News Article

Sega's Most Successful Console Is 25 Years Old Today

Posted by Damien McFerran

Happy birthday, Mega Drive

A quarter of the century ago, Sega released its most successful console. The Mega Drive hit Japanese retailers on October 29th, 1988 and would go on to sell an estimated 40 million units globally. Known in North America as the Genesis, the system was the first to genuinely challenge the supremacy of Nintendo's NES, and the arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991 created a video game icon worthy of competing with the legendary Mario.

Fast forward to the present day and Sega is a very different company. No longer involved in domestic hardware production, the company now creates software for a wide range of platforms, including the Wii U and 3DS. Sonic has since buried his differences with Nintendo's mascot, and the two now share star billing in titles such as Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Times may have changed beyond all recognition, but the Mega Drive remains a classic system. Home to some of the best 16-bit titles ever created, it comes from a period in gaming history which many consider to be a golden age. You can read a bit more about the console in our Hardware Classics feature, and there's a fascinating look back at the machine's history over at US Gamer.

In the meantime, forgive us while we fire up Altered Beast for old time's sake.

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User Comments (68)

XavandSo

#7

XavandSo said:

I skipped the Mega Drive. My family had a Master System for years before we finally got a SNES in '94, though I wasn't allowed to use it. Still boot that old machine up sometimes. RIP Mega Drive.

Dreamcaster-X

#8

Dreamcaster-X said:

Happy Birthday Genesis!!! One of the greatest video game consoles of all time & your legacy is still kicking because I still play your games almost every week!!!

Tasuki

#9

Tasuki said:

I still love the Genesis mind you not as much as the SNES but it was for sure a worthy opponent to the SNES. The 16 bit era truly was the best era of gaming. Think I will fire up some Streets of Rage this afternoon.

Samurai_Goroh

#12

Samurai_Goroh said:

It's the only SEGA console I never played. I played the living daylights out of Master System, Saturn and Dreamcast (my favourite) back in my childhood. Safe to say, I've enjoyed it's gems in other formats. Sonic, Ristar or Streets of Rage are among the greatest games ever made.

Dreamcaster-X

#13

Dreamcaster-X said:

@Tasuki Yeah the 16-bit era was just magical. What's funny is you see all these new HD indie games trying to replicate that 16-bit sprite "look" in games today. It really was the golden age.

shonenjump86

#14

shonenjump86 said:

Happy B Day! Ah, good times playing this system with games like Sonic, Streets of Rage, Earthworm Jim, Vectorman, X-men, even Tiny Toons and a bunch of Disney games :). SNES was cool, but Genesis was a lot better IMO.

hydeks

#16

hydeks said:

YAY! GENESIS! :-) I actually liked my Sega Genesis more than my SNES, until the later years of course ;-)

DESS-M-8

#18

DESS-M-8 said:

They should celebrate this by finally adding it to the wii u eshop
Virtual console and using US 60Hz versions of the games. Closely followed y Saturn being added

Marshi

#19

Marshi said:

Dreamcast was my fave(And arguable my fave console ever) and its weird how similar a feeling of both joy and exasperation I get from the wiiu.
I mean just like the dreamcast,the wiiu is seeing some amazing games yet see's very little suport and barely sells for some bizarre reason. All this has made me think... DREAMCAST vc for wiiu! I would gladly pay £10-£15 for classics like Sonic adventure 2, shenmue 2 or skys of arcadia. Please make it happen nintendo!

PAppleyard

#20

PAppleyard said:

I still play mine daily and buy games for it every so often. I also like using the Master System converter with it. Mine is multi region 50/60hz modded as well.

rjejr

#21

rjejr said:

I still find it odd that I seemed to have missed a whole generation or 2 of gaming systems - I went from Pong, and Atari, to Playstation and Sega Saturn. Guess I took the 1983 gaming crash seriously. It took Squaresoft to bring me back w/ Parasite Eve and FF7. Guess that's why i care about graphics so much.

DerpSandwich

#22

DerpSandwich said:

First console I ever owned. I remember that Christmas quite well thanks to Sonic 2. Meeeemorieeees...

ShadowFox254

#23

ShadowFox254 said:

I remember me and my nephew use to play it everyday, we played games like Sonic, Altered Beast, etc. Miss being a kid again. :(

Capt_N

#24

Capt_N said:

Didn't own a MD, but my cousins did. I can remember when they let me borrow it, & I remember thinking how the graphics on Nes were better. Later in life, I realized the Sega MD had the better hardware tech, than the Nes, although I preferred the Nes, since that is what my sister, & I had. Even later still in my life(I am now a few years off thirty), I realized a few years ago(via Wii VC) that the Sega MD had some gems on it(Sonic series, Rolling Thunder 2, Pulseman), & that in retrospect, it was a good gaming system. I prefer the SNes, but the MD had some good gems. By the by, I am an American, even though I mostly refer to it as the MD, just to avoid confusion.

