Mega Drive games

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Sonic1 title.png

The game synonymous with the Sega Mega Drive, Sonic the Hedgehog, from 1991

As Sega's most successful console in the Western world, there are over 1,000 Sega 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, with official software support tailing off in late 1997. Unlike prior consoles, Sega opted to work with third-party publishers, leading to a large library supported by then-industry giants Acclaim, Accolade, Capcom, Electronic Arts, Konami, Namco and Taito, among many others.

The last officially licensed Mega Drive game to be released was the Brazil-exclusive Show do Milhão Volume 2 in 2002, however unlicensed "aftermarket" titles are still being released to this day.


Mega Drive

Action (466) (41.98%)
Adventure (26) (2.34%)
Educational (12) (1.08%)
Fighting (21) (1.89%)
Racing (47) (4.23%)
RPG (42) (3.78%)
Shoot-'em-up (98) (8.83%)
Simulation (82) (7.39%)
Sports (231) (20.81%)
Table (63) (5.68%)
Miscellaneous (22) (1.98%)
Mega Drive games by genre. While more diverse than the Master System, it is very much an action-orientated console.

TODO: merge/split/whatever Sega Mega Drive cartridges

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. Progress was still fairly slow until the release of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991, prompting Nintendo to step up support for the Super NES. 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.

Third-party support

Codemasters' J-Cart design allows for four player support without the need for a multi-tap.

Until the release of the Mega Drive, Sega was almost solely responsible for publishing video games on its platforms. Being the sole manufacturer of SG-1000 and Sega Master System cartridges, anyone wishing to develop for these systems had to have a working relationship with Sega, who until this point would decide which games it wanted to manufacture (and how many would be produced). This was contrary to how Nintendo operated, in which third-party publishers could decide the game's contents; Nintendo in this case still had the final say (a power regularly used, especially in North America, owing to fears of the 1983 video game crash) and was usually still tasked with manufacturing cartridges, but not micro-managing individual developers.

With the Mega Drive, Sega began emulating Nintendo's practises, signing up with third-party publishers in an attempt to attract software support. Like Nintendo (and NEC), in North America it established an official Sega Seal of Quality to rubber stamp any software it approved, though the official list of third-party publishers was used in all major territories. Sega was arguably forced into this scenario regardless of its original intentions, as computer-turned-console publisher Electronic Arts reverse-engineered the Mega Drive hardware and was all set up to manufacture compatible cartridges itself. To discourage others from doing the same, EA was signed on as an official third-party publisher, and similar (albeit less expensive) deals would be set up across the 1990s.

Many of the predominant software publishers of the day were tied up with Nintendo, who demanded publishers signed contracts to keep games exclusive to the NES or Game Boy. As such, Mega Drive third-party support took some time to establish, with early adopters enticed by a system more similar to the 16-bit home computers or contemporary arcade boards they had been previously working on than Nintendo's offerings. Technosoft was the first official third-party to publish a video game for the Mega Drive; Thunder Force II which arrived in Japan in June 1989.

The most prominant early publisher was Electronic Arts, bringing many of its established home computer titles to the platform in the early years, before scoring a hit with John Madden Football and establishing a trend of yearly sports titles (which continues to this day). Similarly Accolade also published for the Mega Drive, albeit initially not in an official capacity (which caused a lawsuit). However, Atari Games' home publishing division Tengen, which was going through similar legal battles with Nintendo, was signed on as an official publisher to Sega's consoles.

Acclaim Entertainment, then the largest Nintendo third-party publisher, would start producing Mega Drive games in 1991, and with Nintendo's relaxation of its third-party publshing rules, numerous companies began publishing video games for both the Mega Drive and Super NES for the first half of the 1990s. This freed up Konami and Capcom, who having spent previous years licensing out properties, would start directly producing software in 1992 and 1993, respectively.

While industry stalwarts Namco and Taito would offer some support to the console from the beginning, console success stories suchas SquareSoft (Final Fantasy) and Enix (Dragon Qurst) would never produce Mega Drive games. Others such as Ocean Software (the largest software publisher in Europe at one stage) would release a limited array of Mega Drive software, but typically favour Nintendo's machines. Conversely, some companies prioritised Sega's machine before porting to other platforms, such as Virgin Games, leading to a situation where the Mega Drive and Super NES, despite both being popular around the same period, would have a very different selection of video games available.





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 game packaging built one what was seen with the Sega Master System, bundling games in plastic "clamshell" boxes, which as well as protecting the cartridge, could house a manual and other documents if required. These boxes use the same dimensions as Western Master System games, however are slightly tweaked so as to hold the differently sized standard Mega Drive cartridge shape, and were used in all regions, including Japan, South Korea and the "Asian" region whose Master System titles were shipped in cardboard boxes.

While the use of plastic packaging was nothing new for Sega, it became something of a selling point with the Mega Drive, as Nintendo and its rival consoles favoured cardboard until the arrival of the Nintendo GameCube in 2001. Electronic Arts adopted similar packaging for its games, albeit customised for their bespoke cartridge shells.


North America

The release of the North American Mega Drive (Genesis) console in the August of 1989 brought with it a uniform packaging design similar to the Master System - a grey grid, this time on a black background (versus the grey-on-white seen in the earlier console). Unlike the early days of the Master System, detailed artwork was allowed to decorate the front of boxes, and game logos were usually used in place of the standard serif typeface used across Master System releases.

