Super Nintendo vs Sega Genesis

Ok, the last thread was pretty big, so let’s have this out right here.

SNES pros:


If you were an RPG nut, you couldn’t beat the SNES.  Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy II & III (or IV & VI for all you emulator peeps), Chrono Trigger (this is enough to win the RPG battle outright), and the Lufia games.  Game, set, match on the RPG front.

Not that there weren’t some good and very innovative RPGs for the Genesis like Phantasy Star IV and Shining Force I & II (and if anybody can find a patched ROM of SF3 for the Saturn, I would give you a huge hug), but nowhere near what the SNES had.

Bigger number of classics

Mega Man X, Star Fox, Metroid, Link, etc.  All great games.  And Super Mario World was a materpiece.  Compare to Sonic the Hedgehog and….well…Sonic the Hedgehog.


The use of top of the pad buttons and an easier layout helped with control and options (8 buttons vs. 3 for the Genesis).


This goes to SNES, hands down.  I’ll be you could hum any number of themes from the SNES right now (Mario theme, Zelda theme, Zero’s theme from Mega Man X, half the Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI soundtrack).  Can any of you still hum the Sonic theme (I can, but I’m a music nerd).

SNES cons:

Not a lot of arcade ports.

Not a lot geared toward adults.

Sega pros:


There was a lot of innovation in Sega games with stuff like Toejam and Earl.

Arcade ports

Altered Beast.  That game owned.

Good sports titles!

Even the shared titles seemed to be presented smoother on the SEGA side.  SEGA wins at sports for sure.

Adult titles

More content for older people.  Mortal Kombat with blood, for instance.

Sega cons:

Game design

Take Sonic out of the mix and SNES rocked SEGA’s face on this front.

Lack of RPGs

When SNES and SEGA were going at it was the golden age of RPGs.


Sega’s strength was its side scrollers and innovation, but they didn’t have enough to overcome the SNES’s polish and solid game design.  SNES wins!

And just for a closer, how many of you remember this theme from Ducktales on the original NES?  :)

GAMING: My brother and I holding the line by kiting forever.
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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Dustin

    SNES had Mortal Kombat, too! :D

    *Block, Up, Up* for all you Scorpion fans!

  • RJ Langley

    So did the Megadrive/Genesis.

    Also the SEGA controller was much better for games of that ilk (or at least the six-button alternative one was), especially games like the Streetfighters. Couldn’t stand the shoulder buttons on controllers myself.

    Plus, Golden Axe. Oh, and anyone who didn’t play Decap Attack missed out.

  • Art Vandelay

    Genesis had NHL 95…aka “The Greatest Video Game Ever.” So I’m not sure how this is even up for debate.

    • eric

      Never liked sports games, but loved this game. Also, Mutant League Football. And Tecmo Bowl for NES. Three frame high five!

  • Rando

    Well both of these systems had to deal with the release of the ungodly abomination known as “Battletoads” so they both have their drawbacks. Super Nintendo did give us “Donkey Kong Country” so I’m willing to give the edge to the SNES. Sega was also the only one between Sega and Nintendo, to release ports of their older games to their newer systems, so Sega get’s a future point. Super Mario Brothers 3 only got to enjoy a return to future Nintendo systems, but I can play Vectorman, Golden Ax, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on at least ten of the fifteen systems in my house right now. That might have more to do with Sega getting out of the consul wars than anything, but dammit I love playing Vectorman on my plasma widescreen TV! In 3D! Sega for life!

  • karmakin

    Genesis had better (and more) EA titles. And that’s about it. It’s not that I’m a strict Genesis hater, there’s a bunch of games on the system I love (Shining Force 1 and 2 being the biggies) it’s just that for most genres, SNES simply had more and better.

    Mortal Kombat on the SNES, even without the blood looked and played better than the Arcade version even, at least that’s my opinion. And the Genesis port was awful. That concept of “adult” was and still is a joke IMO.

    Oh. And the Sega CD had some good games as well, Lunar, and especially Dark Wizard, which is a pretty unique console experience.

    I REALLY disagree when it comes to arcade ports. Other than Sega’s offerings (which I honestly think were lackluster), the SNES had a much better line-up. Final Fight, UN Squadron, Street Fighter II (which was originally only on the SNES), Turtles in Time, Gradius III, etc.

    Actually, now that I think about it, it comes down to publishers. While Sega had strong support from EA, Nintendo had much more support from Capcom, Konami, Square, and Enix, all of whom were really at their peak, arguably.

  • KeganL

    The Genesis was just better, I think. Here’s some reasons you forgot:

    1.) Blast Processing. The Genesis was more powerful than the SNES (though the SNES had faster instruction time, admittedly).

    2.) Release & Support. The Genesis was released earlier than the SNES and had more consistent support, even if it had a smaller pool of overall popular games.

