The 8 Best Sega Genesis Games of 2019

Score the best titles for this legendary console

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Once upon a time, Sega Genesis was the mortal enemy of Super Nintendo. It was a 16-bit system that launched in North America in 1989 and got a head start by marketing itself as more of an arcade-like experience, getting celebrity endorsements like Michael Jackson, reducing price points and becoming one of the most popular consoles of all time.

The Sega Genesis boasts a library of 915 games, and though it wasn’t as impressive with graphics and audio as the Super Nintendo, it still produced unforgettable titles you couldn’t find anywhere else. Below are the best Sega Genesis games, all of which were hard to choose (because there are so many), but will quench any specific thirst whether players are looking for an intense action-based, side-scrolling shooter, a mellow open-world buddy game with funky aliens or want to sample it all with a value pack multi-cart with some of the best Sega Genesis titles in existence. The Sega Genesis will give you a taste of what could have been Nintendo’s demise, a console with some of the most competitive and challenging titles that sometimes went above and beyond.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Sonic The Hedgehog 2

The biggest rival to Mario, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 built on the monumental success of its predecessor with better graphics, more fluid controls and even more exciting gameplay and intricate level designs. The game introduced a cute new character named Tails that could be controlled by a second player, making it a triple-A 2D platformer game with co-op multiplayer, one of the first of its kind.

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 was the very reason Sega had 50 percent of the market share in video game consoles during the time, bringing more detailed graphics than its competitors, more character enemies and catchy music that was composed by a popular Japanese band called Dreams Come True. The game’s atmosphere is colorful and immersive with some unique and diverse levels of aquatic ruins, interiors of chemical plants and even a casino with pinball and slot mechanics that change the game entirely. Sonic games have always been different from Mario in that they were faster, more physics-based and a little more challenging with action and intense dynamic gameplay design; Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is no exception​ and the best Sega Genesis game on the list.

Best Run-And-Gun Action: Gunstar Heroes

Gunstar Heroes is simple to pick up, includes co-op so you can play with a friend and features non-stop action, making it one of the most exciting Sega Genesis games on the list. The game uses a unique weapons combination system from four different basic weapon types that allow for 14 different combinations to suit many play styles.

Much like Contra, Gunstar Heroes is a side-scrolling, run-and-gun style shooter where players face off with an onslaught of multiple enemies on screen, dodging tons of bullets and forcing them to adapt to a dynamic environment. In addition to using weapons, players can engage with enemies in close quarters combat by tossing them, sliding into them and performing jump attacks. Boss battles bring to life menacing foes that make the game feel more epic with a satisfaction upon defeating them in a fiery blaze. The first four stages can be played in any order and is very forgiving by allowing infinite continues so you can keep on going.

Best Beat-‘Em-Up: Streets of Rage 2

A powerful vicious syndicate has taken over a once happy and peaceful town, and it’s now up to you and three friends to make a stance in Streets of Rage 2, the best beat-‘em-up game on the list. Streets of Rage 2 has you playing one of four characters, each with different stats and abilities, in a side-scrolling type of game where you face off against a multitude of unique baddies and bosses.

Streets of Rage 2 — considered to be the best in the series — improves upon its predecessor with smarter AI, visual life gauges, names for enemies who have varied attacks, new weapons to pick up, as well as more enemy types. The exciting game includes a catchy soundtrack and adaptable enemies and bosses that players have to figure out how to take down. You and a friend can also join forces at any time in-game and take down crime together while rescuing a kidnapped child from the mysterious Mr. X and his criminal organization.

Best Buddy Game: Toejam & Earl

There’s no chiller game on the list —Toejam & Earl is the ultimate buddy game you can play with a friend (or alone), featuring an open world environment free for exploring and discovering various items, enemies, friends and other sights. The story involves two alien rappers who’ve crashed-landed on Earth and attempt to escape the planet by collecting pieces of their wrecked spaceship.

