Sega Genesis Mini Review | It’s a Blast (Processing)

Sega is the latest video game company to hop on the nostalgia train with a mini version of one of its classic consoles. The Sega Genesis Mini is a replica of the Genesis (or Mega Drive if you’re from anywhere other than the U.S.) Model 1 at 55% scale. The microconsole contains 42 classic Sega Genesis games and easily connects to any modern display via HDMI. The two controllers (which are thankfully full-size) that come with the Sega Genesis Mini are copies of the originals that came with the model 1, down to the red letters on the A, B, and C buttons.

M2, the developer behind Sega Ages and Sega 3D Classics Collection, are responsible for the software on the Sega Genesis Mini, while Sega itself produces the hardware. Unlike some Sega microconsoles we’ve seen in the past, the Genesis Mini feels like a first-party product instead of a cheap cash-in. The console features a lineup of titles that offers plenty of timeless classics while also highlighting some fantastic games that fans might be less familiar with, as well as two new titles that are making their debut with the Mini.

Unlike last year’s ill-received PlayStation Classic, the Sega Genesis Mini seems like a lot of thought and care were put behind it. Though it’s not without flaws, this microconsole shows that these products can be an adorable and affordable way to provide access to classic games and not just a trend to be exploited and forgotten.

Sega Genesis Mini Review | Take me back to 1989

Sega Genesis Mini Review Box

The Sega Genesis Mini, fittingly, is packed in a box reminiscent of the original Sega Genesis Model 1 box (the one with the grid lines and the Sonic 1 pack-in cartridge). Open it up, and you’ll find:

  • The Sega Genesis Mini Console
  • Two controllers
  • A micro-USB cable
  • A USB power adapter
  • An HDMI cord

So, you’ve got everything you need to enjoy the console fully in one package, which is fantastic. The Mini itself is around half the size of a Sega Genesis Model 1, which means it’s easy to slip in an entertainment center or on a shelf for display without taking up much room.

To turn the power on, you just flip the power switch. There’s a red LED light in the appropriate place that indicates when the console is on, which has been designed in a way that makes it look like the Model 1’s light. Meaning, you won’t get a blinding red pinpoint of light from the power indicator, just a subtle red glow. The volume slider, cartridge flaps, and expansion port can be manipulated as well, though they’re non-functional.

The controllers are amazing. I was never a huge fan of the D-Pad on the Genesis controller, but the pair that comes with the Genesis Mini have to have some sort of revision because they feel fantastic. They also have the red lettering on the A, B, and C buttons as well as the red arrows indicating direction on the D-Pad. This is a hallmark of the controllers that came with the Genesis Model 1, and it shows how in touch Sega was when designing this product. It would have been easy to overlook the red accents as the controllers with white accents are much more common in my experience.

I wasn’t a fan of the controllers being wired. Since the console retails at $79.99, I can see that it may have been a necessary move to keep costs down. If the only option were to go wired, I would have liked to have seen the Sega Genesis Mini use DB-9 connectors so you could use original Genesis controllers if you so desired (or use the Genesis Mini controllers with original Genesis hardware). As it is, the controllers that come with the Mini are USB, which seems a bit bland considering the rest of the package feels so authentic.

Sega Genesis Mini Review | A diverse lineup

Sega Genesis Mini Review Controller

The cool hardware of the Sega Genesis Mini wouldn’t mean anything without great games, and Sega has included an excellent lineup for the microconsole:

  • Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
  • Alisia Dragoon
  • Altered Beast
  • Beyond Oasis
  • Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
  • Castlevania: Bloodlines
  • Columns
  • Comix Zone
  • Contra: Hard Corps
  • Darius
  • Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  • Dynamite Headdy
  • Earthworm Jim
  • Ecco the Dolphin
  • Eternal Champions
  • Ghouls ’n Ghosts
  • Golden Axe
  • Gunstar Heroes
  • Kid Chameleon
  • Landstalker
  • Light Crusader
  • Mega Man: The Wily Wars
  • Monster World 4
  • Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millennium
  • Road Rash 2
  • Shining Force
  • Shinobi 3
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball
  • Space Harrier 2
  • Street Fighter 2: Special Champion Edition
  • Streets of Rage 2
  • Strider
  • Super Fantasy Zone
  • Tetris
  • Thunder Force 3
  • ToeJam & Earl
  • Vectorman
  • Virtua Fighter 2
  • Wonder Boy in Monster World
  • World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck

There’s a little something for everyone in this 42 game list, and it beats the pants off of the PlayStation Classic’s lackluster lineup. There are an excellent smattering of RPGs, beat-em-ups, platformers, puzzle games, and more which as a whole do a great job of showing just how diverse and underrated the Genesis library is.

There are a few questionable absences in the Genesis Mini’s library, though. Sonic 1 and 2 are available everywhere, so why not include Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles instead? Also, even though Phantasy Star 4 is pretty independent of the first three games, it would have been great to get the whole series on the Mini.

Despite wishing some games could have made the cut, for the most part, I was happy with the collection found on the Sega Genesis Mini. It’s a great mix of first and third-party games and even two new games in the form of Tetris and Darius. We also got Mega Man: The Wily Wars, a rare remake of Mega Man 1-3 that previously only available in the U.S. via the Sega Channel service.

Sega Genesis Mini Review | How it compares

Sega Genesis Mini Review Console Profile

The options on the Sega Genesis Mini are relatively spartan, but it’s evident that the console is designed to get you into the game quickly and easily. I usually play my Genesis collection on a JVC X’Eye, running RGB through a Framemeister X-RGB, which gives me the satisfaction of playing on original hardware while also getting stunning visuals. I will attest that the Sega Genesis Mini doesn’t replace this method for me. It’s a great little machine, but it’s no X’Eye.

However, the Mini a great value and is straightforward to set up in comparison to a Framemeister or an OSSC. The console upscales games to make them look great on modern TVs, and has options for choosing from 16:9 or 4:3 ration in games and can generate scanlines if you’re looking for that faux CRT feel.

The best-kept secret the Sega Genesis Mini holds is that fact that you can freely choose between the U.S., European, and Japanese versions of the games included. Unfortunately, this is a bit unwieldy as you have to go into the console’s main menu and switch between languages to activate this feature. I wish there would have been an option to easily switch between the three regions while leaving the interface in English. Most games don’t have vast differences between their U.S., European, and Japanese releases, but a few, Contra: Hard Corps being a big one, do, so it’d be nice to make switching versions easier.

Sega Genesis Mini Review | A great value

I’m all for the microconsole craze, and I love the Sega Genesis Mini. For $79.99 it destroys previous Sega Genesis microconsoles like the AtGames line in value and capability. Much care went into designing the Mini and picking which games are included, and it shows in every facet of its design.

I hope that if the Sega Genesis Mini is successful that Sega will continue to pursue more microconsoles. There’s a ton of games on the Sega CD, Saturn, Dreamcast, and other Sega consoles that deserve to have a wider audience. For now, at least we get to enjoy a wide array of classic games in an affordable, high-quality, and easy-to-use-package.