Photography by Chris Welch
It’s been three years since the breakout success of Nintendo’s tiny NES Classic, but the miniature console wars are finally heating up. First, Nintendo followed up with the slightly improved SNES Classic, and then Sony jumped in with the somewhat disappointing PlayStation Classic. Now, it’s Sega’s turn. And while the company is late to the party, Sega — unlike Sony — seems to have learned from its predecessors. The Genesis Mini is shaping up to be the best retro console to date.
You probably already know the basics. The Genesis Mini looks just like, well, a mini Genesis, to the point that it seems more like a toy than a console. (Sega says it’s 55 percent smaller than the original Genesis.) It costs $79.99, connects to your TV via an included HDMI cable, comes with two three-button USB controllers that are solid replicas of the original Genesis gamepads, and features 42 built-in games. That puts it at the same price point as the SNES Classic and a bit cheaper than the PlayStation Classic’s $99.99 price tag. For that money, you get around twice as many included games as the other mini-systems.
Photography by Chris Welch
Really, the game library is the highlight of the Genesis Mini. The hardware is mostly what you’d expect: it’s cute and small and solid in an unremarkable way. The library is not only huge, but it covers a lot of ground. For reference, here’s the full list:
Sonic The Hedgehog
Ecco the Dolphin
Space Harrier 2
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
ToeJam & Earl
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
Thunder Force III
Super Fantasy Zone
Streets of Rage 2
Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Contra: Hard Corps
Mega Man: The Wily Wars
Street Fighter II’: Special Champion Edition
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Sonic The Hedgehog Spinball
Wonder Boy in Monster World
Road Rash II
Virtua Fighter 2
Monster World IV
Some of those are obvious inclusions. Of course you’re going to get Sonic the Hedgehog and Ecco the Dolphin in a retro Sega package, and it would feel like something was missing without Gunstar Heroes and Streets of Rage 2. Comix Zone is here because, well, it always is for some reason. Other inclusions are more surprising: third-party titles like Castle of Illusion or Castlevania: Bloodlines and the not-especially-memorable fighter Eternal Champions.
What’s great about the lineup, though, is how it spans many different genres and playstyles. In particular, there are several excellent multiplayer games — Streets of Rage 2is still a lot of fun with a friend — alongside titles like Phantasy Star IV that you can play for hours alone. The package is also rounded out with unexpected games that never actually released on the Genesis, including Tetris and the 1987 arcade shooter Darius. They’re not quite as cool as the addition of the unreleased Star Fox 2 on the SNES Classic, but they’re still welcome add-ons.
Not only are the games themselves great, but the conversions are about as perfect as you can get. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. The porting for all of the games was handled by M2, a studio that’s made a name for itself with pitch-perfect translations of classic Sega titles, including the recently released Virtua Racing on the Switch. As with previous mini-consoles, you have a variety of display options, letting you render the games in the original 4:3, stretch out to 16:9, or add on a filter to replicate a CRT TV.