The 100 Best Sega Genesis Games

From 'Sonic the Hedgehog' to 'Gunstar Heroes,' these are the 100 best games from one of the original 16-bit consoles, Sega's Genesis system.

Best Sega Games
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Best Sega Games

This feature was originally published on Nov. 17, 2016.

When the Sega Genesis launched in 1988, it was a 16-bit visual feast, with a bright color palette that juxtaposed sharply with the Nintendo Entertainment System’s 8-bit graphics. In response, Nintendo released its own 16-bit console, the Super Nintendo, in 1990. This kicked off the “Console Wars,” which pitted the two most high-profile video game companies against one another in a bid for the same audience.

With its electric-blue hedgehog and aggressive marketing to teenage boys, Sega positioned itself as the youthful, cooler alternative to Nintendo’s stodgy traditionalism. And, at least in the United States, the plan worked, with the Sega Genesis outselling the SNES at a rate of two to one for several years.

Of course, we know how the story ends. A series of bad business decisions forced Sega to stop making consoles in 2001 after the Dreamcast lost millions of dollars. And we now live in a bizarro world where the best way to play Genesis games is on the Nintendo Switch, via its online subscription service.

Let’s go back to a time before all that. Here are the 100 best Sega Genesis video games—the RPGs, shooters, beat ‘em ups, and arcade ports with style and substance to spare.

100. Alisia Dragoon

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99. Out Run

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98. Zero Wing

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97. Magical Hat Taruruuto-Kun

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Developed by Game Freak, the same studio that would go on to make Pokemon. This played like it should've been called "My First Adventure Game."

96. Zero Tolerance

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95. Altered Beast

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94. Starflight

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This 1985 sci-fi classic managed to find new life six years later on the Genesis. Bonus: The game can still be played after the story ends, which wasn't possible in the other versions.

93. Wings of Wor

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92. Mazin Saga: Mutant Fighter

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91. Mega Bomberman

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90. Monster World IV

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89. Jungle Strike

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88. Gain Ground

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87. Atomic Runner

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86. Eliminate Down

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85. Rolling Thunder 2

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84. Crusader of Centy

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83. Lakers versus Celtics and the NBA Playoffs

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82. Mega Man: The Wily Wars

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81. Ghostbusters

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It's Ghostbusters! except that it's the super-deformed kind and they ate gyoza and Peking duck as health items.

80. Air Buster

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79. El Viento

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78. Splatterhouse 3

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77. Twinkle Tale

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Twinkle Tale took the run 'n gun shooter gameplay most associated with Rambo inspired settings and gave it a fantasy theme.

76. Alien Soldier

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75. Crack Down

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74. Kid Chameleon

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73. Batman

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72. Steel Empire

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71. True Lies

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70. QuackShot

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69. Light Crusader

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68. TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist

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67. Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf

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66. Lightning Force

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There's something impressive about how overly produced this sequel to Thunder Force III was. It came with levels that were three screens tall and a difficulty where I didn't feel guilty for beating it with 99 lives.

65. General Chaos

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64. Dynamite Headdy

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63. Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi

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62. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle

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61. Valis III

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60. Uchuu Senkan Gomora

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Doesn't look like a remarkable side scrolling shooter at first; the reason why this is worth checking out is the two player cooperative gameplay. One player pilots the ship and main gun while the other player controls the movable turret.

59. Syndicate

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58. Rocket Knight Adventures

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57. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

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56. Panorama Cotton

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55. ToeJam & Earl

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54. Columns

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53. Bio-Hazard Battle

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52. Golden Axe

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This classic weapon-based beat 'em up would have ranked higher if it kept the arcade game's ending, where the characters jumped out of the arcade cabinet and ran through the city.

51. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine

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50. Michael Jackson's Moonwalker

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49. Golden Axe II

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48. Granada

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Another solid Wolf Team project with Motoi Sakuraba on music duty. This one features the tiniest tank on the list.

47. Castlevania: Bloodlines

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46. The Adventures of Batman & Robin

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Worth checking out just for the special effects, but stay for the Jesper Kyd (Assassin's Creed, Hitman) soundtrack.

45. Wonder Boy in Monster World

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44. Ecco The Dolphin

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43. Mutant League Football

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42. Warsong

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41. Pulseman

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40. Vectorman

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39. Road Rash 2

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38. Flashback: The Quest for Identity

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Flashback echoes the fluid character animations of Karateka and Prince of Persia, except we now have a terrific sci-fi setting and more importantly, a protagonist with a gun.

37. Earthworm Jim

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Not only was Earthworm Jim the game that put Shiny Entertainment on the map, it was also their first game. It helped that designer David Perry came into the project with a ton of experience from working with licensed properties like Disney's Aladdin, 7up's Cool Spot, and McDonald's Global Gladiators.

36. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3

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35. Comix Zone

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34. Strider

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33. Sonic The Hedgehog

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32. Ys III: Wanderers From Ys

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31. Ristar

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30. Earthworm Jim 2

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29. Disney's Aladdin

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28. Dune II: Battle for Arrakis

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Play this, and you can see where Command & Conquer got many of their ideas from.

27. Ghouls 'n Ghosts

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26. Pirates Gold!

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Good pirate games are rare. Thankfully this Sid Meier classic might be all you need, especially when you can play as a pirate, privateer, or a pirate hunter.

25. Sonic & Knuckles

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24. Out of This World

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Feels like it was cut from the same cloth as Flashback, although Out of This World is notably more cinematic. This game was also cited as an influence to Heavy Rain.

23. Landstalker: The Treasure of King Nole

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22. Shadowrun

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21. Herzog Zwei

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20. Gaiares

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19. Shining Force

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18. M.U.S.H.A.

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17. Sonic The Hedgehog 3

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16. NHL '94

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15. Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master

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14. Thunder Force III

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13. Streets of Rage

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Sega never really had a noteworthy beat 'em up game prior to Streets of Rage. It was one of Team Shinobi's projects after the critically acclaimed Revenge of Shinobi and both games share the same aesthetic qualities. Music composer Yuzo Koshiro did an exemplary job ripping off Black Box's Dreamland album.

12. Beyond Oasis

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11. Madden NFL '94

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To think there was a time when the Madden franchise didn't have the NFL license. This was the first game to have the license, camera rotations during punts, a full regular season and Madden '94 gave birth to the "It's in the game!" slogan.

10. Target Earth

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9. Ranger X

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8. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

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7. Phantasy Star II

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6. Revenge of Shinobi

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5. Contra: Hard Corps

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4. Streets of Rage 2

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3. Shining Force II

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2. Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium

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1. Gunstar Heroes

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