There are a lot of things to like about the Sega Genesis, but I think the best thing about it was its library of games that were like pinball games.
At a time when the only way to play arcade games at home was to win the lottery, the Genesis gave players game after game that made them feel like they were back in the arcade.
Fans of the Genesis know, though, that the library of arcade-style games meant that the average Genesis game was often just as hard as the arcade games of the time.
Some fans say that, like the games themselves, these arcade games set a bar for how hard video games could be.
I won’t start a console war again, but if you were a player in the 1990s and you were looking for the Hardest Sega Genesis Games, you usually found them on the Genesis.
But which of the Genesis games was the hardest?
Well, most old gamers probably already know what our number one pick is, but it’s joined by a bunch of games that most of us probably still wouldn’t be able to beat.
- 18. Shadow of the Beast
- 17. Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
- 16. The Revenge Of Shinobi
- 15. The Adventures of Batman and Robin
- 14. Robocop vs. The Terminator
- 13. Phantasy Star 2
- 12. Streets Of Rage 3
- 11. Fatal Labyrinth
- 10. Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi
- 9. Ecco the Dolphin
- 8. Gaiares
- 7. Kid Chameleon
- 6. MUSHA: Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor
- 5. Comix Zone
- 4. Target Earth
- 3. The Immortal
- 2. Chakan: The Forever Man
- 1. Contra: Hard Corps
18. Shadow of the Beast
This game is very strange. In the game, you play as a monster who looks like a cross between a goat and a lizard. His name is Aarbron, and he wants to kill Maletoth for making him a slave.
It’s kind of like Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey. Shadow of the Beast is best described by putting Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, Salvador Dali, H.R. Geiger, H.P. Lovecraft, and a nightmare in a mixer and pulsing it until it’s smooth.
As for how hard it was, it turned out that the American version was wrong. In short, the game was made in Europe, where TVs are different, and the people who worked on it tried to make up for that.
For some reason, the American version was made 16% faster, which made it hard to control and made enemies come in faster than most players could handle.
You have to play this game to understand how strange it is. Also, Shadow of the Beast got a new version for the PS4 last year. I haven’t played it, but I’ve heard good things about it.
17. Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for the Sega Genesis is just as much of a pain as the Super Nintendo game, if not more so.
Three years after Ghosts ‘n Goblins, the player becomes Sir Arthur, who must save his princess after her soul is sucked out of her body.
Each level is full of deep pits and other ways to die, and Arthur has a hard time because his enemies are so strong.
The game’s protection system is well-known, but it doesn’t do much to help the player, who still dies after a few hits. This may be the worst thing about the game.
Even if all the rounds are finished, the game must be played again to get the Goddess Bracelet, which is needed to kill the Devil.
16. The Revenge Of Shinobi
Even though the Shinobi game series is one of the oldest for the Sega Genesis and has a bit of a weird following, The Revenge of Shinobi is the one that even fans can’t stand.
As a ninja whose master has been killed and whose fiancee has been taken by a rival clan, the player must save his fiancee from a bad end.
The Revenge of Shinobi is not a walk in the park because it is hard to control and enemies come out of nowhere.
Even though the player is a ninja, they are stiff and slow, which makes it hard to fight and avoid the game’s fast enemies.
The game is still pretty fun, but the way the levels are set up and the boss fights are too hard add another layer of anger.
15. The Adventures of Batman and Robin
Adventures of Batman and Robin for Sega Genesis was not to be confused with the great SNES game of the same name.
Instead, it was a fast-paced side-scrolling game like the Metal Slug series. It’s just as cool as this description makes it sound, and if you’ve never played it before, I highly recommend it.
Just know that this game is amazing in both how hard it is and how good it is. This game is basically a side-scrolling shooter that uses the hardest parts of a particularly hard side-scrolling beat-em-up.
Surprisingly, the game is even harder than that description might make it sound. This is because the levels are often very long and require you to remember complicated patterns.
Oh, and all of the bosses are ridiculously tough.
I would love to see a follow-up to this idea, but I think the next game should be a little bit easier.
14. Robocop vs. The Terminator
Even though this game might be best known for how violent it is (enemies explode in ways that would make Paul Verhoeven’s squibs guy proud), I think its true legacy should be how hard it is.
Like the Super Star Wars games, this one’s problem is that enemies can take a ridiculous amount of damage before dying.
I don’t know how even simple bad guys can take so many shots, but the fact that they die in funny ways is often the only thing that keeps you from throwing your controller out the window when you see another bad guy with as much health as a miniboss.