    3.) Phantasy Star. You talk about RPGs but Phantasy Star II is still considered one of the best RPGs to date. It did many “firsts” in the RPG genre and game overall had very few problems. Why make 10 bad RPGs when you can make 1 spectacular one?

    4.) Customization. While they weren’t that popular here in the US, the Genesis had the CD and 32x drive.

    5.) Sega consistently received high ratings for their use of sound and graphical quality, which were both lower than the SNES, who only managed to use their potential… to maybe half that it could have been (NOTE: I’m not denying there weren’t some slammin’ soundtracks on the SNES but most of them were crap. It’s just funny that the few good soundtracks that were on the SNES were the ones that everyone remembers…).

    6.) The Sega Genesis cost less and for its power, that was arguably what won it the console war back in the early 90s.

    Personally, I had both and loved them both. However, credit needs to be given where credit is due.

  • Rory

    What’s interesting to me is that of the classic games you list for the SNES, three of them were properties with previous NES incarnation. Did Nintendo just have a better well of intellectual property to draw from? Was nostalgia for the NES classics a contributing factor to the success of the SNES successors (this is a tempting argument to me, but I have to acknowledge that Mega Man X, A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, and Super Mario World would all have been badass even without the nostalgia bump).

    I think you definitely have to give it the SNES from a design perspective. The SNES controller gave you a lot more flexibility and did it in a way that was suprisingly easy to pick up. It’s a much smaller leap to modern gamepads from the SNES controller than from the Genesis controller. And while someone above lauds Genesis for the customization provided by the CD and 32X, the SNES was badass right out of the box.

  • Ray Staroof


  • AylaSophia

    The SNES wins for me– better controller and I was never a huge fan of the Sonic games. And I think Donkey Kong Country was the best platformer of its generation. Plus, when I was a kid (for reference, I think JT and I are roughly the same age) it seemed like the cool edgy punk kids all had Segas, and I definitely didn’t fit that clique, being a shy bookworm. (Who would, perhaps ironically, grow up to be kind of a punk in college anyway. At least I had a mohawk and was angry at The Establishment.) At the time, that’s what seemed like the defining factor in the Console Wars as fought on the battlefields of the playground.

    Here’s a slightly deraily question that until recently I didn’t realize was up for debate: how do you pronounce the acronyms SNES and NES? I’ve been meeting people who say [nez] and [snez], whereas I always said and heard [en ee ess] or [ess en ee ess]. Or just, y’know “Nintendo” and “Super Nintendo.”

    Also I continuously forget which Sega was called the Megadrive in Europe, can never remember if it’s the Genesis or the Saturn.

    • R10FCB

      It was the Genesis that was named the Megadrive in Europe and Australia. And on the pronunciation, not sure about the rest of the world but here in Australia us kids commonly pronounced it as ness and ess ness if not Nintendo or Super Nintendo. Similar to the nez and snez just not with the z. I referred to it as the Super Nintendo.
      I agree also, the SNES was the better console for me. The controller is the best to date (wii classic controller possibly better?) and Mario, Zelda and Metroid can not be beat. That being said, I used to love going round to my mates place and playing Sonic and streets of rage.

  • Ing: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream So I Comment Instead

    Altered Beast. That game owned.

    Explain this to me. I got a port on PS3 and it seemed like a horrible nigh unplayable exercise in poor controls

    • Aliasalpha

      Were you playing it with the dpad or the analogue stick? I seem to recall the 360 version was pretty awful with the sticks but adequate with the dpad. Never quite got the love for the game, cool concept but even when it was new in the arcades it felt like it had rough controls & lacked polish

  • sqlrob

    Just get both and play the best on each. Simple solution :D

  • Diane Everhart

    Just sent the old Sega Genesis home with Michaelyn’s brother. Couldn’t believe how excited he was that I still had it. He mentioned that he would like to have Toejam and Earl!

  • Aliasalpha

    You missed out a Con in each list “Wasn’t the Amiga”

  • Tod

    Over here in the UK it was the Sega Megadrive vs the Super Nintendo..

    Luckily in our house we managed to have both, the Nintendo being my sister’s but down in the living room, and the Sega up with me..

    To me it was a draw.. Super Mario World being the best sense of exploration in a game to my young mind, those caves were spooky!
    Donkey Kong JR’s graphics and funky beat were groundbreaking, and the game suprisingly not mentioned as yet (unless my old eyes are failing me at 7am!) Mario Kart.. possibly the easiest to access and yet still fun years later multiplayer game ever.. For social play that set a standard few have come close to..

    And up in my bedroom on the Sega? Well, sure a few platformers, never really got into RPG’s at that time.. but the game I lost days and sometimes nights to?

    John Madden.

