The fact that Sega no longer makes home consoles will forever break our hearts. We know you all old-head gamers reading this right now have spent countless hours playing the most celebrated games that launched on the Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, and Sega Dreamcast. "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SEGA CD?" Trust us when we tell you - that CD-ROM-based console definitely has a strong array of incredible games that get tons of accolades from gaming's biggest hobbyists. Sega's fourth generation is best known for its focus on CD software and graphical enhancements (more specifically, sprite scaling and rotation) that went a long way toward making 2D games look even better than before. Let's celebrate the short yet noteworthy lifecycle of the console by recounting the very best Sega CD games of all time.
The 18 Best Sega CD Games of All Time
Best Sega CD Games
1. ‘Sonic CD’
You just knew that Sega's hyperfast frontman would get his time to shine on the shiny new Sega CD back in the day. Sonic got spotlighted in one of his finest releases to date in Sonic CD, which is held up as one of the best for several reasons. And those reasons include its quintessential opening sequence, the incredibly catchy "Sonic Boom," and the game’s time-traveling theme are among those beloved features that make us feel so nostalgic. Grabbing rings and jumping on enemies is still a riveting activity here, plus having the ability to tap into time travel to access different forms of each stage increases this game’s already high fun factor. The series' 2D visuals got a nice shot in the arm alongside its audio output - the music in Sonic CD also deserves props for being so damn catchy.
2. ‘Final Fight’
Capcom's iconic arcade beat 'em up has been ported to a bunch of retro consoles and included in numerous retro gaming compilations. The Sega CD also got to join in on the fun with a fine rendition of the game itself. Final Fight features the three heroes of "Metro City" (Mike Haggar, Cody Travers, and Guy), who get to enjoy some two-player city-saving action with the co-op option that was removed from the SNES port. Marching through the mean streets of a city patterned after New York City with another player by your side is such a joy thanks to the game's impactful feel when it comes to pulling off devastating combos & throws. There's just something about that chaotic train stage that defines why we love the first Final Fight so much. Sorry to that dude whose car we destroyed during that one bonus stage. Our bad, fam...
One of the rarest and most sought-after games on the Sega CD is one of Hideo Kojima's earliest projects. And that game is the remarkable cyberpunk graphic adventure game known as Snatcher. The Blade Runner and Akira vibes are apparent here as players take on the role of an amnesiac agent who sets out to investigate a group of humanoid robots that kill humans and replace them in society. Strong anime visuals, visual novel sequences, and traditional PC puzzle game mechanics join forces here to produce a game that's truly ahead of its time. The cult following this game has amassed has only grown over the years and has led to those same fans requesting a more modern way to play it.
4. ‘Shining Force CD’
Before Sega held down the strategy/RPG space with the Total War franchise, it offered a more traditional Japanese take on the genre that is compatible with Nintendo's Fire Emblem series. Shining Force CD is one of the most celebrated entries in the series as it offers the best parts of Shining Force Gaiden and Shining Force Gaiden II in the form of a remake of both games. We'll always treasure this game for splitting up its campaign into four "Books" that cover both games in full and offering the most refined version of Shining Force's excellent turn-based combat. If you can manage to find a way to pick up a Sega Genesis Mini 2, do it just so can you check out this JRPG classic (the same goes for a few other games on this list).
5. ‘Popful Mail: Magical Fantasy Adventure’
Japanese developer Nihon Falcom has popped out plenty of quality JRPGs in the past, such as the many games contained within the Ys, The Legend of Heroes, and Trails series. When the studio opted to go the side-scrolling action RPG route for this Sega CD game, owners of the console got introduced to one of the more underrated releases from its catalog. That game is the wonderfully named Popful Mail: Magical Fantasy Adventure, which features a fantastical journey through a world that needs saving by the bounty hunter named it's named after. Your usual array of 2D platforming elements gets matched up with a surprisingly deep action RPG that includes multiple playable warriors with signature playstyles. This one has tons of charm and a simple yet wholly engaging adventure that we'd love to see get remade on modern console hardware.
