Home » PC Tech & Gaming News » Best Shmups on the Sega Genesis – no arguments

Best Shmups on the Sega Genesis – no arguments

Fire buttons at the ready, we are getting nostalgic with the these five amazing games

Updated: Dec 24, 2021 11:33 am
Best Shmups on the Sega Genesis – no arguments

WePC is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices subject to change. Learn more

Seeing as it is the holiday season, it seems like a great time to look back at one of the greatest Christmas gifts of yesteryear and how much amazing fun you can still have with one of the best consoles ever released – and we aren’t talking about ones that you still can’t buy a year after release we are talking purely the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive outside North America).

We aren’t going to go into the history of the legendary console that, to this day, is still better known for Sonic the Hedgehog than anything else but there were so many amazing games on the Genesis you could, and many people have, written books on it.

Today though, we are here to talk about my favorite niche of video gaming, one that I used to be so good at but as time ravages my reflexes I can only enviously watch on as the kids 1c the games beloved of my youth.

That all sounds quite poetic doesn’t it, but let’s get to the point, here we are talking about the best shoot ’em-ups (or Shmups) on the Sega Genesis.

Time has matured the Genesis as a vehicle for great shoot ’em-ups. At the time, we maybe didn’t appreciate the quality of what was being released – mainly out of Japan, but now, with age and the aid of emulators and even real hardware being rediscovered it is super easy to get back into these games and literally have a blast.

genesis magad

How to play Sega Genesis games today

Before we get into any kind of list (and remember, there are no arguments about this list, it is the definitive list, and I don’t care if you disagree) we probably need to realize that you are still going to need a way to actually play these games and that can be as easy or as hard as you want to make it, so let’s look at some of the options available to us.

Original Sega Genesis hardware

Okay, so if you are new to the idea this might seem the most ridiculous option off the bat, but it is the one true way to enjoy the games the way they were meant to be played and the barrier to entry is not as high as you might think. Even with the ridiculous price surge of original retro hardware and people, as ever, trying to turn a stupid profit, you can still pick up original Sega Genesis consoles remarkably cheaply on sites such as eBay, mainly because there were so many of them in circulation back in the day due to its popularity.

If you fancy turning it into a project, you could even buy one advertised as not working and try to repair it. This is what I do now. I taught myself electronics, just to fix this stuff up and it is a lot of fun.

Now that is not the end of the matter because as the console pre-dates modern flat-screen TVs you are going to need to work out how to actually get the games displayed. In Europe if we have an older TV it may well have SCART as an input as that could be found even on flat screens until the last 10 years or so. Then you just need a (high-quality) Mega Drive SCART cable and you are in.

In North America, you can do something similar with component input, but either way, don’t buy an old Genesis and expect to connect it to your current Smart TV.

Another thing worth thinking about too is that the Genesis was designed with old CRT technology in mind so games will look amazing with zero input lag if you still have one of these lying around in the cellar or attic. Modern TVs introduce an element of input lag and that can be a killer in games where you need super-fast reflexes such as a shoot ’em-up.

The final thing to consider when using original hardware is that you are also going to need the games you want to play on cartridge and this is where the cost can ratchet up dramatically as a lot of the really good shoot ’em-ups such as M.U.S.H.A are incredibly rare and therefore expensive.

The way around this is with something such as a Flash Cart which allows you to play your (legally owned) ROMs from a Micro SD card on your original hardware. Flash Carts are a great way to reduce wear and tear on your valuable original cartridges too. The best one is the Mega SD from Terraonion – it’s not cheap but you can even play Mega-CD games from it.



This is the simplest way to play your (legally owned) and you can get emulators for pretty much everything from your PC to your mobile phone or games console.

Emulators are great but I find when people play their old favorite games on an emulator they more often than not tend to come away a little disappointed. Now some of that is down to nostalgia and a game just not being as good as they remember it all those years ago, but a much-underestimated issue is that the game on an emulator never quite plays the way it did on original hardware. Maybe you are using an Xbox controller rather than an original Genesis style pad, maybe it’s the input lag mentioned above. There’s something that feels off. Many people won’t even notice. An awful lot do.

If you are looking for a cheap and cheerful way to play the games below though, this is it.

Emulated hardware

Beyond real hardware, this is the way to go and in many ways is even the optimal way to play as you are not having to mess about with aging electronics, old screens, and expensive cartridges.

mister fpga
The amazing MiSTer FPGA based on the DE-10 Nano board from Terasic

There are a few options here. My weapon of choice is the, frankly amazing, MiSTer FPGA system which is just about the most perfect multi-system retro device I have ever seen. To call it emulated hardware is a slight untruth, the FPGA chip faithfully recreates the hardware of the original Genesis (it gets really complex to get into but if you want to know more read here) so what you end up with is a pretty much 1-1 replica of a working Genesis but tucked away on a tiny DE-10 Nano board running the MiSTer FPGA environment. The recent chip shortage and also the increase in demand of this little wonder has meant the actual DE-10 Nano board is in very short supply but I’d urge you to get on a waiting list for the next batch.

The next step down would be Sega’s own Genesis Mini which is a smaller version of the original hardware with bonuses such as USB connectivity and HDMI video output. The downside is that it comes with a set number of games included, but you can sideload games and get around that restriction.

Best Genesis Shoot ’em-ups

Now it’s time to get into the actual games – and remember I am not having any discussion over whether these are the best here, they are (although if you disagree there is the comments box below where you can chip in.) These are also in no particular order, just know you have to play them all

MUSHA is a vertically scrolling shooter developed by Compile and released for the Sega Genesis in 1990. An entry in Compile’s shooter series, Aleste, MUSHA places the player in the role of a flying mecha pilot who must destroy a large super-intelligent computer threatening planet Earth.
This is one of the best shmups ever, in my humble opinion. It’s a 1988 vertically scrolling shooter arcade video game originally developed by Toaplan and published in Japan and Europe by Taito, as well in North America by Midway and its iconic soundtrack and fast-paced action make it as playable today as it ever was
Thunder Force IV
The first horizontal shooter in the list is ranked by many as one of the greatest shmups ever made and follows on from the also amazing Thunder Force III – it’s just an absolute classic and you have to play it, why are you still reading?
Another horizontal shooter that was one of the first 8MB games for the Genesis which sounds ridiculous these days. It’s an out-and-out classic though and the one on this list that you may not have heard of. Let that change immediately
Bio Hazard Battle
Bio-Hazard Battle, released in Japan as Crying: Aseimei Sensou, is a 1992 side-scrolling shoot ’em up that was exclusive to the platform and when you look at the likes of R-Type and the success that went on to have, it is a crying shame that this game, similar in so many ways is rarely played outside of Shmup circles.


There you have it then. Not just five of the very best shmups for this classic system but five of the best ever released on any platform ever. Enjoy, and we will be covering more systems in the coming week.

Trusted Source

WePC’s mission is to be the most trusted site in tech. Our editorial content is 100% independent and we put every product we review through a rigorous testing process before telling you exactly what we think. We won’t recommend anything we wouldn’t use ourselves. Read more