Top 10 Best Platformers on the Sega Megadrive

Top 10 best platformers on the Sega Mega Drive

Last Updated on March 19, 2024

The Sega Mega Drive has dozens of platformers in its library. While many of them are charming in their own ways, some have survived the test of time better than others. Here are my picks for the top 10 best platformers on the Sega Mega Drive

10 of the best Platformers on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive

These games are ordered with my favorites at the bottom, but I would recommend any of these games to fans of the genre. To stop the list from being flooded with Sonic games, I’ve limited my choices to a single game per franchise.

#10 James Pond 2: Codename Robocod

Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

James Pond 2 may not be the best platformer on the system, but it’s fun, accessible, and a personal favorite of mine.

Oddly enough, James Pond 2 is technically a Christmas game, as your objective is to rescue toys in Santa’s workshop.

Platforming is quite simple. You dispatch enemies by jumping on them and face a motley assortment of enemies, from buses with faces to soldiers made of sweets. Level design is a bit of a mess, but it makes sense as James can stretch and climb across ceilings.

Codename Robocod is more basic than the other titles on this list in both gameplay and visuals. Still, it remains a fun game and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

#9 Aladdin

Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

Some Disney movie adaptations are a little lackluster on the MegaDrive. The Lion King, for example, is so difficult that it’s a lesson in frustration.

Aladdin is a difficult game, but it never feels unfair and perfectly follows the movie. It’s a treat to play through key parts of the film, and the MegaDrive does a great job of kicking out well-known songs in 16-bit form.

A frantic race to escape the Cave of Wonders on a Magic Carpet is a highlight, but platforming is solid throughout. The controls are a bit floaty, but Aladdin is perfectly playable and enjoyable from start to finish.

#8 Earthworm Jim

Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

Earthworm Jim is a hard-as-nails platformer starring an Earthworm in a space suit. Believe it or not, the main character is probably the most ‘normal’ thing about the game.

Every level is a bizarre fever dream you won’t see anywhere else. One moment, you’re in hell fighting lawyers. The next, you’re in a bungie competition with a monster made of snot. There’s never a dull moment, and you never know what’s just around the corner.

There’s a decent platformer nestled in with all the weirdness, and Jim even starred in his own TV show following the game.

#7 Pocahontas

Top 10 Best Platformers on the Sega Megadrive
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

Pocahontas is another Disney property that escaped Lion King’s horrendous difficulty settings.

The gameplay is unique, as there’s plenty of light puzzle-solving. There are also collectible ‘spirit powers’ to upgrade Pocahontas’s abilities.

The game is slow-paced compared to most on this list, but it has a ton of depth, pretty graphics, and a superb soundtrack. The lack of a traditional UI is a nice touch and avoids unnecessary clutter. Even if you’re not a fan of the movie, the game is absolutely worth your time.

#6 Contra Hard Corps

Top 10 Best Platformers on the Sega Megadrive
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

The Contra games are legendary ‘run-and-gun’ platformers on the NES and SNES. We only got Contra: Hard Corps on the Mega Drive, but it captures the magic of its Nintendo counterparts.

Everything you expect from Contra is here, from non-stop action to fantastic boss battles.

This is a game where you can never stop shooting. You’re outnumbered, and your attention is always split between multiple threats. Like its predecessors, you can enjoy the carnage with a friend, but it doesn’t make it easier.

Contra Hard Corps is a demanding game, and fans of the series wouldn’t have it any other way.

#5 Gunstar Heroes

Top 10 Best Platformers on the Sega Megadrive
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

Gunstar Heroes is a fast-paced platformer with creative weapons and bombastic boss battles.

Weapons can be combined to make brand-new ones, and it’s a lot of fun finding what works with your play style. There’s never a dull moment across Gunstar Heroes’ seven stages, and the first four can be tackled in any order.

The graphics are great for the console, and every stage feels unique and demands a different approach. Gunstar Heroes is fun alone, but it is so much better with a friend if you can handle the chaos.

#4 Mega Man: The Wily Wars

Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

Mega Man: The Wily Wars is an exceptional platformer celebrating the original trilogy.

Wily Wars contains remakes of the first three games and the unlockable Wily Tower if you beat them all. The game gives Mega Man the ‘Super Mario All-Stars’ treatment and is of incredible value for newcomers to the series.

I enjoy what I’ve played of Wily Wars, but I’m not a Mega Man savant and can’t comment on the differences between versions. I’ve read mixed opinions, but in my experience, it’s a superb addition to the Mega Drive library.

#3 Toy Story

Top 10 Best Platformers on the Sega Megadrive
Remember this scene from the movie? – Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

I remember being blown away by the graphics in Toy Story when I first played it. Fast-forward to 2024, and the ambitious visuals still hold up.

Toy Story is a stylish platformer that follows the movie but isn’t afraid to do its own thing. One notable level is a dream sequence where Woody fights Buzz, and it’s a great way to turn his jealousy into a playable stage.

Mega Drive renditions of the Pixar soundtrack are fantastic, and there’s never a dull moment in this action-packed platformer.

#2 Rocket Knight Adventures

Top 10 Best Platformers on the Sega Megadrive
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

Rocket Knight Adventures is a superb platformer that doesn’t receive nearly as much recognition as it should.

Rocket Knight (Sparkster) has a basic slash attack, but the best part of his kit is the Jetpack. You can use the pack to fly across the screen, damaging enemies or traversing obstacles.

Several stages are dedicated to flying, providing a welcome break from platforming. Rocket Knight Adventures is a joy to play with a firm but fair difficulty curve and a kickass soundtrack. There’s a decent sequel called Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2, but I prefer the original’s aesthetic.

#1 Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Top 10 Best Platformers on the Sega Megadrive
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

It may be low-hanging fruit, but Sonic 2 is widely regarded as one of the best 2D platformers ever made. The Blue Bolt’s second outing is a massive upgrade from the first, giving our hero the iconic spin dash.

Stages have 2 acts instead of 3, and each locale is varied with creative boss battles. Few games nail the feeling of speed like Sonic 2, and movement is precise and responsive.

I could write an entire article on what Sonic 2 does right, but it’s a masterpiece. The graphics are great, the music is iconic, and it’s an essential purchase if you own the system. You can even play the game as Knuckles if you own a Sonic and Knuckles cartridge.

Those are my picks for the best platformers on the Mega Drive. I have first-hand experience with these games, but if I’ve missed your favorite, the chances are I’ve not played it.

If you’re a fan of retro platformers and are open to trying titles on the Sony PlayStation, check out our list of superb titles on the platform.

About the author

Anthony is a freelance writer and has worked in the industry for four years. He's furiously competitive and is always looking for the next big multiplayer hit. Anthony is a passionate PS1 collector and firmly believes in playing his retro games rather than letting them collect dust on a shelf. He also loves speedrunning and always looks forward to the next GDQ and ESA events.

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