There is currently a sale taking place on Steam where you can purchase SEGA published games for discounted prices as part of SEGA’s celebration of 60 year celebraton. I just happened to come across this last week and began reflecting on my own experiences with SEGA games. The company has also launched a SEGA 60th Anniversary site that I highly recommend you check out, especially if you’ve been a fan of games within the organization’s umbrella for any length of time.
SEGA was launched in June 1960, but the origins of the company goes all the way back to 1940 as a coin-operated game company called Standard Games. The company specialized in supplying games for military bases and moved to Japan in 1952. SEGA stands for “Service Games.” So while the company officially recognizes 60 years, it actually spans 80.
My history with SEGA goes back to the arcades in the 1980s. No matter what anyone says, I believe the arcade platform is where the company has shined the most in its history. Zaxxon, Congo Bongo, Hang On, Outrun, and After Burner are games that I can remember very well from that decade. As time went on, I found where SEGA really shined was in racing games, fighting games, and rail shooters. Virtual Fighter and Fighting Vipers were way ahead of their time in terms of the fighting game mechanics. Daytona USA, Star Wars Racer Arcade, and Crazy Taxi were outstanding racing experiences. The House of the Dead, Jurassic Park, and Ghost Squad series were amazing arcade shooters to play with another player. And who can forget how incredible Star Wars Trilogy Arcade was for its time in 1998? Check out this list to see the insane amount of games SEGA published on their arcade boards. Some of them actually took me by surprise.
Because I was a Nintendo guy in those days, I don’t recall much of the SEGA Master System in the 80s. But when the SEGA Genesis was unleashed towards the end of that decade, it was a game-changer for the company and ushered in the 16-bit age for home consoles. I can remember the commercial with the tag lines, “Genesis does” and “You can’t do this on Nintendo” very clearly. Mario was the main character/mascot that Nintendo had associated with their brand. The SEGA Genesis properly introduced to a new character that still represents the company as its most iconic character to this day: Sonic the Hedgehog.
Even though I preferred the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and then graduated to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), I felt that Sonic seemed much cooler than Mario when he was first introduced. He was a hedgehog rather than a plumber and had possessed incredible speed that made traversing the levels unlike anything you would experience in Mario games at the time. In the end, Super Mario World won me over, but Sonic had emerged as the first real competitor to Mario, and for good reason.
My older brother had a SEGA Genesis and I also knew some friends who preferred the system to the Nintendo consoles as well. The Genesis had a terrific library of games that made it, in my opinion, SEGA’s best home console in its history. Along with Sonic the Hedgehog, some of the other exclusives to the Genesis included Golden Axe, Joe Montana Sports Talk Football, Sports Talk Baseball, World Series Baseball, Shining Force, Streets of Rage, Eternal Champions, Phantasy Star, and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. When I think of how great the Genesis was, it actually makes me sad to think that SEGA no longer makes home consoles today.
It seemed like everything SEGA did on the console front post-Genesis never led to the same success. The SEGA 32x, which was an expansion for the Genesis, didn’t fare well. SEGA CD never got off the ground. The SEGA Saturn did decent in Japan but never caught on in the United States. I bought a Saturn when I first got into importing because of wrestling games such as Fire Pro Wrestling Six-Man Scramble. It also was known for how well it ported arcade games to its system such as the Street Fighter Alpha games. The last system SEGA ever released was the SEGA Dreamcast in the late 1990s.
The Dreamcast is my favorite SEGA system of all-time. It had a lot of promise and games like Shenmue showed what could be done on that platform. 2K Sports games originated on the Dreamcast. NFL 2K and NBA 2K were a reality because of the partnership between 2K and SEGA at the time. There would be no NBA 2K21 today and ESPN NFL 2K5 would not have existed without 2K Sports titles getting their first exposure on the Dreamcast. Unfortunately for SEGA, the lack of third-party developed games and the increased competitiveness in the gaming industry (Xbox and Playstation were now a reality) didn’t bode well for the company. So after the Dreamcast, SEGA focused its efforts solely on developing and publishing games.
Today, SEGA still has a significant place in the gaming world. When you play games from series such as Total War, Yakuza, Valkyria Chronicles, Bayonetta, Mario & Sonic, and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, these are all published by SEGA. When SEGA acquired Atlus a few years ago, it gained the rights to franchises such as Persona and Shin Megami Tensai. Persona 5, one of the greatest role-playing games in video game history was published by SEGA. The publisher also released Persona 4 Golden on Steam during the summer, giving PC gamers the opportunity to play a PC version of Persona for the first time. This is how SEGA is making its mark in the industry today.
As SEGA celebrates 60 years, I wanted to make sure to recognize the company’s contributions to the gaming world. It seems like Nintendo gets this recognition much more frequently but I’ve been around long enough to know how vital SEGA has been as well. Maybe one day we’ll see another SEGA home console. In the meantime, I hope they’ll continue to publish games for us to enjoy. Check out the Steam sale where you can discounts on SEGA games through October 19. While you’re at it, claim Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for free.