As with the previous iteration, I've also tended to avoid cross-platform games except when they were better on the Genesis (as the SNES had generally superior hardware, which resulted in better ports in most cases), and allowed games for its add-on peripherals, the Sega CD and 32X, to offset that. So with all that out of the way, here we go.
HM. Zero Tolerance (Technopop, 1994)
HM. Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (Software Creations/Acclaim Black Team, 1994)
30. Golden Axe (Sega, 1989)
29. Dynamite Headdy (Treasure, 1994)
28. Pirates Gold! (Microprose/MPS Labs, 1993)
27. Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (Sega, 1991)
26. Strider (Sega/Capcom, 1990)
25. Mega Bomberman (Hudson Soft/Westone, 1994)
Game Gear game simply titled "Mega Man"), Wily Wars features aesthetically-enhanced remakes of the first three Mega Man titles, which are genre-defining classics in their own right. But the real draw is the bonus game - a new feature called "Wily Tower" that unlocks after the other three games are cleared, and features five exclusive stages and three new bosses that have never appeared in another Mega Man title since. You even get to face this challenge with your choice of any of the weapons and items you collected from the first three games. Pretty cool stuff. Unfortunately this is also a very hard game to come by, only seeing a limited release in Europe and Japan and never being put to the cartridge in North America (though it was briefly available as a Sega Channel exclusive).
23. Lunar: The Silver Star (Sega CD) (Game Arts/Studio Alex, 1993)
One of the games that put the Sega CD on the map, Lunar: The Silver Star is also a top-notch RPG of the era. Featuring a unique combat system that takes into account the characters' positions on a wide battlefield, an engrossing story with some great twists, humorous dialog and memorable characters, and one of the first games to truly take advantage of CD-based hardware to enhance the storytelling aspect. By adding in FMV sequences, voice acting and an excellent soundtrack, complete with a few song numbers, Game Arts made something truly unforgettable in its era, and a trendsetter for all RPGs to come later. It was also among the earliest games translated by Working Designs, a company as well known for injecting weird jokes and pop culture references into their projects as for their various gameplay tweaks and improvements over the original versions. Not to mention their elaborate packaging design and bonuses well before virtually every other AAA game on the shelves had such "special editions"...
22. Super Fantasy Zone (Sunsoft, 1992 in Japan, 1993 in Europe)
The last entry in the Fantasy Zone franchise, and strangely the only one to never be given a North American release (until its relatively recent appearance on the Wii Virtual Console, at least). Not much has changed from its earlier arcade/SMS counterparts, but really, does it need to? The game sports the same colorful graphics, uniquely surreal environments and bizarre bosses it always did, and that always equates to a good time. Sunsoft certainly knows not to fix what isn't broken, especially with a classic Sega franchise like Fantasy Zone.
21. Spider-Man VS the Kingpin (Sega CD) (Technopop, 1993)
21. Spider-Man VS the Kingpin (Sega CD) (Technopop, 1993)
19. Final Fight CD (Sega CD) (Sega, 1993)
18. Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega, 1991)
In the early 90s, Nintendo was still ruling the video game market with a legion of strong third party developers and a memorable mascot character in the form of Mario. Sega AM8 (later known as Sonic Team) raced to think of a way to combat the unstoppable plumber, eventually coming up with a winning gimmick in the form of a hedgehog with an irreverent attitude that would roll into a ball and blaze across the landscape at high speeds. Thus Sonic was born, and with him the Sega Genesis had a massive surge in popularity - enough to surpass the NES in sales and lead the Genesis into a rivalry with the SNES that continues to spur fan debate even to this day. While it didn't quite have as much variety as the Mario games, it did sport some creative and surreal stage design, stylish and colorful graphics, smooth animations and impressive music, as well as a more puzzle-based approach to some stages and even multiple routes through each level. There was even a hidden ending in store for those few who managed to collect all six chaos emeralds before the end of the game, which was no small feat considering the difficulty of some of those bonus levels.
17. Crusader of Centy (Nextech, 1994)
An attempt by Nextech to compete with the Legend of Zelda, and quite a good one at that. A charming adventure seemingly geared toward a younger audience with its cute graphical style, Crusader of Centy also features some inventive gameplay elements. Rather than Zelda's item system, here you have animal companions with varying abilities - a cheetah that increases your running speed, a penguin that coats your sword in ice (giving it the power to freeze enemies and objects) and a raccoon that can draw enemy fire away from your character just to name a few. The only real sin surrounding this one is that so few people got a chance to play it - the game was published by Atlus, you see, and before they achieved mainstream success outside of Japan, they acquired infamy among gamers for publishing their titles in extremely limited quantities (see also - Ogre Battle on the SNES). As a result, this is among the rarest games on the platform...
16. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sonic Team/Sega Technical Institute, 1992)
15. ToeJam and Earl (Johnson Voorsanger Productions, 1991)
Perhaps the most unique roguelike ever produced, ToeJam and Earl isn't about trying to escape some medieval dungeon or tower or something in an attempt to secure your freedom. No sir. Instead, we have two aliens crash-landed on Earth (the titular ToeJam and Earl) trying to collect the scattered pieces of their ship, avoid hostile earthlings and return home to Planet Funkotron. As you'd expect of the genre, the game features randomly generated levels, a slew of enemies to encounter (this time in the form of things like killer ice cream trucks, mad scientists and chickens with mortars), and randomly generated items in the form of gift boxes. These can be good things, ranging from items that help you get around quicker and avoid enemies (spring shoes, rocket shoes, inflatable decoys), weapons (tomatoes, boom boxes that stun enemies). Or they can be bad things, like the "Total Bummer" (instantly lose a life), Rain cloud (depletes your health) or the Randomizer (which scrambles the effects of all gift boxes, forcing you to start from scratch on figuring out what all of them are).
