Sega Mega Drive Mini full review

Mini versions of classic retro games consoles are all the rage and, following Nintendo and Sony, Sega has decided to get in on the act too.  Marvel in it's 16-bit glory, becuase this is the Mega Drive Mini and this is our full review.

We loved the NES and SNES Classic Mini consoles from Nintndo so it's great to see Sega do something very similar for the Mega Drive - shown back at E3 2019. The original came out in Japan back in 1988 and yes, in the US, it was called the Genesis instead.

Let the nostalgia commence. 

Price & Release Date

Unlike the Sony PlayStation Classic which came in at £89/$99, Sega has kept the price down so the Mega Drive Mini is a reasonable £69.99 or $79.99 if your in the US.

It's available on 4 October from the likes of Amazon, GAME and Argos.

Design & Build

There’s nothing particularly surprising about the design of the Mega Drive Mini. After seeing Nintendo’s efforts, this is very much the same philosophy but with a different console. This matches the UK design of course, which is different to the Genesis. 

Mega Drive Mini design

The palm sized replica is pretty cute and even has working flaps for the cartridge slot, although there’s nothing to put it in which is a shame. A dummy cartridge would have been a nice touch.

Otherwise, you get a power switch, a reset button which acts like the Start button on the controller and a headphone volume slider which moves but is purely for show since there is no headphone jack. That would have perhaps been useful addition but would have added cost and probably wouldn't get used much on the whole.

Round the back are HDMI and Micro-USB ports, the latter for power so you can likely use a USB port on your TV. Then at the front are USB-A ports to plug in the controllers. Using modern ports is an obvious change from the original console and might detract ever so slightly from the retro feel but it's totally understandable.

Mega Drive Mini ports

Apart from the USB port, the controllers - of which there are two included in the box - are true to the original including the size, shape and weight. They’re properly clunky and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Once you get one in your hand you’ll be instantly transported back to the age you were playing on the original.

The good news here, perhaps learning from Nintendo's mistake, is that the wire is a decent length so you can actually have the console by your TV and, for the average living room in the UK, sit on the sofa to play.

Games & Interface

Software wise things are as simple as you like. It’s basically a case of switching on the console and choosing what game to play. The interface is extremely intuative to navigate.

Once you’re in we’re sure it will all come flooding back, although games - as we found with the Nintendo classics - might well be harder than you remember.

Mega Drive Mini games

Choosing a game to play may or may not be easy depending on what you’re after. There’s everything from Sonic, to Golden Axe to, Earthworm Jim, to Toe Jam & Earl. Whether it's got the games you want to play is down to your personal taste but we'd say this is a stellar line-up including various indisputable classics.

The menu allows you to order them in various ways - release date, alphabetical order, genre and number of players. That's handy and you can also switch into a view that shows the case spines as if the games were all lined up on a shelf. It's much easier to use the view showing the original artwork, though.

There are 40 games to choose from, although Sega is calling Tetris and Darius 'bonus titles'.

With a total of 42 games (way more than Sony offers at just 20 and even the 30 on the NES Classic Mini) means there’s likely to be a mix of games you remember with fond memories and others you never played. However many of them you know, there are many many hours of fun to be had here for such an affordable price.

Mega Drive Mini controller

As you would expect, the bonus here is that you can save games and go back to them when you want - just hold down the Start button to save or load. Note there are only four slots available so you might have to choose wisely.

Here's a full list of the Mega Drive Mini games:

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

Performance & Features

The games look great with the 16-bit graphics and playing them feels just like we remember on the original. Well, better in fact on our 55in OLED TV.

Everything is snappy with no load times or similar. In fact, the Mega Drive Mini runs smoother than the original which, at times, would struggle to cope with the demand of some titles. There's no lag for the sake of nostalgia here.

You can choose whether to use the original 4:3 aspect ratio, with optional wallpapers (albeit not many) to fill the black space, or stretch it to 16:9 fill your modern display. However, the latter option is horrible so you're better off sticking to how it was meant to be.

Mega Drive Mini performance

Another choice is a CRT filter, complete with scan lines and tweaked colors, to make things look like you're playing on an old-school TV. Give it a go, but overall we enjoyed just playing without it.

We'd also like it if you could turn off the menu sounds which can get pretty irritating at times. Not the music though which is delightful.

Verdict

With a very similar winning formula as the Nintendo classic consoles, there’s very little to dislike here when it comes to the Sega Mega Drive Mini.

This another cute replica of a much loved console, complete with true to the original controllers and a huge range of popular games including plenty of classic titles - many of which are 2-player. A pair of controllers are included and they even have a decent length of wire.

All this for an affordable price makes it a winner in our book. Our quibbles are pretty minor such as wanting to switch the menu sounds off and more save slots. 

We think you’ll only disagree if you hated the Mega Drive for some reason.