Sega, the once great Japanese console manufacturer who fell from grace in the spring of 2001 following a series of bad business decisions and failed hardware ventures, have often provided many of us with our most memorable gaming moments during our time spent as budding video game enthusiasts.
For me, and undoubtedly many others, the pinnacle of Sega console ownership arrived in form of the Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis in the US) in the winter of 1990. With it came a slew of launch titles which captivated us with their often fantastic 16-bit art design and timeless game play elements (admittedly with a few exceptions.)
Key titles of the Mega Drive launch lineup included the brilliant puzzler ‘Columns’; a game cartridge which spent much of it’s time locked in my own Mega Drive unit without removal.
Released alongside the charming ‘Columns’ was ‘Golden Axe’, a fantastic 2D side scrolling beat ’em up, featuring a diverse cast of wizards, elves and dwarves, each lovingly formed with wonderfully detailed sprites, drawn on a vibrant medieval backdrop.
Once again this launch title spent many hours out of its box, with it’s unforgettable musical score reverberating throughout our questionably decorated front room.
Following its launch period and the subsequent years thereafter, a number of stellar titles found their way to the Mega Drive over it’s seven year tenure, a tenure which held so many fond memories and unrivaled nostalgia for both myself and many other like-minded Sega supporters.
So, with this key fact in mind, I’m going to take a look at my top five Sega Mega Drive games that my readers should attempt to spend some time with.
It must be said that this isn’t necessarily a list of the absolute best titles for the system; neither are they in any particular order, but this a collection of cartridges that hold significantly positive memories for me whilst still being very much playable to this day.
‘Toejam & Earl’ is a title I look to replay at least once every year at an absolute minimum. This is due to a number of killer factors that make the first ‘Toejam & Earl’ title a nostalgic dream, a contemporary classic and a simple must buy; even to this day.
The top down exploratory, often addictive style of game play is accompanied by a well rounded learning curve and excellent two player split screen co-op features.
Those factors are complimented expertly by gorgeous artwork and a ‘rad’ funky/hip hop soundtrack throughout its run-time. With this, you will always find your adventure with the two funkiest aliens you’ll ever meet an audible and visual gaming treat.
My fondest memories of ‘Toejam & Earl’ involved the aforementioned co-op functions; namely teaming up with my older sister and attempting to assist ‘Toejam the Poindexter’ and ‘Earl the Dufus’ in their quest to find their missing spaceship parts across a randomly generated earth-like map.
Spending many hours together in front of our trusty old box television in the prominent living area of my first home will always allow me to look back at ‘Toejam & Earl’ with great joy and a feeling of nostalgic warmth.
Overall the game holds up brilliantly today and as mentioned previously is a must buy should you still own a Mega Drive console.
If you haven’t played Sonic the Hedgehog 2, then quite simply you cannot consider yourself a true video gamer.
Available in many different formats over the years, including on a number of Nintendo consoles in recent memory. Sonic 2 is a game that most will have played at some point in their lives.
Whilst many consider Super Mario World the better game; to which I may be inclined to agree nowadays, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 retains a key place in my gamer heart for various reasons.
To begin, like most Sonic players I was initially amazed with the speed of game play, level design and impressive 2D artwork. The fluidity and accuracy of the controls was also often spot on and rarely let me down, with any death usually resulting of my own accord; of which I’m not ashamed to say happened fairly often.
Sonic and his continual death cycle is a key factor in my nostalgia for the game itself, due to my general incompetence with a Sega Mega Drive pad in my hands at the time, my eldest sister used to assist me very regularly, helping me reach levels in the game that I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to reach.
This of course naturally led to boasting to my school friends about my great progress in the game at the time, however to this day I’ve always neglected to reveal that my ‘Big Sis’ had always given me a helping hand.
Rolling the clock forward to today, I can just about manage to finish the game myself, albeit with substantial difficulty, but as the years roll on, my reactions are slowing a bit too much and I’m finding that Sonic may actually be a bit too quick for me!
Ah, ‘Streets of Rage 2′, another beautifully crafted side scrolling beat em’ up title from Sega that has truly stood the test of time.
With a varied cast including a young street smart on roller skates, a professional wrestler, a deadly well rounded vixen and a white man who can’t jump, ‘Streets of Rage 2’ improved upon the original title in almost every conceivable way.
Adding impressive new villain sprites and an excellent repertoire of new special move sets in which to combat them with, Streets of Rage 2 is a brilliant example of game creation.
With characters controlling impressively, graphical prowess on fine form and the soundtrack being one of video gaming’s very best ever, ‘Streets of Rage 2’ could be considered as one of the greatest video games of all time.
Throwing into the mix a brilliant co-op system, of which much time was spent with my very best friend during my youth (@PixelJunkieDave on Twitter for those interested) the game could be considered near faultless.
A blast to play and released on various different formats over the years, if you haven’t played ‘Streets of Rage 2’ yet; what are you waiting for?
Zombies, or Zombies Ate My Neighbours as it was known in the US, is a top down adventure/shooter game set within various horror movie themed themes, with a cast of various types of B-Movie horror villains drawn in a beautifully arranged comic style.
Your goal, as the title would suggest, is to attempt to save various innocent victims, or ‘neighbours’ from being eaten by the various types of villains as mentioned above. Taking on a dark comedic tone throughout, ‘Zombies’ is an absolute blast to play. The games tight controls, gorgeous sprite detail and the accessible, yet increasingly difficult learning curve culminate in a fantastic experience playable cooperatively with a friend.
Many an hour was spent with various friends gathered around the TV watching each other play this classic, offering out pointers and assistance where necessary. I do vividly remember our unified shock upon reaching the ‘Titanic Toddler’ level and the subsequent hours trying to figure out how to best the giant child zipping across the screen at a ridiculous speed.
All in all, ‘Zombies’ is another stellar title that you should most definitely look at adding to your collection if you haven’t already.
To those who have played it, you don’t need to say it, the arcade version is MUCH better; I know. With that being said Sunset Riders is on my list as one of the best Mega Drive titles ever released because quite simply; it is.
Whilst the arcade format is my version of choice due to happy memories of a family holiday in Gran Canaria when I was much younger, spying an unoccupied kiosk in which I spent nearly all of my peseta allowance throughout the week on. The Mega Drive version is the closest I have come to that experience. This is due to its stunning colour palette, responsive control system and of course, power-ups from kissing the ladies!
Talking on the role of Billy or Cormano the Mexican gunslinger, the game takes you on a fast paced, 2D run n’ gun, side scrolling adventure. An adventure in which the difficulty is ramped up as the game progresses and being hit by one stray bullet will see you loose a life.
Local co-op, a feature missing in many of today’s current blockbusters, is well implemented and makes the game much more enjoyable, albeit substantially more hectic!
Difficulty aside, which can be adjusted in the in game options menu, Sunset Riders is an absolute joy to play and still holds firm as a must play title, even to this day.
So these are my top 5 most memorable Sega Mega Drive titles and a brief insight as to what these games meant to me.
What are some of your favourite video games and why do you hold them so dear?
Answer in the comments below, or you can find me on Twitter @DanRobertCam.