Science presents: the top 10 best and worst Mega Drive games

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, Apr 10, 2021.

  1. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    One feature of Sega Retro is acting as the "Metacritic of the 1990s". We've been collecting magazine articles and reviews for years, and it's getting to a stage where the lists are rebust enough to actually highlight popular opinions.

    Or at least, Mega Drive one is. We're generating averages from double figures, so while there are still massive margins of error (and it's really more of a 20-95 scale than 0-100, so don't get hooked on the numbers), it's vaguely reliable sometimes.

    So because this as exciting as our lives can get at the moment, the top 10 and bottom 10 Mega Drive games, according to science, right now, because wiki clickbait is the best clickbait. All of these scores are based on contemporary reviews - the wiki has all the details and workings if you're into that sort of thing.

    Top 10:

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    10th best Mega Drive game - 90.875 - NHL Hockey
    The very first EA Sports ice hockey game, pre-dating the EA Sports brand. This is the North American version with official NHL teams, with the rest of the world's EA Hockey currently sitting around 88-ish. While John Madden Football was a big thing for American football games, NHL Hockey seems to have been a bigger thing for ice hockey, as none of its competitors even come close in terms of popular opinion. I don't know enough about the sport to tell if EA is still the industry leaders, but they absolutely were in 1991.

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    9th best Mega Drive game - 91.30354267310796 - Earthworm Jim
    It seems the internet classes this as "graphics before gameplay" these days, but before the sequels and remakes spoiled the legacy, Earthworm Jim was stupidly popular. I'm surprised it's rated this highly, given it's a game not actively talked about much today, but here we are.

    Not sure this is the best version of the game to actually own though - Earthworm Jim: Special Edition on the Mega-CD seems like a safer bet.

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    8th best Mega Drive game - 91.32942592592592 - Street Fighter II': Special Champion Edition
    Fighting game experts will be able to tell you why this consistently scores higher than Super Street Fighter II, but there was a great deal of hype for a Sega version of Street Fighter II in 1993 which probably feeds into this result. In fact I believe this is Capcom's most successful Sega product, followed by Resident Evil: Code Veronica on the Dreamcast years later.

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    7th best Mega Drive game - 91.52941176470588 - FIFA Soccer 95
    All Mega Drive FIFAs score highly, but this was the last one where the Mega Drive was the target console. It's also a meaty upgrade over the original FIFA with all the club teams and customisation gubbins - others might have the edge in gameplay, but in terms of content, I'm not sure this was bettered in 1994.

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    6th best Mega Drive game - 91.59677419354838 - Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive)
    A milestone in gaming. It was only after Sonics 2 and 3 that we began to re-assess Marble Zone, but such was the initial praise, the average still ends up being extremely high.

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    5th best Mega Drive game - 91.69736842105263 - Earthworm Jim 2
    I mean we're only talking a .3 pecentage point difference, but yeah, I think it's better than the first too. But again, not the version you want - the Saturn's soundtrack is among the best on the system.

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    4th best Mega Drive game - 91.72988505747134 - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Mega Drive)
    The best selling Mega Drive game is also one of the highest rated? Who'd have thought. I think you can write your own sentence here.

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    3rd best Mega Drive game - 92.0909090909091 - Micro Machines: Turbo Tournament '96
    Collectively Micro Machines has the best multiplayer on the Mega Drive, and Turbo Tournament 96 was the last and most polished version. The added track editor also probably helps.

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    2nd best Mega Drive game - 94.5 - Tetris
    And this is where the system breaks down. Tetris wasn't on the market long enough to get a decent number of reviews, but for what it's worth, it's a decent version of the game. I think the story goes that Nintendo's versions have the music, but Sega's attempts are closer to the modern Tetris Company-enforced standard. Also more illegal.

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    Best Mega Drive game - 95.0 - John Madden Football: Championship Edition
    And then there's this one-off special edition of Madden from 1993 that only has one review and isn't widely understood and completely ruins this list. Unless it really is the best game on the system - American football isn't my thing.




    ...and the bottom 10:

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    10th worst Mega Drive game - 37.16666666666667 - Dark Castle
    Dark Castle's a decent game... on the classic black and white Macintosh, with high resolution graphics and mouse controls. But it doesn't translate well to d-pads and buttons, nor is it really suited to an audience brought up by Sonic. There's a reason it makes good AVGN material.

