Sega Genesis emulators
|Top: PAL Sega Mega Drive.|
Middle: Sega Genesis Model 2 with 6-button controller.
Bottom: Sega Genesis Nomad, portable variation.
|Type||Home video game console|
The Sega Genesis is a 16-bit, fourth-generation console released by Sega in Japan on October 29, 1988 and in the US on August 14, 1989. It had a Motorola 68000 CPU at 7.6 MHz and a Zilog Z80 at 3.58 MHz. In other regions, it was known as the Mega Drive. It had several add-ons, including the Sega CD (a CD add-on, called Mega CD outside America) and the 32X (a 32-bit, cartridge-based add-on).
The Sega CD was released on October 15, 1992, and retailed for $299.99 and had a Motorola 68000 CPU at 12.5 MHz and 64 kbit of RAM. The Sega 32X was released on November 21, 1994 for $159.99. It had 2 SH-2 RISC CPUs at 23 MHz with 256KB of RAM and 256KB of VRAM.
Genesis emulation is very good, with a high degree of game compatibility (many of them claim nearly 100% compatibility with commercial games, including Virtua Racing). They are available on many platforms. Many Genesis emulators also feature compatibility with the Sega Master System (SMS), and the Game Gear (GG) as well as earlier Sega consoles. However, genesis-based arcade boards and the Sega Pico are still sketchy.
|PC / x86|
|Genesis Plus GX||libretro core||✓||✗*||✗||✗||✓ [N 2]||✓[N 1]||✗ [N 3]||✓||✓|
|✓||✓||~ [N 4]||✗||✓[N 2]||✓[N 1]||✗ [N 3]||✓||✓|
|Kega Fusion||3.64||~[N 6]||✓||✓||✗||✗||✗||✗||✗||~|
|✓||✓||~ [N 4]||✗||✓||✗||✓||✓||~|
|Gens/GS & Gens/GS II
derived from GENS
git (Gens/GS II)
|~[N 7]||~[N 7]||✗||✗||✗||✗||✓||✗||✗|
|✗||✗||✗||✗||✓||~[N 1][N 9]||✗ [N 3]||✓||✗|
|Mobile / ARM|
|Genesis Plus GX||libretro core||✓||✗||✗||✗||✓ [N 2]||✓[N 1]||✗ [N 3]||✓||✓|
||1.93 libretro core||✓||✓||✓||✗||✓ [N 2]||~[N 1]||✓ (NDS) [N 3]||✓||✓|
|Genesis Plus GX||
RetroArch 360 0.9.8.3
|✓||✗||✗||✗||✓||~[N 1]||✗ [N 3]||✓||✓|
|✓||✓||✓||✗||✓||~[N 1]||✓ (NDS/3DS) [N 3]||✓||✓|
|Sega Genesis Plus||Libxenon||✗||✗||✗||✗||✗||✗||?||✗||✗|
- Only libretro core version supports.
- On some platforms, this emulator is only available as a libretro core.
- Due to using a non-commercial license. Source code is still publicly available.
- PicoDrive Libretro/BizHawk version doesn't have a stylus or turn page support, while the Windows standalone version does.
- Needs firmware v2.00, there are issues using older versions.
- While it supports Sega CD emulation, there is notable audio sync issues. Kega is not recommended for CD emulation.
- Sega CD and 32X emulation, MDP plugin support, Gamepad support and Command line parsing (features not ported from Gens/GS for Gens/GS II)
- Superseded by ares
- Requires games in megadriv or sms subdirectories, exact archives just like arcade. Not all games may be linked for this core.
- Aims for cycle accuracy but unlike Exodus, aims for lower system requirements and has substantially higher compatibility. Latest stable release is quite old, use nightly or libretro core. The "Nuked" core that can be optionally used in Genesis Plus GX provides more accurate FM emulation than what's in BlastEm at present but BlastEm's own implementation is solid too and differences are mostly inaudible. Both are way better than the widely used old MAME emulation, which is the default option on Genesis Plus GX too because it's fast.
- Genesis Plus GX
- A solid emulator for the Sega Genesis / Sega Master System / Sega CD / Game Gear. The only things it lacks are 32X and Pico support, and a native desktop port. The only way to get this emulator on the desktop is to use the libretro core, which allows for all the benefits of RetroArch like shaders, dynamic sync, and other enhancements. The version used in BizHawk adds features for speedrunners but only the version used in RetroArch supports Nuked OPN2 cycle-accurate Yamaha YM3438(YM2612).
- Custom fork of Genesis Plus GX available as a libretro core, it includes experimental widescreen options. Sega CD/Mega CD games are currently unsupported.
