The Sega Genesis is one of my favorite home consoles of all time. It was my first 16-bit console, but there’s a funny story behind that. It was also my first exposure to Sega in general, which went on to become an obsession throughout the remainder of their console manufacturing days.
Backing up to the funny story, I actually asked my parents for a TurboGrafx 16 for my birthday after seeing screenshots of Bonk’s Adventure and some other games in a magazine. However, they struggled to find a store that even sold the console. Instead, they brought home a Sega Genesis, which had Sonic the Hedgehog as a pack-in game, along with Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, DeCap Attack, and the incredibly shitty baseball game Hardball.
This isn’t *my* Sega Genesis, by the way. It’s just a pic I found on some website that shows estimate value pricing.
I had seen Sonic in magazines too so I was familiar with the Genesis, but I wasn’t sure why I was getting one (what a brat I was). I loved Ghosts ‘n Goblins on NES, though, and couldn’t wait to hook the console up to the living room TV and play this beautiful new entry. It blew my 10-year-old mind, as did Sonic. The rest, as they say, is history!
Yet, despite my adoration of all things Sega, there are plenty of games on the almighty Genesis that I either never got around to or never finished.
I’d like to correct that with the following 10 games.
1. Landstalker (1993, Climax Entertainment)
This isometric action RPG sees the adventurer Nigel set off in search of the legendary treasure of King Nole. It was pretty popular when it was released, leading to a Japan-only spin-off on the Super Famicom and seeing its primary characters later appear in the Sega Dreamcast RPG Time Stalkers. The Sega Saturn game Dark Savior is also widely considered a spiritual successor since Landstalker never received a proper sequel.
You’ll explore caves and dungeons while battling monsters, solving puzzles, obtaining permanent stat boost items, and platforming. With Landstalker being viewed isometrically, it’s the latter aspect I’m mostly concerned with. On paper, this seems like something I’d love, but I’ve played other isometric platformers in the past and struggled immensely.
Average completion time: 18 hours
2. Light Crusader (1995, Treasure)
Legendary developer Treasure’s surprising entry into the realm of action RPGs was often overlooked due to its release during the Sega Genesis’s twilight years. The Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn had already been made available in the United States and both were at the center of my attention.
Here you play as Sir David, investigating the disappearance of the local townsfolk at the request of the king. What lies beneath the graveyard is a dungeon that ascends ever deeper, filled with monsters to slay and puzzles to solve.
Light Crusader apparently has quite a few RPG tropes, like magic, obtaining improved weapons and armor, item usage, and tackling the challenge of a Big Bad Evil.
Similar to Landstalker, this one is also played from an isometric perspective. It didn’t receive the critical reception I expected from a Treasure release, often being criticized for being too easy and kind of boring to play, but we’ll see.
Average completion time: 7 hours
3. El Viento (1991, Wolf Team)
Wolf Team is one of my favorite developers from the 16-bit and Sega CD era, but I can’t recall if I’ve ever finished all three games in what’s known by fans as the Earnest Evans Trilogy, which begins with El Viento.
This one is a traditional platform shooter with multiple stages and boss battles. El Viento takes plays during the 1920s where you play as the sorceress Anett Myer (known as Anett Futatabi in Japan and is the titular character for the trilogy’s finale on Sega CD). Your primary goal from a narrative perspective is to stop a cult (of which Al Capone is a member!) from summoning Hastur from the Lovecraft universe.
Yes, the same Hastur as The King in Yellow! Also, how awesome is that box art?
Average completion time: 1 hour
4. Alisia Dragoon (1992, Game Arts)
This revenge tale is another action platformer, putting you in the shoes of the titular Alisia. As the story’s heroine, you’ll blast away enemies by firing lightning from your hands and summoning the aid of four different dragons in hopes of confronting the ones who killed your father.
Unfortunately, most of the story is apparently just printed in the instruction manual, which explains the game’s shorter runtime.
Average completion time: 3 hours
5. Monster World IV (1994 Japan exclusive, Westone)
Actually the 6th game in the Monster World universe, Monster World IV is mostly known for it being the only entry to never make it out of Japan until 2012 when it became available through the Wii’s virtual console. It’s also the final game in the series to be developed by the legendary Westone, who went on to create the artistically similar arcade platformer Clockwork Aquario that would be canceled prior to its release, despite being finished.
Related: Clockwork Aquario finally saw its release just a few weeks ago, thanks to ININ Games! It’s wonderful and you can read my review of it right here.
