The Sega Mega Drive. The 16-Bit processing powerhouse that rivalled Nintendo. A system that caused two factions of kids across school playgrounds. You were either a Sega or Nintendo kid, you couldn’t possibly be both. We’ve scoured the archives and created a ranking of games based on their average review scores upon their release. Of course, we’ve added a dash of opinion into the mix as well, yours may vary. Here are the 10 best Sega Mega Drive games of all time.
10. Thunder Force IV
Average release review score: 87%
The last in the Thunder Force trilogy on the Sega Mega Drive.
The ORN/OHN Empire is plotting the extermination of the human race (every game needs an evil empire right?) You decide that simply won’t do and pilot a ship to blast the ORN/OHN Empire to bits.
Mega Drive Advanced Gaming Magazine praised the game saying “With amazing graphics, superb sound and the most incredible use of parallax scrolling it’s definitely the best thing since sliced bread”.
The difficulty has been notched up from the previous game and the music is hard rocking as you fly through stages shooting every enemy in your way. Partway through your ship is upgraded to use the Thundersword attack.
Power-ups are gained from destroying certain enemies and one-shot you die, losing all your upgrades in true brutal shoot em up style.
9. Road Rash 2
Developer: Electronic Arts
Average release review Score: 86%
Racing across five states on a bike. It sounds straight forward. Oh, and there are 14 other bikers armed with chains and clubs determined to claim first place. You race and brawl to finish in the top three of every stage to advance to the next level. The Cops, the worst car drivers in history and even the wildlife are out to stop you.
The money you win goes towards buying better, faster bikes. Be careful you’ll need some cash to make bail if you’re busted or to pay the repair bill after wrecking your bike.
Road Rash 2 is face-paced action where your bike can fly over bumps and skid off the road if you’re not careful. The bikers’ weapons can be stolen. But watch out for the chain wielding bloodthirsty racers who will take great pleasure in introducing your body to the tarmac.
8. Micro Machines Turbo Tournament 96
Developer: Supersonic Software and Codemasters
Average release review score: 89%
Multiplayer race mayhem at its finest! Tables, sandboxes and ponds are your race tracks with a whole host of Micro Machines cars, boats and jets to race. Turbo Tournament 96 comes on a J-Cart cartridge, containing 2 controller ports. No multitap needed here.
Games Master Magazine proclaimed it “The most addictive game in the World” and “A must buy!”
This game is a blast in multiplayer mode supporting up to 8 players. Though you’re best sticking to 4 as 8 requires splitting controllers in half to control amongst everyone.
The tournament mode in multiplayer will make even the best of friends try to smash each other from the track.
The J-Cart also allows players to build and save their own custom race tracks for even more mayhem.
7. Earthworm Jim
Develop: Shiny Entertainment
Average release review score: 86%
An earthworm in a super-suit on a mission to fight evil and save the princess. This 2D action-platformer mixed with a run and gun has humour throughout. In the first level, Jim launches a cow, battles a trash can and fights a belching fat guy suspended from a wire. The 90s were a weird time!
Mega Magazine gave Jim a 92% on release. Stating “Earthworm Jim is nothing short of fantastic with some graphics that you’d never have thought the Mega Drive was capable of. It may sound surprising but some of the ideas behind this are highly original (gasp) and great fun.”
Jim’s creator David Perry had previously directed Mega Drive games including the highly acclaimed platformer Aladdin. So with a great track record and a wacky imagination Earthworm Jim was born.
Jim uses his head as a whip to attack and to swing between platforms. He also has a plasma blaster for when things get dicey. This game is a laugh from start to finish and the sequel Earthworm Jim 2 is also one to look out for.
6. Revenge of Shinobi
Average release review score: 87%
His master murdered and his bride kidnapped at the hands of the evil organisation Neo Zeed. Shinobi (Joe Musashi) is out for revenge against Neo Zeed in this sequel to Shinobi. There are 8 stages, each composed of two platforming levels and a boss fight.
Shurikens are Shinobi’s main weapon and eight can be fired in a spread when performing a somersault (double jump and attack). There’s ninjutsu that varies from four magic abilities. The abilities consist of a higher jump, a shield, a fire attack, and mijin which sacrifices a life for a powerful attack (causing a respawn).
