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

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

  1. All of Beep! MegaDrive's ratings for Game Gear games are yet to be put up on Sega Retro, and if this game got reviewed in that mag, then chances are it won't be the number one worst game should it be documented.

    Akane usually handles the Japanese magazine ratings for all other systems, but has never done the Game Gear ones.
     
  2. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    (Better here than clogging up the general information topic)

    "The science" in Sega Retro terms is a very simple "convert x rating system to percentages" affair which leads to a wide variety of problems. You would think a magazine who used 0-100 review scale would... use the scale, but in reality, there's probably only about 10 or 20 games on the wiki that have ever been consciously rated less than 10%. In fact, games that score that low usually do so because of politics, as in "reviewer hates his job" rather than "reviewer hates this game". I'd quite like to include some form of "weighting" to make things more relatable, but I genuinely don't know how best to do that, or whether it's just better to put a bazillion asterisks after the number pointing out how it will never be accurate.

    Also the fluctuation in scores highlights something else - the cultural difference among games journalists. You can't really see this on Metacritic because most new scores come from a homogenised, English spreaking internet, but for early 90s magazine content, it's a bit more interesting:

    For example, critically acclaimed shooter Thunder Force IV. The average score is around 90, but there's a noticeable difference when split down country lines:

    - The US average is 95. I find that, particularly in the old days, US magazines seem to be overwhelmingly positive about video games as a whole. EGM and GamePro read like a 200-page advert - "this could be awesome", "this is awesome", "but this is even more awesome". Their teeth start coming out a few years in when they're faced with tat, but it's rare to see a game score lower (when converted to our scale) than 50%. Are they in the pockets of publishers? Well there's plenty of damn adverts, so maybe, but a less "professional" magazine like GameFan is equally positive on the medium as a whole, so I guess video games are just awesome, guys.

    - The French average is 94. French magazines from this era are overwhelmingly positive about video games too, with everything seemingly getting more than 70-75%, however unlike the US where it seems to be based on not wanting to offend suits, my guess is that the French mags didn't actually bother to play the games they were praising, and if the game was actually made in France, you get top marks by default.

    - The German average is 88. Germany is a lot more demanding of its video games, and its bigger multi-platform magazines, ASM, Mega Fun, Play Time, Power Play and Video Games were quite happy to award 10s and 20s if the product was crap (or if they felt like it). 80% is a good score in Germany, while it's fairly average in France. Anything over 90 is exceptional and scoring over 95 just doesn't happen.

    - The UK average is 90. We have a lot of British magazines, and with gaming journalism going back decades, there's usually a bit of quality in the writing, even if scores can be a bit loopy. Some publishers go for the "70 is average", others are closer to 50, "grown up" magazines like Edge tend to rate games lower than some of the (other) Future or EMAP publications - you get the broadest range of opinions from this period from the UK... which isn't all that helpful if you're using these things to help make decisions.

    - The Japanese average is 81. Japan doesn't tend to give games really low marks, but it's very hestitant to score things highly - it's all 50/60/70 and 80 on a good day. So in a way it's less about describing how good games are relative to each other, and more "buy this game" and "don't buy this game". Mind you I can't rule out an anti-Sega bias for the early 90s - Nintendo games do seem to get more attention and score higher(?) so maybe that's a thing... although you wouldn't expect that from the dedicated Sega magazines... right?

    (and this applies to most video games from this era, not just Thunder Force IV)


    We don't have enough reviews from other countries to make sweeping judgements there but from what I've seen, Spain tends to be positive, Brazil and Italy use random number generators and the rest usually fall in line with the average. By the late 90s, especially around the Dreamcast launch, some of that positive skew tends to go away as people start "expecting" things from their consoles, as opposed to be in constant awe that video games exist.
     
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  3. doc eggfan

    doc eggfan

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    I'm not sure how you'd code it/automate it, but I would look at all the review scores for a particular year in a particular publication for a particular system, and then within that sub-group, the highest scoring game, whether it's 88, or 91 or 97, would get re-scored as 100%, and worst game for the year, whether it's 33% or 51% or 69% would be re-scored as 0%, and then everything else within this sub-group would be re-scored and distributed in order from worst to best over a normal distribution curve centered over 50%. Then you'd re-assess based on these new scores.
     
