When Nintendo came out with its SNES console, Sega knew it had to make some kind of intermediary system. This was supposed to keep Genesis gamers entertained until Saturn was finally released. After all, the SNES came nearly 2 years after the Genesis and featured some improvements (like better audio quality).
Sega already had the CD attachment for their Genesis, designed to accept larger games in CD-ROM format. The 32X is another attachment designed to slot into your Genesis cartridge port. This accessory allows your Genesis to play “32-bit” games.
You can still play regular Genesis games on the 32X- and some of them will even look marginally better. The 32X is supposed to upgrade the Genesis’ audio, but it still loses out to SNES in many titles (like Doom). All things considered, the 32X was a failure.
However, it did give us some excellent games. It’s tragic that the entire library of this console is comprised of just 40 games. Today, I shall take a look at the 30 best 32X games of all time that you must play.
NBA Jam T.E.
Are exaggerated moves and comical depictions of basketball stars something you want in your NBA game? Well then, check out NBA Jam Tournament Edition which has truckloads of the aforementioned stuff. And that’s what makes this one of the most enjoyable basketball games from the 1990s, while still retaining a competitive spirit.
T.E. adds new players as well as new attributes for each player. It contains the new “Tournament Mode” and music tracks by Jon Hey. More emphasis was placed on player switching (you get 3 total, with 2 active on the court).
Virtua Racing Deluxe
Back when this game was being worked on at Sega, they were trying it out as a proof of concept for 3D. However, the initial designs looked so good that Sega turned this demo/ learning project into its own game- called Virtua Racing. Looking back at it today, it’s incomprehensible how they rendered a proper 3D racing game in real-time on hardware that is outshined by basic flip phones from the 2000s.
Virtua Racing Deluxe combines fast F1-style open cockpit cars with scenic routes. The 32X Deluxe version is as close as you can get to the arcade on a home console, and it features a couple of new cars. Sega also created two extra tracks called “Highland” and “Sand Park” for their 32X port of Virtua Racing.
If you are interested in Sega games, check out my other article Top 50 All-time Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) Games That You Must Play
Star Wars Arcade
Ah, 1993- what a great time to be a Star Wars fan. Well before Disney “subverted our expectations” with their sequels. Even the prequels hadn’t been released yet, so people were enjoying the original trilogy.
Star Wars Arcade is also based on the original trilogy, but mostly A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. It’s a space fighter game in which you pilot a Rebel starship and shoot down Empire forces.
Widely regarded as an inferior version of Doom compared to the SNES port. Doom for the 32X is a real disappointment and features several differences from the regular version. It has missing levels and worse music that sounds like the artist trying to recreate his work on a graphing calculator.
Enemy types like the Cyberdemon and Spectre are notoriously absent, and you can’t save your game. Despite all these flaws (and more), the game is fun to play- if you haven’t yet played the original. Because that’s how hard it is to ruin Doom.
A cinematic platformer with an excellent plot and well-written characters. Blackthorne is part fantasy and part sci-fi western. It is set on an alien planet called Tuul which is ruled by shamans.
Every cycle, a new shaman ruler is selected- usually through a hierarchy. The current king has two sons but can’t decide who should be the next ruler. So he kills himself and splits his soul into two stones- one representing light, and the other containing darkness.
Each son takes one of the stones and forms their own kingdom. Over time, the kingdom ruled by the one who took the dark stone turns into a land of monsters who invade their neighboring kingdom of light. The king sends his son to Earth with the light stone as their last hope.
Here is another Sega related article you might want to check Top 45 All-time Sega CD Games That You Must Play
Mortal Kombat II
The first Mortal Kombat was a story about legendary fighters from all corners of the planet (and even other worlds) coming together to fight in a martial arts tournament. What made Mortal Kombat unique was its wide roster of characters that each represented various races, cultures, and fighting styles. On top of that, each fighter has a fatality move which is a stylish finisher with tons of gore.