    Never really ported to the Nintendo so well, the Sega’s controller with diagonals seemed better suited as well.. I played that game so much when I first got into the NFL, even to the point of letting the console sort out the games while I played in a Head Coach role, getting the player’s and then seeing how the seaon played out.. sometimes watching a game.. I even used to compile statistics that I recorded over many seasons that rivalled (in my 11yr old mind) the books of stats I had on the NFL..

    No game held my love so much, until WOW came along and enslaved my mind :)

  • Snoof

    People keep talking about Donkey Kong Country, but Yoshi’s Island was a far better platformer.

    Except for that stupid crying baby.

  • Armored Scrum Object

    For the most part, SNES had more/better original games and Genesis had more/better arcade ports. One could never replace the other. Genesis suffered from a limited palette and a somewhat wimpy synthesizer, though both were capable of gorgeous output in the right hands. Of course, Genesis also had a few exclusive gems, such as Gunstar Heroes, Phantasy Star 4, Land Stalker, Shinobi 3, and so on. SNES suffered from a relatively weak CPU, but it was enough for some solid action if properly squeezed (of which more anon).

    @Aliasalpha #13: Amiga was at least a decade ahead of its time in both hardware and OS architecture, but I can’t escape the conclusion that despite its cultural and technical advantages, its game library is vastly overrated by its fans.

    Firstly, Genesis absolutely thrashes Amiga for quality arcade ports. This is not exactly a fair contest when you had Sega themselves handling ports that were handled by the likes of Tiertex* on Amiga, but the result is what it is.

    Secondly, SNES’s best easily competes with Amiga’s best for original soundtracks, artwork, and game mechanics. You think I’m wrong? Then name the Amiga platformer that’s eminently superior to Yoshi’s Island or Donkey Kong Country. Name the Amiga shoot-em-up that’s eminently superior to R-Type III or Axelay. Name the Amiga action-adventure that’s eminently superior to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past or Illusion of Gaia. Name the Amiga RPG that’s eminently superior to Final Fantasy VI or CHRONO FUCKING TRIGGER (keeping in mind that even the 21st-century, PS2 hosted, brutally demanding still a contentious choice for CT’s successor).

    In retrospect, Amiga’s game library really ought to be infamous for its epic failure to live up to the potential of the machine (which I hasten to reiterate — as someone with an interest in computer architecture and digital design — was fucking brilliant for a mass-produced product in 1987).

    *: I have semi-seriously contemplated doing my own port of Strider to Amiga, because Strider and Amiga both deserve better. The Tiertex port genuinely offends my sensibilities, even if it wasn’t really their fault (e.g. brutal budget/schedule constraints).

    • Armored Scrum Object

      And a day later, it looks like I was really being a jerk with this post. Sorry about that.

  • robb

    masster chief is sad.

  • leftwingfox

    Hooray for Zelda style “Adventure” Action/RPGs.

    Quintex gave us a lot of classics: Actraiser, Soulblazer, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma

    There’s also the Final Fantasy side quest Secret of Mana.

    And a couple out of left field, like Lagoon.

  • karmakin

    The Quintex series are the best “underdog” games for systems of that time. My wife and I love those games, myself, especially Soulblazer.

  • WalrusDuckThing-I don’t know

    SNES all the way. Genesis wasn’t terrible, or even a little bad. Pretty good actually. But the games don’t really keep my attention for very long. I can only play Sonic 1,2,3,& Knuckles for about 5-10 minutes at a time, and those games don’t save (except 3) but Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, Zelda, Metroid, and Mario RPG kept me hooked.In fact, the only Genesis game that can keep my attention the longest is Vectorman 1. And that game is short.
    And Sonic/Vectorman aren’t the only Gen games I’ve played, btw.
    Also, blast processing isn’t enough to justify Genesis’s supposed superiority. Think about how they use it compared to SNES mode 7 and super fx.

  • WalrusDuckThing-I don’t know

    Looking back at my comment, I sounded very mean. Sorry, Sega fans.

  • sss

    Snes? Mode 7? Hahaha you must see Pier solar’s Mode 7-Blast Processing!

  • BZ1891

    down r up l ybxa. Anyone remeber?

    Owned both, also had the ms and nes before that. The SNES had the edge for the reasons mentioned by the author, especially the point about the age of rpg was a good one and with zelda/secret of mana at al snes was unbeatable.

  • Nes

    I appear to be a bit late to the party. I blame JT for writing so damn much that I’m 3 months behind :-P


    All this talk of SNES RPGs, and no mention of the Breath of Fire series, nor Earthbound!? For shame!

    But, yes, I have to give SNES the edge. Far more games there that I remember and enjoyed (pretty much every single one mentioned so far; I still revisit CT to this day, despite knowing everything there is to know in it), while on Genesis I only really liked Phantasy Star 4 (played 3, which was “meh,” haven’t played 1 or 2), the Sonics, and the Shining Forces. Also, I enjoyed the controller enough to find a USB adapter for it so I could use it on my computer. Works pretty well for anything you don’t need a stick for.