North America was arguably one of the least consistent regions in terms of packaging designs, however, as third-party publishers rarely stuck to Sega's packaging design philosophies in the beginning, with companies such as Electronic Arts and Renovation Products opting to use their own styles. Unlicensed publishers, such as Accolade's Ballistic label, also continued to use cardboard.

In 1993 to coincide with the redesigned Mega Drive 2 console, Sega radically changed its game packaging, opting for a red, diagonal striped design. This was more widely adopted by third-party publishers, though again it was not universal and many exhibit slight alterations to Sega's template.

Towards the end of 1994 Sega of America decided to start cutting costs, going back to flimsy cardboard boxes. Most third-party publishers, such as EA and Acclaim Entertainment, continued to use plastic.


Europe initially adopted a similar style to North America for its packaging, and while Sega were unable to enforce standards for third-party publishers, companies in this region were far more willing to copy Sega's designs to bring some consistency to the library.

Like North America, Sega Europe radically overhauled its packaging at some point in early 1994, using a blue design.


Brazil initially used cardboard before switching to plastic in 199x.

South Korea


Unreleased games

Main article: List of unreleased Mega Drive games.

As one of the most successful video game consoles of all time, plenty of Mega Drive projects were announced to get in on the burgeoning 16-bit console market, only to be scrapped later down the line. The relative interest in the machine in recent years means developers have been more forthcoming about their older works; for example, much is known about Sega of America's internal projects, particularly those at the Sega Technical Institute and their collective desire to produce the most popular games on the market.

Many Mega Drive titles were scrapped because they did not meet quality thresholds, either those set by Sega, or by third-party publishers. Vast differences in hardware meant that developers working for the Super NES platform were usually different from those working on the Mega Drive; if a game was set to be multi-platform, and one team was lagging behind, publishers might be forced to divert resources to the more complete version, thus only shipping one game instead of two.

However many Mega Drive games were axed due to internal troubles, for example the demise of Park Place Productions in early 1994, at the time being the largest independent software developer in the world, meant many projects were cancelled due to a lack of people to work on them. Some early Mega Drive publishers announced more games than they could reasonably deliver, or simply ceased trading. Others such as Ocean Software valued their relationship with Nintendo, and were perhaps reluctant to be seen supporting the opposing platform.

There are also a number of Amiga games which were meant to make the jump to console, but failed to. Some Mega Drive titles were migrated to the Sega 32X around 1994/1995.


Mega Drive

1988 (4) (0.38%)
1989 (24) (2.26%)
1990 (79) (7.42%)
1991 (156) (14.66%)
1992 (152) (14.29%)
1993 (199) (18.7%)
1994 (216) (20.3%)
1995 (128) (12.03%)
1996 (47) (4.42%)
1997 (17) (1.6%)
1998 (16) (1.5%)
1999 (7) (0.66%)
2000 (2) (0.19%)
2001 (7) (0.66%)
2002 (6) (0.56%)
2003 (4) (0.38%)
Mega Drive games by release date (not including aftermarket games).

Launch titles


North America



Sega Mega Drive
Topics Technical specifications (Hardware comparison) | History | List of games | Magazine articles | Promotional material | Merchandise | Cartridges | TradeMark Security System
Hardware Japan | North America | Western Europe | Eastern Europe | South America | Asia | South Korea | Australasia | Africa
EZ Games | LaserActive | Mega Jet | Mega PC | Mega Play | Mega-Tech System | Nomad | Teradrive | Mega Drive Mini | Mega Drive Mini 2
New Mega Drive | Tianli VCD/DVD Players | "Consoles on a chip" | Licensed clones (Magic 2 | Mega Game II | Power Pegasus | Super Bitman)
Unlicensed clones
Add-ons Game Box | Power Base Converter | Mega-CD | 32X (Mega-CD 32X) | Mega Modem | Demo System DS-16
Cases Sega Genesis Nomad Carrying Case | System Carry Case
Controllers Control Pad | Six Button Control Pad | 6 Button Arcade Pad | Arcade Power Stick 6B | Konami Justifier | MK-1470
Action Chair | Activator | Arcade Power Stick | Keyboard | MegaFire | Mouse | Mega Stick | Menacer | Remote Arcade System | Ten Key Pad | Third Party Controllers
Accessories 4 Way Play | Cleaning System | Control Pad Extension Cord | Genesis Speakers | Headset | HeartBeat Catalyst | Microphone | Region converter cartridges | Mega Terminal | Nomad PowerBack | RF Unit (Mega Drive 2) | SCART Cable (Mega Drive 2) | Stereo Audio Video Cable | Team Player | Video Monitor Cable | Third Party Accessories
Network services Sega Channel | Sega Game Toshokan | Mega Anser | Mega Net | TeleBradesco Residência | XB∀ND
Development tools ERX 308P | ERX 318P | Sprobe | SNASM68K | SNASM2 (Mega Drive) | SNASM2 (32X) | PSY-Q Development System (Mega Drive) | PSY-Q Development System (32X) | 32X CartDev | Sega Mars Development Aid System | Sega 32X Development Target
Unreleased Edge 16 | Floppy Disk Drive | Mega Play 1010 | Sega VR | Teleplay System | Video Jukebox