I'll take this opportunity to say 1. this is a nice little awesome piece, thanks NLife, I was unaware it was the MD's b-day. 2. For another good retrospective(, again this is awesome NLife!), James Rolfe throws aside his nerd persona, & does a 2-part video of the SNes vs. SMD. Like this, it's pretty good. 3. The MD sound (like the SNes sound) is popular enough that people (on Youtube) have taken midi files of popular game music, & replaced the sound with "soundfonts" made from, apparently ripped MD roms. While I don't agree w/ piracy, it's pretty cool hearing things like Yamamoto Man from Mega Man 6 in MD sound.

Peach64

#25

Peach64 said:

The Megadrive was my first console and I will always have a soft spot for it. I'd previously had a Commodore 64 and was blown away by the jump. So many favourites. Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Phantasy Star IV, Shining Force 2, Gunstar Heroes, Streets of Rage and Aladdin are still fresh in the mind, and of course 4 player Micro Machines 96 through the j-cart was always popular.

ultrakatie64

#26

ultrakatie64 said:

Nothings beat the good ol' days of Genesis, SNES, and TG16. Didn't own a Neo Geo at the time, but I guess you could add that there. The Sonic, Phantasy Star, Streets Of Rage, and Shining Force games were all stand outs. And then Sega blew it with the 32X. Now look at the Sega we have.

unrandomsam

#27

unrandomsam said:

The one that did best in Japan was the Saturn. (They usually seem to have the best tastes).

The Megadrive is still pretty badly emulated. (The soundchip anyway).

Stuff like M.U.S.H.A is spoilt by the cheap filter they put on the image and most of the best stuff is on the Wii VC and nowhere else (Or never rereleased - or only on the Saturn (Perfectly though) Japan only).

unrandomsam

#28

unrandomsam said:

Think NES stuff was really overpriced (And still is). There is certain things about it that my eyes really don't like. (Master System / Mega Drive / TG16 / Neo Geo / SNES none of the others have that problem).

unrandomsam

#29

unrandomsam said:

Very strange because it is something inherent only to the NES (The way stuff like Metal Slug flashes the bosses (Except on the VC) does not do the same thing). Megaman 9 does until you disable the artificial sprite flicker.

Nintenjoe64

#30

Nintenjoe64 said:

I was a massive Sega fan despite owning a NES instead of a Master System. I wanted a Mega-Drive and really didn't like the idea of a 'Super Famicom'(even in the 80s/90s Nintendo wasn't 'cool')......... then I found out Street Fighter 2 was a SNES exclusive and I played a Japanese Super Mario World and there was no way to convince me to get a Mega-Drive after that. I got the chance to borrow one on many occasions but it never came close to the fun that the SNES gave me.

My favourite Mega-Drive memories are either playing Sonic CD or Star Control

Shy_Guy

#31

Shy_Guy said:

I first got my Genesis back in Christmas 1993 that came with Sonic 2. So many memories with it,and I'm glad i still have it! Thanks Sega for the memories :)

Ristar42

#33

Ristar42 said:

1991, good time to be in your early teens and for console gaming, I got the console with Sonic included for my birthday, I still play my original cart (though I have a modded 60hz Megadrive to play it on these days!).

antonvaltaz

#35

antonvaltaz said:

Hopefully we'll get some Mega Drive games on the Wii U VC - or even better (IMO), a port of that Mega Drive collection they released on the 360 and PS3 a couple of years back...

sdelfin

#36

sdelfin said:

Very cool. What a great system. I've recently gotten back into the Genesis realizing that I have quite a few great games for it that I haven't played in years, like Phantasy Star 4 and Shinobi 3, and other cool games I've yet to play like Castlevania Bloodlines with its wonderful music. I also realized that I am able to hook my Genesis and SNES up via RGB and they look great. Those old games never stopped being fun, and now I prefer them. I'm glad I got my Genesis out of storage so that it(and the SNES) will be easily accessible from now on.

WhiteTrashGuy

#37

WhiteTrashGuy said:

The Genesis WAS my 16-bit experience. Along with the Sega CD and 32X. I was a Sega fanboy, but then I saw early footage of SUPER MARIO 64 and GOLDENEYE in Nintendo Power. The Big N had me back. But Sega will always be a giant part of my gaming soul.

ricklongo

#38

ricklongo said:

I had a NES at my dad's place, and really wanted another video game at my mom's. The Mega Drive was too expensive, so my mom got me a Master System instead. It's funny how the MS seems to have succeded in Brazil specifically like nowhere else in the world. Man, the memories. :)

rdrunner1178

#39

rdrunner1178 said:

@DESS-M-8 Yeah they definitely need to get the Genesis Virtual Console games converted over, I have a ton of them in Wii version. The Saturn games would be awesome. Plus profitable for Sega. Oh well.

unrandomsam

#40

unrandomsam said:

@sdelfin I have one that is faulty (Was 50/60hz modded) problem I have with it is most of the games I like best don't have any method of saving and I no longer play the games for long enough to finish it in one sitting. (Just saving the last state like the Wii does would be enough). I don't like playing the same parts all the time otherwise I would have got another and done the pic based switchless mod on it.

