#10 Shining Force II
Chosen by: Zeloz, TheBowtieGuy, Bpwner, ommadawnyawn, Aberrat, Ehow22, Cooltrainer Bret, Carmichael Micaalus, Pitchfork
Zeloz - I bought the Mega Drive version of this game just because it was cheaper CIB than the US version, cart-only. Regardless, the game's great in any language.
TheBowtieGuy - It may be a bit easy, but this is still one of the best tactical RPGs ever made. The final battle is the greatest final battle in any 16-bit RPG, except for maybe Final Fantasy VI and Shin Megami Tensei II. Anybody who has experienced that hundred monster fight will simply never forget it.
Bpwner - My first SRPG was the AD&D Gold Box game Gateway to the Savage Frontier, but Shining Force II was the first one to show me that SRPGs can be fun. It's so satisfying to promote your ragtag band of furries, centaurs, and bird people into crit-hitting killing machines, plus I turned all the priestesses into monks because her sprite is hot and I am a pervert.
ommadawnyawn - For the most part, it's a sequel done right. Actually the game is pretty amazing if huge battles and character building is what you play SRPGs for, and the production values are noticeably higher this time around, with some decent sounding orchestral FM music accompanying the action. Players more interested in story will probably be feeling unsatisfied with the latter half of the game though, as there's plenty of inane and/or poorly translated dialogue to plow through there.
Aberrat - Perfect timekilling RPG.
Ehow22 - Fixed a lot of flaws in the first game (menu issues, useless level-ups) It's kind of difficult to take the story seriously with such cartoony graphics though.
Cooltrainer Bret - Second verse, same as the first! Now let me play the game so I can put my enemies in a hearse!
Carmichael Micaalus - Take Shining Force and make it really god damn shiny. Now you have Shin(y)ing Force 2. They made a crap tonne of special promotions, more characters to chose from, more classes, more items, bigger world... it was pretty awesome. Admittedly, with the amount of characters and classes they added, you might argue that it suffered from some of the problems Chrono Cross had, and that may very well be true, but I just remember when I was growing up, I found it awesome there were all these people you could talk to and were like "oh, you're saving the world? That's awesome, I think I'll help you!" instead of going "Oh you're saving the world? Well, could you also solve my problems for me as well? I mean, if you're going to save the world, then this should be easy in comparison." Unlike the first game, I don't think I ever did beat this one without resorting to cheat codes, but I still liked it regardless.
Pitchfork - Come for the bigger world, better music, new classes, and improved everything; stay for the FULL FRONTAL NUDITY.
#9 Rocket Knight Adventures
Chosen by: Rhete, Miller, TheBowtieGuy, FreezingInferno, jetstorm4, ommadawnyawn, Ehow22, Rainiac, Carmichael Micaalus
Rhete - It only takes a few seconds of playing this game to realize it's something very special. The way you move just feels perfect, and unlike anything else I've ever played. But Rocket Knight isn't content to just leave it there, it's a game that is constantly throwing new things at you, each level is packed with new ideas, gameplay modes, and interesting enemies and bosses to fight. The result is a short game, but one that is infinitely replayable since no moment ever outstays its welcome.
Miller - Master the jetpack and this game becomes pure bliss to play. Even the shmup levels are fun.
TheBowtieGuy - Airtight level design, creative character design, and some of the most enjoyable platforming ever. If you don't like this game, you probably shouldn't be playing games to begin with.
FreezingInferno - This needs to be on more people's lists. Holy hell, what a game. I love Sparkster on the SNES, but this is the one that started it all. It doesn't beat Sparkster, but it does beat most other Genesis games. It's challenging without being too unfair, and while it is a game you won't beat on your first try, it keeps you coming back for more. Love it.
jetstorm4 - Quite possibly my favorite action platformer ever. An Sword wielding Opossum
with a jetpack going through amazing levels, fun bosses, and a PIG STAR? Awesome. Axel Gear is pretty cool
ommadawnyawn - RKA (three letters that sound great together when shouted) is like a smorgasbord of all things I love about Konami from during this era. The levels are incredibly diverse and creative, control is smooth, music is playful and memorable, and it has jet packs and giant mechs in it, so obviously it should be worth playing for any human person.
Ehow22 - My favorite platformer of all time. Many odd ideas meshed together and they ALL work well with each other. Best music on the system.
Rainiac - This is another Genesis game I originally missed out on, but after watching an LP of it I decided to pick it up and give it a go, and boy am I ever glad I did. Great, exciting gameplay, extremely tights controls and (once again) some memorable boss battles.
Carmichael Micaalus - Never owned this one, but I think I rented it a number of times. It was a fun side scroller, from what I recall. I came close to beating it, I got to the giant mecha battle with the evil Rocket Knight, but I wasn't able to kill him. Good times, though.
#8 Castlevania: Bloodlines
Chosen by: Polly, Zeloz, TheBowtieGuy, Bpwner, Aberrat, KMD, Cooltrainer Bret, Crono Maniac, Pitchfork, Spyda K
Polly - I really had no idea initially what to expect from Castlevania: Bloodlines. I didn't even know that Konami had made a Genesis Castlevania game until I saw it just hanging around in a store back in the day. Needless to say it was an instant-purchase and I was instantly happy the moment I fired it up.
Bloodlines is another one of those games where you'd never suspect you were looking at a Genesis game unless someone told you. The use of color in creating all of the series' spooky details and special reflection, transparency, and rotation effects just weren't things we were used to seeing at the time.
This game is sort of a Greatest Hits and a few bonus tracks album for the series in a way. It stays long enough to get its point across with fun level designs and bosses with very little filler to speak of. Just a fantastic and concise Castlevania experience.
Zeloz - I think this was one of the first Castlevania compositions by series regular Michiru Yamane? The soundtrack's really good, and I've always been of the opinion that the graphics look better than either of the two SNES Castlevanias.
TheBowtieGuy - Super Castlevania IV is for wimps.
Bpwner - Castlevania for the Mortal Kombat era: the graphics pop, the gore is over the top and ridiculous, and all the technical eye candy and sprite effects show that Konami knew their shit when it came to getting the most out of the hardware. Oh, it's also a blast to play and has a killer soundtrack. This game made me terrified of giant moths.
