#30 Panorama Cotton
Chosen by: Rhete, ommadawnyawn, heavymetalmage
Rhete - While these days it would be easy to just write this game off as an interesting tech demo, it's actually quite fun to play. Imagine Space Harrier with much more inventive level design, branching paths, secret areas, magic attacks, unique bosses, and the ability to adjust your own forward speed, making the game easier or harder on the fly. Panorama Cotton never leaving Japan in a word, is tragic.
ommadawnyawn - It's such a weird thing that this game even exists for the stock MD. Success, a game company that never made anything for the console prior to this, decides to turn Cotton into a Space Harrier-like, make it one of the most technically impressive efforts for the system, then release a limited amount of copies exclusively for the Japanese market as late as 1995. Crazy. Well I'm glad they did, because they certainly succeeded in making Panorama Cotton an amazing game and my no. 1 choice for this list.
heavymetalmage - Cute lil' anime witch flying around and shooting stuff YES PLEASE. This game is fun. It's a fast-paced, innovative shmup with interesting art and simplistic-yet-challenging gameplay. The boss fights are weird but fun and the weapon/magic system keep you thinking and strategizing while you quickly fly through a dangerous, enemy-filled environment. TEA TAIMU.
#29 LUNAR: Eternal Blue
Chosen by: Polly, Rhete, ommadawnyawn
Polly - LUNAR: Eternal Blue...holy shit, what an RPG. It is such a damn shame that this game was sadly confined to the Sega CD because it's truly one worth experiencing due to its grand scale and focus on perfecting the idea of a very simple story being told really well.
Working Designs' localized projects always felt a cut above the rest with the originality of the titles they chose and the character and care they put into their projects. LUNAR: Eternal Blue is the epitome of that when it comes to this era of gaming. With each release, Working Designs said that localization is more than just changing item names and translating a story word-for-word. It's about conveying what the game is saying and making the player feel something.
Rhete - Eternal Blue took everything good about the original Lunar and cranked it up to 11. It's a game I'll sadly probably never get around to playing again, but I'll always have the memories of this game, and it being massively influential to me as a kid.
ommadawnyawn - Right away I was impressed with the presentation of this game. The intro with its beautiful spritework and wistful music makes you want to lose yourself in the game world and for the most part the bar set there isn't lowered too much, despite the cheesy voice work and silly plot devices here and there. Gameplay-wise it's pretty solid, featuring an interesting battle system, a fairly large world to explore and some surprisingly difficult bosses. I remember getting lost on the world map a few times, but that was probably my own dang fault.
#28 Beyond Oasis
Chosen by: Bpwner, jetstorm4, Aberrat, Pauncho Smith
Bpwner - I'm sure there are some Zelda fans who can argue about what makes a good Zelda clone (aside from "be Zelda"), but with collectible weapons, elemental spirit buddies, non-boring combat, and gorgeous colorful graphics, this one must be doing something right.
jetstorm4 - Now here's a surprise. A slightly epic Genesis action RPG that involves finding spirits to
do magical things in a pretty cool world, stopping a villain from awakening an ancient evil with a Zelda-like
game play style? Pretty cool. It's definitely not the best Action-Adventure game on the Genesis, but it's still
Aberrat - Sega's answer to Zelda. It's very interesting to explore the world of this game, trying to get all the crystals to see real ending.
Pauncho Smith - Let's talk about yet another late-period Genesis title that never got the respect it deserved upon its initial release. Sure, there's not much of a plot, and the soundtrack isn't exactly one of Yuzo Koshiro's finest moments. Those are minor quibbles however, as the combat is infinitely more satisfying than any game that calls itself an RPG has the right to be. You have a healthy variety of slashes, stabs, strikes and kicks at your immediate disposal (along with some flashier attacks, if you take the time to master them) and an arsenal of swords, bows and explosives which will reduce the enemy roster to shambles. For a bit of extra flavor, you have several spirits at your beck and call. Your surrogates can perform such duties as healing, unleashing explosive attacks on everything on screen, taking damage on your behalf, and pulling you back up from certain death during some particularly nasty platforming segments (some of which I am still traumatized by). Topping all of this off are some great character animations; nearly every enemy and boss you come across is brimming with detail. A hidden gem if there ever was one.
Chosen by: Zeloz, TheBowtieGuy, FreezingInferno, jetstorm4
Zeloz - Great piece of interactive fiction for anyone curious about Japanese adventure games/visual novels/etc. The voice acting's pretty nice, too.
TheBowtieGuy - The best visual novel ever made? Most certainly. Kojima may not be the greatest game designer ever, but it's impossible not to acknowledge his genius.
