The Sega Game Gear (GG) wasn’t just some rinky-dink toy from the 90’s. It actually was a true gaming platform. I mean globally there were a total of 363 games for the system. That’s a lot! Compare that to the 341 games on the Sega Master system (a home console). In fact the Game Gear can actually play the Sega Master system games by using a cartridge adapter (so imagine the exclusives for each system coupled with the common titles).
Unfortunately the SMS cannot play GG games because of resolution difference and the GG’s enhanced color palette (there’s also the fact that the Game Gear is stereo, while the SMS is mono-audio).
A lot of people still complain about the washed out screen from the Game Gear, but these days – with modern technology – that’s hardly an issue. There are so many alternative ways to play the games for this system – from cartridge add-ons for the Retron 5 and Retrofreak, to FPGA options (like the Analogue Nt Mini), to emulators (say for your phone or a customer firmware Wii or Sony PSP). My current favorite way to play is using the Analogue Nt Mini (playing the roms from the SD card on the jailbroken firmware). I eagerly await the cartridge adapter for the Game Gear on the Nt Mini.
(with jailbroken firmware, the Nt Mini plays many systems – including Game Gear)
And, while the GG’s resolution is limited (so the game’s screen size is somewhat zoomed in), that doesn’t make the games really less enjoyable or fun. If graphics were truly an issue, people wouldn’t play the Atari 2600 either. And, if we’re going to go there, the Game Gear looks pretty good (obviously much much better graphics-wise than it’s competition). As much as I love the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, the GG looks a lot better than those systems (because that was the tradeoff that Nintendo made for battery life and durability). And, even when I play on my Nt Mini or through emulators, I rarely use the scalar functionality. I do prefer the 8-bit pixelated look. These days people want indie titles to look like Game Gear games (well.. NES games). You can just skip all of that and go right to the source.
My point is that regardless of graphics (which I think are fantastic), the game are great and you should give them a try. Here are some of my favorites:
Coca Cola Kid – This is a great little beat’em up with a skateboarding kid taking on ruffians. Just like Pepsiman (a very Japanese weird title), Pepsi Invaders (which was made by Coca Cola), and Crazy Taxi (with all the KFC and Pizza Hut endorsements), this is a charming game with the odd quirk of have ad placement all over it.
Land of Illusion, Starring Mickey Mouse – This game looks amazing and plays amazingly too. This is one of those games from a series that I’ve always really enjoyed on the Sega Master System and the Game Gear port is excellent.
The Mickey games in this same series are:
- Castle of Illusion – 1991
- Land of Illusion – 1993
- Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge – 1994
- Legend of Illusion – 1995
(Vampire) Master of Darkness – This series is like a scaled-down Castlevania and it’s actually fun. Like a lot of GG games, this also came out on the Master System, but this handheld port is very serviceable. The music isn’t amazing but I think it’s catchy.
Sega Classics (Individually) – Fantasy Zone, Outrun, Space Harrier, Sonic games (a bunch of them), Puyo Puyo, Shinobi, Ecco the Dolphin, Panzer Dragoon Mini (which is expensive) and Wonder Boy.. These are the usual Sega games of legend and they’re all quite decent on the Game Gear (just like they were on the Master System and even the Genesis). I sort of see these as the staples of any Sega platform. If you’re a Sega fanboy, you’re going to want to own these (and most of the time it’ll be a worthwhile investment)
Compile Shmups – These certainly aren’t cheap to own (as is the case with really any Compile game), but they are a blast to play. There’s the original Japan-only Aleste (which I never see up for sale really), followed by Power Strike II (Aleste II). Both are excellent games and perhaps even with their amazing price tags. Both are imports to the US. These games really stretch the Game Gear technologically with all of the bullets and sprites on the screen. Despite what you might think, there isn’t a terrible amount of lag either. And this game is hard but relatively fair about it.
Galaga ‘91 – I’m a big Galaga fan and this is sort of a version of the game in the vein of the PC Engine port – a graphical update with more fun gameplay (in my opinion). The game looks really awesome on the Game Gear and is totally worth picking up. I believe this is Japan-only so you’ll need to import it if you want to play it. And while you’re at it, grab Mappy too (another great game)
Griffin – This is a great little shmup that has a strategy component (unless you’re just that good). By strategy I mean that you inch your way through levels by figuring out where your projectiles go. The same sort of holds true with the level bosses as well. This also has a great anime appeal – from the title screen to the ending. Back in the 90’s it was a simpler time and gamers really appreciated these little touches. These days this sort of thing is just expected.
Gunstar Heroes – This game looks really amazing on the handheld and really does hold up to the legendary Sega Genesis game. It is a Japanese exclusive, but it’s very English-friendly. Give it a try and try and make the effort to include it in your collection.
Lucky Dime Caper starring Donald Duck – This is a great Disney action-platformer and might as well be a DuckTales game in spirit (I mean you have the nephews and the game is to get Scrooge’s lucky dime back from Magica De Spell) . It wasn’t made by Capcom but it’s surprisingly good.
Mega Man – That’s right. There’s a Mega Man game on the Game Gear and it’s actually good. It’s pretty expensive, but it’s also one of those games that collectors go for. If you need a Mega Man game on the go you could do much better for the money, but this is a fine game on its own merits. It has the slide mechanic and sort of reminds me of Mega Man 3.
If you think these games are too costly, you’re probably right. Unless you’re a collector, some of the greatest games on the handheld are prohibitively expensive. The majority are still quite affordable, however (being around $5 each). Also, like I mentioned, there are a ton of free ways to play. And if you have to play on original hardware, you could get an Everdrive and have access to not only the entire Game Gear library, but the Master System library too (all on one convenient cart).