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    9th worst Mega Drive game - 37.121452380952356 - Double Dragon II: The Revenge
    I'm not an expert on Double Dragon lineage, but this definitely seems the least pleasant of the Mega Drive offerings. It's a curious thing to release when Sega had games like Golden Axe on the system, and was set to be trounced by things like Streets of Rage.

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    8th worst Mega Drive game - 36.833333333333336 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day
    Another AVGN classic. Mega Drive owners are spared from the LJN brand, but it's still Acclaim under the hood making shoddy decisions with movie licenses.

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    7th worst Mega Drive game - 36.142857142857146 - Unnecessary Roughness '95
    The Mega Drive's worst American football game. I'm sure the experts could tell you why.

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    6th worst Mega Drive game - 35.20871428571429 - Nekketsu Kouko Dodgeball Bu: Soccer Hen MD
    Football game in Technos' Kunio-kun franchise that looks and plays like something designed for the NES (because it was). With so many more modern options to choose from, it was torn apart by critics.

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    5th worst Mega Drive game - 34.625 - Time Killers
    Really late conversion of a not-so-good Mortal Kombat clone. Standards were too high for this sort of thing in 1996.

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    4th worst Mega Drive game - 30.0 - Earth Defense
    Unlicensed tat from Taiwan. Unlike most, this was packaged up and sold in the US, but it doesn't stop it from being a crappy shooter.

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    3rd worst Mega Drive game - 29.9375 - Chester Cheetah: Wild Wild Quest
    Not sure if it's the game that's truly awful, or what the product represents, given that it's a sequel to a crap platform game that's only out to make quick cash.

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    2nd worst Mega Drive game - 29.4 - Super Battleship: The Classic Naval Combat Game
    Remember when they made a film and an FPS out of Battleship? This isn't that - it's just Battleship. I'm guessing the board game cost less and was generally more fun.

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    Worst Mega Drive game - 13.0 - Barney's Hide & Seek Game
    I think this is an easy target given it's clearly a game for very young children, but hey - statistically the worst Mega Drive game.


    Sadly(?) some of the genuinely horrible games, Action 52, The Great Waldo Search and X-Perts are all sitting in the 40s right now. Really need more review scores added to fix that.
     
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  2. Sid Starkiller

    Sid Starkiller

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    I mean Super Battleship wasn't great (yes I actually owned it), but worse than The Great Waldo Search? What were those reviewers smoking?
     
  3. Yash

    Yash

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    I can't imagine Battleship translates well to a video game format. Everyone knows the best part about the original game is the rampant cheating.
     
  4. Sid Starkiller

    Sid Starkiller

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    I can't say much more than grab a ROM and try it. The Classic Battleship mode is...well, literally classic Battleship against an AI, but the Super Battleship is kinda FFT-ish, with broadside ship-to-ship combat.
     
  5. biggestsonicfan

    biggestsonicfan

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    Formerly Sonic the Fighters
    This has quite the competitive speedrunning scene actually.
     
  6. Overlord

    Overlord

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    I debate your point on Micro Machines 96 - Military came out afterwards and is just as good at multiplayer - in fact if anything it has a slight edge because it also has battle arenas. What might be holding it back aside from how late in the system's life it was launched was the fact it only got a PAL release.

    Otherwise, a really interesting read.
     
  7. doc eggfan

    doc eggfan

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    I'm not sure how you would do it, but I feel like the review scores need to be standardised in some way. There are a lot of iconic mega drive games not making the top 10. I remember when CVG went from giving scores out of 100% to scores out of 5. Take Micro Machines for example, from memory, I think Micro Machines 1 got 94%, Micro Machines 2 got 95% and Micro Machines '96 got 96%, because each game was better than the last. This generally meant that as the video game medium in general got better than what had come before, scores kept creeping higher and higher into the 90s, so games released later in the Mega Drive's life got higher scores. Is Earthworm Jim 2 better than Aladdin or Rocket Knight Adventures, or was it just because it was released later?
     
  8. nineko

    nineko

    I am the Holy Cat Tech Member
    Since I love Tetris but I never played this particular version, I decided to try it today.

    I was not impressed.

    The Tetris for the TI-89 is better than this.

    Still, I made a gameplay video of it; if anything, lines and score don't seem to overflow or to be capped anytime soon. The piece usage histogram overflows, though.


    I'm going to cover more games from your lists, so expect more posts from me in the next days.
     