GreatPlayer

#42

GreatPlayer said:

I remember I purchased Mega Drive because I thought my NES was crap. Never disappoint me with great games such as Sonic series, Landstalker, Shining Force...

SparkOfSpirit

#43

SparkOfSpirit said:

This and the SNES are the best gaming consoles in my opinion.

Now if only Nintendo would put it on the Wii-U VC.

BlackStar9000

#46

BlackStar9000 said:

@rdrunner1178 Dat avatar, baddonkey memories of the 1st Dragon Warrior game, , that damn magican used to kick my donkey with those fireballs!
Please watch the profanity — TBD

BlackStar9000

#47

BlackStar9000 said:

@Nintenjoe64 Street Fighter 2 was NOT a Nintendo exclusive, maybe at first, but not for long, and it seems like you missed out on some extremely great games if Sonic CD and that other game i never heard of are your best memories of the Genesis/Megadrive.......

MAB

#48

MAB said:

Best console ever... Chakan was the best 16bit game there ever was ;)

Nomad

#50

Nomad said:

I remember bringing my Megadrive home with Altered Beast, Ghouls n Ghosts and Mystic Defender and playing the crap out of it. Still reckon Megadrive games have the best box art of any console generation.

Keep

#51

Keep said:

good read on the US Gamer article. didn't know until now about sega's decline, i thought they were just dominated by nintendo :)

It was mostly the famicom / snes back in the days, with just a very small dose of the genesis..

fluggy

#54

fluggy said:

Loved my Megadrive. Still remember Christmas morn with Golden Axe, Revenge of Shinobi, Altered Beast. Time hasn't been too kind to the Megadrive/Genesis though. . . I couldn't play any of my fave Megadrive games for more than 20 mins these days. Sonic was always over-rated... There were just no gameplay "experiences" like SNES classics Super Metroid, Mario World, Zelda ALttP, Chrono Trigger, Shadowrun, Mario Kart ... All of which still feel fresh today.

ogo79

#55

ogo79 said:

anyone got something bad to say about the mega drive/genny you come talk to me!

Morph

#56

Morph said:

I was sega all the way from master system to dreamcast, after that i felt an obligation to follow nintendo sticking with a proper games company . My favourite era was probably saturn, but mega drive covered my formative years as a gamer. Times were much simpler then, no internet, no forums, just reading a games mag or going into a games shop and picking what you liked the look of, good times

GuruOfGreatness

#58

GuruOfGreatness said:

Happy Birthday Mega Drive, and, thank you..........thank you for the countless memories :) But come on Sega..........time for a Dreamcast 2 now; have that one final swan song in the sun :D

Blue-Thunder

#61

Blue-Thunder said:

I wanted a mega drive but it was to expensive £150 with no games. Got a NES instead and the rest is history. The buzz round the mega drive was serious, arcade graphics, 16 bit. Then the SNES came out and kicked the sh1t out of it.

Moviefan2k4

#62

Moviefan2k4 said:

For several years, I thought the Mega Drive was a completely different console from the Genesis, because I had no reason to think products had multiple names for different parts of the world. The main games I played on the console were all four "Sonic" titles and the "Streets of Rage" series. I was really surprised when "Mega Man: The Wily Wars" came out for the Sega Channel.

Nintenjoe64

#64

Nintenjoe64 said:

@BlackStar9000 It was exclusive for a long time (to a child in UK) on SNES.

I wasn't trying to knock the Sega game library and the two games I said were favourites among many. I spent hours on Streets of Rage (1 and 2), Strider, Sonic, Golden Axe etc., I owned a GameGear, Saturn and Dreamcast and even got to play with 'The Menacer' on its UK launch day.

sdelfin

#65

sdelfin said:

@unrandomsam I totally agree with your complaint. Having to beat longer games in a single sitting due to no save feature is a major drawback for the old systems like the Genesis/Mega Drive, NES, and Super NES. Even if a game is fun, being forced to replay the same sections over and over becomes quite tedious. This became clear when I received the Nomad as a gift way back when, as the games weren't designed for portable play. Right now, it's not a huge problem for me as I'm sticking with arcade-style games like Altered Beast, Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. Luckily, there are options available in some cases like Steam downloads, Wii VC, compilations for newer systems, and some other things.

Luna-Harmony

#66

Luna-Harmony said:

Happy birthday my old friend we had many good times say hi to your sister the mega-cd.
Sorry we parted ways when the snes came out the first time i saw mario world ntsc i had to have that afair and trade you in :(

Rune_Meister88

#68

Rune_Meister88 said:

RIP my Sega Mega Drive..it was summer in the 90's when i was playing alex the kid for hours under extreme heat and humidity, nearly @ the final stage then suddenly my tiny tv blew up shprt circuiting my MD and melting off my cartridge :( i cried all week before i got a new Sega console!! i miss when Sega used to make their own consoles.

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