The Sega CD is possibly the point where the mighty Sega started to get it wrong. The Sega CD was quite an extravagant purchase when first released. At $299 USD / £270 GBP, it was twice the cost of the Sega Genesis itself, but the Sega CD really looked like it might deliver the goods.
But what about the games? Well, the Sega CD certainly has its fair share of clangers, but, there are loads of excellent games (even some FMV ones!) that deserve a replay today. So here are my top picks for the best Sega CD games.
Road Avenger is an absolute blast from the past that takes you on a high-octane, adrenaline-pumping journey like no other! For all the criticism the Sega CD gets for FMV games, Road Avenger is a great example of how to make an FMV game work, and as a result, it is one of the best Sega CD games released early for the add-on.
Road Avenger is essentially a quick-time event game, where you follow the instructions on the screen quickly enough in order to progress through the game. If you are late in pressing the required button, you’re played a death sequence which is largely just a car in a ball of flames or an explosion!
It sounds like it could be a bit dull, but I remember a friend of mine showing me this game when it first launched and I remember just being absolutely floored by the sound and visuals, feeling like you were interacting with a movie.
Final Fight CD
Final Fight CD is an action-packed, beat ’em up that will have you punching, kicking, and smashing your way through the streets of Metro City! This Sega CD game is the ultimate way to experience the classic arcade game in the comfort of your own home.
Final Fight CD for the Sega CD is pretty much acknowledged universally as being the definitive port of Final Fight, thanks to its complete character roster and its excellent CD soundtrack.
Take control of either Guy, Cody, or Haggar and take on the Mad Gear Gang who kidnapped Jessica, Mike Haggar’s daughter.
With giant detailed sprites and bone-crunching sound effects, Final Fight is one of the best
Sol-Feace is a classic shoot ’em up game that was released for the Sega CD in 1992. Developed by Wolf Team, the game features fast-paced gameplay and challenging mechanics, and a great CD soundtrack.
Ok, so Sol-Feace isn’t offering anything revolutionary or stacks of FMV (as was the trend of course with the Sega CD!), but it is a rock-solid space shooter with a classic story of a lone starship taking down a malfunctioning supercomputer from enslaving mankind!
Whilst R-Type has its floating orange ball as an auxiliary weapon, your craft in Sol-Feace features dual cannons that can be pointed in different directions, allowing you to strategically set them up based on what enemies and obstacles you are facing at a point in time.
Beyond that, it’s waves of enemies and end-of-level boss fights, but if you are all about the classic 16-bit shoot ’em up, then Sol-Feace is definitely one to try out.
The Terminator is a side-scrolling action game that was released for the Sega CD in 1993 by Virgin Games and makes a deserved appearance in this best Sega CD games list.
The game follows the events of the first Terminator movie, you know the story, a soldier from the future named Kyle Reese is sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor from the Terminator.
The Terminator has a really gritty ambiance and dark levels which perfectly recreate the feeling of the first movie, of course with it being a Sega CD game, it’s sprinkled with FMV footage of the film which helps keep the mood of the game on track.
In terms of gameplay, it’s very much a classic run-and-gun platformer, the amount of shooting is relentless, exactly as you expect running around gunning down multiple T-800 machines!
The soundtrack to The Terminator on Sega CD is by the renowned Tommy Tallarico and provides a motivating old-school rock soundtrack to blast those Terminators away to!
Mortal Kombat, the game that made parents everywhere question whether gaming was the right hobby for their kids., made its way to the Sega CD in 1993. With its gratuitous violence, cheesy catchphrases, and questionable character design, the first Mortal Kombat game is very kitsch when looking back at it.
The Sega CD version gets blood and fatalities without the use of a cheat code as well as better character animations and a much better CD soundtrack, so it’s one of the best ways to play a home version of the original Mortal Kombat.
The only downside to the Sega CD version is something that affects most games badly, and that’s the loading times, there’s nothing more jarring to a fighting game that breaks in the gameplay, but to be fair to Mortal Kombat, that’s more of a Sega CD issue than a Mortal Kombat issue.
Overall, Mortal Kombat is a game that’s hard not to love – even if it is a little ridiculous. Definitely worth a play-through.
Silpheed is a classic Sega CD game that was released in 1993. Developed by Game Arts, the game is a 2.5D space shooter that features both side-scrolling and forward-scrolling gameplay.
You take control of a starfighter known as the “Silpheed,” with the objective of defending Earth from an alien invasion. You maneuver freely around the screen whilst avoiding waves of enemies and projectiles, blasting away any enemy craft you are able to.
Silpheed gives the impression of being much more detailed than it is, using pre-rendered animations for the background of the game, which gives the impression you are moving around huge enemies, whereas, in reality, you are just playing on top of essentially a rolling video. But technicalities aside, it creates an awesome effect.