- Strongly prioritizes performance over accuracy. Compatibility and accuracy aren't as good as Genesis Plus GX but it's useful on very underpowered systems like the Raspberry Pi Zero. Currently the first and only cross-platform option for 32X and Pico games.
- higan / ares
- Also developing cycle-accurate Genesis emulation, akin to its own SNES emulator bsnes. v130 version brings "YM2612 improvement" and support for "Mega Mouse". The latest version of ares boasts 95% compatibility with 32X games, while there are still minor glitches, this is leaps and bounds better than other emulators as of late December 2022.
- "Just works out of the box" solution for Genesis/Mega Drive, CD & 32X, bundled with two cores (Genplus-GX/Genesis Plus GX without Nuked OPN2 support and PicoDrive), ensuring both excellent compatibility and good speed.
- Kega Fusion
- The project of an employee with previous experience at Sega. Kega Fusion has high compatibility, is easy to use, and has plugin-based filter support but it has some issues on newer versions of Windows which can be solved with compatibility settings.
- Think ares, but for the Genesis. Even though ares also emulates Genesis games, Exodus achieved cycle accuracy at the familiar cost of high system requirements, but it is no longer updated and is still far from complete. It is still useful as a reference for the Genesis hardware, but users will have a faster and more accurate experience with BlastEm.
- A focus on accuracy has earned its high compatibility with games, but it does not emulate the Sega CD and 32X. It also allows overclocking.
- Has the parent drivers
Pico. Green drivers are reported as OK, whereas red ones are reported as "preliminary" as of version 0.248.
- Close to Kega Fusion in features and compatibility, but has largely been surpassed by better emulators. There are many different forks and iterations of Gens, so your experience will differ quite a lot depending on which version you use.
Lock-On Technology is a unique feature found on Sonic & Knuckles cartridges for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis that allowed a player to connect an older game to the cartridge's pass-through port for extended or altered gameplay.
- With Sonic 3: Unlocks an alternate version of Sonic 3 with more levels.
- With Sonic 2: Unlocks an alternate version of Sonic 2 with playable Knuckles.
- With Sonic 1: Unlocks the Blue Sphere minigame with a level select to all possible levels.
The Sonic & Knuckles cartridge can lock on to other cartridges:
- Smaller than 2MB: Will play a single random level from the Blue Sphere minigame generated from data in the header.
- Bigger than 2MB: Will boot to Sonic & Knuckles.
- Has Battery Pack: All saved data will be wiped out.
Most emulators don't support Lock-On save for Genesis Plus GX, but there are pre-combined ROMs for the Sonic trilogy available online that can be played as a regular Megadrive ROM on any emulator and still work. The Sonic 3 Complete romhack also achieves the same purpose.
Genesis Plus GX's RetroArch core includes true Lock-On emulation. From the Core Options menu, you can enable the Lock-On feature for either Sonic & Knuckles, Game Genie, or the Action Replay (Pro) -- the latter two using a different technology but with similar effects. Setting this option to anything other than "Off" will enable Lock-on to the cartridge you're currently playing as. After resetting, the game will boot in Lock-On mode.
The following files need to be under the directory for BIOS files (usually "system"):
- sk.bin (Sonic & Knuckles (2 MiB) ROM)
- sk2chip.bin (Sonic & Knuckles UPMEM (256 KiB) ROM): If you can't find it online, extract it with a hex editor from a pre-combined Sonic 2 & Knuckles ROM from offset 00300000 to the end of the ROM.
For GG/AR, the files needed are areplay.bin and ggenie.bin, but most emulators support cheat codes from these natively.
BlastEm also supports the Lock-On Technology
Mega Drive Plus / Genesis Plus / MSU-MD modes
The Mega Drive Plus / Genesis Plus (sometimes abbreviated as MD+) is a special mode for certain Genesis games that use enhanced CDDA tracks with a Sega CD. This was not used in any official games, however, the mode itself was first used in the first batch of Pier Solar releases. This feature was been documented to be used on Terraonion's Mega SD flash cartridge, to give similar effects for Genesis games in a way that MSU-1 does in patched SNES games. Another variant was been made for Mega Everdrive PRO, named MSU-MD.
Currently, only Genesis Plus GX supports both modes as mentioned here, while Kega Fusion supports games that can only run in MSU-MD mode.
A variant called 32x Plus (abbreviated as 32x+) made exclusively for Sega 32x games also exist, but again, it is only used by homebrew software, such as Doom 32x Resurrection.
- MegaDrive Development Wiki - A Wiki about every technical aspect of the SEGA MegaDrive hardware and software. It aims to provide the most detailed, accurate, and up-to-date information, to help homebrew development and repairs.
- Mega Drive emulators on Sega Retro
- ARCHIVE.ORG Console Library: Sega Genesis
- Genesis emulators on RomsPedia