10 of the best Sega Genesis games that deserve a comeback

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Jun 21, 2016, 6:39 PM EDT

Genesis does what Nintendon't. That was the marketing slogan for Sega in the '90s. It was also the truth. Genesis did do things that Nintendidn't -- like support a cartridge-shaped add-on device or attempt a CD-based add-on device. How did those ideas work out again?

Sorry, Sega. But despite those failings, Sega did serve as genuine competition for Nintendo over many years. After the NES demolished all comers, that's nothing to sniff at. And the reason the Genesis was so successful is clear -- it was the games. Well, that and the fact that Sega's version of Mortal Kombat had blood in it, aka literally the reason I hounded my parents into buying me a Genesis even though I already owned a SNES. What a brat.

My spoiled childhood can be used for good, though. I can write you another list of games from days gone by that have been forgotten, games that deserve another chance, another shot at greatness, a forchancegreat at gotshotness. 

These are the 10 Sega games from the Genesis era I want to come back. There are a lot of games I did not include that you might have. Ristar does not feature here. Neither does Ecco the Dolphin. And there's nary a Columns nor a Skitchin' in sight. So after you've finished reading my anecdotal waxings, feel free to wax yourself. And when all that unsightly body hair is removed, tell me some Genesis games you love, too.


Phantasy Star

Developer: Sega
North American Release Date: 1988

The original Phantasy Star was a Master System joint, but the remaining three titles were part of the Genesis library and easily stand out as the Sega equivalent to the Final Fantasy series. They also stand out as being some of he most defining games in the RPG genre. They are also defining games for the "sexy girls with leotards, pointy ears, and claws" genre. Thanks, Sega...?

Phantasy Star was known for having a wealth of female protags, a cool combination of fantasy and science fiction, and a willingness to (spoiler alert) kill off major characters that everyone loves. So they're pretty groundbreaking.

And yet, Phantasy Star inexplicably became Sega's online series in later years, a move which largely detracted from the games' initial appeal. Online gaming wasn't exactly a console standard when Phantasy Star Online came out so the new direction wasn't exactly well-received.

The original Phantasy Star games have been re-released many times, including once or twice where there were (very minor) updates to the graphics, but no true successor exists. And that's crazy town. You could pull story elements from any of these games. Heck, even the black sheep of the family, Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom, has a core mechanic (playing the story through multiple generations within a family) that's ripe for a relaunch.

Maybe Sega should spend a little less time making subpar Sonic games and a little more time returning to Phantasy Star. Considering the state of Final Fantasy, I think tons of RPG fans would be very happy to see the other console RPG classic series take a crack at the current generation of consoles.


Streets of Rage

Developer: Sega
North American Release Date: September 18, 1991

Amid the glut of beat 'em ups there is one series that reigned supreme -- Streets of Rage. With three games in its franchise (the second of which is still considered to be one of the greatest games of all time, period), Streets of Rage set a new standard in the 90s for fighting movies, villain types, plotlines, and music in the brawler genre.

What started out as a simple idea, three ex-cops take down a crime syndicate, expanded into the defining example of how to keep side-scrolling fighters interesting, even after repeated playthroughs.

Streets of Rage is so beloved that, despite Sega leaving the series fallow, fans have picke dup the story themselves. Streets of Rage Remake is a labor of love. It's fantastic. Absolutely play it. But it isn't exactly reinventing the wheel.

Sega (are we sensing a pattern here) really could make a lot of fans very happy (and make bank in the process) by revisiting Streets of Rage with some modern sensibilites, updated fight moves, combos, improved graphics, and detailed storylines.


Shining Force

Developer: Climax Entertainment
North American Release Date: July, 1993

Before Fire Emblem was the popular Nintendo handheld franchise it is now, it was a slow-moving strategy game. It also had a far superior rival franchise -- Shining Force

While this series initially began with a basic dungeon crawler, Shining in the Darkness, it expanded a few years later as the best tactical franchise on the Genesis, and maybe even of that console generation. Brother against brother, world against world, light against dark -- Shining Force set the standard and inspired other franchsies like Ogre Battle,Final Fantasy Tactics, Advance Wars, among many others.

Shining Force recieved a remake back in 2004 which was re-released in 2010. But with the success of the Fire Emblem series, it's a foregone conclusion that Shining Force would find success among modern gaming audiences. It wouldn't even need to change much -- some anime-style cutscenes, a more elaborate plotline, and you're good to go.


Altered Beast

Developer: Sega
North American Release Date: August 14, 1989

Altered Beast may go down in history as the weirdest pack-in game ever. Who would have imagined that the Genesis would go on to be as successful as it was when it initially came with this absolutely bizarre game where sexy, shirtless men turn into werewolves and dragons and things?

Weird though it was, Altered Beast was definitely interesting -- and fun! It also had really hilarious voice effects. It would open with a voice saying "Rise from your grave". Total honesty time -- my friends all parroted it as "Rise and be gay" which was pretty funny at the time. Also, again -- sweaty men in loincloths doing scandalous high-kicks is pretty gay.

And as an adult man who finds some other adult men appealing, I guess what I'm saying is, "more of this incredibly gay game, please". There was a non-sequel in 2005, but how about a real Altered Beast sequel, one where sweaty hot dudes run around fighting thing suntl they beastmode themselves into hunky were -creatures. That wouldn't just be good for gaming-- that would be good for the world, friends.


Beyond Oasis

Developer: Ancient
North American Release Date: March 15,1995

Imagine if Disney's Aladdin was an acion RPG game in the style of The Legend of Zelda -- that's basically Beyond Oasis. A game that marries fun fights with challenging puzzles, Beyond Oasis might seem a little derivative at first, but its mix of unique enemy sprites and some almost beat-em up style attacks makes it stand out from the crowd. And it certainly stands out on the Genesis, a system that wasn't exactly known for action RPGs.

Other than a prequel game on the Saturn, Beyond Oasis hasn't seen a return since 1996. Considering how popular action adventure games are (and have been) on modern consoles, it feels like Beyond Oasis is destined for a return. Prince of Persia got a stellar 3D actioner in 2003, Beyond Oasis deserves its chance to do something similarly fun now.


Comix Zone

Developer: Sega Technical Institute
North American Release Date: August 2, 1995

X-Men Apocalypse is in theaters, books come poly-bagged, and Savage Dragon is still on the stands -- yup, comic books are back in the 90s in a terrible yet delightful way. And one the best comic-related 90s things was Comix Zone, a game where you play a starving artist who gets dragged into his own comic after one of its panels gets struck by lightning. Yes. Really.

Comix Zone is a unique action game in that, while much of the gameplay boils down to punching bad guys in the face, there's also a decent amount of puzzles to solve. And, since you're inside of a comic, you get to travel from panel-to-panel and from page-to-page. Visually, it's a dynamic and exciting conceit, one that has never quite been done the same way again. In fact, the only game to come close to Comix Zone was Viewtiful Joe, a game whose franchise started in 2003.

If Apocalypse can be in a big budget movie and DC can recycle the Death of Superman storyline in Batman v Superman, then Sketch Turner (yes, that is your protag's name) and Comix Zone can come back, too.


Gunstar Heroes

Developer: Treasure
North American Release Date: September 9, 1993

If Treasure delivered a baby whose parents were Contra and Sonic the Hedgehog, that child would be Gunstar Heroes. A lightning fast shooting platformer with wepons fire everywhere and giant boss battles, Gunstar Heroes is still considered, nearly a quarter century after the fact, to be one of the most original and best video games ever made.

It got a pseudo 3D version on Nintendo's 3DS in 2015. That's about the size of it. I know both Contra and Sonic have struggled to have successful sequels, but that doesn't mean one of the most beloved games of all time shouldn't give a sequel a chance. The worst possible outcome is it won't be good and you can just go back to playing the original which is still available on many, many consoles. And Steam. 


Herzog Zwei

Developer: Technosoft
North American Release Date: April, 1990

Command and Conquer. Brutal Legend. Starcraft. Warcraft. All of these beloved games and franchises owe a debt to Herzog Zwei, one of the best (if not the first) action real time startegy games ever produced.

And almost no one heard of it, let alone played it back in the day. Maybe it was the difficult-to-pronounce name, maybe it was that Genesis was still considered to be mostly an arcade port system, but Herzog got very little marketing love and so it was a dud in 1990.

But as the years have gone on and more game developers have admited to being influeced by it, more and more people are discovering Herzog Zwei even now. It's got depth of play with multiple stages, it's got a solid two-player mode and you get to play a flying mech that drops off weaponry in order to destroy an enemy base. It sounds simple, but the game is deceptively hard to master.

If there's never a sequel, you could just keep playing Herzog Zwei forever, but if Warcraft can keep going then I hope Herzog will have it's day again. As of now, the closest thing to a sequel is AirMech, a free-to-play game with some similar mechanics. I think Zwei can do better, don't you?



Developer: BlueSky Software
North American Release Date: October 24, 1995

While Nintendo and Rare pushed the SNES to 3D graphics previous thought impossible with cutesy Donkey and Diddy Kong, Sega and Bluesky performed a similar trick with a run-and-gun robot called Vectorman. 

It's 2049 and humans have left Earth after ruining it (seems plausible) and left behind a team of robots to clean up the mess in humanity's absence. Sounds like a cool plan, right? Very realistic, if you believe that humanity is smart emough for that kind of foresight. But it all goes awry when Raster, the bot who's in charge of the whole operation, accidentally combines with a nuke and turns evil. But, wait, there's more! Raster changes his name to Warhead. YUP.

Anyway, you're Vectorman and you blow up evil robots to protect the Earth for humanity's eventual return. Kind of a bummer job unless you like being a robot who explodes things. Hi, I just described every twelve year old ever.

There was also a sequel where you fight... mutant bugs? Sure. The point is, the game is fast and fun, involved some high quality graphics for the time, and was yet another strong alternative to the "why does everybody love this guy" Sonic the Hedgehog.

There was supposed to be a third Vectorman but it was canceled years ago. Considering that the game could be in actual 3D now, it feels like a reboot could and should be in the cards. Call him Voxelman! And he'd do battle against the villanous Megaflop! Call me, big time video game executives.


Lunar: The Silver Star

Developer: Game Arts
North American Release Date: December 1, 1993

Okay. This is a Sega CD game. However, considering that the Sega CD was not a dedicated console and required the Genesis to work I AM COUNTING IT. And the reason I'm counting it is specifically for the Lunar series. Of all the RPGs of the 90s, this one was arguably one of the most fun and cinematic. Disney meets Ghibli, with all the trappings of console RPGs of the time, Lunar is so beloved that it actually keeps getting remade over and over again. The problem is, the remakes are (with the exception of the PSX version) never any good. And, in the case of the 2010 PSP remake, simply reuse animation assets from earlier versions. All of which ignores the fact that Lunar's superior sequel, Eternal Blue, was only remade once.

Dragonmasters, goddesses, mages, cocky heroes, a floating city, fallen heroes -- you name it, Lunar's got it. And with most of the localizations done by Working Designs, Lunar had a modern sense of humor, too.

With stunningly animated games like Ni no Kuni setting the stage, it makes sense for a full remake of Lunar to happen now, with beefed up battle systems and full 1080p animated cutscenes. And, more importantly, a return of Eternal Blue and maybe even, gasp, a Lunar III. Hey, a guy can dream.