FreezingInferno - You could count on one hand the number of triple-A games the Sega CD had. This is one of them! A pretty neat adventure game with some SHOOTAN segments, voice acting that's actually pretty god damned good for 1993, a story with crazy twists and turns... just play this game. Don't let yourself be spoiled, just play the thing. Oh yeah, the guy who made this later made some game about gears and snakes or something.
jetstorm4 - My favorite Kojima game. It's a visual novel/ adventure game that takes place in a cyberpunk
setting. The core story takes pieces of the action film cliches and brings them all together in a well thought
out story about a man, Gillian Seed, trying to recover his lost memory. First time through you may need a
walk through, but even then it's a fun ride.
#26 ToeJam & Earl
Chosen by: Polly, AdmiralMaxtreme, jetstorm4, Pauncho Smith, Carmichael Micaalus
Polly - FUNK! IN GAME FORM! It may not be the most engaging game ever made, but it made that up in style and personality which fit for the time. Granted, that doesn't really hold up much these days, but it's still a fun little game to play with someone else. Being able to generate random layouts for all the stages also made sure you could keep the experience (FUNKY) fresh.
I remember being really amazed at how during the co-op, two players could be on two entirely different levels. Seemed like a really advanced technique for the time.
AdmiralMaxtreme - A pretty original concept from the ground up, from the way the levels are set up (and different every time) to the unforgettable interactions with the quirky allies and enemies. I mean, where else do you see a herd of chickens with a cannon that launches tomatoes? And dear god, the soundtrack. If you want to talk about funk, the conversation begins and ends with the Toejam & Earl soundtrack. The amount of funk crammed into those notes is beyond our capabilities to measure. Seriously.
I'm not a fan of smilies, but just by playing Toejam and Earl, you will go from this to this
jetstorm4 - This is the most chill game you will ever play. It's not about brutal difficulty,
dodging bullet hell, or killing everything on the map. No, it's about making it to the top at your pace,
getting those ship pieces, and jamming to some awesome Genesis soundchip beats.
Pauncho Smith - I'll come right out and say it; ToeJam & Earl has not aged well at all. Sure, the game's hip-hop feel and offbeat characters still maintain their charm, but there's really not much of a game here. The gameplay is plodding and the Russian roulette nature of the presents can be more than a little obnoxious. Putting all of that aside, TJ&E still succeeds precisely because it is so goofy and the wide range of Earthlings you encounter work well to bring life to an otherwise sparse environment. And hell, I'll admit to finding the ending to this one quite touching and poignant (at least to the extent that a purple planet full of funky aliens can be).
Carmichael Micaalus - Another one of my cousin's games. I just liked this one because of how weird it was. Never beat it, but I had fun with it.
Chosen by: ommadawnyawn, Pauncho Smith, Voltech44, Spyda K
ommadawnyawn - Another late release that most people (including me, at the time) missed out on. Ristar seems like a slower, more kiddy version of Sonic at first, and it kind of is, but if you give it a fair chance you'll find a pretty different platformer with high production values and a fun to use grab/climb/headbutt ability for the hero. The higher difficulties are definitely challenging too.
Pauncho Smith - By this point, countless articles have been written about the reasons why Ristar failed to make an impact when it was released back in 1995. The game quite clearly had all the tools to become a success: gorgeous graphics, lush and varied environments, massive levels, an amazing score, simple yet tight controls, and a protagonist that was determined to make a clean break with the whole "attitude" posturing that was part and parcel with game characters and mascots of all stripes during that era. Despite these qualities, it just never took hold. Perhaps the public was already looking to the future and developing an appetite for games in three dimensions. Perhaps the "cutesy" tenor of Ristar wore thin with consumers used to the "attitude" being effused by Sonic and his imitators. Perhaps Sega saw the game as little more than dead weight during their pivot to promote the then new Saturn. Regardless, Ristar is a more than worthy contender of being an all-time Genesis classic.
Voltech44 - Colorful worlds. Cool music. Varied levels. Neat-o graphics. Stretchy arms. A hero with a star for a face. Need I say more? Actually, yes I do. Ristar had lightning bolts on his shoes. I'd chalk that one up as a win.
Spyda K - So, you were this star thing with stretchy arms that could grab enemies and things to swing on. And you went to all sorts of places like a crazy music world where instruments were alive and stuff. And it was made by the same team that made those other games about the super fast blue porcupine. ...Okay, I think someone slipped something into my drink. I need to go lie down.
#24 Phantasy Star II
Chosen by: TheBowtieGuy, FreezingInferno, jetstorm4, Layrinn, Spyda K
TheBowtieGuy - The first JRPG to have a truly complex story (sorry, Final Fantasy IV). The dungeon design is as amazing and masterful as it is sadistic.
FreezingInferno - Of the three Genesis Phantasy Star games, I've played and beaten this one. PSIII is a game I remain unimpressed with, and PSIV is a game I don't want to touch until I slog through PSIII. That leaves II! This game is a very very hard old RPG. It's also very bleak. Every little twist in this game just leaves you going "Oh...". Still an amazing experience, and very impressive for 1989.
jetstorm4 - Brutal RPG for the Genesis. Excelent storytelling, great fun, and hard as HELL.
