21. Light Crusader (MD)

Light Crusader (MD)
Light Crusader (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Treasure
Release Date: 31st Dec 2007 (USA) / 7th Dec 2007 (UK/EU)

Light Crusader caught people by surprise when it was first released; it simply could not be any less akin to Gunstar Heroes. Developer Treasure is famed for its action games and while its first (and to date, only) foray into the world of fantasy RPGs isn’t 100% successful, it’s certainly worth checking out if you’re a fan of this style of game. Perhaps its Nintendo Switch Online release will attract a whole new legion of fans.

20. Strider (MD)

Strider (MD)
Strider (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 5th Nov 1990 (USA) / 1991 (UK/EU)

Definitely from a golden era of Capcom arcades, Strider then emerged in this excellent iteration on SEGA's 16-bit machine. It's the sort of fun, futuristic sci-fi action platformer that inspires plenty of games in the modern era, and certainly still holds up well for current-day audiences. Though this console port isn't a perfect recreation of the arcade, it comes pretty darn close.

19. Dynamite Headdy (MD)

Dynamite Headdy (MD)
Dynamite Headdy (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Treasure
Release Date: Sep 1994 (USA) / Oct 1994 (UK/EU)

Though most commonly known for fast-paced action games — think Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga and Gunstar Heroes — Treasure's Dynamite Headdy doesn’t quite adhere to the developer's usual formula. That's not a slight against this platformer, though, since this is arguably (along with the aforementioned Gunstar Heroes) the best Treasure game of the Mega Drive era. It's not quite up there with the cream of the crop of 16-bit platformers such as Super Mario World and the early Sonic games, but it remains a fine game from a fine developer, one that’s well worth your time.

18. Earthworm Jim (MD)

Earthworm Jim (MD)
Earthworm Jim (MD)
Publisher: Interplay / Developer: Shiny Entertainment
Release Date: 27th Oct 2008 (USA) / 3rd Oct 2008 (UK/EU)

Earthworm Jim is a bit of a classic, and for a good reason — it has a ton of style, it's a blast to play, and the animation and music are still impressive all these years later. It might be a bit too hard for some, and it arguably doesn't match up to the very best in the 2D platforming genre, but if you're game for a laugh and don't expect a genre-defining experience, you really can't go wrong here. Plus, save states in the NSO version make it much easier to get through.

17. Alisia Dragoon (MD)

Alisia Dragoon (MD)
Alisia Dragoon (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Game Arts
Release Date: Feb 1992 (USA) / 1992 (UK/EU)

A great-looking 16-bit action platformer, Alisia Dragoon puts you in the boots of the titular warrior as she battles all manner of beasties while avenging her father. Assisting her is a group of companion creatures, four in all, who follow her around and can be switched between at will. Over 30 years on, this remains very solid and enjoyable, an experience that's absolutely worth checking out via the Mega Drive Mini, Nintendo Switch Online, or any other convenient means.

Or via an original cart on original hardware for you true connoisseurs! Jolly good.

16. Comix Zone (MD)

Comix Zone (MD)
Comix Zone (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: SEGA Technical Institute
Release Date: 2nd Aug 1995 (USA) / 27th Oct 1995 (UK/EU)

Released fairly late in the life of the Mega Drive/Genesis, Comix Zone didn't exactly set the world alight in terms of sales but is now rightly regarded as one of the upper-tier titles for Sega's 16-bit wonder machine. A very challenging side-scrolling beat 'em up that sees you brawling your way across comic book cells with small details and fun nods to the print medium along the way, it's a game that's more than the sum of its parts; original, vibrant, and very much recommended.

15. MUSHA (MD)

MUSHA (MD)
MUSHA (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Compile
Release Date: 1991 (USA) / 17th Jul 2009 (UK/EU)

Released in an era where you couldn't swing a Genesis controller around without knocking a shooter off the shelves, MUSHA was battling against a crowd when it first launched. Nowadays, though, there's more appreciation for this vertical scroller by virtue of its rockin' soundtrack and visuals that are genuinely up there with the best of the era; don't sleep on this one.

14. Ristar (MD)

Ristar (MD)
Ristar (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: SEGA
Release Date: 4th Dec 2006 (USA) / 15th Dec 2006 (UK/EU)

You'd perhaps be forgiven for not knowing a great deal about Ristar, but may be intrigued to hear that the concept and ideas for this game were part of development for the original Sonic the Hedgehog. While the focus of SEGA's mascot shifted towards speedier play, the core Sonic development team would eventually return to realise its vision for Ristar, which is certainly fantastical and quirky.

Expect slower platforming and a lot of focus on the ability to grab onto enemies and the environment alike. It's unique and well worth a look.

13. Zero Wing (MD)

Zero Wing (MD)
Zero Wing (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Toaplan
Release Date: Jul 1991 (UK/EU)

Even if you've never heard of Zero Wing, a side-scrolling shooter from Toaplan, we're here to inform you that you almost certainly have heard of Zero Wing, if only indirectly — it's better known as a meme these days. The infamously dodgily localised line "All your base are belong to us" might have become more famous than the game that birthed it, but there's a solid shooter with plenty of pedigree here — perhaps not up there with Toaplan's very best, but still very enjoyable.

12. Super Fantasy Zone (MD)

Super Fantasy Zone (MD)
Super Fantasy Zone (MD)
Publisher: Sunsoft / Developer: Sunsoft
Release Date: 21st Jul 2008 (USA) / 27th Jun 2008 (UK/EU)

Super Fantasy Zone won't appeal to everyone. It might look like a standard horizontal scrolling shooter, but this game has a very different feel once you begin playing. Its high difficulty is also something that might turn some easily-frustrated players off, but if you're able to enjoy it for what it is, you'll have a very engaging time. With sugary-sweet pastel visuals and a great cute-'em-up soundtrack, there's a lot to love about this unique and oddball shooter. It's not perfect — hey, what game is? — but it's still very entertaining and well worth revisiting.

11. Contra: Hard Corps (MD)

Contra: Hard Corps (MD)
Contra: Hard Corps (MD)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 8th Aug 1994 (USA) / Nov 1994 (UK/EU)

Available as part of the NSO Expansion Pack — and thus technically available to play on a Nintendo console outside of the Contra Anniversary CollectionContra: Hard Corps represented the SEGA console debut of the series and represented a bit of a spin-off vibe in terms of setting and characters. Though perhaps not easy to appreciate for those that have encountered this solely in the Contra Anniversary Collection, it made some notable changes in control scheme and gameplay mechanics from its predecessors.

An excellent entry, it certainly stands out as an inspiration for some modern-day 'neo-retro' run and gun games, too.