In the 90s, something that characterized SEGA was the paranoia it felt for its rival products. The rising popularity of the CD-ROM format and the Super Nintendo Super FX chip was its biggest fears. That led to the Mega Drive add-on: Mega-CD.
However, as we already know, fear leads to the dark side.
Even though Mega Drive, on its own, was an excellent console, SEGA was determined to expand the power and graphics capabilities of the machine to match its competitors. Although, with good intentions, the passage of time and sales have shown that the idea was not entirely successful.
Sega developed a peripheral that increased the speed of the central processing unit, improved the graphic capacity, and, as it could not be otherwise, allowed the reading and reproduction of CDs. Its name? You may have already guessed it: Mega-CD (Sega CD in North America).
Thanks to Sega CD, Mega Drive was able to show on screen all those rotations and escalations that made Super Nintendo Mode 7 famous. It is the same that drove users of the Nintendo machine crazy and made the users of Sega feel envious. Soon after, Sega developed 32X, the add-on that increased Mega Drive’s power.
Enough of the history lessons! Let’s move on to what matters to us: GAMES. As you will see below, Mega-CD had more than 200 titles and among them a good number of games that justified their purchase since they were excellent.
The Best Sega CD Games
20. Heart of the Alien
Heart of the Alien is the sequel to the classic Another World. It is a magnificent adventure that begins right where Another World left it. It has one particularity: instead of Lester, we control Buddy, the alien who gave us his help in the first part. This greyish extraterrestrial, armed with an energetic whip, embarks on a journey. It begins after the attack on his village by a mysterious enemy known as ‘The Guardian.’
From there, an adventure unfolds that, although it innovates little compared to the original, manages to hook thanks to ingenious puzzles and a fantastic story. Besides, the title includes both installments on the disc, two games for the price of one!
19. The Secret of Monkey Island
Do we need to tell you about Monkey Island? Actually yes! This version specifically was the first to appear on desktop consoles. All those people who could not test the adventure of the pirate apprentice Guybrush Threepwood for lack of PC shouted hooray! And they raised their jars of grog to the sky.
Little changes compared to the compatible version: the number of colors reduced to 64, and the game saves games using checkpoints. Although, on the other hand, the audio quality is fantastic.
During a specific sequence in which we can test Guybrush’s special ability, instead of dying, if we wait too long, the pirate simply collects his things and leaves. That is unforgivable! We all waited 10 minutes just to see what happened.
18. Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side
Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side was one of the last Sega CD games to go on sale and has been praised as one of the most technically impressive.
It is a fighting game with a variety squad of fighters: ninjas, gladiators, police, cavemen, pharaohs, and several more. Characters from all ages gather on stages overtime to deliver punches. And what punches!
The game is famous for the brutality of some of its movements, most of them with extremely bloody results. Each character has three different ‘fatalities,’ and some even take elements from the scenario to take part in the massacre.
17. Road Avenger
Data East developed Road Avenger through Full Motion Video sequences in which we participate by pressing the indicated button at the right time. It can almost be considered a precursor to the current Quick Time Events.
Even though the concept of a game entirely based on Quick Time Events may sound boring, Road Avenger manages to demonstrate the opposite. It offers an experience that requires speed with the command and maintains constant tension: here, missing a beat, even if only for a thousandth second, means a crashed car.
The game tells the story of a young man who, just married, watches his wife die because of a gang of bikers. The boy hits the road with the mission of destroying these ruffians. As a curiosity, the director of Road Avenger was also the father of the arcade version of Double Dragon.
16. Lords of Thunder
Lords of Thunder is a fantastic horizontal scroll shoot ’em up that moves away from the typical space theme to offer a story of gods, magic, and Vikings. Controlling Duran, a legendary knight, we face a dark god and his army of monsters who plan to end all existence.
At our disposal, and before starting each level, we have four different types of armor represented by the elements: Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. These armors grant us special powers, allowing us to unleash raging cyclones, rain lava from the sky, cause thunderstorms, or summon fiery dragons.
Lords of Thunder superbly represents all those effects on the screen, along with a considerable number of enemies, which makes it sometimes difficult to follow the action. The best part is the soundtrack composed of heavy metal themes that come as a ring to your finger.
15. The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin
The evil Wilson Fisk alias “Kingpin” has stolen a nuclear bomb that he plans to detonate in 24 hours. As if this were not enough, he has delivered the keys that deactivate the device to the worst villains in New York. Luckily our friend and neighbor Spider-Man is here to save the day!
