The Sega Genesis is arguably the best console for survival/horror games. But unfortunately, it came on the market at a time when graphics were significantly improving, and Sega’s main competitor wasn’t interested in the genre.
Previous consoles like the Atari 2600 could not create a truly scary game, but the 16-bit era brought both improved gameplay and visuals. In addition, Nintendo was not interested in graphics games for their consoles.
This left many developers going to Sega with their ideas, resulting in some of the best survival/horror games ever created. While some titles do look dated, others have held up great and are still playable today. Here are our top seven picks.
If you’ve followed video games for a while, chances are you have probably heard of Night Trap despite so much news around the title, it is actually not that spectacular of a game. Very few people actually played the original game as it required the Sega CD attachment. The game used full-motion video, which combined video clips into the game, thanks to the new CD technology.
However, Night Trap was mostly known for spurring a number of congressional hearings in the early 1990s. Congressional leadership and a number of activist groups were arguing that video game violence was dangerous, particularly to children. Mortal Kombat was another target of this investigation for its gore and spine removal.
All of the attention resulted in the creation of the ESRB rating board, which was a good thing. However, the damage for Night Trap was done. The worst part is that the game really isn’t that bad. In the game, you lead a team of investigators to find out what is happening in a house where five women disappeared. To find out, they send in several more women who you must protect.
The gameplay consists of monitoring security cameras placed in each room. When you switch to a camera, a short video clip plays to help explain what is going on. You must then wait for bandits to enter the house and watch them make their way through. Then when the time is right, you set a trap to catch them. It all sounds better than it actually plays out, and the game is goofy, but it is still a must-play on our list of Sega Genesis survival games.
Splatterhouse 2 is a Namco-developed game that is filled with gruesome horror, much like its predecessor. It also follows the same basic premise as the first game, with you reprising the role of Rick on a quest to save his girlfriend. On the way, you must face monsters that try to kill you.
The game is packed full of gore, as its title suggests. However, the game has much more to offer than just blood and guts. Most notable is its story, which is actually pretty good. Rick’s ultimate goal is to save his girlfriend’s soul, but this basic storyline actually hooks you in. However, the best part of Splatterhouse 2 has to be its gameplay.
While the game is a 2D side-scroller like many other Sega Genesis survival games, it has good combat mechanics, which really make playing fun. While the bulk of the game consists of an arcade-style beat-em-up, it does have some platforming elements. As for graphics, Splatterhouse 2 looks great for its time with some really creative level designs.
- Game cartridge only
- Horror-themed 2D side-scroller
- Help the hero, Rick kill monsters and other grotesque creatures through eight stages
- Fight a boss at the end of each level
Castlevania: Bloodlines is a spinoff to the main Castlevania series, taking place in a completely different setting. However, it follows the usual Castlevania model of you playing as a vampire hunter going after a vampires. You must battle a variety of enemies as you make your way through various locations. This story is also unique as you aren’t battling through Dracula’s mansion.
Bloodlines lets you play as one of two characters. One nice addition is that both of these characters have different weapons, with one carrying a whip while the other has a spear. The character and their respective weapon also play a small part in your in-game abilities, as well as how the levels play out.
If you love the Castlevania series, then chances are you will enjoy Bloodlines. While it may not be as perfect as Super Castlevania on the SNES, it is still a solid entry in the series. The unique story also adds a nice variety. Plus the graphics, in combination with the different locations, really makes the game a standout in the franchise.
Please note: As of August 14, 2023, this product is only available used from resellers on Amazon.
Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
Ghouls 'N Ghosts is the predecessor to Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, which was an extremely popular title on the SNES. Also adding to the game’s relatively unpolished nature is that it came out early in the Genesis lifecycle, so games were not quite as optimized as later additions. While this game isn’t quite as refined as its successor, it is still an excellent choice for one of the best Sega Genesis survival games.
Ghouls ‘N Ghosts can also be compared to Ghosts ‘N Goblins on the NES as each feature similar gameplay and graphics. One noticeable difference, however, is that this game allows you to shoot upwards and gives you slightly more freedom. In the end, it is still a 2D side-scroller, but some added features make it feel a little more varied.
For instance, there is a fair amount of platforming throughout as you must fight your way through each level. There are also some levels that are designed as vertical shooters, which help break up the gameplay. Ghouls ‘N Ghosts has a lot going on with a myriad of weapons and armor that are required for certain enemies. However, it is still very hard, and if you aren’t prepared, it may leave you extremely frustrated.
- Ghouls N Ghosts
- 16 Bit
- Sega Genesis Mega Drive
- PAL And NTSC
- Black Cartridge
Haunting Starring Polterguy
Haunting Starring Polterguy is one of the weirdest games to make the list (and there are some weird ones). The game’s backstory is only known from reading the included manual, which most people have long lost. However, this is kind of important because the main character was killed in a skateboarding accident. The character then haunts the skateboarding company’s owner and family.
Unlike most survival/horror games where you take on the role of a victim of the supernatural, this time, you are the ghost. You take control of Polterguy as he haunts the family that he blames for his death. However, there are no blood and guts in the game, as your goal is to scare them, not kill them. In all, the game feels like a campy ’80s horror movie.
To perform the hauntings, you take possession of various objects around the house and make them come alive. This will, in turn, scare the people in the home. While this sounds really easy, it does require a little skill or else you get sent to the underworld, which is a game in itself. However, the best part of the game is its graphics which are excellent for the Genesis, and they are aided by the game’s open-world nature.
Decap Attack is a 2D sidescroller that uses a lot of humor alongside rather morbid graphics. In essence, the game is a platformer that features a decent amount of combat elements. It is not the best game for those looking for something very intense and with a deep plot. But it does offer some really fun gameplay with a comedic twist.
Decap Attack’s main character is a mummy with two heads that can also use his brain as a boomerang. He sets off to defeat Max D. Cap and prevent him from taking over the world. The story is rather lackluster, but its charm is in the character models. Each character is aptly named based on horror monsters, such as Frank N. Stein.
Overall, Decap Attack’s charm really lies in its gameplay. It takes the basic properties of a 2D side-scroller and adds some really strange elements. Besides the boomerang brain, you can also throw the character’s top head. One problem with the game is that it can take some getting used to because the protagonist is so large. Even so, the game’s hilarious combat and beautiful graphics more than make up for it.
The Ooze is an often overlooked Genesis game that came out very late in the console’s lifespan. Therefore, it received little notoriety, and few ever played it as most gamers moved on to newer consoles. As you may have guessed from the title, you play as a puddle of ooze. This is an odd take on the survival genre, as you play as an object rather than a person (sort of).
What makes the puddle of ooze somewhat lifelike is a head that pops up out of it. This is also attributable to the main ooze’s backstory, as it starts out as a human who gets dunked into a tank of green slime. The man was forced into the tank by his boss after snooping around a plant and uncovering a secret plan. As a puddle of green ooze, the worker decides to take revenge on his former boss.
The gameplay largely entails killing monsters and trying to take revenge. However, another part is trying to regain human form. What is somewhat weird is that the game focuses on humans and then also throws in other monsters. Nonetheless, it is a lot of fun to fight and explore your way through the game. The graphics are pretty good, with a variety of different maps. The biggest problem is the difficulty level, but its fun gameplay makes it one of the best Sega Genesis survival games.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©The Image Party/Shutterstock.com.