Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review: it's more than a curiosity

With 60 classic games, including Mega-CD titles, Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 impresses.

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review; a photo of a close up of a Sega games console controller
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is a smart, well-modelled little retro console crammed with some of the best games of the late 80s and early 90s. As a footnote to the moment game design met new technology this is an essential buy for any budding game devs; the challenge of getting the most from new tech happens more than ever, so learn from the successes and missteps of the past. Or simply boot up OutRun, Silpheed CD and Rainbow Islands EXTRA and many other hits, and have a great time.

For

  • The 60 games other good value
  • Lovely recreated model
  • Excellent UI and UX

Against

  • Manuals aren't on console
  • Lacks art and game histories

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The Sega Mega Drive Mini 2, or Sega Genesis Mini 2 for US readers, is the retro console follow-up to the popular Sega Mega Drive Mini, a tiny games machine released in 2019 that soon sold out. This is an Amazon-exclusive games console that Sega has already revealed will be produced in fewer numbers than the previous retro gaming console. So is the hype worthwhile.

In short, yes. Once again game emulation is from the experts at M2 and the 60 games featured here come from the later years of the Mega Drive, including some interesting Mega-CD / Sega CD releases. There are some real gems in here to replay.

The Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is comparable to other miniature game consoles, and we've rounded up the best in our buying guide 'the best retro gaming consoles'. This list includes the previous Sega entry as well as mini game consoles from Nintendo, Commodore and Evercade. There's also a new Evercade EXP launching this month; this new cartridge-based handheld retro game console comes pre-loaded with classic Capcom games. If you want the latest games console, read my PS5 review.

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2: hardware design

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review; a person holds a small games console

The Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is tiny and can easily fit into the palm of your hand (Image credit: Future)

The Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is a tiny replica of the 1993 Mega Drive / Genesis model 2, a revised version of this classic console that streamlined the classic design. This new miniature game console measures just 16.6 x 13.1 x 8.6 cm and weighs a slight 530 grams – it's small, light but crammed with some excellent games that pioneered unique game design.

The console is a wonderful replica of the MK2 Mega Drive / Genesis and even features a cartridge slot that opens, so you can slot in model carts. It's worth noting this is a recreation of the Japanese version of the MK2 so there are some small differences to the console you remember, for example there's a power switch rather than a button and no LED to light up when on.

The model features two USB-A ports on the front; a Micro USB socket for power and a HDMI port at the rear for TV and monitor connectivity (it outputs at 720p and 480p). A USB-C for power could be a slimmer and more approachable connection, but this is a minor quibble.

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review; a photo of the controller buttons

The controller is based on the MK2 gamepad, with six buttons and idea for Street Fighter II (Image credit: Future)

The controller that comes with the Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is a design based on the later-life Mega Drive / Genesis six-button controller that was released to support the Street Fighter II craze of the time (and it's little wonder that game is included).

You only get one controller with this console, which is a missed opportunity considering some of the excellent two-player games included, such as Final Fight CD. It's lightweight, has a long two-metre lead and is overall a nice replica of the old gamepad. If you do want a second controller, other USB gamepads will work with the Sega Mega Drive Mini 2, including the excellent retro models from Retro-Bit and 8BitDo. Read my buying guide to the best retro controllers to see what's available.

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2: UI and UX

The Sega Mega Drive Mini 2's UI is streamlined and easy to navigate. It puts the games front and centre in a scrolling menu of three wide, with each game's pack image showing you what's on offer. 

You can re-list the roster in a tab to organise by release date, genre and even 'CD first', which I love – clearly there's recognition that many will be buying this mini retro console to replay the rarer Mega-CD / Sega CD games that were sent out to die in a console war against Sony's PlayStation. If you click on a game you can then see a close up and scroll through the list in this new viewer.

