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 coming to Nintendo Switch Online...
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.
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.
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 simply 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. Fire it up once, remind yourself that it's a bit pants, and move on.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With nostalgia glasses on it would be easy to remember this as one of the best 16-bit games going, but newcomers will find that it has dated in a way the best games of the era simply haven't. It's fun — no arguments there — but it's very slow-moving with various elements that feel unfair in a modern context (presents which impact you negatively, aliens who you have little chance of escaping from that knock you off the planet's surface and make you fall several levels). It's still worth firing up, but where other Mega Drive games have aged like fine wine, ToeJam & Earl is a bit funky these days — in ways both good and bad.
Better known as Puyo Puyo, the gooey block falling puzzler was given a Sonic-based lick of paint to attract players in the West — specifically the awesomely ugly-looking Robotnik and his badnik pals from the animated series Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Regardless of the Sonic window dressing, this is a fine puzzler and if you're a fan of Puyo Puyo Tetris and want to see where the beany Puyos got started (on Mega Drive, at least), you'll find plenty to enjoy here.
23. Golden Axe (MD)
High fantasy beat 'em up Golden Axe came along relatively early in the Mega Drive's life and although it's far from essential, it demonstrated the power and potential of the system in delivering quality System 16 arcade ports in the home. It rides a similar wave of arcade SEGA nostalgia as the likes of Altered Beast (which had the same designer), although battling though Yuria and giving Death Adder a sound thrashing is infinitely more satisfying than wandering through Ancient Greece as a beastie, and the trio of heroes add a dash of variety that would go on to inspire the Streets of Rage series.
A 16-bit compilation of remakes of the Mega Men 1-3, Mega Man: The Wily Wars can be jarring if you know the NES titles back-to-front, and they certainly don't feel as tight and, well, perfect as the originals, but it's an interesting way to experience them all the same. We're not talking Super Mario All-Stars levels of quality, but the addition of the exclusive Wily Tower made it an expensive collector's item nonetheless, especially in North America where it was only ever released non-physically via Sega Channel.
Worth paying hundreds for a PAL or Japanese cart? Almost certainly not, but if you've got a Mega Drive Mini or the NSO Expansion Pack, it's worth a look just to see a Blast Processed take on the 8-bit classics.