Here you play as Asha, a genie’s apprentice, who answers the spirits’ call for help throughout the world. Aiding her is her faithful companion Pepeloogo, who can shield Asha from falling rocks, allow her to double jump and glide in mid-air, and access otherwise unreachable areas.
Similar to other games in the series, this is an action RPG with heavy platform elements. You’ll obtain new weapons and armor, track down hidden life point upgrades, and tackle some tricky bosses.
It recently appeared on the Sega Genesis Mini as a bonus game, along with Tetris, as well as an exclusive bonus on the recent physical release of its remake, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World. I believe it was also a part of the digital-only Monster World vintage collection on PS3 and Xbox 360.
Average completion time: 8-9 hours
6. Arcus Odyssey (1991, Wolf Team)
As I attempt to fill the remaining gaps in my Wolf Team collection, Arcus Odyssey makes this list despite being a game I’m quite familiar with. I’ve never actually finished it, though.
This is an action RPG that lets you choose between four different characters with their own unique playstyles. You’ll hack, slash, shoot, and fling magic as you make your way through various isometric dungeons and tackle their respective bosses.
As the story goes, the evil sorceress Castomira was defeated by Princess Leaty and her soul imprisoned in the Dark World. Just in case she reappears, Princess Leaty created a magical sword that’s sure to send her packing back to witch jail, but far off into the future, it’s stolen by Castomira’s devoted followers. It’s your job as one of the story’s heroes to prevent Castomira’s resurrection and ensure peace remains in Arcus.
Average completion time: 2 hours
7. Pulseman (1995 via Sega Channel only, Game Freak)
This platform shooter sure looks a lot like Mega Man, right? It’s noteworthy for a few reasons, though.
For starters, it was only released outside of Japan in North America, but only through the Sega Channel (much like Alien Soldier). If you don’t know what that is, it was basically Game Pass but existed in the mid-90s. You’d buy a Sega Channel adapter, which was inserted into the cartridge slot, pay a $25 activation fee and a $15 monthly fee, and connect to the channel with a coaxial cable. There were usually 50-70 games to play, along with demos and downloadable cheats. It was rad as hell, but my parents weren’t convinced.
The other noteworthy tidbit is that it was developed by Game Freak, who went on to create the Pokemon series!
There isn’t much else to explain here from a gameplay perspective. If you’re familiar with Mega Man, you know how this one plays.
Average completion time: 2 hours
8. Earnest Evans (1992, Wolf Team)
The 2nd game in the Earnest Evans Trilogy, but I’m kind of cheating by adding this one.
The reason is, the Sega Genesis version is just a straightforward action platformer that immediately throws you into stage after stage with little rhyme or reason. However, there was a Sega CD release in Japan that included actual cutscenes and story, and that’s the version I’ll likely end up playing if I can find a translation patch online. The trilogy’s finale, Anett Futatabi, is also only available on Sega CD.
I’ve heard this one described as a “QWOPlevania” due to how unorthodox the control scheme is, along with Evan’s use of a whip. Whether it sucks or not, it’s a Wolf Team game I’ve never played and I’d like to fix that.
Average completion time: 1-2 hours
9. Rent-a-Hero (1991 Japan exclusive, Sega AM2)
This one is an interesting action RPG that never made it out of Japan. What makes it interesting enough to track down the 2008 translation patch, though, is that its battle system is actually a 2D one-on-one fighter, like Street Fighter.
It sounds pretty silly too, with you playing as a guy living with his parents who mistakenly obtains a power suit instead of his pizza and has to take on quests in order to pay it off since the government forces you to keep it. I know that sentence was long, but I never said I was a good writer.
This is the longest game on the list so it’s not at the top of my to-play list, but I’m definitely interested in checking it out.
Average completion time: 32 hours
10. Dinosaurs for Hire (1993, Sega Interactive Development Division)
Based on the Malibu comic of the same name, Dinosaurs for Hire is basically prehistoric Contra where you play as three different dinosaurs and shoot down ninja-based enemies. It’s definitely silly, but it’s been compared to Contra numerous times and that’s one of my favorite games of all time.
Consider me intriguied.
Average completion time: 2 hours
There are definitely plenty of other Genesis games I’d like to check out next year, but these are my top 10. Have you played any of them? If so, what did you think?
I’m also open to recommendations for good games that fall into the hidden gems category (since I’m pretty familiar with the Genesis library in general).