After failing to make a real dent against the NES, Sega decided just to top them. If Nintendo was dragging their feet to a 16-bit system (the arcade standard at the time), then Sega would beat them to the punch with a console based on its System 16 arcade board.
For the most part, it worked. This was helped by some of Nintendo's U.S. policies being ruled as anti-trust violations, by some developers supporting Sega due to them being a lot more lax , and their first truly successful hit known as Sonic the Hedgehog. So the Genesis was a hit, selling 35 million systems (with miniaturized versions and handhelds still on the market today.). There were also the Sega CD and 32X add-ons, but they were commercial flops.
Nintendo eventually had its own entry in the 16-bit era in the form of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The SNES and Genesis had a long and fierce console war that is probably the best-remembered of them all.
Known as the MegaDrive outside of the US, including in Europe and Japan. "Mega Drive" was already trademarked in the US by someone making hard disk drives.
- Motorola 68000 runs at 7.68 MHz (varies per region).
- Graphics generated by a more advanced Video Display Processor compared to the Sega Master System.
- Like the NES and SNES, the Genesis could expand through chips on the carts. One was the Sega Virtua Processor, which functioned like the Super FX chip on the SNES. Unfortunately, incorporating it was a lot more expensive than an SNES chip, and only the port of Virtua Racing used it. The system was heavily marketed for its ability to render objects faster than the SNES, a feature for which the Sega marketing division coined the term "Blast Processing".
- It also has a 2nd CPU, a Zilog Z80 running at 3.58 MHz, used for the Sound chips's CPU and Master System play back.
- 64 KB of main RAM and 64 KB of Video RAM.
- 8 KB of sound memory
- 8 KB of extra RAM for backwards compatibility with the Sega Master System (although that requires an adapter).
- Games ranged from 512 KB (most launch games) to 5 MB (Super Street Fighter II). Keep in mind that these were advertised by their bit size, not their byte size, so they would be listed as 4 megabits to 40 megabits.
- Sprites up to 32x32 pixels. As on other systems, multiple sprites were placed side by side to form the large characters in games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat.
- Up to 80 sprites on screen (not including background layer textures which could also appear animated).
- Two background layers in addition to the sprite layer.
- Could not do scaling and rotating sprites, but the faster CPU could imitate them by resizing sprite data.
- 64 colors on screen, 512 total.
- Yamaha YM2612 (OPN2)
- Six concurrent FM channels (voices).
- Four operators per channel.
- Two interval timers.
- Stereo sound.
- Sixth channel can be used a software mixing channel for PCM
- Texas Instruments SN 76489
- 4 Analog generators.
- 3 squares one noise.
- modded for stereo sound (the chip's standers can only do Mono)
Addons and peripherals
- Power Base Converter: An add-on which allowed the Genesis to play Sega Master System games, either of the cartridge or the chip variety, and included support for the SMS's 3D glasses. This was initially marketed for the first model Genesis, but a small quantity was made for the redesigned, compact Genesis But only in Europe. Also, it can not play SG-1000 games (or Master System games that uses the system's video modes like F-16 Fighter Falcon) or use it's Japan only FM chip (the YM2413, which was also used on the MSX under the name MSX Music and was cloned by Konami as the VRC7 chip for the Famicom in Japan) unless the unit is modded. It also won't work with a 32X unless it is modded.
- Sega CD: A CD-based add-on which would allow the Genesis to take advantage of a higher-capacity storage medium, enabling features such as Full Motion Video and Red Book CD sound. Unfortunately, the Genesis' own processing power wasn't quite enough to take advantage of these features to the fullest. The add-on actually sold decently, though the critical reaction led many to believe otherwise.
A 2nd 68000 chip running at 12.5 MHz, the main 68000 chip becomes the sound chips's CPU.
512 KB of main RAM and 256 KB of video RAM. 64 KB of sound RAM. 16 KB of CD drive cache. 8 KB of back up RAM, with memory cartridges going at 128 KB
Same as the Genesis but has a extra chip the can do scaling and rotation effects like the Super NES's Mode-7 chip (the Super NES has 2 PPUs, 1 for modes 0 to 6, and the other for mode 7) with the DPS1 chip and playing FMV video.
16 bit 8 channel PCM chip running at 32 KHz (44.1 KHz for CD-DA), also it's own CPU running at 12 MHz.
