15 Worst Sega Genesis Games Ever

Sega's most beloved console was also the home of some of the worst games ever made.

Worst Sega Genesis Games
Photo: Image Works, Sega, Acclaim Entertainment

The Sega Genesis/Mega Drive had a fantastic run from the late ’80s through much of the ’90s. The 16-bit era was the first time gamers got to experience a meaningful console war and while you can debate whether or not it was superior to the SNES, there were so many fantastic games out there worth playing. Gaming was evolving and kids were eating well.

With about a thousand titles in its library, not every Genesis game could be a hit. There were some titles that missed the mark more than others. Presents that ruined birthdays. Rentals that ruined weekends. Trades that ruined friendships. Buyer’s remorse that can stain one’s very soul. Let’s take a second to celebrate the Genesis titles that aspired to be an earl but ended up as lowly as toe jam.

The Simpsons: Bart vs. The Space Mutants

15. The Simpsons: Bart vs. The Space Mutants

There was a special strangeness to early Simpsons games. Like, why was Mr. Burns a jewel thief in the arcade game? When it came time to bring that runaway success of a show to consoles, the train of thought was, “What if Bart Simpson starred in They Live?” Cool, but instead of forcing Milhouse to eat a trash can in a visceral fight scene, it’s Bart doing platforming with annoying controls while trying to save the world via spray-painting purple objects, knocking hats off people, and fighting Dr. Marvin Monroe for some reason.

The Genesis version looks a lot better than its more famous NES counterpart (though the NES sprite for Nelson is far more accurate). Strangely, the game is lacking any variation of the classic theme song. Otherwise, it’s just as bad, using point-and-click puzzle logic in an unforgiving setup that runs out of gas shortly after the first level. The final level at the power plant in particular is a tedious slog.

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But no, really, why was Mr. Burns a jewel thief?

Time Killers

14. Time Killers

The arcade game Time Killers was the Antz to Mortal Kombat’s Bugs Life. It came out just a month after and did not have nearly the same traction as the one-on-one fighting game with bloody decapitations. It’s looked down on, but for the time it at least had some decent enough graphics, a fun gimmick (you can chop off arms and a decapitation automatically ends the round), and a couple of strong character designs. Fighting games rarely knock it out of the park on the first try, so it’s overall fine.

The Genesis port is shockingly drab by comparison. The sprites are far smaller, the color is ugly, and there are so many missing animation frames. It feels more like something on the Master System and it’s amazing that this came out in 1996 (a year after the PlayStation’s debut). Then again, as the story goes, the game was initially completed in 1993 and got shelved due to the gore and lack of quality. By the time they threw it out there, everyone who would have cared for a console port had long moved on.

On a side note: I’m glad to have this entry on the list because chainsaw-wielding Rancid comes from the futuristic year of 2024!

Wayne's World

13. Wayne’s World

In retrospect, it is kind of amazing how popular this Saturday Night Live spinoff movie was back in the day, especially as it gave us the ’90s joke staple of yelling “NOT!” While the video game adaptation did not give us any final boss fights against Rob Lowe (they were saving that for Tommy Boy for 3DO), it did at least throw in a lot of references to the movie and the comedy sketches via cutscenes and level designs. The idea was that Wayne and Garth were sucked into one of the video games at Noah’s Arcade, leading to Wayne doing run-and-gun platforming.

The game itself is a disaster. It was defined by its atrocious level design and how obnoxious basically everything about it was. That said, there was at least a 16-bit charm to its presentation on the SNES. It looked like one of those homemade computer games from Clarissa Explains It All (three of you know what I’m talking about, but you know exactly what I’m talking about). The Genesis version had crappier visuals and audio, killing the only novelty the game had. They couldn’t even do the Extreme Close-Up!

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12. X-Perts

Eternal Champions had a neat concept where various would-be heroes from across time were killed before they had a chance to change the world for the better. Instead, they got to fight each other for an opportunity to get a second chance. At one point, Sega realized that the game’s various endings could carry their own spinoffs, so we got Chicago Syndicate on Game Gear (starring 1920s cat burglar Larcen Tyler) and X-Perts on Genesis (starring modern-day assassin Shadow Yamoto). Both are awesome ideas. Both suffered from terrible execution.

X-Perts has Shadow and two fellow vigilantes infiltrate an underwater lair to thwart terrorists. The idea is that you have to switch and control the three heroes to succeed, which, again, is great on paper. “Final Fight meets Maniac Mansion” has a ton of potential. Unfortunately, the otherwise beautiful pre-rendered graphics are badly animated, the action is monotonous, and every environment is bland and repetitive. Swing and a miss.

