Features

The Best Sega CD Games!
by: Dr. Boogie
(4/10/11)

When I was a kid, I used to dream about one day having enough money to buy myself a Sega CD for my Genesis. It was the pinnacle of gaming, upping the sound quality of games and pushing graphics to a whole new level. That's what I thought, anyway. In reality, it was a fairly expensive piece of technology that didn't really improve all that much at all. Worse yet, the bulk of its game library were shitty Full Motion Video games where the only thing worse than the gameplay running behind a bunch of horribly-compressed video clips was the acting. Suffice to say, the next generation couldn't arrive fast enough.

On what was probably the second-to-last day of the peripheral's existence, I managed to snag a new one for around $50. And the seller even threw in a free copy of Sewer Shark and, for some reason, Cliffhanger! But this article is about the best Sega CD games, and so I won't be mentioning those two again.

Anyway, being so late in the Sega CD's lifecycle, it was all too likely that I wouldn't even see another game out for it, but luckily, there was a local video rental place that had held onto a ton of Sega CD games for way longer than anyone was interested. They were selling their whole library off for around $10 a pop. So once a week, I would save up some money and snag another title off their wall. And I'm pretty sure I was the only one doing it.

I was surprised by the number of great games I found. I was also surprised by the number of crap games, but I was more surprised by the great ones. That's why, in the interest of preserving the memory of the few games that made the system worth owning, I present this list of the best games for the Sega CD:

Night Trap
Night Trap

If ever there were a classic FMV game (and I’m not entirely sure there is), it would have to be Night Trap. It's not exactly a competitive field, but Night Trap at least brought some star power to the scene, with the female lead portrayed by Dana Plato of "Diff'rent Strokes" fame. She really made you believe that you were watching an honest-to-god slumber party being broken up by vampires dressed like burglars.

It also aroused a lot of negative attention because it dared to show footage of a woman in a frumpy nightgown. Indeed, few people realize just how completely the game destroyed the minds of American children. I know I never fully recovered from seeing grainy footage of women being stalked by "vampires". Still, the game turned a profit, despite costing $1.5 million to make, proving once more that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

The Terminator
The Terminator

Normally, I wouldn't even bother to put a movie tie-in game on a list of worthwhile games, let along best. With The Terminator, though, the developers took the fairly mediocre Genesis game and built it up for the Sega CD. The system wasn't exactly a powerhouse, but there was still enough room to add in new levels, tweak the graphics, and add a killer soundtrack by game music legend, Tommy Tallarico. It has the distinct honor of being among only a handful of other games based off of movies that was actually fun to play.

Final Fight
Final Fight

Final Fight saw its fair share of ports, but the Sega CD captured the arcade experience like no other. No missing bosses, no missing main characters, no missing animations, no swapped out enemies, just the straight arcade experience with some new musical arrangements. It's weird to think that this was the only version of Final Fight to maintain so many important elements that were cut to fit the game onto consoles. I mean for crying out loud, the SNES version wasn't even two-player!

And hey, there was even a little voice acting thrown in, in case the terrible acting from all those FMV games wasn't enough for you.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Eye of the Beholder
Eye of the Beholder

If you didn't have a PC, you didn't have a lot of Dungeons and Dragons games to choose from. Luckily, Westwood Studios managed to cram the original game onto the Sega CD without losing a thing. Granted, this meant the game created enormous save game files that would chew through the system's internal memory in no time at all, but it was all worth it. If having one of the preeminent D&D games on your home console wasn't enough to love this one, well, Sega found a way to sweeten the pot: They had the entire soundtrack done by Yuzo Koshiro, the man who composed music for so many video games, it would take less time to list the games he hasn't worked on. And when you consider that the ending to the original game was just a crummy text box, it's safe to say which version is superior.

