Here are my top 10 favorite games from the Sega Genesis era. I was in elementary and middle school during this time, and most of these games were fun to play with friends after school, on the weekends, and at sleepovers. I had a regular Nintendo but the Genesis was such a big step forward. The graphics, the speed, the sports games—this is when I got hooked on video games. Each of these screenshots brings back memories.
1. NBA Live 96
I can’t even begin to guess how many hundreds of hours I spent with this game. It was the first time I ever got to play a full-length season in a sports game, which was super exciting. I was a huge NBA fan as a kid, and I geeked out over seeing where Shawn Kemp ranked in rebounds and Gary Payton ranked in assists at the end of each year.
2. College Football’s National Championship
See those orange guys? Looks like Texas, right? That was a big deal on the Genesis. Surprisingly, I never really got into Tecmo Bowl. I think it’s because I wasn’t a huge NFL fan back in the day. I worshiped college football, and this was the best game I could have hoped for. It was so realistic, and I still remember some of the crazy finishes with friends.
3. NBA Jam
Boomshakalaka! Everyone’s all-time Sega Genesis list has NBA Jam on it. That’s because this game was truly epic. Arcade play meets the console era. I bought this game at Toys R Us, and we played it religiously for about a year. Scoring three buckets in a row to catch fire was one of the coolest things ever, and shattering the backboard never got old.
4. FIFA International Soccer
For some reason, the checkered grass in this game really got me excited. That kind of detail just wasn’t standard in the 90s, and this game brought a lot of visuals. Plus, the gameplay was super smooth and scoring a goal was a thrill. I didn’t play this with friends as much as the others on my list, but I loved playing the World Cup tournament with different countries.
5. Sonic the Hedgehog
This was the main reason most of us had a Genesis. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Mario on the NES, but nothing from the Super Nintendo era could match Sonic’s speed and graphics. I loved the soundtrack, the secret bonus levels, and the challenge of collecting coins. This was also one of the few games I could beat every time I played it.
6. Mortal Kombat II
Mortal Kombat changed everything. Before the original came out, video games were pretty straightforward and simple. My mom wouldn’t let me get the first Mortal Kombat, but by the time MK2 came out I was a little older and she let me buy it. I picked it up at Costco along with a strategy guide and spent the next few months mastering fatalities.
7. Cool Spot
Everyone remembers the little 7-UP mascot named Spot. But did you know he had his own video game? Well, he did and it was awesome. The graphics on this game were top-notch at the time, and the scenery was as good as it got. This was just a fun game all the way around. You shot fizzy bubbles at bad guys and surfed on empty 7-UP bottles. ‘Nuff said.
8. NHL 94
This was the hockey game back in the day. Everyone had it. Everyone loved it. Everyone remembers it fondly. Fast-paced skating action and super sweet one-timers gave this game its power. But it was the fistfights with friends and down-to-the-wire finishes that made this such a part game. Sleepovers and NHL 94 went hand in hand.
9. Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition
I’ve never really been into fighting games, but I think it says a lot about the Genesis era that two fighting games made my list. I liked this one a lot. It was more campy than Mortal Kombat, but the gameplay was fun and easy to learn. I also had a special 6-button controller that only worked with a few games. This was one of ’em and I dominated my buddies.
10. World Series Baseball
Baseball games on the Genesis weren’t that great until World Series Baseball came along. This game put you behind the batter looking back at the pitcher, whereas the camera angles on all previous games looked at the batter from the outfielders’ point of view. This was a revolutionary switch and baseball games got better as a result.