Almost bordering on a tech demo, Silpheed won’t win any awards for groundbreaking gameplay, but for Sega CD owners at launch, it was a must-have and a solid shooter.
Night Trap is a controversial Sega CD game that was released in 1992. Developed by Digital Pictures, the game is perhaps the most notorious Sega CD FMV game that puts you in the shoes of a special agent tasked with protecting a group of teenage girls from a group of vampires.
Night Trap established itself as a must-play thanks to the furor of a United States Senate committee, using Night Trap as well as Mortal Kombat as examples of video game violence.
Obviously, this had the opposite desired effect on young gamers, and became a cult classic, where the controversy only fuelled their desire to play such an apparently dangerous game! In reality, Night Trap is nothing more provocative than an old-school B movie mixed with a teenage cast with very mild suggested violence.
Night Trap’s gameplay is very basic, you simply switch between surveillance cameras and trigger traps to capture the house-invading vampires! But it’s a must-play and one of the best Sega CD games so you can experience not only the controversy first hand, but also it’s a great example of when FMV games were touted as the future.
Quite possibly the best Sega CD game, Sonic CD is a classic platform game that was released for the Sega CD in 1993. Developed by Sonic Team, the game features the iconic character Sonic the Hedgehog on a quest to save a time-traveling world from the evil Dr. Eggman.
The gameplay of Sonic CD is similar to other Sonic games, you take control of Sonic running, jumping, and spinning your way through various levels. The game features both 2D and 3D environments, with time travel being added as a new game mechanic, you are now able to travel through time to different versions of levels.
Sonic CD is debated as being the best Sonic game period, but I guess that’s down to taste. I personally prefer Sonic 1 and 2, but it can’t be denied from a scale and design point of view Sonic CD is vast and fans of the blue speedy hedgehog will not be disappointed with this adventure.
There’s just one thing that always bugs me, the jump sound effect in Sonic CD, it’s just not right, give the original sounds from Sonic 1 & 2 any day, but that’s my only gripe.
A must-play for Sega CD and Sonic fans, certainly one of the best Sega CD games.
Snatcher is a cult classic and one of the best Sega CD games comes courtesy of Hideo Kojima in the form of an adventure game that was released in 1994.
Developed by Konami, the game is a cyberpunk-style adventure game set in a dystopian future where humanoid bots called Snatchers, are killing humans and replacing them in day-to-day life.
With a story clearly influenced by films such as Blade Runner, Snatcher has you play the part of a character named Gillian Seed, who as an amnesiac can only recall certain details about his past that leads him to believe he is related to the Snatchers.
The game features a mix of exploration, and puzzle-solving, where you progress through the narrative-driven game attempting to put together the pieces of the puzzle that will help Gillian Seed understand his past.
A hugely influential game, Snatcher was notable for its violent and graphic content but is actually a hugely involved game and a great one to experience for yourself.
Thunderhawk is a first-person helicopter flight sim game that was released in 1993 for the Sega CD and developed by Core Design.
With the additional power that the Sega CD brought to the table, the visuals are excellent for the time, especially when most flight sims were 3D polygon based with little to no textures. Thunderhawk brings a 3D texturised environment for you to fly around blasting the enemy with guns and rockets!
Working your way through a number of campaigns, you undertake missions that have primary objectives that must be completed to proceed further into the game.
Of course, Thunderhawk looks basic by today’s standards, but really, I used to see this on display in a local shop and was envious that my modest Amiga couldn’t manage the same thing!
Give Thunderhawk a go, it represents early 90s flight sim shooters brilliantly and balances the simulation experience and action perfectly!
The Sega CD perhaps gets a bad rap, but when it launched outside of Japan back in 1992, it held so much promise with the dawn of the CD as a format, but ultimately, the CD medium on game consoles arrived before systems were able to exploit the additional storage in the best way. So what we ended up with was predominantly Sega Genesis games, but with added CD soundtracks and FMV footage.
However, the Sega CD did bring some system enhancements, which allowed for some better-looking games such as the scaling/rotating effects seen in Thunderhawk for example.
It cannot be denied though that some of the best Sega CD games such as Sonic CD and Night Trap, whilst opposite ends of the Spectrum, helped define the add-on era of the Sega CD.
There are stacks of enjoyable games on the Sega CD so I recommend exploring the game library when you can.
Check our best Sega Genesis games article and compare just how much technically superior the Sega CD was in comparison. Another good comparison as to how technically good Sega CD games are compared to the best 3DO games, the system that arrived a year later with strong technical specs but was hugely overpriced for the market.
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!).