Dark Wizard
Dark Wizard

The Sega CD was lucky enough to have a Shining Force game in its roster, but if you're looking for an even more involved tactical RPG in the form of Dark Wizard. As the sovereign leader of Cheshire, it falls on you to fend off the advances of Velonese, the titular wizard, before he can unleash the evil god Arliman. Thank goodness you've got the resources to hire a slew of mercenaries, and the magical chops to summon a pantload of monsters to storm across the hex-based battlefield. The game looked great, the level of tactical control was impressive, and the story played out in well-done anime cutscenes. The only real downside was that the battles could be a bit tough. Or maybe that was just part of my own struggle to grasp strategies more complex than "get a bunch of guys together and fling them at your enemy."

Rise of the Dragons
Rise of the Dragon

When it first came out, Rise of the Dragon garnered a lot of negative attention for being one of "those" games. You know what I mean: those games that are poisoning our young people with their depraved depictions of violence and sex. Utterly despicable! It was fitting that the game received a hefty "MA-17" rating, as it would barely qualify for a "T for Teen" rating under the modern system. I guess your character did say "effing" at one point (not "fucking", mind you; "Effing").

In porting the game from the PC to the Sega CD, there were a couple minor graphic issues. The most noticeable issue was the system's lower color palette, which gave all the visuals a faint green tint and made it seem like you were interacting with a scene from The Matrix. On the upshot, however, this version boasts a full complement of voice actors, and competent ones at that. The main character was voiced by none other than Cam Clarke, the man who's done voicework for everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Metal Gear Solid!

Dungeon Explorer
Dungeon Explorer

Those it shares its name with a Turbographix-16 game, rest assured that this is the superior Dungeon Explorer. Being a gauntlet clone, it's you and your friends against legions of monsters and monster generators with one thing on their mind: march toward those heroes and kill them. It's a great formula, and Dungeon Explorer builds upon it by adding things like status effects and equipable items, as well as separate meters for food and health. As if that weren't enough, each of the six different characters had unique weaponry and in lieu of a single screen-clearing magical attack, each character had a unique special power that bestowed different effects like temporary invulnerability and bullet time (or would that be arrow time?).

If you had a multi-tap, the game was even more fun. Sure, Gauntlet-style games could be solo, but what's more fun than spending an evening mowing down hordes of witless monsters with three friends?

Sonic CD
Sonic CD

It wouldn't be a Sega peripheral without a visit from the company mascot. Some internal conflict within the company led to most of the Sonic team bailing for the US, with the remainder left to work out a Sega CD sequel. It sounds like the recipe for a major screwup in the franchise, but that wasn't the case at all. All the great elements of the Sonic series were there, along with an interesting time travel mechanic, wherein Sonic's quest to thwart technology will take him into both the past and future.

The downside, at least for fans in the US, was that for some reason, Sega decided to completely redo the soundtrack for the North American release. There wasn't any real need for it, and having the soundtrack redone delayed the release for months. I guess Sega just thought North America wasn't ready for a video game with techno music.

Lunar: The Silver Star Lunar: Eternal Blue
Lunar (series)

One thing the Sega CD did not have a lot of was RPGs. Luckily, it did have one of the best RPG series. What made Lunar such a standout series was the way characters were given much more in the way of development, and while the plot was a fairly common story of a boy becoming a hero and saving the world, the Lunar managed to present it in a way that didn't seem trite or boring. It also marked the first major outing by then-small time publisher, Working Designs. Whatever your feelings about their practice of changing certain dialog and gameplay elements during the translation process, they knew how to package a great game (metaphorically and literally).

The game was so popular in Japan it had nearly 1:1 sales with the Sega CD itself, and worldwide it was the #2 best selling Sega CD game of all time, just behind Sonic CD. The sequel, Eternal Blue, has the distinction of being the best reviewed game for the system.

Popful Mail
Popful Mail

Another Working Designs title, this one was a little less RPG and a little more Action. As with a number of other titles on this list, this one was released on a number of different systems, but the Sega CD version was undoubtedly the best, and the reasons are much the same: better production values, better sound, and some nice cutscenes to boot. Working Designs also took some liberties with the original script, adding English puns and American pop culture references that seemed a bit out-of-place in the medieval fantasy setting, but still struck a nice balance between comedy and the serious stuff. There was quite a bit more of the former than the latter, but it worked as a nice counterpoint to the oft-visited "unlikely hero vs. great evil" storyline.