From this screen you can dip into systems menus to adjust the wallpaper and frame size to alter the aspect ratio from the standard 4:3 of the era to a modern 16:9, but this makes most of the games from this 16- and 32-bit era look stretched and, well… a mess. Leave things as the '90s intended. 

Yuzo Koshiro who?

Yuzo Koshiro is a games music composer who has worked on some of the most-loved titles of yesteryear, including the Streets Of Rage and Shinobi series, as well as Shenmue. He was recently back creating the music for Streets Of Rage 4, a new entry in the fighting series released on modern games consoles.

One highlight of the menus, see UI design is cool, is new music from iconic composer Yuzo Koshiro, who scored games such as The Revenge Of Shinobi and Streets Of Rage back. There are also remixes of classic tunes as you open certain games and the option to switch between MK1 and MK2 music, as each console had different audio ranges.

All in, the Sega Mega Drive Mini 2's UI is excellent and the easy of use to travel around and view each game, then load, is good. One slight niggle is you need to leave the mini console to view each game's manual – a QR code is screened that takes you to a site where you can view and download them as PDFs.

The console is also lacking any heritage info and art to expand on why these games have been included, it's always nice to scratch the surface of a retro games collection but here it's all surface.

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review: software

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review; a screen shot of Virtua Racing on Mega CD

The Mega-CD / Sega CD games, such as Virtua Racing, are a big draw for retro gamers (Image credit: Future)

With 60 games to dig into it's actually quite a daunting list of games on offer for this mini console follow-up. The eye-catching inclusion of Mega-CD / Sega CD games is a good place to start, as Sega has up until this point neglected this patchy part of its past games history – after all, this was the hardware add-on designed to put PlayStation in its place. That worked out well.

The games are as patchy as this period of Sega's past, but also represent a novel window into a time when technology promised to reinvent game design. To an extent, Sega was onto something. Night Trap, for example, makes use of full motion video (FMV) to tell its somewhat un-PC story – a group of teenage girls are having a slumber party and you need to protect them… by watching them on secret cameras and setting off traps to capture any home invaders. Since then the format has evolved into movie-games such as Immortality and choice-gaming, such as The Quarry. 

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review; a screen shot from Silpheed

Mega-CD / Sega CD games use FMV and pre-renders backgrounds, as in shooter Silpheed (above) (Image credit: Future)

Other CD-based games make heavy use of pre-rendered backgrounds, such as in superb shooter Silpheed, and many overload the action with CD-streamed audio, as in side-scrolling slasher The Ninja Warriors that uses the tech to build-out its world with new anime intros. 

The omissions are glaring, for example there's no Snatcher – Hideo Kojima's classic was released on Mega-CD / Sega CD or Sonic 3, and I would have liked to have seen Star Wars Rebel Assault. But Sonic CD is here; one of the best Sonic games – it introduced Amy Rose and Metal Sonic – and took the blue blur into new '3D' stages. You can even select US or EU versions.

Of the 'standard' Mega Drive 2 games to feature, I would pick Virtua Racing because it's still a phenomenal sim (the original uses a cart-based chip to push around its speeding polygons). Other notable inclusions are The Revenge Of Shinobi, Rainbow Islands EXTRA, and Rolling Thunder 2. Ristar deserves to be played, as in my opinion it's a better platformer that deserves the same accolades as Sonic.

Only on Mega Drive Mini 2: bonus games

While many of the games pre-installed on the Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 are classics of the '90s, there are a number of new games only available on this retro console. For example, Space Harrier, Space Harrier II and Fantasy Zone are new ports for this console; Devi & Pii is an unreleased Breakout clone from 1992 made by the Sonic 3 team; likewise the axed Star Mobile is finally released.

Curiosity inclusions are OutRunners, a two-player racer in a package with one controller, and Mega Drive versions of Neo Geo games Fatal Fury 2 or Viewpoint, which I appreciate but perhaps more Sega-specific games would be better.

