Sonic and friends: the 25 best Sega Mega Drive games ever

Join us in toasting Sonic's 25th birthday with a nostalgic trip down Mega Drive lane...

It's been exactly 25 years since Sonic the Hedgehog's loop-the-loops and pinball speed revolutionised our gaming lives. 

Before the little blue cannonball burst onto the scene in 1991, the Mega Drive was struggling to lure us from the charms of the Nintendo NES and a certain moustachioed plumber.

But that all changed thanks to an incident on the technicolour South Island. With his eye on the island's six Chaos Emeralds, Dr. Robotnik started imprisoning local animals and (naturally) turning them into robots. Sonic came spinning from a hedgerow into the Green Hill Zone, and the rest is gaming history.       

Sonic the Hedgehog's searing speed, eye-popping colour and catchy tunes were so good that we barely touched the copy of Altered Beast that came bundled with our Mega Drive.

And it was the perfect gateway drug to dozens of trailblazing classics that suddenly made Mario look drab and monochrome. Here are the brilliant Mega Drive games we turned to after finishing off Dr. Robotnik in Final Zone... 

 

25) Columns (1990)

Nintendo had Tetris, and the Mega Drive had Columns. It didn’t start off life on the console, having been originally developed for the Atari ST, but Sega snapped up the rights when it saw just how damn popular Tetris was with Nintendo gamers.

Take some classic match-3 gem stacking, add some repetitive yet strangely compelling music, and throw in an ancient roman theme for good measure, and this was the result. Guaranteed to eat hours of your life in huge chunks of gameplay.

Sure, the Mega CD version sounded better, and Tetris was so addictive it’s got an honest-to-goodness medical condition named after it, but if you wanted a puzzle fix in the 90s and weren’t a Nintendo fanboy, this was your go-to game.

24) Altered Beast (1990)

A beloved arcade port involved a buff dude punching and kicking beasts and the undead, while consuming enough steroidal power-ups to transform into a variety of werebeasts.

Set in Ancient Greece, it evokes old school stop-motion epics such as Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts. Interestingly enough, it was the original pack-in game of the Mega Drive in many countries before a rebranding exercise changed it to Sonic the Hedgehog.

23) The Revenge of Shinobi (1990)

Also known as Super Shinobi, this series was probably the main reason why the gaming world was so obsessed with ninjas in the ‘90s.

It was a terrific side-scrolling, hack and slash (and shuriken) action game, in which you play a ninja (duh) on a quest for vengeance (duh).

One of the hardest games on the Mega Drive, the game was also infamously known for featuring several iconic level bosses; or rip-offs of iconic characters. Revenge of the Shinobi was soon followed by several well-received sequels, and became one of Sega’s most famous franchises.

22) Fantastic Dizzy (1991)

Your girlfriend’s been kidnapped, your best bro is frozen in ice, monsters are crawling all over your treetop village, and you’re a giant anthropomorphic egg. Welcome to Fantastic Dizzy.

This explore-em-up had no combat, just a massive side-scrolling map and plenty of head-scratching puzzles that left you cursing your tiny three-item inventory every time you forgot where you’d left that one crucial key a few hours before. The soundtrack was phenomenal, too, pumping out atmosphere from the Mega Drive’s Yamaha YM2612 audio chip.

21) Outrun (1991)

The best thing about Outrun, apart from the Ferrari, winding open roads, epic skids and huge vistas, was the music. Not only did they completely nail the authentic* handling and feel of driving a Ferrari Testarossa Spider, the soundtrack was the perfect accompaniment to your checkpoint-filled coast-to-desert race.

'Passing breeze', 'Splash wave' and 'Magical sound shower' were all mega chiptune hits that would still sound radical if you were cruising the west coast in your drop-top 458 Italia today.

*Having never driven a Testarossa, we can't actually vouch for the authentic handling.

20) World of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (1992)

Known in Japan as I Love Mickey and Donald - The Mysterious Magic Box (seriously, what an amazing name), this third title in Disney's Illusion series blew our tiny little minds away with its incredible (for the time) visuals and superb soundtrack.

Its co-op gameplay let two players pick up gamepads and trawl through gloriously vivid, rich levels as both Mickey and Donald, and unique combat mechanics like magic cloths and flying carpets made for some memorable gameplay, fuelling our passion for all things fantasy from a young, impressionable age.

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