Gaming

Best Mega Drive Games

The Mega Drive. The Genesis. Whatever you called it, it was a plastic chunk of brilliance, arguably the finest machine Sega ever stuck its name on (sorry Dreamcast).

While it lived in the shadow of the SNES for much of its life, a fine rostra of games kept the console competitive - and 25 years on, many of them still shine as beacons of gaming brilliance.

From hard-as-nails brawlers to blisteringly quick platformers, these are the finest games we ever played on the Mega Drive system.

Let us know your favourites in the comments below.

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  • Best Mega Drive Games 36

    Sensible Soccer 92/93

    Release date: 1992

    The bounce of the ball. The roar of the crowd. The spittle of the whistle. When Sensi lined up on Mega Drive consoles in March 1993, it was a footballing triumph: none could match its 60 frames per second animations, the pitch-wide view and customisable teams. 

    Best fact: This game is older than Raheem Sterling. Think on that.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 37

    Streets of Rage II

    Release date: 1992

    Yes Streets of Rage was good - really good. Its sequel gave the title a killer edge: more moves, including individual specials, physical handicaps to overcome and balance out, and the lethal katana. 

    Best fact: The original Japanese tightly doesn't muck about - Bare Knuckle II: The Requiem of the Deadly Battle

  • Best Mega Drive Games 38

    Earthworm Jim

    Release date: 1994

    Sega has never shied away from unusual animal protagonists: alongside their blue hedgehog and rocket-powered opossum was an earthworm called Jim, given human-like abilities by a super suit. Sure, the storyline didn't make sense (rescue Princess What's-Her-Name only to see her ultimately crushed by a flying cow), but Sonic was hardly Shakespearean in its narrative was it? Its hard-as-nails action was a refreshing departure from the normal jump-and-run platformers of its age.

    Best fact: The game's developers, Shiny Entertainment, literally set out to make the title a parody of the video game industry. Having worked on several licenced games under strict briefs, Earthworm Jim was an opportunity to do something a bit "different". It worked.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 39

    Rocket Knight Adventures

    Release date: 1993

    A platforming hero who never got the same level of fame as Mario or Sonic, Sparkster was a rocketeering opossum (it's a marsupial, look it up), who must destroy a powerful ship known as the Pig Star, and its evil emperor intent on destroying the kingdom. Sort of like Star Wars, but with animals.

    Best fact: Despite Rocket Knight Adventures gaining high praise from critics - with many drawing comparisons to Sega's famed hedgehog - the game and its two sequels never found mainstream success. If you're a keen retro gamer with an interest in platformers, we urge you to dig up this lost gem.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 40

    Sonic the Hedgehog 2

    Release date: 1992

    Forget Pes or Fifa, the nineties witnessed a far more polarising fanboy war over a hedgehog and Italian plumber. While Mario had dominated the late eighties with the likes of Super Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario World, 1992 saw Sega claw back some platforming kudos with its second Sonic outing. It was astonishingly fast, with a co-op system that added neat variety to the gameplay. Do we know what the Chaos Emeralds really did? No, but we still bloody loved collecting them all.

    Best fact: Shifting over 6 million copies, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is fittingly the second best-selling title for the Mega Drive. The top spot? The original Sonic, which sold 14 million.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 41

    Aladdin

    Release date: 1992

    The best "video game based on a movie"? If your answer isn't Aladdin, it's wrong. 

    Everything about Aladdin was better than you'd expect a Disney game to be: the combat and jumping mechanics didn't stick, the levels were beautiful and the bonus sections were hugely fun (what do you mean you didn't find the Abu bonus round?). Virgin Interactive would repeat the magic with The Lion King (with Westwood Studios), but Aladdin was their original hit. 

    Best fact: Virgin Interactive pitched to make a second Aladdin game with 3D-sprite graphics, but Disney turned the project down. Spoil sports.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 42

    BattleToads

    Release date: 1993

    The only excuse you have for not having played Battletoads is being born after 1991 (it was originally a NES game, before receiving a superb Mega Drive port in 1993).

