Genesis Does what Nintendid

On the thirtieth anniversary of its US release, a look at the Genesis’ hidden lineage.

Today marks thirty years since the Sega Genesis was first released in North America. I’d like to take this opportunity to share a deep, dark thought with you all. A take so hot that it will no doubt propel me to the stratosphere of games criticism. We are talking a heavy duty, man-size opinion here. Hold onto your butts, ‘cos I’m about to lay it on you.

Ready?

The Sega Genesis was the true successor to the NES.

Yes! I said it. I dare. I’ll say anything! I’m not afraid of the slings and arrows of the retrogaming community. Metal Slug 3 is the worst one! I’ll take everything you can throw at me! That said, please be kind to me at all times. Thank you.

You can rest assured that my radical proclamation is not intended to slight the excellent SNES in any way. After all, it is the de facto follow-up to the NES. It’s stacked with great games, enduring classics that are as enjoyable today as they were at release. But, but, BUT, they did not have the speed, intensity or aesthetic of their older brother’s extensive library. SNES follow-ups to pacey, action-packed NES games like Super C and Super Mario Bros. 3 – while clearly excellent – don’t capture the texture of their forebears. They’re floatier, slower. Not bad! Not worse! But definitely different.

So, where did that kick-ass action go? The answer should be pretty obvious if you’ve been paying attention. That’s right, it’s the Genesis. Sega’s blast-processed bastard brought games with grunt and heft, ‘roid-injected heavy hitters like Sonic the Hedgehog and the Thunder Force series. Multi-platform releases routinely outperformed their SNES counterpart in terms of speed, if not raw visuals. The Genesis was heavy f*****g metal, the SNES was prog rock. Genesis was Judas Priest. SNES was Genesis. The band, Genesis, I mean. I realise that’s too confusing, I don’t have time to change it now. I also realise that in the time it is taking me to explain that I can’t change it now, I could have changed it.

I personally see the lovely, lovely SNES as the lazy Sunday console. Thoughtful and evocative, it’s the place to be if you want the very best RPGs – Chrono Trigger alone, for Christ’s sake – and a succession of absolutely insanely brilliant exploration-focused platformers, such as Yoshi’s Island and Diddy’s Kong Quest. Genesis, though, is a raucous Friday night out, it’s a drink-and-drugs fuelled non-stop party, with console carnage like Gunstar Heroes, Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Streets of Rage 2 rocking the place til 4am. They’re big, chunky experiences you just cannot get on SNES.

There are exceptions. Of course there are exceptions. Phantasy Star. Crusader of Centy. But the adrenaline-fuelled-Jason-Statham-in-Crank all-action beating heart of the NES lives on in the Sega Genesis.

Genesis.

GeNESis.

See!? It’s right there.

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