Journey From Darkness: Strider Returns

11. Journey From Darkness: Strider Returns

In 1989, Capcom released a classic arcade adventure Strider, about a futuristic ninja fighting against an alien sorcerer dictator and his endless army of robots. It was face-meltingly rad and the Genesis port of it was also damn good. One thing led to another, and a sequel was created that was neither developed nor published by Capcom. Tiertex’s Strider Returns came out in 1992 and felt like what would happen if the studio copied Capcom’s test answers while forgetting to wear their glasses.

It’s a soulless sequel that lacks any of the original’s charm. The level design and action are lifeless, losing the dynamic edge that came with the first game. Hit detection is clunky at best and there’s constant slowdown when Strider tries as much as to scratch his nose. The most impressive thing about it is the use of voice samples, but they’re delivered in such a silly way that they do little to help the experience. Capcom proceeded to memory-hole this game and the brand would be put on ice until Strider showed up in Marvel vs. Capcom six years later.

Terminator 2

10. Terminator 2

Sure, Terminator 2 is a legendary action film, but translating it into a console video game could be a challenge. The T-800 casually walks through the occasional human opposition while spending the rest of the runtime trying to hide a child from an unkillable foe. After the first twenty minutes, it really is a cinematic escort mission.

And yet, LJN made a video game based around that but decided to make it as bad as possible. Your badass Arnold bot goes around searching for items to find the Connors and constantly fights off a regenerating T-1000. The animations are bad, your offense sucks, and the parts of the game that involve riding your motorcycle are infamous for how hard they are to control. Not to mention the game has the Superman problem where you’re playing as this super-strong hero, but regular mooks are able to kill you with little problem and make you look like a wimp.

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Double Dragon 3: The Arcade Game

9. Double Dragon 3: The Arcade Game

The Double Dragon arcade trilogy is interesting to look back at from the perspective of how different and iconic the NES versions ended up being. The NES version of Double Dragon 3 gets some criticism for its difficulty level, especially how each character gets one life, but it must be said that it is head and shoulders above the source material. The arcade version of Double Dragon 3 is a stiff, ugly mess of a release. The fact that it had microtransactions in 1990 is but the cherry on top.

Naturally, the Genesis game was based on that very version. To its credit, the microtransaction bullshit works better here, as you have a set amount of credits and can cash some of them in for extra moves, extra characters, and weapons. Too bad the weapons are absolutely useless. It’s an incredibly short game that suffers from bad animation (that leaping headbutt, man…) and the worst hit detection. You can flip your nunchakus right through a standing opponent and nothing will happen. By limiting this version of the game to two players, we were also cheated out of getting to see the lesser-known third brother, Sonny Lee.


8. Fantasia

If Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse was Highlander, then Fantasia was Highlander 2. Actually, scratch that. Highlander 2 at least had a kickass theme song. Fantasia, despite being based on a movie about beautiful music, butchers the soundtrack and that’s the least of its problems. Looking at pictures or general footage, you might wonder what the problem is. It seems like a regular platformer and while the visuals aren’t as good as Castle of Illusion, they’re alright.

The thing about this game is that it was put together by a scant team of inexperienced developers who were rushing it out the door because 1) the holidays were coming up, and 2) Sega just introduced a new animal mascot platformer whose game was going to blow Fantasia’s efforts out the water. The otherwise basic-as-hell game (No bosses! Not even Chernabog!) is plagued with some of the most unwieldy controls and arguably the worst hit detection in any mainstream video game. Jumping on an enemy’s head is a gamble because it just might hurt you anyway. Enemies can even hurt you without getting close enough to physically touch you, like Mickey’s selling pro wrestling punches. Thank God for World of Illusion for washing away this game’s stink a year later.

Back to the Future Part 3

7. Back to the Future Part III

In gaming’s early days, it was a regular practice to increase a title’s difficulty level for the sake of padding the gameplay. Especially in the days of rentals, developers wanted people to really spend time on their games and sometimes the content was just too limited to do anything but set the screws to the player. That’s all well and good, but Probe Software went too far on this one.

Back to the Future Part 3 is split up into four levels that each offer a different style of gameplay. There’s a chase sequence where you dodge obstacles, a shooting gallery, an isometric target stage, and a below-average platformer. Maybe they could have looped the four stages with gradually ramping difficulty to pad things out, but they specifically map out an abridged version of the movie’s story, so I guess that’s out of the question. What they ended up doing was making it all intensely difficult to the point that even getting past the first level is a Herculean task. Yet, if you know what you’re doing, you could complete this game in literal minutes. That’s unacceptable.

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Slaughter Sport

6. Slaughter Sport

The era of fighting games before Street Fighter II is a dumpster fire and no game exemplifies that era better than Slaughter Sport (also known as Tongue of the Fatman). The setup is what it might look like if Jabba the Hutt ran his own fight club. The roster is up of warriors from different races (including an extra set of characters who are just palette swaps). As you fight through the ranks, you gain fight money, which you can use for power-ups like the ability to freeze your opponent for free hits or a levitating ceiling of spikes to keep them from jumping. Admittedly, that’s not the worst gimmick. So far so good.

