Genesis Does...FN Rule! Part 3

#080 - #071 of the console's most memorable titles
November 09, 2009

#100 - #091

#090 - #081

Well, how about that autumnal weather, kids? By the time this long in the tooth countdown reaches the number one slot, it will likely be summer of next year, pending of course there is no robot uprising before then. Hey, the way things are going in the world right now, you never know. . .

All right, so what is there to be said? This is a countdown of the 100 most memorable Sega Genesis titles of my respective existence. As before, the same caveats do apply so alike the FBI warning on a video cassette, it is high time to roll the promulgated niceties.

1. Note that I call this a list of 100 of the Greatest Sega Genesis games of all time and not the list of THE 100 Greatest Sega Genesis games of all time. This is not a list that reflects an unbiased standing of the technically important or mechanically significant. It is simply a listing of the 100 Genesis games from my youth that provided me with the most entertainment. I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A LISTING OF THE 100 BEST GENESIS GAMES OF ALL TIME. If that were the case, the totality of the order would be way off and assuredly, half of my ballot would be excised. In fact, in hindsight, a lot of games on this list, incontrovertibly, suck and a lot of really kick-ass games did not make the list. I am, simply, measuring the games by their sentimental, nostalgic worth to MY being. Your list is sure to differ.

2. As something of an addendum to the above, I only listed Genesis games that I played PRIOR to my middle school sojourns, which was circa 1997. By then, the machine was basically dead in the water anyway, so that means that I am NOT counting games that I discovered post the release of the movie Titanic. So anyway, before you start sending me hate mail about Skitchin and Mutant League Football not making the list, that is why.

3. Hey, 8 Year Old Me had some fickle tastes. If you think there are too many sports games on the list or not enough role playing games, I say build a time machine in your garage and take it up with my 1994 being when you get there. I am not revising history, no way, no how.

4. This list is only counting North American SEGA GENESIS titles and NOT the MEGA DRIVE releases in PAL regions. There is ONE exception on this list, so if you played a really kick ass game and you live in Stratford-Upon-Avon and you are wondering as to why it did not make the list, that is why.

5. No, it is NOT true that you can play games on the Genesis by wedging an NES controller into the unit. Thanks to some a-hole on the school ground, I totally screwed up a perfectly good copy of Sonic 2 to bust that myth back in 93.

Enough chit and or chatting, lets hop back into the countdown, shall we?

#080 Toe Jam and Earl

They really don't make em like this anymore, that is for sure. In Toe Jam and Earl, you control the eponymous duo, whom to the untrained eye, appear to be anthropomorphic wads of taffy and excess flab.

I think it would be old hat to say that the developers of this game were on drugs when the began planning it, but. . . yeah, they probably were on a LOT of drugs when coming up with this title. Come on, do you really expect the designers of a game based around obese earwax in surfer trunks is the fruits of straight-edge conviction? I think not.

There are a lot of peculiar things about the title, starting with the fact that each level in the game is randomly generated. Of course, this is nothing new NOW, but back in the day, such Rogue-like features in a console game were positively mind-blowing. Games of the early 90s, for the most part, were based upon pattern memorization; the idea of levels changing and varying whilst in MID game play was a greater mind eff than Psycho Mantis reading your memory card. The guys behind Toe Jam and Earl set out to screw with our collective noggins, and all I can say is Mission freaking Accomplished.

Of course, the music was terrific, and the top-down, exploration based game play was both unique AND satisfying for the early Genesis adaptor, as the game was an early demonstration of not only the graphical power behind 16 bit gaming, but the boons such technological advancement could have on the game play itself. And yes, it was tremendously, phenomenally weird; to this day, I wonder if the whole concept of strapping on rocket power tennis shoes, avoiding evil humanoids and trying to unearth inexplicable elevators is some sort of post-modern, existential indictment of consumer America.

This is just a fun, fun title, the kind that keeps you busy on a dreary Saturday afternoon whilst you stuff Doritos and Pepsi endlessly down your gullet. Hmm. . . munchies, offbeat shenanigans, the reek of patchouli: could it be the Toe Jam and Earl are the video game analogues to Cheech and Chong?