Layrinn - Nei is pretty much solely responsible for my obsession with elf girls. <3 (and/or pointy-eared offshoots of the human race) Also, I'm pretty sure this was my first real contact with anime-style art. Even though it was mainly limited to the character portraits, I was hooked! I also remember this game had the most hilariously bad cover art EVER. The main character Rolf looked like a grandpa, and Nei just looked like a freak.
Spyda K - Admittedly, I've never played a whole bunch of Phantasy Star II. All I can really remember is that you start off as a guy who once saved an leotard-clad elf girl, and she joins you at the beginning. At some point you find a robot standing in front of a door, who if you walk up to him, the main character exclaims that it's the robot who attacked the elf girl. The robot doesn't attack you or anything, he just prevents you from going down that path at that point in the game. Man, RPGs sure were weird and abstract back then.
#23 LUNAR: The Silver Star
Chosen by: Polly, Rhete, Zeloz, TheBowtieGuy, Layrinn
Polly - While the original Sega CD release doesn't even hold a candle to the beefed up Saturn/PSX re-imagining that was done years later, the first game is still very ground-breaking in how it took such a traditional love story and told it with an amount of heart you just didn't see in games back then when it came to telling a story.
Rhete - Lunar was the first time I realized that companies besides Square could make good RPGs. It also completely took me by surprise and at the time, blew my mind with its mid-game plot twist.
Zeloz - I hear Eternal Blue is better, but meh, I've played this one more. It obviously hasn't aged as well as its remakes, but it justifies owning a Sega CD, which is an achievement in its own right.
TheBowtieGuy - Infinitely better on the PlayStation, but still pretty amazing on the CD.
Layrinn - Uh ... I know I had this, and I know I loved it... but I'll be damned if I can remember many details about it. There was like .. this cool guy in fuzzy armor and his pet baby dragon, and ... some chick with a kitty face? Yeah. >_>
#22 Street Fighter II': Special Champion Edition
Chosen by: Bpwner, Remnant, AdmiralMaxtreme, Pitchfork, Spyda K
Bpwner - Everyone played some home version of Street Fighter II at some point or another, and this is the one that I happened to rent and waste a whole weekend on. I was pretty awful at special moves and, for some reason, Guile was my favorite character at the time. It's also a pain in the ass with a three button controller, as the start button toggles between punches and kicks. I somehow managed to finish the game with Vega back then.
Remnant - This game spent more time in my Genesis than any other. I can't imagine how many hours my friends and I sunk into this game. Personal anecdotes aside, there's not much else to say. Street Fighter II is an iconic game that speaks for itself. Suck it, Mortal Kombat!
AdmiralMaxtreme - What description even needs to go here? If it's not the greatest fighting game ever made, it's pretty close. At the very least, it's the standard by which all other fighting games are measured.
Pitchfork - If this game were a blow-up doll, I'd still never finish this analogy.
Spyda K - 1992. Street Fighter II is the hottest thing since smoked cheese, and the SNES version is the version to own, due to it being the only system around that had enough buttons to properly recreate the experience. Sega then decides to create the 6-button controller, finally allowing button parity between SNES and Genesis games. Well, okay, it's still missing a Select Button. And game developers still have to design control schemes for players without the 3 extra buttons. Look, Street Fighter II' Special Champion Edition gave us a 6-button Genesis controller, let's just enjoy it.
#21 Disney's Aladdin
Chosen by: Polly, Rhete, jetstorm4, Aberrat, Ehow22, Spyda K
Polly - What? You busy playing that crappy SNES version of the game that's basically just a slower and floatier Mario? I'm over here hackin' fools up with a sword and doing acrobatics and shit in one of the best looking and playing action platformers to come out on the Genesis.
Rhete - Listen, all the kids on the playground know that the Genesis version of Aladdin is way better than the SNES one, and if you disagree, you're wrong. I mean, it's basically Earthworm Jim with swords!
jetstorm4 - I like this game, it's a good game based on a Disney movie. There's swords, there's action,
there's magic carpets, and even a genie level! What's not to like?
Aberrat - Apples!! Jawdropping animation.
Ehow22 - A wonderfully fun game based on a Disney film that includes music and other things from the film. I'm still not sure where Aladdin's sword magically appeared from though...
Spyda K - Drastically different from the SNES version, even made by a completely different company, but great in its own right. Swing a sword, throw some apples, find the magic lamp and escape from the Cave of Wonders in a Turbo Tunnels sequence! ...Wait, what? No, you tricked me! Curse you, Disney's Aladdin! CURSE YOU!
#20 Popful Mail
Chosen by: Polly, Rhete, Zeloz, KMD, Rainiac
Polly - What a fun, charming, and genuinely funny little action platformer sprinkled with RPG elements. An absolute bummer that this game, like many of Working Designs' excellent offerings, was confined to and essentially left to die on the Sega CD.
