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Arriving 3 years after the Sega Genesis and 4 years before the Sega Saturn, the Sega Game Gear is part of the fourth generation of video game consoles and directly competed with Nintendo’s offering, the Game Boy.

Technologically superior to the Game Boy, the Game Gear featured a backlit color screen and better graphics. The Game Gear used the same 8-bit graphics as the Master System, released in 1986, and not the 16-bit graphics of the Genesis, but graphically still had the leg up on the Game Boy. The best Game Gear platformers took advantage of this, as well as the wider screen of the Game Gear.

Before being discontinued in 1997, the Game Gear had a lot of action games to its name, being most known for this genre as well as for racing games. Even still, the Game Boy became the best-selling handheld console of the era and the Game Gear lagged behind commercially; this was likely mostly due to its relatively short battery life (3 to 5 hours) and lack of original games, most being ports from the Master System.

A lot of accessories were released for the Game Gear, such as the Super Wide Gear, offering an expanded game screen, and a TV tuner, for watching analog TV. Gamers could even charge the device in the car with the Car Gear Adapter, play multiplayer games with the Gear to Gear cable and play Master System games using a special adapter.

There are a lot of different kinds of action games, including many very popular genres, such as fighting games, shooter games, and platform games. Action games usually depend on rather physical attributes such as reaction time and hand-eye coordination. Most, but not all, of the action games for the Game Gear would be classed as platform games. These are a subgenre of action games where the main objective is to travel to certain points in a level, involving platforms that are maneuvered between by climbing and jumping.

Although most of its game collection wasn’t strictly unique to the console, the Game Gear still had many spectacular platform titles that are well remembered by those fortunate enough to have one. If you’re a lucky owner of a Game Gear, come with us as we delve into the best Game Gear platformers that you can get your hands on.

#7: Mega Man

The Game Gear release of Mega Man in 1995 was rather unique, in that it was a sort of mish-mash of previous Mega Man games that had been released years earlier.

Featuring boss stages from Mega Man 4 and 5, the storyline remains largely the same as its predecessors, focusing on Mega Man’s mission to defeat the evil Dr. Wily and the 6 robot masters he commands.

Like in the original series, Mega Man is controlled by the player, running, jumping, and climbing his way through the 2D side-scrolling stages while shooting enemies to destroy them. Mega Man has the assistance of his robot dog Rush, which can help him jump higher, as well as special abilities gained through defeating the robot masters found at the end of each stage. These allow Mega Man to use skills such as shooting bubbles or stars.

The game was criticized for its increased enemy movement speed and smaller handheld screen leading to greater difficulty but overall was praised for its graphics, gameplay, and sound. For fans of the original series looking for a slightly different experience, or those Game Gear owners wanting to try out the series, Mega Man is definitely worth a try as one of the best Game Gear platformers going.

mega man
Mega Man is a classic for a reason!

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#6: Tails Adventure

Tails Adventure came out in 1995 and is strangely one of only two Sonic the Hedgehog games to feature Tails as the main controllable character. Tails journeys around Cocoa Island, collecting items to help him fight off the Kukku Army that’s invading the island.

The game is notable for its significant departure from the gameplay style typically used in the series; the game is much slower in pace and emphasizes exploration over speed, as well as favoring item collection and backtracking over strictly linear progression.

26 items can be collected, which afford Tails different abilities, such as bombs used for destroying enemies or a small robot that can fit into narrow areas. As you can also expect, Tails can fly for a short time, something which Sonic can never do. The game was compared to the Metroid and Castlevania series in terms of its exploration elements, more so than the Sonic series.

Although for most players the different play style of Tails Adventure was a hit, for some it was a miss, citing its slow pace and sometimes repetitive gameplay once you realize you don’t have the item needed to complete the stage. Even with that said, the graphics and controls were generally praised, as well as the secret areas and inventory giving more depth to the gameplay. When you’re looking for an alternative take on the classic Sonic games, Tails Adventure is one of the best Game Gear platformers that offers something new.

