The Best Sega Genesis Shoot 'em ups

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The Sega Genesis is a video home console designed and sold by Sega and initially released in Japan in the 1980s then to be further released in North America. Despite its rival, Nintendo, dominating the market in Japan, the Genesis did gain considerable success across North America, Brazil, and Europe. The Sega Genesis was one of the pioneering 16-bit consoles, pushing the limits for graphical fidelity and with the capacity to play over 900 games. The console featured an eclectic range of games spanning across multiple genres.

Sega's superior processing system, labeled 'blast processing', allowed more games to run at 60 fps, making it ideal for the shoot-'em-up genre. Introduced in the late 80's and early 90's shoot 'em ups, also referred to as shmups, are fast-paced games, ideal for the Sega Genesis. With their broad selection of weapons at-hand and exceptional range of themes and settings, one of the main features of shoot 'em ups is their range of scrolling shooters consisting of vertical, horizontal, and isometric shooters.

Introducing 10 of the Best Sega Genesis Shoot-'Em-Up Games. Each game possesses key features, like having to overcome many bosses, work through testing levels, and defeat a range of aliens and overruling antagonists. Nevertheless, they each present their own unique world that varies from sci-fi to futuristic lands.


Gaiares, a scrolling shooter game, was first released in both Japan and the US in the 1990s. In the year 3000, the Earth has become polluted by mankind, leaving it a desolate wasteland. Gulfer, a group of pirates, aims to utilize the pollution to power their weapons so they can create serious destruction. Sent from a divine ship, Dan Dare is the chosen one that sent from the United Star Cluster of Leezaluth to prevent the sun from blowing-up; consequently, allowing humans to go forward and save themselves.

Crammed with danger and excitement, each mission has multiple stages and you must overcome challenges such as facing environmental hazards with black holes and narrow tunnels. Plus, with 13 weapons to acquire, you will have limitless fun trying out new strategies.

Thunder Force 4

Identified as one of the best shooters on the Mega Drive when it was launched in 1992, Thunder Force 4 includes exceptional graphics that focus on producing a broad and expansive scene and back-drop. Similarly to the earlier Thunder Force games, Thunder Force 4 is a horizontal scrolling shooter. But this time around, features include both vertical and parallax scrolling too.

Continuing the story two years after the events of Thunder Force 3, Thunder Force 4 puts the player in the pilot's seat, faced with the challenge of defeating the Ohn Empire that aims to destroy humanity. The flexibility of the ship's speed means that it is built to be varied and altered to fulfill your requirements throughout the game. Although for ultimate impact, players usually love the maximum speed available.

Eliminate Down

Unlike some of the other best shoot 'em up games on the Genesis, Eliminate Down provides players with instant access to 3 main weapons. These weapons can be further enhanced through the defeat of the threatening aliens during the course of 8 fantastic levels. Thanks to this head-start, players begin with a strong stance to work their way through the exciting plot.

With the 30th century approaching, humans are adapting to face the challenges of the space era. There is, however, the immediate threat of Amuleto, an alien species, that work towards obliterating mankind. Ready to take on the aliens, Steel Pyron is the humans' perfect solution to combat Amuleto. When players have to restart levels that they've failed, all of their upgraded weapons are reset to the defaults. This only encourages the player to develop their focus and remain in-tune with the action of the game.


Originally released on the Sega Genesis in 1990 and later released on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan later in 2008, MUSHA allows the player to feature as the lead protagonist of the game, Terri. This Japanese character flies a mecha vehicle that is equipped with the necessary weapons for warfare. In this futuristic game, the player is set to tackle Dire 51, a supercomputer that has targeted Earth from space in 2290.

M.U.S.H.A has been especially praised for its exceptional graphics, the level of difficulty - which only further increases the player's enjoyment and grip to the game - along with the speed metal soundtrack that drives and motivates the player.

Steel Empire

Inspired by the steampunk genre, it's clear that this theme runs throughout the entirety of Steel Empire - across its aircraft, weapons, enemies, design, and bosses. With a historical tone, Steel Empire is set during the year 18xx, and the player is required to imagine a world still reliant on steam power.

Throughout this single-player, multi-directional scrolling shooter game, the world's largest city, Dama, is taken over by the enemy and power-hungry dictator, General Styron. Styron emits and enforces his vision of steel and steam to consume the entire planet.

It is your role as the player to become the Silverhead pilot.  You must then work your way through a range of cities, caverns, and islands to finally face the challenge of defeating Styron himself.


Gynoug, commonly known as Wings of Wor in the US, is a shoot-'em-up game released in 1991. With a fairly basic plot-line, this single-player game revolves around both spiritual themes and the biblical theme of heaven and hell. Your role is to play as Wor: a winged character whose mission is to drive away and destroy the evil of Iccus while protecting the goodness of the heavens.

With the ability to collect your magic spells - offensive and defensive - you can be armed with spells such as the magic arrow, thunderbolt, and energy ball; along with the aura shield for defense. Not only will you need to focus on defeating the enemy, but you will also need to defend both yourself and the heavens.


Similar to many other shoot 'em up games, Gleylancer is also a scrolling shooter. Likewise to games such as Phantasy Star IV or Gaiares, the plot contains manga-like illustrations that guide you through the story and further immerse you in the plot.

Set in futuristic 2025 when there is a war between humans and aliens, you follow the plot of Lucia, a 16-year-old star pilot in the Earth Federation. When Lucia's father, Ken, is suddenly kidnapped, a devastated Lucia takes over control of the prototype ship Gley Lancer. With the support of Teim, Lucia's loyal friend, they embark upon the journey of rescuing her father.

With the choice of up to 2 gunners, which essentially function as additional weapons, there's a lot of variety to the gunplay. The player also has the opportunity to choose from different formations for the gunners, for example, making them automatically target the nearest enemy, or spin around the player's ship resulting in a spiral fire pattern. Additionally, throughout the game, there are also many weapons to be obtained that will further help the player upon their quest.


Released in 1988, Truxton is a vertical scrolling game shoot 'em up initially developed by Toaplan. Truxton requires either a single-player or multiplayer to embark upon the challenge of annihilating the alien enemy and stop their attempt at invasion. The multiplayer mode allows players to work as a team to shoot their way through five levels before defeating their respective bosses.

An interesting factor of Truxton is that it not only requires speed and agility, but it is also a strategy-based game, and by playing regularly, there are patterns to be noticed and learned. Truxton was once recognized as one of the most challenging shoot-'em-ups, and even now, it stands well in comparison to competitors.

  • Updated September 4, 2020