My Bottom-10 Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) Games
I’ve shown the Sega Mega Drive a lot of love on this blog. Both in the form of a Top-10 Games and a Top-10 Platformers lists. However, it goes without saying that there were some terrible games for the system and it’s only fair that I should showcase the crap as well as the cream.
Just to make sure people remember, I only feature games which I’ve played so don’t expect to see every notorious title that people frequently mention. I actually found making this list rather difficult since I haven’t played that many horrible Mega Drive games, so I’m also extending this Bottom-10 to include games that, while not necessarily bad, I just didn’t terribly enjoy.
I will be making a similar list for the NES in the near future, but I decided to do this one first since that list is going to feature a lot more predictable entries. But let’s get on with it…
While generally speaking, I liked most of the Disney licensed titles released during the 16-bit era, there’s one game that probably haunts most Disney fans to this day. Disney Interactive’s video-game take on the Lion King is a title that will send shivers down your spine. Based on arguably one of the best movies by the Disney company, it’s rather painful how utterly unenjoyable the video-game version should be.
To be fair, Lion King’s problems are not due to a lack of trying. The graphics and animation are superb for a system of this era, the sound-chip renditions of the iconic soundtrack is done mostly well and there’s even digitized voice-clips from the movie to give you that authentic Lion King feeling. What kills the game though is its brutal difficulty for what I assume was a platformer aimed largely for children.
The second level is one of the most ridiculously cryptic and annoying seen in any platformer and it doesn’t get much better from there on out. Somebody at Disney Interactive had it in for children across the world and decided to pull an evil prank by ruining what could have been an awesome game. Granted, Lion King isn’t terrible which is why it only warranted the number-10 spot on this list, but it is unforgivable in its relentless bull-shittery.
Ah, a familiar entry. By now, you’re all familiar with the origins of Sonic 3D so I wont bore you with it (and if you want to hear it again check here, here or here). I’ll just re-iterate that Sonic 3D is the biggest lie to come out of Sega during the mid-90s. This port of the Saturn game (which at least had some 3D segments) is just a poorly disguised rehash of Sega’s Flicky with the same core concept of Sonic saving birds and taking them to an exit.
The isometric view-angle really doesn’t work and the game is plagued by very dodgy pre-rendered 3D models. There’s a good and a bad way to utilise pre-rendered sprites and for an example of the former, go see Donkey Kong Country. Here Sonic looks like a plastic figurine and moves just as stiffly. The lack of speed is probably due to the odd view-angle and adding insult to injury, running feels like it happens on ice. In other words, you keep running into enemies and obstacles very easily and the game just doesn’t feel very tightly programmed.
Sonic 3D’s only saving grace is that it is actually fun to play in short spurts and the soundtrack is actually surprisingly good. So there’s at least a little bit of enjoyment to be had with it. That still doesn’t make it a good game.
Some Mega Drive games are just flat-out over-rated in my opinion and one such example is Comix Zone from STI. In this beat-em-up, a comic book fan is sucked into the frames of his favourite action comic and has to fight his way into freedom. To its credit, Comix Zone does have a very novel concept. The player moves around comic frames which brings some interesting challenge to figuring out where you’re supposed to go.
However, the game is also relentlessly difficult, as one slip up causes you to fall out the frames and to your death. And after a while, the gameplay does become terribly monotonous. There just isn’t enough in the game itself to keep you from becoming bored except the comic-book gimmick.
The Mega Drive really had a huge market in beat-em-ups and a lot of them fell victim to the monotony bug by not being interesting enough. I recognise that this game has its own cult following, but honestly, it just wasn’t all that fun in my opinion.
Now, I have to stress that I have nothing against Mortal Kombat 3. I think it’s an awesome instalment of the series and actually my second favourite of the original 2D instalments. The Sega Mega Drive port was also interesting to me since unfortunately the first home console versions of MK3 ended up downsizing the game by dropping characters. I was particularly disappointed by the fact that SNES version of MK3 doesn’t feature Sheeva, one of my favourite characters, and in at least in this one sense, the Mega Drive version is better.
However, in everything else it’s absolutely terrifyingly bad. The graphics are butchered beyond hope. We’re not simply talking squashed pixels, they are crunched beyond recognition. Admittedly, MK3 didn’t have the best music (for a MK game) but on the Mega Drive the music can barely be classified as music. And the voice-clips have had the ever-living fuck bit-crunched out of them. The title screen is anemic and pale. It honestly looks like the game hasn’t been properly finished.
The superficial flaws aside, the game actually plays decently and I guess if you can forgive all the graphic and audio downgrades, you could still enjoy it as a decently entertaining fighting game. However, the Mega Drive was capable of so much more even with its inferior audio and visual capabilities compared to the SNES. But this home-port was an absolute mess.
The Streets of Rage series ironically includes both one of the best and one of the worst beat-em-ups for the Sega Mega Drive. The original title is a middle-of-the-road sort of deal. Not bad and even fairly fun to play, but not special enough to warrant much praise. The second game was a lot more lively, more flexible gameplay wise and just flat-out fun. It may even be better than the original Final Fight.
However, with Streets of Rage 3, Sega went totally overboard with the difficulty. It’s a shame too, because the game features such a high amount of polish. The graphics are brilliant, the music is still kickass and the bad guys are quirky and memorable. Plus, you still have four playable characters to choose from. However, the game is so unrelentingly hard as balls that you can’t really enjoy yourself. Extra lives just slip through your fingers and boss-fights take unreasonably long to beat. And don’t get me started on that f***ing bulldozer level.
