Happy 20th, SEGA Genesis!

Happy 20th, SEGA Genesis!

Twenty years ago, on August 14th, 1989, SEGA’s most successful console debuted in North America to challenge Nintendo for dominance in the fourth-generation of console gaming.  Without the console’s success, we wouldn’t be here right now talking about motherfuckin’ blue hedgehogs.

While the SEGA Master System was superior to the Nintendo Entertainment System with better graphics and sound, the console failed to establish a library of games to rival the NES’ stellar collection in anywhere but Europe.  So, in 1989, two years before the launch of the Super Nintendo, SEGA debuted the Genesis with mild success.  Shipping only 400,000 units in its first year, SoA CEO Michael Katz introduced his two part solution to boost sales.  The famous “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” slogan and, my personal favorite, the use of celebrities in games, like Arnold Palmer Golf and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.

It wasn’t until 1991 when Sonic the Hedgehog changed the gaming landscape forever.  Originally, the awful Altered Beast was the pack-in game with the console, but a bold move by SEGA CEO Hayao Nakayama put Sonic the Hedgehog in the box instead.  With critics claiming that the ‘hog was starring in the best game made thus far, people waiting for the Super Nintendo were convinced and bought a Genesis.  Genesis took a 55% market share over Nintendo soon after.

However, the success was short lived as SEGA drove their biggest success into the ground with the SEGA CD and 32X add-ons.  These disasters failed to establish a solid library of games and were too expensive.  With five consoles actively on the market with the Saturn’s launch (Game Gear, Genesis, Saturn, Pico, and the Master System in South America), SEGA discontinued the production of the Genesis.  With the Genesis outselling the Saturn in North America, the results were disastrous as Nintendo took total control of the 16-bit generation.  The rest is history and now we have Mario and Sonic running triatholons together.

My older brother got the Genesis with Sonic the Hedgehog for his birthday.  I was only three years old when this happened, so my first Genesis memory that I can recall is playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and getting trapped in Casino Night Zone.  Those were some fun times.

If you have any Genesis/16-bit Sonic memories of your own, please share them with us in the comment box below to celebrate the Genesis’ 20th birthday.

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Slingerland is a staff writer and editor for both The Sonic Stadium and Sonic Retro. His area of emphasis is the inner-workings of the games and laughing at everything.


  1. I was 6 ore somting when i first played Sonic the Hedgehog on it and it was my friend that had it and it was really fun!

  2. My first Genesis memories are dominated by me being the Tails to my older brother’s Sonic. Then when he got a Dreamcast I finally got to play the Genesis by myself. Which is when I started obsessing over S3&K. It was practically the only game I played, and most of the time was spent on Knuckles. I’m still not even sure if I ever completely beat the game back then…

    I got out our Genesis today to try and play it, but sadly it wouldn’t turn on. So either it finally died, or it’s just that it hasn’t been played in forever. I just played some Mega Collection instead.

  3. I was 5 years old when I got my genesis. First game I played was the “6-pack” It included Sonic the Hedgehog, Columns, Super Hang On, Revenge of Shinobi, Streets of Rage, and Golden Axe. Those were some great games…but my greatest memory will have to be when I first locked on Sonic 3 to Sonic and Knuckles.

  4. happy birthday genesis/megadrive
    i don’t have any happy memories with you but i am glad you excist and gave the ‘hog his glourius beginning
    may you never be forgotten

  5. Well 😛 that’s certainly an awesome coincidence. Today, after some very slow postage with eBay, I received my boxed MegaDrive with Sonic 1 today 😀 who’d think I’d get mine exactly 20 years later after the original release?

    I intend to celebrate the rest of the MegaDrive’s birthday by playing the Sonic classics 🙂

  6. I was 3 when I started playing videogames. My first games were on the Genesis. My sister was the Sonic player of the family, but I took the ‘Sonic Fan of the house’ spotlight by playing them. I started off with Sonic 2. Later one of those ‘3 Sonic Games in 1’ with ‘Sonic 1’, ‘Sonic 2’, and ‘Dr.Robotniks Mean Bean Machine’. I also enjoyed the ‘World of Illusions starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck’.

    We also had Gauntlet 4 which was also an old school favorite, and the unnoticed game Trasia. Some time later we got Sonic 3, then later my cousin gave us the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge which could be attached with Sonic 3, Sonic 3 & Knuckles soon became my all time favorite Sonic game and my favorite game on the SEGA Genesis.

    I miss those days. 🙁 I never became a big fan of Nintendo until we found an SNES in the basement with Super Mario World when I was around 10… I think…

  7. i still av my mega drive so happy birthday my mega drive it was my first console i ever owned 🙂 many good times with it and many more to come 🙂

  8. My family had a megadrive when I was really young, I sort of played Sonic 2 and some golf game badly, but it was awesome, go Megadrive!

