Rare Sega Genesis games are increasing in number, thanks to the fact that it’s now 23 since it debuted in Japan as the Sega Mega Drive (the name it was known as everywhere except the US).
Launching in 1989 in the US and in 1990 in all other territories, the Genesis was hugely popular in its day, selling more than 31 million units across its lifespan.
The 16-bit generation of consoles are arguably the most influential and beloved machines of all time, with indie games to this day paying homage to the graphical styles, chiptune soundtracks and game design philosophies that the era is known for.
On the Genesis, we saw the birth of franchises such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage, while even sports games such as FIFA and NHL Hockey (known initially as EA Hockey outside of North America) debuted on Sega’s console as the best SEGA Genesis games before being ported to other systems.
Somewhat unfathomably, games are still occasionally released on Genesis even today, such as the fantastic twin stick arena shooter Xeno Crisis by Bitmap Bureau.
With such a huge library of games, there were bound to be some lesser known titles that are more difficult or more desirable to get hold of today.
What follows is a list of the ten rarest titles, though note that this will only cover games that released in the West (NA/EU) and won’t feature bundles, compilations (aside from one infamous example that I did include, as it wasn’t compiled of games that were previously available individually), strictly educational software or special, limited editions.
Please also note that rarity doesn’t always equal desirability, so the prices commanded may not necessarily decrease as we head down the list. Let’s see what the Rare SEGA Genesis games list has in store…
Though the console technology of the time didn’t allow for hugely complex strategy games of the nature we see today, the 16-bit era had its fair share of deeply involving, fairly densely layered strategic warfare titles.
Japanese publisher Koei excelled at producing these often graphically basic but deeply involving games, though for the most part they focused on Japanese history. Liberty or Death, as you’ve probably guessed from the title, is concerned with the American Revolutionary War.
Though never huge sellers, these games had a devoted core audience – the lack of mainstream appeal likely meant that they had smaller print runs than simpler, more immediately accessible games.
The unique subject matter of Liberty or Death has contributed to its desirability for collectors – giving it a price tag that sits around $120-$180 for a boxed copy at present.
Based on the second film from a barely remembered 90s franchise, 3 Ninjas Kick Back was developed by Malibu Interactive and released to a very poor critical reception (Malibu’s hit rate was less than stellar – they were famed for picking up odd licenses and turning games around very quickly to cash in).
It’s a game that may not be desirable for its quality, but is definitely one that doesn’t come up for sale too often – so its scarcity is definitely the attraction. At the time of writing, the only available cartridge on eBay is a cheap bootleg; the official version can command prices of around $180 for a boxed copy.
The story behind the infamous multi-game Action 52 cartridge is fascinating; the ‘brains’ behind the unlicensed (but legal) game collection, Vince Perri, saw his son playing an illegal 40 game cartridge at home – and set about making a legal version, without much knowledge of the games industry.
Giving the few programmers he enlisted to create the original NES collection far too short a timeframe to create the 52 games, the resulting cartridge was a mess of buggy, broken games with plagiarised music throughout.
The Genesis version is better, thanks to being in the hands of more experienced programmers who had a lot more time to finish the project, but it’s still held in poor regard from a critical standpoint.
Nonetheless, it stands out as a unique misfire – and curiosity value, along with its unlicensed nature and general scarcity, makes it a highly sought after title.
The collection’s low quality keeps the value somewhat reasonable, with prices usually around the $80 mark for a boxed copy.
Christian games developer/publisher Wisdom Tree have released many Bible-themed games over the years. Rarely met with critical acclaim, they were always reasonably difficult to acquire due to their nature as games unlicensed by platform holders.
Joshua & the Battle of Jericho is a tile-based puzzle game that features quiz questions between rounds relating to the Biblical story it’s based on.
Though not sought after because of the game’s quality, the scarcity is clearly a draw; when it does pop up (which isn’t often!), the game can reach prices of $180 when boxed.
Another Koei historical strategy simulation in the vein of Liberty or Death, Uncharted Waters: New Horizons is a slightly loose interpretation of historic events during the 16th Century’s Age of Discovery, though it does feature notable, real world historical figures.
As with Liberty or Death, it’s a somewhat unique setting and level of complexity for a 16-bit title, which would not have had a large print run upon initial release – accounting for its high price and general lack of availability.
It can currently fetch prices in the region of $135 complete in box.
The Genesis was home to an arguably never bettered selection of horizontal and vertical shoot ‘em ups, many of which were of a very high quality.
MUSHA is a vertical scroller, part of the long running, hugely popular Aleste series (the latest title in the series released in Japanese arcades this year).
Despite the genre’s popularity (and that of the series), it met with a mixed critical reception upon release – perhaps a victim of the fatigue felt by critics reviewing another scrolling shoot ‘em up (and likely not helped by a high difficulty level).
In recent years, appraisal of the game has been a lot more positive – which is likely why it’s become so sought after, with boxed copies in excellent condition getting close to the $300 mark at the moment.
Part of an almost overwhelming deluge of quirky, faux-edgy animal mascot games that arrived on consoles in the wake of Sonic the Hedgehog’s phenomenal, system-selling success, Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel was a spin-off from yet another furry critter-themed series, Aero the Acro-Bat.
By 1994, consumer interest in these faddish games was definitely waning, which likely led to poor sales despite a relatively warm critical appraisal of the eponymous squirrel’s only solo outing to date.
Though not as valuable as some of the other games on this list, it’s getting there – with prices in the region of $200-$250 not uncommon for a boxed copy.
Turn based strategy games really do seem to dominate this list, don’t they? Master of Monsters is another in that vein; a game which was likely too slow paced and complex for many SEGA Genesis is owners, which explains why it consequently struggled to find an audience upon release.
Regardless of the reason, it’s highly sought after these days – with prices as high as $500 for mint, boxed copies of the game, making it one of the best rare SEGA Genesis games to pick up if you’re a collector or investor.
Despite the aforementioned oversaturation of cute-with-attitude animal video game stars in the early 90s, it seems that collector interest remains high in the lesser known titles and franchises out there.
With spin-off Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel also being so highly prized, it’s perhaps not surprising that Aero the Acro-Bat 2 is similarly collectible. Also akin to Zero’s critical reception, Aero the Acro-Bat 2 seems to have reviewed well, receiving excellent review scores despite – at the time – consumer apathy towards the specific platforming sub-genre that the game inhabits.
Original copies are particularly thin on the ground for this title – the box alone (without game) can fetch prices in excess of $100! A mint copy of the game, on the other hand, can reach prices over $1000 make it one of the most expensive rare SEGA Genesis games on this list.
Given their prominence on this list, it’s likely not a surprise that we find another nicely complex – for its time – console strategy title from Koei at the number one spot.
With a focus on taking a start-up airline from humble beginnings to success against three rival airlines, it’s got a unique premise and – true to form for Koei’s excellent strategy titles – a clever intertwining of real historical events that can affect the performance of your in-game airline.
Prices of the game’s box (without the game itself!) can fetch $60 or more, with the game itself reaching much higher values when it’s available; at the time of writing, a complete, original (ie non-reproduction) copy isn’t even for sale – which goes to show how thin on the ground Aerobiz Supersonic can be.
So there’s a look at our top 10 rare SEGA Genesis games! It’s a wanted console, and a popular one at that, and with some games being hard to get hold of, this alone brings the demand up for low quantity games like the ones featured.