    The scrolling brawler adventure starred three battle-hardened toads (Rash, Zitz, and Pimple), tasked with rescuing Princess Angelica after she's kidnapped by the Dark Queen. The game was hard as nails, with the Mega Drive version proving only a smidgen easier due to players getting a larger number of lives - which made the hoverbike sequence of the game nearly manageable.

    Best fact: In addition to the NES and Mega Drive version of Battletoads, Rare (yes, the English bunch behind the N64's GoldenEye) also made an arcade version that was insanely violent. 

  • Best Mega Drive Games 43

    NBA Jam Tournament Edition

    Release date: 1994

    There's a time and a place for accurate sports simulations. For the other time in the other place, there was NBA Jam: Tournament Edition - a wild, ridiculous take on the original title that was made vastly superior thanks to its simplification and numerous cheats.

    If you've never laid down a power dunk to win the game in the final second, you haven't lived.

    Best fact: If you managed to beat the game's Tournament Mode, you could unlock an All-Star team - unleashing super powerful players for your own squads as well as introducing them to the opposing teams. 

  • Best Mega Drive Games 44

    Golden Axe

    Release date: 1989

    And you thought Dark Souls was hard.

    We broke many controllers attempting to master this unforgiving fantasy brawler - there were times when we thought the kidnapped king and his daughter could go hang for all we cared. But Golden Axe taught us to persist, learning new skills to take down the game's various (idiotic) foe, eventually progressing beyond the button thumping of less-complicated games.

    Best fact: Team Shinobi love their booze. Like, really love it. The developers named all of the henchmen of Golden Axe after a beer ingredient, or changed the spellings of popular spirits to come up with sinister titles. 

  • Best Mega Drive Games 45

    Toejam & Earl

    Release date: 1991

    Gamers were initially confused by the crash-landing of this unlikely alien duo, with poor sales threatening to bury this slice of creative genius.

    Part comic satire, part adventure game, the jazz-funk soundtrack and comedy helped the game gain a cult-cool status via word of mouth. There was a brilliant co-op mode, that saw ToeJam and Earl hunt for parts of their downed ship amidst gangs of angry nerds, man-eating letter boxes and hot tubs of hot babes. It was really weird, and we loved it.

    Best fact: Sega didn't think the Mega Drive would be able to support the game's randomly-generated level design, threatening to axe the game altogether. The tiny development team at Johnson Voorsanger Productions managed to prove them wrong, and created the sleeper-hit title of the console.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 46

    Gunstar Heroes

    Release date: 1993

    Guns! Fire balls! Guys in sunglasses!

    Okay, so that makes Gunstar Heroes sound juvenile in the extreme, but it had one of the most complicated weapon systems our young thumbs had encountered. You battled you way past evil robots with four guns, which could be combined in a variety of ways to create 10 additional boom sticks. Combine this with lightning-fast gameplay and super-slick animations, and you've got a game that's begging for a modern day remake. Come on Sega, make it happen.

    Best fact: The Western and Japanese releases have slightly different storylines - the Japanese version of which is really, really complicated. You can read it in full here.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 47

    The Revenge of Shinobi

    Release date: 1989

    Set three years after the original title, The Revenge had a simple storyline: the ninja badguys have reformed, changing their name from Zeed to Neo Zeed (nice), killing our hero's master and nicking his bride (nasty). 

    We spent hours exploring the eight stages of this superb ninja title, running into many throwing stars and fine-tuning our jitsu skills. And if we're honest, no we never completed the final boss. It just took the piss.

    Best fact: One of the original Japanese releases of the game contained bad guys that stomped all over copyright licences, taking the appearance of  Rambo, The Terminator, Spider-Man, Batman, and Godzilla. For a wider international release, the designers had to change the design of these characters.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 48

    Contra: Hard Cops

    Release date: 1994

    And you thought Call of Duty indulged in a few OTT set pieces?

    We're going to stick out our necks and state that Hard Cops is the pinnacle of the Contra series, such was the frequency of its lavish boss battles, animated in stunning style. The multi-path choice system also blew our nineties minds.