  9. I never actually got a genesis a s a kid. always wanted one. I used to play with my cousin. I didn’t got oe until a year ago which was ironically my cousins. ^o^

  10. Wow! 20 years… I’m 21 years old… and I’ve been a gamer and a Sonic fan since I was… shoot, 3-4 years old.

    While Sonic was my favorite, it wasn’t the only Genesis games I got. Vectorman 1 & 2, Power Rangers, Mortal Kombat 3, Bugs Bunny, Batman, Simpsons, Ren & Stimpy, Beavis & Butt-head, Shaq Fu (unfortunately), NBA Jam, Earthworm Jim, Spider-Man, X-Men.

    I could go on, but I’m pressed for space here, bottom line: I’ve played a lot and own most of those Genesis games. And I still do have the system to this day.

    ‘sighs’ Good times… Good times…

  11. i was 5 when i started playing my megadrive.
    Had sonic 2 and Sonic And Knuckles.

    I could make it all the way to the final boss in sonic 2.. never could beat him.
    And as for sonic and knuckles… i couldnt get a chaos emerald if i tried.
    Then again I was 5 lol.

  12. My first game was Sonic spinball on the sega genesis. My Mom got my Dad got the system when it just came out for his birthday. I loved that game so much he eventually went on ebay and bought me sonic 3, and sonic 2, and eventually I had all the sonic games on the genesis!

  13. First game was actually Sonic 3 and Sonic 1. I can’t remember which came first, but I know we had those both. In fact, it was my brother who was the first to play Sonic in the house, and eventually I became hooked, and later my sister.

    All three of us would always play those games, a while later after starting with Sonic, I got Sonic 2.

    Jump to today, I’m the only one who actively plays Sonic anymore. My brother and sister still play the classic games now and again, but I’ve been the one who mostly plays the new games, and on rare occasions, my sister.

    I actually joined the whole scene very later, I was only born just a few months before the US Sonic CD was released, so most of my childhood was actually catching up with the times. I did play a few other Genesis games, but they were only on the Sega 6-Pak, but throughout my life, Sonic was the only video game I played.

  14. @Will: Because Brad is American foo’! Not everyone at Sonic Stadium is British.

    Mega Drive memories eh? I have loads seeing as it is still the most played console I own. Here’s a taster:

    First time I unlocked Super Sonic and flipping out at how cool he was
    Getting my awesome modded Mega Drive and 32X with Knuckles Chaotix, playing imports is easy now
    Getting a mint copy of Pulseman from Japan
    Being scared shitless by the apple that rolls down the hill after you in Castle of Illusion
    Remembering how awesome owning Zero Tolerance was. It’s a pile of crap now but having something even the tiniest bit close to Doom was cool enough for an impressionable kid
    Owning the rarity that is Shadow of the Beast 2 on Mega CD. One of my favourite games
    Getting a Multi-Mega; what an amazing bit of kit that is

    The list goes on! http://www.segadriven.com

  15. Never had a Genesis. Born in 1995. Didn’t play video games until 1998. First one was Mario Kart 64. First met Sonic in AOSTH. First Sonic game was Sonic advance. Sorry for the haikus, but anyway happy birthday Genesis!

  16. Hapy Birthday Sega Genesis!
    May the world forever know you as the home of Sonic the Hedgehog!

  17. my first system was a genesis… first video game i remember playing was sonic 2… i was about 5 or 6 when i got hooked… i was young, but i had skillz. made it all the way to the final boss, but when he popped up from the floor i literally got scared and handed the controller to my older brother and ran out the room (he never beat him either)… eventually my mom got sonic and knuckles.. furthest i usually got was the lava reef boss (NEVER saw that oh so convenient flame shield on the side till i was older -__-‘) i got to sky sanctuary like once tho… then got pwned by mecha sonic :\ when i was about seven the genesis stopped working… so there was a this sonicless gap for a few years. then i found my grandparent’s old one and (yes… this is around dreamcast time) i went to gamestop and found sonic 1 and 2 in the cheap bin for like 2 dollars apiece (it was ridiculous how hype i was about it too)… then i went on this epic search for 3 and knuckles but NOBODY had it…. so then i mailed sega about how much of a sonic fan i am and wanted to know if they could mail me a copy of the missing games in the set… and guess what… they DID… so now i had my four sonic classics… played through each one every chance i got and beat them… then i got into computers… so… emulators XD… not to mention my balls to the wall gameboy advance (still love sonic advance 2 the most… that was the fastest) and now… well… with a job and 3 kids (just playing about the kids… im only nineteen :P) i netted myself a PS3, WII, PSP, DS (sonic rush for the fuckin win) and just about every sonic game i cared for…. and a note about how much i love sonic’s stages in unleashed….. remember how the werehog’s final level up for power took 99 bars to fill? yea you know where im going with this… filled EVERY SINGLE ONE of those doing sonic stages alone….. o crap, this is about the genesis isn’t it. so on that note, happy 20th mr. genesis… you were the one that started it all for me… and i wouldn’t want it any other way

