What are the ten best Genesis games to play now?

October 10, 2011

Everyone does Top 10 Games lists. The problem with those? Usually, they’re full of games that earn a place because of nostalgia or industry significance. Here at Snackbar Games, we like being a little more practical: if you’re looking to just have fun, what games should you pick up a controller and play today? This time, we’re looking at Sega’s 16-bit console, the Genesis.


Graham Russell: Before Game Freak became “those Pokemon guys,” they were already capable of making some compelling stuff. Case in point: Pulseman, the Japan-only action platformer that takes cues from Mega Man and Sonic. It’s a bit overambitious at times, and the visual cacophony it brings to the table can be a bit tough to get used to, but there’s some compelling stuff here, and we finally got it in the West via the Virtual Console. Want to know more? Check out Matt’s column on it.


Andrew Passafiume: Those who love Sonic but never played this colorful Sega platformer are truly missing out on one of the best games the system has to offer. Ristar’s combination of amazing, catchy tunes, its large variety of levels and absolutely perfect platforming make this one of the most underrated games Sega has ever published. The controls still feel great and, aside from a couple of levels, the overall design is as close to perfect as 16-bit platformers get. This is still an absolute must play for anybody who considers themselves a fan of platformers.


Gerry Pagan: Probably one of Treasure’s best games, Gunstar Heroes is one of those timeless action-platformers that stand up even against today’s tough competition. A variety of customizable weapon pick-ups add tons of gameplay variety, and the great level design had some memorable boss encounters (like Green and his Seven Force) that will not be forgotten by anyone anytime soon. Co-op hijinks make this a game that far outlives the console on which it was originally released.


Matthew Jay: Aladdin is a game you love to play and hate yourself for loving it so much. Made by many of the people who’d go on to create Shiny Entertainment and the Earthworm Jim series, this is one of the most difficult-yet-playable games of the 16-bit era. Even though I’ve played it many many times, I still can’t tell if it’s so much fun because it’s good or because of the beautifully fluid animations drawn by actual Disney animators from the film. Aladdin also has some catchy chiptuned versions of hits from the film, like One Jump and Prince Ali.


Matthew Jay: Treasure is the most-famous least-famous game company around. Many people haven’t heard of them, but I’m sure they’ve played at least one of their games. And those of us who have heard of them hold them in high regard. That being said, Dynamite Headdy is the least famous game from the most-famous least-famous developer and I’ve never been able to figure out why. Taking its cues from the run n’ gun genre but presenting them in a platformer dressing, Dynamite Headdy is an incredibly difficult, inventive and trippy game.


Graham Russell: The SNES may have been the system of choice for RPG-lovers at the time, but the Genesis held its own with the space-themed Phantasy Star series. PSIV is the best it has to offer, with some impressive visuals, an intriguing story and a battle system that stood with the best of what Square was releasing on the other guys’ box. While those have been re-made to death, many have missed what Phantasy Star brought to the table. Rectify this.


Andrew Passafiume: This Genesis-exclusive Castlevania game is often overlooked when talking about the best the series has to offer, but Bloodlines has a lot going for it. It’s pretty similar to Super Castlevania IV, but it offers a much larger variety in terms of levels and enemy types, as well as the different weapons you have available to you. And the two different playable characters are completely different, not only allowing you to try different play styles but also letting you access different areas depending on the character you choose. This is one of the best Castlevania games for a reason, and it still plays great.


Matthew Jay: While co-op wasn’t unheard of in the platformer genre, few games had done it well until World of Illusion Starring Mickey and Donald. In a shooter, it’s easy to divvy up the duties: you shoot these guys while I shoot these guys. But in a platformer, teamwork is usually implemented to aid exploration. Depending on whether you’re playing as Mickey, Donald or both, whole new paths and levels will be open to you. Mickey is small and can fit through tight spots, but Donald has a big fat butt and needs Mickey to pull him through. I’ve played this game so many times since it came out in 1992, but I’m still discovering new parts of this beautiful game.


Andrew Passafiume: This is the best game in the Contra series next to the very-popular Contra III, and yet, like Castlevania: Bloodlines, it is rarely talked about. The gameplay is as Contra as you can get, but it’s the most refined of all of the 2D Contras, with some of the most intense boss battles and levels you’ll ever see in a side-scroller. The addition of branching paths makes this game even more replayable than any other in the series, and while the game is still plenty tough, it is actually fairly easier than the previous titles in the series, making it a bit more accessible. Whether you’re already a Contra fan or you’re completely new to the series, this is a game that’s well worth your time.


Graham Russell: Before Blizzard was the king of the MMO (or even the strategy genre), it was the plucky Silicon & Synapse, putting together innovative (if overlooked) titles on consoles. Putting you in control of three separate characters and switching between them to solve puzzles was a breath of fresh air, making you think about things three steps ahead of the action you were currently taking. If Warcraft wasn’t such a runaway success, we could have seen more than just the one-off sequel.

Those are our picks. Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts!