Sega Genesis Mini Review: Perfect Enough

The cute little Sega Genesis Mini's 42 game library is nothing to sniff at. Just don't get it expecting great CRT filters.

I am not ashamed to say I never grew out of my Sega kid phase. The Sega Genesis ignited an obsession in me that's carried on these past near-30 years, through the Sega Saturn, Dreamcast, and well into the 2010s and now into the 2020s.

The Sega Genesis Mini is one piece of hardware I was eager to get my hands on because, while I do still have the exact same model the Mini is designed to replicate, quality CRT televisions aren't exactly the easiest thing to come by these days. I love the Genesis library, I don't love how hard it is to track down a proper Sony Trinitron television.

The first thing I noticed taking this bundle of joy out of its box is that it really is an exact replica of the original first-model Sega Genesis consoles. The only differences lie in the fact the cartridge slot doesn't work, the audio adjuster doesn't work, the power and HDMI ports are different, and the stickering on the bottom has changed slightly. Looking at it, it's perfect.

You get two controllers with the Sega Genesis Mini for some multiplayer action and the console is packed with 42 games among the best-remembered titles of the Sega Genesis library.

Earthworm Jim, Ecco the Dolphin, Strider, Shinobi 3, Sonic and Sonic 2, Golden Axe, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Gunstar Heroes, Landstalker -- most gamers know these titles, whether they've played them or not; and this is a fraction of the games included in the Mini.

Colloquially known as 'a buttload of games'.

A console is nothing without games. Though 40 games isn't a huge amount, the entire Sega Genesis Mini library is notably impressive. The titles included aren't just nostalgia bait, they're nearly a perfect introduction to gaming on the Sega Genesis.

What's also notable is the lack of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which is flagship title for the console one would consider a shoe-in. The two-games-but-really-one-game that introduced stacking cartridges to millions of kids in the early '90s is nowhere to be found in the Genesis Mini. Rumor is this is due to music licensing, as Michael Jackson reportedly had a hand in a number of compositions for the game.

The lack of Sonic 3 & Knuckles is a glaring omission among the rest of the console's near-stellar collection of games. I say "near-stellar", because it does include Sonic Spinball. Sonic Spinball always has and always will sound like a spoon stuck in a garbage disposal, so its inclusion instead of Sonic 3 & Knuckles is a little frustrating.

So what does this modern day replica box have over the original Sega Genesis? Save slots. Well, those, an HDMI output, and the ability to swap game regional versions.

If you ever wanted to save scum your way through a bunch of Sega Genesis games on your TV, now's your chance. Toss those Ecco passwords out, tell Ghouls 'n Ghosts to shove it -- now you can just save and load via a menu by holding the start button.

The Sega Genesis Mini does also have a CRT filter option to add scanlines to its display. This is something most retro gamers, myself included, insist upon as games released in this period were designed with CRT televisions and the extra blurriness they provide.

The CRT filter on the Mini is a bit of overkill, however. The scanlines are hard against the otherwise crisp video. As it stands the filter is harsh enough I have to switch it off after just a few minutes due to eye strain. Some softening would have done the CRT filter some good. 

Finally, we come to the Sega Genesis Mini's secret move: You can use actual Sega Genesis controllers with the Mini. That includes six-button controllers, which you're going to want for Street Fighter 2: Special Champion Edition. Luckily I've still got a couple sitting around, but if you don't there are some reproductions that will tide you over.

Spoilers: Get them off Retro-Bit.

As a Sega kid and someone who still unabashedly posts on retro game forums, the Sega Genesis Mini is almost perfect.

Though it doesn't have Sonic 3 & Knuckles (I just can't stop whining about it), it does serve as a much-needed entry point into gaming on the platform in the modern age. My only complaint outside of the lack of S3&K is the sub-par CRT filter, but honestly you probably weren't going to use it anyway.

Pros

  • 42 iconic Sega Genesis games in one unit
  • Near-perfect visual replica of the original console
  • Compatibility with real Genesis controllers
  • Easy to use save slots and loading

Cons

  • CRT filter is painful to look at
  • Seriously, no Sonic 3 & Knuckles is a big deal

Whether you grew up in the early '90s and were crazy about Sega, are a general retro gamer, or are just now dipping your toes into the classic game pool, you could make a much worse purchase than the Sega Genesis Mini.

The Super Nintendo was best known for its platformers and RPGs, and the Sega Genesis known for its action and arcade-like titles. This is the best way in the modern age to see what all the hubbub was about in Sega's camp all those years ago.

[Disclosure: Writer was granted a free Sega Genesis Mini from Sega for review purposes.]

Our Rating
9
The cute little Sega Genesis Mini's 42 game library is nothing to sniff at. Just don't get it expecting great CRT filters.

Associate Editor

Ashley spends all her time playing games, cooking, and studying languages. It's a miracle she's not burned out on the whole thing after being a game addict since '89 (I'm old, deal with it). Classic annoying Sega kid, still hasn't let go of Sonic and prefers arcade-style games. Final Fantasy and SaGa rock whatever it is you like, chump.

Published Jan. 8th 2020

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