This plot marks the development of a title that saw several substantial improvements on Sega CD. Those improvements are animated scenes to tell the story, two extra levels, new combat moves, and collectible comics. Also, a refined control that made balancing between skyscrapers to be a real delight.
Finally, this version also included a soundtrack composed by Spencer Nilsen, who was in charge of the excellent adaptation of Batman Returns that we have discussed, that you will hum for hours.
14. The Terminator
We know how lucky adaptations of films to videogame format tend to be: low-quality games that hardly deserve a glance. Once in a while, a suitable license goes to a studio that takes advantage and develops games that do justice to the original product.
The Terminator is a title based on the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger film. In its early stages, it transports us to the future from which Kyle Reese comes.
Virgin Games developed this game as a 2D shooter that is as fun as it is challenging. Not in vain even today, it is considered one of the best titles based on Terminator.
13. Earthworm Jim: Special Edition
This 2D platform has the characteristic of having situations as absurd as funny. Jim is an ordinary worm until a day destiny made him fall on a special super-hyper-ultra-suit that gives him powers.
Since then, he faces psychic ravens and Machiavellian cats using a pistol and his own body as a whip. To this, we must add that the Sega CD version includes levels with greater content, a completely new phase, and around 1000 animation frames that are not in the Sega Mega Drive installment. What did you expect? There is a reason for the tagline Special Edition!
12. Night Trap
A group of girls are preparing themselves to spend the night in an old house where strange events had taken place: five girls before they disappeared without a trace. This plot, which could entirely belong to that of a horror movie for teenagers, is the premise of Night Trap, a pioneering game in using Full Motion Video scenes.
A group of vampires sets us out to quench their bloodlust with the new tenants. We, as members of the Sega Special Unit, will monitor the house through hidden cameras and make use of the traps set up throughout the house to save the lives of these young girls.
The game is, however, sadly known for the considerable controversy it generated on its launch. People said it was embarrassing, ultra-violent, repulsive, and disgusting as it invited to catch and kill women — when in fact, it was just the opposite. Night Trap was, along with other games, the cause of the creation of the ESRB.
The best game to demonstrate the graphic power of the add-on was undoubtedly Thunderhawk.
This combat helicopter simulator had a technical superiority at that time. In essence, from the cockpit of an AH-73M we fly over large environments designed in pseudo-3D, with a smoothness when moving around worthy of mention. Our mission is always to destroy an enemy unit or location, with optional objectives along the way that allow us to increase the score.
While most Sega CD games could entirely pass as Mega Drive video games, Silpheed is one of the few to take advantage of and demonstrate the true potential of the feature. Ships, built with polygons, move at full speed on pre-rendered scenarios, which produces a spectacular effect.
It is a horizontal scroll shooter, which does not contribute anything new to the genre of “little ships.” But that does not make you believe that Silpheed does not deserve your attention. The guys at Game Arts carried out their homework well done, and proper proof of this is that the mechanics are excellent and, therefore, addictive.
Interestingly, Silpheed hit the market around the same time as another famous unique fighting game: Star Fox, sparking a healthy rivalry between the two.
9. Lunar: Eternal Blue
A dramatic story, a refined combat system, improved graphics, and much more elaborate animated scenes with quality voice acting are its main features.
The plot of Eternal Blue continues right where the first game left off and explores the myths around the world of Lunar, making it a must-buy for fans of the first adventure. And just like this, Eternal Blue had remakes on PSX and Sega Saturn, proving that it is a classic RPG.
8. Popful Mail
Popful Mail is not just any platform game. In addition to jumps, Mail, the protagonist elf, can choose from several items to defend herself, such as weapons or armors. She has stores at her disposal to waste the gold obtained from enemies to stock up on consumable items.
As you can see, the game is full of RPG elements that make it more complicated and durable than the rest of the titles. In other games, you will find that advancing and jumping are the only options available.
In Popful Mail you can explore areas and revisit levels at will, which gives Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap touch that feels great. A colorful graphic section and strong anime aesthetics put the climax to an excellent game.
7. Robo Aleste
What would have happened if in the Japanese Middle Ages feudal lords had fought their battles with 10-meter robots? The answer would be Robbery Aleste.
This exclusive Sega CD game puts us at the controls of an enormous mecha named Aleste. It is an era when it was more usual to see a samurai warrior than a gigantic metal construction. Compile developed Robo Aleste in the style of classic vertical scroll shooters, or what is the same, shooting at everything that appears on the screen while avoiding the enemy fire.
At the end of each phase, we have the typical final bosses, represented here by the mythical feudal lords, whom we can dispatch with a plasma sword. This game had to have something of historical rigor, right?