Mortal Kombat II is more of the same, but with expanded move sets and new fighters. It also builds on the lore of its predecessor and introduces the mechanic of each fighter having multiple fatalities.
Well, it has a really basic plot and the gameplay doesn’t look very exciting. Nevertheless, Kolibri is a Sega 32X exclusive so you can’t play it on any other platform. This is a fairly rudimentary side-scrolling shooter.
According to the story, all life on Earth was created long ago by a crystal that arrived from outer space and started spreading its energy through the land. However, other crystals containing dark energy also arrived and started sapping away life. The good crystal created a hummingbird and infused it with all the power needed to defeat the enemy crystals.
Despite the awesome name, this isn’t some rhythm/ music game featuring metal music. Instead, it’s a mecha game featuring texture-mapped 3D polygons which was a revolutionary feature for the time. No other 16-bit console could even think of doing this.
But the Genesis with its 32X add-on delivered an amazing experience for geeks and gamers alike. Metal Head isn’t just a tech demo either, it’s actually fun to play. You get a cockpit view from inside the mech, and a mission briefing from your commander at the start of each level.
It’s one of the earliest games to use hand-drawn artwork and features a fictional music show. In each stage, you are part of a musical performance. The end goal is to reach King Dirge, who is running this whole event.
If you want a game to sit back and relax with, this is a great choice. It’s like being inside the set of an interactive musical. The gameplay is easy to pick up and doesn’t overwhelm you with too many tasks at the same time.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Web of Fire
This game is interesting for various reasons. Firstly, it is an excellently crafted superhero platformer in which you play as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
There isn’t a lot of swinging between buildings like the more modern 3D Spider-Man games. Instead, you shoot webs at your enemies and jump over them.
Despite the lack of web-slinging, this game is pretty fun. Especially with the excellent artwork and soundtrack. It’s unique because Web of Fire is the last 32X game to be released in the North American region, after which Sega discontinued support for this add-on.
I know what you’re thinking, is this game about Harrier aircraft in space? No, it doesn’t have Harrier jump jets- and there certainly isn’t any space combat. Funnily enough, the original plan was for it to be a military-themed shooter with a fighter jet.
However, the lead developer Yu Suzuki decided to go with a flying human instead. Changes were made due to technical restrictions on the hardware they were developing this game for. You are equipped with a jet booster that propels you through several stages filled with everything from ancient mammoths to giant dragons.
No, this isn’t the terrible horror movie from 2018 featuring a discount bigfoot. Primal Rage is a 1 v 1 2D fighting game in which you control giant monsters instead of humans. Your opponent is the AI, who constantly gets better and more aggressive with each level.
At the end of the single-player campaign, you’ll engage in a boss rush where you have to beat all the previous enemies. During the boss rush, these enemies feature extended health bars which makes them even more annoying than usual.
This isn’t exactly a game, but an interactive movie. No, I don’t mean one of those games where you walk around doing nothing only so you can trigger 2-hour long cutscenes. Night Trap is a proper interactive movie with a full cast, script, acting, etc.
You are essentially selecting menu options inside what is a horror-comedy B movie. Some teenage girls are sleeping over at an old mansion, but they don’t know about the vampires who live in this place. You will look at surveillance cam footage and make choices/ activate traps to keep the girls safe.
WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game
You can tell this is old because it uses the WWF moniker rather than “WWE”. WrestleMania: The Arcade Game is basically a WWE-licensed product designed to emulate the gameplay and fighting style of Mortal Kombat. But with pro wrestling stars instead of fictional characters.
Vince and Jerry “The King” Lawler provide commentary, as you duke it out against other stars in the ring. There is a roster of 8 characters, which is quite small by today’s standards. The game uses digitized representations of wrestlers who occasionally bust out cartoonish moves that are equal parts funny and awesome.
