There's nothing like a beloved piece of childhood technology hitting a milestone anniversary to make you feel old. The 16-bit gaming warhorse, the Sega Mega Drive (the Genesis, to our transatlantic cousins) is celebrating its 25th birthday.
25! We could go drinking with the Mega Drive now, and it wouldn't even get asked for ID. But you know we're big lovers of retro gaming here at element14 -- after all, we just turned our first ever Raspberry Pi Zero into a Mega Drive! -- so it seemed only fair to shed a quiet tear in memory of this magnificent machine.
Mega Drive, Mega Gaming
When games consoles went 16-bit, you found yourself in one of two camps: the Nintendo SNES (which celebrated its 25th anniversary just a couple of weeks ago on the 21st), or the Sega Mega Drive. I was firmly entrenched in the latter, which was actually the underdog of the day, and therefore something of a risk to pocket money-strapped gamers.
The previous Sega console, the Master System, hadn't performed all that well. Certainly not in the essential US market, anyway, although Europe received it more favourably. It was the NES that dominated the 8-bit console scene, after it admirably resurrected the video game scene after Atari managed to destroy it a couple of years hence.
But the Nintendo systems both benefited by, and suffered from, a public visage of being aimed at younger players (a stigma that still plagues it to this day). The up-coming hardcore gamers were therefore reticent to buy a "toy". They wanted something with a bit of chest hair on it. Something that revelled in the glory of fighting games, and wasn't afraid to position itself firmly alongside the likes of Mortal Kombat and R-Type.
And so, the Mega Drive gained ground that Master System never quite managed, and went toe-to-toe with the SNES in a battle that was never actually brought to a definite conclusion.
The Mega Drive was great for so many different reasons, but here are a few fun facts to help remind us about Sega's crowning glory and why we loved (love) it so damn much.
- The Korean name for the Mega Drive/Genesis was the rather confusing "Super Gam*Boy", after a disjointed teaming up with Samsung to sell it locally.
- Some of the first ever motion-sensitive console controllers weren't for the Nintendo Wii, but for the Mega Drive some 15 years earlier.
- The Mega Drive had online gaming via the (short lived)Sega Meganet system in Japan and Brazil.
- The Mega Drive has remained on sale, and popular, in Brazil from the day it was launched until the present day.
- Before it was a massive corporation, the small team at EA figured out how to circumvent Sega's approval system and sell unlicensed Mega Drive games.
- The Mega Drive was Sega's third home console, after the Master System and the little known SG-1000 before it.
- Sega of America ran an ad campaign that used the slogan "Genesis Does What Nintendon't", as a shot across Nintendo's bow.
- The Sega TeraDrive was a weird combination of a Mega Drive console and a home computer in one box.
My Mega Games
And let's round out the Mega Drive's 25th birthday with a quick run down of its top five games. And I want to hear your list of top Mega Drive games, and Mega Drive memories in the comments section below.
Happy birthday Mega Drive! To be that good did indeed take ages (now I'm off to play Streets of Rage 2. Stuff working). So, in descending order of awesomeness:
- Mortal Kombat
- Ecco the Dolphin
- Earthworm Jim
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Street of Rage 2