Happy birthday to the Sega Genesis! 25 years ago today, Sega launched its 16-bit behemoth in Japan under the name Mega Drive, and the rest of the world followed over the next year or so.
But amidst reliving memories of console wars gone by -- as you argue about whether or not "blast processing" was cooler than "Mode 7" or whatever -- always remember that in the end, it's all about the games. And wow, did Sega Genesis have some great games. Don't take our word for it, though! Take your own.
We've compiled a list of the most beloved Sega Genesis games based on your feedback. Of course, the USgamer staff weighed in as well, but the following 10 Sega Genesis and five Sega CD games really represent your picks. Well, OK, it's more than 10 and five... there were a bunch of ties for the tenth and fifth spots on the lists, and rather than placing those games in some kind of grim retrospective deathmatch to determine the winner, we just included them all. After all, this is a celebration of games. The more, the merrier.
(And no, we didn't include 32X games. We couldn't think of five worth including.)
Not happy with your peers' picks? Cranky to see a personal favorite slighted? Let us know what should have made the cut!
1. Gunstar Heroes
The easy winner, Sega's most beloved 16-bit game almost didn't see release in the U.S. -- and what a tragedy that would have been. Created by Treasure, a group of hyper-talented programmers and designers who got fed up making sequels to NES games, Gunstar Heroes set the high-water mark for Genesis technology. Each and every stage featured an insane gimmick that by all rights should have been impossible on the system, from a punch-up on the wings of a wildly tilting airplane to the infamous Seven Force, a running stage-long boss fight against a bizarre conglomerate creature that constantly changed shapes to challenge you with new battles. In one level, there's even a board game to master. Endlessly inventive, technically dazzling, and sophisticated like no one's business, Gunstar Heroes remains the gold standard for 2D action games.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Nipping at Gunstar Heroes' heels was the second and -- indisputably -- best Sonic the Hedgehog game, Sonic 2. The perfect balance of substance and simplicity, Sonic 2 expanded considerably on its predecessor's arcade action, but hadn't yet become so bogged down in extra features that it sacrificed the series' essential focus on momentum and movement. The asymmetrical multiplayer design wasn't just a technical tour-de-force (the split-screen presentation is really something to behold when both players are going full guns), it also gave younger siblings a way to join in the action without crimping their more capable older brother or sister's style. Colorful, challenging, and packed with countless secrets, Sonic 2 is still the game Sonic Team should be aiming to beat even after all these years.
3. Phantasy Star IV
The Genesis may not have been known for its role-playing games, but the handful that it offered stood on par with anything that Super NES fans enjoyed. Phantasy Star IV brought the long-running RPG series to a rousing finale, featuring callbacks to the story explored in the first two games but greatly toning down the awkward unfriendliness of Phantasy Star II's design. Meanwhile, its manga-style cutscenes helped bring the story to life in a way that wobbling sprites alone could never have accomplished. The game was impossibly pricey for its time, but as the dozens of fans who named it as a favorite in our poll can attest, it was worth every cent.
Check out the rest of the top Sega Games at US Gamer.