    Best fact: See that wolf guy in the screen shot? He's called Brad Fang - a cyborg with a gatling gun for an arm. He is the best video game character ever.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 49

    X-Men 2: Clone Wars

    Release date: 1995

    Don't think it's possible to make a decent comic book video game? X-Men 2 begs to differ.

    Set around the story arc of the hit TV series, Clone Wars saw you battle an alien race called the Phalanx (who wanted to control the Earth with clones). Only Beast, Psylocke, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Cyclops have avoided capture, uniting with their old foe Magneto in a bid to take down the likes of Apocalypse, the Sentinels, Exodus and Deathbird. It was brilliant.

    Best fact: The game started with what's known as a "cold open" sequence, where you were assigned a random character and no instructions as to what was going on. It stuck in our minds as a bonkers way to drop you into a game, and we loved it.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 50

    Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium

    Release date: 1995 (though Japan got it two years earlier)

    No, they never worked out how to spell 'fantasy', but that didn't stop this JRPG (the J stands for Japan) from being any less excellent.

    A turn-based battler, the story took place on the once-lush world of Motavia, now crumbling and filled with biomonsters. As Chaz Ashley, you set out to kill bugs, build a team of badasses and take down the sinister character known as Zio. It was massive, with a storyline that meandered all over the place in satisfying style.

    Best fact: Hit by a sudden urge to throw yourself back into PS IV? You can find it on Steam even now

  • Best Mega Drive Games 51

    Ecco the Dolphin

    Release date: 1992

    If we told you that we'd played an awesome game about a dolphin that was given a quest to travel back in time using a machine built by the Atlanteans in order to restore order to the ocean, you'd probably ask us to move to another seat on the bus.

    Yet it's this ridiculous story, and the inventive game scenarios that spring from it, that made Ecco one of the most enjoyable games of the Mega Drive. And that final boss fight against something out of Alien still haunts us.

    Best fact: The game's designer Ed Annunziata was so worried about kids being able to rent the game and beat it in a weekend that he purposefully made it harder than it needed to be. The bastard. 

  • Best Mega Drive Games 52

    Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf

    Release date: 1992

    We're not proud to admit it, but much of what we knew about the Gulf War as a kid was owed largely to this game. The final sequence even saw you sent to the White House for a commendation from George H.W. Bush.

    In essence, you flew around a fictional Gulf state in your Apache helicopter blowing up key targets. It never got more complicated than that.

    Best fact: On release, Desert Strike became EA's biggest selling game of all time.

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  • Best Mega Drive Games 53

    Micro Machines

    Release date: 1993

    "We want to make a racing game about Micro Machines."

    "Those little cars? Are you sure?"

    "Yeah, it'll basically be tiny cars racing through normal-sized locations. Like a crazy golf driving experience."

    It was glorious.

    Best fact: Despite the game receiving indifferent reviews, it proved popular enough to spawn five sequels and spin-offs. Why it hasn't had an app version made yet is beyond us.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 54

    Zombies ate my neighbours

    Release date: 1993

    Long before Dead Island or Dead Rising had us running amok with a spade amidst a sea of brain nibblers, this gem of a game had us fleeing for our lives.

    As either Zeke and Julie, players were tasked with saving their neighbours from the undead, using weapons that ranged from tomatoes to bazookas. There were 55 levels, with an impressive array of strategies for taking out the zombies. If a Mega Drive game deserved a remake, this would get our vote.

    Best fact: In 2011, word swept the darker corners of the web that a film adaptation was in the works, with screenwriter John Darko (Insidious) linked to the project. It's still yet to reach production.

  • Best Mega Drive Games 55

    Kid Chameleon

    Release date: 1992

    The Mega Drive was spoilt for platform titles; while Sonic stood out as a console-shifting triumph, there were many other fine examples of "jumping on things and running about a lot", like Kid Chameleon.

    As the titular hero, you went about in search of flags - often running into teleporters that could sling you into different levels, forcing you to find a new path through the game. Masks would give you different powers and abilities to take on increasingly difficult foe (hence the 'Chameleon' title).

    Best fact: Wish you could relive this nineties classic? It's available on PC for £1.99.