Gunstar Heroes (Sega Genesis / Megadrive) - Reproduction Video Game Cartridge
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01/30/2023 09:11 pm GMT

As a shooter style of platformer, emGunstar Heroes/em was released for the Genesis in 1993, but the Game Gear version was released only in Japan in 1995. The game features two protagonists, known as the Gunstars, as they battle their way through stages in an effort to defeat an evil empire, who are bent on obtaining four powerful gems.

emGunstar Heroes/em is known as a run-and-gun type of action game, as it focuses mostly on players that explore stages on foot and by jumping. With that said, different parts of the game involve other forms of gameplay, such as fighting enemies on a helicopter, riding a mine cart, and even playing a board game.

The player has a choice of starting weapon when beginning the game, choosing from a homing shot, flamethrower, lightning blaster, and machine gun. These can be exchanged through item pickups throughout a stage, however, and even combined to form different kinds of shot types. The game can also be enjoyed by a single player or cooperatively.

The Genesis version achieved greater success than originally anticipated, and the Game Gear port was equally successful. The game was considered graphically advanced for its time, and the intense and varied gameplay was rated highly. As one of the very best Game Gear platformers to deliver a fun experience that never gets old, as well as an exciting multiplayer mode, you’ll definitely want to pick this up if you’re expanding your Game Gear collection.

Check it out on Amazon right here.

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Released in 1995, emRistar/em is a platform game with a rather odd protagonist; the player controls a cartoon star with anthropomorphic qualities, as he fights through a distant galaxy to overcome the space pirate Kaiser Greedy and stop him from controlling Planet Neer and its inhabitants.

The story is notably different between the Japanese and English versions; in the Japanese version Ristar is awakened by his mother, Oruto, but in the English version, Ristar is tasked with rescuing his father, who is a legendary hero.

As a 2D side-scroller, emRistar/em plays similarly to the Super Mario and Sonic games, but with a lesser focus on speed and jumping. Instead, Ristar can make use of his extendable arms in order to grab and throw enemies, as well as maneuver through stages and open treasure chests. Ristar collects little stars throughout a stage, much like Sonic obtains rings, and can also collect red stars, which afford him invincibility and the ability to defeat enemies through contact for a limited time. This is similar to consuming a golden mushroom in the Super Mario games.

It’s worth mentioning that the Game Gear version of Ristar differs from the Genesis version by containing completely different level designs, the appearance of little stars, and the ability to use enemies’ weapons after defeating them. Square boxes even feature another aspect that will be very familiar to fans of the Super Mario series.

Received slightly less positively than the Genesis version, Ristar for the Game Gear was considered to have complex gameplay and advanced graphics for the console, as well as being significantly different to the Genesis version and therefore worth a playthrough. Particularly for fans of the Super Mario series, there’s a lot of value to be enjoyed in Ristar, which is easily one of the best Game Gear platformers.

Grab your own copy on Amazon here.

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Ristar is praised for its innovative gameplay!

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The sequel to The G.G. Shinobi hit the Game Gear in 1992 with emThe G.G. Shinobi II: The Silent Fury/em.

Tasked with rescuing four captive ninjas, much like the original game, Joe Musashi (the red Shinobi) fights to take down the Techno-Warriors and the Black Ninja who they have teamed up with.

On his way to recover the five elemental crystals, the player can complete the four initial stages in any order, and is joined by one of the four ninjas upon defeating a stage; these ninjas can also be controlled, and have different abilities from each other. These include a weapon, special skill, and ninja magic, used to obtain hidden health power-ups, gain access to secret areas and defeat enemies. Some of these abilities must be used to traverse a stage, which means some stages may have to be replayed if the required ninja isn’t present.

The game was extremely well-received by various critics; Complex.com rated it the 18th greatest handheld game of all time in 2011, and Retro Gamer considered it more balanced than the first game, mentioning its faster pace and improved level design and mechanics. Considering all of the best Game Gear platformers, Shinobi II is definitely near the top, being a fast, furious, and fun addition to your collection.

You can find it on Amazon right here.

