A few years ago, Nintendo was stealing the spotlight with mini retro consoles (the NES Classic and SNES Classic) that played perfect ports of NES and SNES games. It's Sega's turn this year, and the Genesis Mini does as good a job with its larger library, all packed into a totally collectible design that emulates the original Sega Genesis look. Two controllers plus a bunch of previously hard-to-find games... this is the surprise gift any old-school Sega fan would drool over.
There have been Sega Genesis retro consoles before, and they haven't been good. But the new Sega Genesis Mini is a self-contained TV-connected box set done right. The Genesis Mini has perfect ports of seminal games, layered in a clean menu with extras like game save slots and video settings. And you can trust me on this one: As a bona fide Sega kid -- I had the Sega Master System, Genesis, 32X, Sega CD, Dreamcast and Game Gear -- the Genesis, and its hundreds of games, was where I lived. I remember scouting all the games out at Electronics Boutique and Toys 'R Us, staring at the prerelease box backs months before release. And I owned most of even the weirdest games, like Kid Chameleon and Decap Attack (or hey, anyone remember Mystic Defender, or Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude?).
Now, there have been some pretty good Genesis compilations that have come and gone. A recent Sega Genesis Classics collection on PS4, Xbox One and Switch has been my go-to for a while. The Nintendo 3DS had a great assortment of Sega ports, and the Switch has some now, too (some not even Genesis).
But the Sega Genesis Mini, available now, is the Sega retro console you've been waiting for. Simply put: If you want to play some great Sega Genesis games, a well-spent $80 here gets you 40 well-picked ones. (It's £70 in the UK and AU$139 in Australia, where of course it's called the Sega Mega Drive Mini.) And, there are some games (like Road Rash II) that have nearly impossible to get for years. I love it, love it, love it.
Now, may I suggest another path, as well?
With the Sega Genesis Classics game collection, a compilation of games available on PS4, Xbox One and Switch, $30 gets you 52 (roughly, depending on the compilation) Sega games. And that's probably more than enough. The game assortment between the Sega Genesis Classics Collection and the Genesis Mini is different, though. The Mini goes for a slightly wider range of titles, plus some rarer third-party games. The Classics Collection is all Sega-made stuff, and tends to include more games in each series (all the Phantasy Stars, Streets of Rages and Golden Axes, for instance), but still lacks some key games, too.
No collection is a perfect collection. Still, what a time for Sega Genesis fans
The Genesis Mini box is adorable, and even has a moving volume lever, and a cartridge door that opens (you can't put a cartridge in, though, it's so tiny). It's a collector's item, for sure. The system connects to any TV or monitor with HDMI (a cable's included), and it uses a standard Micro-USB power adapter.
It also comes with two original Genesis controller replicas that plug in via USB. You could pick up other USB controllers and experiment to see what works, and an official six-button Genesis controller (the later, better version) is sold separately. The three-button Sega controllers and their D-pad bring back memories, but also felt clunky and not always perfect for the games: Controlling Ecco the Dolphin's flips, or getting Earthworm Jim to angle a shot, sometimes got frustrating. The cords are longer than the super short ones that came with the NES Classic, but still not long enough to stretch from one wall where my TV is to my sofa.
I tried to get my kids into the Genesis Mini, and oddly enough, they didn't seem interested. I think Nintendo's had a better run at updating franchises and repeatedly re-releasing classics. Sonic the Hedgehog is a household name, but nothing else is.
There are enough great rarities (Castlevania: Bloodlines, Contra: Hard Corps, Monster World IV, two great Disney games with Mickey Mouse, and a unique port of the side-scrolling shooter Darius) that are well worth browsing, and I definitely want to buy a Genesis Mini just because it exists.
But there are a lot of other ways to get your Sega fix, if you have another console. Just consider that before you dive in. Otherwise, this is exactly the beautiful little Sega retro box I wanted forever.
Originally published earlier this year. Updated formatting and added Editors' Choice award.