The 8 Ball 11.13.12: Top 8 Sega Genesis Games
Welcome to another weekly installment of the The 8 Ball. In this week’s column, I plan on counting down the best that the ol’e Genesis had to offer. It’s a good companion piece to last week’s “Top 8 SNES Games”, given the historic rivalry that those two systems had. It was a far more simple time back then, but the two camps of Genesis and SNES fans were locked into perpetual war. There was the old adage, “Genesis can do sports games….the SNES can do everything else”, that was banded about, but let’s dive into this list and see what gems I can uncover. One note: I haven’t played a *huge* amount of Genesis games, so if your favorite(s) are missing from the list, look below in my 2nd list below.
8. Virtua Racing
While a bit of a shoddy port of a fairly basic arcade game, Virtua Racing stands out just for what it was trying to do on the Genesis. Most Genesis games relied on speed, or art direction to get by (in the face of the semi-superior SNES hardware), but Virtua Racing eschewed that and tried to recreate the arcade version as closely as possible. While it didn’t quite meet the mark, it was still a damned impressive title, especially at the time.
7. X-Men 2: Clone Wars
While the SNES X-Men game (made by Capcom) looked great, it was full of cheap hits that most Capcom games suffered from back then. This X-Men game came closest (at the time) to capturing the overall feel of the comic. With 7 characters to choose from, tight controls, and varied gameplay between each character, it really drove home the need for you to experiment somewhat. Or you could not and just have Gambit lay waste to everything. Later X-Men games were a lot more in-tune with the comics, but this was probably the first properly “good” X-Men game. Best of all, you didn’t have to reset your console to beat the game, like in the first Genesis X-Men game.
6. Jurassic Park
The first of our two “This game was MUCH better on the Genesis than the SNES” games, Jurassic Park was done right on the Genesis. While the SNES version was some weird top-down perspective thing, the Genesis version just had you as either Grant, or a Raptor, going through levels and taking down enemies. Grant had access to sleeping darts, grenades and a sweet taser, while the Raptor could jump, bite, and attack like a dinosaur should. It was a fairly challenging game, even to this day, but it was a clear example that if they tried, the Genesis could out-perform the SNES with ease.
5. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
While I may get some flak for having Sonic 2 fairly low on this list, that’s immaterial. Sonic 2 is a good game, but it’s not the best Sonic game (that comes later). The first half of this game is excellent, notably Emerald Hill, Chemical Plant, and Casino Night zones, are all great, but the other zones are very hit or miss….usually miss. Aquatic Ruin and Mystic Cave are both just not very fun stages, nor are any of the remaining levels. While key concepts were introduced in this game, Tails, Super Sonic, the Spin Dash, that made it memorable, it wasn’t the best game ever, or even the best Sonic game ever.
4. Kid Chameleon
Talk about a bonkers game, Kid Chameleon is still kind of crazy to this day. You play as “the Kid” and you’re sucked into a new arcade machine that just debuted at the arcade. From there, you transverse over a hundred levels, about two dozen different masks, and some of the best platforming action the Genesis had ever seen. The masks are the true highlight of the game with them transforming you into a Ninja, a Knight, a tank-weilding ghoul, a flying spinning Super-hero, or a bee. The looping, chaotic structure of the levels and the myriad amount of secrets only added to how bananas this game still is. It’s definitely one of the best games that the Genesis had.
The second of the “Genesis > SNES” games debate, the Genesis version of Aladdin was shame-causing to the SNES version. While the SNES version wasn’t bad, per se, it was just woefully inadequate compared to the Genesis version. Much better sound, gameplay, levels, and most of all, graphics, really made Aladdin stand out on the Genesis. By today’s standards, the game looks obviously primitive and slightly bland, but back in the day, that was *it* as far as gamers were concerned. It looked like the animated movie but condensed into a videogame and that was something special at the time.
2. Gunstar Heroes
The first Treasure-created game and still their best work, Gunstar Heroes is a joy to play and experience. You pay as either Red or Blue, and take to the stages blasting apart everything in your path. You had two weapon slots to choose from, either using each weapon separately, or combining them into a much better weapon. The stages were all expertly designed, especially the board game, and the bosses come fast and hard (but easily beatable), throughout the game. The game holds up completely, to this day, and is easily found on modern consoles (PS3/360) for you to experience. Here’s a tip, pick up the Homing Shot (green weapon), and the Laser Shot (blue weapon), use them both together to destroy everything in your path.
1. Sonic 3 with Sonic and Knuckles
I’m putting both games together, for the simple fact that originally it was all supposed to be one game. Both are great games, in and of themselves, but it’s when you connect them that they really come into their own. With 14 zones to explore, 3 characters to use, and 14 Emeralds to collect, it gave you a very good reason to dig deep into every level you could. The game had pixel-perfect platforming action that was the real pinnacle of Sonic’s popularity and greatness. Add in a great soundtrack, and some memorable stages, notably Ice Cap zone, and shield powers, and it all equals not only the best Sonic game to have come out, but also the best Genesis game as well.
I decided to actually come up with a topic for this bit, regarding games people will complain about that aren’t on this list. So here goes: Echo the Dolphin 1 or 2, Comix Zone, Toejam & Earl, Vector Man 1 or 2, Streets of Rage (series), Phantasy Star (series), Herzog Zwei, Anything sports related (Madden, NHL, etc.), Golden Axe (series), or Sonic the Hedgehog 1. Most of these I haven’t ever played (so I can’t judge them), or else I did play, and thought they sucked (I’m looking at you Echo).
Well, I’ll address a few comments and such from last column. First off, YES, I know I put down Chrono Cross, instead of Chrono Trigger. BFD. If I liked either of those games, I would bother to keep them straight. NBA Jam, and Street Fighter 2 were obviously arcade-first games. I thought Mario Kart was kind of technically impressive but wasn’t that “fun”. I was a much bigger fan of Mario Kart 64. And Donkey Kong Country 2 is kind of awful. Dixie Kong was pretty lame, and they slightly made everything a bit more cartoony, which I didn’t like.
Top 8 N64 Games
Top 8 Arcade-style Racing Games