Toejam & Earl is a 3/4 perspective 2D game where players explore randomly generated floating islands each a layer above the last that are connected via elevators. Part of the fun of Toejam & Earl is its vast items full of power-ups (and power-downs) that come in wrapped presents — some of which are unknown until opened — containing items like tomatoes to throw at antagonist earthlings, rocket skates that blast you around the map, wings to make you fly, decoys and more. If you play with a buddy, the game displays a single screen when you’re near each other, but will split when far apart, allowing players to explore as much as they want and progress in different levels. Toejam & Earl will even share jokes with each other that you wouldn’t otherwise see in the single-player mode.

Best Puzzle Fun: Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine

A falling block style puzzle game, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is a westernized version of Puyo Puyo where players sort out, rotate, stack and connect beans. The addictive and competitive game features three modes of endless fun, with a single-player mode where gamers fight off 13 increasingly challenging computer opponents, multiplayer versus mode and endless practice that gets harder and harder with each passing second.

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine has you anticipating the placement of your dropping beans; if you overflow your space screen, you lose, so the game requires you to always be thinking ahead. When four beans of the same color match together, they pop and vanish, giving players the ability to perform devastating combos with adjacent beans falling in place above and sending gray beans over to hinder your opponent. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is simple, addictive and fun, giving players a challenge against different difficulties with AI players, themselves and even their friends.

Best Movie-Based: Disney’s Aladdin

Even for today, Disney’s Aladdin for Sega Genesis showcases some beautifully rich graphics and animations akin to the movie, with an experience that stays true to its original story. The side-scrolling action platformer has players traverse through several levels based on the movie’s locations (the streets and rooftops of Agrabah, the Cave of Wonders and Sultan’s dungeon, to name a few).

Disney’s Aladdin for the Sega Genesis was developed with Disney animators, so you can see the attention to detail in the game’s animation frames with expressive characters alongside a musical arrangement that matches the score from the film. Players can use Aladdin’s scimitar to deflect projectiles while sword fighting with multiple enemies and even throwing apples at long range. Disney’s Aladdin is the third best selling Genesis game and it gives players a true-to-film story full of familiar characters, as well as a challenge that keeps them coming back for more.

Best for Fighting: Mortal Kombat

You can thank Mortal Kombat for the reason why we have ESRB ratings; the game is America’s answer to Japan’s Street Fighter II, bringing a mature audience to gaming where players fight one-on-one to the death. The controversial fighting game became one of the most popular games of all time with a cast of unique characters all with different martial art abilities and special moves such as throwing freezing projectiles and grappling hooks.

Mortal Kombat uses realistic digitized graphics from actual character models that give the game a lifelike appearance alongside its violent bloody nature where players can finish off one another with executions called “fatalities." It isn’t just all blood and gore, Mortal Kombat distinguishes itself from other fighters with its control scheme of high and low punches and kicks and was the first game to introduce “juggling” — the ability to knock your opponent in the air and perform combination attacks while they’re airborne and defenseless. Are you up for the challenge to become the master of the Mortal Kombat tournament and save the Earth-realm from the evil Shang Tsung? That, or you can just fight your friends in a two-player versus mode.

Best Value: Sega Genesis 6-Pak

The Sega Genesis 6-Pak has six of the most defining games on the console. The six games on the Sega Genesis 6-Pak make no appearance on the list, but are some of the best Sega Genesis games out there: Sonic The Hedgehog, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, Revenge of Shinobi, Columns and Super Hang-On.

The Sega Genesis 6-Pak gives players the experience of a library of Sega Genesis games that defined the system. The original Sonic The Hedgehog, a side-scrolling platformer that rivaled Nintendo’s Mario, has players run at lighting fast speeds while going through turns and loops, spin attacking robot enemies and battling a mad scientist.

Golden Axe and Streets or Rage are both beat-'em-ups with multiplayer and have players assuming the role of one of three characters, traversing streets and fighting off numerous enemies.

The most challenging game, Revenge of Shinobi has you play as an agile magical ninja, while Columns, much like Tetris, will have you thinking through its puzzle gameplay of matching gems together.

Super Hang-On is the only racing game on the list, where you drive a motorcycle and compete against other bikers on a winding and unpredictable road that challenges players to drive fast, but responsibly.