Aberrat - Fast and furious: konami at their best. Oh! and now we got a spear to attack above enemies. Thanks goddess!
KMD - While SNES had Super Castlevania IV (and to a lesser extent Dracula X), the Genesis had Bloodlines. Both games have their strengths, but of the two I would say Bloodlines feels more like Castlevania than Super does... By which I mean the controls are stiffer and it's really hard, and the graphics are much more vibrant and the music catchier. The choice between two playable characters, one with the traditional whip and one with a lance did a lot to spice up the formula; I personally favoured Lecarde since I thought his multidirectional ground attacks and high jump were more useful than John Morris' Indiana Jones-style swinging. It was renamed Castlevania The New Generation and somewhat censored in Europe, removing much of the gore that made the game so much more violent than its Nintendo predecessors.
Cooltrainer Bret - LIGHTNING WHIP OF DEATH! DIE DRACULA DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEE! Also, great usage of the Genesis's sound hardware, all the tunes have that trademark Genesis feel to them.
Crono Maniac - This is the Castlevania where everything fell into place. It's long enough to feel epic and short enough to feel concise. The level design is consistently sharp and inventive. If Rondo of Blood is a symphony, then Bloodlines is a rock concert.
Pitchfork - Shorter, sweeter, livelier, gorier, and creepier than its SNES counterpart.
Spyda K - I think the only bad thing about Bloodlines is the lack of co-op. I mean, you get two play as two different characters, and while I understand that each character's abilities open up different paths, how badass would it have been if one person could play as John, and the other as Eric? It would have been badass as hell.
#7 Contra: Hard Corps
Chosen by: Polly, Rhete, TheBowtieGuy, Bpwner, FreezingInferno, ommadawnyawn, Aberrat, Crono Maniac, Spyda K
Polly - What's that, Nintendo nerds? Think you got the best Contra game of the 16-bit era? BITCH PLEASE, step off and get yourself a face stuffed full of some of the most explosive and hard boiled action that came out of the 90's. And a Genesis...you'll need a Genesis to play it.
It's still hard to look at Contra: Hard Corps and imagine that it's a Genesis putting out those images and crazy special effects. Even more impressive is how the soundtrack actually plays to the Genesis' weaker sound capabilities, creating the most dirty and raw techno soundtrack the Genesis was ever graced with. I have that shit burnt to CD and actually listen to it in my car, for crying out loud!
I have spent so much time playing this game over the years, learning it in and out, and know so much worthless information about it that I'm literally a walking wiki for the damn game. One of the best periods of gaming I ever had was learning this game for the first time with a friend nearly every day after school.
Rhete - After a fairly lackluster outing on the Super Nintendo, Hard Corps was the upgrade to 16 Bits Contra deserved all along. First up, you now had four playable characters, each with their own weapons, leading to them playing very differently from each other. A slide move was also added, allowing you to quickly and safely dodge attacks, letting the designers go nuts with the boss designs, which are the best in the series. Most importantly, remember how Contra 3 was super brief, with only 6 stages, 2 of them being garbage? Hard Corps says fuck that, and introduces branching story paths, resulting in four different final stages, and a grand total 12 different levels. This gives the game a ton of replay value, it'll definitely take you a while to see everything this awesome package has to show you.
TheBowtieGuy - The best Contra game. I'm too much of a wimp to finish it, but who cares? If you don't like this game, you are stupid.
Bpwner - Relentless. This game only lets up long enough to have your read some dumb flavor text or check a Yes/No prompt, the rest of the time you're crashing through robots, riding chicken bikes, riding missiles, outrunning explosions, firing unique weapons, fighting miniboss after miniboss, getting married to apes, locking and loading, and having payback time. Contra III sucks, Ash is a loser.
FreezingInferno - This game would be higher on my list if I didn't suck so hard at it. It lives up to its name, especially in the US release, where they take out the three hit lifebar and give you limited continues. Goddamn. Still, it's objectively better than Contra III. Multiple characters, branching paths, different endings, a variety of special weapons and crazy stages. This game may be hard as hell, but you can't deny it's a blast.
ommadawnyawn - (Voted for the Japanese version) There's quite a few differences between versions here, I forget some of them, but this is probably how they intended it to be experienced. (looks at name)... Well, maybe. Besides being a great game, it's worth playing just for the fact that it's an experimental entry in a very conservative series, and you Contra fanboys need to get out of your comfort zone more, live a little.
Aberrat - I've played this game to the end hundreds of time. Action standard and Konami's masterpiece. 4 characters, 5 endings, routes between levels, great graphic, great music, great visual and sound effects. Thumbs up!
Crono Maniac - Contra III deserves credit for sharply veering the series into bag-of-cats-crazy action set-piece territory, but it felt ... incomplete. Hard Corps took Contra III's worthy vision -- a Contra focused more on rote memorization and boss rushes -- and filled in all the gaps. The result is one of the most over-the-top, totally bat-shit run-and-guns in existence.
Spyda K - I've never played Contra: Hard Corps on the actual Genesis hardware, and when I first emulated it, I would've bet money that the emulator was overclocking the game. There's NO WAY it's supposed to be going this fast, right? There's no way a Genesis game CAN go this fast, right? Well, I would've lost that bet.
DAMN this Hard Corpse game is just SO FAST! ... What's that? Y'know, "C-O-R-P-S" Corpse. Like Blast Corpse for N64. ... Oh, THAT'S how you pronounce "Corps"? OH! So they're the Hard Corps. because they're Hardcore! Hah. That's great.
#6 Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
Chosen by: Polly, Miller, Bpwner, FreezingInferno, jetstorm4, ommadawnyawn, Aberrat, Ehow22, Pauncho Smith, KMD, Rainiac, Crono Maniac
Polly - I'm one of those weird heresy-speaking folks that thought Shinobi II: The Revenge of Shinobi was actually a pretty bad and sloppy game. I could never really understand the love it got when held up to Shadow Dancer and Shinobi III.
