Sega Genesis had a handful of outstanding RPGs like Phantasy Star IV and Shining Force II. Outside of the very best examples, many of the Sega Genesis RPGs did not get the amount of recognition they deserve.
While that means a lot of people missed out on some really good games, it also provides me with an opportunity to talk about some of the good ones you may have missed
Take a look at the 10 most underrated Sega Genesis RPGs and see some games that deserve a second look.
1. Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World
Anyone that loves Dungeons & Dragons would love Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World. Sure, the game’s graphics were nothing special on the Sega Genesis, but the game was a great adaptation of the tabletop RPG experience.
You started out creating a party of people and then found yourself at an inn. Pretty typical, right? From there, the game is not very linear at all. You can wander around the town in a first-person view, talk to innkeepers and others to get your bearings and strike out on your quest.
The world is rich, deep, and unforgiving. It won’t take long to figure out you need a balanced party to have the best experience. You’ll wander down the wrong alley and end up dead more than once.
Even the story is a patchwork that you piece together by going everywhere and talking to everyone, and that requires a lot of patience just to figure out what the heck you’re supposed to be doing.
The combat was loads of fun, the atmosphere was pleasing, and a lot of people never heard of this game or played it. Now is your chance!
The SNES version of Shadowrun got a lot of attention, but I would argue that the Sega Genesis version was just a bit better in a variety of areas. Just to be clear, these are two different games that have major differences, like the point of view, along with minor differences, like atmosphere.
Personally, I think this version is an example of Sega Genesis games that aged well, with combat mechanics that make sense, better sound, and a world that has more of an edge than the SNES game.
This title was a precursor to games like Deus Ex that applied RPG elements to science fiction and created a new, thoughtful direction for the genre.
Shadowrun’s highly entertaining story, art, and gameplay got tepid reviews on release, but the game is still good enough to load up and play today.
3. Phantasy Star III
Phantasy Star III was the outcast of the series, putting you in an unfamiliar place with a world that doesn’t make sense for several hours of gameplay.
Even diehard fans of the series up to that point questioned their decision to buy the game because the short development cycle led to some low-quality animations, glitches, and worse user interfaces than previous games.
But, Phantasy Star III is actually a lot better than most people think. The game’s story is deep, more hopeless than anything George Martin ever came up with, and thought-provoking.
If you can look past the thick layer of poor choices the developers made, there is a good game in there. The generation system was awesome, the music is haunting, and the overall story does end up linking back to the original Algol System storyline.
Some people insist this game is terrible, but I think it’s good.
Landstalker is a game that received a positive reception on its release, but a second view of this title reveals that it belongs up there with the all-time best Sega Genesis RPGs.
Landstalker features an isometric view that immediately sets the game apart from others. While this can be frustrating at times, like when you’re platforming, it’s highly entertaining in combat and when exploring.
The game’s combat is very similar to what you would find in a Mana or Zelda game. In fact, this game has been called a Zelda clone, but it’s much more than that.
The protagonist, Nigel, gets whisked away into a great story where he has to find missing treasure on behalf of a wood nymph. Like Locke from Final Fantasy VI, he’s a humble “treasure hunter”, not a thief, and he’s not prepared for all the ensuing craziness.
The game’s story, graphics, and gameplay all make this title great instead of just good. I feel like this game got knocked down a peg for not being just another turn-based JRPG.
5. Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun
Using the available D&D rules, Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun was a great digital representation of the tabletop game. That was precisely the problem that most RPG fans had with the game: it required too much effort compared with streamlined games like Phantasy Star.
Everything about this game rocked, though. The graphics made the game look like something out of the Ultima series, giving you a unique perspective for exploring and fighting enemies.
Sure, you had to put some effort into assembling your party, but that gave the player a sense of accomplishment that they had created a team that could dominate the enemy.
The story was amazing, too. You are smack-dab in the middle of a war between two armies and then you suddenly get transported to a foreign world. Things get a little crazy after that, as RPGs are wont to do.
Music, gameplay, and graphics— this game was way above average in all these things.
6. Shining Force
The long and short of this situation is that the original Shining Force was outshone by the second and third entries into the series.
This tactical RPG had all the makings of a great game. The music was intense for combat, the tactical elements of the game kept the player on their toes, and the graphics were solid enough for the time.
Personally, I thought the class upgrade system was ahead of its time and took the gameplay to the next level. You couldn’t just charge in with any old character and hope to win. You could get absolutely destroyed in some situations.
Sure, the story was a little bit predictable, but it wasn’t necessarily bad. All told, this game never did as well as others in the series, probably because the U.S. had not warmed up to RPGs too much in 1992.
7. Arcus Odyssey
Arcus Odyssey is easily one of the most overlooked action-adventure RPGs of the 16-bit era. The game is very similar in style to the Gauntlet series, putting you in the shoes of one of four different characters: two warriors, a mage, and an archer. It’s kinda like Lord of the Rings in that respect.
The game outlines the story early on with the heroes trying to stop an evil witch from regaining power. It’s nothing magnificent, but the game comes with a twist at the end, giving you the choice of whether to assist the “evil” person or slay them.
This game stands on the shoulders of other action-RPGs, but it’s also a good game in its own right. The levels are detailed and the power-ups give you something to look forward to when killing the mini-bosses.
The game was far better than the reviews suggest.
8. Phantasy Star II
Phantasy Star II continued the story from the original game even though it thrust you many years into the future. You are Rolf, a government agent, who is sent to investigate the appearance of bio-monsters on the planet.
From that initial quest springs a massive story that sees you fight against the planetary control systems and the greatest evil the galaxy has known. This game’s story has twists and turns that many players never reach because the game is just a little too hard or slow-paced for them.
This game is tough. There’s no way around it. You have to seriously grind for experience and levels and the dungeons can take a long time to complete. These elements drove people away from the game and lowered the rating, but the game had a lot going for it.
Phantasy Star II was pretty, atmospheric, and came with a rich, tragic story. You just had to get past some of the early RPG pacing to enjoy it.
9. Crusader of Centy
Crusader of Centy got a lot of flak for its similarities to the Legend of Zelda games, and not all of that is underserved. However, that doesn’t mean this game didn’t have some good and unique elements to it.
For one thing, you lose the ability to talk to humans over the first part of the game, but you get some better company in the form of talking to plants and animals, some of which give you powers. That is totally cool, right?
You battle through various dungeons, solving puzzles and using action-based combat to defeat enemies along the way. Eventually, the second part of the game begins and you can interact with regular people again, but this time you’re tasked with figuring out the cause of war between humans and monsters.
10. Uncharted Waters: New Horizons
The game allows you to play as one of six different characters with unique goals they wish to pursue. Some of them are straight-up pirates and others are mere explorers. You get to choose how you approach the game, and it gives you some serious freedom.
For one thing, Uncharted Waters: New Horizons gives you the power to equip your ship for battle, conduct campaigns against various factors, trade, and even face ship captains in solo combat that could send fleets scattering.
The game might require more thought than it should, but it’s still a unique and solid entry that deserves to be mentioned more often alongside other good RPGs.
Final Thoughts About Underrated Sega Genesis RPGs
The Sega Genesis has an impressive library of RPGs. However, RPG mania didn’t really hit its stride until later on when the Sega Genesis was waning and the SNES was the big console on the block. As a result, many more, and arguably greater quality, SNES RPGs exist today.
That left quite a few underrated Sega Genesis RPGs on the system that deserve to get looked at more closely and appreciated for their contribution.
I think you should check out each of these games if you’re a fan of the system, and play them if you can.
What did I miss? What games flew under my radar that need a little more love? Let me know in the comments!