  9. doc eggfan

    doc eggfan

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    I always find it interesting that Sonic 3 never finds its way into lists like this. I wonder how Sonic 3 would have scored if it wasn't cut in half and released in two parts. I vaguely remember the review scores were lower than Sonic 2 due to the value proposition of having to spend twice as much for the whole experience, and with fewer zones in each half than in Sonic 2. In an alternative reality where Sega didn't have to meet a deadline for a MacDonald's tie in and released the whole of Sonic 3 in one massive cartridge at the end of 1994 after a 2 year hiatus, would it have scored better? Would it have blown people's minds or was Sonic old hat by then? In the competitive Christmas of 1994 would a complete Sonic 3 have faired better against the Donkey Kong Country juggernaut or would fancy silicon graphics still win out in the end? Would Sonic 3 be more fondly remembered and vie for top spot against Super Mario World in retrospective top 10 lists?
     
  10. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    As we speak, Sonic 3 is in 11th place :)

    You have to scroll down a bit to get to Sonic & Knuckles though. But even then it's 87 vs 91 - well within the margin of error.
     
  11. Gryson

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    Black Squirrel, you probably know this: Is there a to-do list or something on the wiki that shows which magazine issues have not yet had review scores added from them to the wiki?

    I can go to the list of magazine ratings here: https://segaretro.org/Category:Magazine_ratings

    And then choose, for instance, GameFan: https://segaretro.org/GameFan/Ratings

    And then sort by issue to see which issues have had review scores added to the wiki. Is this the best way to gauge the completeness of a magazine's ratings on the wiki, or is there a more convenient to-do list somewhere?

    I guess it's a project for someone who has time on their hands to add the GameFan review scores, since I think there's a complete collection of PDFs available but almost no scores have been added.
     
  12. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
  13. Yash

    Yash

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    Is this the version they put on the Genesis mini? Because that version is complete ass.

    Edit: I see in one of the comments, someone points out that it's not. Two bad Tetrises for the Genesis, then!
     
  14. Overlord

    Overlord

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    My view on this has always been along the lines of the guy who basically said that it didn't matter if a game scored 94% or 97%, it was still a must-buy, and who cares if it was a 20% or a 30% travesty?

    In a perfect world the 1-5 system CVG used for a time is all you need, but then you can't do tables like this one =P
     
  15. nineko

    nineko

    I am the Holy Cat Tech Member
  16. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    Big news in numbers: they changed. Earthworm Jim is no longer in the top 10.

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    Your new 10th best Mega Drive game - 90.7800925925927 - Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament

    No I'm not going to update this topic every time a new batch of review scores is added, but Micro Machines is another franchise that was huge on the Mega Drive... only to fall off the face of the earth. They try and revive it every now and then, but nobody cares about top-down racers anymore.


    As for other Sega systems, the numbers aren't quite as reliable yet, but the very best and very worst are probably set in stone, as they tend to transcend wonky journalism. So quick run down:

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    Best Master System game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit)

    The version where the Underground Zone boss can be comfortably beaten. Probably the best 8-bit Sonic, definitely the best soundtrack on the system.

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    Worst Master System game: ALF

    Badly made tat from a fledging Sega of America. Its programmer, Kevin Seghetti, as admitted as such, but claims it's on-brand as the TV show sucked too.


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    Best Game Gear game: Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament

    I think the idea is that every version of Micro Machines and its sequel is excellent.

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    Worst Game Gear game: Hyokkori Hyoutanjima: Hyoutanjima no Daikoukai

    Video game tie-in to a Japanese puppet TV show. The numbers aren't really here for this to be reliable - we have one score from a French magazine, so don't read much into this.


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    Best Mega-CD game: Earthworm Jim: Special Edition

    Told you the CD version was the way to go, although it's very telling that the best Mega-CD game is a slightly enhanced Mega Drive port.

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    Worst Mega-CD game: NFL's Greatest: San Francisco vs. Dallas 1978-1993

    And honestly 22/100 is generous for this one. It's not a game, it's low quality video covering old NFL matches. It would be a questionable release on VHS, nevermind on your expensive new CD-based Mega Drive add-on. In fact it's probably one of the stupidest things released on a video game console full stop.


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    Best 32X game: Doom (32X)

    I pointed this out in a previous topic - it's a joke today, but in late 1994, the options for playing Doom were this version with crappy music, the Jaguar port with no music or the original IBM PC version that was not guaranteed to be specced up to run the thing. It's high-end PC gaming at a fraction of the price - the press loved it.

