Sega Genesis Mini Hands-on Review: This Beats Nintendo and Sony

LOS ANGELES - With Nintendo and Sony seemingly done with their retro console pushes, Sega is stepping up to fill the void this September with the $79 Sega Genesis Mini. And if my time with Sega’s adorable nostalgia box at E3 is any indication, it could be the new retro console to beat.

Taking cues from the SNES Classic and PlayStation Classic, the Genesis Mini is a tiny but faithfully detailed replica of Sega’s iconic 16-bit games machine from 1989. The system (which is 55 percent the size of the Genesis Model 1) is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, is powered by USB and connects to your TV via HDMI.

While we've seen this kind of retro console before, the Genesis Mini really stands out with its games. Boasting 42 titles, Sega’s retro box packs everything from staples like Sonic the Hedgehog and Altered Beast to deep cuts like Darius, Strider, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Mega Man: The Wily Wars, the latter of which never saw a proper U.S. release.

I played a handful of titles including Sonic, Strider, Street Fighter II Special Champion Edition, and Tetris on the Genesis Mini, and everything looked and felt like it should. Thanks to the emulation wizards at M2 (who handle many of Sega's classic game ports), every jump, punch and shot felt responsive, and every 16-bit sprite looked faithfully crispy.

I was also impressed with the controller, which is a 1-to-1 recreation of the original Genesis pad complete with the same satisfyingly mushy d-pad and big, round buttons. However, I found myself longing for the more modern 6-button pad -- especially when I played Street Fighter and had to press a button to switch between punches and kicks.

You will be able to purchase an officially licensed 6-button Genesis controller from the folks at RetroBit for $19 later this summer to use on the Mini, but it would have been nice to be able to get one right out of the box. On the plus side, the Genesis Mini does include two controllers, so you'll be able to instantly play titles like Columns, Streets of Rage 2 and Golden Axe with a friend.

The Genesis Mini sports all of the requisite retro console features, including four save state slots, a CRT filter and full-screen mode, and a handful of wallpaper options -- though not as many as the SNES Classic. But unlike Nintendo's and Sony's retro consoles, you can actually access the main menu by simply long-pressing the Start button rather than getting up and hitting the Reset button on the console. It's a small touch, but it's also one of my favorite things about the Mini.

With solid emulation and a game library full of genuine classics and hard-to-find gems that doubles that of the SNES Classic and PlayStation Classic, the $79 Sega Genesis Mini could be the best plug-and-play retro console yet when it arrives on Sept. 19. As someone who grew up a Nintendo kid, I can't wait to dive into everything I missed.

Be sure to follow our E3 2019 news hub all week long for the biggest reveals and impressions out of Los Angeles.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.