Sega Genesis Mini 2 Review: Making the Case for Mini Consoles

Around five years ago, mini game console recreations suddenly became the hottest gift idea. Starting with Nintendo’s little NES Classic, the trend continued to the SNES Classic, Sega Genesis Mini, and even spin-offs like the PlayStation Classic and Turbografx-16 Mini. These small systems cost $100 or less, had dozens of games built in and plugged right into modern TVs via HDMI.

And almost overnight, they disappeared.

Blame the extinction of the mini consoles on streaming games, subscription services or the Nintendo Switch and its retro Switch Online game libraries. Sure, these boxes were always novelty gifts, but I loved them all. Good retro gaming gifts are hard to come by.

Sega has a new mini console, the Genesis Mini 2, that’s an Amazon exclusive in the US. It costs $100, and comes with over 50 games. Is it worth it? As a gamer, likely not. As a Sega super-fan, it’s like a collector’s item packed with B-side games that are sometimes hard to get elsewhere.

Just like the first Genesis Mini from 2019 (now discontinued and expensive to buy online), this new version is really small, even smaller in fact. Its design matches the later-era Genesis, not the first-gen. Like all the other mini consoles, it has a generic Micro USB-based charging brick and cable for power. It also has an HDMI port and included HDMI cable, and one Genesis six-button controller (a better controller than the three-button one on the first version), with a USB connector. The Mini has two USB ports for controllers, but you’ll need to buy a second for two-player games (or use one of the Genesis Mini ones if you have them).

Sega Genesis Mini and Mini 2, side by side

The Sega Genesis Mini (left) vs the Genesis Mini 2 (right). The new one’s even smaller.

Scott Stein/CNET

This isn’t your only way to play Sega Genesis games. The Nintendo Switch’s step-up Switch Online + Expansion Pack service costs $50 a year for an individual membership ($80 a year for families with multiple Nintendo accounts), and includes NES, SNES, N64 and Genesis games on tap (plus other extras). The Genesis games available there are ported well and represent a decent library of classics. There’s also a game compilation, Sega Genesis Classics, that’s often on sale and has over 40 games, all made by Sega.

The first Sega Genesis Mini had a better classic game library. The Mini 2’s random assortment of games includes a bunch of Sega CD titles, which excited me as an owner of both the Sega CD and 32X Genesis add-ons as a kid. However, the Sega CD’s games were a rough bunch. Sonic CD, one of the best Sonic games ever, is on this console. So are both Ecco the Dolphin and its hard-to-find sequel, Ecco: The Tides of Time. For curiosity’s sake, Night Trap and Sewer Shark, both interactive video-based games using very low-res video, are here too. Neither are good, but they’re interesting cultural relics.

There are plenty of gems in the mix: Earthworm Jim 2, an animated platform game that I played to death as a kid, is here (the original Earthworm Jim is on the Switch Online collection). So is Herzog Zwei, a classic B-side strategy game on Genesis. (It’s available on the Switch as a separate purchase via the Sega Ages collection, FYI.) 

Sega Genesis Mini 2 and the box's back

There are 60 games on the Genesis Mini 2. It’ll keep you busy.

Scott Stein/CNET

Also, there are Genesis versions of arcade games like After Burner II, Outrun and Virtua Racing. The Genesis never did a good job porting these, and they don’t play well now. I’d recommend the Sega Ages arcade versions of Outrun and Virtua Racing instead. Space Harrier II, for some weird reason, is on this console as an updated version with more arcade-like smoother sprite scaling. (Why didn’t the other games get these updates?)

Sega threw in some never-before-seen extra games here as well, which I’ve never heard of before and am not sure I want to play again. Dev Pii feels like some sort of two-player Pong, but has Japanese menus. A Genesis version of the pastel-colored shooter Fantasy Zone is here, but you can already play Super Fantasy Zone on other compilations. Some weird and fun ’80s Sega arcade games are here, like Spatter, which I’ve never heard of.

What games are available, vs other collections? Browse for yourself: Here’s a chart I made of all the games across Nintendo’s Switch Online service, Sega Genesis Classics, Genesis Mini, and Genesis Mini 2. Note how no compilation has a complete collection.