If this game wasn’t such a fun tribute to two great action series, I don’t think anyone would be able to stick with it until the end.
13. Phantasy Star 2
I wasn’t sure if I should add this one or not. It’s not hard in the way that so many “arcade” Sega Genesis games are, so you might play it for a while without understanding what you’re getting into.
The first time you go into a dungeon, you’ll be in for a rude shock. The levels in Phantasy Star 2 have to be some of the most confusing mazes ever made in an RPG.
Most levels look like the skill tree from Final Fantasy X or something MC Escher might draw while high on opium.
You don’t have time to figure them out on your own, and enemies are strong enough to kill you while you’re trying to figure out what to do next.
It almost forces you to grind for levels just so you can stay alive long enough to try and try again until you find the exit to a cave.
Modern walkthroughs make this game much easier to play, but trying to beat it the “original” way, with or without the mysterious hints in some of the game’s instruction books, will wear you out and drive you crazy.
12. Streets Of Rage 3
We’ll talk about this a few times during this countdown, but one of the most interesting things about the Sega Genesis era is how often Sega changed a game for its U.S. version to make it harder.
There were many different reasons, but many big U.S. Genesis games were much harder than their foreign counterparts.
Few games were hurt (or helped, depending on your point of view) by that difficulty increase as much as Streets of Rage 3.
I can only imagine how confused Sega Genesis fans were when they found out that the third Streets of Rage game was much harder than the ones that came before it.
The makers used just about every trick they could think of to make this game harder, which makes it hard to enjoy at times.
Even on “Easy,” you can’t beat this game because it stops on Stage 5! It’s a funny reminder of how harsh game creators of the past could be.
11. Fatal Labyrinth
Fatal Labyrinth is a nightmare of a role-playing game where the player has to go through a 30 level banned maze and kill monsters to fight the evil dragon who is guarding a stolen Holy Goblet.
The hero starts out with only a knife, so he has to find things like swords and armor to make himself stronger. If he doesn’t, the game’s cheap tricks leave him totally defenseless.
For instance, the player needs food to live, but the game won’t tell them that eating too much will kill them.
Also, the hero can die if he has too much gold on him, and you can’t save your progress, so you have to beat the game in one go.
10. Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi
Even though I don’t think I’ll be able to settle the argument about which Shinobi game is the hardest today,
I think we can all agree that Shadow Dancer at its hardest difficulty levels is easily one of the hardest action games of its time.
Technically, this game is based on an arcade game called Shadow Dancer that has nothing to do with Shinobi.
However, the punishing difficulty of Shinobi lives on in this game thanks to adjustable difficulty levels that let you make this game nearly impossible. Shinobi seems hard to you?
Well, picture trying to beat Shinobi without shurikens while facing a small army of enemies as hard as some bosses in other games.
If we’re talking about the best Shinobi game, I’d say Revenge of Shinobi, but this one is definitely the hardest.
9. Ecco the Dolphin
I was a Nintendo kid growing up, but I love Sega, and I’ll always respect how they made early games much more interesting.
Still, I’ll always be mad at them for making Ecco the Dolphin one of the most advertised Genesis games and for getting young Nintendo fans everywhere to try out the Genesis by making them play this terrible game.
Most of what makes underwater levels so annoying in the first place is shown in Ecco the Dolphin.
You have to keep an eye on your character’s breath as you move through levels that look like mazes and that Phantasy Star 2 thinks are confusing.
If you weren’t sure that the people who made this game hated you, some levels have time limits that are so tight that I’m pretty sure you can hear them laughing on the game’s great music.
Simply put, Ecco should be near the top of any list of the most annoying games ever made, even if you don’t think of it as “hard” by your own standards.
I think the people who made Gaiares looked at all of the other almost impossible shooters from this time and asked, “What can we do to really make fans hate us?” Start using the “TOZ System.”
TOZ replaces the usual power-ups in these games with a system where you have to “siphon” powers from enemies.
This means that you have to get the skills you need to kill many of these enemies from the enemies you’re trying to kill.
Getting these powerups makes you a little more vulnerable, so you have to keep track of your current and wanted power as you try to dodge waves of projectiles and stay alive.
Even without that system, Gaiares would be one of the hardest games in a genre known for games that require superhuman reactions because of how fast it moves and how it is made.
7. Kid Chameleon
If something like this could be caused by a video game, there would be a lot of legal problems.
Kid Chameleon jumps into the “Wild Side” game in this platformer, where he appears in a virtual world. Some of the game’s 103 levels are on the main road, while others lead “Elsewhere.”
