If your first thought when you wake up in a morning is about getting back into bed with your favourite retro game, then this list of the best SEGA CD games should certainly grab your attention.
Forget the modern-day world of online multiplayer royales and 4K T.V’s; I want you to come back to a time when cartridge gaming was at its prime, and something incredible called ‘the compact disc’ was making waves in the tech world.
It was a time when kids couldn’t walk past a hedgehog without wondering why it wasn’t blue, trainers were sneakers, and gamers began wondering why the Beatles had been singing about Dr. Robotnik’s nephew and some weird walrus…
… that’s ‘I am the Eggman‘, just for anyone who isn’t as big of a nerd as me.
A Brief Note On The Sega CD
The SEGA CD add-on was big news back in the 90s, giving gamers the chance to upgrade their SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive and play a whole bunch of new and exciting titles, as well as remakes of the best Sega Genesis games with enhanced graphics thanks to the faster central processing unit.
The CDs that these games came on had a whopping 320 times more storage than the cartridges of old, paving the way for Full Motion Video (FMV) games like Numbers 12 and 11 on our list.
The 1st-gen Genesis consoles (that’s hard to say out loud) had a CD-ROM drive that stacked underneath like an old hi-fi system, but the 2nd gen looked a little more like a clip-on walkman.
Both systems looked pretty cool, but neither was destined for greatness.
A Cool Console, Or A Flash In The Pan?
SEGA inadvertently brought about the demise of the SEGA CD by not giving it as much attention as it needed and not conversing with the different factions of its own company.
The catalogue of games is mainly spruced up ports, and because the price was high, it didn’t take off as they would have hoped. It sold just over 2-million units, which now makes it a sought after piece of kit to have in your collection.
Funny how that works, isn’t it!
Despite the mixed reviews and checkered past surrounding this console, the SEGA CD had some cracking games that could have driven the company to even greater heights.
It also had some weird pretty ones too!
We’ve listed 15 of the best SEGA CD games below that really show what this classic console can do.
All you’ve got to do is find them, buy them, and kick back while playing them.
Sounds like a good trade-off, right?
15. Rise Of The Dragon
You won’t recognise Los Angeles in the first title on our list of the best Sega CD games.
It’s set in a cypberpunk inspired futuristic world, the kind of place where everyone wears spikes on their clothes and flashing lights are considered cool instead of annoying.
The year is 2053, and you play as an ex cop turned private detective named William ‘Blade’ Hunter. You’re hunting down the Chinese mafia after a lethal drug that they have been distributing mutilates and kills the Mayor’s daughter.
Don’t do drugs, kids!
The game sounds cool, but it has a ‘Carmen Sandiego’ for adults feel about it, a little like Myst.
Rooms are explored by selecting certain areas and objects, with the option of getting closer to the action to take a better look at specific clues.
It is a detective game, after all.
Annoyingly for adults, the Sega CD version was toned down a bit compared to the PC game, though it did still get a high age rating due to mature content and, for some reason, cross dressing…
… looks like Rise of the Dragon hasn’t aged well!
It also has less colours than the PC version, 64 compared to 256, meaning the whole game has a green, hulk-rage feel to it.
Still, if you can look past the Kermit-themed hue, it’s a nice little title to get your grey cells working.
14. Shining Force CD
Every gaming list needs a strong RPG title, and our rundown of the best SEGA CD games is no exception.
Developed by Sonic! Software Planning, this updated remake of the two Shining Force Gaiden games for the Game Gear (check out our list of the best SEGA Game Gear games too!) is a neat little number to add to your collection.
It also might end up being one of the priciest, however, as you need a back-up game cart to save your files if you have any hope of accessing the third and fourth chapters of the story.
No one said that retro game hoarding was ever going to be easy (or cheap!).
This title is split into two initial chapters or ‘books’, Books 1 & 2 being the first two strategy games on the Genesis and GG, with two 2 extra books that can be unlocked by collecting items while completing the game.
The RPG gameplay is fantastic and a real credit to the console. While the game doesn’t differ greatly from its predecessors, critics enjoyed the updated graphics and soundtrack, as well as the fun tactical battles that initially made this series so popular.
13. Sewer Shark
Ok, so we need to get one thing straight about these FMV games – they’re pretty weird.
They obviously didn’t take off very well or we’d all be turning on our Playstations or Nintendos and watching real people on the screen.
FMV games use real actors instead of computer-generated characters. At the time it was probably pretty exciting, but now it feels like a version of Charlie Brooker’s ‘Bandersnatch’ on Netflix – a cool gimmick.
