Best Sega Genesis Game From Each Year Of The Console’s Life


  • Sega Genesis revolutionized console gaming with iconic titles that still hold up today.
  • Underrated gems like Altered Beast and Phantasy Star 2 helped establish the Genesis in the global market.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 solidified Sega’s place in the console wars, introducing Tails and setting a new standard.

The launch of the Sega Genesis in 1989 was the beginning of a lot of things. It sparked the console wars, going toe-to-toe with the likes of the SNES. It introduced players to Sonic the Hedgehog, the chili dog-eating mascot destined to be Mario’s eternal rival. All the endless schoolyard debates on Sega versus Nintendo started right here.


Best Sega Genesis Games, Ranked

The console features several video games that are still considered shining examples of the medium.

What set the Sega Genesis apart from the SNES was largely due to its marketing. Everyone knew that only cool kids played Sega games, after all. It also had a massive game library over its near-decade lifespan. Each year saw a new iconic title come out, many of which still hold up today as some of the greats.

10 Altered Beast (1988)

A Greek Werewolf In Gaming

Nef from Altered Beast shooting lightning at the main character

  • Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS, NES, Sega Genesis, PS3, Xbox 360
  • Released: November 27, 1998
  • Developer: Sega
  • Genres: Beat ‘Em Up, Platform

Before this legendary system made its way to North America, it spent its first year of life making a name for itself in Japan under the Mega Drive name. One of the first games ever released on the Mega Drive was Altered Beast, a beat-em-up style game centered on a werewolf in Ancient Greece. By modern standards, the game itself is nothing special and didn’t connect too much with Japanese gamers at the time.

But what matters most about this underrated gem is how it helped sell the system. Once the Mega Drive was released outside of Japan (renamed the Sega Genesis in North America), Altered Beast found its audience. This popular title helped the Genesis find its footing in the global market, and it’s since had several remakes and sequels. It may not be the most revered title on the list, but it did help make the Genesis a household name.

9 Ghouls ‘N Ghosts (1989)

Spooky Fun A La Castlevania

Gameplay screenshot from Super Ghouls'n Ghosts

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Arcade , PS2 , Master System , Genesis , TurboGrafx-16 , iOS

October 29, 1988

As consoles began to steal the show from arcade games, it became common practice to port the latter to play on the former. After all, why not take games that were already successful and make them available to play at home?

That’s why it was a no-brainer that SEGA decided to open Genesis’s release by porting one of the most successful arcade games of all time. Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is the second game in the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series and is arguably the best. Players fight monsters of gothic horror legend, enjoying eerie levels and fun bosses in an epic side-scrolling platformer.

8 Phantasy Star 2 (1990)

An Early Example Of Turn-Based Strategy Done Right

Phantasy Star 2 Title Screen

As Baldur’s Gate 3 takes the modern gaming world by storm, it’s time to pay respects to the turn-based RPGs of yesteryear. The Phantasy Star series is still going strong to this day, thanks to its turn as a popular MMO. But the original Phantasy Star captivated gamers due to its sci-fi/fantasy setting with a female protagonist.

Its sequel, Phantasy Star 2, took what players loved and made it even bigger — literally. Its cartridge was the first of its kind to fit 6 megabytes, meaning it was really pushing the Genesis’s hardware to its limits. It was worth it, though. Phantasy Star 2 was a revolution for gaming and one of the most popular entries in the series.

7 ToeJam & Earl (1991)

Stranded In The Strange Alien World of California

ToeJam & Earl

  • Platforms: Sega Genesis, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii, PC, PS3
  • Released: October 15, 1991
  • Developer: ToeJam & Earl Productions
  • Genres: Roguelike, Action-Adventure

Before Sonic the Hedgehog, ToeJam and Earl were the original Sega mascots. Like the iconic blue blur, these aliens embodied the essence of what was cool in the 90s. A laid-back attitude and some sweet high tops.

Although their debut game didn’t exactly sell well originally, it quickly found its audience and rose to stardom. The simple premise of stranded aliens collecting pieces of their busted-up spaceship allowed for a lot of simple co-op fun. It also introduced an early example of random-level generation, allowing for a new experience each time.

