The Sega Mega Drive has a special place in the hearts of gamers the world over.
Beloved by millions despite its limited 16-bit graphics, it was a games system that sparked the famous “Console Wars” of the 1990s against the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and one that helped a blue hedgehog called Sonic become a global icon.
Nearly three decades on from the Mega Drives original release and it would appear that a revival of sorts is on the cards.
Watermelon Games, a development company specialising in old school titles that was born out of an online message board discussion between Sega fans, is about to bring the Mega Drive kicking and screaming into the 21st century with the release of an entirely new game.
Paprium is a beat-em-up in the grand tradition of Sega favourites like Streets of Rage and Final Fight. A retro joy to behold, it’s already generating plenty of positive buzz.
So when loaded approached them about collaborating on a countdown of the best Mega Drive games of all time, they were only too happy to oblige, and quickly set about polling their fans and followers to find out the answers. These are the results, in no particular order.
Sonic may have started it all, with Sonic 2 introducing the character of Tails and a two-player format, but it was Sonic 3 that the spinning ball of blue really kicked things up a gear.
Streets of Rage 2
Another sequel, Streets of Rage 2 is remembered fondly by pretty much anyone who has ever played it. Close to perfection as a beat-em-up, the addition of characters Max and Skate proved a masterstroke with the game’s colourful, inventive levels and killer soundtrack still worth revisiting today.
Contra Hard Corps/Probotector
An underrated gem, this run and gun-style shoot-em-up boasted some memorable characters and levels that make it well worth a revisit. Another Mega Drive game with a great soundtrack.
Streets of Rage may be everyone’s favourite beat-em-up franchise, but the true grandaddy of the genre is Golden Axe, which remains a timeless slice of Lord of the Rings-style ass-kickery.
Shining Force II
Sega’s answer to Zelda, this role playing game is an enduring favourite among Mega Drive fans, boasting a tactical edge that its Nintendo-based rival lacked. Much longer and free-roaming than the original, many an hour could be wiled away on this particular gem.
Shinobi is a word that will bring a smile to the face of many a Mega Drive fan, but it was only with the third instalment in the franchise that developers Megasoft came close to something approaching 16-bit perfection. Faster and smoother than it’s predecessor, the game was the perfect blend of action and cool ninjitsu moves. Because every kid loved martial arts back in the early 90s.
Metal Slug really does have nothing on this run-and-gun shooter, which maintains the same sense of fast-paced frenetic fun as the Namco favourite. Initially rejected by 12 developers before finding a home with Treasure and M2, Gunstar Heroes’s original end villain was actually a character closely resembling Hitler. Obviously that was quickly and quietly changed.
Phantasy Star III
Another excellent RPG, Phantasy Star III was the most expansive and creative title in the series yet, boasting a familiar story about a prince rescuing his bride to be, set in as rich and immersive a world as you are likely to find on a 16-bit console. Alas, it also cost £50 upon release.
Thunder Force III
Proof that sometimes the simplest games are the best, Thunder Force III was as straightforward a scrolling shooter game as they come, but was not only enjoyable but kind of addictive, with five challenging worlds/levels to complete.
Another imaginative and inventive action RPG, Landstalker was hailed as one of the games of the year when it was first released in 1993 and still holds up well for anyone seeking some retro gaming thrills.
This slick, modern entry in the listing only arrived on the scene in 2010 and represents WaterMelon’s first attempt at an RPG title for the Mega drive and beyond.
Telling the story of three friends on a mission to find a rare herb, the game was notable for offering the option of utilising the often forgotten Sega CD expansion device, primarily to improve the game’s audio capabilities. It combines for a memorable RPG that’s well worth trying out, if you haven’t already.
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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.