This, by the laws of retro gaming, makes Sewer Shark one of those intriguing, highly collectible purchases that you need to try. It was the first-ever FMV game on a home console, and the actors certainly do a good job of dragging you (albeit kicking and screaming) into the storyline!
The mixture of real-life actors and strange Ratigators (zombie mice mixed with alligators…) is a bit hard to get your head around, but the gameplay itself is pretty cool.
You don’t get a cool name or anything either; you’re Dogmeat, and you have to navigate and blast your way to victory through a series of levels.
The aim of this rail-shooter game is to fight your way from your home base back to Solar City by navigating a series of sewers. Crashing is bad, as is running out of energy, and there are lots of weird critters trying to stop you from reaching your goal.
If you like plot-heavy games and being shouted out, then give Sewer Shark a try.
12. Double Switch
Unfortunately, this list of the best SEGA CD Games has to include more of the console’s FMV games; that’s what SEGA hoped would make them the big bucks, after all.
Where do I start with Double Switch? I’ve put this game at Number 12 because it’s such a random concept and one that, while incredibly bizarre, received positive reviews and should be tried at least once in your lifetime.
Debbie Harry of ‘Blondie’ fame plays an Egyptian-looking hotel owner, and Corey Haim has been trapped in the cellar with a bunch of security cameras. He’s trying to protect Camile Cooper and free himself via directing you to different rooms of the hotel…
… are you with me so far?
Players must move between a series of cameras to try and ‘trap’ the people around the hotel from committing a crime or bumping someone off before it happens. This is achieved by activating certain symbols when an actor steps onto a switch or walks past an object etc.
The strange part of this game is that the game narrative plays continuously while you’re flitting between security cameras, so you’re bound to miss some of the gameplay as you switch between snippets of action.
It’s an odd concept, but admittedly it’s fun to play and worth adding into your collection.
11. Night Trap
Boasting over 90-minutes of real FMV, Night Trap is undoubtedly one of the weirdest and best SEGA CD games for the console.
I’ve put it at Number 11 on our list because it’s kind of in a league of its own. It had a short lease of life, having been cited during a hearing as promoting violence and being offensive to women, along with Mortal Kombat.
It’s hard to believe that Night Trap featured alongside a game where people exploded and had their heads ripped off; I’ve watched the ‘infamous bathroom death scene’ in this game, and it’s nothing compared to battles you might see in The Walking Dead or Game Of Thrones.
How times have changed!
Much in the same way as ‘Double Switch’, the player must ‘trap’ bad guys from sneaking into a house full of teenage girls (sounds pretty seedy already).
You have to move between different video cameras and stop the evil SWAT guys from kidnapping or killing the girls, taking on a little bit of SEGA-style soft-nudity along the way.
The whole SEGA CD thing is starting to annoy me now; it’s the worst thought out console ever made. I think I might just skip straight to Number 1 before I lose the will to live…
10. Eternal Champions – Challenge From
The Dark Side
Ok, so I had a chat with my editor and he told me that I’ve got to see this article through to the end, so here goes.
I’m glad I’m sticking with it, as the next title on our list of the best SEGA CD games has one of the best storylines of any fighting game, and some of the goriest finishing moves going.
Eternal Champions was, and still is up there with the likes of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, and ‘Challenge From The Dark Side’ sold better than the Street Fighter 2 Genesis port over in the United States.
This game is primarily an upgraded version of the first Eternal Champions game with better kill-shots, less energy used during special moves, and new FMV clips to highlight your opponent’s demise.
What other game can you throw your enemy off a mountain and into the jaws of a shark!
The Eternal Champion now has an arch-nemesis; The Dark Champion! You might have earnt the right to a new life after winning the championship in the last game, but now you have to cope with this new douchebag and the four warriors that he’s hidden somewhere in this new tournament.
Sounds like ass-kicking time to me!
Challenge From The Dark Side has better graphics and an improved sound system compared to the previous game, and all of your favourite playable characters return for the fight.
This game has been dubbed one of the most difficult fighting games of all time – are you up to the challenge?
Snatcher was the SEGA CDs last hurrah, a final attempt to keep the sinking ship afloat.
It was developed by Hideo Kojima, the same mind behind Metal Gear Solid, and set in a world similar to that of Blade Runner and the Fifth Element.
It’s a cyberpunk graphic novel in a computer game – what’s not to love!
This Konami title was released towards the end of the SEGA CDs life, which makes it a bit of an unknown amongst most gamers. It had some pretty brutal scenes and mature content for a video game (way worse than Night Trap) and could be played with a gun controller in true arcade-style.
Players control an amnesiac named Gillian Seed who is on a mission with nothing to lose (mostly because he’s forgotten it all and can’t remember what he’s lost).