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    Worst 32X game: T-MEK

    Don't know enough about this - it's an Atari Games arcade conversion that nobody cared about. I suspect it's not really the worst 32X game out there (Spider-Man: Web of Fire is just above), but meh.


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    Best Saturn game: Virtua Fighter 2

    There's a bug currently hiding Virtua Fighter 2 from the wiki table, but I'm fairly sure this tops the list. If not, Sega Rally Championship. Until Virtua Fighter 2, the Sega Saturn narrative was that it couldn't do 3D as well as the PlayStation... at which point Sega came along and made a Saturn game that does 3D better than most PlayStation games. It's a techncial showpiece and as Virtua Fighter was the main selling point for the console in Japan, sold bucketloads.

    This actually runs at a higher resolution than most PlayStation 2 games... maybe even including the Virtua Fighter 2 port for the PS2. Someone should check that.


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    Worst Saturn game: The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga

    Word on the street is this is what happened to that scrapped 32X X-Men game. We only have one review claiming this is horrendous- second worst-rated game Death Crimson might be a better fit, because Death Crimson is... well... look it up.


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    Best Dreamcast game: SoulCalibur

    Absolutely no surprises here if you give even the slightest damn about Dreamcast software. Truth be told I'm not sure I'd personally class it as the best thing ever, but others call it the perfect video game, and it's undoubtedly a massive improvement over the arcade version. Also you can play as a lizard man called Lizardman. OUT OF THE RING

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    Worst Dreamcast game: ESPN NBA 2Night

    This one fascinates me, because I followed the Dreamcast religiously back in the day, and the butt of all jokes was usually Spirit of Speed 1937 or Ducati World. It must have been spectacularly bad for a licensed basketball game published by Konami to consistently rate even worse.
     
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  17. JaxTH

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    Best and worst Pico and Beena games when? :V
     
  18. nineko

    nineko

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    I made a video of this, too. I tried to use the "premiere" feature of youtube this time, I'm not sure if that's a good idea since I never used it, but it should be live here in 75 minutes if everything works fine. Be there!
     
  19. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    Master System top and bottom 10, because I literally have nothing better to do.

    There's never been a massive amount of interest for the Master System on the internet, mostly because it didn't make much of a splash in the US, and while it was top dawg in Europe, we weren't really into dedicated games consoles at the time. But the good thing about being in second place is you're spared from the dregs of LJN or Color Dreams or whoever else was trying to cash in - you had to be pretty serious if you were to get into Master System publishing.


    Numbers are less reliable here than on the Mega Drive, but that's because console game reviews weren't really invented until late 1987/1988, off the back of the PC Engine and Mega Drive launches. There just weren't as many opinions out there.


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    10th best Master System game - 88.81818181818181 - Prince of Persia

    I've been told this isn't a particularly good conversion of Prince of Persia, but whatever. Unique on this list as the Master System and Game Gear ports are pretty much identical, right down to screen resolution.

    In 2021 there's no reason to favour it over the IBM PC version. Or the SNES if you're a heathen. Though the (PAL) Mega Drive version isn't too far behind in the grand scheme of things.


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    9th best Master System game - 88.84583333333335 - R-Type

    For those who didn't have access to a PC Engine or TurboGrafx-16 (i.e. most people outside of Japan), this was the best home versions of R-Type around at release. Probably isn't worth bothering with today given the arcade version is just as easy to emulate, but this was a big deal in 1988.


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    Joint 8th best Master System game - 89.0 - Ecco: The Tides of Time and Micro Machines

    SMS Ecco II was one of those wonky, Brazil-only, Game Gear to Master System conversions, and with only one review to its name this is likely an unreliable score. Micro Machines we've discussed before - it's never far from the top ten.

    Also yes, high resolution mode.


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    7th best Master System game - 89.52941176470588 - California Games

    Not sure why this is consistently rated so highly but whatever - the best in Epyx's "Games" series. It's averaging higher than the Mega Drive port, and if I cared more I'd look into why. Remember this one because there's a test later.


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    6th best Master System game - 89.79333333333334 - Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar

    I forget how it works with Ultima since they re-released the early ones, but I suspect this Master System conversion of IV might have been among the best versions in its day. It's an actual port, rather than the jumbled up version the NES got, and well... people like Ultima. A Western RPG on a Sega console that people might have heard of - shock horror.

    What's a Paladin?


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    5th best Master System game - 90.36231884057973 - Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (8-bit)

    There's some who say the 8-bit version of Castle of Illusion is better than the Mega Drive one. I'm not qualified to have an opinion, but either way, quality licensed platformers are a rare thing.


