Publisher: SEGA / Developer: SEGA
Release Date: 14th Aug 1989 (USA)
/ Sep 1990 (UK/EU)
Before we rip into this decidedly dire side-scrolling fighter, it's worth noting that lot of people have a soft spot for it, mainly because the Japanese version is based on the popular Fist of the North Star manga and anime series. Heck, even we admit to quite liking the graphics and music in this one – but it doesn't disguise the fact that this is a shallow, annoying and downright despicable piece of software, all told. Last Battle's move set is painfully limited, while the bog-standard grunts are dispatched with a single punch, which means it gets boring fast. The developers try to balance this out by including annoying maze-like puzzle sections and boss fights which are insanely unfair. As a result, this is one to avoid.
Publisher: Seismic Software / Developer: T&E Soft
Release Date: Apr 1990 (USA)
/ 1991 (UK/EU)
Hydlide was one of the earliest JRPG successes, but unlike franchises such as Ys, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, it failed to maintain its momentum. This could be attributed in part to dismal entries like Super Hydlide, which must rank as the worst role-playing game on the Mega Drive (although Hideki Kamiya, who is apparently quite a fan, might disagree). The graphics would offend a Master System owner, while the music is equally feeble. However, it's the gameplay which is most off-putting; exploring the world isn't fun, and you have to contend with the fact that every item you collect – including money – has a weight cost, and you'll often find that your character's movement is reduced to a crawl because you've purchased an upgrade which is too heavy. It's a shame, because Super Hydlide has some interesting elements, including a day and night cycle and a complicated morality system. However, it's too obtuse and annoying to play, in our opinion.
Publisher: Electronic Arts / Developer: Silicon Beach Software
While it was praised in its original incarnation on the Apple Macintosh, this is, in reality, a very dull action platformer and certainly can't hold a candle to the best of the genre on the Mega Drive. Laughably basic visuals, fiddly controls and annoying difficulty make Dark Castle an unbalanced and unenjoyable mess; we can only imagine that Apple Mac owners back in 1986 were so starved of decent software they would literally buy anything that even remotely resembled a video game.
Release Date: TBA
Double Dragon II, in its original arcade guise, is one of the cornerstones of the side-scrolling fighter genre. This Mega Drive port, developed by Palsoft and never released outside of Japan, is an abomination; it totally fails to replicate the feel of the coin-op, saddling the player with unresponsive controls, unfair enemies and visuals that wouldn't look out of place on much weaker hardware. It's no great shock that this was never localised for a western release, if you ask us.
Publisher: Human Entertainment / Developer: Human Entertainment
Release Date: TBA
Human Entertainment is normally a safe pair of hands for this kind of thing, but Fastest 1 has to qualify as one of the Mega Drive's most sluggish racing titles. The tiny car you control looks rather pathetic, yet, even so, the game struggles to deliver a convincing sense of speed and pace when you're running at full pelt. The track is flat and lifeless, making this a very, very distant second to the likes of Super Monaco GP and its Senna-backed sequel.
Publisher: Mentrix Software / Developer: Dragnet
Release Date: Dec 1991 (USA)
Based on the arcade title Cal.50, this Mega Drive port was only released in North America, although a Japanese launch was apparently on the cards. We can only assume it never happened because the quality of this Commando-style run-and-gun shooter is so dire. Dull, murky visuals and terrible audio mean that Caliber.50 is hardly the most attractive game, but the actual action is of a similarly low quality. Why bother with this when you have superior examples of the genre, like MERCS, available on the same console?
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: NovaLogic
Release Date: 16th Feb 1993 (UK/EU)
While other Captain Planet games exist, this one – published by Sega itself – is exclusive to the Mega Drive. You might therefore assume it's worth a look, but you couldn't be more wrong. Awkward controls, dodgy hit detection and some intensely frustrating level design result in a game that was so bad, Sega decided against releasing it in North America and Japan and simply dumped it on the European market before moving on and forgetting about it. We'd recommend you do the same.
Publisher: U.S. Gold / Developer: Tiertex Design Studios
Release Date: Sep 1993 (USA)
/ Mar 1993 (UK/EU)
While this was marketed as Strider II at the time, it's actually anything but. US Gold simply paid Capcom for the licence to develop a new title in the series, and, as a result, Strider Returns doesn't really look, sound or play like a 'proper' Strider outing. The graphics are dull and washed out, while the music is so bad you'll want to turn the volume down to zero. Also, Strider himself lacks the agility and grace that made the original so appealing to play – but the final nail in the coffin is the awful level design, which lacks variety and pales in comparison to the environments seen in Capcom's 'proper' Strider. The fact that many players will have purchased this expecting a legitimate sequel is a crime for which US Gold should never have been forgiven.