Yet another FMV interactive movie copied onto a game disk, Surgical Strike was designed for the Sega CD. Later, a slightly improved version was made for the 32X CD. But this was exclusive to Tec Toy in Brazil.
Surgical Strike’s setting is that of a post-apocalyptic battlefield in which you’re a special forces soldier tasked with infiltrating and destroying the enemy base. You can shoot down enemies, call in air strikes, and throw explosives at buildings.
Boy, we really are going all-in with the whole FMV interactive movie-game thing at this point. It’s not hard to see why the Sega 32X never gained popularity. Games for this console are far too few and gimmicky.
Supreme Warrior isn’t exactly a bad game, it’s just a cheesy B-movie packaged onto a game disk. Yeah, the fighting isn’t half-bad and you actually feel like the actors aren’t phoning it in. But just because a CD lets you put extended FMV cutscenes into your game doesn’t mean you should turn your entire game into an interactive movie.
Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
After our little sidetrack, we’re finally back to real games. This game is based on the original Atari 2600 side scroller in which you played an adventurer gathering treasures from a jungle. The Mayan Adventure puts you in the shoes of Pitfall Harry Junior who’s trying to rescue his father from a Mayan jungle.
Development for the game originally began on the SNES, but it was later turned into a Genesis release. Animations and artwork are hand-drawn which provides an additional layer of detail to the visuals. Much like previous Pitfall games, you’ll have to traverse levels filled with dangerous animals and traps.
FIFA Soccer 96
Unlike NBA Jam, FIFA Soccer is a more simulation-heavy game that tries to be realistic (within the bounds of technology available during that time). What made this game extra special was the fact that it used an overhead camera angle with proper real-time 3D rendering. This was miles ahead of other football and sports games of the era which were still using 2D sprites.
Even the controls and AI were praised by various gaming publications. You could switch camera angles and form strategies around your AI companions. The tournament modes are also implemented pretty well in this game.
Dr. Robotnik and his creation Metal Sonic are terrorizing an island. It’s up to our friend Knuckles and his team of Chaotix to stop this by collecting 6 magical rings. In Knuckles’ Chaotix, an element of tag teaming is present which differentiates gameplay compared to previous Knuckles titles.
You are always tethered with a Chaotix squad member, resulting in a rubber band effect that can help or hinder your movement. Each of the 4 Chaotix members has a unique ability, and you can choose which one you want with you.
After Burner Complete
This is a retouched version of After Burner II with new levels and enemy types, in addition to more missiles for your fighter jet. The Complete version adds some extra gameplay tweaks and is designed for Sega’s 32X system. Your aircraft is called the SSF-14, and it looks visually similar to the F-14 Tomcat used by the United States Navy during the time this game was released.
The camera angle is fixed, and located behind the aircraft. Missions in the movie involve attacks on ground/ sea targets, as well as dogfights against other fighters. You can manually slow down and speed up the plane, which is a feature added only in After Burner II (and its various ports).
A quirky, but fun space shooter sim in which you pilot one of two Feather fighter crafts. Aliens are trying to attack Outpost 51, and they’ve got a huge army coming in from outer space. You will have to take out their solar laser system by breaking through the frontline.
Like a few other games in the 32X’s library, Shadow Squadron is rendered in 3D. You get a full cockpit view, complete with digital gauges and dials. In co-op mode, you can choose a human or AI companion as your gunner while you take on piloting tasks.
Golf Magazine: 36 Great Holes Starring Fred Couples
It’s a Golf Magazine-sponsored game featuring Fred Couples, which explains the weirdly long and convoluted title. But how’s the actual game? Well, there aren’t any other golf games on the 32X so this is your only shot if you want to enjoy some virtual golfing in your living room.
But that doesn’t make the game bad. It is in fact, better than most golf games from other consoles that were released during the same era. The simulation aspect is heavily prioritized, with lots of customization options.