Sonic Triple Trouble - Sega Game Gear
  • Play as characters such as Tails the Fox and Sonic
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emSonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble/em came out in 1994, and was the direct sequel to Sonic Chaos (which arrived 1 year earlier).

The player can control both Sonic and Tails, as they attempt to protect the Chaos Emeralds from Dr. Robotnik, as well as Knuckles the Echidna (who has been tricked by Dr. Robotnik) and the treasure hunter Nack the Weasel, who was actually a new addition to the series. 

Being able to control either Sonic or Tails, the player makes their way through typical 2D side-scrolling stages, known as zones, consisting of 3 levels and a boss fight. Power-ups are available throughout, with some being exclusive to each character. This can affect the way that the player travels through the levels. Rings, a mainstay of the Sonic series, also make an appearance, which gives extra life to the player when they collect 100. They also allow entry to special stages where you can collect the Chaos Emeralds if the player has at least 50 rings and destroys a box with a Chaos Emerald icon on it.

Although very similar to previous Sonic games, Triple Trouble was universally praised for its graphics, particularly its character sprites and backgrounds, which were considered better than previous titles on the Game Gear. GameSpot and Nintendo Life agreed that Triple Trouble captured classic Sonic gameplay better than other titles, so if you want the traditional Sonic experience for a handheld console, this game is one of the best to satisfy those criteria. The best Game Gear platformers inevitability include Triple Trouble.

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Love Sonic? This game is for you!

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Land of illusion
$10.95
  • Game Gear Game for children.
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01/30/2023 11:46 pm GMT

emLand of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse/em came to the U.S. market in 1993, and although part of the Illusion series of Mickey Mouse games, it has no direct connections to Castle of Illusion or World of Illusion.

Mickey wakes up in an odd village after falling asleep with a book of fairy tales in his hands and soon realizes the village’s magic crystal has been stolen by an evil force known as the Phantom. Mickey sets out to help the villagers by locating the princess in the North Mountains, who knows how to reach the Phantom’s castle, which resides in the clouds.

The player advances through 14 stages, in true side-scrolling platformer style, attacking enemies by jumping at them or throwing items. Special items that give Mickey new abilities can also be collected, allowing Mickey to climb walls by using a rope and even shrinking in size by drinking a potion.

Like many other Game Gear platformers, previously inaccessible areas in already completed stages can be unlocked by using various items. Mickey’s health is restored by collecting power stars, with extra lives being given by collecting a star when his health is already maxed. Cooperative play is also possible, which adds another dimension of fun to the game.

Critics generally received the game very well, as the challenging gameplay, graphics, and sound were considered excellent for the console. The level design was also seen as a highlight, not being as repetitive as some other games and being catered to expertly by the processing power of the Game Gear. The collection of magic items was also considered to add enjoyable elements to the gameplay and a lot of replay value.

All in all, while not part of the more popular franchises of video games at the time, Land of Illusion ticks all the boxes as far as the Game Gear is concerned, taking the good bits of the best Game Gear platformers and executing them almost flawlessly.

You can find a copy for your own on Amazon here.

The 7 Absolute Best Sega Game Gear Platformers of All Time FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

When did the Sega Game Gear come out?

The Game Gear came out in the U.S. in April 1991.

What was the first platformer released for the Game Gear?

The first Game Gear platformer released was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Action Game, which came out in 1991.

What was the last platformer released for the Game Gear?

The last platformer for the Game Gear was The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which was released in 1997.

Which Game Gear platformer was the best?

The Game Gear was essentially renowned for its vast collection of action games, particularly platformers, but the games in the Sonic and Shinobi series generally rate amongst the best. Other standout titles include Ristar, Land of Illusion, and the Game Gear’s rendition of Mega Man. Fans of the Mickey Mouse games should also check out The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck, and those fond of fighting games should take a look at Streets of Rage II.

Which Game Gear platformer is the most valuable today?

Anyone lucky enough to still have their hands on a copy of Mega Man, will likely be impressed by its current value; an original copy of Mega Man can reportedly fetch between $250 and $1000.

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