10. Shining Force (MD)

Shining Force (MD)
Shining Force (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Climax Entertainment
Release Date: 23rd Jul 2007 (USA) / 3rd Aug 2007 (UK/EU)

Though it's not a series that has spanned decades, Shining Force is well worth a look if you like some turn-based strategy RPG goodness; it's rather like a SEGA equivalent to Fire Emblem, but without a 2010s revival. There's a little exploration and typical RPG play, but the meat here is challenging turn-based battles, some of which can take an hour or more to conquer. It's a little 'of its time', sure, but a fascinating part of the Mega Drive / Genesis library.

9. Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (MD)

Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (MD)
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: SEGA
Release Date: 20th Aug 2007 (USA) / 3rd Aug 2007 (UK/EU)

Though this series has had attempted reboots, it's the 16-bit era that is particularly memorable. Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master serves up so fun sidescrolling action, and though the debate can be had about the best Shinobi game of the era this certainly added some welcome gameplay enhancements. Dashing, wall jumping / bouncing and some memorable stages make this a fun title to revisit; it's also a particularly good looking 16-bit title, too.

8. Beyond Oasis (MD)

Beyond Oasis (MD)
Beyond Oasis (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Ancient
Release Date: 15th Mar 1995 (USA) / Mar 1995 (UK/EU)

Developed by Yuzo Koshiro's company, Ancient, if you're an RPG fan you might find Beyond Oasis a little lightweight. But for those of you that turn pale at the thought of indulging in a role-playing adventure, this should serve as a gentle introduction to the genre. Regardless of your stance, you'd have to be pretty sad and shambling not to enjoy this, plus it's one of the best-looking games ever to grace the system. A sequel was released for the Sega Saturn a few years later and although it improved on the original in terms of graphics and sound, it didn't really take the already-excellent concept any further.

7. Alien Soldier (MD)

Alien Soldier (MD)
Alien Soldier (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Treasure
Release Date: 5th Nov 2007 (USA) / Jun 1995 (UK/EU)

The run-'n'-gun action here is fast and, indeed, furious, so if that sounds like your bag then Alien Soldier could be the game for you. Given the similarities to Treasure’s own Gunstar Heroes, however, this sort of falls short, mainly because the platforming elements are simply not as good. It is also frustratingly difficult at times as well, which may put some people off. Still, this is an enjoyable action game in its own right and well worth a look if you're after a little Treasure.

6. Phantasy Star IV (MD)

Phantasy Star IV (MD)
Phantasy Star IV (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: SEGA
Release Date: Feb 1995 (USA) / 8th Dec 1995 (UK/EU)

Phantasy Star IV was the last entry of the 'original' 16-bit run, and offers a sizeable and rather immersive RPG experience to this day. As you'd expect you explore the world, meet its citizens, gain experience and engage in turn-based battles, similar to other classics of the era.

It's fondly regarded for its excellent visuals and overall craft, and you don't really need to have played its predecessors to enjoy the story, making it a recommendation for some classic retro RPG goodness.

5. Shining Force II: Ancient Sealing (MD)

Shining Force II: Ancient Sealing (MD)
Shining Force II: Ancient Sealing (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Climax Entertainment
Release Date: 19th Oct 1994 (USA) / 2nd Jul 1994 (UK/EU)

The original Shining Force was a massive success for Sega, granting the Genesis/Mega Drive with a strategy RPG to rival Nintendo’s popular Fire Emblem franchise. A sequel of some description was inevitable and the result was truly mind-blowing at the time; it’s little wonder that this game is held in such high regard by hardcore Sega fans. Overall, Shining Force II doesn’t attempt to do anything new and is essentially a solid extension of the first title, but fans of the original will adore this.

4. Castlevania: Bloodlines (MD)

Castlevania: Bloodlines (MD)
Castlevania: Bloodlines (MD)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 17th Mar 1994 (USA) / Mar 1994 (UK/EU)

Available on Switch as part of the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, as well as with the NSO Expansion Pack, Castlevania: Bloodlines — or Castlevania: The New Generation as it was known in Europe — has the distinction of being the only series entry to grace SEGA's 16-bit console. In Japan it was called Vampire Killer and the game is probably most notable for adding canon connections between Castlevania and Bram Stoker's novel by making John Morris the son of Dracula character Quincy Morris.

Bloodlines is a good-looking, great-sounding addition to the series and until relatively recently it was a pricey cart to pick up. Thankfully Konami made it much easier to access by adding it to both the Anniversary Collection and the SEGA Genesis Mini. Wherever you play it, Bloodlines deserves your time.

3. Gunstar Heroes (MD)

Gunstar Heroes (MD)
Gunstar Heroes (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Treasure
Release Date: 9th Sep 1993 (USA) / 1993 (UK/EU)

A 16-bit classic from Treasure, this was one of the very best games of its generation and still feels remarkably fresh decades later. With a neat weapon combo mechanic, gorgeous visuals, a brilliant soundtrack, and fantastic variety in its gameplay — not to mention a cracking 2-player co-op mode — it remains an absolute pleasure to run and, indeed, gun through Gunstar Heroes.