6. Final Fight CD
BLAM! KAPOW! WHAM! No, it’s not that Adam West’s Batman episode, it is Cody, Guy, and Haggar who have had punches with the whole neighborhood in Final Fight CD.
This version for the Mega Drive add-on is, without a doubt, the best and most faithful to the original arcade of all those that appeared on desktop consoles. It includes the features lost on other machines (Super Nintendo): mode for two players, all levels, and the possibility of choosing between the three characters.
As if this were not enough, the game includes an exclusive Time Attack mode and a soundtrack that you will love or hate forever: you will like it because it is sublime. You will hate it because you will not get it out of your head for a week.
5. Lunar: The Silver Star
It may be that neither Mega Drive nor Sega CD had Final Fantasy releases. But that does not mean that they did not enjoy games to be taken into account by lovers of role-playing in turns.
Proof of this is Lunar: The Silver Star. It is a game that has all the ingredients to be a masterpiece: an exciting story, charismatic characters, spells, swords, and battles with the fate of the world at stake.
To this, we must add a graphic section and a soundtrack and animated scenes of exquisite quality as a result of the technical capabilities of the Sega CD.
Of course, such a level of quality worked: it was the second best-selling game for the peripheral. Also, it has had numerous remakes on later consoles, such as PSX, Game Boy Advance, PSP, and even iOS. With such a resume, do you want to keep an eye on it? Or The two?
4. Shining Force CD
This installment of the tactical battle saga for Sega Mega CD is a remake of the two games released on Game Gear. It has improved graphics and the incursion of two other completely new chapters that continue the story of Gaiden and The Sword of Hajya.
Little or nothing varies the gameplay of Shining Force CD compared to its predecessors. In essence, we take part in battles in which we must use ingenuity and strategy to give orders to our units, which move in recreated scenarios as if it were a chessboard.
However, when there is a clash between two “pieces,” we go to the combat screen (the one you have in the image) that gives us epic and spectacular moments. Shining Force CD is a real game that lives up to the best Fire Emblem and deserves to be one best Sega CD games.
3. Batman Returns
Before the Dark Knight received the best adaptations in a playful format in all of history, Batman Returns was considered by many to be the best batman game and one of the best Sega cd games.
Based on the eponymous film by Tim Burton, the Mega Drive version and SEGA CD version were very similar. Batman Returns has the particularity that in SEGA CD, the game included fun driving phases aboard the Batmobile and Bastkiboat, and a sound section improved.
And when we say improved, we mean INCREDIBLE. The melodies, composed for the CD version with a marked rock trend, are perhaps the best remembered in the game due to how great and catchy they are.
Snatcher is the second game of the Japanese loved and hated creative Hideo Kojima, father of the legendary Metal Gear saga. Thanks to Sega Mega CD, we had the pleasure of enjoying it in our homes since then it had been exclusive to Japan. And what a gem we were lost!
It is a graphic adventure of cyberpunk aesthetics that takes ideas directly from movies like Blade Runner. Both the plot and the main character have a strong influence on the magnificent work of Ridley Scott. Gillian Seed is a JUNKER, a special force dedicated to hunting down the Snatchers, which are androids that murder and impersonate meat people and bone as in Blade Runner.
With this premise, we are discovering an exciting story riddled with intrigues and the occasional shooting that has gotten the status of a cult game.
As a curiosity, the small robot with which Otacon helps Snake throughout Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, the Metal Gear Mk. II is a reference to the robot of the same name that accompanies the protagonist of Snatcher.
1. Sonic the Hedgehog CD
It may be a little trite to have a game of the company’s pet in the first place of Sega Genesis and Game Gear lists, but in case of number 1 on this list, it is justified.
Sonic CD is, according to a large number of fans, the best game of the blue hedgehog that Sega gave birth in its glory days. Although at first glance, it may seem that this installment is very similar to its predecessors, Sonic CD has enough tricks of the hat that make it unique.
Besides speeding through the scenarios collecting rings, in Sonic CD, you must travel to the past, present, and future in each level. Sonic’s task is to achieve a “good future” and finally face the latest creation by Dr. Robotnik: Metal Sonic.
As you can see, the plot of Sonic CD has become more epic. But it is not the only section that has undergone considerable improvement. The special screens radically change the development and allow us to control Sonic at full speed in a pseudo-3D scenario (Knuckles’ Chaotix inherited them in 32X). Sonic CD is the best Sega CD game of this console, and it is a must-buy game for all holders of this console or for the fastest hedgehog lovers of all time.