So you no longer have space for a LAN party, and the guy with the XBox is on vacation in San Jose. It’s Saturday night, there’s time to kill, and your pals look to you… you, the nutty Sega gamer who’s been trying for years to convince everyone that the Saturn did have good games and that the NES was weak compared to the Master System. You see your months of effort building to a culmination, and you know inside that this might be your best chance to convert your buddies to the Sega fold forever. But it’s essential you play your cards right. Pull out Sonic Shuffle and you might find yourself bound and gagged in the basement. This guide will help you give your friends a night to remember, a golden memory of four sleep-deprived gamers huddled around the glow of the television, indulging in the best multi-player party games on the Sega Genesis.
Time to break out some hardware.
First off, get four official Sega six-button controllers. The first impression a gamer has of a system is the controller, and the history of gaming consoles is haunted by the anguished screams of those who died gripping poorly-designed game pads. You don’t want your friends cursing a crappy Majesco pad as it falls apart in their sweaty hands, and you also don’t want to put up with the sarcasm when they try to play a fighting game with only three buttons.
Your next step is to snag a four-way multi-tap. This handly little splitter pops into your controller ports and gives you the ability to play with more than the usual two people. There are three varieties, one by EA, one by Sega, and an aftermarket model by Performance. The EA tap will only work with Electronic Arts games, and the Sega version is the same way about its games. Get the Performance splitter, however, and you can play all multiplayer games out there. A lot of them seem to be defective or broken these days though, so the risk is up to you.
Checklist: four controllers, a multi-tap, chairs, drinks, snacks (not greasy, though, or you’ll gum up those nice game pads), and maybe even a little background music. Good? All right, let’s fill up that shopping basket at the pawn shop and get the party started!
Max Players: 4
Addiction Level: “Food is unnecessary!”
Bomberman is one of those games that everyone used to know, but these days the little helmeted guy and his nondescript mammal pal gets very little attention. Let’s reverse that trend, okay? The premise of this game is simple: use bombs to clear out obstacles in a maze and blow the crap out of all your opponents. The action is fast, frantic, and very confusing at first, but therein lies the fun. Mega Bomberman is a real crowd pleaser because of its four-player capacity and its charming visuals can even get the ladies involved. (Just don’t go overboard with the smack talk and you’re golden.) Demand for this game has gone up in recent days, but it’s still not too bad. Expect to lay down anywhere from $8 to $15 for this one.
Max Players: 4
Addiction Level: “Just…one…more…floor…*gasp*”
I never found this edition of Gauntlet to be very much fun by myself, with wave after wave of enemies, a dumb narrator, and really crappy graphics. But as you start adding people the narrator grows increasingly hilarious, the enemies are mowed down faster and faster, and the graphics are suddenly the last thing on your mind. There’s a bit of slowdown at times, unfortunately, but unless you’re playing with absolute bores there won’t be anything but cheering as the Wizard makes his final stand and laughing as the narrator quips, “Melf neebs ood badlee!” The only bad thing about Gauntlet 4 at a party is that it takes some thought to get from floor to floor; otherwise it’s a brilliant thing to pop in when energy is waning. Just watch ’em fight over who gets to play as the Valkyrie… Gauntlet 4 goes for a breezy $10 – $15 all the time, so it’s not a big investment.
Max Players: 2
Addiction Level: “Two in the morning? Who gives ***? What?!! IPPON?!!!!”
This might come as a surprise, but I’ve found (at least in our uncivilized day and age) that 2D versus fighters don’t go over very well with your average plebeian gamer raised on Halo and World of Warcraft . They don’t get the Dragon Punch concept at all, and they’re basically inept when it comes to combos. That’s why Samurai Shodown works when Street Fighter II and Fatal Fury crash and burn. The combat is bloody, ferocious, and as artistic as all get out. It’s engaging even to someone who has no idea what they’re doing and is very friendly to button mashers and combo morons alike. All it takes is a good thumb or a clever sense of timing on counter attacks. Better yet, you can adjust the time so the fights are long enough to satisfy those playing but not so lengthy as to bore the guys next in line. This is the only Genesis game I’ve ever seen that can make six guys stand up and scream “Ippon.” All for under $10 anywhere fine games are sold.
Max Players: 4
Addiction Level: “Reach for my controller again and you’ll pull back a bloody stump!”
As the only four-player versus fighter for the system, and with the added prestige of being a import-only Treasure release, Makyo Toitsusen is not exactly the cheapest item on the list. In fact, it’ll run you around $50 through TecToy’s cryptic site, in addition to the price of a Game Genie or language switch. (See Sega-16’s boundary-busting Locked Out feature for more information.) But is it worth it? YES! All those crazy energy attacks and no slowdown to be seen make this a game you must play before you die. In fact, it’s so good you could make it the centerpiece of your party. Just be sure to allot plenty of playtime, because it’s going to be hard to pry people away from the tube once they get the hang of it. In short, Makyo Toitsusen is probably a contestant for the best 2D fighter no one’s ever played, so why don’t you be a good citizen and help introduce the world to this rare gem? Just be sure no one takes it home afterwards…
NBA Hang Time
Max Players: 4
Addiction Level: “Go home? Word to your mother, fool!”