The problem is the actual gameplay. Special moves feel worthless. Hell, most moves feel worthless and your best chance at progress is to spam jump kicks and hope for the best. Even worse is how when you get back up, you automatically have your back to the opponent, meaning you need to spend a second turning yourself around! Why would you even add that to a game?!

Awesome Possum... Kicks Dr. Machino's Butt

5. Awesome Possum… Kicks Dr. Machino’s Butt

Prior to 2006, if you wanted to see what Sonic the Hedgehog would be like as a buggy, unplayable mess, you had to try Awesome Possum. There were a lot of cartoony animal mascot platformers during this time, but none were as shameless as this one. Everything in here rips off Sonic but does a terrible job at it. The framerate is hideous, the pixel art is ugly, there’s no rhyme or reason to the level layouts, and it’s so badly programmed that you will fall through platforms for no reason.

It’s genuinely impressive that Awesome Possum blatantly apes Sonic but gets nothing right. Hell, even the environment-destroying mad scientist villain’s name is a shameless rip-off. Instead of a Mean Bean Machine, does Dr. Machino have a Not-So-Nice Rice Device? The one thing this game brings to the table is a bunch of in-game voice samples where our dude with attitude won’t shut the hell up about how in-your-face cool he is. No, this does not help the game’s standing whatsoever.

Rise of the Robots

4. Rise of the Robots

It’s hard to imagine a fighting game as sterile and lifeless as Rise of the Robots. The game was hyped to high heaven for its exceptional graphics, but outside of some impressive CGI animated cutscenes, that’s all it had going for it. Not to mention, since we’re talking about the Genesis version, those graphics weren’t as exceptional as the other ports. It does have some nice, crunchy sound effects, though. I’ll give it that.

The game is so basic that it feels more like a demo than a complete package. You can only play as one character, Cyborg, as you make your way through six opponents with the help of uninspired and simplistic gameplay that is in no way fun to play. The game’s ending is literally a screen of static followed by the credits. Hell, even if you want to play the versus mode, Player 1 still has to use Cyborg. What an absolute letdown of a release.

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Dark Castle

3. Dark Castle

Feeling like a mix between the original Prince of Persia and Donkey Kong, Dark Castle is one of the most unpleasant games one could force themselves to play. Not only is it frustrating, but the sound will drive you mad. The tiny eye goblin creatures’ gibberish piercing through the repetitive soundtrack is enough to take years off of your life. The visuals aren’t much better, though I guess the opening screen where you choose your path is pretty cool.

Playing as a prince who can’t jump down several inches without going into a dizzy spell, you have to make your way through the titular castle in order to defeat the Black Knight. To make things slightly easier, there are detours that offer special abilities like invincibility frames and an upgrade to your rock projectiles. Yeah, throwing rocks is your own line of offense here, and it’s such a pain in the ass to aim them that you’re probably going to kick the console out of anger before you get to the next screen.

Instruments of Chaos Starring Young Indiana Jones

2. Instruments of Chaos Starring Young Indiana Jones

16-bit games tended to have this issue where the developers were overly proud of how well a character could be animated even if those animations hindered the gameplay. The movement was so smooth and filled with so many frames that it meant the actions took too long to complete. Instruments of Chaos suffers from that fate. Want to use your impressive-looking whip? It will flutter all over the place and take forever to do so. Want to shoot a Nazi? Great, you just have to wait for Young Indy to reach into his jacket and pull out the gun first. Everything is so sluggish that you’d think you were controlling modern-day Harrison Ford.

Alas, that’s only one of the many problems with this ill-fated release. The level designs are abysmal, and the physics are so broken that Indy stubbing his toe will cause him to bounce around the stage like a pinball. Nothing in this game feels like it works the way it should and there’s too much platform-based maneuvering for an engine that is so inept and unfun to control. Forget a museum, this belongs in a landfill.

Sword of Sodan

1. Sword of Sodan

Sword of Sodan looks like a fake video game created for a sitcom that nobody in real life would want to play. The game has you choose a barbarian warrior and go on a side-scrolling campaign as you hack and slash your way through various enemies. You have different sword attacks at your disposal, and you can collect and mix potions to acquire different special abilities. The sprites are gigantic. There could have been something there.

In practice, it’s all utter garbage. Your character shuffles around like their foot fell asleep. What should be a badass Conan the Barbarian experience is really just nudging and poking at your enemies while they gradually gang up on you. There is no music, so you hear birds chirping while your entrails are chopped out. Getting through the game feels like the most tedious and irritating exercise and will inspire you to remove this cartridge and immediately replace it with any Golden Axe game you can get your hands on.

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