In the first half of the 1990s in the US, Sega’s Genesis proved that Nintendo wasn’t the only kid on the block that could deliver quality games. They had an aggressive ad campaign showing they meant business and heavily emphasized on their superior processing by simply screaming blast processing in their commercials. It sparked the debate of Nintendo vs. Sega during recess or in the cafeterias.
However, just like how the original NES was called the Famicom in Japan, the Genesis was known as the Mega Drive in Japan, Europe, and South America. Not only that, the games exclusive overseas are distinct to the point that it gives the Mega Drive a distinct identity beyond its different name. So what are some games that American gamers can check out for the Mega Drive beyond Sonic, Streets of Rage, and Comix Zone? Read our list to find out!
10. Double Dragon II: Revenge
- Publisher: PalSoft
- Developer: Technos
- Release Date: Dec 20, 1991
While Double Dragon is one of the most iconic games of the 1980s and 1990s, one installment that never saw the light of day in the US and that is the Mega Drive release of Double Dragon II. This release was intended to be an arcade perfect representation of the original game while the NES releases were their own titles. If you have played any Double Dragon game, this plays like the rest of them where you go around town and beat up a stock of villains with whacky names. And as a franchise staple, it’s going to be a difficult road to the end because enemies are going to swarm you!
Many fans have been split about the quality of this installment but its rarity is enough to be considered a collector’s item. The game was advertised to be an arcade perfect port but back in those days, you had to take that saying with a heavy grain of salt. What enrages fans of this game is that it doesn’t live up to being what it is advertised due to the graphics and sound not being a true representation of the original arcade game. While ET for the Atari may be considered one of the worst games ever, its notoriety only helped its legacy. Double Dragon II: Revenge for the Mega Drive is considered one of those games and at times, you just can’t help but get a game because of its bad reviews. Due to its less than stellar reception, it was never released in the US. However, dedicated fans of Double Dragon still love it as a pure Mega Drive title as opposed to being an attempted arcade port.
9. Golden Axe III
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sega
- Release Date: Jun 25, 1993
The Golden Axe series has always received the highest of praises that its first two games hit stateside. Unfortunately, its third installment didn’t get an official US release. If you’ve played the first two games, this game largely plays the same way but with some notable differences. For starters, this game features new characters and allows you to take multiple paths within a level. However, a major source of controversy is the removal of charging magic attacks, a popular move from Golden Axe II.
In the end, the nature of the game lives up to the original two by allowing you to play as a swordsman, giant, and beast man as you face off against skeletons and other creatures of the night. Each character brings a special ability with their throws and jumps. On a sad note, some fans feel it didn’t really advance the franchise. Even so, other fans feel some of the distinct features do balance some of the criticized ones. So if you feel like your Golden Axe is incomplete without III, then feel free to get it.
8. Zero Wing
- Publisher: Toaplan
- Developer: Toaplan
- Release Date: May 31, 1991
A good number of you readers are probably familiar with the meme, “All Your Base Are Belong to Us.” Since it has been one of the Internet’s most famous memes from 2001, many know it comes from a European release to a Mega Drive game known as Zero Wing, a side scrolling rail shooter. But what makes Zero Wing a worthy Mega Drive game? It’s a pretty active game that has you on your toes from level one to level eight. If you’re familiar with the genre through other famous scrolling shooters such as Darius, then you can instantly get into it. Throughout the game, you can acquire various upgrades to your spaceships such as multi-directional cannons, automatic homing missiles, and heavy-duty beam weapons. You can even use a tractor beam to capture an enemy and use it as a shield.
Unfortunately, if you get hit once, you lose a life so be attentive at all times! In addition to its simple gameplay, Zero Wing lives up to the legacy of the Mega Drive’s use of music with its distinct soundtrack that makes you feel like you’re in the club. And in case you wanted to know, you can import this game and play on your American Genesis without the use of any converters! So if you can get this game, get it!