He’s hunting down humanoid robots disguised as humans, and you have to guide him through Neo Kobe city to sort things out once and for all.
The overall concept is great, as is the story, but the controls let this game down. It’s mostly ‘choose an action, the character does it’ instead of getting out there and kicking some robot butt.
If you like graphic novels and want to buy one that you can play on this niche computer accessory, then this is the title for you.
8. Lunar: The Silver Star
The Number 8 spot on our list of the best SEGA CD games goes to the best selling Mega CD on the console.
You might be thinking ‘why is it at Number 8 then?’.
Well, we’re making this list, so we make the rules!
The Lunar series is RPG-gameplay at its finest and one of the must-have titles that you need to try before its ‘Life Over’ time. The plot was actually created by a fantasy novelist, so this game really feels like you’re following a perfectly-crafted story as you battle your way through the fictitious world of Lunar.
The characters, the graphics, the gameplay, and the turn-based fighting style all account for this game’s unprecedented success.
This title shows off SEGA CDs merits and is proof that this console could have been a best-seller had it had the proper backing. The use of the CD-ROM allowed for incredible audio interludes, FMV cut scenes, real-audio character narration, and a rich world in which to lose yourself after a hard day at work.
Working together as a team never felt so good – the next time someone recommends a training exercise at the office, suggest a couple of rounds on Lunar to bring the team together.
7. Star Wars: Rebel Assault
A game that involves blasting down Tie-Fighters from the cockpit of an X-Wing will always have a place in this list of the best Sega CD games.
The sounds of space battle on any Star Wars game make me so excited, and Star Wars: Rebel Assault is one of my favourite rail shooter games of all time.
At least you’re not called ‘Dogmeat’ in this one!
As a kid, I always wished that I could have been a space pilot fighting in the legendary Galactic War. And as Rookie One, I finally fulfilled that dream.
This is the first CD-Rom game that Lucas Arts ever made, and it even has a few digitised scenes from the original movies in it as well.
The game feels like Lylat Wars in the Star Wars universe. The pre-rendered areas, accompanied by continuous dialogue from your other fighter pilots, really help to draw you into the storyline and take your mind away from the recycling bin schedule and up into space.
Rebel Assault is a must-have title for Star Wars fans, especially for fans of the Rogue Squadron series.
6. Popful Mail
Popful Mail is a bit of a mixture of all of the above; a platform game with turn-based RPG elements where you can level up characters and build a team as you go.
Oh, and trap people in a hotel (just kidding).
Each character that you can add to your team has a unique ability that can help you on your quest, and you’ll need them all if you want to defeat some of the insane bosses in this game.
The SEGA CD version has bigger character profiles during cutscenes and more detailed Sprites compared to the PC version, but the game is essentially the same.
Players control Mail, a female bounty-hunting elf (sounds cool) who is on the hunt of a chap called Nuts Cracker (give me a break).
There’s also a character called Muttonhead too – maybe this is why the list of best SEGA CD games is so short…
There’s a legend that loosely ties an old world to the modern-day one, and the gameplay is fun and keeps you coming back for more.
It’s considered by many to be the best game on the console, and (classic Retro Dodo fun fact) SEGA planned to make a North American release using characters from the Sonic Franchise titled ‘Sister Sonic’.
5. Road Avenger
Now we’re talking! Road Avenger, known as Road Blaster in Japan, is a gnarly revenge-racing title where ‘speed kills’ is the general aim of the game.
Driving around in a souped-up sports car, you play as a vigilante who is hunting down the biker gang responsible for his wife’s death.
He must seek out the gangs female boss and exact his revenge over the course of 9 stages in a Mad-Max inspired world.
Sega sure love their cyberpunk stuff!
Despite all of my moaning about the Sega CD, I really do like this game. The FMV recordings of the animated ‘Need for Speed’-style action really work, and the whole game has that classic arcade title vibe about.
Ok, so the on-screen instructions telling you what to do at every verse end are a little bit annoying and make the game quite simple, but that’s why there’s a hard mode without those prompts.
Plus, the fact that you’re graded on your reaction times makes you want to go back again and again to improve on your score.
It’s like the world’s most insane hazard perception test!
4. Final Fight CD
Final Fight is one of the titles in our list of the best SEGA CD games that a lot of you should already have come across, as it featured on a number of REAL consoles like the SNES back in the day.
Originally meant as a sequel to Street Fighter, this Capcom classic follows the similar ‘beat ’em up’ premise and is great for destressing after writing an article about something dull…like the SEGA CD!
Set in the fictional Metro City, players can control 3 characters through six rounds as they fight their way to glory using combo moves and button-mashing punches to get through to the ‘final fight.