You can enjoy some good old RAW wrestling with your buddies in this game. It features tag team matches, 1 v 1, Royal Rumble, Survivor Series, and more. Each wrestler has a different weight class and attributes including height, stamina, etc.
Depending on their weight class and skill level, wrestlers can perform a variety of exclusive moves. You can only perform finishers if your enemy is low on stamina, otherwise, they will break out of your hold. Upon a successful finisher, your wrestler will taunt the opponent.
Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000
Another space shooter, but with a few twists and turns in its design that separate it from everything else. Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000 uses an isometric camera angle as opposed to the traditional side-view used by most 8/ 16-bit shooters.
You can also make your pilot board an enemy craft, using it as a power-up for your main ship. Hijacking an enemy will give you access to their blasters (and there are different types of enemy crafts).
Think Road Rash, but with motocross bikes on a dirt track instead of Grand Prix bikes on the highways. You can still kick and punch opponents to throw them off balance. All this while dodging obstacles on the track and jumping off giant mounds and ramps.
Some corners can be quite slippery because ground type varies from one part of the track to another. You can also do stunts such as wheelies, slides, leans, etc. There are 3 different bikes for you to choose from and a tournament mode.
A space fighting tournament that brings in champions from across the galaxy for 1 v 1 duels in an uncharted star system. There are a total of 8 fighters, representing 2 factions. The gameplay is similar to Mortal Kombat, with brutal finishers and best of 3 matches.
There is a timer on each round, similar to boxing matches. Whoever has more health at the end of the match will win (unless you knock out your opponent first). There is an underlying story going on throughout the tournament, and you can get multiple endings based on your performance.
R.B.I Baseball ‘95
A sequel to R.B.I Baseball ’94, this one is a Sega 32X exclusive and was only released in North America by Time Warner Interactive. Makes sense because baseball games aren’t all that popular outside of North America (and Japan). Originally announced for Sega CD, changes in the development cycle resulted in a cartridge release instead.
Brutal Unleashed: Above the Claw
Imagine Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat exclusively with anthropomorphic animal fighters. That’s Brutal in a nutshell. However, there’s more to this underrated fighting game than swapping out humans for animals.
You can actually learn new moves for your fighter, while every other fighting game has a fixed set of moves. Brutal Unleashed is an upgrade for Brutal, with a story that continues from the original game. The 32X version has better graphics compared to the first Brutal game.
One of the rarest Sega 32X games, you probably won’t find a cartridge for this anytime soon (even if you do, it will be at an exorbitant price). Darxide is a shooter with gameplay similar to asteroids. You pilot a space fighter that looks like an X-Wing, shooting up giant rocks and turning them into smaller rocks.
Unlike asteroid, the whole game is rendered in 3D. Your HUD consists of several digital instrument panels, and you can rescue human colonists from each of the giant asteroids.
Let’s end the list with an FMV interactive movie game. Fahrenheit is the story of an amateur firefighter fresh out of the academy, who’s just been posted to a fire station housing the 13th company. You interact with objects on your screen to avoid hazards and rescue people from burning buildings.
Every time you reach a scripted junction point; a prompt will appear. It asks you which direction you want to take. Unless you make a choice within the given time, the computer will make a random choice for you (usually ends up with a bad outcome).
So, what killed the 32x? Many things, including a lack of coherent vision by Sega’s top management guys and an absolute clown show of accessories crowding the market. Think about it- how many things do you have to bolt onto a Genesis before your living room starts looking like the backstage of a rock concert?
Remember that SNES games looked just as good (and sounded better) without having 20 attachments bolted on top of the console. The games on 32X weren’t “true” 32-bit, they were just mild upgrades of existing stuff. This was supposed to be a cheap entry point into the next-gen console games.
But what we ended up getting was way closer to the old 16-bit stuff than next-gen 32-bit. Sega only sold 800,000 of these things which is a colossal failure if you look at how many Genesis units they sold (over 30 million).