By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief
In the second installment of Chi-Scroller’s “best true exclusives” series–the first was devoted to PS2 games–we’re looking at the 15 best for the Genesis/Mega Drive. A true exclusive means that the game can’t be found anywhere else: it wasn’t ported to or from another platform, it’s never been directly remade (officially), and it isn’t available on a digital storefront of any kind. In other words, the only way to play one of these true Genesis exclusives–beyond emulation–is to actually play them on a Genesis/Mega Drive.
15 – Dragon’s Revenge
After TG-16’s pinball classic Devil’s Crush was reworked into a Genesis game called “Dragon’s Fury,” that game got its own Genesis-exclusive sequel. It may not quite hold up to the quality of its predecessors, but Dragon’s Revenge is still solid and arguably better as a dedicated pinball game than the far more well-known Sonic Spinball.
14 – Sub-Terrania
On a system overrun with shmups, Sub-Terrania‘s call back to the multi-directional, gravity-based flight combat of games like Asteroids and Thrust was a nice change of pace for shooter fans. It is also the first credited work by famed composer Jesper Kyd of Assassin’s Creed and Borderlands fame.
13 – Tiny Toons Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure
There were a lot of Tiny Toons games released in proportion to the show’s rather short life, and a lot of them tend to blur together in people’s memories. But make sure that Buster’s Hidden Treasure is one that you keep separate in your mind from the rest, as it is a fantastic platformer and one of the better games based on the series.
12 – General Chaos
Come for the solid strategy action–among the easier-to-play RTSs for consoles–and stay for the hilarious story and satirical character archetypes. It’s too bad that the attempt to crowdfund a sequel fell short of its goal, but at least the original remains a blast to play (especially for those lucky enough to have a multiplayer adapter and three friends to battle against).
11 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Hyperstone Heist
While more of a compilation of levels and gameplay conceits from past TMNT games than a truly original title–and unarguably inferior to Turtles in Time—Hyperstone Heist is still a worthy addition to the half-shelled heroes’ beat-em-up legacy. At least it hasn’t been tainted by a lackluster remake…
10 – World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
While not quite as good as its predecessor, World of Illusion adds a fun co-op mode that makes up for the slight step down in quality over Castle. Chi-Scroller readers ranked the Sega-based Disney games among the best of the company’s video game adaptations, so even an “inferior” Sega Disney game is still one of the best Disney games of all time.
9 – Crusader of Centy / Soleil
Centy is not the most subtle of Zelda clones, going after A Link to the Past specifically. But taken on its own, it is an extremely-well made action/RPG that may not be as good as one of the greatest games ever made, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to put Centy on a list with all of the Zelda games and have it rank above at least a few of them; it’s that good.
8 – Herzog Zwei
It didn’t make my list of games that were underappreciated at the time but have since gained a positive reputation, but it certainly could have. Reviewers at the time were unfairly unkind to this ahead-of-its-time strategy game, but in revisiting it, a lot of gamers have come to appreciate how engaging and still-revolutionary it feels.
7 – Ranger X
A hybrid of Contra and a shmup (with a little Robocop thrown in), Ranger X is one crazy–and crazy fun–action game. It’s also frequently mentioned among the best-looking games on the Genesis, and another reason besides Sonic that we naively believed there was such a thing as a “blast processor” that allowed Genesis games to be so damn fast.
6 – Rocket Knight Adventures
While the Rocket Knight/Sparkster series would only stay Genesis-exclusive for its first installment, being the only exclusive by default isn’t the only reason RKA made this list. It deserves its inclusion–and high placement–because it is one of the best mascot platformers of the 16-bit era that wasn’t made by Nintendo or Sega.
5 – Shadowrun
Related to the SNES game of the same name in title only, Genesis’ Shadowrun game is the best video game ever made based on the classic tabletop RPG. An open-ended (for the time) action/RPG, the game captured the cyberpunk essence of the RPG as well as 16-bits allowed, and was a great change of pace for RPG fans burnt out on swords and sorcery.
4 – Thunder Force IV
I refuse to call this game by its stupid–and misspelled!–North American name, Lightening Force. Thunder Force IV is the best shmup on one of the best shmup systems of all time, with excellent action and an incredible soundtrack. It may not do anything groundbreaking, but what it does is offer a near-flawless shmup experience.
3 – X-Men 2: Clone Wars
The Genesis X-Men games bucked the trend of comic book games of the time by being more than just shallow beat-em-ups, with puzzles and depth more akin to an action/adventure game. The brilliant sequel is one of the few video games to feature a “cold open,” and also let you play as Magneto as well as underutilized X-Men like Psylocke and Beast.
2 – Contra: Hard Corps
Often unfairly written off as “that Genesis Contra game that isn’t as good as Contra III,” Hard Corps remains one of the most offbeat and unusual games in the franchise. It’s also one of the best, with its branching paths, playable characters that aren’t just the same two meat-heads, and visual trickery that pushes the Genesis to its limits.
1 – Castlevania: Bloodlines / New Generation
I got some flak for ranking Bloodlines as the 7th best Castlevania game of all time–above the almighty Castlevania IV, no less. Well, I stand by that, as well as being prepared to defend placing it as the best Genesis exclusive of all time. It’s not a traditional Castelvania game, but that’s exactly why it’s so great, much in the same vein as franchise left turns like Majora’s Mask and Super Mario Bros. 2 (US). That it remains something of a “forgotten” Castlevania game is an absolutely crime.
Before you fire off angry comments about the games I forgot, no, the Road Rash games are not true exclusives. They were all part of a compilation called EA Replay released for PSP. I can almost guarantee that 4 out of the 5 games you have already thought of in your head that should be on this list don’t meet my criteria for a “true exclusive.” But definitely let me know about that fifth game!
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