6. ‘Lunar: The Silver Star’
Do you guys and gals remember the good old days of Working Designs putting out extra special editions of localized Japanese games? We'll always remember how that now-defunct publisher took the time to bring over the beloved Lunar series from Japan to the States. And one of the titles in the franchise it chose to bring over to the Sega CD is this one. Lunar: The Silver Star is a quality turn-based RPG with traditional party management elements that work great from a gameplay standpoint. And thanks to the power of the Sega CD, Lunar: The Silver Star showcases some short yet meaningful anime cutscenes and voiced dialogue sections that magnify this game's amazing narrative. The journey to becoming a "Dragonmaster" still offers a highly captivating RPG trek worth taking here.
7. 'Lunar: Eternal Blue'
After Lunar: The Silver Star set the tone for action RPG greatness, Lunar: Eternal Blue did a fine job of continuing the high quality of the series as a whole. This direct follow-up to the last game e just mentioned went ahead and upgraded every bit of what fans celebrated beforehand - the larger scope of the adventure at hand, a stronger focus on more serious drama instead of lighthearted comedy, the series' signature usage of anime cutscenes, and a beloved cast of world-saving characters do a lot to make this sequel a must-play. The Sega CD's RPG output is certainly noteworthy thanks to top-tier genre releases such as this one.
8. ‘Earthworm Jim: Special Edition’
Earthworm Jim's Saturday morning cartoon-like visuals and a collective of strange yet endearing characters grabbed the attention of so many 90s babies back in the day. The game's heroic Earthworm Jim (who we hope gets a modern-day makeover in a new game someday!) is just a regular old earthworm that becomes something remarkable once it obtains a power suit. And his main mission sees him make an attempt to save the strangely named Princess What's-Her-Name after quite the mishap with a cow. Gameplay-wise, this game rules and is worthy of its place on our list of the best platformer games - you got entertaining machine gunning & worm head whipping, plenty of hopping & bopping, and even space races while riding atop an oversized rocket. This Sega CD port earns a spot on this list since it throws in more difficulty modes, extra levels, and even more frames of animation that add to the impressive expressiveness of the characters onscreen.
9. ‘Sewer Shark’
Once you start compiling a list of the best Sega CD games like ours, your mind will revert back to the console's line of FMV (Full Motion Video) titles that became an integral part of 90s gaming. While the majority of them were mediocre at best, there were still a decent number of those FMV games that ended up being worth a playthrough or two. One of those FMV games that we love is Sewer Shark, which offers simple yet satisfying first-person rail shooting action within the confines of a ship that flies itself. The game's dark post-apocalyptic setting paves the way for live-action developments that are definitely corny by today's standards, but they worked for us during its presence in 1992. Blasting "ratigators" while making quick decisions on where to go next was fun back then and it's shockingly still fun now.
10. ‘Lords of Thunder’
Lords of Thunder is another strong case for the great games available for the Sega CD that replicates the feel of playing through an actual anime. The rocking tune and narrator with the booming voice featured during this game's intro still gets us so hyped to drive out the darkness brought on by the evil "Garuda Empire" and the resurrected menace known as Deoric. The rest of this game's amazing soundtrack offers the perfect audio backdrop for one of the best horizontal shooters we've ever played. It feels so damn good to wipe out a bunch of incoming foes in a matter of seconds with two flamethrowers burning them to bits while some awesome guitar solo keeps us in battle-ready mode.
11. ‘Dark Wizard’
Dark Wizard is another one of those Sega CD strategy RPGs that give us heavy Fire Emblem vibes. Mapping out all of our moves with our loyal troops across a hexagonal grid-based map managed to soak up plenty of hours from us during that point when we had all the time in the world to save the game's kingdom from doom. The coolest thing about Dark Wizard is how it gives players the option to choose from four heroes, which definitely gave us a reason to play through it with each one to understand their role in the game's epic story. Dark Wizard stays in our memory banks thanks to the combination of strong cinematic storytelling, addictive battle mechanics, and a high replay value.
