Designed to act as a way to get existing Genesis & Mega Drive owners to make the jump to the 32-bit era, the 32X ended up bombing commercially. Mainly because the release of the Sega Saturn in the US & Europe, just mere months after the 32X launch, undermined Sega fans who had invested in the 32X.
Whilst a commercial flop, the Sega 32X actually has a decent amount of quality titles. We take a look at a selection of the best 32X games that managed to arrive in the add-on’s very short lifetime!
10. Virtua Racing Deluxe
Virtua Racing really upped the stakes when it arrived in arcades, leaving Sega console owners feeling that they were being left behind with their aging 16-bit hardware.
In 1994, Sega attempted the impossible with a port for the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive and delivered with some degree of success with the help of the Sega Virtua Processor chip included in the game cartridge (at an increased cost – US copies of the game retailed at $100!).
It wasn’t a bad effort, but the 32X version that arrived later that year is certainly an all-round improvement offering more refined visuals, better frame rates, new music, and two extra tracks.
Virtua Racing Deluxe was a sufficient reason to splash out on a 32X back in 1994 and remains one of the best 32X games ever made for the add-on.
9. NBA Jam Tournament Edition
With the original game already established as a favourite with not just basketball fans, but arcade game fans looking to battle it out with friends, NBA Jam Tournament Edition for the 32x offers up one of the best arcade ports around.
If you have never played NBA Jam, then you are in for a treat. NBA Jam Tournament Edition is two on two basketball and has all the hilarious and competitive gameplay of the original.
It introduces a new tournament mode, updates rosters and a wider set of player skill attributes as well as being able to substitute players.
NBA Jam Tournament Edition is one of the best 32X games, so be sure to give this a play if you’re working through a list of 32X games.
8. Knuckles’ Chaotix
One of the biggest failings or at least complaints about the 32X was that it never had an actual Sonic the Hedgehog game released for it.
However, in 1995, Knuckles’ Chaotix appeased that appetite fairly well though with a unique platformer that is inspired by Sonics platforming escapades, but with a pretty cool twist!
Featuring Knuckles the Echidna (Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue in the same way Sonic the Hedgehog does, eh!), you play through the game alongside other characters, similar to Tails in Sonic 2, working together to defeat Dr. Robotnik and Metal Sonics plans to harness the power of the chaos rings.
The biggest difference is however, that you are held together by two rings with a tether generated by the two rings which act like a rubber band, not allowing each of you to move too far away from the other.
Many reviewers at the time were not fans of this new mechanic, but it has to be said it’s aged quite well actually holds up as a game worthy of the franchise, especially given the amount of bad sonic games released after this!
7. Shadow Squadron
A 3D polygon space shooter, Shadow Squadron is a game very much wants to be Star Wars Arcade, but without the Star Wars license, has to impress on its own merits!
Shadow Squadron has a cool name, chunky polygons, and half-decent gameplay. But then again, it of course feels a bit average by today’s standards. Playing Shadow Squadron in 1995 would have been a blast with its smooth frame rates and huge enemy spacecraft.
It is actually really good fun to work your way through and admire the 90s polygons whilst battling enemies, who arguably could provide a bit more of a challenge.
Even with its minor flaws, Shadow Squadron is a really fun space shooter that does demonstrate the potential the 32X had.
6. Space Harrier
Here is a game that any self-respecting retro gaming fan knows all about!
Space Harrier is a Sega arcade classic game that has seen many ports, but at the time, none were as arcade accurate as the 32X version.
Now known as an ‘on-rails’ shooter, Space Harrier was one of the early pioneers of this genre. With its cool third-person perspective, you speed along landscapes battling all sorts of kooky-looking enemies who fly toward you with great effect.
Space Harrier’s famed game designer, Yu Suzuki, earliest major successes in the arcade and is still revered to this day.
Sure, it’s easy to fire up MAME these days and play the arcade original, but you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to play Space Harrier for the 32X just to see how cool it would have been to have a pretty much arcade-perfect version of Space Harrier at home.