Streets of Rage 3’s biggest flaw is its complete and utter lack of fun. It’s not a terrible game but the frustration it causes is disproportionate to the reward of beating levels and being treated to rather dull cutscenes.
This would seem like a really obvious pick and there’s no excuse for it. Action 52 paved the way for dozens upon dozens of bad bootleg multicarts of the future. Action 52 stands apart at least that its games were “original” but most of them barely playable and barely classifiable as games. Action 52 is better known for its original, infamous NES equivalent but it would be far-fetched to say Action 52 on the Mega Drive is much better. To its credit, most of the games look better and have better audio. Most of them even work after a fashion.
However, almost all the games are low-quality rip-offs of better known titles and there’s not a single game you would want to play for too long before you become hopelessly bored from the monotony. Except maybe Pong. Yeap, this thing has Pong. So, Action 52 is terrible and that goes without saying. However, compared to its NES counterpart, it’s at least mostly playable and it’s hard to really justify calling it the worst game on the Mega Drive when the people making it probably didn’t even have a clue.
Another critically over-rated game for the Mega Drive is this beat-em-up launch-title which was used to market the raw performance power of the 16-bit system when it first came out. Altered Beast was Sega’s big hit in the arcades at the late-80s and the nearly perfect Mega Drive port was meant to swoop players off their feet with its stunning graphics, animation and digitized voice-clips.
However, Altered Beast is just a painfully slow auto-scrolling beat-em-up where you gather power-ups with your ultimate goal being to transform into an animal form to take down the level bosses. While there’s some nice level variety and the different animal forms have some unique characteristics and skills, the game is droning, slow experience. Also, failing to get the power-ups means having to basically keep playing the level indefinitely until you do get the power-ups or die. All of this just makes the game incredibly boring.
I realise this is yet another title with a strong cult following, but over 25 years since its initial release and in hindsight, it’s a terribly underwhelming title with a weak gimmick and very little in the way of actually fun gameplay content.
Combining Sonic and a pinball game seems like a no-brainer for a really fun game idea. It really begs the question then how was Sega Technical Institute able to screw up the game so badly. This bizarre mid-90s spin-off title just fails to deliver either a good Sonic game or a good Pinball game. Instead it tries to be a weird hybrid of both where you collect Chaos Emeralds and try to avoid landing in some deathly peril.
The game’s graphics aren’t terrible though the art-style is dead giveaway that this is not an official Sonic Team produced title. The music and sound-effects are terrible. The music is only mildly enjoyable at best and the everything else in the audio department is just uninspired. And the difficulty is unbearable. You would think being able to control Sonic while he’s flying through the pinball table style stages would make gameplay easy, but the end-result is quite the opposite. A Sonic game simply is not built for the randomness and unpredictability of a pinball mechanic. You just end up dying way too often which makes trying to beat the game feel like a real grind.
Sonic Spinball stands as my absolute least favourite Sonic game. It lacks nearly all the essential elements you’d expect from a Sonic game and isn’t even fun as a novelty experience.
RPGs aren’t my bag to begin with but some RPGs also seemed to be designed to be just flat-out terrible. Turn-based dungeon-crawling might have its appeal for some people, but I’m hard-pressed to believe anyone could enjoy a game as broken as Fatal Labyrinth. Fatal Labyrinth tried to be unpredictable in a rather interesting way. Rather than be a linear dungeon-crawler with predictable routes and mechanics, the game is entirely randomized each time. The dungeon opens up from certain points and its up to the player to discover (literally) every inch of the dungeon and fight off against the random creatures who seem to always be a lot stronger than you.
Not to be outdone by better known games, Fatal Labyrinth features all the superfluous item-management you can think off and a battle system that is so cryptic it’s barely comprehensible. Even if you can live with the generic gameplay style, menu hell, randomized rooms and even learn to play the game enough so that you wont always get gang-raped by monsters, the title features the game-breaking bug to end all game-breaking bugs – where your enjoyment (if you want to call it that) of the game is interrupted by the game creating a closed room with no exit. This can happen literally within the first few rooms and then you’re basically stuck with your thumb up your ass and contemplating the big questions of life, like: “why the hell am I even playing Fatal Labyrinth!?”
My old nemesis and the second of two candidates for possibly the worst fighting game of all time (the other being Mortal Kombat II for the Game Gear). It’s understandable that Sega wanted to cash-cow their Virtua Fighter series in whatever form they saw fit. The early 3D fighting game series was the talk of the town and showed that polygonal graphics could work for action titles. However, whoever thought it was a good idea to try to recreate a 3D fighting game with 2D graphics should have been fired before they could unleash this abomination to the world.
Where to even begin? The controls? Terrible. Every character seems to move exactly the same, special moves are almost non-existent. Your movements are jagged and sticky. And your attacks have unbelievable amounts of lag. It almost seems like the 3D engine for Virtua Fighter 2 was actually playing in the background and the game is slow as molasses because of it. The graphics are just bad. You would think that with 2D sprite-art, Sega would have made the characters look more smooth and not quite as angular as the 3D models on which they were based on, but nope.
The sound is almost the most offensive thing in this heap of garbage. The music is terrible, the Mega Drive sound-chip is fucked beyond recognition. The digitised voice-clips are so bit-crunched you can hear the voice-actors’ souls deteriorating into the ether. It’s that fucking bad! Virtua Fighter for the Sega 32X is at least playable, it works and it’s actually in 3D. Virtua Fighter 2 Mega Drive is a bad joke. It’s not even a game.