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Review: Sega Genesis Mini is the perfect gift to put under your tree

The Sega Genesis Mini is exactly what you want in a mini console: great games, excellent design, and faithful emulation.

Published onDecember 14, 2019

sega genesis mini 1

Nostalgia is all the rage these days, and I’m not just talking about the endless Hollywood campaign to ruin my childhood with remakes that didn’t need to exist. The popularity of vintage video gaming is at an all-time high. Earlier this year Sega entered into the mini-console market with its own Genesis Mini. It might be late to the party, but it’s managed to nail the formula even better than Nintendo did.

Whether you’re a fan of the original Genesis looking to relive the glory days or someone interested in vintage gaming just for the novelty, you can’t go wrong with the Sega Genesis Mini. While it’s been out for a few months now, the Sega Genesis Mini is currently on sale for the holidays and so now could be the perfect time to buy.

What is the Sega Genesis Mini?

The Sega Genesis Mini is essentially a modern rebirth of the Sega Genesis game console, which was popular in the late-’80s and into the mid-’90s. While the Sega Genesis had several variants over the years, the Mini is based on the original hardware that actually debuted in Japan in 1988 and arrived in the US in 1989.

While Nintendo did a fairly good job of miniaturizing the NES and SNES for their mini consoles, Sega takes things to a whole new level by literally reproducing every design element. Cosmetically, the Genesis Mini looks nearly identical to the Genesis, it’s just 55 percent smaller.

sega genesis mini 4

There are even elements that are just there for aesthetics. The cartridge slot on the Genesis Mini actually opens, even if there’s no way to actually use cartridges in it. The original Genesis’ volume slider and headphone jack are present, but do nothing but help the nostalgia factor. There’s even a functionless removable expansion port of the bottom. For collectors and those wishing to relive the ’80s/’90s nostalgia, this level of detail is highly appreciated.

Sega Genesis Mini press render
Sega Genesis Mini
The Sega Genesis Mini takes what you remember about the original Genesis and shrinks it down. It comes with two controllers and 42 games. Games include Gunstar Heroes, Castlevania: Bloodlines, Virtua Fighter 2, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Sega Genesis Mini is an easy to use, plug-and-play system

sega genesis mini 3

Setting up the Genesis Mini literally takes seconds. There’s two ports on the back, one for HDMI and the other for the included power cord. Once you start the system you select your language and that’s about it. Interesting aside: changing the language actually brings a lot of aesthetic changes to the names, the box art, and more.

The system includes two controllers, though they are the original 3-button versions. This is perfectly fine for almost every game out there, but games like Street Fighter 2 are MUCH harder to use with the 3-button version. It’s probably still “good enough” but there are 6-button controllers sold separately (for $17.99 each) if you can’t live with the 3-button model.

sega genesis mini 2

One other downside to the controllers is that they have pretty short six-foot-long cords. This seems to be the case with most mini-consoles. It’s annoying but not a dealbreaker. Since the controllers utilize USB ports, it’s also possible to buy some USB extension cords as an easy fix.

How many games are there, and what kind?

The Genesis Mini includes 42 games. This includes Sonic and Sonic 2, though games like Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are sadly missing. There are also several other classics like Phantasy Star IV and Beyond Oasis. Genres include RPGs, platformers, action, fighters, and much more.

Here’s the full list of what is included:

  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • Sonic Spinball
  • Ecco the Dolphin
  • Castlevania: Bloodlines
  • Space Harrier 2
  • Shining Force
  • Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  • Castle of Illusion
  • World of Illusion
  • Thunder Force III
  • Super Fantasy Zone
  • Shinobi III
  • Streets of Rage 2
  • Contra Hard Corps
  • Toe Jam & Earl
  • Comix Zone
  • Altered Beast
  • Gunstar Heroes
  • Earthworm Jim
  • Landstalker
  • Mega Man: The Wily Wars
  • Street Fighter II
  • Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
  • Golden Axe
  • Vectorman
  • Wonder Boy in Monster World
  • Phantasy Star IV
  • Beyond Oasis
  • Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
  • Virtua Fighter 2
  • Alisia Dragoon
  • Monster World IV
  • Kid Chameleon
  • Road Rash II
  • Eternal Champions
  • Columns
  • Dynamite Headdy
  • Strider
  • Light Crusader
  • Tetris
  • Darius

There’s no official way to add more games, though the modding community is already working to create a hack that will allow sideloading of roms. We’ve seen this before with other mini-consoles and so it’s just a matter of time. Of course, sideloading is a gray area at best, and illegal at worst — so keep that in mind.

How well do the games play?

genesis mini ui

The NES Mini and SNES Mini are widely popular mini consoles for a few reasons, including design and a solid library of games. Even more important, the emulation is really well done. This is a big deal, as the Playstation Classic didn’t nail emulation quite as well and has done fairly poorly on the market.

I was a bit skeptical of the Genesis Mini because I’d owned third-party mini Genesis consoles before, which were licensed from Sega but were pretty half baked. Thankfully, the Sega Genesis Mini games play like you remember. There’s no audio issues or weird lag. I’ve put in quite a few hours replaying Sonic and other games and have yet to run into any kind of performance issues.

The software also has a lot of handy features like support for multiple saves, even for games that weren’t originally designed with saving in mind. The Genesis Mini also plays in widescreen or standard view. The latter viewing mode has multiple wallpaper choices to fill in any blank space.

The interface for selecting games is equally good. You can not only see the front of the box art but you can flip it around to see the spine. It’s every bit as well organized and functional as the NES/SNES Mini consoles, and I honestly think I like it a tad better.

The downside to the Genesis Mini

The Genesis Mini suffers from the same problem as other mini-consoles: it’s exciting at first but once you’ve played the few titles you really care about, it’s probably going to start collecting dust. Since there’s no way to add new games, there’s only so much replay value present.

Whether this is a big deal depends on what you’re looking for. For those who are considering putting one under the tree, the nostalgia and excitement will probably be enough to justify the cost.

Who is the Sega Genesis Mini for and is it worth it?

sega genesis mini 6

The Sega Genesis is designed for collectors, those who owned/used the Genesis in its heyday, those who want to introduce their kids to old-school gaming, or really anyone who wants to experience gaming of the ’90s. If you’re expecting modern gaming features like online play and 3D graphics, well… you shouldn’t.

Is the Genesis Mini worth the asking price? Absolutely, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into first and set expectations accordingly. For collectors, it’s an obvious buy. For the rest, it comes down to how much time you’ll spend. These days you can find the system for $59.99 on sale, $10 less than the original. It’s also possible you could find it a bit cheaper if you do some searching or hit up eBay.

At its current price, the Genesis Mini costs about the same as one modern video game. With 42 games included, there is potentially hundreds of hours of playtime to be found here. When you look at it like that, this is a great buy. Yes, it will eventually start collecting dust and will only be taken out on a rare occasion, such as to show your friends. This is basically where I’m at with my SNES Mini, but I played it enough initially I don’t regret buying it and sometimes I’ll still dust it off and jump into a game.

Sega Genesis Mini
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