Snatcher
Snatcher

Before he set out on his life's journey to create the world's longest cutscenes, Hideo Kojima turned out this little gem. You play Gillian Seed, a detective of sorts whose job it is to track down and destroy robots impersonating humans. It's more than a little like Blade Runner, but damned if it isn't compelling. For the most part, gameplay consists of moving from place to place and sorting through short lists of potential actions in each scene, with the occasional shooting sequence to break things up a little. It may not sound like much, but the story unfolds in such an impressive way that you'll be too caught up in the atmosphere of tension to notice any of the game's minor flaws. Still waiting for a serious sequel, though...

Earthworm Jim: Special Edition
Earthworm Jim: Special Edition

Once again we've got a port of a game released on another system, and once again, the Sega CD version is superior. Shiny, the developers behind the original, took a ton of suggestions from the Earthworm Jim fan club and put them into this version. For starters, you've got a much sought after password system so you don't have to tear through the game in one sitting, but there's also vastly improved animations, a new CD soundtrack, a new weapon in the form of the all-too-literal homing missile, and a new level featuring the terrifying Big Bruty.

Best of all, beating the game now rewards you with a speech from EWJ creator Doug TenNapel. Easy mode gets you a long lecture about real earthworms, but if you can beat the game on Difficult, Mr. TenNapel will heap praise upon you, and he'll let you know that even if your life turns out to be total crap after this moment, even if you wind up serving a life sentence, you can rest safe in the knowledge that at least you beat Earthworm Jim on its highest difficulty setting. That's real inspiration, people.

Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side
Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side

Back in the mid-90s, there was a glut of fighting games made by people hoping to cash in on the success of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Eternal Champions was one such game, but it wasn't too bad. It had a bunch of interesting characters, all pulled from various historical periods (including a few suspect eras that turned out cyborgs and mermen), a special attack meter so you wouldn't get stuck flinging projectiles at your opponent for a full minute, and it had its own version of MK's fatalities, in the form of stage-specific "overkills".

It was fun, but Challenge from the Dark Side took things to the next level. For starters, it more than doubled the roster of fighters so that it included even more weirdoes. You had monkeys fighting pharaohs, acupuncturists fighting cowboys, ninjas fighting senators, it was insanity! Plus, you had better balancing, better music, and better sound effects. And in a time when people thought the violence in Mortal Kombat was shocking, this game was a veritable pioneer of ultraviolence: More overkills, more stage-based kills called "sudden deaths", character-specific "vendetta" kills, and CG "cinekills". All these with a level of detailed gore that made Doom and Mortal Kombat look like the latest installments in the Super Mario Bros. franchise. Even the developer logo was gory!

As you can see, there were plenty of diamonds in the rough. If you had a Sega CD and just those games, you'd be wondering why people thought so little of it. That feeling would last only as long as it would take you to discover the sheer volume of games like Ground Zero Texas, and Make My Video: Kriss Kross.

Are there any missing titles that you think have been unfairly overlooked? Well, why not post about them in the comments section below and reveal yourself as one of the few people who actually still play a game or two on the Sega CD?

Have any questions or comments about this piece?
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Reader Comments

That damn kid
Apr 11th, 2011, 06:15 PM
Hey but without the soundtrack redo for Sonic CD we wouldn't have 'Sonic Boom'! Really great list though, Makes me want to go over to my friends house and hog the controllers all over again.
Forum Virgin
Apr 11th, 2011, 07:55 PM
I'm going to read this article now. But if I don't see Lunar on here, you will fail
Forum Virgin
Apr 11th, 2011, 08:04 PM
Guess you won this round. Nice
The Glum Cunt
Apr 11th, 2011, 09:45 PM
When I was a kid, I would get so pumped up by the "Sonic Boom" song. I was probably punching the air every time I'd play sonic cd. A couple games that I like that weren't on your list where:

