17. Shining Force II
Many RPG franchises stick to one genre (e.g., turn-based or action) but Sega’s Shining series cast a wider net. One of the series’ more popular mini-franchises was the tactical Shining Force games, and arguably the best entry in that franchise, at least on the Sega Genesis, was Shining Force II.
As a tactical RPG, Shining Force II gives players a ton of characters to command on sizable battle screens. However, those characters are so much more than nameless units, as each controllable hero comes with a bevy of classes and spells to unlock. Think of Shining Force II as a cross between classic Final Fantasy and Fire Emblem but without the permadeath. Each attack even plays out from a different camera perspective that shows units trading blows, which adds to the presentation.
16. Herzog Zwei
The real-time strategy (RTS) genre isn’t easy to translate over to consoles, but Herzog Zwei is a noteworthy exception. Instead of controlling a godlike entity that has to micromanage units, buildings, and resources, players control a mech that can transform into a jet fighter Macross style, and they use it to give general commands to minions.
Herzog Zwei streamlines the RTS experience and gives it a fast-paced, arcadey feel, which is a better fit for consoles such as the Sega Genesis. Moreover, while Herzog Zwei predated the ability to connect consoles to the internet, the game features a split-screen competitive mode that lets two players compete for glory and victory on one TV screen. – AG
Ironically, we start near the end of the Sega Genesis’ lifespan with what is arguably the console’s last great game. By 1995, most gamers had already turned their attention to the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Nintendo had just shown there was still life in the SNES with then-revolutionary graphics of Donkey Kong Country, and Sega badly needed a response.
Their answer was Vectorman: an action platformer that used “vector piece animation” to animate the main character with 23 individual sprites rather than just one big sprite. If that sounds gimmicky, that’s because it totally was. Yet, there’s no denying the art style has aged better than most 16-bit games, and Vectorman still remains one of the more enjoyable platformers on the Genesis thanks to the quality of its lengthy and varied campaign. – Chris Freiberg