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Leviathyn Debate: Super Nintendo vs. Sega Genesis
One of the great things about video games is that we have choices. Current generations consoles offer us myriad options to play our games, whether it be Nintendo and their flood of first-party masterpieces, Sony and their extensive exclusive stable or Microsoft with its frequent timed exclusives and palyer base. Before that, we were faced with decisions like PS2 or Xbox. Ninendo 64 or PlayStation? However, no console war was as heavily fought as the original show-down: SNES vs. Genesis.
Most people have already picked a side years ago, and the truth is that both consoles have merits. Sega allowed the infamous Blood Code, showing everybody that gamers weren’t just for kids anymore, and the SNES had an unbeatable selection of mascots that appealed to a wide range of gamers. Since we love a good argument here at Leviathyn, we decided to go toe-to-toe to see which console truly had the edge. It’s time to put our admittedly fuzzy memories to the test. Who wins? It’s a question that may never be truly answered, but you can see our arguments below. Who do you agree with?
“Is this even a debate? Of course the SNES was better than the Genesis. Now, let me start off by saying I owned both. I had a healthy choice of games on both sides too but when I look at the cartridges I had on the Genesis it just can’t add up to what is on the SNES. Let’s see, on the Genesis we got basically all of the Sonic carts, Golden Axe titles, Streets of Rage, Ristar, Dynamite Headdy, Comix Zone, Road Rash, Splatterhouse, Phantasy Star I-IV, Sword of Vermillion, Boogerman, Shinobi, Shadowrun, Bubsy 3D, Shining Force, and trust me the list goes on. That’s a really solid list made up of some of the best games on the system. Let’s see SNES’ side: Super Mario World, Super Mario RPG, Yoshi’s Island, Chrono Trigger, A Link to the Past, Mega Man X series, Lufia II, Congo’s Caper, Earthbound, Super Metroid, Mega Man 7, Earthworm Jim 2, Turtles in Time, Donkey Kong Country series, Super Star Wars series, and a ton more. While the Genesis carts I owned were great there is just no contest here. I’ve played a bunch more games over my friends house for both consoles but even still I had better experiences on the SNES. I know I owned more games but I just can’t find them all right now.
Games aren’t the only aspect in which the SNES wins hands down. How about music systems? The Genesis has an absolutely terrible sound engine inside of it that makes most games sound like they had their soundtracks made by Keyboard Cat. Granted, there were a couple that stood out nicely but overall, mostly garbage. The SNES sound system was much, much better. What’s a great example to prove my point? Listen to the first stage’s music in Aladdin. The SNES version is leaps and bounds better while on the Genesis you’re left wanting to rip your ears off.
The controller on the SNES offered more choice for developers and most of the times they used every button they could. The addition of the L and R buttons on top is something that future competitor used and still do to this day while the Genesis made due with just a D-Pad and three buttons. Simple? Yes. Practical? Not in the slightest. Switching between items and/or weapons was so much easier in games that allowed things like that because of the shoulder buttons. The Genesis’ controller just ensured that if you were playing a game that had a ton of items or things to choose from, you best be ready to navigate a ton of menus.
I would say that the SNES always won with exclusives but two things are holding me back from really using that against the Genesis. One, there were so many exclusives back then that there were more of those than multi-platform games. Second, Nintendo had plenty to work with thanks to the NES. I feel that throwing all of Nintendo’s heavy hitters against what Sega dug up to bring out would be unfair. However, that just goes to show you how strong the SNES against the competition.
How about that stacking cart method the Genesis used? You put the GameShark in first, which then you attach Sonic & Knuckles. Sonic 3 then goes on top of Sonic & Knuckles. Why? The idea of this when Sonic & Knuckles first came out was impressive and fun. It just got really out of hand. I remember when I had Sega Channel and I had to duct tape the thing down or it lift my Genesis right off the platform it was on.
The SNES also had a way to let you play your GameBoy games on the TV. This was huge back then. Watching Pokemon on the big screen instead of the GameBoy was great. The Super GameBoy was an actual GameBoy that transmitted the picture to the SNES and then your TV. That was sick back then. The Game Gear had nothing to coincide with the Genesis. It was left on its own.