12. ‘Road Avenger'
Interactive movie video games once dominated the 90s arcade scene thanks to the rise of Dragon's Lair and Space Age. One of the lesser-known releases from that genre came from the developers at Data East and the goated anime animators at Toei Animation. The game we're speaking of is Road Avenger, which challenges players to make quick decisions depending on the game's onscreen button prompts. And all the while, there's plenty of fun to be had when it comes time to take giant leaps and avoid the wrath of motorcycle gang members within the confines of a slick modified sports car.
13. ‘Heart Of The Alien’
The 1991 release of Another World marked a new high for the art of gaming thanks to its revolutionary approach to cinematic storytelling. We loved that game's Sega Genesis rendition, so it's only right that we speak on the equal amount of adoration we have for its sequel on the Sega CD. Heart of the Alien sticks to what worked beforehand while giving the first game's side character the lead role position in a trippy sci-fi adventure. We'll always remember this game for kicking our ass, but somehow making us return to it time and time again in the best of moods since we love Buddy so much. Helping our alien compadre dodge attacks from rampaging creatures and seeing him reach the end of his journey still resonates with us.
14. ‘Robo Aleste’
We already commemorated one of the greatest horizontal shooters on the Sega CD, so now we're going to do the same for one of the finest vertical shooters on the very same hardware platform. Robo Aleste keeps players' attention and eyes locked on the screen as mayhem ensues during explosive sky battles between raging robots. The bot that we get to take control of is capable of dishing out a whole lot of explosive damage via the usage of special color-coded weapons (the red "Exploding Flower" and green "Windmill Throwing-Knife" always stick out as being the most reliable!). The game's plot and themes, which adds the futuristic presence of giant mecha to the Sengoku era feudal Japan time period, are still so damned cool!
Another vertical shooter that gets mentioned among the rest of the best Sega CD games is this 3D polygonal space shooter. Silpheed features the screen-clearing "SA-08 Silpheed," which is equipped with the weaponry needed to blast every incoming enemy ship in the galaxy. The visual sheen of this game is what made it such an eye-popping spectacle during its transformation into a Sega CD remake back in 1993. Old-school vertical shooters come a dime a dozen, obviously. But we can't stop playing them, especially something that's graphically pleasing and as fun as Silpheed.
Flight-based rail shooters like Galaxy Force II, Space Harrier, and the Star Fox series never falter. Another game that belongs to that sub-genre is Soulstar, an entertaining blaster that also goes out of its way to offer a second mode of play. The on-rails action that focuses on the exploits of the "Sub-light Strike Craft" is great. But it's the more freeform exploration and bullet-riddled action delivered by the "Turbo Copter" hovercraft and "Combat Walker" mecha that gives this game its most enjoyable signature features. Soulstar offers your usual array of fast-paced movement and gunplay but keeps things fresh with multiple controllable vehicles, a clever approach to choosing one's difficulty mode, and two different styles of play.
17. ‘Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures Of Mickey Mouse'
The Sega Genesis has always done right by Disney's darling characters thanks to the presence of classics such as Disney's Alladin and QuackShot Starring Donald Duck. Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse is another Disney gaming triumph on that console, which also made its way over to the Sega CD. All the good stuff featured in the original version is back in fine form here, so we get to enjoy the visual splendor and gratifying platforming available across stages based on Mickey Mouse's classic animated shorts. That Steamboat Willie level will forever remain one of our warmest memories from this game. The Sega CD's cleaner-sounding soundtrack and extra tunes are a nice bonus for this Dinset hop and bopper.
To wrap up our list of the best Sega CD games, we've made the (right!) decision to highlight a largely unknown RPG that adapts an anime art style and dazzling cinematics. That game is Vay, which offers your everyday turn-based RPG experience. During its original release, this game filled the void left by the lack of a brand new Phantasy Star game on the Sega CD. Vay may not have done anything extraordinary to push the RPG genre forward, but it remains a solid journey through a medieval kingdom aided by a decent story supplemented by great dialogue and a massive world worth trekking through.
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