Sega CD games included
- The Adventures of Willy Beamish
- Android Assault: The Revenge of Bari-Arm
- Cosmic Fantasy Stories (Japan only)
- Dark Wizard
- Double Switch
- Dracula Unleashed
- Dragons Lair
- Dungeon Explorer
- Earthworm Jim: Special Edition
- Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side
- Final Fight CD (unlike the SNES port, this version had all three characters without the need of having a second version with Guy in it, along with the 2-Player Mode and the Industrial Area stage)
- Lunar the Silver Star
- Lunar: Eternal Blue
- Night Trap
- Popful Mail
- Rise of the Dragon
- Road Avenger (aka Road Blaster FX in Japan)
- Robo Aleste
- Sonic CD (the system's Killer App and the only game that sold excellently)
- Sewer Shark
- Shining Force CD (basically a port of the two Shining Force Game Gear games but with better graphics and extra quests)
- Snatcher (United States and Europe only, originally for the PC Engine in Japan)
- Rebel Assault
- The Terminator
- Sega 32X: Originally conceived as the Neptune, a cartridge-based 32-bit system to go with Sega's later CD-based system, the Sega Saturn, the add-on boasted two 32-bit processors and primitive 3D graphics capabilities, and was marketed as an opportunity for consumers to get a head start on the 32-bit generation. Unfortunately, both consumers and developers knew that the superior Saturn was just around the corner (even though Sega themselves believed the 32X and Saturn could co-exist, with casual gamers gravitating towards the cheaper 32X while the Saturn was reserved for the hardcore crowd), and titles for the add-on were few and far between. Some previous Sega CD games were also re-released on the 32X to take advantage of the system's improved processing.
2 Hitachi SH-2 chips, just like the Sega Saturn, but unlike the Saturn, the chip are a bit slower and are running at 23 MHz. each.
256 KB of main RAM and 256 KB (128 KB X 2) of video RAM. 256 KB of sound RAM
2 frame buffers with 2 layers (sprites and backgrounds) each (4 in total) and can be set up as just backgrounds or a large amount of sprites or ect. 32,768 Colors, no on screen limits. 50,000 sprites with their blocks going up to 512 X 512; Polygons like the Saturn are done with sprites, if all 4 layers are sprite layers, it can go up to 200,000 sprites. Stuff like Scaling, Rotation and 3D Engines are done with software with said software running on the 2th SH-2 chip. Screen resolution however is still the same as the Genesis.
2 10-bit PWM Channels.
Notable 32X games included
In short, the Genesis could at least come close to the SNES in total power, and could match it with extra chips.
Games/series which appeared on the Sega Genesis include:
- Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
- Alien Soldier
- Alien Storm
- Altered Beast
- Another World
- Bad Omen (a.k.a. Devilish)
- Beyond Oasis
- Bio-Hazard Battle
- Blaster Master 2
- Captain America and The Avengers
- Castle of Illusion
- Castlevania Bloodlines
- Chakan: The Forever Man
- Championship Pro-Am
- Comix Zone
- Contra: Hard Corps
- Cool Spot
- Crazy Bus
- Cyborg Justice
- Dark Castle
- Decap Attack
- Desert Strike
- Donald in Maui Mallard
- Doom Troopers
- Double Dragon
- Double Dragon II: The Revenge (while the other Genesis ports were western only releases, strangely this one was Japan only)
- Double Dragon 3: The Arcade Game
- Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls (based on the cartoon series. Super Double Dragon, which holds the position of "Double Dragon IV", was exclusive to the SNES)
- Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine: A localization of Puyo Puyo.
- Duke Nukem 3D
- Dynamite Headdy
- Earthworm Jim 1 and 2
- Ecco the Dolphin
- Eliminate Down
- El Viento
- Earnest Evans (was a Mega CD game in Japan)
- Eternal Champions
- Férias Frustradas do Pica-Pau
- Fire Shark
- Flashback: The Quest for Identity
- Forgotten Worlds
- Garfield: Caught in the Act
- Ghouls 'n' Ghosts
- Golden Axe
- Gunstar Heroes
- Hard Drivin: One of the very few real-time 3-D video games available for the system, although compared to Virtua Racing, the framerate is so laggy that the game is virtually unplayable.
- Herzog Zwei
- Madden NFL
- The Jungle Book
- Jurassic Park
- Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park
- Langrisser (AKA Warsong)
- Langrisser II
- Lemmings (the Genesis version famously includes 100 unique levels)
- Light Crusader
- The Lion King
- Mega Man: The Wily Wars: A rerelease of Mega Man, Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3 with 16-bit graphics. Only released in Europe and Japan, although it was briefly available in the US via Sega Channel.
- Mickey Mania
- Mortal Kombat: Complete with the gore, although it needed a cheat code.