Vay (really good rpg, I liked it better than lunar)
Sewer Shark (I hated this game, but liked it too, just because I'd show off to my friends that I actually beat it and got good enough at it to beat it in front of them)(not sexual)
Mortal Kombat (probably the difinitive version of the game)
Member
Apr 12th, 2011, 12:20 AM
I liked Popful Mail a good deal. Has anyone else played a Sega CD vampire game called "Silver Lode"? The internet seems to not recognize its existence.
Sonic Boom is a great song. I have it on my iPod as we speak.
Clap if you love Dynamo
Apr 12th, 2011, 07:57 AM
Vay is definitely a noticeable omission

I did not see Shining Force 3 anywhere on that list either (other than as a footnote in Dark Wizard's entry) But it was a pretty good game itself. I liked the two main character's with two different stories coming together halfway through the game and combining forces.

Now that I look back on it though it seems that Working Designs managed to get a pretty respectable amount of success out of the Sega CD while so many other companies had no idea what to do with the same system
LOVES the tubal ligation!
Apr 12th, 2011, 10:25 AM
Dude. Ground Zero was so bad it was good. I loved how horrible that game was.
LOVES the tubal ligation!
Apr 12th, 2011, 10:26 AM
Although Dark Wizard kind of makes me want to install an emulator and play that.
I hate this hacker crap!
Apr 12th, 2011, 12:33 PM
No shout out to Penn And Teller's unreleased game? Anyway, I remember when I got my SegaCD. The guy at the flea market couldnt get it to read his scratched disc when i asked for a demo, I got mine free. Also, the fact it reads burned CDs is awesome. Thanks for the list, I'll have to check a few of these out.
Ancient Mariner
Apr 12th, 2011, 12:38 PM
SCREW Y'ALL; Android Assault, bitches
Member
Apr 12th, 2011, 01:06 PM
Woops. It's Silverload and it's Playstation. Would explain my difficulty.
Pickled Patriarch
Apr 12th, 2011, 03:27 PM
Good ol' Night Trap... such a cheesy FMV game.



SCAT SYSTEM DISCONNECT!

I would've said the Secret of Monkey Island should be on this list (since it's one of my all-time favorite games, but the Sega CD port of it was sadly pretty weak and the colors were reduced dramatically).
Funky Dynamite
Apr 12th, 2011, 10:04 PM
Vay I left off because I haven't personally played that one, though I've heard nothing but good things about it. Working Designs pretty much made the Sega CD, but they never really got the respect they deserved from Sega.

And yeah, I left Monkey Island off the list because it was a pretty mediocre port. Reduced everything with nothing really added to the game.