7. Hokuto no Ken: Shinseiki Ura Kyoushi Arjui Densetsu
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sega
- Release Date: Jul 1, 1989
While it was adapted in the US as Last Battle, all of its references to Hokuto no Ken are taken out. In the original release, the story adapts the Hokuto no Ken 2 anime series as you encounter Falco, Hyo, and Kaiou. The game plays as your standard platform where you journey through the post-apocalyptic world of 200X. As Kenshiro, you strike down foes with his deadly Hokuto Shinken fighting style. While Last Battle has enemies fly off-screen when they are punched, in Hokuto no Ken, their heads explode like in the anime and manga!
Fans can say this game had fatalities before Mortal Kombat made them cool. While fatalities were more of a secret feature in Mortal Kombat, it’s just the name of the game in Hokuto no Ken. So if you want to be fightin’ in the eighties (as the lyrics to Hokuto no Ken 2 would say), get Hokuto no Ken for the Mega Drive. On the downside, due to the game being released in the console’s beginning, its graphics aren’t to the level of the Mega Drive’s later releases but the sprites are excellent enough for fans to recognize the characters and the exploding heads get the job done in grabbing its audience.
6. Devil Hunter Yohko (Mamono Hunter Yohko)
- Publisher: NCS
- Developer: KLON
- Release Date: Mar 22, 1991
Another group of you readers that are long time anime fans have probably seen this classic anime and there happens to be a Mega Drive game for it. In this game, you assume the role of the titular Yohko as you fight against demons. So if you want to play a game akin to the likes of Act Raider and/or Ghouls ‘N Ghosts but as a schoolgirl in a red Chinese dress, this is the game to play.
The resolution and contrast perfectly bring a great sense of visuals to a rather dark and hellish world, and Yohko will immediately be recognizable to fans of the anime. The designs of the monsters are taken from the anime and are pretty vicious and scary. The game is easy to control and get into if you’re familiar with Act Raider (except there is no world building). The soundtrack perfectly sets its dark and intense mood and knows when to change when you enter a boss battle. If you dig games where you can play as a high school demon slayer, then check this game (and original anime) out.
5. Dragon Ball Z: Buyu Retsuden
- Publisher: Bandai
- Developer: TOSE
- Release Date: Apr 1, 1994
While Dragon Ball Z didn’t become a hit in North America until the early 2000s, it was a big hit in Asia, Europe, and South America, the prior decade. While a majority of anime adaptations in the 1990s were being made for the Super Famicom in Japan where that console dominated, the Mega Drive was a bigger hit in Europe and South America. In fact, this Dragon Ball Z game for the Mega Drive was mostly made for the European and South American fans in mind due to the console’s superior popularity in those regions.
While Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat may have been at war at what was the best fighting game ever, Dragon Ball Z: Buyu Retsuden, unfortunately, flew under the radar. While Mortal Kombat had fatalities and Street Fighter had super finishing combos, Dragon Ball Z allowed you to fly. If in the event one character flew in the air and one character stayed on the ground, the screen would split vertically. If one character tried a Kamehameha from the air, the opponent on the ground could either counter the Kamehameha with their attack, attempt to block or move out of the way. Or if you want to get your opponent’s defense down, use a Taiyou Ken. For its time, it was the ultimate Dragon Ball game and did things differently from your traditional 2D fighter, which is why we recommend this game.
4. Panorama Cotton
- Publisher: SunSoft
- Developer: Success
- Release Date: Aug 12, 1994
So what do you get when you mix rail shooters like Space Harrier and 1990s magical girl anime? You get Panorama Cotton! As Cotton, you fly on her broom and fly through crazy magical worlds and shoot down incoming enemies. The graphics perfectly capture the spirit of 1990s anime and its trippy use of colors is an amazing high in itself. The game scales at a fast pace but not fast enough to make you puke or have a headache. You can travel through the deserts, the night skies, and other stages that are hard to put into words other than you have to see this game for yourself.
