Best Sega Genesis Mega Drive Games Nintendo Switch Online
Image: Nintendo Life

Remember, the ranking below is dynamic and will change according to each game's User Rating in our database. If you haven't previously, feel free to rate the new games and let's see where they settle on the list. Enjoy!

The selection of Sega Mega Drive / Genesis games that form part of the 'Expansion Pack' for the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service features some choice entries from the 16-bit system's library. We might have had the opportunity to play many of these games in many other places in recent years, including Switch in some cases, but the easy availability of more classic video games on Switch is always worth celebrating. Plus, the NSO lineup is surprisingly excellent!

But which of the Sega Genesis games available via Nintendo Switch Online are the very best? Well, we can answer that question with the help of Nintendo Life readers who have rated the titles on our Games Database.

The following list is compiled using the User Ratings (out of 10) given to each Mega Drive game available via the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. It should be noted that this ranking is not set in stone and will automatically fluctuate over time depending on assigned User Ratings (and new additions to the NSO game roster).

Think a game below deserves to be higher up on the list? Simply click on the 'star' button and score it yourself — your personal rating could boost its placement in the overall ranking.

So, sit back and enjoy the best Sega Genesis / Mega Drive games on Nintendo Switch Online...

44. Virtua Fighter 2 (MD)

Virtua Fighter 2 remains one of the best one-on-one fighters in the history of video games. When it was originally released it destroyed the competition, and even today many hardcore fans feel that Sega has never really bettered the classic brawler.

But before you all get too excited, this rather less impressive Genesis/Mega Drive port is no longer 3D but 2D — a move that causes all kinds of problems. The gameplay of VF2 is supposed to exist in three dimensions, and taking one away renders much of the previously available tactical brilliance impossible. It looks admirably similar to the 32-bit Saturn version, but VF2 on the Genesis is something of a mistake.

43. Altered Beast (MD)

As one of the original pack-in games that came with the system, many people will have played Altered Beast — arguably far more than the game itself warrants. Simply put, it's an early effort and the most average of arcade experiences which doesn't live up to the promise of its body-altering premise. Nostalgia is the only reason to bother with it nowadays, which in a way makes it a perfect addition to a subscription service like NSO. Fire it up once, remind yourself that it's a bit pants, and move on.

42. Sword of Vermilion (MD)

Sword of Vermilion was famously developed by Virtua Fighter creator Yu Suzuki and was one of the first RPGs for Sega's 16-bit system... and it shows. It combines several gameplay styles including top-down in towns, a first-person-style viewpoint as you explore the terrain and caves between villages and cities, a three-quarter view for random real-time enemy encounters (which are frequent), and a side-on view for boss battles. It's pretty basic and repetitive in terms of audio, visuals, and gameplay, but it hangs together well enough to be worth investigating, at least — especially if you've got save states to make the random encounters more bearable. And while the sound effects are underwhelming, the music itself is atmospheric and catchy.

41. Space Harrier II (MD)

This rail shooter was one of the very first Genesis / Mega Drive titles and when compared to other similar games which came later, it should come as no surprise that Space Harrier II is as shallow as a puddle. As a technical showpiece for the Mega Drive and its ability to bring Sega's Super Scaler games into the home, it was decent fare. The feeling of immersion in the environment feels very limited, though, and things quickly get boring. It's definitely worth checking out via Nintendo Switch Online, for example, and hardcore Sega fans might find they can forgive its lightweight nature, but it's far from an essential classic.

40. Target Earth (MD)

Known as Target Earth in North America (this game never saw release in Europe), Masaya's 1990 run-and-gun shooter Assault Suit Leynos kicked off the Assault Suit series which would continue with Cybernator on SNES a few years later. Previously available on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan, it's also playable on the Japanese Mega Drive Mini but the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack is by far the easiest way to officially access this gruelling gunner these days.

39. Flicky (MD)

A basic little arcade platformer inspired by Namco's Mappy, Flicky sees you jumping around collecting little yellow chicks (sorry, 'Chirps'), and heading to an exit while avoiding enemies and obstacles. It's simple stuff and pleasant enough, but the fact that Flicky's biggest claim to fame is becoming a bit-character in the Sonic series — even getting a title nod in the isometric platformer Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island, where Sonic has to round up Flickies in a similar manner — tells you all you need to know about this poultry-based platformer.

38. Kid Chameleon (MD)

Kid Chameleon steals ideas from Nintendo's finest (such as jumping on the heads of enemies and bashing item boxes from below), but thankfully there is at least one aspect that makes this platformer stand out from the crowd. By putting on various headwear, Kid is able to transform into several different characters (hence the 'Chameleon' of the title). These range from a knight in armour to a Splatterhouse-style axe murderer, and there are loads of stages to play through here. Unfortunately, the rather bland design means you may not have the willpower to see them all. There are some neat ideas but the execution is sloppy.

37. Thunder Force II (MD)

Another early release for the Mega Drive, Technosoft's Thunder Force II was a launch game in the US and a sequel to 1983's original. This shmup features two viewpoints across its various stages: a top-down free-moving view, and side-scrolling stages. While the follow-ups are undeniably the better games, Thunder Force II is still worth checking out, especially for shooter fans or anyone interested in the Thunder Force lineage.

36. Sonic Spinball (MD)

Sonic Spinball was an attempt to expand on the pinball shenanigans of Spring Yard Zone and Casino Night Zone from the first two Sonic games and spin an entire game out of it. The premise had promise, and there are some neat ideas within, but unfortunately the result feels like a fusion of underwhelming pinball and bad platforming. We often wonder how this might have turned out had it used the silky smooth engine from the mainline games.

Available on various complications over the years, including on Switch with SEGA Mega Drive Classics and the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack (and even Game Boy Advance via the Sega Smash Pack), Spinball's excellent music is reason enough to check it out if you're curious, and the bonus stages featuring Sonic standing at a pinball table with his reflection in the glass is still pretty rad.

35. Ecco The Dolphin (MD)

Ecco the Dolphin as something of an anomaly when it was released; a contemplative game about a dolphin saving his marine world from ecological ruin on a console otherwise overflowing with 'tude-filled, console war fodder. Ecco was a breath of fresh ocean air in that context, and while its visuals and the overall idea were perhaps better than the execution here, we still look back fondly on Ecco's escapades and the atmosphere of this game — calming and unnerving in equal measure.

34. Columns (MD)

Much fuss was made over Columns back when it was first released. Nintendo had just launched its version of Tetris alongside the portable Game Boy, and Sega quickly pushed Columns into the marketplace in the hope that it would match Tetris in terms of appeal.

The core gameplay is as basic as they come — you line up three jewels of the same colour, they disappear and new jewels fall in stacks of three that you can reorder before they hit the bottom. It often verges on the hypnotic, and if you really let yourself get sucked in it can prove to be quite compelling. Sadly, you can't escape the fact that the genre has evolved over the years and Columns lacks the evergreen addictiveness of Tetris.