Publisher: THQ / Developer: Gray Matter
Release Date: 18th Feb 1993 (USA)
While the Wayne's World sketches on Saturday Night Live and the two resultant movies are still watchable today, they definitely feel like they're of their era – and that era was a time when all the remotely popular films got terrible tie-in video games. This platformer has precious little to do with the movie on which it is based, and the gameplay involves little more than leaping around each stage collecting things whilst the characters deliver catchphrases via low-quality samples. It's dull, uninspired and yet another shamelessly cynical attempt to part unsuspecting gamers from their money.
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Abalone
Intended to be a spin-off of the one-on-one fighter Eternal Champions, X-Perts certainly has ambition – you control three characters in real-time, switching between them to explore levels and deal with enemies. It also boasts massive sprites with smooth animation – but the good points end there. The controls are hopelessly unresponsive, and while the characters are large, they look dull and colourless. The combat itself is also as dull as dishwater, with enemies that pose little in the way of challenge and a limited number of attacks at your disposal. A very late release in the console's lifespan, X-Perts has been largely forgotten – and with good reason.
Publisher: Tecmo / Developer: SIMS
Originally released in arcades, Tecmo World Cup was a decent enough kickabout, but this Mega Drive port – courtesy of SIMS – doesn't feel like a particularly faithful replication. The range of moves on display is poor, so there's already a distinct lack of depth on offer here when compared to other Mega Drive footy titles. Things aren't helped by the fact that the visuals are average; in still screenshots, it might look like a close match to the arcade version, but in motion, it's anything but. The biggest crime here is that the CPU is insultingly easy to beat, robbing the game of any real challenge.
Publisher: Electronic Arts / Developer: Discovery Software
Release Date: 1990 (USA)
/ 1990 (UK/EU)
Originally released on the Commodore Amiga in 1988 and praised for its large, detailed sprites, Sword of Sodan is one of those games that can easily fool you into a purchase based on its looks alone. Even today, it's certainly not a bad-looking game – but, the moment you pick up the controller, its shortcomings become glaringly apparent. The combat system is basic, with little to do but stab enemies until they fall over – that is, if they don't poke you to death first, of course. Potions add a little variety, but they can't help the fact that this is a monotonous, frustrating and ultimately forgettable hack-and-slash adventure saddled with ropey animation, poor controls and a complete lack of anything you might describe as excitement.
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: SEGA
Release Date: 24th Dec 1988 (JPN)
Licensed from a popular '60s manga created by Fujio Akatsuka, Osomatsu-kun: Hachamecha Gekijō could have been something special – but it ended up being one of the most disappointing titles of the Mega Drive's early years, at least in Japan. For starters, the controls are annoyingly floaty, and there are only three levels – if you know the route through the game, it can be finished in under 10 minutes. In Japan, Osomatsu-kun is almost legendary for how bad it is; a detailed look at just how much of a car crash this game is can be found here.
Release Date: 26th Aug 1990 (JPN)
The Mega Drive / Genesis certainly isn't short of shooters, and XDR: X-Dazedly Ray has to rank as one of the worst examples of the genre on the machine – a game so bad that developer UNIPACC folded almost immediately after it was released. Garish visuals, uninspired enemy design and boring weapons combine to deliver one of the most forgettable shmups ever created and one that feels totally out of its depth on a system that is also home to the likes of Thunder Force IV, MUSHA and Zero Wing. There's an excellent piece which digs into the history of this much-maligned game here.
Publisher: Acclaim / Developer: Mirage
Release Date: Feb 1995 (UK/EU)
You didn't think we could do a list of the worst Mega Drive / Genesis games without mentioning Rise of the Robots, did you? Hyped as something of a Street Fighter II rival prior to release, this CGI-rendered brawler was ripped to shreds by pretty much every media outlet when it eventually hit stores shelves. The fancy visuals don't translate all that well to the Mega Drive, and the enemy AI is dire. However, the limited number of moves means this is quite the slog; it certainly can't hold a candle to Capcom's efforts. Despite all of this, we still admit to having a soft spot for Rise of the Robots; those CGI visuals really did feel like the future...
Do you agree with our list? Are there games on here you don't think are that bad, or ones we've missed that you think are even worse? Let us know in the comments, and you can help this list evolve over time – and warn people off potential stinkers.
In the meantime, if you're sick of reading about bad games, why not check out some of our 'best games' guides instead?