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Video Game Uber Fun Fun List: Sega Genesis

Author: Philippe
Posted: 10 Oct 2005

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back! (That goes mostly to the ladies. I didn't start writing articles on video games to impress any guys; this was solely to impress the women who love me. Both of them. I might be exaggerating that number a bit. Never mind.)

Welcome to the wonderful land of 1989! What a year for yours truly. I had officially reached the ripe old age of 10. Double digits, baby! My brain was slowly starting to wrap around the whole idea of pop culture and the incredible things that I could take from it. I have to say that it was an incredible time to start. I learned wisdom from Doogie Howser's blog. (Yes, that's right. If you have a blog and you think it's cool, just remember that Doogie Howser had one first. You are both unoriginal and lame.) I learned comedy from the the Joker, partied at Paul's Boutique, and got amazing sensations whenever I bit into a York Peppermint Patty. Truly, it was a great time to be alive. It was also a fantastic time for video games because we not only got the TurboGraphx 16, we also got the Sega Genesis.

SEGA! With a simple scream, it seemed that video games were changing. Mario and his ilk were wonderful but perhaps there was something more to the whole video game experience. The problem, in essence, was that my friends and I were starting to grow up a little bit. Not only that, but so was everyone else. Not to say that Genesis wasn't appealing to kids as well, but their marketing was generally geared towards the teenage market. They knew then that those raised on video games were more likely to keep on playing them into their teen years and maybe, possibly, in the realm of adulthood.

Nintendo, at this point, disagreed. They were happy with their billions of dollars. In fact, Nintendo decided that 8-bit technology was more than enough for their purposes. (Admittedly, they pushed it incredibly far and did some amazing things with it.) Anyway, along comes Service Games with a new philosophy.

When they told the world that they were going to make the Genesis, Nintendo scoffed and giggled a little bit. "Sega?" they said. "Didn't we kick their asses out of the market, like, years ago?" It was unfortunate but true. The Master System nearly bankrupted Sega. Luckily for them, they had a strong arcade presence -- a presence which kept them afloat until this here system popped up. Undeterred by the thrashing that Nintendo had given them in the 8-bit market, Sega decided to develop a 16-bit system anyway.

Now, while Nintendo turned a blind eye to all of this, a lot of people got excited. Not only was the system better, but gaming companies were getting really sick of all of the crap Nintendo was doing. (I've talked about all of this before in other articles so I'll skip over it here.) All of a sudden, Sega had a lot of phone calls from people asking about development kits...just out of curiosity...not that I want to leave Nintendo, mind you...but, you know.

Sega also had their entire arcade line which on a 16-bit system looked fantastic. So it came to be that in 1989 the Genesis was released with a metric fuck-ton of killer games. (Half of which everyone had played and loved in the arcade.) Genesis also started offering up more adult-themed games. A huge line of sports games and games where you could actually kill other people without resorting to something like, say, "jumping on them and squishing them." Old-fashioned video game violence was out and hitting someone with a baseball bat while riding down the street at a hundred miles per hour on a motorcycle was in.

It would take Nintendo two full years to make the SNES and, when they finally did it, still had a slower processor than the Genesis. What to do with all that speed Genesis had to spare? How to tackle the mountain that is Mario? Genesis decided to employ the use of a blue, English rodent. Sonic the Hedgehog was released around the same time as Super Mario World and a battle was on. A lot of video game companies formed sub-divisions of themselves in order to not break Nintendo's non-compete clause and design Genesis games at the same time. They took the risk because it seemed as if maybe this Genesis thing could actually compete.

Everything was looking downright rosey for Genesis for a while, in fact. Unfortunately, things started getting a little complicated for consumers when Genesis started their add-on phase. That whole thing is complicated enough for an article of it's own, so we'll leave it 'til another day. Needless to say, Sega went a little bit wacky with expensive add-ons and it pretty much signaled the end of the banner times.

However, that was then and this is now. We've had our history lesson for the day so lets take a look at The Video Games Uber Fun Fun List top nine games for the Sega Genesis.

9. Coming in at the bottom of the top we have Aladdin (Virgin Games). The game follows the plot of the movie for all intents and purposes. Not the most compelling ideas I've ever seen, but the graphics for this bad boy were extraordinary. Run around like a crazed man with a sword and throw some apples at people. Save the princess. Etc. Highly addictive, though, and great platformer. It was a bit easy, however, but that can be excused as it was probably meant for the younger crowd.