Like a lot of Sega games at the time, Shinobi III is the damn-near perfection of a formula. Everything about it looks, sounds, and feels just right. This is likely what they envisioned Shinobi II to be, but didn't quite execute on it.
Miller - Great, great, great game. And it has Ninjas, what else do you need? The controls are super tight and I think that the level of challenge is excellent even today after beating it a few times.
Bpwner - It's kind of rare to have an oldschool ninja game that makes you feel like an actual ninja, usually you were just getting assaulted by pissed avians or trying to flip onto rocks on an isometric grid and poisoning a panther with cocaine. Shinobi III has the cool moves like the leaping sword slash, rebound kick, the thing where you flip and rain kunai from above, climbing, wall jumping, ninja magic, surfing, horseback riding, quilting, junior astronomy, and all the other enriching summer camp activities that a growing boy needs to prepare him to fight giant boil-covered pus monsters later in life.
FreezingInferno - God. Damn. This game rocks my socks. It looks amazing, it sounds amazing, it PLAYS extra amazing. It's great, and more importantly it doesn't devolve into outright bullshit like The Revenge Of Shinobi did. This game starts great and only gets more... great. The final level of this game seriously makes me freak out. In a good way. Best Genesis game ever.
jetstorm4 - I got this a few years ago from a friend of my brother. I thank
him to this day for it. My first time playing Shinobi III I was blown away by it. The running, the double
jumping, the slicing through enemy mooks, climbing ropes, wall jumping, fighting amazing bosses, and MECHA
GODZILLA!? Genesis bliss.
ommadawnyawn - Pretty badass. Would be higher if it was a tad longer, and less scrolly, but overall an excellent re-vitalization of the series.
Aberrat - It's cool to ride a horse. It's cool to surf and destroy security robot at the same time. It's cool to kick ass mutants and climb on the cliff by jumping on the falling rocks.
Ehow22 - Ninjas, Action, Violence, Horses, freaky-looking bosses... What's not to love?
Pauncho Smith - One could be forgiven for thinking that Sega and Nintendo took some joy in recreating a bit of Cold War-style brinksmanship during their console feud of the late 80s-mid 90s. The companies had already gone toe-to-toe with universally-loved mascots, so it only made sense that each side had their own respective series of games starring ninjas. In Nintendo's corner was Ninja Gaiden; a trilogy of ball-busters documenting the day-to-day perils of being Ryu Hayabusa. Sega's go-to-guy for all things ninja was Joe (now doesn't that name just SCREAM ninja?) Musashi of the Shinobi series.
After a number of arcade-style side-scrollers on the Master System and Genesis, the series reached its 16-bit zenith with Shinobi III. The game gallops along at a break-neck pace, the sprites are bloody huge, the gamut of locales are diverse and detailed, the boss battles are epic, and it's quite easy to pull off most of Musashi's ninja acrobatics. It's unbelievable just how much was shoehorned into a scant seven stages (horseback riding, surfing and rock climbing sections for goodness sake), and while it may all end a little too soon, it sure as hell makes each and every moment of the experience count.
KMD - The pinnacle of the 2D Shinobi franchise. Joe Musashi is one of the coolest ninjas ever and this is his best outing on the Genesis. You'll throw knives at flying brains, Mecha-Godzilla and ninjas on hoverbikes and traverse levels on foot, on horseback and even while surfing. The difficulty feels a bit more manageable than its better known predecessor, although the final level is pretty tough and the last boss is a real bitch that I've yet to beat myself...
Rainiac - I could have feasibly picked any of the Shinobi games, but this is easily the best. The gameplay is a little like Ninja Gaiden, only not nearly as tough, but that's not being fair to the Shinobi franchise. There's also some memorable bosses such as Mecha Godzilla and once again some cracking background music.
Crono Maniac - I've always been more of a Ninja Gaiden fan myself, but Sega's bigger, slower alternative certainly has a lot to offer -- namely, a wide variety of different moves and gigantic boss fights.
#5 Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Chosen by: Polly, Rhete, Miller, TheBowtieGuy, Bpwner, jetstorm4, ommadawnyawn, Aberrat, Pauncho Smith, Cooltrainer Bret, Layrinn, Carmichael Micaalus, Pitchfork
Polly - If ever there was an RPG in the 16-bit era that aimed so precisely in an effort to take the legs right from under the Final Fantasy behemoth, Phantasy Star IV is it. It is a combination of everything Sega had ever done right with the series up to that point and polished to an almost mirror sheen.
Its anime-inspired production, diverse synth-driven soundtrack, and laser-focused storytelling were, in my opinion, miles beyond the same ground Square had been treading since the NES days. Phantasy Star IV is a game that set out knowing exactly what it wanted to do, where Final Fantasy games have always felt a bit slapdash in comparison.
The $86.44 (including tax!) price that I paid for the game upon its release is still worth every penny.
Rhete - Phantasy Star II never quite hooked me due to its difficulty, but I got really into Phantasy Star IV for quite a while. That is, until I got to the last dungeon and for some inexplicable reason never finished the game. Still, I liked the game enough to be insanely excited when Phantasy Star Online was announced, so that counts for something right?
Miller - One of the few RPGs I enjoy playing today simple because the gameplay is so fast. The characters move quickly, fighting is smooth thanks to Macros (you can still get killed though) and that's only the gameplay. The graphics and sound are great, and overall the game ties up the Phantasy Star-saga very well with countless references to the three previous games. And it works well as a stand alone game too.
TheBowtieGuy - Few games have had such complete, refined worlds as this. Few JRPGs have had battle systems this good. Few games have been this good.
Bpwner - Besides Mario 3, no game left as big of an impression on me as Phantasy Star IV. Ever. Not only did I learn what RPGs and animangoes were, I learned that story can matter in a game and that characters can be engaging outside of simply looking cool or appearing for ten seconds on Captain N: The Game Master. I actually got emotionally invested in the thing: I agonized over how I was going to defeat Zio like a sensible person would agonize over a major research paper or filing their taxes, I felt sad when *coughcoughsomethingsomething* and cathartic when spoiler alert you defeat the ultimate evil in the end. But more importantly, I wanted to be in that world. I wanted to drive around in a Land Rover with a hot pink-haired HUnewearl and yell out irrelevant spells. I wanted other people to appreciate it too, even if they were quite visibly not interested in RPGs. Forget what enthusiasm I may have previously had for Sonic and Mario, PSIV was the first game for which I could categorically be labeled as a fanboy. I'm not saying it's a perfect RPG, I'm just saying it was the perfect RPG for me at the time.
jetstorm4 - One of my favorite RPGs of all time. Unlike many 16 bit RPGs, this one is quite speedy.
With it's auto-focused battle system it's a treat to play. It also wraps up the Phantasy Star series nicely
with references to each game before it. Fun on its own, but a must play for fans.
ommadawnyawn - GRAND CROSS, HO! Ever notice how the good stuff from FF12 seems heavily inspired by the good stuff from PSIV? I'm not really a JRPG guy anymore (especially not old school), but I loved the setting, music, fresh ideas and relatively quick pacing of PSIV.
Aberrat - My favorite rpg on genesis. Go to hell FF7, Sega killed heroine first.
Pauncho Smith - It's pretty much taken for granted that the Genesis will never be viewed as an RPG powerhouse. The SNES had the clear upper hand in that department, thanks in no small part to its commanding library of essential titles. The line-up reads much like any serious gamer's best-of list: Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Mother/Earthbound, the Quintet Trilogy, Super Mario RPG. The Genesis was simply outmaneuvered, outclassed, and outgunned when it came to RPGs.
Of course, none of this is to say that Sega was completely empty-handed when it came to the genre. Aside from the superb Shining Force series, the company's mark on RPGs came in the form of Phantasy Star. The four-part saga spanned over two console generations (the original PS premiered on the Sega Master System), and underwent a number of tweaks, twists and turns, ranging from pseudo-3D dungeon crawling, a precedent-setting 6 mega-bit cartridge, and an apparent shift to a stereotypical "fantasy" setting which nearly derailed the series. The fourth game (and series swan song) was where it all came together. The presentation is top-notch, the pacing brisk, the attacks and techniques plentiful, and the cast of characters unforgettable. Whether PS IV belongs in the same company as one of Squaresoft's classics is open for debate, but it's unquestionably Sega's greatest RPG.
Cooltrainer Bret - A great RPG for the Genesis. While some stuff is pretty frustrating, like the typical RPG grind, it features a character that actually lasts long in the game dying midway through for a plot motivation point! I wonder how many of those there have been in the past 10 years. Thats a trend that should've stuck around a little more.
Layrinn - Yay! The series got good again! Actually, really good!
Carmichael Micaalus - The same friend that showed me Shining Force also showed me this game. Aside from the insane price tag when the game was first introduced, it was pretty god damn awesome. The macro ability for battles was concentrated coolness, and so was being able to use items when you ran out of room instead of just throwing it away... and still being able to use items at the end of combat. I really wish that was something that a lot of games had integrated into their own. I think also playing this game first made it impossible for me to play any of the Phantasy Star games given how slow they went in comparison.
Pitchfork - DAMN YOU! ZIO YOU DEVIL!
#4 Streets of Rage 2
Chosen by: Polly, Miller, toydonut, Zeloz, TheBowtieGuy, Bpwner, FreezingInferno, Remnant, AdmiralMaxtreme, Aberrat, Ehow22, Bonnet, Pauncho Smith, KMD, Cooltrainer Bret, Rainiac, Crono Maniac, Pitchfork
Polly - I've always felt that in terms of 16-bit beat 'em ups, Streets of Rage perfected the simple arcade formula in a way that no other game in that era did. It's balanced and challenging in ways that never felt unfair to me. I just never felt I had to resort to the same dirty tricks a lot of these games boil down to in order to stand a chance of surviving.
Also, one of the best god damn soundtracks of all time. Don't even fucking argue with me.
Miller - Me and my friend have tried to beat this game on Mania, two players, one credit each, for the past three years (playing maybe once a month at most, don't judge us). A game that gets more and more fun over time (can't say that to many games on this list).
toydonut - I actually played this on Dreamcast. Yes, the version with the horrible audio. (I heard the music is good if you're playing it on a proper system.) Anyhow, my pal Tammy and I brawled our way through level 3 until we were incapacitated by the sight of this:
Zeloz - As good as the other two installments are, the smooth controls and quick game play in this one makes the first irrelevant and the third redundant. The soundtrack is also perhaps the best on the console, courtesy of FM Synth maestro Yuzo Koshiro.
TheBowtieGuy - Who doesn't know why this is awesome?
Bpwner - I was at a party (yes, as an adult) where the host had a Genesis, and I sat down with a guest to play Streets of Rage 2. He asked why we were playing Streets of Rage 2 when there was a Streets of Rage 3 cartridge also present.
I called him an asshole.
FreezingInferno - One of the best beat-em-up games ever made by a human. BLAZE IS OKAY, BUT I ALWAYS PICK SKATE! This game beats the pants off of its predecessor. More characters, more crazy moves, MORE WONDERFUL YUZO KOSHIRO MUSIC! YEAH MAN! BEAT THE HELL OUT OF SOME DUDES!
Remnant - The aesthetic is silly as all get out, but in terms of gameplay? Best 16-bit Beat 'Em Up ever.
AdmiralMaxtreme - If there's one thing the Genesis could do right, it was Beat 'em Ups. Streets of Rage 2 has the best character set in the series and just the right amount of difficulty to keep you coming back.
Aberrat - Excellent beat'em up. Only in my memory there you can beat the crap out of the punks on submarine.
Ehow22 - Wonderful Beat 'em up. I usually use Skate or Blaze but all the characters are very nice. Something about roller-blading and demolishing thugs appeals to me...A lot of my earlier memories involve me playing this with my dad.
Bonnet - Ah, this kind of game that, with a friend, you can finish over and over and over and over with each time the same pleasure. And especially the last level once we got the stage selection cheatcode, last stage that was my favourite one. Oh, while talking about favorites, i must confess that the roller-skating boy was my favorite character, even if he wasn't the strongest one.
