The SEGA Genesis (also known as Mega Drive outside the U.S.) is one of the most popular consoles to date. I, personally, have the best memories playing its cartridges alongside my much-more-skilled brother – but who still hasn’t been able to beat me at Mortal Kombat II. If you loved SEGA as much as we did, you might be wondering what’s the best way to play Genesis games today. Don’t worry, this guide will cover everything you need to know – from where to get the SEGA Genesis console second-hand to how to play the most popular titles on your phone or PC using emulators.
So, without further ado, here’s how to play SEGA Genesis games TODAY.
What was the SEGA Genesis (Mega Drive)?
The SEGA Genesis or Mega Drive was a 16-bit home video console and the successor to the Master System. First released in 1988, the Genesis used a Motorola 68000 processor and a video system that supported tiles, sprites, and scrolling.
The SEGA Genesis setup was pretty impressive, so it’s no surprise many companies made an extraordinary effort to create games. In fact, there are over 900 games you can still get today. They were originally distributed in ROM-based cartridges, but you can also enjoy them digitally as all of them have been ported for us vintage gamers to enjoy.
Why Should You Play SEGA Genesis (Mega Drive) Games?
There are several reasons why people enjoy playing Sega Genesis games. For me, it’s mostly the quality of the games. Sure, you can’t really save your progress if you’re using the original console, but it’s amazing what game designers could do with those 16 bits! Still, most people like to play SEGA Genesis games because of the following reasons:
Nostalgia: For a lot of people, playing Sega Genesis games brings back fond memories of their childhood or teenage years. The console was popular in the 1990s, and those of us that grew up during that time often have a strong attachment to it.
Classic gameplay: Sega Genesis games are known for their challenging and engaging gameplay, which has stood the test of time. Many people enjoy the simplicity of the gameplay compared to modern games and the ability to pick up and play without needing to invest a lot of time in learning complex mechanics. You’re not sure what I’m talking about? Just try The Lion King. I guarantee you’ll struggle more than with Dark Souls!
Retro aesthetics and pixel art: Sega Genesis games have a distinctive visual style and sound that many people find charming and appealing. The pixel art graphics and catchy chiptune music evoke a sense of nostalgia and provide a unique gaming experience. Many of these games are a work of art.
Accessibility: With the rise of retro gaming and the availability of emulators and re-releases, it’s easier than ever for people to access and play Sega Genesis games. This accessibility has helped to attract new fans and keep the legacy of the console alive.
What Are the Most Popular SEGA Genesis Games?
Oh, what I question (I came up with)! Well, if you ask ten people what their favorite SEGA Genesis game is, you might get 100 answers. But there are a few classics that you might remember if you played (and that are definitely worth a try if you’re coming back to this retro gaming console). These are:
Sonic the Hedgehog series: This iconic series of platformers starred the speedy blue hedgehog Sonic and his friends, and was a flagship title for the Genesis. Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Sonic & Knuckles are all highly regarded entries in the series.
Streets of Rage series: This beat ’em up series featured a cast of tough street fighters taking on gangs and crime bosses. Streets of Rage 2 is often considered the best entry in the series.
Phantasy Star IV: This RPG was a standout title for the Genesis, featuring a deep story and memorable characters. It was praised for its graphics and music and is still highly regarded by fans of the genre.
Mortal Kombat series: The Genesis versions of these iconic fighting games were known for their bloody violence and controversial fatalities. Mortal Kombat II is often considered the best entry in the series on the Genesis. Fatality!!!
Shining Force II: This tactical RPG was another standout title for the Genesis, featuring a large cast of characters and a deep combat system. It is still highly regarded by fans of the genre (you can get Shining Force here).
Gunstar Heroes: This action-packed shooter was known for its intense boss battles and impressive graphics. It is often cited as one of the best games on the Genesis.
Earthworm Jim: This quirky platformer starred an earthworm in a high-tech suit, and was known for its humor and creative level design.
Comix Zone: This unique platformer had a comic book aesthetic and featured the player controlling a character who is trapped within the pages of a comic book.
My favorite SEGA Genesis games and their approximate second-hand prices:
How to Play SEGA Genesis Today
It is still possible to play SEGA Genesis games today, although it may require some effort to acquire the necessary hardware or software. So, let’s go through a few ways different methods you can use to play Sega Genesis games today.
Play SEGA Genesis Games Using the Original Hardware
If you have an original Sega Genesis console and some cartridges, you can still play them on a CRT television or on a modern TV using a composite, S-video or RGB cable. You may also need a power adapter and a controller.
While the original Sega Genesis console is no longer in production, it is still possible to purchase the hardware secondhand through various channels. Here are a few places where you may be able to find an original Sega Genesis console:
Online Marketplaces: Websites such as eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist often have listings for used Sega Genesis consoles, as well as games and accessories.
Click here to search for SEGA Genesis eBay listings >
Retro Gaming Stores: Many retro gaming stores specialize in selling classic consoles and games, including the Sega Genesis. These stores can be found in many cities and towns around the world.
Flea Markets and Garage Sales: It is possible to find an original Sega Genesis console at a flea market or garage sale, although it may require some luck and patience.
Play SEGA Genesis Games Using Retro Consoles
There are several retro consoles that can play Sega Genesis games, such as the RetroN 5, which can play games from multiple systems, including the Genesis.
The RetroN 5 is a retro gaming console that was released in 2014 by Hyperkin. It is designed to play games from multiple classic gaming consoles, including the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance. The RetroN 5 features multiple cartridge slots for each system, as well as HDMI output for modern displays. It also includes built-in save states, cheat codes, and screen filters to enhance the gaming experience.
Play SEGA Genesis Games Using Emulators
You can use emulators on your computer or mobile device to play Sega Genesis games.
A Sega emulator is a software program that allows you to play Sega Genesis games on a computer or other device. Emulators essentially simulate the hardware of a gaming console, allowing you to run games on your computer or other devices that otherwise would not be compatible. A Sega emulator typically requires a ROM file, which is a digital copy of the game that you want to play. Once you have a ROM file, you can open it in the emulator and start playing the game. Many Sega emulators also offer features such as save states, cheat codes, and gamepad support.
There are several popular emulators available, such as Kega Fusion and Gens.
IMPORTANT NOTE: While emulation is perfectly legal, you can only play roms you have extracted yourself.
Play SEGA Genesis Games Using the SEGA Genesis Mini
In 2019, Sega released the Sega Genesis Mini, a miniature version of the original console. This device was created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original console and features 42 built-in games, including many of the most popular titles from the Genesis library.
The Sega Genesis Mini is about 55% smaller than the original console and includes two wired controllers, an HDMI cable for connecting to a TV, and a USB power cable. It features a menu system that allows players to select games, customize their settings, and save their progress.
Some of the games included on the Sega Genesis Mini are Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco the Dolphin, Castlevania: Bloodlines, Contra Hard Corps, and Streets of Rage 2. The Mini received generally positive reviews and was praised for its accuracy in emulating the original console, as well as its selection of games and overall presentation.