Rhete - Just an awesome as hell action RPG. Tight gameplay, great characters, and very funny to boot, Popful Mail is one of the gems of the Sega CD.
Zeloz - Working Designs may have beefed up the difficulty in the English version, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the better action RPGs on the system.
KMD - To my knowledge, there are three versions of Popful Mail first is the PC98 version, which was later ported to the PC Engine Super CD; then there was this version on the MegaSega CD; and finally there was a version on the Super Famicom. The Sega version was the only one released in the west and we definitely landed on our feet with that one, since it's probably the best version. It's a fun anime-style adventure game about a ludicrously named elf bounty hunter, somewhat similar to the Monster World series. The voice acting is a extraordinarily hammy most of the time, but that just adds to the game's early 90s dubbed anime charm. I still find it funny that they actually got away with Mail yelling Are you completely retarded!
Rainiac - The only Sega CD game on my list, Popful Mail is a colourful and very solid action platformer/RPG. It's Japan as all hell, but it was clearly well thought out, and some of the boss battles are quite memorable. Bonus points to the developers for giving each of the playable characters their own identity and feel.
#19 Ecco the Dolphin
Chosen by: TheBowtieGuy, AdmiralMaxtreme, jetstorm4, Layrinn, Crono Maniac, Pitchfork
TheBowtieGuy - Who can disagree with a time traveling dolphin?
AdmiralMaxtreme - I wish games had the balls to be this difficult anymore. Anyone who can honestly say they've beaten this game is some sort of divine being; I just can't say exactly which kind. All I know is they've risen beyond human limits.
jetstorm4 - Honestly, I think this game messed me up. Its just... WEIRD. BUT. It's quite awesome
Layrinn - I remember liking the game a good bit, but I still think I listened to the music more than I actually played the game. XD
Crono Maniac - Few games have as strong a sense of mood as Ecco the Dolphin. Everything about it fits together so perfectly -- the dreary soundtrack, the lush visuals, the minimalist storytelling, and the famously murderous difficulty. It's the exact kind of challenging, evocative, totally unpretentious "arthouse" game I wish the indie community would make more of.
Pitchfork - The reason I'm STILL nervous about jumping into any pool or pond when I can't see the bottom. For all I know, the Vortex Queen could be down there.
#18 Thunder Force IV
Chosen by: Polly, Zeloz, sunburstbasser, TheBowtieGuy, ommadawnyawn, Layrinn
Polly - For my money, this is the best shmup on the Genesis. Fast-paced break-neck speed, intense difficulty, and fucking huge stages. The shmup is so simple in concept and this game is no different, but it's amazing just how far this game seemed to push the Genesis hardware and how much shit can be happening on screen at any one time, and on top of all that, a damn satisfying experience if you can claw and blast your way through it.
Zeloz - III's good, but IV's always felt more polished to me. The large stages and rockin' music makes this one of the best looking and sounding 16-bit shmups I've played.
sunburstbasser - Possibly the best shmup on the Genesis. Improves on III in nearly every way.
TheBowtieGuy - Excellent shmups, but... Oh, 16-bit era translators...
ommadawnyawn - Obviously a pretty big leap from the prequel in several ways. The developers had really mastered the MD hardware here and their talent and attention to detail is visible throughout every aspect of the game, from the tough and intimidating bosses to the impressive and catchy FM soundtrack. So why not put it higher on the list? Well, I thought Technosoft overdid it a bit when trying to make up for the low difficulty of the prequel, to the point where some parts become a chore to play unless you know exactly how to tackle them.
It's definitely a game worthy of being on anyone's top list though.
Layrinn - I think this one qualifies as my favorite Genesis shooter. I played this game a loooooooooot. I got good enough at it that I could play all the way through the game on one life.
#17 Monster World IV
Chosen by: Miller, Zeloz, ommadawnyawn, TJF588, Pauncho Smith, KMD
Miller - My favorite platformer for the Genesis (or Mega Drive, only released in Japan) simply because it feels so polished in every department - graphics, sound, controls (a little slippery perhaps) and just overall gameplay. Not too heavy on the puzzles which is a plus in my book. Seriously, play it.
Zeloz - The gameplay's simplistic and the music is enjoyable, albeit a little repetitive (the main leitmotif is present in almost every other song in the soundtrack). But what really sells the game is just how ridiculously adorable the main protagonist Asha is. Now available on your favorite current-gen console's download service with a spiffy official translation!
ommadawnyawn - Westone at their best in terms of aesthetics and storytelling. I prefer the open ended world and faster pacing of the prequels though, and the challenge is sorely lacking for the most part.
