The Sega Genesis Mini is pound-for-pound the best classic console available thanks to a mixture of premium quality finish, a great games library, and attention to detail that allows for some truly special moments.
The Sega Genesis Mini is late to the party. As one half of the legendary 16-bit console wars (the other, of course, being Nintendo's SNES, which received a miniature console version almost two years ago), it represents a crucial moment in gaming history that really can't be understated, even though people tend to downplay how important Sega really was to the development of modern consoels in the late 80s and early 90s. The fact that it never had a chance to defend itself while others heaped praise onto the admittedly great SNES Classic was a travesty.
Well, better late than never, then. The Sega Genesis Mini is finally rolling out onto shelves soon, and video game historians and Sega fans alike are eagerly awaiting a chance to relive one of the most exciting times in gaming. The question that they'll be asking is whether or not the Sega Genesis Mini was worth the wait. The answer, luckily for everyone involved, is that it was - very much so, in fact. The Sega Genesis Mini is pound-for-pound the best classic console available thanks to a mixture of premium quality finish, a great games library, and attention to detail that allows for some truly special moments. It doesn't come without its flaws, but the Sega Genesis Mini is much more SNES Classic than the PlayStation answer, which should help assuage fears over what direction the miniature device is heading.
First and foremost, the emulation of the Sega Genesis Mini is pristine. That doesn't mean that the graphics have been improved, because that would kind of defeat the purpose of attempting to relive gaming moments of yesteryear. Instead, the Sega Genesis Mini makes like WoW Classic and preserves as much as it can of its source material, ensuring that the games look as close to their original versions as possible. With that said, the device does a good job of porting that to much larger and clearer television screens from today's age, and the Sega Genesis Mini doesn't run into issues where the games look ugly, stretched, or bloated - moreso than they might have when they released around three decades ago, anyways. Ultimately, the look of the games is great, and the emulation backgrounds that help fill out widescreen displays help capture that era of gaming pitch-perfectly.
The Sega Genesis Mini also has a save state feature that allows players to save their progress at basically any point in the game, which helps maneuver around tricky moments in some titles. It's a nice if not mostly standard feature in these devices, and one that can save consumers a lot of time depending on the game and its relative difficulty. Unfortunately, the Sega Genesis Mini does not feature a rewind function like some of its counterparts, something that really feels like a missing element rather than an add-on that can be skipped. It's difficult to speak to the complexity and workload of adding such a feature to the device, so it's possible it was simply too difficult - but it really is something that is noticeably lacking from the console.
The main pull of the Sega Genesis Mini is, of course, the games library itself. In that regard, it's a smashing success, albeit one that anyone could have predicted once the full Sega Genesis Mini games list was released months ago. Classics like Sonic the Hedgehog and Castlevania: Bloodlines steal the spotlight here, but some lesser-known titles like Monster World 4, Phantasy Star 4, and Gunstar Heroes are all nice inclusions, too. If there's one thing the console is lacking in terms of game selection, it's that there are literally no sports titles. NHL 94, an under-appreciated beauty of a game that laid the groundwork for that sport becoming a bigger feature on console gaming, is off in a 16-bit penalty box somewhere. Given the careful selection process of many of these games, no sports titles seems like a pretty big oversight, but one that won't necessarily be missed by those who don't know what it is they're missing.
The Sega Genesis Mini is also a great classic console for multiplayer. It comes with two controllers right out of the box and has Streets of Rage 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Contra: Hard Corps, and more to choose from as multiplayer titles. That's to say nothing of Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition, which is just as good at causing debates over button mashing and fractured friendships as it was when it released in 1993. One of the big draws of these devices is their ability to unite lapsed gaming fans, and the Sega Genesis Mini does a fantastic job unifying friends on that front.
The actual finish of the device is also remarkable in that it feels so solid and well-done. The Sega Genesis Mini is a rock solid console that feels satisfying to hold and looks good when it's set up. The controller cables are 6 feet long, which is actually quite nice, since other iterations of these devices have not been so kind to modern day setups. Maybe it's the sleek black exterior that has withstood the test of time, but the Sega Genesis Mini is the kind of collector's item that could just as easily sit pretty on a shelf somewhere should someone decide they don't want to play it anymore. It's the little things that matter with these classic releases, and it feels like that's been paid close attention to by Sega.
With that said, the best addition to the console design is the ability to reset it without getting up. Old school games require a lot of resets, whether it's out of frustration or necessity, and having to get up every time to do them would be something of a deterrent. The Sega Genesis Mini allows players to hold the Start button for a few seconds to access a quick menu that lets them either return to the main menu, save or load a save state, or perform an in-game reset. The latter is much appreciated.
The Sega Genesis Mini has its short-comings, but they feel like they're the sort of thing that shouldn't prevent someone from purchasing the console - just a few nagging issues here or there that don't do much to sour the experience as a whole. And what an experience it is - the Sega Genesis Mini is a welcomed addition to the classic console market, and immediately cements itself as one of the best offerings available. Obviously, players will get more or less mileage out of it based on their game preferences, but there's something for almost everyone - sorry, sports fans - on the Sega Genesis Mini, and that should make it a hot commodity heading into the 2019 holiday season and beyond.
The Sega Genesis Mini releases for $79.99 USD, $99.99 CAD on September 19, 2019 in the Americas and October 4, 2019 in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Screen Rant was provided a console for the purposes of this review.