Elsewhere retro game specialist M2 has upgraded some games that you may have played before on emulation. Phantasy Star II has a new easy mode, legendary racer OutRun has new music and iconic shooter Thunder Force IV has a new 'high speed' mode for anyone wanting a serious challenge.

Ultimately, however, with 60 games to choose from, including some classic role-player games, sims and shooters, everyone is going to have different lists of favourites. As an archive of a moment in time, when game design was evolving from 16 to 32-bit, this collection of games is worth digging into and learning from.

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review: the games list

Games list: After Burner II, Alien Soldier, Atomic Runner, Bonanza Bros., ClayFighter, Crusader of Centy, Desert Strike: Return To The Gulf, Earthworm Jim 2, Ecco The Dolphin - Ecco: The Tides Of Time, Elemental Master, Fatal Fury 2, Final Fight CD, Gain Ground, Golden Axe II, Granada, Hellfire, Herzog Zwei, Midnight Resistance, Night Striker, Night Trap, OutRun, OutRunners, Phantasy Star II, Populous, Rainbow Islands EXTRA, Ranger-X, Ristar, Robo Aleste, Rolling Thunder 2, Sewer Shark, Shadow Dancer: The Secret Of Shinobi, Shining Force CD, Shining Force II - Shining In the Darkness - Silpheed - Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island - Sonic The Hedgehog CD - Splatterhouse 2, Streets Of Rage 3, Super Hang-On, Super Street Fighter II The New Challengers, The Ninja Warriors, The Ooze, The Revenge Of Shinobi, Thunder Force IV, ToeJam & Earl In Panic On Funkotron, Truxton, VectorMan 2, Viewpoint, Virtua Racing, Warsong, Yumemi Mystery Mansion.

Bonus games: Spatter, Super Locomotive, Vs Puyo Puyo SUN, Fantasy Zone, Devi & Pii, Star Mobile, Space Harrier, Space Harrier II.

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review: the price

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review; a hand holds a controller

The Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is quite expensive, but with 60 games it's worth the price (Image credit: Future)

At $99.99 / £104.99 the Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is one of the more expensive retro mini games consoles around, and the previous Mega Drive Mini sold for $30 / £30 less. However, Sega has limited the production run on this model, which means it's liable to sell out and then prices really rise. For example, the Sega mini Mega Drive release two years ago is now selling for $180 / £250 (this tracks somewhat, as Mega Drive was more popular in the UK). 

If the idea of buying to invest doesn't grab you, then breaking down the cost of owning some of these 60 games as original carts is eye-watering – each game alone could set you back hundreds of pounds and dollars. For example, a copy of Virtua Racing sold for $285 on eBay, and Warsong went for $549.99.

Even if you only love and replay a third of the games here after trawling through the missteps and oddities, the Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 represents good value. The impressive emulation, easy of use, and quality of the model replica is more reason to love this new mini retro console.

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review: buy one?

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review; a top down photo of a small retro games console

The Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is a smart little console that finally brings Mega CD games to mini consoles (Image credit: Future)

If you have fond memories of the Mega Drive, would like to discover how devs tried to make early CD technology work, or just really want to play Sonic CD, then the Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is well worth the asking price. 

It is a closed system, so you can only play the 60 games included, so that's something to consider. Ultimately this is an excellent way to rediscover some classic 16 and 32-bit games and reconnect with some inventive game design that has stood the test of time.

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The Verdict
9

out of 10

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2

The Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is a smart, well-modelled little retro console crammed with some of the best games of the late 80s and early 90s. As a footnote to the moment game design met new technology this is an essential buy for any budding game devs; the challenge of getting the most from new tech happens more than ever, so learn from the successes and missteps of the past. Or simply boot up OutRun, Silpheed CD and Rainbow Islands EXTRA and many other hits, and have a great time.

Ian Dean is Digital Arts & Design Editor at Creative Bloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his love to bring the latest news on NFTs, video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Corel Painter, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5.