For a long time, the Sega Genesis has been seen as the edgy older brother to Nintendo’s laid back Super Nintendo Entertainment System, something of a strange fact given that Genesis actually predates Nintendo’s SNES by about two years, but that’s beside the point. Nintendo and Sega were rivals back in the early nineties, so when Nintendo came out with their SNES Classic Edition in 2017, it was all but inevitable that Sega would be coming out with their own similarly priced mini-console to compete.
The only surprise was that it took about two full years for Sega’s competitor to hit the market. In fairness, the Genesis Mini largely wasn’t developed by Sega themselves. The only thing Sega itself handled was the plastic casing of the Genesis Mini and its distribution. Sega doesn’t exactly have the resources of a company like Nintendo anymore. But, as shown by the disastrous launch of the Playstation Classic last December, resources don’t count for everything.
The actual software of the Genesis Mini was developed by third-party M2, and Sega couldn’t have made a better choice. M2 has been in the business of doing expert-grade, arcade-level compilations for decades. It’s all they do. They’re one of the few commercial companies that are in the business of digital game preservation.
Now, the SNES Classic holds a special place in my heart. For one thing, it was the first thing I ever reviewed for the Daily Cardinal. Two years later, heading into my final year of college, I still play it regularly. I hacked it. I went on adventures with it. I basically turned it into a custom little retro gaming machine. I even bought wireless controllers for it.
On top of that, I was a SNES kid. I grew up with a SNES in the home. I don’t have any nostalgia for “Phantasy Star” or “Sonic”. When getting Genesis, I wasn’t sure if there was anything the console could do that wouldn’t end with me just moseying on back to the SNES Classic in a week.
Understand what I mean when I say that the Genesis Mini puts the SNES Classic to shame. The Genesis makes the SNES seem like an underdeveloped piece of plastic.
First off, the Genesis Mini comes with none of the hardware problems the SNES Classic started with. The two included excellent wired controllers and as opposed to the SNES, their cords are comfortably long enough to be of easy use in most living spaces. The plastic shell of the console is almost unnecessarily committed to recreating the construction of the original Genesis to the point where it has an entirely fake cartridge port and a volume slider.
The Genesis Mini’s software comes with 42 packed-in games, 40 re-releases and 2 never-before-released old prototypes. This is, of course, exactly twice the SNES Classic’s packed-in 20 games and 1 old prototype.
As far as the games go, the selection is excellent. Not definitive by any means, certain titles such as “Sonic 3 & Knuckles” are sorely missed. Having given every game a decent little run by now, the most I can say is that it’s a good cross section of the Genesis’s library. The games which got in here are the landmark titles — not hidden gems — but the games which were historically important to the console. As such it’s somewhat weighted toward the action genres which were popular. There’s maybe one or two turned based RPGs on the thing depending on how you stretch your definitions. So if that’s not your tastes, perhaps steer clear, though personally, I had a fantastic time discovering a lot of the platforming and space-shooter classics I missed out on as a kid.
Most importantly, is that the Genesis Mini comes with a reset button on the actual controllers. I can’t stress enough how much of a quality of life improvement this is for the end-user. Neither the SNES, NES or PS Classic seemed to understand that people wouldn’t want to get up and press a tiny little reset button on an already miniature console every single time they felt like switching games or even saving. On the Genesis Mini, you just press and hold pause, and you can quit to the main menu. Such a simple thing that it’s remarkable everyone wasn’t doing it already.
If there’s one bad thing I could say about the Genesis Mini, it’s that its interface is kind of clinical. It’s not bad by any means, but compared to the catchy tunes and colorful menus of the SNES Classic it can feel cold at times. The lack of a rewind function also seems like a missed opportunity, though at times I found myself grateful to be without the assistance. Most of these games are good enough to not need it.
If you have even a passing interest in Sega, mini-consoles, or even just video games in general, go pick up a Genesis Mini. Especially if you only had a SNES growing up. It’ll show you what you were missing.
Marty Forbeck is a video game columnist for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.