It’s all been leading up to this. The final day of my top 25 Mega Drive games list. Up to now we’ve had some great games such as Streets of Rage, Desert Strike and ToeJam & Earl, but today’s list represents the cream of the crop. The jewels in the Mega Drive crown. These are the best five games on Sega’s 16-Bit machine of wonder.
5. Shining Force II
What do you get when you mix Final Fantasy with Fire Emblem? An incredible game, that’s what. Shining Force II is bigger than its predecessor, but its gameplay is exactly the same. You move about a large map, going from one battle to another, shops and story coming in-between the two. The battles aren’t quite as complex as those in the Fire Emblem series, and the exploration isn’t quite to the same standard as the Final Fantasy, but the two combined makes for something special. I got lost in the characters, world and soundtrack of Shining Force II. It’s one of the best RPGs ever made. Jaha is still the best character name of all time, too.
4. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
The best puzzle game ever made (take that, Tetris) happens to be a Sonic skin of Puyo Pop. And that’s okay. In the game, you match different coloured blobs into groups of at least four, in order to delete them from your screen, scoring points for each group you get rid of. If you line everything up correctly you can even chain incredible combos (Yippee! Yeehaw!), getting a combo just right is an incredibly satisfying feeling, and the more groups you can get rid of, the more blank blobs that fill up your opponent’s screen. Playing against the computer or in two-player is the most fun you’ll ever have in a puzzle game. It’s frantic, sure, but its fast-pace is perfect for short sessions. Writing about this game has made me want to play it all over again. There’s always time to add to the hundreds of hour I’ve already spent on Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine.
3. Sonic the Hedgehog
This is where everyone fell in love with Sega’s Blue Blur. The original Sonic the Hedgehog is impeccably designed, ridiculously fun and timeless. The constant re-releases are a testament of the game’s design and lasting appeal. When you think Sega, this is most likely the first game that pops into your head. This game paved the way for Sega’s success over the years, giving them a proper one-over anything Nintendo had to offer on the SNES. Sega had tried to battle Mario before, with mixed results, but Sonic the Hedgehog was a resounding success on all levels. The fast gameplay, soundtrack, stage design, boss battles, characters, and enemies. Everything about this game has been etched into gaming history and even into the common mind-space of all gamers out there. Everyone has played Sonic the Hedgehog. For good reason, it’s overwhelmingly incredible.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
The best Sonic game of all time is not the best game on the Mega Drive, rather the second best. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 takes the incredible formula laid out in the original game and improves it. The stage design is a little better, with some really clever levels such as Chemical Plant Zone providing the best the long-running series has ever seen. They do more with the game than the original, building upon its ideas. Plus, they add Tails. These days, you don’t get Sonic without Tails, and that’s because the double-tailed yellow fox established himself as a fan favourite in this game. Sure, he debuted on the Master System Sonic the Hedgehog 2 first, but this is the debut that people remember. You could play the whole game as him, or play the entire game in co-op, or he could be controlled by the computer, occasionally hitting enemies for you. To top it all off, the game contained a two-player race mode that is still fun today. An incredible achievement of videogame design.
Now however, we move onto the best Mega Drive game ever made.
Drum roll please…
1. Shining Force
Here it is. The best Mega Drive game ever made. I bet you weren’t expecting this. It takes all the best ingredients of the RPG and mixes them all together to create something magical, memorable and essential. Shining Force is an expertly crafted strategy RPG that everyone needs to play. It’s grand scope, is great even by today’s standards. The graphics may look dated by now, but the design is timeless. The characters are brilliant, the soundtrack is fantastic and the gameplay is incredibly deep and engrossing. Sure, the sequel is bigger, but I prefer the plot and characters of the original. It’s a fascinating, demanding and deeply engrossing title on a console filled with games taken from the arcade. Shining Force demands your attention, and try as you might, you cannot pull yourself away from the TV screen. The best game of its generation and still one of the best strategy RPGs ever made.
So there you have it. My top 25 Mega Drive games. Sonic had a lot of great roommates back in the day. If you haven’t played any game from this list, I highly advise that you find a copy and give it a go. If you feel like I’ve missed anything out, then please let me know in the comments. I know for certain that neither Gunstar Heroes or any of the Phantasy Star games didn’t feature. Let me know if that’s ruffled any feathers.