TJF588 - Got five of the six SEGA Vintage Collection titles -- Revenge of Shinobi, Alex Kidd in Miracle World (which I've read up on here!), Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy in Monster World, and this -- for a buck each, and it would come out as a wash even if I hated the others. Much more playable than the first couple MWs there (that timer in the first! the "jumping" in the second!), especially with what amount to save states. Story's kinda interesting, too, in that there seems to be something truly monstrous affecting the town itself (when did this become Pathologic?). And, well, you know, weakness for green-haired pixel-heroines, and the style has this cute filter on just about everything. I've had a good share of frustration (there's a midboss that requires lots of running across the room, digging the DualShock's D-pad into my poor thumb), but overall, worth diving into.
Pauncho Smith - This is another new title to me (as it should be, since this game didn't see an official release in the West until earlier this year). While it's far from the most difficult or complicated game in the world, Monster World IV is bolstered by a vibrant Arabian-themed environment, expansive dungeons, intuitive avian-based platforming mechanics, and a maddeningly catchy score (even if most pieces are simply variations on the main theme). It also helps that MWIV is charming beyond belief, even giving Nintendo's pink puffball a run for his money in that department.
To expand on that last point a bit, Asha (the green-haired female of this little jaunt) was seemingly designed to be as endearing as her sprite would allow. From her incessant ass-shaking while opening a chest to the fact that her shields are roughly the same size as her, they really did all they could to evoke "THE FEELS" from even the iciest of hearts. Asha's blue bird companion is also no slouch in the charm department (watch how it interacts with the numerous environmental hazards) and the snarky, apathetic genie provides a nice little counterpoint to all of the warm-fuzzy.
KMD - This sequel drops the Wonder Boy name since... well, it stars a girl this time. It was not released outside of Japan until somewhat recently on XBLA, PSN and Wii VC, probably because it came out quite late in the Genesis' lifetime. It makes full use of the console's capabilities in terms of graphics and sound; while Wonder Boy in Monster World looked a little flat and simplistic, Monster World IV has some of the most colourful and detailed graphics you'll see on the Genesis and a cool Arabian theme to the scenery. It's a bit more linear than the previous Monster World games and suffers from the same screen after screen of flat platforms and the same enemies over and over padding that its predecessor did, but it gets by almost entirely by its charm and the cool ways you get to use your winged pet Pepelogoo. Damnit, I want one of those thing.
#16 Earthworm Jim
Chosen by: Rhete, The Hutch, Aberrat, KMD, Pitchfork, Spyda K
Rhete - While the Genesis version of Earthworm Jim was already better than the SNES one, it was the Sega CD Special Edition that truly won my heart. Featuring a few extra areas, one entirely new level, a totally redone redbook audio soundtrack, and most importantly, the addition of a damn easy mode, it's the definitive version of the game.
The Hutch - Who didn't see this coming? I'll tell you who: everyone besides Polly (i.e. The only person who watched my review on it a few years back.) Earthworm Jim is Doug Tennapel's first creation, and launched him and the character of Jim into cult statushood. Earthworm Jim is a goofy, over-the-top action platformer that was wacky back when it was still funny to be wacky. Earthworm Jim is a perfect example of what you can do with an idea and a style, and how to really run with it to create a solid experience.
Aberrat - Eat dirt! This game is really mad... Especially if you got Sega CD version. If not - don't cry. At least you've got exclusive level (only on genesis). Groovy!
KMD - One of the rare situations where the Genesis version is probably superior to the SNES one, Earthworm Jim on Sega's platform had extra levels and slightly less dull and repetitive sound effects. But no matter which of the two consoles you played it on, Jim is a classic. I was a big fan of the cartoon as a kid, which I always considered the best animated series based on a video game by a wide margin... Not that it had a lot of competition. Slightly uneven difficulty aside, it's definitely one of the most memorable platform games of that generation... Even if I did never get past the underwater level as a kid (fucking submarines).
Pitchfork - One of the few bi-console games that was absolutely and unequivocally better on the Genny.
Spyda K - The SNES version might have been better (it usually is) but I had such a great time with the Genesis version of Earthworm Jim. Jumping around, shooting things, whipping your head, launching cows, killing hellcats, then frantically trying to get through the bathysphere level without running out of air. And you never will. Not unless you know about the secret refilling station. Thanks, Sega Visions!
#15 Shining Force
Chosen by: Zeloz, jetstorm4, Aberrat, Ehow22, Pauncho Smith, Cooltrainer Bret, Carmichael Micaalus, Pitchfork
Zeloz - I may not have grown up in the Genesis era, but thanks to the Sega Smash Pack 2 for the PC, I'll always have my nostalgic love for this game. The GBA remake may have expanded the story, but I prefer the soundtrack and difficulty curve of the original.
jetstorm4 - I've played this one more than two actually. I think people prefer that one, but the first
has a great charm. Decent battle system, and actually gets pretty challenging as it goes.
Ehow22 - My favorite game of all time. Great graphics, AMAZING music, and very difficult on the first playthrough especially early on.
