Relive Sega Game Gear‘s Overlooked Multiplayer Classics

As an avid retro gaming enthusiast, I‘m here to spotlight some under-the-radar classics in the Sega Game Gear‘s library that you may have tragically overlooked. This revolutionary 8-bit handheld is often sadly ignored today. But despite being overshadowed by the Game Boy, Sega‘s portable powerhouse could actually outclass Nintendo‘s monochrome machine, especially for multiplayer action!

An Underrated Technical Marvel

First released in 1990, the Game Gear stood far above competitors in processing muscle and display capabilities:

SpecGame GearGame Boy
Processor8-bit Zilog Z80 @ 3.5MHz8-bit Sharp LR35902 @ 4.19MHz
DisplayBacklit color LCD
160 x 144 resolution
Unlit monochrome LCD
160 x 144 resolution
Colors On-Screen32,7684 shades of green
Sound4 channel stereoMonophonic

With a vivid backlit screen displaying up to 32,000 colors, stereo audio, and that handy gear-to-gear link port for multiplayer, the Game Gear was far beyond what other handhelds could manage. The console was perfectly positioned to deliver unparalleled portable party play.

However, as Sega Retro laments, "Despite its impressive hardware…Game Gear failed to attract third party developers…" With only around 300 total releases, the struggling system never reached its true potential. But the gems in its collection still shine brightly, especially those perfect for kicking back with friends.

Let‘s rediscover 7 tragically overlooked party classics that demonstrate why Sega handheld deserves reappraisal as a pioneering multiplayer machine.

7. Columns (1990)

Original PlatformRelease YearGenreGear-to-Gear Multiplayer
Arcade1990Falling Block PuzzleCompetitive / Cooperative

This fast-paced jewel matching puzzler, based on an ancient Middle Eastern precursor to backgammon, played like tetris with added strategy. Aligning prized gems into shimmering columns brought intense versus battles to tiny screens. According to retrospective reviewers:

  • "Two-player battles are about as good as portable gaming got back then."Retro Gamer

  • "The Gear-to-gear cable feature allows two players to either work co-operatively or to engage in head-to-head competition as each tries to outwit the other."Sega Retro

With vibrant effects and spells like "Rosetta Stone" sabotaging opponents, Columns made for instantly accessible party pandemonium.

6. Sonic Drift 2 (1995)

Original PlatformRelease YearGenreGear-to-Gear Multiplayer
Game Gear1995Kart RacerCompetitive (2 Players)

After revolutionizing platformers, Sonic and friends raced onto the small screen with Sonic Drift 2. While slower than its popular console brethren, Drift 2 shined in short burst multiplayer races.

  • "It‘s still stupid fun to this day, especially multiplayer."Nintendo Life (8/10 Review)

Flying around hairpin turns in vivid locales like Splash Hill felt even more exhilarating when an opponent ate your dust thanks to a well-timed oil slick. Cute character animations and tight controls ensured Drift 2 races were always a blast.

5. Primal Rage (1995)

Original PlatformRelease YearGenreGear-to-Gear Multiplayer
Arcade1994Fighting GameCompetitive (2 Players)

This popular arcade fighter let 2 players pit beastly dinosaurs and giant apes against each other in violent clashes. Vibrant prehistoric locales displayed the Game Gear‘s technical abilities despite massive sprites. According to retrospective reviews:

  • "It resembles the original very closely, with nicely animated sprites"Defunct Games

  • "Controls surprisingly well with tight hit detection."GameFabrique

With special attacks like Sauron‘s flaming breath, Primal Rage made parties primeval on Game Gear‘s small screen.

4. Baku Baku Animal (1995)

Original PlatformRelease YearGenreGear-to-Gear Multiplayer
Arcade1995Falling Block PuzzleCompetitive (2 Players)

This adorable puzzler deviated from standard Tetris clones. Instead of purely grouping blocks, players matched various animal characters with the appropriate food dropping above. Vibrant sprites brought an endearing personality perfect for parties. According to retrospective reviewers:

  • "It‘s Tetris with animals and food!"GameFabrique

  • "It‘s a fast-paced, action packed puzzle game."Sega Retro

Baku Baku Animal excerpted friendly competition in short frenzied versus rounds. An engaging story mode added depth beyond simply high score chasing.

3. NBA Jam (1994)

Original PlatformRelease YearGenreGear-to-Gear Multiplayer
Arcade1993Sports (Basketball)Competitive (2 Players)

This iconic arcade basketball sensation dunked its way flawlessly to Game Gear, capturing the fast-paced street ball action that made it a hit.

  • "Plays surprisingly close to the real arcade game."Sega Retro (8/10 Review)

Without fouls or free throws slowing the pace, games were lightning quick competitive showcases between friends. The Roster Editor let players customize their own wacky NBA teams which could be shared between Game Gears for fantasy tournament showdowns!

2. Streets of Rage 2 (1993)

Original PlatformRelease YearGenreGear-to-Gear Multiplayer
Genesis1993Beat ‘em UpCooperative (2 Players)

Sega perfected genre in the acclaimed Streets of Rage series. And this sequel stands as one of the best handheld brawlers ever released, with fluid combat animations that brought its urban playground to life. According to critics:

  • "This is one of the best examples of what the Game Gear could pull off."Cultured Vultures

  • "The Street of Rage series might just be Sega‘s best set of video games."Mega Visions Magazine

Independent life bars in 2-player gave both gamers room to wallop thugs without intrusively sharing resources. The bolstered co-op made this a beat-em-up for the buddy system era.

1. Super Columns (1993)

Original PlatformRelease YearGenreGear-to-Gear Multiplayer
Game Gear1993Falling Block PuzzleCompetitive (2 Players)

This brilliant Game Gear exclusive took the ubiquitous falling block puzzler to new heights. By integrating mystical dueling spells into standard jewel stacking action, it created one of most intense versus puzzlers ever released. Players could vex opponents with Amphora, sealing blocks in place, or Terpsychoros, making jewels dance away from desired formations.

According to retrospective reviewers:

  • "There‘s great appeal in using spells to directly affect your opponent."Hardcore Gaming 101

  • "This exclusive Game Gear release might actually be the best version of Columns."Retro Gamer

With more modes and strategy than any Columns before, Super Columns succeeded as uniquely competitive title perfect for spurring trash talk between friends.

Give Sega‘s Handheld Another Chance!

As this small sample proves, Game Gear‘s library hid under-the-radar classics still worth playing today, especially for couch competition. In many ways the underdog handheld surpassed expectations. So don‘t overlook its shockingly solid party offerings! I hope rediscovering these 7 marvelous multiplayer titles compels you to finally plug-in, link-up, and give Sega‘s 8-bit dynamo another chance after all these years. It might just become your new retro party go-to!

Let me know in the comments which of these titles bring back fond gathering memories playing with pals. And stay tuned for more guides spotlighting forgotten portable gaming gems primed for group enjoyment!

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