Also, honorable mentions to both Android Assault and Lords of Thunder, especially LoT for the awesome soundtrack.
Forum Chaos Lord
Apr 13th, 2011, 12:59 AM
Quote:
Lords of Thunder
IT HAS THAT ARCADE FEEL!
The Glum Cunt
Apr 13th, 2011, 02:19 AM
Oh, I forgot one! Willy Beamish was awesome too. I know it was on pc also, but I enjoyed it on sega cd because it had voice.
Let's play Hardball!
Apr 13th, 2011, 01:01 PM
You Can Do Anything > Sonic Boom
Bawbaruh
Apr 13th, 2011, 05:43 PM
It's funny, after reading this I turned on the TV and Game Over was on. I had no idea what it was at first and I said to myself, "Shit, this is like watching a Sega CD game!" Turns out, I was! Five of them, to be exact. What a terrible idea for a movie, spawned from a terrible idea for a game. Thank you, 90s.
Forum Virgin
Apr 13th, 2011, 09:47 PM
I'm surprised no-one else has mentioned Robo Aleste or Wonderdog. Fatal Fury Special was pretty awesome too. And in terms of the Digital Pictures games, surely Double Switch (starring Corey Haim and Debbie Harry!) is the best of the bunch? Or the hilariously awful Dracula Unleashed.
Riot Control
Apr 13th, 2011, 11:47 PM
A console I certainly never touched. It wasn't all that popular in Mexico, as the SNES was a household name.
4 Eyes, No Brain.
Apr 14th, 2011, 04:09 PM
I had the set up of original Mega Drive and the Mega CD II. The games I consistently played were NHL '95, Final Fight CD and Road Avenger, man I couldn't get enough of Road Avenger, God only knows why. Maybe because it was a game, I could actually finish.
Freelance Artist
Apr 15th, 2011, 12:31 AM
Didn't Phantasmagoria have a Sega CD port? That was an awesome game :D
pickled
Apr 15th, 2011, 07:49 AM
Awesome list of games here.
Pickled Patriarch
Apr 15th, 2011, 06:58 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Punk_Hippie View Post
Didn't Phantasmagoria have a Sega CD port? That was an awesome game :D
Phantasmagoria was eventually ported to the Sega Saturn actually, and yeah, that game is a classic with all the crazy kills. You can check out my article about the best Phatasmagoria kills to see videos of 'em all.
Beloved Cunt
Apr 15th, 2011, 07:42 PM
Did anyone else play Corpse Killer? My 11 year old self thought it was the pinnacle of gaming. Zombies and a hot busty blond? GAMING BLISS. Then I played it. I cried.

Ancient Mariner
Apr 15th, 2011, 08:05 PM
When are you doing phantasmagoria II?

and why the hell aren't you doing a series of all the horror adventure games through the years? I'd write that shit up in a heartbeat
Gix Gix is offline
Member
Apr 16th, 2011, 02:26 AM
o'h man does this bring me back, loved lunar and loved working designs, but you forgot,"Vay" which i guess u can find on the ipad now..really want to re-buy all my sega cd shit now :P
The Glum Cunt
Apr 16th, 2011, 03:31 PM
If you ever do a horror adventure game series, don't forget to include "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream". The game freaked me out when I was younger.
As u wish...
Apr 17th, 2011, 02:20 AM
i guess im the only one who REALLY liked the batman game....damn..
Ancient Mariner
Apr 17th, 2011, 02:41 AM
Oh yeah, Harlan Ellison is the shit. So was Dark Eye... and this one game I can never remember the name of, involving a creepy town that turned out to be a simulation to test and see if you could CREATE a serial killer, the test subject being you.
Member
Apr 17th, 2011, 09:52 AM
I didn't think anybody else would know about Earthworm Jim on the Sega CD.
The Glum Cunt
Apr 17th, 2011, 04:48 PM
That game with the creepy town turned simulation was called Harvester, and it was pretty awful, but really great at the same time.

And Earthworm Jim on the Sega CD was the difinitive version of it. I could only beat it on easy mode to get the earthworm lecture when I was a kid though.
Forum Virgin
Apr 18th, 2011, 03:46 AM
I guess you didn't get the game Panic!, because it may be one of the strangest games ever released in America on a major system. It doesn't feature much in the way of gameplay, but it is intensely Japanese and certainly something you won't forget. Go give it a try if you haven't played it yet.
Forum Virgin
Apr 19th, 2011, 02:23 AM
No WWF Rage In The Cage?



Look at that roster!
Yokozuna.
Big Bossman
The Headshrinkers!
The Power of Grayskull
Apr 20th, 2011, 03:39 PM
Sonic CD definitely belongs on this list for the title song alone. "Sonic Boom" and the accompanying cartoon intro was so badass back in the day. Another game I loved that no one else seemed to was Mad Dog McCree.
You'll thank me later...
Apr 22nd, 2011, 02:58 PM
Really, no Shining Force?
Im one good looking Troll
Apr 24th, 2011, 03:45 AM
ugh I played sewer shark.If you was good at that game like koko it mean you suck balls.
C:enter:###
May 25th, 2011, 07:12 PM
Oh how I would love for Sega to at least release a Sega CD Collection for 360/PS3 like they did for Genesis.
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