A reviewer for Mean Machines Magazine said “It’s challenging and amazingly addictive and keeps you glued to the machine for hours at a time – I just didn’t want to stop playing”
The game gets challenging in later levels with jumps and enemies placed to knock you to your doom (how convenient).
The soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro is an early Mega Drive masterpiece, a standout track being China Town. (Sega even put Yuzo’s name on the games title screen).
In some stages the double jump transitions between the foreground and background of certain areas to either attack or dodge enemies. Revenge of Shinobi is a must-play and its direct sequel Shinobi 3 is excellent too.
5. Golden Axe
Average release review score: 86%
The homeport of Sega’s arcade Medieval beat ’em up Golden Axe, while the sound takes a bit of a hit, the gameplay certainly doesn’t! They even added an entirely new extra level. You play as one of three heroes on a quest to save the King and rid the world of the evil Death Adder. Dwarf Gilius Thunderhead, Ax Battler, a man (ironically armed with a sword) and Amazon warrior Tyris Flare.
Game Director Makoto Uchida who created Altered Beast was heavily inspired by Conan the Barbarian and the inspiration is ever visible in Golden Axe.
You’re aided by the ability to cast magic, the more potions, the stronger the spell. Tyris is able to call upon a screen-filling fire breathing dragon when her magic meter is full.
There are monsters such as Chicken Legs and Dragons to ride as you fight off Death Adder’s minions. The Skeleton’s coming out of the ground in Jason and the Argonauts style, make for formidable foes!
4. Castlevania Bloodlines (The New Generation)
Average release review score: 84%
The first Castlevania developed for a Sega platform happened with the Mega Drive. Bloodlines is set in WW1 Europe. The two playable characters are whip-wielding John Morris and spear bearing Eric Lecarde. The pair chase across Europe to try and prevent the resurrection of Dracula.
The levels contain different paths for John and Eric, each uses their weapons to access different areas.
The wait for Castlevania on a Sega platform was met with enthusiasm. One reviewer from Die Hard Game Fan Magazine gave the game a 98% saying “Castlevania has finally arrived on the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) and, of course, it is a masterpiece. From the opening animation to the last lash of the whip, this is action platform gaming at its finest. The game design is among the best in the series, as are the bosses, music and play mechanics.”
It’s the first Castlevania game to have a soundtrack scored by Michiru Yamane. She would go on to score the PlayStation 1 classic Symphony of The Night.
The graphics featured stunning set pieces where levels, rotated and a water reflection effect that was well ahead of its time.
The classic horror movie-inspired enemies return, it wouldn’t be Castlevania without them. The level design and gameplay make for an awesome experience.
3. Sonic 3 and Knuckles
Developer: Sega Technical Institute
Average release review score: 91%
Ok, so Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are two games on two cartridges. Yet, when connected together form the massive 14 Zone Sonic 3 and Knuckles. The games were planned as one but time constraints in development split the game in two.
This time around choose from Sonic, Sonic and Tails, Tails, or Knuckles to play as. Knuckles fists break through blocks to access new areas and he can climb walls (he glides too).
Sega Magazine gave a score of 95% saying “Playability wise this is probably the greatest platform game ever written”.
Sonic once again must stop the evil plans of Dr Robotnik and save Angel Island. The variety of zones is huge, Hydrocity, Flying Battery, Lava Reef, and Robotnik’s battle station the infamous Death Egg to name only a few.
This is the only game in the series to feature Hyper Sonic unlocked by obtaining all 7 super emeralds.
It was a tough choice; Sonic 2 is an excellent outing for the blue blur. But these two carts with Sega’s lock on technology pip it on to the list.
2. Gunstar Heroes
Average release review score: 86%
Take a team of Ex-Konami employees and you hit gold with developer Treasure. Gunstar Heroes is fast-paced run and gun action. The graphics and visual effects pushed the Mega Drive hardware to its limits.
What sets Gunstar apart is its ability to allow players to combine weapons to create different combos. The boss battles and level design is some of the best the Sega Mega Drive had to offer. You fight a boss that has 7 different forms to defeat and a level that’s set out like a boardgame.
Electronic Gaming Monthly featured it as their game of the month, with one reviewer being ecstatic over the boss battles exclaiming “Once you fight these beauties, you’ll wonder why game companies never did this before!”
Did I mention there’s an empire once again invading? The leader looks a lot like M Bison from Street Fighter 2.