It’s easy to play, has some nice features, and is something that you can pick up and put down without having to worry too much about where you left off.
Of course, it has to have that SEGA CD gore factor, and the morbid continue scene, where your chosen character is strapped to a chair while a stick of dynamite threatens to blow you to smithereens, should keep most fans happy and content.
If you don’t want to buy a SEGA CD add on (and let’s face it, why would you) then you can purchase this game on most modern consoles.
Give it a go and drop us a comment on Facebook to let us know your thoughts.
3. The Secret Of Monkey Island
Up next in our list of the best Sega CD games is The Secret of Monkey Island, a point-and-click adventure game where exploration is the ultimate key to success.
So much so, in fact, that the developer decided to make it virtually impossible for the main character to be killed, allowing you to immerse yourself in the epic storyline and concentrate on having a ‘jolly good time’.
I used the word ‘jolly’ because I’m thinking about the Jolly Roger pirate ship, a theme that comes up a lot in this Treasure Island-inspired swashbuckling game.
Choosing from one of nine commands (listed in the picture above), you must explore, chat, and ultimately complete a number of quests in order to become a pirate.
Expect ghostly figures, buried treasure, and a man with hooks for hands as you make your way through Mêlée Island in search of fame, love, and fortune.
The plot in this game is fantastic and one that has received the accolade of ‘best game of all time’ from many critics over the years. It even went on to spawn multiple sequels that make up the ‘Monkey Island’ series!
2. Earthworm Jim: Special Edition
This choice might shock a few of you, but if you’ve read my article on the best Sega Mega Drive games, then you’ll know how much I love Earthworm Jim.
From the cartoon series through to the epic game, Earthworm Jim played a big part in my childhood, and the Special Edition of the classic game was a sure-fire-hit amongst my friends and I.
This new edition contained over 1000 frames of extra animation and had a new and exciting remixed soundtrack. It even had extended levels and a brand new one to explore!
If you haven’t played Earthworm Jim before, then I can best describe it as having a Donkey Kong Country meets Metroid feel to it.
Oh, and with a worm wearing a super-suit as the main character.
You have to rescue Princess Whats-Her-Name from the people who want your super suit back, all while wielding an array of cool weapons with varying degrees of firepower.
This version had alternate endings for the different difficulty modes too. Most of the weird facts that I thought I knew about worms as a kid came from these endings, and it turned out that nearly all of them were made up!
Good job no one fact checked me back in the day!
1. Sonic CD
I mean, we all knew that this was going to take the Number 1 spot on our list of the best SEGA CD games.
Maybe I should have started at Number 1 first and saved you the pain of going past those early FMV titles, but we’re here now, so let’s see this out together.
Sonic fans far and wide still hail Sonic CD as the best game that our little blue friend has ever featured in, and I would tend to agree.
While the speed element is still there and Sonic remains as fast as ever, the way that you can explore each level thoroughly instead of just hurtling from one end of the level to the other is a refreshing change.
Arguably, some people might say that that makes this not a real Sonic game.
Well, those people can shut it, because the RD team like this game the best.
In Sonic CD, players can time travel to past and future versions of the same level. There are different bonus zones to uncover and lots of collectibles to pick up along the way.
This game introduces you to Amy Rose (such an annoying character) and Metal Sonic for the first time, and like the rest of the best SEGA CD games, it has a cracking soundtrack.
Defeat Robotnik, collect gems, and save the world. It’s a tried and tested theory and one that will always keep us occupied on rainy days.
I’m just glad that this doesn’t have a person dressed up as a blue hedgehog acting out an FMV scene. That would have been the end of us all!
Final Thoughts. . .
I don’t usually do a final thoughts section on these ‘Best Games’ articles, but this list of the best SEGA CD games has given me a lot to think about.
It’s a shame that the only thing these games really had going for them was a bunch of real people acting and an upgraded soundtrack. It begs the question ‘what’s the point in owning one?’
Surely you should just get hold of a Mega Drive/Genesis and call it quits?
The best thing about Sonic isn’t the music; it’s the gameplay and the spin dash – everything else is pretty irrelevant.
I’d rather buy a bunch of 80s toys than this.
For me, the SEGA CD should have been a sign as to SEGAs impending downfall. It’s a prelude to the Dreamcast, and if they had learned their lessons at this stage, then they might still be making consoles today.
The FMV thing was a nice idea, but people want to step away from the real world when they go into games, and you can’t do that when Terry from down the road is playing a fighter-pilot called WingSting, or something along those lines.
I’ll always be a fan of made-up worlds and kick-ass characters, but let’s stick with computer graphics from now on, alright?