The SEGA Genesis (also known as Mega Drive) is fondly remembered as one of the best consoles ever made by the Japanese publisher. While it was created to compete with Nintendo's NES, it ended up being pitted against the Super NES. Although Big N's 1990 home console became more popular and more powerful, Genesis still has a decent library of games to make up for it.
Many of these franchises continue to live on, while others have faded into obscurity. The Expansion Pack add-on for the Nintendo Switch Online subscription model for the Nintendo Switch allows fans to revisit these Genesis classics. Players can enjoy a curated selection of over 20 games across SEGA's third console (and more from Nintendo's own retro systems).
With that being said, here are five must-play experiences in NSO's SEGA Genesis lineup.
Top 5 SEGA Genesis games to play on Nintendo Switch Online
5) Gunstar Heroes
When you craved fast-paced action games back in the 90s and 2000s, Treasure was the go-to developer for such experiences. The Tokyo-based developer is known for a plethora of amazing games that didn't just satisfy gamers' adrenaline itching but also pushed gaming hardware to the limits. One such gem to land on Genesis was Gunstar Heroes.
It is a run & gun sidescroller, not unlike Konami's Contra. Similarly, the game was renowned for its high level of difficulty. The bosses, in particular, were creatively designed, and the visuals were also some of the best on the console. It also includes a two-player co-op. Gunstar Heroes was also the very first game the team made and received critical acclaim for.
4) Streets of Rage 2
As a sequel to 1991's Streets of Rage, this was a 1992 entry. SEGA improved upon the original's formula and even added two new characters: Max "Thunder" Hatchet and Eddie "Skate" Hunter. The latter is also the younger brother of the series' main character, Axel Hunter. The narrative is set after the first game when protagonists Axel and Blaze are kicked back into the heat of things just when they thought things were calming down.
Mr. X and The Syndicate from the first game are back for revenge after their defeat and the duo must take them down yet again. The gameplay is a brutal yet addictive beat 'em up. Axel and others will traverse levels and beat up musclebound goons while gulping down tasty food that pops out of odd locations to gain health.
Each of the four playable characters are unique in their own way with different playstyles. The series is known for its challenging difficulty, something both this game and 2020's Streets of Rage 4 deliver in spades.
3) Castlevania: Bloodlines
Konami's Castlevania series of action platformers may have hit it off with Symphony of the Night on PS1, but the older entries are solid too. Bloodlines was released in 1991 as a SEGA Genesis exclusive. Set in 1917, it features two vampire hunters on a journey to prevent Count Dracula from being resurrected.
Players play as one of the two descendants of the series' iconic Belmont family: the whip-wielding John Morris and spear-brandishing Eric Lecarde. The gameplay once again sees players move through levels, collecting pickups to power weapons and beating enemies that pop up across the screen.
They also play slightly differently, with unique attributes and the ability to access different areas of the game world. As is the norm with the series, there are also challenging minibosses and bosses to face.
2) Contra: Hard Corps
Contra is another beloved Konami IP. At this point, the series has frankly deteriorated in quality, with 2019's abysmal Contra: Rogue Corps. However, one can still revisit the classics for perfection.
Contra: Hard Corps for the SEGA Genesis is one of the more visually impressive titles on the system. Narrative-wise, the titular Contra Hard Corps must deal with the havoc caused by a notorious hacker who reprograms the city's machinery to go rogue.
There are four unique characters to pick from, including a robot and a werewolf. Each has unique weapons and at certain points in the game, players can even pick an option to branch the level out. This adds replayability to a very challenging game. The same beloved run & gun formula is accounted for with the powerup system, and so are the unforgiving boss fights. But there are quality-of-life improvements as well, like a sliding ability to move out of harm's way.
1) Sonic the Hedgehog 2
After the universal acclaim of the first game from SEGA, a sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog was inevitable. Released just a year after the first, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 has everyone's favorite blue hedgehog face off against the villainous Dr. Robotnik and his world-domination plans. To counter the evil Doctor's ultimate Death Egg machine, Sonic must collect seven Chaos Emeralds and harness their power.
This entry is renowned for debuting the fan-favorite character Tails the Fox. Players can also spin dash to gain momentum for a boost while stationary. The core gameplay follows the "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" mantra, so it's more of the same as the first.
Players will traverse across levels, jumping on enemies, collecting coins and picking up speed to charge across winding paths. There's also a co-op element in the game as a second player can plug in a controller to control Tails.
Overall, the game was a massive success for SEGA, just like the original, to no one's surprise. It is also included in the recently announced Sonic Origins collection for current platforms, including Nintendo Switch.
Note: The article reflects the writer's own views.