Top 10 Sega Genesis Shoot 'em Ups

Top 10 Sega Genesis Shoot 'em Ups

Giving new meaning to blast processing

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Genesis on

Whether you know it as Genesis or Mega Drive, there were a ton of excellent shmups for Sega's 16-bit console so here are the 10 best.

Photo of a bunch of Sega Genesis shoot 'em up cartridges
I have a lot of great shmups on Sega Genesis; it was hard to choose just 10!

Trouble Shooter

Although it's a bit on the silly side, Trouble Shooter remains a must-have shooter. In it, you control 2 bikini-clad warriors simultaneously who can shoot in opposite directions. However, only the heroine (Madison) can get hit with projectiles so her partner (Crystal) merely acts as a satellite option. With the ability to swap shooting directions, plenty of fun weapons and power-ups, and a great sense of humour; what's not to love about Trouble Shooter? It's as goofy as it is enjoyable for casual and hardcore shoot 'em up fans alike.

Trouble Shooter gameplay video →
Trouble Shooter screenshot
These ladies sure love getting into trouble

Wings of Wor

Playing as a floating magic-casting wizard is nothing new in the arcade shooter genre yet Wings of Wor offers plenty of fresh and exciting fun with its clever use of spells. As you progress through stages, you'll collect power-ups that make your shots more potent and on top of that, you can collect up to 3 spells which activate for a limited time. These spells especially come in handy whenever you're dealing with a barrage of enemies who sometimes come in heavily-populated onslaughts which is exhilarating to overcome every time.

Wings of Wor gameplay video →
Wings of Wor screenshot
This guy can breathe underwater and use magic? What a show-off...

Truxton

As a port of an arcade gem, Truxton is an entertaining shmup with its clever power-up system and devastating bomb attacks which take the form of giant skulls. How cool is that? Its gameplay is similar to Raiden in that you can swap to 3 different weapons after picking up their appropriate power-ups and you can then make them even stronger whenever you acquire certain thresholds of P items. I like the green beam cannon best. Anyway, this is a great shoot 'em up and one that has surely held up over the years.

Truxton gameplay video →
Truxton screenshot
It may not look like much but this is one fantastic shmup

Bio-Hazard Battle

Bio-Hazard Battle is one of the first shmups for Sega Genesis that I owned and it blew me away when I played it back in the day. In fact, it still does! You basically select from a variety of 4 ships which resemble insect alien things with their own distinct gameplay then decide which stage order to tackle. The gameplay that follows has you swap between 4 weapons and control a satellite cannon which can block enemy projectiles. You can also charge your shot and the music and graphics are top-notch with plenty of memorable environments.

Bio-Hazard Battle gameplay video → Sega Genesis Classics Review (includes Bio-Hazard Battle)
Bio-Hazard Battle screenshot
Which weird alien insect thing will you play as?

Gaiares

Gaiares is another classic shoot 'em up that I still play nowadays. It reminds me a lot of R-Type in that you have a bit that you can shoot out at enemies. What's different here is that it moves like an option and whenever it attaches to an enemy, you absorb it and copy its weapon. On top of that, if you absorb multiple of the same enemy then your weapon becomes stronger. However, trying to accomplish this when all sorts of hazards are flying towards you can be intensely tricky so you definitely need to be cautious while upgrading.

Gaiares gameplay video →
Gaiares screenshot
I wish I could copy this monstrosity before facing it in battle

Sagaia

I love the Darius series and Sagaia is essentially a port of Darius II for arcade. The franchise's branching paths, fish-themed bosses, and power-up system are incorporated to make one phenomenal shooter that's well-adapted for console. Blasting away entire formations of enemies in order to continually power-up your ship is incredibly satisfying stuff and its sound and visuals are spot-on, too. Super Nintendo players may have got both Darius Twin and Darius Force yet Sagaia is a special game that I find myself going back to more often.

Sagaia gameplay video → Darius Cozmic Collection Console Review (includes Sagaia)
Sagaia screenshot
It's nice when the enemies line up to get shot

Elemental Master

Warning: Elemental Master is tough! In this vertical magic-based shmup, you control a sorcerer who traverses grueling stages that are filled with clever hazards and enemy formations. In fact, its stages are so epic that playing it will make you feel like you're actually on a taxing journey through a demonic land. As you blast away enemies, you'll have to constantly stay on your toes because they can spawn from any edge of the screen. Thankfully, you can turn around by the tap of a button to take care of sneaky encroaching foes.

Elemental Master gameplay video →
Elemental Master screenshot
This is one badass wizard!

Gley Lancer

Although Gley Lancer never released in North America back in the day, it was ported to Wii's Virtual Console and I'm extremely happy that it was. Before beginning your mission, you decide how your options will control and upon picking up weapons, up to 2 can appear and will be controlled according to your decision. You don't really see this amount of customization in retro shooters and the amount of weapons that you can change to is fantastic. The resulting customizable and fast-paced gameplay will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Gley Lancer gameplay video →
Gley Lancer screenshot
Good thing my cockpit has appropriate heating

M.U.S.H.A.

Compile's Aleste series of shmups has some top-notch games including Super Aleste (AKA Space Megaforce) for SNES. However, you may not be aware that M.U.S.H.A. is an entry in this awesome franchise as you pilot a giant mech instead of a standard fighter ship. As you shoot at a vast assortment of enemies and bosses, you'll power-up your weapons as well as collect a couple of satellites that you can position to certain settings by the tap of a button. Throw in 3 secondary weapons and you're looking at a ton of firepower. Oh, and did I mention that the music is absolutely incredible? It sounds like it belongs in a Mega Man X game and the stages are gorgeous, too!

M.U.S.H.A. gameplay video →
M.U.S.H.A. screenshot
A surprising amount of retro games have bloody skulls with guns on them

Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar

Finally, I find the very best shmup on Sega Genesis to be Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar; although I prefer calling it by its original title of Thunder Force IV. Technosoft were masters of creating wonderful shooters and they also made Elemental Master. In this awesome sequel, you navigate your way through large stages that scroll horizontally yet they have verticality to them, too, so playing through multiple times will provide a much different experience depending on where you position your ship. Its gameplay is tight, the weapons are extremely gratifying, it features top-notch 16-bit visuals and music, and the bosses are mind-blowing so it definitely deserves top spot. If you decide to check it out then be sure to play Thunder Force III as well which is another quality scrolling shooter.

Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar gameplay video → Sega Ages: Lightening Force Review
Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar screenshot
Blades + claws = total destruction
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