One last thing I want to bring up about how we can throw this debate out the window. Do you remember “blast processing?” This was Sega’s made up technology to try and lure stupid people into thinking the Genesis was so much better than Nintendo’s offering. Just go on YouTube and look up the old commercial from Sega that showed off “blast processing”. What a crock. I can’t believe that was actually approved to go on the air. The marketing for the Genesis was outrageous. All of the commercials for the SNES showed kids playing games and enjoying themselves. Sure they had stuff like the players being covered in armor as they played and robots everywhere but it was a way to show how your imagination would take off as you played. Most of them showed actual gameplay and what you really need to see to make a purchase (or have your parents’ make a purchase). Sega had F1 race cars taking off down a stretch with a TV planted in the back showing off split second views of Sonic and Echo. BLAST PROCESSING! Get out of here.
The SNES was a monster. It sold more, had better games, marketing, controller, and even melded with its handheld brother. Sega did really well with the Genesis and going up against Nintendo. You can’t take that away from them. However, it’s just too lopsided for me to compare the two. I enjoyed both but I spent a much larger amount of time on my SNES.”
“It used to be it mattered what console you had. Now, few games are exclusive anymore, leaving that realm to timed DLC windows and first-party titles. Gone are the days of pivotal third-party exclusives and radically different game experiences on different consoles. It wasn’t always that way though; when Sega and Nintendo went head-to-head, that was a battle where you could be proud to pick a side. As much as I loved my Super Nintendo, and with first-party blockbusters like Super Mario, Metroid and Zelda it truly was top-notch, Genesis offered a different experience for a more mature gamer.
If Super Nintendo was The Beatles of gaming, then Genesis was the Rolling Stones. Nintendo was a notoriously restrictive company, so many of their titles featured toned-down mechanics. The best example is Mortal Kombat. While neither featured blood as a default setting, the Genesis had the legendary Blood Code, which could be entered to enable blood and gorier fatalities. As gamers, we’ve become numb to graphic kills. I mean, there’s only so many times you can see a brutally rendered decapitations. In 1993, though, that was simply an experience that wasn’t available anywhere else. Gamers as a whole were growing up, and watching Sub-Zero pull Scorpion’s spine out was a welcome contrast to Mario’s light-hearted antics.
In retrospect, it is impossible to deny that the SNES more of an impact on gaming history than the Genesis. As iconic as Sonic is, Nintendo’s stable of characters simply cannot be touched. But this isn’t about which console affected gaming history more. A large part of gamers were more excited about bringing the arcade experience to their houses, and the simply did that better. Titles like GoldenAxe, Streets of Rage, Road Rash and Shinobi brought a novelty factor with them, which was something the Genesis did fairly regularly.
While Nintendo may have won the battle of the exclusive characters, another main battle line is the differing versions of the same games. Instead of simply developing one game for both sytems, games were often quite different on the two consoles, sometimes even being developed by different studios. The list of titles that were slightly better on Genesis than SNES is pretty large: Aladdin, Shadowrun, Earthworm Jim, Beavis and Butthead, Fatal Fury and Outlander were all arguably better on Genesis, and a few titles, like Jurassic Park, Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse Robocop vs.Terminator, Mortal Kombat and Pac-Man 2 blew their SNES counterparts away. Total exclusives like Sonic, Toe Jam & Earl, Phantasy Star, Shining Force, Gunstar Heroes, Comix Zone and Vectorman, Kid Chameleon and Ecco the Dolphin don’t hurt either. That’s a pretty extensive list.
However, if the Genesis has one clear clincher, it is in the sport game experience. Every sports game I can think of, without exception, is better on the Genesis. EA Sports published their own Genesis games under their EA Sports brand, and there were few other developers that had the sports chops to match them. They developed for the SNES as well, but they were almost universally inferior to the Genesis versions. Joe Montana’s Football, Sportstalk Baseball and Football, and World Series Baseball were more icing on the Genesis Sports Cake, but the ornament was NBA Jam. The Genesis featured much more announcer commentary, including the infamous Boom-Shakalaka, and actually featured music during the match. The SNES version was stuck with a neutered announcer and silence during the matches. The SNES did a lot of things right, but Sega owned the sports scene.
People were oddly fierce in their devotion to the Genesis. In a way the Super Nintendo was the big bad corporation, and Sega was the scrappy little guy trying to find its niche. And it did. Nobody thought Nintendo could be challenged, but the Genesis did more than challenge, it almost won. History is written by the winner, and, while the SNES definitely won in the long run, the Genesis was the console to have in the moment. It was very much a product of its time, and its allure is a hard thing to tangibly measure, but the Genesis had a unique spirit to it that has simply never been matched.”
Well, there are our arguments. What side of the debate do you fall on? Would you not give up your Genesis for anything, or where you a Nintendo gamer all the way. For more arguing game journalists, check out Jason and Cassidee’s debate on introducing multiplayer into traditionally single-player franchises.