Treasure even developed a fun licensed Mega Drive game for McDonald’s for crying out loud. If you see Treasure’s logo on the box, grab it (almost a seal of awesomeness).
Gunstar Heroes is incredibly creative and fantastic with one or two players.
1. Streets of Rage 2
Developer: Ancient and Sega
Average release review score: 91%
16-bit beat ’em up perfection is the best way to describe Streets of Rage 2. Fight streets, thugs, over 8 levels and rid the city of the criminal mastermind Mr-X. Streets of Rage 2 improves on the original in every way possible. The characters are more detailed, the stages more varied and a list of new foes to punch your way through.
Fight your way through the streets, bars, ships and three of the world’s longest elevators. (One of the elevators is in the middle of baseball stadium (all baseball stadiums must have hidden elevators on the pitcher’s mound).
Mega Play Magazine reviewers raved about Streets of Rage 2 “This is definitely one of the best games in this genre for the Genesis. The graphics are very good and the animation superb. The music is complex and upbeat, and the sound effects are great. The moves are simple and there are enough techniques to keep it from getting repetitive. A solid cart.”
It’s one of the best co-op games ever made, need help? A second player can press start, dropping from the sky to your rescue. The music is a club and dance-infused masterpiece from Yuzo Kushiro and Motohiro Kawashima.
Narrowing down the games for this list was no easy feat. There were many worthy contenders for this list, M.U.S.H.A, Sonic 2, Strider, Shinobi 3 and Rocket Knight Adventures to name only a few. Many of these series continue today.
This year due to enduring fan support, The Streets of Rage series finally received the stellar Streets of Rage 4 after a 26-year wait.
Gunstar Heroes broke Treasurer’s policy of almost never producing sequels. Gunstar Future (Super) Heroes would be made for the Game Boy Advance.
The average release review scores for some games on this list are lower due to some publications, like Famitsu, known for their tough scoring. Which is why some games with lower scores are placed higher. To date, Famitsu has only ever awarded a perfect score to 27 games.
All these games have an enduring appeal and have seen ports to system upon system over the console generations. Their developers and publishers still draw revenue from applying these games into compilations, quite an achievement considering the scope and depth of current generation games.
And that’s our list of the greatest Sega Mega Drive Games, did we miss any? Do you agree with the order? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below.
More from our gaming pages HERE.
9 Rarest And Most Valuable Pokémon Cards In Existence
If you’re one of the millions of people with a set of Pokémon cards stashed away somewhere, it might be time to dig-lett them out (sorry). Time to see if any of these babies are in your collection. Here’s our list of the top 9 rarest and most valuable Pokémon cards in existence.
Chances are you haven’t caught them all. But having even one of these could net you a large wad of cash.
Pokémon has been an on/off craze ever since it first started back in the mid-’90s. But despite releasing games, a cult anime series and several films, it’s those little cards that are making a profitable resurgence right now.
Even in just the last three years, rare Pokémon cards have been sold for thousands of dollars at auction. So now is definitely the time to check your collection. Time to see if you could be sitting on a small fortune.
9. 20th Anniversary 24-karat Gold Pikachu
Crafted in solid gold
Sold for 216,000 yen ($2,081) in October 2016.
You don’t get much more unique than a Pokémon card made from solid gold. Yep, you heard right. This insanely unique and incredibly rare Pokémon card was produced by Japanese jewellery maker, Ginza Tanaka. A limited number of solid gold cards were created as a replica of the original Japanese Pikachu card (affectionately nicknamed ‘Fat Pikachu’).
Made from 11 grams of pure 24-karat cold, the only way to get a copy of this ultra-rare Pokémon card was to enter a lottery held in 2016. If you won, you were given the chance to buy a copy of the limited-edition card for 216,000 yen (around $2,081/£1,700).
The solid gold card was shipped in its own unique box and housed in a plastic frame. And what makes this even more incredible is that, whilst most rare and unique Pokémon cards stem from early on in the game’s beginnings, this card appeared for the first time in just the last 5 years. Definitely one of the rarest (and coolest) Pokémon cards in existence.
8. Master’s Key
A more recent card – but no less rare
Sold for $21,000 in November 2019.
Like the 20th anniversary gold Pikachu, Master’s Key is another rare yet relatively new Pokémon card. It made its first appearance just over ten years ago when it was awarded to competitors in the 2010 Pokémon World Championships held in Hawaii.