Pauncho Smith - Having been introduced to the strategy RPG through GBA titles such as Fire Emblem and Advance Wars, I approached Shining Force with a mild sense of anxiety. I wasn't expecting a bad game or anything, but I wondered how well a less-refined version of the strategy RPG which had been released almost a decade prior to FE and AW would've held up. Turns out, it held up pretty well. The lengthy quest, lovely battle scene graphics, a deceptively deep plot, forgiving difficulty (you keep any and all experience points, even if you die during a mission) and rather unique cast of party members (ranging from the virtually useless Jogurt to the nearly game-breaking Domingo) serve to make Shining Force a very accessible game and a great starting point for those who are new to the wonderful world of tactical RPGs.
Cooltrainer Bret - Great Fire Emblem clone, except WITHOUT the bullshit RNG! Does it get any better than that for strategy RPGs?
Carmichael Micaalus - One of my friends introduced me to this game, and it was probably my first experience with tactical rpgs. One of the very, very few Genesis games that I own, too. I really liked the game and the characters. Especially Tao. Tao's awesome. She lights shit on fire, and that's okay in my book.
Pitchfork - An excellent Final Fantasy alternative for the post-NES Sega convert, and the game that made "Marionette" the four most feared and loathed syllables in the English language.
#14 M.U.S.H.A. (US) / Musha Aleste (JP)
Chosen by: Rhete, sunburstbasser, TheBowtieGuy, FreezingInferno, ommadawnyawn, Pauncho Smith, heavymetalmage, Rainiac, Crono Maniac
Rhete - One of Compile's finest, Musha is just pure non-stop shooter action.
sunburstbasser - One of Compile's great shmups. Cool style and weapon system.
TheBowtieGuy - Every shmupper in the world already knows why this game is awesome, so I'll just say this: WHY DID NOBODY BUY THIS AT THE TIME?
FreezingInferno - This is in my top 5 Genesis games, as well as my top 5 shmup games. Of which I, you know, have only beaten like 5. Too bad this is also rare as hell but that's what Virtual Console is for. Things fly at you like crazy in this game, and it's an absolute blast to shoot people with your laser kunai... things. Max out the lightning so you can hold down the button to win. Pro tips, pro game.
ommadawnyawn - Not my favourite Compile shooter (that would be Spriggan or Power Strike II), but it's pretty close. MUSHA hits a sweet spot in the Aleste series where they had developed their own (awesome) art style, but before the music went euro techno/house. The 90s had a weird effect on some developers.
Pauncho Smith - Before I go any further, I just want to point out a few things: I am not very good at shmups. I would probably rank my shmup abilities somewhere between mediocre and poor. Realizing that I'm somehow expected to keep my eyes peeled for impending death in the form eleventy-billion things on the screen at once makes me nauseous. I could count the number of shmups I've legitimately beaten on one hand with fingers to spare. Shmups; never really been my bag.
Now, in spite of all those horrible things I just put down, here's how I feel about M.U.S.H.A. It is goddamn amazing. "Intense" isn't strong enough of a word to describe all of the sound and fury that this game buries you in. It boggles the mind how developers were able to push the Genesis to its absolute breaking point as early as 1990. Power-ups are plentiful and side turrets offer a bit of protection along with providing a bit of extra firepower. This means you have a fighting chance in the midst of all the chaos. You don't play M.U.S.H.A., you experience M.U.S.H.A. You need to experience this game.
heavymetalmage - I applaud the Genesis for it's shmups. M.U.S.H.A. is about as standard of a shmup as you can get but that's kind of nice for once. Nothing too over-the-top or outrageous, still fun and challenging, and love that heavy metal soundtrack. You also get enough variety with option positioning, and the three extra weapon types, that this game will play well to a lot of different shmup fans (and people who aren't shmup fans). It's just about my favorite shmup of all time.
Rainiac - I was first introduced to this game this year as part of the Let's Play Spring Fest. As most people who know me even slightly will tell you, I'm not a SHMUP-kind of a guy, so I was genuinely surprised to find myself enjoying this game. Tights controls, a fair difficulty curve and plenty of enemies (but not too many at once, which is the key) are enough to warrant this making the list.
Crono Maniac - Comparing the best SHMUPS of the Genesis and the SNES is an interesting exercise: it's almost a case study in what differentiates the two console's best games. The SNES has moody, deliberately-paced games like R-Type III and Axelay, while the Genesis has speedy, high-energy action-fests like M.U.S.H.A. Throw in an absolutely fantastic heavy metal soundtrack that pushes the Genesis sound chip to its absolute maximum, and you've got the best SHMUP on the system, and one of the best ever made.