Sega Games Compared Across Platforms

Switch Online Classics Mini Mini 2
After Burner II Y
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle Y Y
Alien Soldier Y Y Y
Alien Storm Y
Alisia Dragoon Y Y
Altered Beast Y Y Y
Atomic Runner Y
Beyond Oasis Y Y Y
Bio-Hazard Battle Y
Bonanza Brothers Y Y
Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse Y
Castlevania: Bloodlines Y Y
Clay Fighter Y
Columns Y Y
Columns III Y
Comix Zone Y Y Y
Contra: Hard Corps Y Y
Crack Down Y
Crusader of Centy Y
Darius Y
Decap Attack Y
Desert Strike Y
Devi Pii Y
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine Y Y Y
Dynamite Headdy Y Y Y
Earthworm Jim Y Y
Earthworm Jim 2 Y
Ecco the Dolphin Y Y Y
Ecco the Dolphin: Tides of Time Y
Elemental Master Y
ESWAT: City Under Siege Y
Eternal Champions Y
Fantasy Zone Y
Fatal Fury 2 Y
Fatal Labyrinth Y
Final Fight (CD) Y
Flicky Y
Gain Ground Y Y
Galaxy Force II Y
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts Y
Golden Axe Y Y
Golden Axe II Y Y
Golden Axe III Y
Granada Y
Gunstar Heroes Y Y Y
Hellfire Y
Herzog Zwei Y
Kid Chameleon Y Y
Landstalker Y Y
Light Crusader Y Y Y
Lightening Force Y
Mansion of Hidden Souls (CD) Y
Mega Man: The Wily Wars Y Y
Midnight Resistance Y
Monster World IV Y
M.U.S.H.A. Y
Night Striker (CD) Y
Night Trap (CD) Y
Ninja Warriors (CD) Y
Outrun Y
Outrunners Y
Phantasy Star II Y Y
Phantasy Star III Y
Phantasy Star IV Y Y Y
Populous Y
Puyo Puyo Sun Y
Rainbow Islands Extra Y
Ranger X Y
Ristar Y Y Y
Road Rash II Y
Robo Aleste (CD) Y
Rolling Thunder 2 Y
Sewer Shark (CD) Y
Shadow Dancer Y Y
Shining in the Darkness Y Y
Shining Force Y Y Y Y
Shining Force II Y Y Y
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master Y Y Y
Silpheed (CD) Y
Sonic the Hedgehog Y Y
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Y Y Y
Sonic CD Y
Sonic 3D Blast Y Y
Sonic Spinball Y Y Y
Space Harrier II Y Y Y Y
Spatter Y
Splatterhouse 2 Y
Star Mobile Y
Street Fighter II Special Champion Ed Y
Streets of Rage Y
Streets of Rage 2 Y Y Y
Streets of Rage 3 Y Y
Strider Y Y
Super Fantasy Zone Y Y
Super Hang-On Y
Super Locomotive Y
Super Street Fighter II Y
Super Thunder Blade Y
Sword of Vermillion Y Y
Target Earth Y
Tetris Y
The Ooze Y
The Revenge of Shinobi Y Y
Thunder Force II Y
Thunder Force III Y
ToeJam & Earl Y Y Y
ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron Y Y
Truxton Y
Vectorman Y Y
Vectorman 2 Y Y
View Point Y
Virtua Fighter 2 Y Y
Virtua Racing Y
Warsong Y
Wonder Boy in Monster World Y
World of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse Y
Zero Wing Y

As with previous retro consoles, the games can all be saved instantly at any time in the system OS, using four save slots per game. It’s a helpful way to hop around games and save progress.

You can rest easy knowing that you’re not missing much with the Mini 2: Plenty of Genesis games are available elsewhere. But if you know a Sega fan who wants a shoebox of their other gaming memories, or appreciates deeper cuts games, this is the collector’s holiday gift you should get them. For anyone else, a Nintendo Switch (or Steam Deck) could scratch this itch just as well with some extra purchases.

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