Participants in both the TCG (Trading Card Game) and video game counterpart received a copy of Master’s Key. Only the trophy case differed depending on the category.
Only 36 copies of the card are estimated to exist – equal to the number of participants in all age divisions of the world championships. And to prove just how rare this Pokémon card is, one of them sold at auction in November 2019 for more than $21,000.
7. Espeon and Umbreon Gold Star POP Series 5
A pair of Gold Star Pokémon cards from one of the most valuable Pokémon sets of all time
Sold for $22,100 and $20,000 respectively between December 2020 and February 2021.
The Gold Star Pokémon cards are one of the most valuable Pokémon sets ever produced. At the time of writing, a near mint full set of 27 cards is for sale on eBay. The price tag? £35,000 ($49,717).
But it’s the Espeon and Umbreon which are the real moneymakers. Perhaps the rarest cards in the set, these two alone sold for over $20,000 in just the last few months.
The cards are named after the gold star that appears next to the Pokémon’s name at the top of the card. It signifies that the card features alternative colour artwork which is different from the common version.
Only 27 Gold Star cards were released from 2004 to 2007. Making them some of the rarest Pokémon cards in existence.
Whilst the Japanese versions of the cards remain the most valuable due to their limited availability, the English versions of the Espeon and Umbreon Gold Star cards still command a high price. PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator – the prestigious organisation that grades the quality, condition and value of trading cards) values the two cards at $194,209 and $187,277 respectively. Easily making them two of the rarest and most valuable Pokémon cards around.
6. 1999 Pokémon Japanese Promo Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind
An ultra-rare promo card – one of only 12 ever made
Sold for $65,100 in October 2020.
When it comes to availability, you don’t get much rarer than the Tropical Wind card.
With just 12 being given to the top players at the 1999 Tropical Mega Battle tournament, the Japanese Tropical Wind promo card is extremely rare.
This inaugural tournament – a precursor to the Pokémon World Championships – took place in 1999 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu, Hawaii. The event was invite-only and was a battle between the best 50 players from Canada, Latin America, Europe, the United States, and Japan. During the event, a handful of trophy cards could be obtained. One of these was this baby right here.
This particular Tropical Mega Battle promo card (the 1999 Japanese-language copy of Tropical Wind) has sold at auction for as much as $65,100 in PSA Gem Mint 10 condition, with the most recent sale taking place in October 2020. PSA estimates its value to be as high as $148,482. Making the ultra-rare card a contender for one of the most expensive and valuable Pokémon cards ever made.
5. No. 1 Trainer
Quite possibly the most unknown Pokémon card of all time
Sold for $90,000 in July 2020.
Most people won’t have ever heard of No. 1 Trainer, and it’s even more unlikely they’ll have seen a copy in person. When it comes to rare Pokémon cards, they don’t get much rarer than this.
With only seven copies believed to be in existence, No. 1 Trainer may well be the least known card in existence.
No.1 Trainer is a holographic promotional card awarded to finalists in the Secret Super Battle tournament held in Tokyo in 1999. To earn a place in the competition’s finals (which were held in a secret location) players had to first win a regional tournament. Their prize was the No. 1 Trainer card, which granted them access to the finals.
The text on the front of the card translates to: “The Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament’s champion is recognised here, and this honour is praised. By presenting this card, you may gain preferential entry into the Secret Super Battle.” It’s almost like a modern-day, real-life Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory.
As only seven regional tournaments were held, it’s believed that just seven copies of the No. 1 Trainer card were made – easily making it one of the rarest Pokémon cards in existence.
4. Pikachu Illustrator
Extremely expensive and extremely rare
Sold for $195,000 in October 2019.
The Pikachu Illustrator card is an incredibly rare Pokémon card. It still holds the Guinness World Record for the most expensive Pokémon trading card sold at auction (although, more about this later…).
Pikachu Illustrator was originally given to winners of promo contests held in 1997 and 1998 by Japanese magazine CoroCoro Comic. 39 copies were officially awarded to the winners. While two copies were reportedly later discovered by one of the creators of the card game, seemingly bringing the total number of Pikachu Illustrator copies to 41.