#13 Sonic The Hedgehog
Chosen by: Rhete, toydonut, AdmiralMaxtreme, jetstorm4, Ehow22, Pauncho Smith, KMD, heavymetalmage, Layrinn, Carmichael Micaalus, Pitchfork
Rhete - As a kid, I was much more fascinated with the debug mode where you could fly around place objects, rings, and enemies into the game world. As a game Sonic 1 is a bit flawed, but to an aspiring game developer, it was a fun little sandbox.
toydonut - My first Genesis game (out of two total!). I was a Nintendo kid but I really didn't care about the infamous SEGA/Nintendo rivalry; I just knew it was a fun and fairly tough platformer that was rewarding to finish. And when you get bored, there's always debug mode.
AdmiralMaxtreme - The original's got to be on here somewhere. I don't like voting for three Sonic games either, but can you honestly say they don't deserve it? This game is surprisingly bare when compared to its successors, but it's built around a mechanic that pretty much can't fail: Platforming as fast as you can is really fun.
jetstorm4 - Oooh boy, where do I begin? I love Sonic the Hedgehog. I love this game. It's really
fun to run through still for me. I remember when I first beat it too. That was a good time. Also, the boss
theme is my favorite boss theme of all time. No question.
Ehow22 - We all know of the Blue Hedgehog and his "attitude", the first game I ever played and beat. Only bad thing is the special stages have been known to cause vomiting under certain circumstances.
Pauncho Smith - My estranged uncle was probably the first person I knew who owned a Genesis. I had the chance to watch him play through bits and pieces of Altered Beast and Phantasy Star II, but it wasn't until he snagged a copy of what I called at the time "Fast Blue Mario Game" that I began to really pay attention to a whole gaming world outside of Nintendo. It was quite the spectacle at the time, and I often find myself humming the Spring Yard and Star Light Zone themes to this day. It took me about 15 years to beat the game with all emeralds in tow, and I can't decide if that's a sign of fortitude that I finally developed the patience to deal with Labyrinth Zone or if I'm merely a gaming late-bloomer.
KMD - Is there really anything left to say about the first Sonic the Hedgehog game? It's the first Mega Drive game I ever played and was most likely the same for thousands upon thousands of kids across the globe. It's not as speedy or as refined as its later sequels, but it still lives up to its reputation. Admittedly I'm not a huge Sonic fan (I was as a kid, buying the UK Sonic comic and everything) and I find it really hard to get into the games again, but its legacy is undeniable. PS Fuck you Labyrinth Zone.
heavymetalmage - For when I want to go fast, but not in a vehicle. I love action platformers and Sonic is the definitive series for that on the Genesis. Run around, fly through loops, get some rings, fuck yeah.
Layrinn - I know I played more than just the first game, but my memory of the series is all blurred together. Anyways, I remember being pretty enamored with this series. The speed and scale of the levels were pretty groundbreaking for a platformer at the time. The spinny-round bonus levels were cool!
Carmichael Micaalus - When I got a Genesis, it was pretty late into its lifespan. I got a Genesis 2, so it didn't come with Sonic (or Golden Axe), but I did play this one a lot. There's nothing really new I can add to this game that hasn't already been said by everyone on the internet already, but I will say I really liked the bonus stages for this one.
Pitchfork - Why is it that all the refinements to a game series always come with nonsense? Sonic 1 is rough and sorta clunky, but nonsense-free. Love it.
#12 Dynamite Headdy
Chosen by: Polly, Rhete, Miller, FreezingInferno, ommadawnyawn, Pauncho Smith, heavymetalmage, Rainiac, Pitchfork
Polly - Even with its outrageously amped up difficulty in the West, and a few stages that really just aren't that good, Dynamite Headdy is still one of the most inventive and fun platformers on the Genesis. The game features interesting elements of puzzles and strategy in how you choose to use the various assortment of heads, and the stages manage to always try and keep you doing something new and interesting. Your first time through, there's never a moment when you know what you'll be doing next.
On top of all that, the game oohs and aahhs with crazy special effects that just weren't the norm for Genesis games such as sprite scaling and rotation that still manage to look impressive today.
Rhete - If one game can top Rocket Knight Adventures in terms of amount of crazy ideas crammed into one game, this is it. Dynamite Headdy is a platformer no gamer should miss, a perfect example of what kind of creativity can come from having to work inside of limitations.
Miller - Come for the wackiness, stay for the creativity in level design and boss fights. I still think that it's Treasure's finest moment ever.
FreezingInferno - Oh look, it's Treasure! Hooray for Treasure! This game sure is inventive. Also very pretty. You've got a cool way to attack, interesting levels, great music, secret bonus points, and-- TARGET TARGET TARGET TARGET TARGET TARGET TARGET
ommadawnyawn -(Voted for the Japanese version) I interpret Dynamite Headdy as being the result of Treasure brainstorming new ideas for a platformer, then putting everything they could fit onto a cartridge. Most of the time the result is great, sometimes it's tedious and some ideas seem underdeveloped, but the overall experience is pleasant and refreshing. As usual when Treasure's involved, the visuals are top notch and show off some interesting programming tricks. While the western version is mostly intact, I prefer the more casual difficulty level, and those few unaltered characters, from the original version of the game.