  18. I’m holding my SEGA GENISIS on my lap this very second. My bro suggested to me selling it, but it holds too many memories! <3

  19. Through the years Sega has brought us many systems and games worthy of the title “Legendary”. The Dreamcast was pure class, while it lived for a short time, its impact on the Sonic and Sega community is still felt till today. I have to admit that the Genesis was by far the most loved and remembered system. From the catchy S-E-G-A ! ! ! title screen to the Final Zone showdown in Sonic 1, the Genesis is by far legendary. This day is filled with cheerful memories and deep gratitude for Sega and Sonic Team, for being a legendary company and producing wonderful systems and games, for the young, the old and the loyal Sega-Sonic fans.

    Cheers Sega ! ! !

    Happy 20th ! Legendary Genesis.

  20. @Sonicyoda

    Oh right. It’s just, they always refered to the Sonic Stadium as a UK based Sonic site (Hence why it makes a big deal out of Summer of Sonic) I knew people from anywhere in the world could join the forums and everything, I just thought the people who ran the site where British.

  21. Raise your glasses for the Megadrive please! Ristar was perhaps one of my fondest memories when I had my Megadrive………..never could complete the final boss as a kid (I can now pretty easily, that’s age for you). Sonic was my idol back then and I would always play Sonic 2 against my friend. Those were the days; now we wait patiently for Sega to release a truely great 3D game. It hasn’t happened yet but I have a weak hope.

  22. I can remember my mum used to have a SEGA Genesis, she still does, it had Sonic The Hedgehog 1 built into it, I used to watch my mum play it, and I can remember climbing up a shelf to get the Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and Soccer Kid (I think)) Cartridges to play them, I was really young then :3

  23. Always playing Sonic 1 & 2 with my brother when we were little (about 3-5 years old).
    Ah, good times.

  24. I remember a long time ago when I first played the SEGA Genesis. It was Sonic and Knuckles… I was stuck on that vine-grabby thing in Mushroom Hill that you need to spindash out of to progress. Me being about 4 at the time, I had no idea what to do. Those were some frustrating yet memorable times.

    Also, Chemical Plant Zone Act 2. The drowning music gave me nightmares… D:

  25. Never actually owned a Mega Drive, but I’d always play it when I went over to my friends house.

  26. I may as well share some mermories of my own. I came across the Megadrive (I’m in the UK) pretty late, around 97. My neice (She’s two years OLDER than me, she’s more like a sister figure) had one in her room, the game she always used to show me when I came around was Sonic & Knuckles (She ALWAYS played as Knuckles) and Sonic 3D. Eventually she also introduced me to Sonic 1, and Sonic 3, amoung other games (Dynamite Heady, Zool). As you can probobly tell, this is what got me into Sonic in the first place. (She showed me her AoStH video, and I descovered Sonic the Comic).

    The next Christmas, my Mum suggested I have a Megadrive for a present, and I agreed (Bear in mind, this was around the time when the Megadrive was on it’s last legs, but still where available in particular stores, it came with that cartridge with the 6 games on it, and newer games where also available). That Christmas morning, I was excited about all the presents in my sack that I opened. After all the excitment, it occured to me that the Megadrive was not in amoungst the lot. Then my older sister (Back when she was single she used to sleep over on Christmas eve) said “William, do you want to open my present?” I got her present from under the tree, and sure enough, it was the Megadrive. It was the highlight of the whole holiday, when I wasn’t sitting in front of it playing Sonic 1 or Streets of Rage, my Mum my brother or my other sister would play Colums.

    Pretty much until the following Christmas (When my mum managed to get ahold of the Dreamcast) I spent whenever I can, trying to find more games for it, whether it be the newer titles from the same store the MD came from (Mickey’s Castle of Illusion/Donald Duck Quack Shot double pack, Sonic Compilation) or older games that I could find in second hand shops (Sonic 2, Sonic 3, Sonic Spinball). And yeah, the rest is history (Cliche? Sorry).

    That same Megadrive is plugged up in my room right now, now equipped with a Mega CD (Found many years later)

  27. a bit before my time to be honset but i enjoy the complimation packs ie ultimate collection

  28. I’ve had my Sega since 1993 and she still runs like a charm! I’ve been playing Sonic since his release in 1991 on a friends Sega when I was 3, and when I got my own the next year I just never stopped! Now that I’m in college I wasn’t allowed to take the Sega with me, but I still get my kicks with the Sonic Mega Collection the released for the Game Cube, still, nothing will beat playing it on the good old Sega.

  29. I got my first Sega Genesis when I was 5 and I loved it so much. My first games were Sonic 2 and Jurrasic Park, and then later on I got Ecco the Dolphin and a whole bunch of other games like Golden Axe and Altered Beast.

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