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    4th best Master System game - 90.7666666666668 - Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit)

    A surprise to nobody.


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    3rd best Master System game - 91.11764705882354 - Populous

    One of the games that made Peter Molyneux famous. Not sure if it beats out the Mega Drive conversion, but it's impressive to see it on the Master System. Whether it's a good fit for a 2021 audience is another story - I can't imagine it would be near the top ten if these lists were compiled from more recent reviews, and nobody would willingly choose this version over the home computer originals.


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    2nd best Master System game - 91.25 - Ecco the Dolphin

    Again if you didn't have access to the Mega Drive version, 8-bit Ecco got you most of the way. A lot of these later SMS ports rate highly on the grounds they exist - this conversion was released in mid-1994, because the install base doesn't magically disappear when you put a new machine on the market.


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    Best Master System game - 91.98484848484841 - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit)

    Even less surprising because I posted it above.






    And the bottom 10:

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    10th worst Master System game - 44.5 - Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

    This probably doesn't deserve to be this low as there were plenty of dull movie licenses in the early 1990s, but it's here and it's... dull. It's a very home-computery experience with samey gameplay and no music - I suspect reviewers wanted more from full price console game.


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    9th worst Master System game - 43.81818181818182 - TransBot

    The simplest shoot-'em-up on the console, because it's a 1985 game designed for budget priced Sega Cards. In the West though, you didn't get this thing until 1987 or 1988, and by then it was so old hat that the hat was dead and buried alongside its hat children.


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    8th worst Master System game - 43.458333333333336 - Zaxxon 3D

    3D on the Master System is great, because if you don't have the glasses (which don't work in half the consoles), you can't play half the games! While Zaxxon 3D has a fully working (and non-hidden) 2D mode, without the extra dimension it's just a dull shooter that looks less interesting than the 1982 original.

    In fact this was the perspective the Atari 2600 and Intellivision ports of Zaxxon opted for because they couldn't do the isometric graphics. i.e. it was a crappy compromise in 1983 and amazingly was still one in 1987.


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    7th worst Master System game - 43.23076923076923 - Ace of Aces

    Pseudo flying simulator that came across from the home computers. I'd need more time with this (and the other versions) to form an opinion of my own, but it sounds like they shipped a worse game five years too late.


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    6th worst Master System game - 42.7 - Super Tennis

    A clone of Tennis on the NES, though probably not as good. Another one originally released on card in 1985, that later found its way onto cartridge and was torn apart by the gaming press. Still, at least Sega weren't copying Urban Champion.


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    5th worst Master System game - 42.61538461538461 - Smash T.V.

    "Play Smash T.V." - no, don't. While it's one of the greatest twin-stick shooters ever made in arcades, on the Master System, you have a D-Pad and two buttons... and not much else since they had to cut so much content.

    Not much better on the Mega Drive, and while it has enough buttons to actually work on the SNES, the Nintendo versions have slightly different music and that annoys me. A poor showing all around tbh.


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    4th worst Master System game - 42.375 - Space Gun

    Taito's cutting edge arcade light gun game comes to the Master System two years later with most of the bits taken out.


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    3rd worst Master System game - 38.5 - Back to the Future Part II

    Back to the Future games from this era are unusually unlucky in that they're all awful. One of the few cases in history where Acclaim might have done a better job with the license.


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    2nd worst Master System game - 37.333333333333336 - California Games II

    Yes the first game is one of the best, and the second is one of the worst. And here's me thinking the only "games" they played in California were EA and Activision swindling idiots with loot boxes.


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    Worst Master System game - 10.666666666666666 - ALF

    It hasn't got any better in the last few days.


    Fun fact: despite being the face of the system, Alex Kidd in Miracle World is currently ranked 54th with a score of 82.42857142857157.
     
  20. Xiao Hayes

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    From my personal perspective, Castle of Illusion was indeed more enjoyable on Master System, one of the games I played most on that console, while I tried the 16-bit version and got bored quickly. 8-Bit Ecco is also great because it's distinctive enough from the 16-Bit counterpart, but not in a downgraded sense (features its own kind of puzzles, for example); and, since most 8-bit games are easier to beat than their 16-bit counterparts, I actually beat the final boss in this version. Not the same for 8-bit Ecco II: it has annoying "follow me" sections that work like shit, the story is so butchered you don't know what's happening half of the time, and all the "uniqueness" in this game does come from the downgrade.