Pauncho Smith - Oh Treasure, what words are there that can possibly convey the depth of feelings for you? Your first act was to refine and perfect the side scrolling shooter, and your second act was to create the most surreal, cracked-out platformer the Genesis had to offer (well okay, you had McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure, but I can forgive and forget). Dynamite Headdy is a potent spiked cocktail of dazzling graphics, unique cranial-based platforming, daunting challenge, and unfiltered Japanese-flavored weirdness. Look no further than some of the boss fights to get a sense of what you've just stepped in: a dancing outfit swapping doll, a battery-powered war machine that rotates its entire area, a gradually-aging bullet spewing head, a bipolar rampaging terror, and of course the ever-present Trouble Bruin. Add in a complete non sequitur of a basketball mini game, and you'll wonder what kind of medicine they had on hand back in 1994. This one simply needs to be played to be believed.
heavymetalmage - Hooray for Treasure games! Dynamite Headdy is fun and quirky. I really enjoy the gameplay (using my head to hit/grab stuff) and I also like taking damage instead of dying when I fall in a pit. It takes all the stress out of platforming while still making it something you need to avoid. The bosses/characters are always wacky and the game looks fantastic. The music is also quite catchy and only adds to the overall funness.
Rainiac - Just missing out on my top 5 is this goofy gem by Treasure. This game gets crazy in a hurry and never stops. It's also surprisingly deep; there's a number of 'secret bonus points' scattered throughout the levels and I doubt anyone will be able to find them all without any help on their first playthrough. The game also has one of the best pun names for a villain in the entire Genesis library, Trouble Bruin.
Pitchfork - If somebody could tell me the Japanese pun that's surely behind the giant wheezing metal head, I might be more comfortable with living on this planet.
#11 Comix Zone
Chosen by: Polly, TheBowtieGuy, Remnant, jetstorm4, Aberrat, Ehow22, Pauncho Smith, Rainiac, Crono Maniac, Spyda K
Polly - Comix Zone was a fun and strategic little beat 'em up with a gimmick, but both sides of that equation hold up very nicely. The combat is fast, fluid, and makes you think about how you approach your enemies because just wailing on them and getting blocked won't cut it, and the comic book gimmick was presented flawlessly and was unlike anything else we'd seen at the time.
TheBowtieGuy - As a cartooning student, I can't help but love this game. They got the comic book style down so well that I can't help but love it. Being the best beat-em-up on the Genesis helps a little, too.
Remnant - Short and sweet. That's Comix Zone. A side-scrolling Beat 'Em Up with directional attack controls in the vein of 2D Fighting games, an engrossing comic book aesthetic, and some surprisingly well done environmental puzzles to boot. Hmm, maybe "unique and fun" is a better short descriptor for this one.
jetstorm4 - Now that I think about it, the Genesis had a lot of difficult games. This is one of them.
However it's comic-book style panel level setup is just too clever for me to not put on this list. It's a
pretty decent beat-em up with a great premise and pretty good music.
Aberrat - Fantastically beautiful and innovative game with unique gameplay. Replayability is very high! You realized your mouse here for a walk? Did you?
Ehow22 - Having only recently started playing this, I really love the creativity and the violence. I hope to beat this within the month.
Pauncho Smith - As was par for the course with consoles at the end of their lifespan, the Genesis saw some of its best-looking and most innovative titles arrive in 1995, ranging from Vectorman's slick, pre-rendered graphics to Ristar's lovely cornucopia of color. Comix Zone also made the most of the Genny's long kiss goodnight, with a painstakingly stylized world bound within the panels the protagonist's own comic book. Each panel is brimming with detail, and there are multiple paths through which to navigate this vibrant deathtrap. For all the game's panache though, I couldn't help but feel that getting to the end of this one was more a matter of trial and error over any real skill and/or aptitude. Regardless, it's still a title that needs to be experienced for anyone with even a passing interest in 90s gaming.
Rainiac - This game came out towards the end of the Genesis' lifespan, and was all the better for it IMO. It has a fairly unique art style, some clever puzzles and a lot of good fighting action, all of which combines to give you something that feels like a breath of fresh air. The only slight criticism is that it's quite short.
Crono Maniac - It's amazing how much a well-produced aesthetic can add to a game. On its own, this would be a pretty decent beat-em-up at best, but the immaculate comic book stylings elevate it to one of the best games on the Genesis.
Spyda K - What if you were transported into the WORLD OF COMIC BOOKS!?!?!?! Well, provided that your comic books were published by Image in the 90's, you might get something resembling Comix Zone. Grimdark monsters surrounded by wonderful colors and great music make for a good solid 2D beat-em-up. The downside: taking damage by punching objects. Ugh.