6 Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (1992)

The Blue Blur Is Here To Stay

Sonic and Tails running up a steep hill in Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

November 21, 1992


While the original Sonic the Hedgehog is an undisputed classic, it was the sequel that cemented the franchise as one for the ages. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is widely considered to be a marked improvement, taking everything that fans loved about the first game and doing it even better. It also introduced gamers to Tails, Sonic’s tail-twirling sidekick that’s become as much a staple of the franchise as the hedgehog himself.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 quickly became one of the best-selling Genesis games of all time, keeping Sega ahead of the pack in the console wars. It may be an easier installment than the first, but it’s hard to deny its importance in video game history.

5 Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993)

Rescuing The Suburbs From The Undead All In A Night’s Work

Zeke and Julia on a trampoline in Zombies Ate My Neighbors art

Zombies Ate My Neighbors


Run and Gun

If kids in the 90s weren’t busy fighting zombies, they were playing games where other kids were busy fighting zombies. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a cult classic for many reasons. Its premise, rich graphics, tongue-in-cheek humor, and smooth gameplay are some of them.

But what gamers today really remember the game for is just how impossibly difficult it was. The first three levels are fine, but starting in level 4, players will start chewing their controllers in frustration. This is one of those retro games where beating it is an achievement gamers can brag about for weeks.

4 Sonic & Knuckles (1994)

Two-And-A-Half Games In One

Climbing trees in Sonic & Knuckles

Sonic & Knuckles

October 18, 1994


Back in the 90s, video game companies began to experiment with add-on technology that players could attach to their systems. Duck Hunt had the light gun to plug into the NES, and the Game Boy had a plug-in light for gaming past bedtime. But one awesome example people often forget is Sonic & Knuckles.


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This platformer and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 were made for each other — literally. Sega got so ambitious when making the game they had to split it into two and then package them together. The cartridges combined to create a Frankenstein Sonic 3 & Knuckles. As a bonus, players could also plug the game into Sonic 2 to play as Knuckles there. This game may as well have defined “replay value.”

3 Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)

A Creative Fighting Game That Offers A Great Deal Of Interactivity

Mortal Kombat 3

  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation, PS2, PSP, SNES, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Game Boy, GameCube, Xbox, DOS
  • Released: April 15, 1995
  • Developer: Midway Games
  • Genres: Action, Fighting

While most games in the Sega Genesis library were designed with younger audiences in mind, it wasn’t afraid to include games that made parents start sweating. Mortal Kombat 3 brought out a third helping of spine-ripping fatalities to the home console.

While not as revolutionary or celebrated as the franchise’s second installment, Mortal Kombat 3 still brought a lot to the table. Its most creative feature was the way levels could interact. Uppercut an opponent hard enough, and they can literally go flying into the next stage. Wiping enemies all over the map is certainly one way to shake up a game’s level progression.

2 NHL 97 (1996)

Leagues Above Other Shovelware Games

nhl 97 Cropped

  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation, SNES, Sega Genesis, DOS, Sega Saturn
  • Released: August 31, 1996
  • Developers: High Score Productions, Electronic Arts
  • Genre: Sports

As the Sega Genesis reached the end of its lifespan, it began using its final breaths to churn out sports games like there was no tomorrow. Most of these games received mixed reviews at best, but there were a few exceptions. One of them was NHL 97, the 6th installment in the classic NHL series.

Unlike many entries on this list, NHL 97 featured fully 3D graphics. Critics also praised the game for improving the opposing team’s AI and adding additional skills and features that weren’t present in previous installments, such as skill competitions and alternate jerseys. 1996 might not have been the Sega Genesis’s greatest year, but it’s clear EA Sports didn’t use that as an excuse to start phoning it in.

1 The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

An Iconic Franchise On An Iconic Console

The lost world: jurassic park logo

  • Platform: Sega Genesis
  • Released: September 16, 1997
  • Developer: Novotrade Software Kft.
  • Genre: Action-Adventure

Everything ends where it begins. As the Sega Genesis era came to a close, one of its final games was an adaptation of a popular arcade game. The Lost World: Jurassic Park took the fun side-scroller of capturing rogue dinosaurs and brought it home, including co-op capabilities.

While critics weren’t jumping for joy over the game (kind of like the movie it was loosely based off of), that didn’t matter to players at the time. They were too busy having fun, seeing who could catch their favorite dino buddy first. The Sega Genesis was all about creating fun memories for kids, and it lived up to that standard to the end of its days thanks to games like this.


Best Sega Genesis Strategy Games, Ranked

The Sega Genesis has been largely forgotten today, but many of the strategy games released for it helped define the genre.