Confession: I was a Sega Genesis kid. Though my first home console was the NES, I made the jump to Genesis later childhood years. This became a discussion recently in the PSVG chat, and I began reminiscing about the Genesis. After minimal research, I learned that the system launched in North America in August of 1989, making this a perfect time to look back at some of my favorite games on the 16-bit behemoth (if this name catches on, you heard it here first.)
I started out to do a ranked list of games, but instead, I’ve settled on a round-up of some of my favorite gaming memories on the Genesis. This is definitively not a “best of” list. Some of these games — here’s looking at you, Altered Beast — aren’t exactly the best games on the system. But they’re memorable, and I enjoyed playing them.
I feel like every Genesis-era player is familiar with Altered Beast. “Wise fwom yore gwave!” is etched in many of our minds. I love the idea of Altered Beast, where you’re regular guy that gets transformed into a beast eventually. But the game was brutally hard, and just not super fluid.
In more recent years, I’ve gone back and tried the game again. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten through the second level, but I’d gotten pretty good at that first level.
Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf
As a kid, I definitely didn’t understand the significance of the Gulf War. But I loved playing this game, in which you manned a helicopter and executed various missions like radar sites, power stations and weapons plans, and rescuing hostages, POWs and secret agents.
Battletoads was tough as nails, and is one of those games that I swear that I beat as a kid, but there’s no way that I did. I doubt I got past the second level. But Battletoads (and Battletoads vs. Double Dragon) just screams “16-bit era” to me.
Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker
What a goofy premise for a game, in hindsight. In the game, you are Michael Jackson and you explore various 2D levels inspired by hit songs such as “Smooth Criminal,” “Thriller” and “Beat It.” You beat up gangsters, out-dance zombies and kick poodles all while rescuing little, white blonde-haired boys out of closets. As Michael Jackson. Nevertheless, I loved the game growing up, and you can’t go wrong with Michael Jackson music.
In Bonanza Bros., you take control as one of two brothers as you sneak into a building, outsmart the guards and make it to the prize you’re trying to steal. You can play with two players, as well. In some ways, this seems to be a precursor to Counterspy, which came out on PS4 last year.
The best part of the game is simply making a noise to alert a guard, then hiding behind a wall to wait for him to pass. You could also open doors into guards to knock them out.
Whatever your opinion on licensed games now, there’s no denying that the Disney games on Genesis were great. Despite his meager beginnings, Aladdin was absolutely my favorite Disney character as an 8-year-old boy, and Genesis gave me the chance to be Aladdin — the chance to fly on a magic carpet, make wishes with a Genie and get the girl (not that 8-year-old Seth was concerned with that sort of thing).
The actual gameplay still holds up, and is instantly familiar. You control Aladdin, with a cool sword, and race through Agrabah to thwart Jafar and rescue Jasmine. You jump on camels to spit out at enemies, collect apples to throw at enemies, and try to dodge the beds of hot coals. Abu even gets in on the fun during the bonus levels.
Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing
This is one of the earliest career modes that sucked me in. In the mode, you create your own boxer — skin color, body size, trunks color — and decide on the kind of training to take part in so that your boxer improves. The career mode’s goal is to eventually defeat Evander Holyfield (the only licensed boxer in the game) for the heavyweight championship. The mode eventually ends once you fight 40 times.
I know the game isn’t the most realistic boxing game ever, but it was pretty good for Sega Genesis. The main strategy was whether to attack your opponent’s your opponent’s head or body. If you attacked his head, he might eventually start bleeding, and you could force a TKO.
PGA European Tour
PGA European Tour is the first golf game that I remember playing. I’ve had a long history with simulation golf games — namely the EA games, having played many of them up through the 2013 edition. I’ve also dabbled in the more recent The Golf Club, the classic Jack Nicklaus golf for computer (may only be classic in my mind), and Golf Resort Tycoon. I haven’t gotten much into Mario or Hot Shots Golf.
Anyway, PGA European Tour is the first golf game I really played. By today’s standards, there isn’t a whole lot there, but I recall playing the game for hours. You could play a regular round, a four-round tournament or a skins challenge on any of the courses, plus a quick-fix sudden death Shoot-Out Series and 8-player match play. The game doesn’t have a career mode, or a season mode, but between the five courses, it was easy enough to set up and keep track of your own stats. It was (and still is) challenging and rewarding.
This is the game that taught me what skins are, and what match play is. It’s the game that taught me about draw and fade and golf strategy. I also learned who some of the European golfers were — Seve Ballesteros, Sandy Lyle — and the courses, like the Wentworth Club, Forest of Arden and Valderrama.
This game is actually available online here, if you want to give it a go.
My favorite game on the Genesis, and one of my favorite games ever. True, much of this has to do with the setting — I’m a sucker for westerns.
In Sunset Riders, you play as either Billy or Cormano, and you shoot your way through each of four levels. The bosses are memorable: Simon Greedwell, fighting out of a saloon; Paco Loco, who you fight on a speeding train; Chief Scalpem, with his deadly daggers; and Sir Richard Rose, firing at you from his mansion.
I didn’t find out until much later that the Genesis version actually got shafted, with fewer characters and bosses. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a darned fun game.
These are far from the only games I played on the Genesis. You might notice a lack of a certain blue hedgehog above. I loved the Sonic games, and think Sonic 2 is the best of the bunch, between adding the spin dash and the 2nd player.
I learned to love sports games on the Genesis, playing anything from Prime Time NFL Starring Deion Sanders, NBA Live and Triple Play to Mario Andretti Racing, Rugby World Cup ‘95 and FIFA. I also have a soft spot for the Winter Olympics: Lillehammer ‘94 game.
Finally, how could I forget Shaq Fu. 10-year-old Seth loved Shaq Fu. I beat that game a dozen times. I didn’t realize until much later just how derided the game was (thanks, Internet). The final boss was Sett-Ra, a mummy-like sorcerer guy from another dimension. I used to think it was cool because it was so close to my name.
These are just a few of my Sega Genesis memories. Do you have any favorite games from the 16-bit era? Comment below!