#079 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist

Yeah, yeah, technically, this game is nothing more than a rechristened port of Turtles in Time, but that game was exceptional, so why complain about getting warm overs?

Actually, the game itself is sort of tweaked version of the legendary Arcade and SNES title; the game has (to me at least), better music, despite the fact the Genesis sound processor was WAY behind the capabilities of the Super Nintendo. Also, the levels in this game were noticeably lengthier than the Arcade version, and the overall difficulty was ratcheted higher than in the previous two incarnations. That, AND we get a couple of additional levels AND a new storyline!

(Well, the storyline tweak was nothing more than a five second pre-game cinematic, but still. . .)

For me, the coolest thing about the game was the Gauntlet mode; me and my 2nd grade best pal spent many a wasted afternoon trying our damnedest to conquer the combined onslaught of Leatherhead, Rocksteady, TATSU(!) and Baxter Stockman on the games hardest difficulty setting. We would get RIDICULOUSLY close to surviving Stockman's final attack, only to get obliterated by his ultra-cheap special-boss wipe-out attack (by the way, I'm thinking about trade marking that term. Good investment?)

There was no shortage of killer beat em up titles on the Genesis, and at the epoch, the market was absolutely GLUTTED with tremendous side scrolling ass beaters. For a game in the genre to shine, it had to be truly exceptional and rewarding, and The Hyperstone Heist is certainly fitting of such vaunting.

#078 Outlander

Now here is a game that, seemingly, no one remembers.

Outlander is basically a rip-off. . . I mean, homage, to the Mad Max film series, as apparent by the thematic of a bad ass, fast-car driving, post-apocalyptic nomad duking it out with irradiated motorcycle gangs. The thing is, the game is actually pretty damn fun on its own merits, and it manages to achieve what a lot of titles of the era simply could not.

If you have ever been a fan of the Road Rash games and wanted to play a game that was similar in spirit, then buddy, Outlander is for you. Of course, at times, it has more of a Top Gear feel to it than that of EAs beloved 16-bit franchise, but that is most certainly not a bad thing.

It is really hard to do vehicular combat in 3D, and in 2D, it is next to impossible. That being said, Outlander gets it about as right as any title in the 90s did with the hardware limitations; both long-range and melee combat is a cinch, and while the game play is challenging, it never exploits innate faults in the game mechanics to frustrate you. Yeah, I would say that is a BIG positive to have.

The graphics are absolutely outstanding; at times, the game is reminiscent of a water-colored, Tex Avery cartoon, providing almost Saturn-like quality 2D sheen. And hey, you cannot have a hard-driving game without a hard-driving soundtrack, and the MIDI music in this title DELIVERS.

Oh, and one word of warning: DO NOT DRINK THE IRRADIATED WATER. JUST DO NOT.

#077 RoboCop vs. Terminator

Dear lord, does this game rule.

There is no denying that this version of the title is VASTLY superior to its SNES brethren, and that is not just because Sega actually allowed the developers to include the red stuff in the title. The three button set-up makes the action title control as smoothly as a freshly polished stone, and this is one side scrolling shooter that does not skimp out on the fire fights.

There are so many things this game gets right, starting with the dream licensing match up. As RoboCop, the player traverse across maps that reference both illustrious film franchises, and the nods to the source material shows that the developers took the project seriously. (I for one, loved the return trip to the old steel mill.)

The sprites in this game are positively awe-inspiring. The first time I played the game, I was in a state of sublime shock as the bad guy in front of me exploded in a pixilated shower of gore after I lobbed a grenade at his jackboots. Oh, and the thrill of unleashing the bottled mayhem that is the ED-209 gun? Yeah, you might just need a cigarette afterward.

I am a HYUGE mark for 2D action side scrollers, and whereas must licensed fare in that category flat out swallows, this is one game that just NAILED it in regards to presentation, execution and game mechanics. That, and the game has the added bonus of being innovative, as well: think that Halo pioneered the whole two-guns at a time mechanic? Try again, creep.

#076 Fatal Labyrinth

Fatal Labyrinth is a terrific game that I enjoy a lot more now than I did as a wee tyke. Sure, the randomly generated dungeons (again, with the Rogue-like influences!) were interesting, and who does not enjoy getting sucked into a 20 hour plus RPG, but the real draw of the game was a pervasive, nihilistic attitude that exuded from the games very pores.

