Being a gamer for most of my life and being in the industry for over half my life I’ve been close to many gaming platforms, I’ve seen it almost all for the last 30 plus years and over those years I have opinions and thoughts across the platforms, they can often be regarded and Consoles Wars and put into generations. This generation focused on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis / Megadrive 2.
This was an interesting generational War and at this point, it had become that…a battle between 2 big companies, as detailed in the previous generation post-NES and the Sega Master System felt like we were making a statement, new ideas, and setting up for the future, so by now the SNES and Genesis/Megadrive was eagerly anticipated, especially the SNES.
I owned the Megadrive and my cousin and best mate had a SNES so I was able to play a lot of both, years later I was able to look at more of the games and hardware because of my gaming job, but with the NES dominating the previous generation how did these get on.
Sega Megadrive / Genesis
Why do I keep saying Genesis and Mega drive? well, Sega liked to pump out models and this was arguably their 4th Gen at this point! but in reality, with the new 16bit console it was their second Gen Console, but again like the previous Master System there was more than one model that muddied the water, let alone in Japan and most of the world this console was known as Genesis! but in Pal Territories, it was known as the Megadrive! these were days of PAL and NTFS which meant games from different countries didn’t work on the other.
Much like the before we were back to the cartridge and simple 2 slot controller ports, the pads themselves were originally 3 button and Dpad due to now the complexity of the games that we’re pumping out, however, due to the popularity of some of the new games extra buttons, Arcade Sicks, turbo controllers etc.. were all released to keep on the trends.
In 1988 the Master System was winding down but between 88 and 90 for the European launch, the Genesis hit the shores, in Japan, it was still a Nintendo dominated world, but the rest of the world this time was a much better story, north American saw a much better launch and success, especially after the problems and issues they had with the Master System, and in Europe, it outperformed the SNES for several Christmases, it lobbied at being the cooler futuristic console, it focused on certain games.
SNES had a following but the Sega was capitalising on Sonic’s success, they were also beginning to build a better reputation with some of their games, Golden Axe, Moonwalker, Ghouls and Ghosts, ALtered beasts were coming out strong, and with Mortal Kombat and Streetfighter worlds success, it propelled both consoles to another level.
Sega wisely built a relationship with Electronic Arts…that company, who went onto have some success… but they decided to back EA and gave games like FIFA, Madden, NHL, a big push and intern brought a whole different customer base to their console, this helped in the countries that they had success with, a sticky court case in the early ’90s with companies making games for there consoles but unlicensed caused them a distraction and money.
However with settlements made, a second model released and a new Mega-CD, the future was looking to carry on, the Mega CD brought 32bit upgrade to there console, looking to keep what they had but expanded it further on games coming out on this new CD quality, but at this point in 1994 to 95, the Genesis across the world but maybe not so much in Japan… was riding high and couldn’t keep up with stock or games.
There’s no doubt NES was the winners in the last console gen, their games were as big of a success than their hardware, but unlike Sega or any of the PC based ones like Amiga or Atari, they didn’t pump out different models, they were slow and steady and work on what they had, so in 1990 to 1992 the new 16bit SNES was released, of course, the Japanese Super Famicom (which was its name in Japan) did well and for the next few years continued Nintendo’s dominance, the 16bit console was ever slightly better than the Genesis but it was beyond Marginal, however, unlike the Genesis, the new 4 button Pad designed for even more complicated games and next-gen games saw the controller for many be perfect.
The design aspect is split, some people like it, the US version looks lightly different with more square edges and shapes unlike the console in PAL and Japan, where the traditional curve takes centre stage, but as the Genesis, Cartitrdge was still king even in its later stages as they decided to stick with Cartridge, pop fact the Playstation was originally being built for Nintendo but Nintendo near the end decided that they were going forward with cartridges over CD due to there success of games…thus the Playstation as a separate console was born, more on that another day.
Like the NES the games were the big deal, they had already established their library of homegrown games, their own IP’s that were world-famous, they were not on any other system, and this helped their launch with Super Mario 3, Zelda, Mario Kart and Donkey Kong down the road, games like Kirby and Mario Kart established new major names, especially Mario Kart that had one of the biggest impacts of this generation and then inturn for future generations, however, Sega were being clever, they were looking at cooler marketing, and more adult content, pitching that Nintendo was more for kids.
Nintendo realised that they had to welcome more games on their console so their strategy on games loosened up and allowed games to be released on theres alongside Genesis, but not their own IP like Mario! they hit back and even had the highly popular Street fighter 2 games a year before Genesis, regarded as one of the great Beat em up games in history,
Overall my favourite?
Due to SNES longevity it still outsold the Genesis in America, and in Japan, it was still king, but the battle was alot closer in the whole world, both had success, and the games evolved in this generation with many of the gaming franchises that spawned here are still around now, it was very much the battle and marketing and positioning went that way.
For many, these consoles hold a close space in their heart, there’s a reason they had game collections on the modern-day consoles and PC, for Segae alone Sonic 2, Golden Axe, Moonwalker etc was amazing, for me, this is where I started my love of FIFA and NHL, and even Madden, Mario Kart playing at my cousin’s was fantastic, there is not enough time to talk about the games alone.
Which was the best? which was my favourite? well, its close, id argue that Megadrive was better, add Mega-CD, the cool factor the evolution of the war then arguably it was the best, Nintendo had Mario, Donkey kong, and a host of other games but these were around before and keep pumping out, the die-hard fans love it but I think if you are neutral and take the abjective few point? this was Sega at their overall best that they never achieved before or again and that’s what wins it.
Sega was launching Sega Gamegear, there was a PC engine that was meant to be the game-changer (it wasn’t) and then there was the Game Boy, which even had a super game boy adaptor in the SNES!, but the Gameboy was king, handheld gaming was born and it was probably bigger than both of these thanks to a little puzzle game called Tetris. Let’s be honest the technical stuff is very very similar, many of the better games were on both, it was a close call to choose but again for me, Sega just edges it.