Last week, we took a look at 10 unforgettable Game Boy games, so it’s only fair we explore its rival’s best titles too.
That’s right: this week, we’re celebrating Sega’s foray into the handheld-gaming world. While we can enjoy the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog on our phones and tablets today, back in the early 90s the Game Gear was your only chance to take a little Sega goodness with you wherever you went.
While the Game Gear was released as a response to Nintendo’s little grey box of wonders, and was even superior (at a technical level), Sega failed to steal their competitor’s hold on the handheld market. They discontinued the console in 1997, but it still has its fans even today. And why shouldn’t it? You could actually watch TV on this bad boy – a mind-bending prospect back then. Of course, we’re all used to watching TV wherever we like now thanks to the miracle of apps, but Sega really did innovate with this console.
Anyway, the key function of the Game Gear wasn’t about watching Neighbours in the bath or late-night movies under the covers – it was gaming!
So, let’s check out the 10 best titles released for Sega’s beloved handheld system …
Streets of Rage II
This stripped-back port of the Genesis / Mega Drive classic played surprisingly well on the Game Gear.
With no Max, no health bars or names for standard enemies, and decidedly less-cool music, SORII offers less value for money than the console version. However, the action is still fast-paced, the environments and sprites are still recognisable, and beating thugs until they flicker into nothingness feels just as fun.
Another home-console classic that made the jump to the Game Gear.
Road Rash’s handheld port is still impressive today, considering its age and limited hardware. Everything you love about the original is here, with colourful graphics, in-motion fighting, and delightful music.
Sega’s iconic ninja kicks butt on the small screen in GG Shinobi. There’s lots to enjoy here, including dynamic environments, fast-paced gameplay, and fiendish level-design
Perhaps most impressive, though, is the ability to control other ninjas. Each has their own skills and weapon, making for a more diverse experience than standard Shinobi games.
Gunstar Heroes is one of the most fondly-remembered 90s games, and the Game Gear version is a worthy accompaniment to the Genesis classic.
While this smaller port might lack the multiplayer function and the visuals are less impressive, this is still a terrific achievement.
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap
Sega’s premier shape-shifter starred in this Game Gear classic. As a fairly straightforward port of the Master System version, this features gorgeous graphics that pop with colour and dynamism.
There are plenty of diverse environments to explore, and creatures to transform into. Ploughing through stages as a fire-breathing dragon, a sword-wielding lion, or a piranha is as fun as it sounds, and there’s plenty of action to be had.
While the Game Boy delivered hours of puzzle-based fun with Tetris, the Game Gear did the same with Columns.
This block-centric classic is a joy to play. Adorable music, vibrant colours, and that all-important “just one more go!” factor combine to make this one of the Game Gear’s strongest titles. It was also the perfect game for the portable system, ideal to pass a few minutes here or there, unlike longer, more complex titles.
This top-down adventure-RPG is based around exploration, combat, and awesome music.
Players explore a huge maze of a forest, filled with all manner of enemies, all the while being followed by an enormous egg. As you fight and level up, the egg hatches – revealing a dragon (spoiler)! This then grows and evolves with you, actually becoming bigger and bigger throughout the adventure.
There’s a pretty big world to explore, and lots of different enemies to fight too.
Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
This 2D platformer, starring Disney’s iconic mouse, is an incredible achievement. Not only is the gameplay fun and addictive, the game’s lifespan is a real treat: you can explore stages even after beating the last boss, to find as many hidden bonuses as you can.
Even today, the game’s visuals impress, and the world feels true to the Disney sensibility. Land of Illusion borrows elements from Mario and Sonic to great effect, but always feels like its own game rather than a mish-mash or clone. Definitely one to try again.
Prince of Persia
While Prince of Persia might be pretty frustrating, tasking you with completing it in less than an hour, it’s still a classic. Sure, experts and the supremely-gifted might be able to whizz through it in no time, but for newcomers, it’s a Herculean feat.
This Game Gear version is a port of the Master System release, but its distinctive visual style translates to the smaller screen beautifully. Just check out those flaming sconces!
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic 2 for the Game Gear is a port of the Master System release, and is totally different to the 16-bit version we all know so well.
This is known for having more challenge, due to the smaller screen, and also presents both good and bad endings depending on your actions. Mine carts and hang gliders help to make the gameplay here more distinctive and diverse than in some other versions (though the 16-bit version also had that incredible plane stage, and the 3D bonus areas, so it all evens out).
What are your favourite Sega Game Gear games? Let us know!