Picking the best games for Sega CD was not an easy task. The Sega CD (Mega CD outside of North America) was an add on unit for the Mega Drive/Genesis. In the early nineties the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis had became one of the biggest selling consoles in history. However, CD technology was beginning to enter the fray and Sega wanted a slice of the pie. The Sega CD was that solution, enhancing the console to almost arcade type levels of gameplay with storage 320 times larger than a normal cartridge.
Despite a handful of decent titles, the Sega CD had very little in it’s catalogue and many of those games were odd full motion video efforts. As such, we look through the (small) back catalogue and pick out five games we think are essential for the Sega CD.
Given it’s full title, Popful Mail: Magical Fantasy Adventure, is just that. You are the titular hero Mail, a bounty hunter, who is frustrated by her inability to capture and claim the bounty of a Mr Nuts Cracker. This frustration leads you into a bigger plot of intrigue and twist as you attempt to claim a bigger bounty.
The game is a side scrolling platformer that blends with an RPG. The voice acting is terrific, straight out of an over the top Japanese animation. This means the characters are genuinely unique and as a player you become really invested in them. It is always included in any list of the best games for Sega CD, mainly due to this.
The game was actually intended to be a Sonic the Hedgehog RPG named ‘Sister Sonic’ and was to have reworked characters, one of which was Sonic’s sister. However after pre internet fan backlash the project was cancelled and Popful Mail was released to the west in it’s Japanese form.
Sonic the Hedgehog CD
A flagship game designed to show off the capabilities of the Sega CD, this Sonic installment did not disappoint. It really pushed the system and ended up as the best seller on the Sega CD.
Originally conceived as a reworking of Sonic 2, poor sales in Japan led to a totally new game being created. In essence, it follows the same layout as any other Sonic game with zones, stages, Sonic running at speed, collecting rings etc.
What differentiates this incarnation of the game is a time travel aspect. Each zone can be visited in the past, present, bad future and good future. Your aim is to make sure each zone ends up as the good future by travelling to the past and destroying robot spawning machines. Each time period has its own look, layout and obstacles.
Add this to the fact that it has a killer soundtrack, enhanced graphics and introduced franchise favourite Amy Rose and you can see why Sonic CD is such a hit.
When talking about the time period in which the Sega CD existed, the words ‘graphic adventure’ do not inspire confidence (check out Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties on the 3DO). Snatcher is a totally different experience.
With a cyberpunk storyline that runs along the line of Bladerunner and Akira, Snatcher is dystopian to say the least. Humans are being killed and replaced by humanoid robots named ‘Snatchers’. You are Gillian Seed, tasked with hunting them down while you try to piece together your own amnesiac memory.
The game has no point and click elements and very little in the way of animation. Instead you have screens and text based menus, which in a way just enhance the whole eighties, cyberpunk experience. One of the most immersive games you will play.
Lunar: The Silver Star
Lunar: The Silver Star is a traditional, top down Japanese RPG. You play the part of Alex, a young boy who dreams of becoming a Dragon Master and must work through a series of tasks to reach his goal.
It may be said that Lunar is a typical JRPG and in many senses it is. What makes it different is it’s ability to use the Sega CD to enhance the whole experience. Like Popful Mail, the voice acting is exceptional. The audio is way ahead of anything that was around at the time. Characters are introduced with full motion animation videos that give a real depth to the narrative.
Lunar was the number one selling Sega CD title in Japan and the second best selling Sega CD titles of all time. It was followed up by Lunar: Eternal Blue which was another critically appraised title.
Final Fight CD
The Sega CD has very little titles and of them, major franchise games are almost non existent. Final Fight CD fills that gap, being a port of the 1989 Capcom arcade hit.
Join Guy, Cody and Mike Haggar in a quest to rescue Haggar’s kidnapped daughter from the evil Mad Gear gang. A side scrolling beat em up that is every bit as good as the arcade version.
The Sega CD allowed a brand new time attack mode, where you had two minutes to down as many enemies as possible (or if you lost two lives it ended). Score was calculated on how many you had seen off and was a nice added touch.