Pauncho Smith - When my family finally scrapped together enough dough to plunk down for a Genesis (becoming console #2 to sit along next to our SNES), Streets of Rage 2 was the pack-in game du jour. I seriously doubt we had any regrets about the purchase once we fired up this heralded face-punching simulator. All four playable characters are equipped with a plethora of methods for dispatching wave after wave of Technicolor hooligans. The special moves wreck so much havoc that you'll never miss the humorous yet overblown squad car bazooka specials from SoR 1. It's so easy to pick up and play, and it's so rewarding to clear a room with a well-timed throw, or send goons free-falling to their demise at the elevator section.
One aspect of the game that always stuck with me was Yuzo Koshiro's house/dance club inspired soundtrack. The fact that I grew up in a Brooklyn neighborhood where there were a number of clubs and other venues to hear this kind of music (not to mention just hearing "Show Me Love" by Robin S a thousand times each night resulted in the genre being burned into my brain), made me keenly aware of the kind of feel the developers were aiming for. In a way, it made the game come to life for me in a way that most games couldn't really come close to. I suppose I'm thankful that we've yet to see a true follow-up to the series; I'm too afraid we'll end up with a dubstep soundtrack in the next game.
KMD - Just about everyone considers this the best of the Streets of Rage trilogy, although the Japanese version of 3 is allegedly a good contender for that title since the difficulty isn't completely unreasonable like the western version. Everything from the original has been improved upon (although the bazooka-firing squad car shall be missed), including less monotonous levels, bigger and better sprites and a larger cast of characters with more varied attributes. Streets of Rage 2 is one of the few beat 'em ups, along with its sequel, where the female character isn't the wussy fast but weak archetype and instead Blaze is more of an all-rounder. I just played as Max all the time, slide tackling and bear-hugging my way to victory.
Rainiac - The best beat 'em up on the Genesis bar none (IMO anyway), and easily the best of the Street of Rage series. It has perhaps the best line up of playable characters (although no boxing kangaroo) and 8 levels of violent goodness. I could even see this game ranking #1 on the overall combined list, but for me there's 2 titles that are just a little better...
Crono Maniac - I'm not usually much one for beat-em-ups when I'm playing on my own, but when I'm with a friend (or a sibling) they can be an absolute blast. Two things elevate Streets of Rage 2 to me: 1) it's not afraid to make you fight off multiple enemies at once, which is the only time I find beat-em-up gameplay really interesting, and 2) a killer soundtrack.
Pitchfork - We had just as much fun trying to shout out homophonic approximations of the garbled Japanese voice samples in English. The ninjas' "MEATBALL COWABUNGI" was our favorite.
#3 Sonic The Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles
Chosen by: Polly, Rhete, Miller, MooMan1, Zeloz, The Hutch, Remnant, AdmiralMaxtreme, jetstorm4, ommadawnyawn, Aberrat, Pauncho Smith, KMD, Voltech44, Rainiac, Crono Maniac, Carmichael Micaalus, Pitchfork, Spyda K
Polly - What do I have to say? This will probably be #1 on the list and everybody will have said everything.
Locked onto one another, it's really hard to find much to complain about. Though it's not my personal favorite of the series, it's still damn solid top to bottom.
Rhete - I was maybe a bit tepid on Sonic 3 when it first came out, as it didn't quite live up to Sonic 2, but once LOCKED-ON with Knuckles, obsession is the only word I can use to describe the pair. I managed to get save files for every character (including Sonic solo and Sonic with Tails) with 14 chaos emeralds, then another set with just 7 emeralds. Later, when I got the Sonic Jam compilation on Saturn, I did it all over again.
There's just a ton of love and care in this game, with every single act having it's own art, music, and boss fight. Sonic 3 also has my favorite Special Stages of the series, they're more skill based and less memorization than Sonic 2. Hell, I used to just play Sonic 1 locked onto Knuckles to see how many stages of Blue Sphere there really were. I got at least a few hundred in, but the internet tells me the answer is 134,217,728. OK, maybe I wasn't as obsessed as some people.
Miller - Best game in the series (seriously, kill it). Great length, nice graphics and sound, a bit challenging and the bonus levels are great compared to Sonic 2.
MooMan1 - This game defined my childhood, simple as that. Also spades better than Sonic 2, if even just for the SAVE SLOTS.
Zeloz - Three playable characters, two cartridges worth of levels, beautiful graphics, excellent music, save features... both games are top-notch by themselves, but combined they make what could be considered not just Sonic's definitive 2D adventure, but the Genesis's definitive platforming experience.
Remnant - Holy C'thulhu was this game huge! No wonder it ended up spread over two cartridges and included a save option.
AdmiralMaxtreme - If these games were listed separately they'd each fall behind Sonic 2, but when you (understandably) combine them, they form a sort of Genesis Voltron of awesomeness. Actually, since Voltron sucks, it's much better than that. When was the last time a game did something this creative? Unless I'm mistaken, the whole lock-on idea had never been done before and hasn't been done since. And the fact that you can play Sonic 2 locked on to Sonic & Knuckles just adds to the awesomeness. And the music might even be better than Sonic 2, which is saying a mouthful. Overall, the ingenuity and execution in all departments is just really hard to match. Simply put, it's the best Genesis game ever made.
jetstorm4 - This only counts as one game for me anyway. It's the best way to play this
masterpiece platformer. Three characters (although I don't think I've ever played as Tails...), about 14
levels, and 14 (!?) Chaos Emeralds to find, this game makes the Genesis worth it. This Sonic game also has the
best Special Stages. No Contest.
ommadawnyawn - (Voted for Sonic & Knuckles) Yes, stand-alone. It always seemed to me like Sonic 3 got all the leftover content even though logically it doesn't make sense. Apart from a couple of good zones in S3, S&K is where the real, blast processed fun is.
Aberrat - It's beautiful, it's fast and we got echidna here along with the upload cartridge capabilities.