5. Star Wars Arcade
Now let’s be honest, Star Wars Arcade is already off to a head start, just because it’s a Star Wars game right?
Well, there have been some dropped balls with some Star Wars games, but the good news is that is, Star Wars Arcade is not just a good Star Wars game, many consider it the best game released on the 32X.
Whilst the 32X version had to compromise a little bit from the arcade version, having to pull back on polygon counts, resolution as well as the frame rate struggling a little in places, Star Wars Arcade shines through with its excellent gameplay and sense of immersion.
Star Wars Arcade is a game that offers quality over quantity with its three levels on offer, but it’s a hell of a fun time working through those three levels!
4. Metal Head
Metal Head, is a relatively unknown Sega title for the 32X. You take control of a ‘Metal Head’ mech around a 3D map, seeking and taking out enemies.
The game plays more like a first-person shooter than a mech game and has a decent amount of varied missions to play through.
The visuals were considered very good at the time with its texture-mapped polygons, looking more like an early PS1 game, but of course, looks fairly dated now! But there’s enough gameplay to keep you going.
Metal Head is perhaps not intense enough for FPS fans but certainly offered enough technically as well as in gameplay terms to make it a favourite on the 32X.
3. Mortal Kombat II
The sequel to the most brutal fighting game at the time (And still the most brutal in its latest incarnations!), Mortal Kombat II not only brought even more characters and fatalities but new quirky features such as babalities and friendship special moves!
Mortal Kombat II is a much more refined game than the first, with additional moves made available to players as well a decent bump up in the speed of the game, making it a much more dynamic experience now, closely aligned to its main rival, Street Fighter II.
Truthfully, the 32X version of Mortal Kombat II isn’t wildly different from the Genesis / Mega Drive, but for those looking for as close an experience to the arcade as possible, playing the 32X version of the game with a 6-button controller certainly delivered the next best thing.
This is a great version of the game and certainly would have been a must-have purchase if you were a 32X owner back at launch.
2. After Burner Complete
The 32X was a perfect opportunity to bring some older classic Sega arcade games home, in near-perfect conversions.
After Burner Complete is another example, as is Space Harrier, where the 32X version is a near arcade-perfect conversion, the kind of thing you could have only dreamed about as a Genesis / Mega Drive owner a few years earlier.
If you don’t know about the After Burner games, they are vintage Sega arcade action. It is very simple to get started, move your jet around the screen and shoot those enemies with your Vulcan cannons and missiles! In typical arcade fashion, it’s pretty tough, but will always have you coming back for more!
After Burner Complete has improved visuals and way improved sound, with really boomy sounding explosions, and excellent music, and the scaling visuals just look way better on the 32X than they do on the 16-bit versions of the game.
1. Virtua Fighter
Virtua Fighter is a Sega Model 1 arcade game, developed by AM2, Sega’s now famed development group. The Virtua Fighter franchise is one that has lasted right through to the latest game, Virtua Fighter 5.
Virtua Fighter on the 32X is an early example of a 3D fighter, which was never going to be possible on the likes of the Genesis / Mega Drive, so certainly wowed 32X owners with its new 3D-orientated gameplay.
The 32X does a fantastic job when compared with the Sega Saturn version, sure, the frame rate and certain visual elements are compromised, but it still represents the arcade game brilliantly, plus you get the benefits of quick loading times thanks to its cartridge format.
Certainly primitive by today’s fighting game standards, with its basic visuals, Virtua Fighter is actually enjoyable to come back to today, with its clean look and its modest pace.
Precision is key with Virtua Fighter, with a set amount of moves/combos available, you need to establish your strategy with each fighter, with each character most set offering a variation of speed and reach, it really is back to basics in this revolutionary 3D fighter, but what a refreshing experience it is!
A lifelong avid gamer and computing enthusiast, Matt has decades of Retro Gaming experience. Now over 40 years old, Matt now even considers himself retro, but fortunately, nobody has developed a Matt emulator (not yet at least!).