Also of note is that the game features a two player mode with a split-screen view when both players are in different areas, which wasn't thought to be possible given the hardware limitations of the Sega Genesis...
14. M.U.S.H.A. (Compile, 1990)
A smash hit top-down shooter on the Genesis that's only gotten more popular over the years, resulting in this game's rapid ascent into rarity and high prices on the secondhand market. Fortunately it's also on the Wii Virtual Console, so those without deep pockets can experience it as well. And they should, as it's a fantastic experience. Fluid, fast-paced, colorful and with a huge variety of weapons and strategies to employ as per Compile standards. The setting is also unique, being something of a cyberpunk feudal Japan with pagodas on tank treads and giant robots flying through the skies blowing up everything. Top that off with a delightful soundtrack and you have some weird, wild, fast-paced shoot-em-up fun.
13. Space Harrier (32x) (Sega, 1994)
Sega touted the 32X as an upgrade that would turn the Genesis into a "home arcade system." While that claim was met with ports of varying quality (mostly falling on the "average to bad" end of the scale), Space Harrier managed to deliver a truly arcade-perfect experience. Buttery-smooth, sprite-based action in a surreal universe that combined flying stone heads, dragons, robots and vast fields and caves full of stone pillars and spinning orbs for you to crash into and blow up with your giant flying cannon-rocket. One of the few truly worthwhile games for the ill-fated addon.
12. Yuu Yuu Hakusho: Makyo Toitsusen (Treasure, 1994 in Japan)
11. Phantasy Star II (Sega, 1990)
The followup to the groundbreaking Sega Master System RPG, and quite an impressive title in its own right. Moving the franchise ahead with more complex enemy encounters and dungeons, it was also a trendsetter in terms of its storytelling, with a grim setting and some surprisingly dark elements (including on-screen murder and the death of a prominent party member - practically cliches now, but pretty shocking in 1990). It's also among the first RPGs I recall that add a slight bit of automation to battles to make them less tedious - you can simply hit "Fight" and your characters will automatically attack until you press a button to pause at the beginning of the next turn and redefine your strategies.
10. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 / Sonic and Knuckles (Sonic Team/Sega Technical Institute, 1994)
9. Starflight (Binary Systems/BlueSky Software, 1991)
8. Snatcher (Sega CD) (Konami, 1994)
excellent soundtrack and the Kojima standard of a large cast of surprisingly complex and well-written characters, Snatcher was definitely something to behold. Even the voice acting was surprisingly good for the time and holds up quite well today. Well alright, you can tell they're not professional actors, but at least they're trying to make it sound good. The real tease here, though, is that it ends on a cliffhanger for a sequel, which they still hadn't delivered on twenty years later (and given the current state of Konami, probably never will)...
7. Streets of Rage 2 (Sega/Ancient/HIC/Shout! Designworks, 1992)
With that many companies working on the game, it has to be good right? Well yes, it is. In fact, Streets of Rage 2 is considered to be one of the best beat-em-ups of all time, featuring not only some heavily detailed graphics and inventive music for the era, but a massive variety of foes to fight (even including robots, bikers and guys with jetpacks) and four playable characters, each with their own distinct special moves and abilities. Not to mention yet another dynamite soundtrack by the great Yuzo Koshiro. Weird, wacky fun that makes for some great two player co-op. Just a shame they couldn't keep that flow going with Streets of Rage 3, which inexplicably features downgraded graphics, gameplay drawn out to the point of inanity and a droning soundtrack that could aptly be described as "Yuzo Koshiro at his worst"....
6. Gunstar Heroes (Treasure, 1994)
5. Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sega CD) (Sonic Team, 1993)
4. Rocket Knight Adventures (Konami, 1993)
3. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue (Sega CD) (Game Arts/Studio Alex, 1995)
The sequel to Game Arts' legendary Lunar: The Silver Star, and it's a logical step forward in almost every respect. It still sports the same unique combat system, but the dialog and cutscenes have been expanded to an unprecedented 50+ minutes apiece, and were remarkably well produced and acted for the era (albeit with some of Working Designs, erm, "colorful" accents added). Working Designs also implemented some changes to the original release, toning down the difficulty for some extremely difficult battles and implementing a unique save system that required a certain number of points to be earned (as they saw little challenge in letting the player save at any time). It later received wider recognition and some substantially refined gameplay and presentation on the Playstation, but the original Sega CD release is still a standout title for the platform, as well as one of the games that helped to revolutionize the way stories were told in games.
2. Alien Soldier (Treasure, 1995 in Japan and Europe)
Another Treasure game makes the list, and honestly it's among the best games on the Sega Genesis and one of the best games they ever created, period. Taking the same wild action of Gunstar Heroes and adding several new mechanics on top, this is a boss rush game with an incredible amount of depth and strategy. Not only do you have six selectable weapons to choose from, you also have the ability to swap between stationary and moving firing modes on the fly, block enemy bullets to receive health powerups, evade enemy attacks by jetting across the screen with an invincible dash, and even utilize a super move at full health that allows you to dash through an enemy, inflicting heavy damage and possibly even a one hit kill if timed well. You'll need to master these mechanics too, as you're usually on a strict time limit for each boss fight. Equal parts strategy, twitch reflexes and timing, this game is an absolute gem, and an inspiration to later top-notch action games like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. Sadly it never got a cartridge release in North America, but it has since shown up there in several different formats including Steam and the Wii Virtual Console.
1. Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millennium (Sega, 1995)