Genesis Mini 1
Image: Nintendo Life

Miniaturized consoles are nothing new to Sega as it was releasing them long before Nintendo’s Classic NES and SNES consoles took the spotlight. The plug-and-play systems it produced in collaboration with AtGames usually carried a decent library of titles, but the quality of the emulation was always subpar at best. However, things are finally changing for Sega as it has become more involved with production duties and is now in full control of its upcoming plug-and-play console, the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive, if you prefer) Mini.

Sega has poured its all (and then some) into this miniaturized Sega Genesis Model-1; it comes with most of the bells and whistles of the original and is jam-packed with 42 games that have all been ported over by the emulation masters themselves, M2. This sounds like a dream come true for both Sega fans and anyone with a firm interest in retro gaming, so let’s take a look and see what the Sega Genesis Mini has to offer.

Sega Genesis Mini: The Hardware

Genesis Mini 2
Image: Nintendo Life

The miniaturized Sega Genesis Mini looks absolutely adorable, especially alongside it’s original '90s Model-1 counterpart. From the tiny yet functional power and reset buttons to the moveable volume slider and cartridge door, this console oozes charm. The Sega Genesis Mini receives power through a standard micro USB port and connects to your TV through HDMI, and all necessary cables are included in the box – which looks just like the one you'll have received back in the early '90s, assuming you were old enough to own one.

However, it's not quite perfect; we do wish the console itself was built a little sturdier. The plastic isn’t thin by any means, but feels a little on the light end. Plus, the console is lacking any sort of rubber grips on its bottom to keep it in place. One wrong tug of a controller during a heated match of Street Fighter II could easily send the system flying. On the whole, it's certainly a marked improvement over the terrible AtGames Sega clones, but it's not quite at the same level as Nintendo's micro-consoles.

Two replica Genesis (3 Button) controllers are also included and they look and feel just as good as you remember, if not better. Buttons are tight and responsive, and the floatiness found in the original controller’s D-Pad is absent in this version. Each controller also comes wired with a lengthy 6-foot USB cord (unlike the pitiful 3-foot cord on the NES and SNES Classic controllers), ditching the unreliable Wireless IR sensors that AtGames used for their controllers in the past.

These controllers scream quality and are exactly what you hope to find in a premium first-party product – but we have no idea why Sega didn't choose to bundle the superior six-button pad which Japan is getting. As it stands, it's a pain to play titles like Street Fighter II': Special Champion Edition with this pad, as you have to press start to switch between punches and kicks. We can only assume that Sega went with the original pad design because it's what fans will remember; at least it's possible to buy replacement pads to use with the console.

Sega Genesis Mini: The Games

Genesis Mini 5
Image: Nintendo Life

The Sega Genesis Mini comes packed with a whopping 42 games, featuring a slew of Sega published titles and a few sprinkled in here and there from the likes of Capcom, Konami and a few others. You won’t find any unlicensed shovelware here.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that each region’s list of games will vary. So if you’re planning to order yourself a Mega Drive Mini from Japan, you’ll have a different line up of games.

Western Exclusives:

Available In All Regions (Genesis & Mega Drive):

Not only did Sega double the lineup of games on the Genesis Mini versus the number packed into the SNES Classic but depending on who you ask, it also outperforms due to the quality of its titles. It includes a majority of the classics from series like Phantasy Star, Sonic, Streets of Rage and Toejam & Earl, but also includes a ton of insanely hard to find titles (that cost a pretty penny to buy physically nowadays) like Castlevania: Bloodlines, Contra: Hard Corps, to name a few. Sega even tossed in a few bonus titles, (because why not, right?) like the (kinda) never-released Tetris and a brand new port of Darius.

The Sega Genesis Mini also includes a helping of simultaneous multiplayer titles to put that second controller to good use. You can clean the streets with a friend in Streets of Rage 2, then take on each other in Street Fighter II (as long as you don't mind swapping buttons, as we mentioned earlier). Then, when the fighting has finally ceased, you can jump right back in with a chaotic match of Tetris.

Sega has made sure to include a wide variety of titles to not overindulge on any one genre, and while there are some huge titles missing from the list, (*cough* Ristar, Rocket Knight Adventures, Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles, Zombies Ate My Neighbors *cough*) we understand it would be impossible to please everyone. Even though every title on this list might not suit your fancy, we think there is enough to keep most players happy.

Sega Genesis Mini: Performance

Genesis Mini 6
Image: Nintendo Life

Sega has had quite the reputation of releasing some fairly awful clone consoles in the past with AtGames. Their consoles and controllers were typically cheaply manufactured, but a worse crime was the emulation quality, which was severely unkempt, leaving games broken or with completely brutalized soundtracks and effects, ultimately making them a mess to play. Thankfully Sega has hired back the folks who’ve worked on the Sega Ages line of games to handle the emulation, M2. Needless to say, they’ve done an excellent job and should be proud of the effort they’ve put in.

Games play flawlessly, and as they should in the modern era. Some purists may be able to notice minor inconsistencies between these and at their original versions but any differences that might exist weren’t apparent to us. The Genesis Mini outputs a 720p image with a few possible image settings. You’re able to select a standard 4:3 or stretched aspect ratio, and beyond the ability to slap one of two wallpapers behind your game, there really isn’t much else to help customize your image.

Now the home menu may not be as elaborate as it is on Nintendo's rival systems, but it's fairly clean and does the job showing off your library of games without any hiccups. Selecting a game will give you a brief background on the title or series and will tell you the year it was released. You’re also able to sort the library by alphabet, genre, the year they released, and the maximum number of players.

Some of the sound effects on the menus can get a tad annoying after a while, but what easily makes up for it is the newly included menu theme composed by none other than Yuzo Koshiro, composer of the Streets of Rage series. It’s an original tune exclusive to the Genesis Mini that was created with the same Yamaha 2612 sound chip found in the original Genesis.

One nice leg up on the competitors is the ability to return to the home menu without having to get up and reset the system. When playing a game, hold down the start button on your controller for about 3 seconds and you’ll be taken to a menu where you can save your current progress, load an old save state, reset the game or simply return to the home menu. It’s a nice touch that our late night legs are extremely thankful they included.

Sega Genesis Mini: The Verdict

Genesis Mini 7
Image: Nintendo Life

While the Genesis may not have had as many groundbreaking and infinitely replayable titles as SNES did, it still has a treasure trove of great games that are begging to be rediscovered and the Genesis Mini features some of the best of the best. Its hardware plays and feels like it should, and that too is really the most important thing. Plus, with the added addition of save states, more will have the courage to venture through some of these games' toughest challenges. It’s obvious to see that this wasn't just another product for Sega. The Genesis Mini is a well-crafted love letter to Genesis and Sega fans alike and is well-deserving of the Sega Genesis Seal of Quality.

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