  4. While Black Squirrel doesn't have the time or interest to keep updating these lists, it's probably worth pointing out that over the last year and a half since this thread was made, Sega Retro's gotten quite the influx of newly discovered ratings for many games, particularly a whole bunch of magazines from a variety of countries, as well as Japanese Game Gear ratings, so I figured "I could do a list".

    But now things are messy, at least for the Mega Drive - all kinds of unlicensed games now have review scores from Russian magazines, and many of them have scored low, making the lowest rated Mega Drive games very cluttered. As such, I figured I'd redo Black Squirrel's list with the latest averages as of this post, except all unlicensed games are excluded as there will be a lot of joint ties in the worst list, and too many for me to write up about. All the other rules apply.

    Top 10:

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    10th best Mega Drive game - 89.5555555555556 based on 27 reviews - FIFA Soccer 95

    Still was the most content-rich of the FIFA games released on the Mega Drive.


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    9th best Mega Drive game - 89.6666666666667 based on 21 reviews - Mortal Kombat 3

    Even with the rise of 32-bit consoles, this version of Mortal Kombat 3 was still highly praised. The Saturn wouldn't get this game until the release of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, thanks to Bernie Stolar.


    [​IMG]
    8th best Mega Drive game - 89.6739130434783 based on 46 reviews - Sonic the Hedgehog 3

    Though it's only the first half of a big game, it's finally joining its prequels in this list.


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    7th best Mega Drive game - 89.9069767441861 based on 43 reviews - Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive)

    Even if its score is a little lower than last time, it's still no surprise that this remains here.


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    6th best Mega Drive game - 90.0238095238095 based on 42 reviews - Earthworm Jim

    Even with the game still being a poster boy for games that aged poorly on the internet as well as other controversies, this game was still rated highly back in the day. Still wish the Mega-CD version got onto the Mega Drive Mini 2 than...Clayfighter...


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    5th best Mega Drive game - 90.0697674418605 based on 43 reviews - Street Fighter II': Special Champion Edition

    This still has a higher average rating than Super Street Fighter II, though I'm no Street Fighter player so I can't vouch for it.


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    4th best Mega Drive game - 90.3214285714286 based on 28 reviews - Earthworm Jim 2

    This got rated higher than the first game, but honestly I feel this sequel is inferior for being less consistent with its gameplay. Still, it's curious how the SNES version was the one to be rereleased on Nintendo Switch Online while the first game is locked behind the Expansion Pack.


    [​IMG]
    3rd best Mega Drive game - 90.3947368421053 based on 38 reviews - Flashback

    Flashback saw a lot of ports to different computers and consoles. These days you're better emulating the home computer versions, but the fact it's now here on this list will please a few people.


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    2nd best Mega Drive game - 90.5882352941176 based on 51 reviews - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Mega Drive)

    Hey look, the best selling Mega Drive game is higher up on the list than it was before. Quelle surprise.


    [​IMG]
    Best Mega Drive game - 95.0 based on 1 review - John Madden Football: Championship Edition

    This still didn't get any new reviews since the initial list, and thus it continues to completely ruin the list.


    What could come off as a big shock is that there aren't any Micro Machines games in the top 10 anymore, due to Russian magazines from the 2000s giving them much lower scores than many other critics did at the time of these games' releases. What scores do they have now at the time of this post?
    • Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament - 84.75 based on 28 reviews - Two 40% reviews from Russian magazines in the 2000s did this one in. Seems German magazine MAN!AC weren't fans of Micro Machines either, giving it a 62%.
    • Micro Machines: Turbo Tournament '96 - 87.0 based on 19 reviews - Sub-80 reviews from MAN!AC and a Russian mag might explain its cold drop from the list too, and this one ranked higher than Micro Machines 2 in Mr. Squirrel's list.
    • NHL Hockey (Mega Drive) - 78.5 based on 10 reviews - Russian review scores are substantially lower for EA's first ice hockey game than reviews from the US.
    • Tetris - 73.6 based on 5 reviews - I'd say it's a good thing this fell because this is such an ugly, bare-bones port of Sega's 1989 version of Tetris, and a good thing the Mega Drive Mini got a more accurate port.




