The Sega Genesis is one of the most iconic video game consoles ever created, with more than 30 million units sold worldwide.
Its popularity, particularly in North America and Europe, can be mainly attributed to the games available: between its launch in 1988 and its discontinuation in 1997, Sega released numerous titles that hooked gamers on the Genesis – and basketball gamers were no exception.
Here we take a trip down memory lane and look at the best basketball games that were released on the Sega Genesis. If you are used to watch and keep track of NBA and college basketball odds, you sure must have played one of the games below.
NBA Jam Series
Where else to start but the hugely popular NBA Jam? The first Jam hit the consoles in 1993 and became a massive success. It was available on Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Game Gear, Sega CD, and in arcades, but there was something about the game that felt better when playing on Genesis (maybe that’s childhood nostalgia talking).
Developed and published by Midway, NBA Jam features two-on-two basketball and is known for its exaggerated gameplay – players can jump impossibly high and there are very few rules beyond no goaltending and 24-second violations.
The “on fire” mode, which was activated when a player or team scored a succession of baskets, was a key memorable feature, while the game is filled with Easter eggs for players to unlock and achieve new features and cheats.
NBA Jam was also a pioneering game in that it was one of the first to use NBA-licensed teams and players.
The initial game was soon followed, in 1994, by NBA Jam Tournament Edition, which expanded on the original premise and gameplay by adding a tournament mode, updating the rosters, and including new features.
One of the biggest upgrades was making rosters three players, although it was still only two players on the court at any one time.
One more edition of NBA Jam was released on the Genesis – NBA Hangtime in 1996 – which improved on its predecessors by adding a create-a-player feature.
The NBA Jam franchise would continue up until 2011 with releases on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but the early iterations on the Sega Genesis were what cemented the game’s legendary status.
NBA Live Series
EA Sports has long been a groundbreaking and pioneering sports video game developer and the NBA Live series was among its flagship products.
Previous basketball games had been released on the Genesis by EA Sports, starting with 1991’s Lakers versus Celtics and the NBA Playoffs (it actually came out in 1989 on the Nintendo but got reissued on the Genesis two years later).
But the launch of NBA Live 95 helped change the game (literally) for EA Sports. It introduced for the first time elements to basketball games that became standard features for future editions, including the isometric on-court perspective, turbo button for player sprints, and the T-meter for free-throws.
Graphics and gameplay also received a significant upgrade from the previous year’s NBA Showdown, while NBA Live 95 was the first basketball game to introduce customizable fictional teams and create-a-player as well as real rosters.
NBA Live 95 is regarded as one of the great console games of all time and was the first of four editions to be released on the Sega Genesis: NBA Live 96, NBA Live 97, and NBA Live 98 all followed suit, while 97 and 98 were also released on the Genesis’ successor, the less popular Sega Saturn.
The franchise would continue to be released on other consoles up until NBA Live 2019.
Initially released as an arcade game in 1989 and then a year later on the Nintendo, Arch Rivals landed on the Genesis (and Game Gear) in 1992.
Developed by Midway, Arch Rivals is the precursor to NBA Jam – also featuring two-on-two basketball with limited rules. Players are allowed to punch each other, and the only rule is a shot clock violation.
There are eight fictional players on the roster – Blade, Hammer, Lewis, Mohawk, Moose, Reggie, Tyrone, and Vinnie – who all have different strengths and weaknesses, and the game selects the teams at random.
Arch Rivals may not be as well-known as NBA Jam but it was vital in shaping the premise for its more popular successor.
Pat Riley Basketball
As popularity in basketball games grew in the 1990s, many players leveraged their image rights to launch their own games. Charles Barkley’s Barkley Shut Up and Jam!, Shaquille O’Neal’s Shaq Fu, and David Robinson’s Supreme Court were among the titles to hit the Genesis, but arguably the best self-titled basketball game came from a coach.
Pat Riley Basketball, named for the Los Angeles Lakers coach at the time, was released on the Genesis in 1990 and was available in three editions: Pat Riley Basketball in the United States, Super Real Basketball in Japan, and World Cup Basketball in Europe.
Based on the edition of the game, the playable teams changed but the rules and gameplay remained the same, with five-on-five games of four quarters.
NBA Jam and NBA Live aside, Pat Riley Basketball still appears to hold a special place in the hearts of modern-day Genesis players.