Pauncho Smith - (Voted for Sonic 3) Depending on your view of the matter, this is either Sonic's finest hour (once locked on with Sonic & Knuckles, of course) or the beginning of the end for the series (putting the echidna on the roster allegedly served to open the floodgates for the rest of the furry fun-time brigade). Even in the absence of the S&K cart, Sonic 3 is a superb game with sprawling levels, tunes "inspired" by a certain pop star, and bonus stages that are sure to induce motion sickness in some of your friends with weaker constitutions. Sonic 3's only demerit is that it's still only half a game, but it's not so bad, especially considering we got THIS out of the deal.
KMD - Oh wow it's what many people consider the absolute pinacle of the entire Sonic series. I'm flabbergasted.
Voltech44 - I was tempted to put Sonic 2 in my top spot, but decided against it -- I'd likely only be putting it there because it was my first game ever. So I guess I have to give the prize to the next in line; it's got some of the best music of the bunch, some of my favorite levels, lots of cool level-to-level moments, the ability to play as Knuckles (my favorite Sonic character, in spite of being forever designated as the sidekick Tails) at will, and of course that ability to get extra content out of earlier games via that "lock-on technology". I'm still partly convinced that was only accomplished via witchcraft. The only drawback, in my eyes, is that it lacked multiplayer without locking in Sonic 3 -- a problem I never had thanks to owning all but Sonic 1. It helped me live some fond memories... and perhaps fonder still if my brother hadn't decided to beat the game with his friend instead of me. Jackass.
Rainiac - Sonic 3 alone is good enough to make the top 5, but when you combine it with Sonic & Knuckles it's elevated into one of the all time greats. The game boasts some of the best put-together stages on the console, fast action and 3 playable characters offering 3 very different styles of play. Even better, both Sonic & Knuckles (but not so much Tails) have very different routes through the game. Combine this with some great boss battles and a soundtrack that I still proudly listen to on my laptop, and it'd take something very special to deny this game top spot on my list...
Crono Maniac - Sonic 3: a good game, but it lacks a climax. Sonic & Knuckles: a really good game, but it's a tad brief. Stack 'em on top of each other, and you've got a platforming epic for the ages.
Carmichael Micaalus - Additional shields, more characters, and better bonus stages than the second game. Also: save slots. Good times all around.
Pitchfork - Epic. The reason for the Genny's existence.
Spyda K - Sonic & Knuckles was a weird anomaly of console gaming that I can't think of a time where it was ever done before or since: a cartridge-based expansion pack. That's what it was. It was the equivalent of buying an add-on for a PC real-time strategy game, but the add-on was a cartridge that had a slot for the other cartridge to snap onto it. And they integrate so smoothly that you just know that they were planning all of this WAY before Sonic 3 ever hit shelves.
As soon as you locked-on those two carts, Sonic 3 was complete. Knuckles was playable, the S&K levels could be saved to the battery on S3's cart, and both products came together to form one complete package. In fact, in hindsight, it was kind of a rip-off that they charged us twice for what was basically one product split into two pieces. But we didn't care. We were dumb kids spending our allowances and birthday money on as much Sonic the Hedgehog as we could get. Ah, the carefree times of my youth.
S&K also tells one of my favorite video game stories, back before video games were bogged down with voice acting and cut scenes. Robotnik goes to the Floating Island and convinces Knuckles that Sonic is coming to steal his magic emeralds. Knuckles sees that Sonic has the chaos emeralds from Sonic 2, so that story checks out. Knuckles takes those and stashes them, and gets in Sonic's way as much as he can while Robotnik bides his time, fixing the Death Egg and plans to nab the Master Emerald when he gets a chance.
Towards the end of S&K, Sonic and Knuckles finally have a one-on-one throwdown. After you kick Knuckles' ass, Robotnik takes that opportunity to steal the Master Emerald and runs off with it. Knuckles realizes that he's been duped, but is in no shape to go after him, having just been given the business by both Sonic and Robotnik, so he breaks down a wall and takes you to Sky Sanctuary and leaves it in your hands to stop Robotnik and get back the Master Emerald.
And none of it was done with any dialogue or anything. You had to cheat a bit to learn some of the backstory by reading the instruction manual, but other than that it was all just in-game engine scenes showing these events playing out. One of the most striking memories I have of that game is at the beginning of Sky Sanctuary, seeing an exhausted Knuckles, gesturing for you to go ahead without him. That simple gesture was able to communicate to me that Knuckles had realized he had been wrong up to this point, and that he's leaving the fate of his home in my hands now.
Fire Shield is best shield.
#2 Gunstar Heroes
Chosen by: Polly, Rhete, Miller, MooMan1, Zeloz, sunburstbasser, TheBowtieGuy, Bpwner, FreezingInferno, Remnant, jetstorm4, ommadawnyawn, Aberrat, Ehow22, Pauncho Smith, KMD, Voltech44, heavymetalmage, Rainiac, Crono Maniac, Pitchfork, Spyda K
Polly - You know what? I don't even have to write anything here, because my odds are on the fact that this game is gonna be on a ton of peoples' lists.
GUNSTAR HEROES IS GOOD! EXCEPT THE SHMUP LEVEL! IT IS POOP!
Rhete - Treasure certainly made a hell of a first impression with this game, as many people still consider it their best work. Gunstar Heroes isn't quite Contra, but it's still one of the finest run and gun games ever made, with easily some of the craziest boss designs ever put into a video game.
Miller - Great fun. Second best co-op game on the Genny.
Zeloz - I first heard of this game after some magazine mentioned naming it "Game of the Year '93" in a little retrospective blurb. It took me all of 2 minutes playing it on an emulator to find out why.
sunburstbasser - My favorite Genesis game.
TheBowtieGuy - It's Treasure, it's a run and gun game. Even if you haven't played it, that much should speak volumes.
Bpwner - Lately I see this game as less of a challenge to Konami and more of a challenge to video games in general at the time: yes, they should be big, loud, obnoxious, garishly bright, over-the-top, and most importantly, they should make you feel like you're five years old again, when all it took to have fun was get hopped up on Cocoa Puffs and run around the backyard in your PJs pretending you're Wolverine. I enjoy playing Gunstar Heroes because it has good gameplay. I get choked up over it because every time I play it, it reminds me of some long forgotten imaginary scenario from my youthful ADHD fantasies.
