightly different, but not entirely. (Sonic CD is similar in this way, and deserves a place on this list, but I had to leave it out) You still run fast to the goal, and it's fun. The graphics in this game are spectacular, but they damn well better be if they wanted you to purchase a 32X to play it on. The music is also really well done, and has some really catchy tracks that stand out from the game itself. I definitely want to give it a full review some day. I wouldn't buy a 32X to play it, but if you do have a 32X, you have no excuse to pass it up.
Often seen as Sega's answer to Nintendo's pre-rendered Donkey Kong Country, it's really much more than that. Vectorman is a shoot 'em up style platformer where you play as a robot made of... balls. I'm not a huge fan of the character design, but I can see where they were going with the 3D-ness of him. But that's not important, what's important is that the game looks a treat and is fun to play. Vectorman has got both these on lock. As stated, it's got pre-rendered 3D graphics, which look great. Vectorman is a lot more visceral than something like Ristar; you jump you shoot and you blast anything that gets in your way. It's lots of fun.
3. Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
This is a game I've already done a review of. This game came out on every platform under the sun back in the day, but the Genesis version is still the one I hold in highest regard. This game is a platformer that takes you through detailed environments to save your dad, Pitfall Harry Sr. This game is a really solid platformer. Pitfall! is the grandfather of all side-scrolling platformer games, so I'm glad that this game lives up. The animations are very detailed, taking really good advantage of the Genesis' limited color set. The platforming mechanics and controls work superb with one exception: Because of the limited number of buttons on the genesis controller, you have to tap start to switch weapons (even if you have a 6-button plugged in, which it works with), meaning you have to hold it to pause. I still highly recommend this game.
2. Streets of Rage 2
It's tough to come up with new things to say on this game, given that I've already written a review of this game. Streets of Rage 2 is a beat 'em up game, and an excellent one at that. The game flows very smoothly, and attacking your enemies is never a chore. Though sometimes attacking your co-op friend is also not a chore, even if you don't want to. This game is fashioned after Capcom's Final Fight, but still manages to stand out on its own. I absolutely love the 80's cop movie aethetic to this game. The graphics are pretty beautiful for a Genesis game; the backgrounds are especially fairly detailed. And probably the best part of the game is: the music! The music was composed by Yuzo Koshiro, and is probably some of the best music to come out of that Yamaha YM2612. I recommend listening to Yuzo's full DJ set here.
1. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Okay okay, I know a lot of you are probably crying foul. How could I put Sonic 2 at number one? To me, this game defines the Sega Genesis. When I think of the Genesis, I think of this game. I spent so many hours playing this game, it's impossible not to. I have every single pixel of this game burned permanently into my memory. In case you don't know, Sonic 2 is a platformer where you speed through the levels, busting open robots, and chasing after Dr. Robotnik (who's "Eggman"?), who you face as a boss at the end of each level. The story isn't complicated, and neither is the gameplay. You only have one button you need to work with, the jump button. Other than that, you move left and right, or press down to roll. You can charge up and blast off with a spindash from a standing position for instant speedy gratification. Overall this speed mechanic, along with the hold-at-least-one-ring-to-not-die mechanic works well, and the levels are designed around it. This game is just so much fun to play, for novices and experts.