- Phantasy Star II
- Phantasy Star III
- Phantasy Star IV
- Pier Solar and the Great Architects
- Primal Rage
- Prince of Persia
- Puyo Puyo
- Puyo Puyo Tsu
- Madou Monogatari I: The last officially released Mega Drive game in Japan.
- Rise of the Robots
- Road Rash
- Rocket Knight Adventures
- Rolling Thunder 2 and 3
- Saturday Night Slam Masters
- Shining Series
- Snow Bros
- Sonic 3D Blast
- Sonic Spinball
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Space Harrier II
- Splatterhouse 2
- Splatterhouse 3
- Star Control
- Steel Empire
- Streets of Rage
- Sunset Riders
- Target Earth
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series
- Thunder Force II-IV
- Thunder Pro Wrestling Retsuden
- ToeJam & Earl
- Toy Story
- Twin Cobra
- Syd of Valis
- Valis III
- Virtua Fighter 2: Actually a 2D version of the original 3D game with a lot of the content stripped out. A better version of the game, with actual 3D graphics, was later made available on the Sega Saturn.
- Virtua Racing: Notable for having the Sega Virtua Processor microchip, Sega's answer to the SNES's Super FX microchip, making it the second of two 100% real time 3-D video game available for the system. An upgraded version, Virtua Racing Deluxe, was made for the 32X, possibly to compensate for the fact that the original game won't play on a 32X equipped Sega Genesis.
- Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair
- World Heroes
- World of Illusion
- X Perts
- Zero Wing
- Big Word Shout: "SEGA!" in the ads.
- Blatant Lies: The whole "Blast Processing" marketing was just hyping up the fact that the Genesis had a faster processor than the SNES.
- Fandom Rivalry: Bringing up the Console Wars between Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis can cause Internet Backdraft even today.
- Fan Nickname: A Sega Genesis with every possible add-on (A Power Base Converter, Sega CD, a 32X, a lock-on Sonic&Knuckles cartridge with Sonic 2 or 3 hooked in, possibly if you're feeling incredibly bold a Game Genie (as seen here: https://web.archive.org/web/20131102212704/http://unrealitymag.com/index.php/2010/05/03/behold-the-sega-tower-of-power/ )) has been called the "Tower of Babel."
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: One of the 32x commercials had a genesis laying on a bed as the 32x came down. "Alright, bay-bay..."
- Long Runner: It was launched in 1988, and it wasn't formally discontinued until 1998. But, there are still versions of the console on sale today, and there were actually a few new games released for it in the last decade, the most recent of which came out in 2011.
- Polygon Ceiling: Towards the end of its life in the mid-nineties Sega attempted to create (at least the illusion of) 3D games on the system, such as with Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island, Vectorman 2, certain levels in The Lost World and others. While the graphics were ambitious for a 16-bit system, the gameplay tended to suffer as a result. Virtua Racing managed to break through it thanks to using the Sega Virtua Processor chip to allow real time 3D graphics, but the added cost of this chip (which skyrocketed the games cost to 100$) kept anymore games with the SVP from being made.
- To add insult to injury, due to relying on certain hardware, Virtua Racing was incompatible with the Model 3 Genesis (unless you mod it) and pretty much all of the unofficial clone systems. So if you bought the game years later and happened to own a Model 3 system, you were SOL.
- Product Facelift: The Genesis went through the most redesigns of any video game console in history--first, there's the model 1, which also has a link port (meant for the cancelled Sega Meganet) in the very, very earliest models, the more famous, streamlined model 2 Genesis, the Sega CDX which was a clever (but expensive) hybrid of the Genesis and Sega CD, the Model 3 Genesis from Majesco, which was as big as the controller, and then there's the Sega Meganet/The Sega Nomad, both of which are literally portable Sega Genesis consoles! There is even a licensed version of the Genesis released in Europe, the AtGames Sega Mega Drive 20-in-1 Game Console, which contains 20 games built into the console and has Region Coding fully unlocked, is even smaller than the Model 3 Genesis, and has unofficially been dubbed the "Model 4 Genesis".
- Scapegoat Ad: Sega's famous anti-Nintendo commercials are fondly remembered by many a nostalgic Genesis fan. Unfortunately, when Sega began to be brought down by their failing add-ons, Nintendo took the opportunity to do their OWN Take That to Sega in the commercial for Donkey Kong Country, which advertised that such a technically ambitious game was NOT a Sega game and didn't need a CD or 32X adaptor to be played. Now the ads are Hilarious in Hindsight.
- Scary Black Man: One of the Sega CD commercials had one.
- Sprite Polygon Mix: Some of the later games for the system.
- World of Ham: Pretty much anyone who appears in Sega's commercials.