FreezingInferno - Treasure's run and gun beats out Hard Corps because it's actually possible for me to beat this game. What a game, too! It's good clean fun. The weapon combining system gives you a lot of experimentation and possibility to discover broken combos, the stages are all unique and interesting, and you even get to play in a silly dice maze. What more could you want from a run and gun?
Remnant - I'm sorry, my brain can't process anything other than this AWESOME BLASTY SHOOTER FUN I'M HAVING! Great game going solo, but with a co-op partner, it's one of the best action games ever.
jetstorm4 - Treasure. How I love thee. Years later I still coop this game with my brother, and now my
cousins when able. We love Gunstar Heroes.
ommadawnyawn - For some reason it's the dice palace, my least favourite part, that comes to mind every time I think of this game. This is truly unfortunate, and you should pay me no mind.
Aberrat - Treasure's classic.
Ehow22 - My favorite run'n'gun, brought to us by Treasure. 'Nuff Said.
Pauncho Smith - There was never a single, solitary doubt in my mind as to which game would be occupying my top spot. Hell, I had that much figured out before I even started this thing. Gunstar Heroes took everything that gamers had known about side-scrolling shooters to that point and refined, inverted, deconstructed, and augmented those qualities into a virtually flawless piece of work. From the first opening seconds of the game to the heart-stopping finale, your senses are assaulted by relentless droves of enemies and the bonanza of explosions that ensue as a result of said enemies running head-first into your line of fire. It's hectic to be sure, but it never becomes overwhelming, as you have fourteen different weapon combinations at your disposal, in addition to the ability to perform throws, dropkicks and slides.
Gunstar Heroes can lay claim to producing some of the greatest boss battles ever conceived in ANY videogame. You have not lived until you've gone one-on-one with Green and Seven Force in the frantic mine chase sequence. You'll be struggling to maintain your grip on sanity as you scratch and claw your way through the bizarre machinations that inhabit Black's twisted casino board game (especially when you get to Curry and Rice). You'll be equally panicked and impressed at the sight of the monstrosities that compose the core defense system of the empire's spacecraft. And that final boss rush, wow. In most games, such a thing would be little more than padding out the end of a game, but in Gunstar Heroes, the final wave is presented brilliantly.
I don't think it's even possible for me to mark-out any harder than I already have. If you haven't done so by now, play this game. If you haven't, then I don't think we can be friends. Just do it.
KMD - The game that cuts the bullshit and just says Why just have bosses at the END of the level. Crammed wall-to-wall with insane, inventive boss fights, it's a game where the sections that have you mowing down endless hordes of bad guys and blowing up everything in your path are there to give you breathing space. I'd have even accepted an entire game based on the Dice Maze concept with battles this memorable.
Voltech44 - A friend of my brother's sold this game to him a while back, and I can't help but wonder if said friend regrets the deal. The game's fantastic; it's hard, but not unfair (barring the fight against that bastard Curry and Rice), letting you fight your way to the ending instead of struggle futilely against a machine. There's some strategy to be had in your character and weapon choice; I'd often go with the free-running type so I could move and shoot at the same time, and to compensate for my inability to aim I'd go with the Chaser/Lightning combo so I could lock onto enemies and fire away. The bosses also deserve some praise for how crazy but impressive they were; my jaw still drops every time I think about Green and Seven Force. Though that begs the question -- how does anyone survive a blast from a gun the size of an RV?
heavymetalmage - Run n' Gun man. I love the health system (for yourself and bosses.) It makes it seem like you are running down a counter on their life because you are absolutely PUMMELING these suckers with ammunition. The weapon system is also quite innovative and can really play to a lot of different players. Finally, it's fun. Most runners n' gunners are but Gunstar has something a little extra special.
Rainiac - This is another game I was first introduced to in the only the past 1-2 years, and boy did I ever miss out back in the day. It's got brilliant gameplay, tight controls and a real arcade feel to the whole thing. It's also difficult, but not unfairly so (unless you're a masochist and crank the difficulty all the way up) and again you really get a sense of accomplishment when you beat it. Factor in some superb and nerve-wracking boss battles and a great soundtrack which only adds to the experience, and you really are looking at the complete package. As a result, there's no way I can put this game anywhere on my list but at #1.
Crono Maniac - If you asked me to summarize Treasure's design philosophy in as few words as possible, I'd probably go with "glorious clusterfucks." Radiant Silvergun, Sin & Punishment, Alien Soldier, Astro Boy: Omega Factor, Gunstar Heroes, all games with huge arsenals, manic levels, and crazy, frequent boss fights. Bangai-O Spirits is probably the purest example of Treasure's unique style of game design, but Gunstar Heroes is arguably the best.
Pitchfork - Contra candy flips. Everybody wins.
Spyda K - More games need to steal Gunstar Heroes' weapon formula. Four different base weapons that could be combined with each other to create amalgams of both weapons, or stacked twice to create a more powerful version. It was genius. And the non-linear level selection guaranteed that even if you couldn't beat the first level, you got plenty of replayability by going through the other levels. Why didn't more games do THAT? Come on, people! Rip off Mega Man and Gunstar Heroes! DO IT!
#1 Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Chosen by: Polly, Rhete, Miller, toydonut, Zeloz, TheBowtieGuy, Bpwner, FreezingInferno, The Hutch, Remnant, AdmiralMaxtreme, jetstorm4, ommadawnyawn, Ehow22, Bonnet, Pauncho Smith, KMD, heavymetalmage, Crono Maniac, Carmichael Micaalus, Pitchfork, Spyda K
Polly - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 sorta ushered in the Genesis' golden age in my eyes. It was a time when Sega was really on the ball, and it seemed were finally coming to grips with learning how to work around their console's various weaknesses.
More than that, Sonic 2 is what I feel the developers wanted the game to be in the first place. It actually felt fast and more like a complete project than the first game or Sonic CD ever were. It may be a little long in the tooth near the end, and the final stretch of bosses may be some of the most dickish, but god damn if this game still isn't a treat top to god damn bottom.
