As the Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis in North America) was Sega's most successful video game console, there were thousands of Mega Drive games released for the platform. In Japan, the console debuted in October 1988 with Space Harrier II and Super Thunder Blade as launch titles.
Many of Sega's early Mega Drive releases were aimed to steal as much market share from Nintendo as physically possible, with Sega porting many of its arcade hits such as Altered Beast, Golden Axe and Columns, as well as partnering with celebrities to produce Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, Pat Riley Basketball, Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf, James 'Buster' Douglas Knockout Boxing, Joe Montana Football, Tommy Lasorda Baseball and Mario Lemieux Hockey. There was also a licensing deal for Disney games, starting with Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. Progress was still fairly slow until the release of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991, prompting Nintendo to step up support for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Sega would then focus its efforts on attempting to beat the SNES on all fronts, releasing unsuccessful Mega CD and 32X add-ons with their own set of games, and attempt to beat games such as Donkey Kong Country and Star Fox with titles such as Vectorman and Virtua Racing respectively.
Before the Mega Drive, Sega would do all manufacturing and distribution for both first-party and third-party games. Beginning with Technosoft's Thunder Force II, however, Sega allowed third-party developers to manufacture and distribute their own Mega Drive games, on the conditions that the publisher be a licensed one and that various rules needed to be followed (with some exceptions).
Unlike the Sega Master System, box designs for Mega Drive games were not consistant between regions and changed numerous time during the console's run, mostly in an attempt to reduce customer confusion in regards to other Sega platforms on the market - the Mega CD, 32X, Sega Game Gear, Sega Saturn and even the Sega Master System whose box art standards were being phased out by third parties during the 1990s. Initially Japan abolished strict box-art rules while the west adopted a grey-on-black grid-like pattern similar to the Master System. Shortly before the introduction of the Videogame Rating Council in North America, Sega Genesis games were given a red labelling scheme with white text, and after that, Europe saw a similar redesign using blue. Japan would see such a redesign in late 1994 to bring the design in line with the Saturn's new layout rules — however, Acclaim, who produced the most third-party games in this timeframe, still broke the rules on some occasions (like WWF Raw, which used the EU box layout).
Like the Master System, cartridge shapes differed depending on your location. In the west, they were all physically identical but often region locked, while in Japan, the carts were slightly less easy to reproduce and required a slightly different cartridge slot. Notably Electronic Arts refused to obide by these rules, producing their own "square" cartridges complete with yellow EA tab on the side. Codemasters went one step further, creating the J-Cart, allowing extra controllers to be inserted into the cartridge itself. Other companies, such as Ballistic, also used custom cart molds.
Mega Drive games are still being released to this day, albeit in small numbers. Many games are bundled with plug-in-and-play systems, or through compilation packs or downloads. There have been some special releases, such as 2006's Beggar Prince, which was distributed on a cartridge.
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