Top Five MegaDrive Shmups

Fire Shark Screenshot

5. Fire Shark (1990)

Flying Shark, in my view, is among the finest vertical scrollers of all-time so it’s a shame it never saw a release on a system able to do it justice, such as the MD. I guess we’ll have to settle for the game considered its unofficial sequel – Fire Shark! Still, it’s not much of a sacrifice as this game retains many of the distinctive features from its forebear and adds a few more of its own for good measure!

4. Super Fantasy Zone (1992)

Super Fantasy Zone Screenshot

After the three Fantasy Zone games on the Master System, many fans feared the end of the series was nigh. But these fears were unfounded, for this apparent final swan song on the MD is fully deserving of its ‘Super’ prefix! Instantly familiar to fans of the series, but bigger and better than ever before, this tough blaster had lovely graphics, a fantastic soundtrack, lots of new weapons, creative bosses, and the same ultra-addictive gameplay we had come to know and love!

3. Battle Squadron (1990)

Battle Squadron Screenshot

Arguably the MD’s best vertical scroller (that I’ve played, anyway), this offering from EA is really tough going, but don’t let that put you off. With no traditional level structure to speak of and a few nice ideas such as the ‘Chameleon’ ships which employ cloaking devices, and some fantastic music, it’s well worth persevering with. Plus, it has a card up its sleeve – it’s a simultaneous two-player game! A real rarity in this genre…

2. Hellfire (1990)

Hellfire Screenshot

This underrated gem was a pretty early release for the MD but still ranks among its best coin-op conversions. It doesn’t have the graphical tricks of some games (see below!), but it is one of the most polished, balanced shooters I’ve ever played. It’s true that it’s somewhat unforgiving (it’s basically a one-life game) and doesn’t really have much in the way of power-ups, but it’s hard to complain when the game is still so good! Varied levels, a rocking soundtrack, a well-graded dificulty curve, and perfect collision detection make this one of the best!

1. Thunder Force 3 (1990)

Thunder Force 3 Screenshot

Yes, yes, I know many of you prefer TFIV. I personally like all of the Thunder Force games, but I’m really struggling to remember any shooter I’ve enjoyed as consistently as this one on any system. It’s pretty easy (although maybe that’s just because I’ve played it so much!) but how could you not be impressed with this game? At the time of release it was among the best-looking games on any system, rife with fancy graphics effects, and features one of the best shmup soundtracks ever. Couple that with the huge variety between levels, impressive multitude of weapons, and immense enemies, and you’ve got a game that screams quality from every pore…


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Simon Lethbridge

Hello. :) I'm a 38 year old nerd from England, and I like lots of stuff, including retro video games, movies, sci-fi, and anime. This is the place where I will blabber on about them! At the very least, it will give me an excuse to try games/films that I keep putting off. Hope you like reading it! :)

7 thoughts on “Top Five MegaDrive Shmups

  • I've only got one shmup for the MD. It is Thunderforce III though, so it's not all bad. I'll have a go at emulating these to see if me likey.

    Are they particularly rare/expensive?

  • A great list – will need to try out #s 2 and 4 at some point! 😀

  • I'm not sure to be honest, Marc. I've had them all since they came out. If it's any consolation, I think the most expensive one is TF3!

    Cheers, Jimbo, you really should. Hellfire will last you a while!

  • good list. Always had a soft spot myself for Gynoug. Also played recently a game called Twin Cobra which is a pretty good vertical scroller. I don't like SWIV so not bothered you haven't included that, although others might be!

  • SWIV? I only ever played that on the Amiga, I didn't even know it was on the MD! I played a lot of Twin Cobra on the Engine, great game. As for Gynoug… That's another one I've got. It got great review, I just never really got on with it 😐

  • I would include Ranger X as well…maybe I should do a list 🙂

  • Maybe you should! Ranger X is a platform shooter though 😛

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