This game has long been my little secret. While everyone argues themselves blue in the face over the three million NBA Jam and Jam TE ports on all systems from here to Andromeda, I just throw in Hang Time and give a little smirk. Bigger characters, better special effects, smoother frame rate, more moves… what more can you ask for? You can even customize your head, for cryin’ out loud! People were probably tired of the formula back in the day when this came out, but a decade later Hang Time stands up proudly and demands some more attention. I’ll give it some, and you should too at your next party. With a multi-tap and a dollar or two for the game itself, you can shoot some great arcade hoops all night long.
Max Players: More than you need, I’m sure.
Addiction Level: “I’m a worm! I’m naked, clueless, and f-e-e-e-e-ling good!”
Who doesn’t like worms, especially when they pack ridiculous weapons to dispatch each other to hell with extreme prejudice? Sure, the series has come a long way since its first outing way back in the early ’90s, but the formula works regardless of the graphics and is hilarious to boot. Better yet, odds are good that your party pals will have played at least one of the installments in the franchise at one point or another, making it easier to pick up and get going. It gets old after a few hours, but until you develop a headache from shouting insults at your comrades it’s all good. For those in the US, break out your Game Genie. Worms is import only, but still doesn’t go for much more than $20 at respectable online retailers.
Max Players: 4
Addiction Level: “I’ll give you forty for this game and system. Okay, fifty for just this game!”
My first impression of General Chaos was that I’d been duped by those who play three games they pick up at a garage sale, then go to GameFAQs and start spreading the word that ” General Chaos is teh best EVAR for Sega!!!1!!! I’m going 2 play some moar!” Then I realized that the confusing single-player trainwreck is just a distraction from the uproarious multi-player mode. It’s a crazy tangle of explosions, fights, and all sorts of mayhem… and things just get worse when someone figures out that pausing the game doesn’t stop grenades. From then on out it’s… well… chaos, for the lack of a better word, and it’s not uncommon to see people body checking their neighbor off his chair in the middle of a tense fist fight. I recommend taking about $10 with you next time you go out for games in case this one turns up, and maybe a few bucks extra for ice packs. You’ll need them.
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
Max Players: 2
Addiction Level: “Let’s go quadruple or nothing! Last game, I swear!”
I don’t care if you’re a Puyo Puyo purist or don’t know your Tetris from your Bejeweled . You WILL have fun with Mean Bean Machine , and the sound of Refugee Beans shaking the screen is sure to echo in your dreams for months. There’s no question that this game is maddeningly addictive, and the infectious soundtrack only seems to compound the problem. I remember once playing forty rounds in a row on this game with my best friend, and although my nerves were sparking and my thumbs were shaking at the end of it, I was ready for more. My buddy loved it, too, and he was color blind! If that’s not a ringing endorsement for you, I don’t know what is. Better yet, this cartridge comes with your very own tabletop dancer! Just the thing to brighten up your party! (Sure, it’s a guy, and he’s a little orange star, but watch how he shakes what his mother gave him!) Heroin-style addiction (without the side effects) can be yours for the low price of about $5 at the local Goodwill.
Tiny Toons Adventures: ACME All-Stars
Max Players: 4
Addiction Level: “My girlfriend can wait; just hit start already!”
The Tiny Toon gang had a good run on the Genesis between the respectable Sonic clone Buster’s Hidden Treasure and this little (still largely overlooked) gem. And while Madden and the host of other multi-player Genesis sports games have become outdated and unappealing, Acme All-Stars is still bouncy and fun. There are multiple competitions to choose from and the action is simple enough to encourage people to just pick up a controller and get in on the fun. Better yet, the Tiny Toon franchise is far from worn out; it’s probably been years since your buddies have seen the little miscreants. Solid control and pretty wild antics amp up the entertainment value, and there is a certain charm to the action. The bottom line? Acme is a good investment that provides an essential change of pace between Gauntlet and General Chaos sessions. Pick it up in the wild if you can find it, but if the local pawn shop isn’t in the habit of stocking such fine wares then I’d still recommend a gander at eBay. For the $10 it fetches you’ll find it to be a great filler title.
And there you have it, nine perfect party games for all types of gamers and non-gamers. There are a lot of other ones, of course, that will suffice pretty well depending on the crowd. Heck, even Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker is good for laughs and is guaranteed to provoke an entire night’s worth of jokes.
Some will say, assuredly, that in the modern age of “officially” supported four-way multi-player and the abundance of games (or entire consoles, in the Wii’s case) specifically built for parties, who needs the Genesis? I, obviously, think there’s always time for the Genesis, but personal preference aside, if you give these games a shot I believe that you, too, will find that inside that black box is plenty of staying power. Enough to make you and all your buddies feel like dancing the night away…