Hey, you know how in most games, you feel the necessity to continue picking up power ups, even if your health bar is 100 percent? Well, in Fatal Labyrinth, such avarice is rewarded by swift demise; if you pick up TOO many foodstuffs, your characters stomach ruptures and its game over. I found that to be odd as an eight year old, but as a twenty-something philosophy hound now, I cannot help but chuckle at such artistic cynicism.

Then, there's all of that gold; most RPGS desire that you mindlessly accumulate as many rubies and gems as possible. What does such fervent materialism get you in Fatal Labyrinth? Nothing. The only outcome such frivolous collecting has on the game is when you die, depending on how much gold you have harvested, your tombstone may be a little more shimmery than otherwise. Dude, how can you NOT love such existential post-modernism, especially in 16 bit form?

Far from being a pixilated form of Camus gospel, this is a totally unique RPG experience that is a refreshing change of pace from the overwrought, ultra-dramatic Square RPGS of the concomitant. The Genesis may not have been touted as an RPG console, but it certainly had a healthy assortment of standout titles in the genre, with Fatal Labyrinth being one of the decades most criminally underappreciated cartridges.

#075 MLBPA Sports Talk Baseball

Of course, audio in video games these days are almost non-factors in regards to a games inherent worth. However, back in 1992, games with digitized voice recording were incredibly rare, and the fact that this game featured authentic, audible play by play was a GIGANTIC draw.

I recently went back and played the title, and the audio stitching, to this day, impresses me. The sad thing is, there are modern day games on the Wii that have audio dynamics lesser than this title, so whether or not that is a ringing endorsement for this games longevity or a dire indictment of modern gaming is wholly up to you, dear reader.

Yeah, yeah, the voice work was kind of warbled, but in a way, it made the game play that much cooler, as if a malfunctioning android was doing the play-by-play. Of course, no matter how great the audio, a game is not truly great sans enjoyable game play, and thankfully, Sports Talk Baseball delivers in that category.

Of course, there are no actual MLB teams in the game, but a good number of real players did make the final cut. Since we are talking 1992 here, certain teams, like Toronto and Atlanta, are retardedly powerful; of course, living in the foothills of northwest Georgia, I routinely had my clock cleaned by the (no-quite) Braves many a time. I have never been a fan of baseball, so I never really had a favorite team to select: therefore, this game was basically all about me picking a team at random and getting my ass kicked by Greg Maddux. Sigh. . . at least the audio was cool, though.

#074 Flashback: The Quest For Identity

Cut scenes and polygonal graphics are pretty much oversights today, but in 1993, such were practically unheard of in console games. Flashback had a pretty extensive print campaign; you could not flip through a copy of Electronic Gaming Monthly without encountering a number of ads for the title. It was also the first game I remember being demoed at the local Blockbuster; sure, the blocky graphics may be outmoded now, but at the time, this stuff was seriously cutting edge fare.

Flashback is a game that is sort of a hybrid action-puzzle title. Yes, there is plenty of platform jumping and alien shooting, but to survive this game, you have to be able to think. The instruction manual for the title was severely lengthy, and the amount of things you could do in the game was pretty staggering, even if it did take a ridiculous three button combination to do a long jump.

The game was very much based around trial and error game play: a lot of times, this was elevated to ridiculous extremes, such as an early instant-death trap that can only be identified by virtually invisible white speckles that shoot from underneath the ground in three minute intervals. That being said, the game also made for some unusual impromptu encounters; I never fired my alien pistol in the title, electing to utilize it as a melee weapon instead. Trust me, pistol whipping an 800 pound pig alien is one of the Genesis unsung moments of unfettered gaming bliss.

Yeah, the game had some problems here and there, and for my money, there is at least one title that attempted a similar style of game play years earlier that was superior to this one, but for what it is worth, Flashback was, and still is, a neat little diversion from your run of the mill run and gunners that populated a majority of the systems library.

#073 Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master

Wait a minute, I thought the Genesis was practically epitomized by its crappy audio? How come there is such awesome, state of the art synthesizer tunes in this title? What gives, Sega?