2. Streets of Rage 2 (MD)

Streets of Rage 2 (MD)
Streets of Rage 2 (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: SEGA
Release Date: 20th Dec 1992 (USA) / Jan 1993 (UK/EU)

A seminal belt scrolling beat 'em up that gave SEGA fans some real ammunition in the dark times of the playground console wars. Perhaps Streets of Rage 2's biggest achievement is that, while co-opting a significant portion of arcade Final Fight's style and swagger, it makes those borrowed mechanics absolutely its own through sheer quality. The first game in the series had great audio and half-decent brawling gameplay, but the sequel had the mechanics to match the music. The combination of that balletic combat with the incredible work of composer Yuzo Koshiro and collaborator Motohiro Kawashima created one of the best video games ever made for any console.

1. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (MD)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (MD)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (MD)
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Sonic Team
Release Date: 21st Nov 1992 (USA) / 6th Jul 2007 (UK/EU)

Anyone Sonic fan alive at the time will remember Sonic 2sday, the November launch day of Sega's biggest sequel. If you had a Genesis / Mega Drive in your household throughout Holiday season 1992, it almost certainly had a copy of Sonic 2 in the cart slot. Adding everyone's favourite two-tailed fox into the mix, Sonic 2 upped the ante with slicker visuals, more ideas, more varied Zones to explore and a nifty splitscreen 2-player mode, as well — a real novelty and technical achievement at the time.

In addition to being part of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack offering, it's available on Switch in the SEGA Mega Drive Classics collection or as part of the SEGA AGES series. However you play, it still stands as one of the best sequels ever made.


Let us know your thoughts below, and remember — if you haven't rated your favourite games from the list, you can still do so and influence the overall ranking. New Genesis games added to the service will appear here, too, so check back in the future and rank them as well. You know, if you like.

And if you're after a full list of every Nintendo Switch Online NES and SNES game currently available, we're happy to oblige.

Further reading:

This article is one of our Switch Essentials guides which cover a wide variety of genres, including the Best Switch FPS Games, the Best Switch RPGs, the Best Switch Games For Kids, the Best Switch Couch Co-Op Games and the Best Switch Fitness and Exercise Games. We can also help out hunting down the Best Switch Horror Games, the Best Switch Racing Games, the Best Switch Action-RPGs, the Best Nintendo Switch Roguelikes, Roguelites and Run-Based Games, the Best Free Switch Games, the Best Remakes And Remasters, the Best Switch Music And Rhythm Games, Best Feel-Good Switch Games, Best Switch Open-World Games, Best Switch Soulslike Games, Best LGBTQ+ Switch Games, and even Games to Play After You've Finished Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Whatever your favourite genre, we've got you covered: Strategy Games, Metroidvanias, Puzzle Games, Party Games, Online Multiplayer Games, Local Wireless Multiplayer Games, Shmups, Twin-Stick Shooters, Visual Novels, Kart Racers, Fighting Games, Football Games, Funny Games, Golf Games, 'Walking Sims' And Narrative Games, Switch Games For Lovers And Lonely Hearts, Detective Games, Hidden Gems, 2D Platformers, 3D Platformers, Puzzle Platformers, Tabletop Mode Games, Run and Gun Games, LEGO Games, Sports Games, Survival Games, Beat 'Em Ups, Camera Games, Chill Games, Family Games, Retro-Inspired Games, Short Games, Card Games and Deck-Builders, and Life Sims And Farming Games.

Still hungry for more? Elsewhere we look at Wholesome Games, TATE Mode Games, Flight Sim and Space Combat, Point and Click Adventure Games, and the Best Switch Exclusives, as well as Every Arcade Archives Game, Every ACA Neo Geo Game, Every SEGA AGES Game On Switch, plus the Best Switch Ports, Best Wii U-To-Switch Ports, Best Switch Collections And Compilations, Best Cheap Switch Games, Best Switch Demos, Games That Are Better On Switch OLED, Switch Games Under $10, $20, $50, and Switch games with the Best Soundtracks and the Best Graphics. Phew!

If you're looking for the best Switch games regardless of genre, our reader-voted selection of the Best Nintendo Switch Games should help you out, and you can also find the Best Nintendo Switch Games of 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. And finally, if you're interested in other Nintendo consoles and retro games, check out the Best Game Boy Games, Best GBC Games, Best GBA Games, Best Nintendo DS Games, Best Nintendo 3DS Games, Best NES Games, Best SNES Games, Best N64 Games, Best GameCube Games, and Best Wii Games, and Best Wii U Games, as well as Every Available Nintendo Switch Online Retro Game, and ranked lists of Every Nintendo Switch Online NES, SNES, N64 and Sega Genesis / Mega Drive Game.