Kid Chameleon will get new clothes to help him change into new characters as the game goes on. All of these characters have different skills and levels of strength.
The steps are what make it hard. Some of the stages weren’t that hard, but there were also levels that were really hard. “Bloody Swamp” is a good example.
It’s a chase level with many high platforms you have to jump over, obstacles that push you in different directions, and a metal wall full of drills and saw blades that’s trying to catch you.
This one was easy to fail, so many people did.
Also, there is no secret system, even though the game is long. It had to be one of those games, it was so nice…
Well, the game did come out again, and most of the new versions had their own save option. No matter what, this is one platform game that won’t hold back.
6. MUSHA: Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor
MUSHA is widely thought to be one of the rarest Genesis games ever made. It also has one of the best names in Sega Genesis history.
But unless you like pain as much as a human in the Hellraiser world, I think you should save your money and resist the urge to find an original copy of this one.
Even the hardest top-down shooters of the ’80s and ’90s have to give MUSHA credit for how hard it is.
There aren’t many tricks that make this game different from others in the same genre, but you don’t really need tricks when you have a game that is fundamentally hard in a way that only the best games in this genre can be.
You could call this the resident “SHMUP” game, but I think there’s something about it that makes it feel even more cruel than some of its most famous friends.
5. Comix Zone
People liked Comix Zone because of its artistic style, which was inspired by comic books.
However, the game’s difficulty may take away from its many strengths.
Playing as a man who has to defend himself in the chaos of the comic world, it makes sense that he would die quickly when cruel creatures attack, but the game takes it to a whole new level.
Even though there is a health bar, it is not uncommon to die right away. This is because just hitting an enemy makes your health go down.
With so few ways to defend yourself and such harsh game rules, the player is punished for playing the game in the most funny ways.
4. Target Earth
Target Earth looks like a typical shooter, but it’s high on this list because the controls are really hard to understand (some would say “bad”), which makes the game harder than it might have needed to be.
Imagine playing Contra where you move much slower, can only jump in certain places, and often have to rely on a weak machine gun that needs to be refilled.
Before you stop thinking about that new hell, make sure each level has about twice as many monsters and death traps as you normally would.
Oh, and around the second or third level, the game gets really hard, so you really need to know how to play it by that time. About that much is what Target Earth offers.
Even though I understand that this game is trying to recreate some of the difficulty of controlling a giant mech instead of a more agile person, I also understand that many players will need to use the built-in invincibility code to finish this otherwise great game.
3. The Immortal
The Immortal is by far the hardest dungeon crawler for the Sega Genesis.
A character with no name that the player controls must wander around the Labyrinth of Eternity and solve boring tasks as he looks for his long-lost master.
Every time the player takes a step into the unknown, they risk running into dangerous traps that end the game right away.
Even mixing things at the wrong time or in the wrong way can cause you to lose them for good.
On top of that, if you fail a puzzle or walk into a trap, you have to start the whole game over, which makes it almost impossible to beat.
2. Chakan: The Forever Man
Chakan: The Forever Man is about a human warrior who fights death and wins, but is then cursed to fight other supernatural enemies for all of existence.
In what might be the scariest Sega Genesis game ever, the player has to stop evil from taking over the world.
The bleak atmosphere and haunting music of the action shooter go well with the story, but the game’s hard controls take away a lot from its good points.
Since the player doesn’t have many ways to defend against opponents who are very good, playing is a high-risk, high-reward activity.
1. Contra: Hard Corps
The games in the Contra series are known for being hard, which I think is a bit of an unfair image.
Yes, these games are hard, but like Dark Souls, focusing on that makes it easy to miss how the level of challenge makes so many of the other things this franchise does well even better.
Then there is Contra: Hard Corps. When I think about that game, I can jump right into the anger it makes me feel.
Hard Corps is different from every other Contra game that has come before it and from most of the games that have come out since.
It let you carry more than one weapon, had four playable characters that had never been seen before in the series, had a story with different paths, and was more like a bullet hell shooter than a typical Contra game.
As you might have guessed, Hard Corps is on this list because of that last thing. Even though the word “hard” is in the title, nothing can get you ready for how fast Hard Corps is.
The speed of the game is crazy, and you have to stay in safe zones that are smaller than anything you’ve probably seen outside of rare arcade games made to test experienced bullet hell players.
If you were one of the many people who couldn’t beat Contra on the NES without cheating, let me tell you that you haven’t seen anything until you’ve played Hard Corps. Even people who say “Contra isn’t hard” like this game.