As well as being ridiculously rare, the card is unique in a number of ways. It’s the only Pokémon card to say “Illustrator” instead of “Trainer” at the top. And has a one-off pen icon in its bottom-right corner to acknowledge its creation for the design contest. The card’s artwork of Pikachu is by Atsuko Nishida, the original illustrator of the fan-favourite Pokémon.
Approximately 19 copies of the card are believed to still exist, with 10 having been certified by the PSA.
A near-flawless copy of the card graded at Mint 9 (one grade under perfect condition) sold at auction in 2019 for $195,000 and broke a Guinness World Record. But arguably, there are a couple of contenders to that crown.
3. Black Star Ishihara Signed GX Promo Card
A signed card to celebrate the Pokémon founder’s 60th birthday
Sold for $247,230 in April 2021.
Of all the cards featured on this list, this rare and incredibly valuable Pokémon card is definitely one-of-a-kind.
Just last month on April 26, 2021, a copy of the Black Star Ishihara Signed GX Promo Card made headlines when it sold for nearly a quarter of a million US dollars.
The card depicts the Pokémon company founder and current president, Tsunekazu Ishihara. It was given to staff as a celebration of his 60th birthday in 2017.
What makes this specific version even rarer is that Ishihara actually signed this near-mint card to boost its price even further.
The ability “Red Chanchanko” refers to the red vest which is traditionally worn on 60th birthdays in Japan and prevents the effect of any attack, ability or trainer card against Ishihara. Meanwhile, its GX move “60 Congratulations” tells you to flip 60 coins, and take a present for each one. A truly unique, legendary card.
2. Pokémon Blastoise #009/165R Commissioned Presentation Galaxy Star Hologram
Quite possibly the only card one in existence
Sold for $360,000 in January 2021.
This Blastoise card is probably the single rarest Pokémon card in existence. One of only two such Pokémon cards ever made, it sold for a whopping $360,000 (£266,000) in January 2021.
This Pokémon card was created in 1998 as a presentation piece by Magic: The Gathering maker Wizards of the Coast to convince Nintendo executives to allow it to handle the TCG’s English-language release. The game would eventually make its international debut one year later in 1999.
While two Blastoise ‘Presentation’ cards were produced, this is the only one that has been seen publicly. Even more impressively, it has been graded at a NM/Mint+ 8.5 level by certification website CGC, meaning that the 20-plus-year-old card is in near-perfect condition. The location and state of the other Presentation card remain unknown. This either means that this card is the sole one remaining, or someone somewhere is unknowingly sitting on a small fortune.
1. 1999 First Edition Shadowless Holographic Charizard #4
The card that every kid wanted
Sold for $369,000 in December 2020.
Charizard. The card that absolutely every kid (and adult too now, apparently) wanted. And while the shiny Charizard has always been a firm favourite, this particular variant is even rarer.
While a number of top quality, first-edition cards from the Pokémon TCG’s early days are worth some money, due to their limited availability and age, this specific version of the holographic Charizard absolutely stands out as one of the rarest and most valuable Pokémon cards ever released.
What sets the card apart is the lack of a shadow underneath the dragon graphic. This was a printing error which was corrected for most of the cards printed but the few that sneaked passed quality control are incredibly sought after.
According to auction house Iconic Auctions, the rare card is “the Holy Grail of Pokémon cards, the most iconic and important card to both the Pokémon franchise and its die-hard fans”.
A mint-condition first-edition shadowless holographic PSA 10 Charizard sold at auction in October 2020 for a staggering $220,574 to the retired rapper – and Pokémon fan – Logic. Then, just two months later in December, another one of the same quality sold for a mind-blowing £350,000.
But as if that wasn’t enough, just a few hours after that, yet another card broke all records, selling for a mind-numbing £369,000.
Although this hasn’t officially been recognised by Guinness World Records, this certainly knocks the Pikachu Illustrator off its perch, as well as the staggering sum held by the Blastoise Galaxy Star Hologram.
Either way, despite not being the rarest, this is definitely the most valuable Pokémon card sold to date. But with the desire for rare Pokémon cards showing no signs of slowing, the big question is: how much higher can their value go?
One thing’s for sure, if anyone out there truly has caught them all, that would make for one incredibly valuable collection.
And that’s our list of the 9 rarest and most valuable Pokémon cards in existence. Did you ever have any of these? Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.
Are Team Rocket just misunderstood? Read our article HERE.
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