The sound effects for the voices are at a comparable level you would hear in a CD game, and isn’t way too modulated like you would hear in other cartridge games of the times that would attempt to have speech. The music has a great balance that matches the intensity of the pace but also has a spirited feel that suits the cuteness of Cotton. In addition to playing as Cotton, if you get 1,000,000 points, you can play as Silk, her fairy. So if you want intense action and moe witches 90s style, Panorama Cotton is a top recommendation for the Mega Drive.
3. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon
- Publisher: Ma-Ba
- Developer: Angel (Bandai)
- Release Date: Jul 8, 1994
This sole Sailor Moon game for the Mega Drive is a Beat ‘Em Up that retells the events of the first season. In addition to Sailor Moon, players have the option of playing as the rest of the Sailor Senshi. While it is a Beat ‘Em Up, the bad news is that it’s only one player. In this game, you explore Tokyo and face off against the evil forces of Queen Beryl and the Dark Kingdom. However, if in the event you play the game on hard, you do have the chance to face off against Queen Metallia. When this Sailor Moon game as a Beat ‘Em Up, it’s straight to the point and it’s everything you could expect if you have any familiarity with the Beat ‘Em Up genre and the Sailor Moon franchise. The controls are easy to pick up and the graphics perfectly capture the anime.
2. Yu Yu Hakusho: Sunset Fighters (Yu Yu Hakusho: Makyo Toitsusen)
- Publisher: Sega (Japan), Tec Toy (South America)
- Developer: Treasure
- Release Date: Sept 30, 1994 (Japan), Dec 1999 (South America)
20 years ago, the only Shonen anime that came close to Dragon Ball Z was Yu Yu Hakusho. Yu Yu Hakusho is notably famous for using tournament story arcs and it would only be natural to adapt the series into a fighting game. Thankfully, the Mega Drive has one with Makyo Toitsusen. You think Capcom’s X-Men vs. Street Fighter was the first to do 2 vs. 2? In fact, this version of YYH does not only feature doing 2 vs. 2, you can even do dramatic battles like in Street Fighter Alpha 3 (as in up to 1 vs. 3)! If you have the adapter that allows you to play four players, you have that option! If you are familiar with old school 2D fighters, this game is no different from the rest so it’s easy to get into.
The graphics and sounds effects are a perfect representation of the anime. The stages can actually change between day and night between the middle of the fight, which adds a bit of novelty to show the power of the Mega Drive. While it may not allow you to fly like in DBZ, Yu Yu Hakusho allows you to jump to a higher plane of the stage to dodge like in later installments of Fatal Fury. Many of the cast members such as Nozomu Sasaki are back to provide the screams of Rei Gun when he does shoot it, and it’s always a joy to hear Shigeru Chiba’s bombastic performance as Kuwabara. For YYH fans, get this game now!
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Game Freak
- Release Date: Jul 22, 1994
Before Game Freak and Satoshi Tajiri became a household name through the Pokemon franchise, they made Pulseman for the Mega Drive. Its presentation is the ultimate representation of the Mega Drive console with its color palette and its heavy bass soundtrack. The game feels as if you entered a dance club where you can party like it's 1994. Ultimately, think of Pulseman as a mix between Mega Man and Sonic. It shares many of Mega Man’s plot elements where he faces a mad scientist and allows you to choose your level (with a cheat code). Its pace is largely like Sonic where you move really fast and with the right momentum, you can roll into a ball and take down enemies. So if you want the pinnacle of old school platform games, Pulseman is it.
Though we cannot recommend where you can find some retro Mega Drive games in South America or Europe but Japan, we can easily tell you where you can get them. You can easily get some Mega Drives games at Akihabara in Tokyo or Denden Town in Osaka. In both Japanese metropolises, you can visit a store called Super Potato, which specializes in retro games going back to the eighties. There you can find Mega Drive consoles and cartridges for reasonable prices. There are other stores in Japan such as Mandarake (we strongly recommend the Akihabara and Nakano locations) and Mandai Shoten, which is in select locations nationwide.
So does our list satisfy you? What about some of you hardcore Mega Drive fans? What do you recommend? Give us some of your recommendations in the comments.