    Bottom 10:

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    10th worst Mega Drive game - 39.1428571428571 based on 7 reviews - Time Killers

    Things got better for this awful port of an already poor Mortal Kombat clone, but hardly much at all.


    [​IMG]
    9th worst Mega Drive game - 38.2727272727273 based on 11 reviews - Unnecessary Roughness '95

    A little higher scoring than last time, but still statistically the worst American football game on the Mega Drive.


    [​IMG]
    8th worst Mega Drive game - 37.5714285714286 based on 7 reviews - Wheel of Fortune (GameTek)

    Because every system always had to have a video game adaptation of popular American game shows. I don't care much about these shows anyway, and I get more entertainment watching Chuggaaconroy make incredibly weird guesses in the Nintendo adaptations of the show.


    [​IMG]
    7th worst Mega Drive game - 37.1666666666667 based on 6 reviews - ESPN Speedworld

    Joining this list is statistically the worst racing game on the system.


    [​IMG]
    6th worst Mega Drive game - 36.7142857142857 based on 7 reviews - Trampoline Terror!

    Masaya wanted to give this a domestic Japanese release as "Explode Star", but it never happened. If it did, I'd imagine it would only get middling scores from Japanese publications.


    [​IMG]
    5th worst Mega Drive game - 36.3333333333333 based on 3 reviews - Last Action Hero

    Video game adaptation of the 1993 cult classic Schwarzenegger film that was overshadowed by Jurassic Park. A great deal of Sony Imagesoft's output on the Mega Drive has been licensed tat (Mickey Mania being the exception), and this is no exception.


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    4th worst Mega Drive game - 35.2 based on 10 reviews - Super Battleship: The Classic Naval Combat Game

    It was definitely a better and more affordable idea to just play the real board game.


    [​IMG]
    3rd worst Mega Drive game - 35.1428571428571 based on 7 reviews - Nekketsu Kouko Dodgeball Bu: Soccer Hen MD

    The Kunio-kun spinoff that came to the Mega Drive at a time where sports games shouldn't be playing like NES games (because it was a NES port).


    [​IMG]
    2nd worst Mega Drive game - 30.0 based on 1 review - Math Blaster: Episode 1

    A port of the 1987 Apple II game Math Blaster Plus...in 1994. The only review is from a Russian magazine in 2003.


    [​IMG]
    Worst Mega Drive game - 17.4 based on 5 reviews - Barney's Hide & Seek Game

    Things haven't gotten any better for this low-hanging fruit. If I was including unlicensed games, then Russian hunting sim Deer Hunter would rank below this one with a 10.0 based on one Russian review.


    And of course, it's only fair that I also list the worst games that used to be on Squirrel's list and how they score now:
    • Chester Cheetah: Wild Wild Quest - 39.2307692307692 based on 13 reviews - This licensed food mascot tat just missed the mark by a 0.0879120879121 margin from Time Killers.
    • Dark Castle - 39.8 based on 20 reviews - The terrible port of a classic Macintosh game and an AVGN classic. Somehow Brazilian magazine Supergame thought this was worthy of an 87% averaged from four percentages. Without it, this game would have placed 8th.
    • Double Dragon II: The Revenge - 39.9473684210526 based on 19 reviews - Mega Drive ports of Double Dragon games always had issues, though I'm not versed enough in the series to explain why, and the Mega Drive had other offerings.
    • Earth Defense - 39.3333333333333 based on 3 reviews - This one is an unlicensed game, and even if I wasn't excluding them, this one would still score too high to be in the bottom 10.
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day - 43.4 based on 15 reviews - Another AVGN classic brought to you by Acclaim. Mega Action (UK) and GamePro (US) gave this one high scores for some reason.
     
  5. JaxTH

    JaxTH

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    In hindsight, that was probably a good idea.
     
  6. Overlord

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    The sheer fact Madden 93 is in the top spot shows this list is far from perfect =P
     
  7. JaxTH

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    I mean, yeah, it's got one review. :V

    Sonic 2 is obviously the best one though.
     
  8. Deathscythe

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    Isn't Sonic 1 the best selling MD game?
     