8. At eight we have an oddity for video games at the time -- an odd little title called Ecco the Dolphin (Novatrade). In it, you are Ecco...a dolphin. Your family is gone and you have to go find them. The gameplay felt like a platformer, to some extent, owing mainly to the side-scrolling nature of this beast. It was, however, a puzzle game. You swim around, breathe air, and fight the dangers of the briney deep. Basically this was Genesis' answer to Congress blaming them and only them for video game violence. Anytime someone said they only made games with decapitation, they would pull this out from their pocket for the proverbial "Nuh uh..." Still, it was a challenging and fun game.

7. Number seven! And what's here? A little title called Shining Force II (Sonic Software). This game was neat. It was one of the very few (very very very few) RPGs of any worth for the Genesis. You make yourself a team to go fight...oh, Zeon or Zale or something. Something to do with crystals. I'm guessing. (And correct in my guess.) The story line was crap, but the gameplay was awesome. You could choose from about 25 different people to join your little gang and go rock the crystals like no other. Yay!

6. Road Rash (Electronic Arts). Man, this game kicked ass. Of course, this is one of those games that forced the Sega execs to carry Ecco cartridges wherever they went. It's a street racer on motorcycles. You got weapons and beat people up. The thing that made this game stick out was its save feature. Money for upgrades and new bikes and new tracks and a whole slew of extras. (New bats and longer chains, etc.) Certainly a precursor to games like Grand Turismo and its ilk. The game still gives me a little chill when I remember thinking that if I kill just one more guy I can probably get a Super Bike. It's an important step for every boy, I feel.

5. Ahh, Mortal Kombat (Probe Entertainment) -- the other reason for Ecco. Mortal Kombat...actually, screw it. You've all played Mortal Kombat. You should all remember the crazy way that Sub-Zero tore people's heads off with backbone still intact. You might not remember that there were two versions of this video game. The Genesis version, which had blood, and the SNES version, which did not. This game was fun and a good, solid fighter. It's also the reason there were so many damned Congressional hearings about violence in video games. Gamers got a huge amount of bad press because of Sub-Zero...the virtual Rosa Parks, if you will. They made it, we all suffered a bit, but now we have GTA and not so many complaints. (They're still there, mind you, but if it weren't for Mr. Freeze up there it'd be a lot worse.) Fight. Finish Him. Yah.

4. Coming at four is something that surprised me. In a nutshell, here's how I make the lists. I download an emulator and about fifty games. I then play the games and make my own list. Then I enlist a bunch of gamers and get their lists, compile everything, hand out point values like there's no tomorrow, and bigity-bam, we has us a top nine list. So, I was very thrilled to see that so many people had Battle Toads/Double Dragon somewhere near the top. More or less, it followed the normal Double Dragon plot but this time you could also be one of the Toads. Great little action platformer.

3. X-Men (Sega). In its time, this was probably the best comic book video game made. Graphics and gameplay were all outstanding. Plenty of people to choose from, all with their plethora of powers. In fact, screw it. This is my favorite comic book video game of all time. You couldn't ask for a better 2D action platformer.

2. Well, except for the next two games, of course. So at number 2, we have Gunstar Heroes (Treasure). This game looked like a slightly more cartoonish version of Contra, to an extent. You had your gun, you shot hundreds of people every two to three minutes, and you could fire-blast everyone within a mile of you. Despite the cartoonish nature of the graphics, they were far superior to almost anything out at the time. Hell, it's almost right up there with games that came out for the Neo Geo. It was also two-player, which, with the exception of the sports games, was a rarity indeed for Genesis. Team up, kill everything.

1. And, of course, the king and grand daddy of 'em all for the Genesis. The game that challenged the empire that was Mario -- we have Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic was fast, he was colorful, and he was slightly impatient. Brilliant storyline, great graphics, great music. Platform levels and incredibly trippy special zones were interwoven into this classic and excellent game. It takes the number one spot for good reason. It's the reason that half the people who owned the Genesis bought the damned thing. It spawned a plethora of sequels (none of which made the list, but we'll sort of include them with Sonic 1), and the character is probably the second-most well-known face in video games.

And we're done! Hope you enjoyed, and I hope you all get yourselves on EBay. For forty bucks you could probably get a system and every game on this list. If I've left something off, feel free to email me and we can argue about it. Thanks for reading!

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