Seriously, this game is worth playing solely for the music, which is among the best the system had to offer. Outside of that, however, Shinobi III is still a positively sublime samurai action game that just flat out delivers with the ninjitsu goods.

Everything you love about the Shinobi series can be found in this game. Awesome special attacks that require stratagem on behalf of the player? Check. Truly fantastic boss fights against gargantuan adversaries. Present. Sweet ass game play with ultra fluid controls that make it seem as if the players hands and the lima bean shaped controller have melded into a uniform singularity? You bet.

Even with all of that, the game developers decided to take some chances, and inserted a few moments of varied game play, such as a lengthy battle on horseback that could have backfired horrendously. However, the developers hands were surely deft, and the new additions to the Shinobi formula served to sweeten an already delectable pot.

Shinobi III is just a flat out great action game, the kind that has your thumbs itching just at the bare mention of its moniker. Surely, its predecessor is more renown (and technically, a better title), but this is one ass kicking romp that no Sega fanatic should go without playing.

#072 Road Rash II


Oh, how I long for that sweet serenade as my bitching chopper crossed the victory line in the games unforgettable post race cinematic.

The Road Rash series is one of the Genesis most beloved and idiosyncratic franchises; sure, we Genny owners may have never gotten our hands on Chrono Trigger or Super Metroid, but we had THREE, count em THREE kick ass Road Rash titles on our console, so I say, who is the real winner in that?

There is a lot of debate as to which Road Rash title is truly superior, 2 or 3. While I do think that part 3 had more variety and options, the second title in the series provided a greater challenge, and for sheer arcade racing fun, ran laps around its successor. Plus, the Americanized map of this game is just more enjoyable than the third games European scenery. Just call me nationalistic, I suppose.

This game is just sheer 90s nostalgic fun; seriously, how in the hell can anyone NOT enjoy a game in which you are allotted the option crack opposing players over the head with monkey wrenches? Seriously, Mario Kart can go procreate with itself; who wants to shoot bananas at Donkey Kong when you can be outrunning the po-po and busting noggins with automotive tools?

This game was basically the forerunner to the Burnout series, and for years, hardcore Road Rash enthusiasts have begged and pleaded for a new installment in the series. Although only time will tell whether that dream comes to fruition, there is no denying one thing: Road Rash II flat out freaking rules.

#071 James Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing

Sure, we played this in the arcades under its actual title Final Blow (cue Beavis and Butt Head chortle), but the reiterated Sega version, surprisingly, holds up rather well today.

Knockout Boxing was one of the first titles to appear on the Genesis, and with a pretty good line-up already established from 1989, it was going to be difficult to craft a serious early competitor in the fledgling 90s market. Knockout Boxing, effectively, was a retort to the legendary Punch-Out!!, as apparent by the prominence of the man that served Tyson his ass in Tokyo in this title. Apparently, Sega used up all its money to secure his likeness, so once again, we have the dreaded made-up-boxer syndrome striking this title. Sure, it may be somewhat disheartening to have to do battle with Soup Can Willy instead of Iron Mike, but hey, it is the game play that counts, does it not?

Knockout Boxing was kind of a weird game, as it was more like a 2D fighting game a la Street Fighter than oh say, Evander Holyfields Real Deal Boxing. This meant that most fights were ridiculously and unrealistically short, but the minute spurts of fun were one of the consoles earliest iconic moments. Of course, I was (and still am) a huge boxing fan at the time, so that certainly increased my enjoyment of the title. That being said, I cannot confirm that others my find it as memorable, but hey, it beats Tommy LaSorda Baseball, doesnt it?

All right, that's all I can muster for the time being. Be sure to check in an about a month or so, as we delve further into the pantheon of kick ass Genesis titles. In the interim, how about firing up the old Genny and going through a round or two of some of the games I mentioned above? Screw sunshine and physical activity, Sega is where it's at!

James Swift is a fledgling writer whose life is so similar to Spider-Man that he fears legal reprimand from the Disney corporation for such glaring similarities. In the meantime, he would greatly appreciate it is you checked out his videos over at. . .[/b]

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