I was fucking pissed off. Because I was young, and my console of choice had been insulted. Because I knew that blast processing was a meaningless term invented by some slimy marketing scuzzball and that Sonic 2 was clearly inferior to its SNES counterparts and that Kart alone was pretty much better than anything Genesis even had to offer at the time and that the dumber-than-bread kids at my crappy middle school liked Genesis for all the wrong reasons and it just wasn’t faaaaaair maaan.
I was easily agitated back then. I will admit to having been a SNES fanboy, but I’m also pleased that in hindsight, my preference was clearly justified. But know that I enjoyed ye Mega Drive too. I spent many happy hours playing Aladdin, Road Rash II, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage 2 and Phantasy Star IV at my friend Jay’s house. I am capable of making this comparison without bias.
Let's take it frame by frame.
If you look at Genesis and SNES side by side, you'll notice that the sprites and backgrounds on Genesis games seem to be moving much faster. This may be an advantage the Genesis has, but I would think that it can move the sprites faster because the sprites in question are much less detailed. What I'm saying is, Genesis graphics look bad, so they fling a lot of them at you, hoping you won't really notice.
The Genesis does have some truly beautiful games, but when you're working with a palette of 512 colors, there's only so much you can do. Oh, the SNES? 32,768 colors, and it could display 256 of those onscreen at once--compare that to the Genesis's 62.
The SNES had better hardware effects too (Mode-7), plus the Super FX chips which didn't require peripherals like the 32X (the Super FX and Super FX2 chips had exactly one good game each: Star Fox and Yoshi's Island, respectively. They made it count).
Good Lord, are you kidding me? The Genesis had a Yamaha sound chip and a Texas Instruments PSG, with 8K of sound RAM between them. The SNES had a custom-designed Sony sound chip and Sony DSP, with 64K of sound RAM to play with. Without getting too technical, what this basically means is that the Genesis sounded like a coughing toaster compared to the SNES. That crunchy metallic twang allowed the Genesis to do the cheesy melodic thrash metal-type soundtracks pretty well (cf. Thunderforce series), but the SNES is versatile and sounds luscious. I've heard some nerds call it "toothless," which incidentally is exactly how one moron I had the misfortune of talking to at a party once described the Beach Boys. Some people do not respond to beauty.
The NES marked the birth of the gamepad. One generation later, the SNES brings us near perfection. Arguably the best gamepad ever made.
The Genesis controller... well.
Sega's first attempt at a gamepad was pretty much a straight-up copy of the NES pad, just with a different D-pad to get around the patent. They greatly improved on the D-pad for the Genesis, but the Genesis was also the first time they tried a design different from Nintendo's: it was a different shape, wider, and with three buttons in a row, not two. As it turned out, Sega would themselves perfect this design the next generation: the Saturn pad is possibly even better than the SNES pad. SNES wins this round thanks to the "Sega style" pad's later arrival.
Haha. No, seriously. Let's just talk about the peripherals worth talking about. There's always a torrent of forgettable crap released for popular systems, which the SNES and Genesis both were.
32X had, what? Kolibri, Virtua Racing and a decent After Burner II port about eight years after the fact. It was a piece of shit, admit it.
Sega CD was bona fide cool, but expensive, pretty much a console unto itself. No denying it had some great games.
Super Game Boy was actually awesome for playing Game Boy games that were crippled by the small, dim screen, especially Metroid II, which many people still do not know is a pretty decent game. Still, you're playing Game Boy games on a big screen, with a four-color palette.
Oh, and the Konami Justifier was probably the better light gun, but SNES had the only 16-bit light gun game worth playing, Metal Combat. You could use a light gun with Snatcher on the Sega CD, but that isn't really a light gun game, is it?
No clear winner here. The Sega add-ons did get expensive though, just like keeping a loved one on life support gets expensive in real life.
Sega Channel sounded SO COOL, but I never got to try it because I didn't know anyone who had it. Satellaview also sounded SO COOL, but I never got to try it because I didn't live in Japan. I have to call this one a draw.
As far as shared games and franchises go, Mortal Kombat was better on Genesis, as was Aladdin. SNES's Street Fighter II games were better by a wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide margin, even if the six-button Genesis controller was kinda better for fighting games. SNES's Contra III was better than Genesis's Contra Hard Corps. Other games are tossups, like Earthworm Jim, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania: Bloodlines and the Aleste games.
But in the end, it's no contest. Genesis had a ton of great games. SNES had literally a dozen or more that are legitimate masterpieces. I'm not exaggerating: Super Mario World, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Final Fantasy VI (aka III), Chrono Trigger, Panel de Pon (aka Tetris Attack), The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, F-Zero, Super Mario Kart, Mother 2 (aka Earthbound), SimCity (best version of that game, no lie), and Seiken Densetsu 2 (aka Secret of Mana). That's a dozen masterpieces. As in better than excellent.
Look, the Genesis had some of my all-time faves, including Herzog Zwei and Gunstar Heroes. But pound for pound... come on, man. I dare you to say you prefer Gain Ground to ActRaiser or Comix Zone to Mega Man X2 or Shining Force II to Bahamut Lagoon (well, I might give you that last one).
And the winner is...