We happen to think Sega’s Genesis Mini is the best retro console you can buy right now.
The system comes with 42 games, which is more than twice as many as the Nintendo’s SNES Classic, as well as two controllers. The titles themselves play pretty much flawlessly, thanks to developer M2’s painstaking approach to emulation. And the design, fit and finish and software feature set of the tiny black box is high quality, through and through.
However, there’s more to the Genesis Mini than meets the eye. If you just snagged yours this weekend, here are five tips you should know.
Customize the display settings
The Genesis Mini is a stellar little box because it’s so faithful to Sega’s 16-bit heyday. Part of that is thanks to the breadth of the display options the system offers, that allow you to tailor the retro experience to your taste.
If you’re the kind of old-school gamer chasing the utmost accuracy, you’ll want to head into the system settings and set your Genesis Mini to output at a 4:3 aspect ratio. Of course, you can choose 16:9 as well, and M2 has actually gone one step further than most developers by adjusting on-screen HUD elements and cropping into the gameplay field of view, so that opting for the widescreen perspective doesn’t mess with games’ proportions and stretch things too far.
You can also add an extra dose of nostalgia to your gaming with the included CRT filter. This option makes everything look hazy, the same way you remember it did on your parents’ tube TV 30 years ago. Kind of amazing that we all used to play old games that way, isn’t it?
View every game at once
The Genesis Mini doesn’t really make this clear, but if you press the B button on your controller while browsing the roster of titles, you’ll switch to a shelf view, where you can see all the spines of the game boxes side-by-side, in chronological order. It’s a great way to get a snapshot of every game in your collection, and showcases the evolution of Genesis and Mega Drive packaging from a unique angle.
Change the language for imports
This is by far the Genesis Mini’s coolest feature. If you change the system’s language in the settings, your console will also change the ROM set and home screen design to match the appropriate region.
For example, if you have an American system and switch the language to Japanese, you’ll get a Mega Drive background, and some games, like Castlevania: Bloodlines and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, will switch to their Japanese counterparts, Vampire Killer and Puyo Puyo 2. This results in some nifty little differences depending on the title, like in Contra: Hard Corps, where the Japanese version of the game utilizes a life gauge system that is significantly more forgiving than the North American version’s one-hit kills.
Enthusiasts will note that the Japanese and Chinese versions of the Genesis Mini feature slightly different game lists than the Western editions. While switching the language in your system’s settings allows access to alternate region ROMs of those same titles, it will not give you games that are exclusive to certain regions. For example, even if you change your American system’s language to Chinese, you still won’t be able to play Out Run 2019, which is exclusive to the Chinese model of the Mega Drive Mini. So yeah, it gets a little confusing; our best advice is to experiment, and see what you find.
Get a better controller
In the U.S. and Europe, Sega ships the Genesis Mini with the three-button pad the original Genesis and Mega Drive launched with. That’s different from the Asian variants of the console, which feature the six-button pads that were more common later in the platform’s life.
You don’t necessarily need those six-button controllers for any of the system’s 42 games, though they do come in handy for the fighters on the roster, like Eternal Champions and Street Fighter 2: Special Champion Edition. Fortunately, Retro-Bit sells officially-licensed six-button Genesis (and Saturn) pads for $15 that are designed to work with the Genesis Mini, and 8BitDo has released a 2.4GHz USB adapter that will allow its excellent six-button M30 Genesis pad to work with Sega’s mini console, too. The M30 and the associated adapter cost just $25, and are available for pre-order from Amazon now.
Sit back and watch that pretty attract screen
Finally, this last tip just asks that you leave your Genesis Mini alone and don’t touch it for a minute or two. After a little while, the system will begin its attract mode, where it’ll cycle through a couple minutes of gameplay of each one of the console’s 42 games, in chronological order. The montage offers a neat little trip down gaming history, and puts into perspective how dramatically the Genesis evolved from its 1988 launch all the way until it was taken off the market nearly a decade later, when the games were massively outperforming the expected limits of the hardware.