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Sega Genesis Classics Review

Sega Genesis Classics, Sega

For every triumph, Sega Genesis Classics makes a blunder. It features the Streets of Rage trilogy and Phantasy Star 2-4, but not Rocket Knight Adventures. It’s missing Sonic 3 & Knuckles, yet Columns and Columns 3 are accounted for. Online play is touted, but networking barely functions properly. Of the fifty-three games, at least half are bound to pique your interest. Containing an eclectic mix of puzzle games, platformers, fighting games, and RPG’s, it runs the gamut of Sega’s 16-bit champ. It could have gone further, but Sega Genesis Classics is good for what it is.


The compilation opens with a kick-ass intro featuring iconic Genesis characters as their neon trails trace out a Sega Genesis. It sets the stage for a high fidelity presentation that carries on throughout. The main menu, especially, deserves extra commendation. As a fully rendered recreation of a typical child’s late 80’s/early 90’s room, it engenders a sense of familiarity even for gamers that didn’t grow up when Sega could do no wrong.

Streets of Rage, Revenge of Shinobi, and Golden Axe posters litter the walls directly behind the CRT television. The color scheme echoes that transition between the 80’s and 90’s with the randomly colored shapes set to a deep or light blue background. A wooden shelf houses every game, placed in alphabetical order, with the option to favorite titles, separating them from the rest of the pack. Random toys, cables attached to an extension cord, and VHS tapes strewed about add to the room’s lived-in appearance.

This familiarity and coziness ease players into the collection’s assortment of standard emulated games as well as their bonus features and online play. Each menu option is tied to some sort of object or place in the room. With responsive inputs, exiting the CRT to scan the game shelf or adjust controller settings never gets in the way. Sega Genesis Classics is a retro gamer’s wet dream. I oftentimes found myself admiring the lovingly crafted space, staring at the light filtering through the room’s single window.

Classic Games

Once the presentation’s novelty wears off, it’s time to play old-school video games. Some titles aged far better than others, but there’s enough history present to make the collection a worthwhile investment. Maybe you don’t care for the Genesis’ cut down Virtua Fighter 2 port, but it’s still a fascinating relic in itself. Seeing the iconic 3D fighter’s Genesis conversion serves as a window into a simpler time; an edgier time.

It transports you back to the days of no-frills gaming and marketing; When John Romero would call you his bitch. When Nintendo promised us the Gameboy was more fun than a ferret down our trousers; The days Sega could advertise a Genesis arcade stick by saying “the more you play with it, the harder it gets”. Virtua Fighter 2 may be a simplistic fighter today, but it’s a neat addition nonetheless – One for passionate collectors and “gaming historians”.

That We’ve All Seen Before

Therein lies the problem with this collection. Despite over a dozen bangers that still hold up in 2018, Sega Genesis Classics is your usual assortment of Genesis games. If you have any interest in retro gaming or lived in that era, there’s a good chance you already own or have played most of these games to death. Certainly, there are minor quality of life features that make them preferable to digging out old Genesis cartridges. Each game allows up to four separate save files with the ability to quick save and quick load by holding the right stick down or up, respectively. The collection also adds the now standard rewind and fast forward feature, activated by holding down the left or right triggers.

Despite that, a hardcore Sega Genesis fan has probably memorized a good chunk of these games already. Sega Genesis Classics shares a lot of its titles with 2009’s Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. Most of the best games here were also in that last gen collection. There’s so much overlap, in fact, that it would be simpler to just list the new games:

  • Alien Soldier
  • Bio-Hazard Battle
  • Crack Down
  • Galaxy Force 2
  • Gunstar Heroes
  • Landstalker
  • Light Crusader
  • Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi
  • Sword of Vermillion
  • ToeJam & Earl
  • ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron
  • Virtua Fighter 2
  • Wonder Boy in Monster World
  • Wonder Boy 3: Monster Lair

That’s right. Of the fifty three games, only fourteen are new. The other thirty nine are playable on that nearly decade-old collection.

Shining in the Darkness

Damn Good Games, Though

Regardless of the heavily recycled nature, the games have still got it. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is still one of the best 2D platformers of all time. The Streets of Rage trilogy still nails beat ’em up action to a T. The Golden Axe trilogy doesn’t hold up as well, but the games are still fun distractions. Ristar is still a well-designed platformer with an inventive character gimmick. Vectorman and Vectorman 2 are some of the best side-scrolling action games of their day.

Gunstar Heroes still impresses with its fast-paced action and responsive movement. Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master is another stand-out side-scroller that improves upon its predecessor, The Revenge of Shinobi, in every way. Hardcore role-playing fans will also find plenty to dig into with Sega Genesis Classics. The Shining series, the Phantasy Star games, Light Crusader, and even Sword of Vermillion are sure to sink hundreds of hours out of the genre faithful.

Online Play

The online play exists for every game that had a two player mode back in the day. The matchmaking system is messy, allowing players to select which games to search for while playing something else until a match is found. Unfortunately, once you find a match, if the other player chooses to decline, whatever game you’re playing is reset. You might as well just sit in the hub and wait until matchmaking finds someone that won’t decline your request. The following games feature online play:

  • Alien Storm
  • Altered Beast
  • Bio-Hazard Battle
  • Bonanza Bros.
  • Columns
  • Columns 3
  • Crack Down
  • Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  • Gain Ground
  • Golden Axe 1-3
  • Gunstar Heroes
  • Sonic The Hedgehog 2
  • Streets of Rage 1-3
  • ToeJam & Earl
  • ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron
  • Virtua Fighter 2
  • Wonder Boy 3: Monster Lair

This amounts to twenty-one games, but with such awful networking, you won’t make use of it. Every session I’ve joined has been filled with varying degrees of lag, stutter, and random disconnects. At its best, online play functions unresponsively. At its worst, it’s borderline unplayable. This could have been the Sega Genesis Classics‘ major boon over Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, which did not feature online play. As it stands, however, online functionality might as well not exist. With a day one patch equal in file size to the shipped disc, there is no excuse for such an awful netcode.

Get used to connection issues

Regional Differences

North America is no stranger to video game censorship, especially in the 16-bit era. For purists, Alien Soldier, Ristar, Dynamite Headdy, Streets of Rage 2, Streets of Rage 3, and Landstalker allow access between different regions’ versions of that game.

Streets of Rage 2, Dynamite Headdy, Ristar, and Alien Soldier feature both their North American and Japanese variants. Streets of Rage 3 contains North American, European, and Japanese versions. Yes, that means you can play the superior and more complete Bare Knuckles 3 with the click of an analog stick. Finally, Landstalker‘s North American, European, French, and German versions are all playable.


Sega Genesis Classics is such a difficult product to review. It may be a lazily-hashed together compilation of games that have been re-released dozens of times over the decades, but there’s a reason those games have been released so many times. They define the Genesis’ legacy. Online play is useless at the time of this writing, but it’s hard to remain too mad when I check my phone, only to realize it’s 3 a.m. and I’ve spent the last seven hours grinding through Shining in the Darkness.


Sega Genesis Classics

Sega Genesis Classics


8.0 /10


  • Lovingly crafted, nostalgic hub
  • Quality of life additions
  • At least 1/3 of the collection are true classics


  • Online barely works
  • Where's Sonic 3 & Knuckles?
  • Some filler (Both Columns and Columns 3???????)

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