  9. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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  10. Overlord

    Overlord

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    Yeah, but even so...

    No, I believe 2 is. Then it's 1, then it's Aladdin.
     
  11. LockOnTommy11

    LockOnTommy11

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    How Mega Turrican, Gunstar Heroes and Streets of Rage II aren’t on that list is beyond me.

    I guess this just goes to show what happens when different people review things over an extended period. A list like this wouldn’t really work if we were genuinely looking for the top ten games, but it’s definitely interesting though.

    I’m not a huge fan of sports games so I wonder if some of those still hold up.
     
  12. Deathscythe

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    [​IMG]

    Sega Saturn Magazine (UK)
     
  13. Pirate Dragon

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    Sonic 1 was heavily bundled ... if you count count games which bought with hardware (of which there was little choice, at least at first), then Sonic 1 is the bigger seller, but if you only count non-bundled software, which people actually chose to buy, then it's probably Sonic 2.

    Edit: Also, those Russian publications are garbage, they even "reviewed" non-existent games, so I doubt they even bothered playing them, just found lists online and assigned scores to them, probably from online sources where available, and fabricated where not. We should probably exclude reviews for licensed games made after a console was no longer being officially supported.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2022
  14. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I had vague plans of charting review scores against time, so we could see how games have fared in the long term, but yes I'm tempted to discount "modern" reviews from the average scores. Or at the very least, remove the crappy Russian ones (though that's probably a job for someone else, since I'd hope at least some of the scores are legitimate).

    I'd be reluctant to automate the decision of what defines "too new" though - there was a legitimate re-release of Super Monaco GP in 1997, 7 years after its original launch - contemporary reviews of that re-release are valid.


    Also I'd be pushing others to get involved with the coding. I don't want to make more situations where I'm the only one who can maintain the templates.
     
  15. JaxTH

    JaxTH

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    The thing with Russian reviews are that there are aftermarket Ryssian games that also have reviews.
     
  16. Pirate Dragon

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    Yeah, that's fine, keep those, just exclude the licensed games.
     
  17. Overlord

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    Putting aside the passive-aggressive reply and that the image doesn't actually say that, I looked it up and yes, it turns out that 1 did sell in higher numbers (though as noted, likely outside bundles 2 did better). I honestly thought it was the other way around.
     
  18. Deathscythe

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    I apologize if that came across as passive-agressive, it wasn't my intention.
     
  19. I thought MK3 not going earlier to the MD was because SONY did a deal with Midway?

    Anway, its sad to see some of the better MD games IMO, not make the list, due to sales. Its gets little fanfair, but StarFlight on the Mega Drive is amazing title, so was Buck Rogers and for Revenge Of Shinobi was the best ever game on the MD. It was SEGA at the best and up there with Mario IV was sheer perfection
     
  20. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Sony secured exclusivity to the 32-bit versions of Mortal Kombat 3 (or CD versions, or whatever "don't release this on the Saturn" constitutes as), so it could be (and was) released on 16-bit systems. Depending on who you asked, it was a coup for the system during the launch period.

    Certainly the US gaming magazines seemed to care:

    https://retrocdn.net/Category:Electronic_Gaming_Monthly_scans
    https://retrocdn.net/Category:GamePro_(US)_scans

    count how many issues of EGM and GamePro have fighting games on the cover.


    In reality, some people thought MK3 wasn't much of an upgrade over Mortal Kombat II and/or is worse because it's a) too different or b) not different enough, so in their mind, it's no big loss. Others will point to X-Men: Children of the Atom as a better alternative... before telling you in no uncertain terms that Mortal Kombat was never good and the West can't make fighting games and blah blah blah

    And you could point to Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 being Saturn bound within the year. That's the same game but with more stuff in it, and wasn't released on the PlayStation.

    I also couldn't rule out the gaming press hyping up Mortal Kombat 3 as being the best thing ever, oblivious to the fact that games like Virtua Fighter 2 exist, and were likely drawing larger crowds. We saw this to a limited degree with the Dreamcast launch too: "it's has Mortal Kombat Gold!". "Yeah but that game isn't as good as previous entries, also hey look SoulCalibur exists let's buy that instead".