Rhete - Sonic 2 took the blueprint of Sonic 1, and made a game that simply worked far better, and finally delivered on the promise of a speedy momentum based platformer. It's also the first game I can remember feeling like a truly epic journey, due to the huge number of diverse locations you travel across. It was of course, a journey I also had to make multiple times, due to them not putting any rings in the final boss room. When I finally managed to beat the game though, victory never felt so sweet.
Miller - Aquatic Ruin is still one of my favorite tunes of all time.
toydonut - This is the perfect Sonic game--levels neither too small nor too large, a little more complexity than Sonic 1 but fewer weird gimmicks than Sonic 3, and a co-op option with an invincible Tails that made playing with your less experienced friends fun instead of frustrating. Plus, it was back from those days before Knuckles existed. Not that I dislike the character, but I feel like that's when they started trying too hard. Like, "You think Sonic is badass? Well look at me! *SMIRK!* *STEALS UR EMERALDS* *FLIES UP INTO THE RAFTERS*"
And now we have stuff like Sonic Unleashed and furries drawing "YourName+the Hedgehog" on DeviantArt.
Zeloz - Perhaps the first Genesis game I've ever played. The addition of speed dash alone makes this one a better game than the original, but the level designs and music are more memorable as well.
TheBowtieGuy - Everybody else in this thread has said it anyways.
Bpwner - Sorry, S3&K, this one happened to be the first Sonic cartridge I owned and the one I played the most. While S3&K is a good game in its own right, to me Sonic 2 is to Mario 3 as S3&K is to Donkey Kong Country. This analogy probably makes more sense if you didn't own a Super Nintendo.
FreezingInferno - Everyone's putting Sonic 3 and Knuckles on their lists. I never played those games locked together. I played Sonic 2. Sonic 2 is wonderful. It's got some of the best stages in the classic series, as well as some of the best music. It does have Metropolis Zone though. Oh god. But it also has the cool half-pipe special stages TAILS WILL YOU MOVE AAAAARGH-- what a good game.
The Hutch - Anything to be said on this game will be said by someone else, so fuck it.
Remnant - The first Sonic game laid the blueprint, but the lack of a ground-spin, the slow platforming in places like Marble Zone, and the wonky special stages with floaty controls held the concept back. Sonic 3 & Knuckles can't be beat in terms of the breadth of its features and content, but finding the special stages required precise platforming and backtracking, betraying Sonic's speed, and the special stages themselves were annoying. For me, the best in the series will always be Sonic 2. Best music, best use of speed, and special stages that were challenging to enter and beat without ever feeling obtuse or obnoxiously difficult. This was Sonic as it was meant to be.
AdmiralMaxtreme - This may indeed be Sonic at its purest. Very simple, but the levels are varied, the soundtrack is phenomenal, and the addition of Tails and the spin dash add everything that was missing from the first installment. I'd go so far as to say that this game could be an instructional course on level design for a platformer. This is just a case of amazing execution across the board.
jetstorm4 - An amazing sequel to an amazing game. Great levels, amazing music, and to me, one
of the greatest final battles in any game. I still have trouble with it to be honest.
ommadawnyawn - This is where the series peaked for me, as it struck a good balance between speed and exploration while removing some of the stuff that didn't quite work in the first game, and increasing the overall game flow (spin dash). The halfpipe bonus stage is my favourite of the lot, which is kind of a big deal since beating the games without collecting the emeralds leaves me with an empty feeling inside.
Ehow22 - Sonic is back with a rather annoying immortal partner, which makes him more tolerable. Special stages are a lot more fun than its predecessor's.
Bonnet - Well, i was the kid brother, so i was playing with Tails and most of the time, my sole objective was to stay in the screen so that i could play (yeah, in games, my bro and i would often be dicks to each others). But for the boss, oh boys, wasn't i the one to do all the work since i could not die. ... ... I was really manipulated by my brother... damn my childhood... Sorry if i blabber so much about my past.
Pauncho Smith - Bigger, longer, and faster than its trail-blazing predecessor, this is the game that turned Sonic into the hottest goddamn thing on Earth, and made a legitimate contender out of the Genesis. It's one of those titles that everyone I knew owned: cousins, siblings, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, friends, lovers, everyone. This game brings people to together in a way I've seen few others do, and I'll wager that world peace could be achieved if everyone on the globe was made aware that we all share a common interest in Sonic 2. Plop this one down in the middle of the Gaza Strip, and you'll I guarantee you that not a single rocket will be launched by the time you hear the Chemical Plant Zone music playing.
KMD - Oh hey look it's the sequel to one of the most popular games ever that most people consider even better than its predecessor in almost every way. What's that doing here
heavymetalmage - Take Sonic 1, make it better in every way, and add in Tails. I loooooooove Tails. Once upon a time I wrote on Twitter: "I like Tales way more than Sonic." Stupid spelling. Half the fun of playing with Tails is watching him get killed over and over and that delightful "byowwwww" noise his death makes.
Crono Maniac - Everything about this game flows so perfectly. From Green Hill Zone to the Casino to the Mystic Caves to the Sky Chase/Wing Fortress/Death Egg combo that makes up the game's magnificent climax, everything about Sonic 2 just works. It's the pinnacle of the series, one of the deepest, best platformers of all time, and my personal favorite game for the Genesis.
Carmichael Micaalus - I always thought Tails was neat. Even if Sega hated him and never gave him a Super Tails form until Sonic and Knuckles where you had to collect all the Emeralds twice in a row or something, I don't know. What? Oh, Sonic 2, right. Basically Sonic 1 with some polish and whatnot. I remember I found it super crazy that they made it possible to connect it to Sonic and Knuckles, that they had it planned that far in advance.
Pitchfork - Without a Super Nintendo in the household, we had to settle for racing each other in Sonic 2. I was always Tails and feel sort of ashamed of it, knowing what I know now.
Spyda K - The first Sonic game isn't on my list because, let's face it, that game was a slog once you got past Green Hill Zone. Sonic 2, on the other hand was just swell all the way through. Everything about that game was great. The levels, the special stages, the weird 2-player split-screen race. It was just... so... good... all over... my body...