Classic Mega Drive ROM Hacks Hit Steam Workshop

The Sega Mega Drive & Genesis Classics Hub has now arrived on Steam, followings its announcement. For the most part it isn’t all that interesting, even if playing classic games from yesteryear via a drab virtual bedroom against eerie acoustics is your bag. No, what’s exciting is the fact that Sega have added Steam Workshop support to their library of Mega Drive/Genesis games on the platform, allowing intuitive modders to upload and share loads of ROM hacks of the classics. Here are few that caught my eye.

As you might expect, the multitude of hacks and mods range from the sublime to the ridiculous. The former camp boasts tinkerings such as TheBlad768’s Sonic 3 & Knuckles Hard Bosses Edition 2 which ups the difficulty of standard end-level bosses, adds entirely new bosses, and introduces nifty features such as “ring insurance” – a bonus which lets players collect 10 rings from checkpoints prior to said end-of-zone boss encounters. PatricK CruZ’s Streets of Fighter series welcomes Street Fighter characters – such as Ryu, Vega and Chun Li – into the Streets of Rage world; whereas SMO5’s Ecco the Orca swaps the familiar dolphin protagonist out for an orca whale. Both are relatively simple but distinctly cool tweaks.

Then there’s odd concoctions like TheRavenfreak’s Ring the Ring which appears to swap Sonic for, yup, a ring. “Ever wanted to play as a ring instead of Sonic?” the creator asks in the hack’s description. “Ring the Ring is just the hack for you!” Then there’s Adrock4’s contribution, which is not only the weirdest but, at the time of writing, also the most downloaded of the lot: Streets of Rage 2 Except It Makes That Weird Tim Allen Noise When People Die. Which is…um…yeah:

Interestingly, Sega appear to be letting users police themselves for now, and so far haven’t drawn a line between legitimate hacks and copyright infringement. Some ‘mods’ uploaded are simply wholly different games.

If you want help or tools to make a mod, don’t look to Sega. They explain:

“We are not releasing any modding tools with this update. The Steam Workshop functionality is a platform to share the wealth of custom Mega Drive & Genesis ROMs out there and support the highly talented and engaged community of modders behind them.

“Now content creators can easily share their custom ROMs with other Mega Drive & Genesis fans giving a new perspective on so many beloved retro titles.”

All mods and hacks can be found via the Sega Genesis & Mega Drive Classics Steam Workshop.


  1. Darth Gangrel says:

    Today’s gaming industry doesn’t have enough weird Tim Allen noises, so this is something really special.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Gawd! When will people realize that not every game is for everybody! If you don’t want Tim Allen noises then go and play something else!!

  2. vorador says:

    They’ve just put a notice to get people to stop uploading copyrighted works like entire different games (Duke Nukem 3D for example was upload as a “mod”) or works from other creators.

    • Jalan says:

      When I was browsing the uploads in the workshop late Thursday evening, as soon as I saw Duke Nukem (homebrew) I knew exactly where things were headed.

      • vorador says:

        It’s not even homebrew. There was an official port of Duke3D for the MegaDrive in Brazil so i take it’s that one.

        • Jalan says:

          I should’ve added quotations to that part of my response, I was trying more to emphasize the fact that it was there at all vs. whether it was some cobbled together look-a-like.

  3. BlackMageMario says:

    It’s pretty amazing that Sega would allow ROM hacks to be publicly uploaded and played on Steam – I think it’s a great step forward that shows that Sega realises that ROM hacks are here to stay and that they add value to their old products.

    Which makes me even more disappointed that Nintendo has recently regressed in this area – especially since they aren’t (in my opinion, anyway) releasing titles onto the Virtual Console fast enough.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Or arbitrary bullshit like requiring a New 3DS to play SNES games.

      • welverin says:

        Pssh, that’s perfectly reasonable, the 3DS is clearly not powerful enough to run a SNES game.

        • TauPhraim says:

          I used to own both, and have no idea if that was sarcasm or not :)

      • BlackMageMario says:

        That’s not true, is it? If so, what the? Nintendo has become very strange over the last few years…

        • Baines says:

          Nintendo has always been strange. Or rather, they’re hidebound and arrogant.

          Yes, Nintendo said the regular 3DS couldn’t handle SNES emulation… However, Nintendo specifically said that it couldn’t handle emulation at the accuracy that they desired. It is most likely pure PR, and Nintendo would have been happy to sell SNES emulation on the old 3DS if the New 3DS didn’t exist, but it isn’t a false claim. Sure, you can run SNES emulators on 15+ year old PCs and two-gen-old consoles at playable speeds, but it gets that performance through imperfect emulation (and probably a number of game specific hacks). Perfect emulation takes a much greater degree of power than “playable” emulation, the old 3DS probably wasn’t capable of perfect emulation, and the New 3DS has more power than the old so it can get a bit closer than the old.

          • jon_hill987 says:

            I had a SNES emulator on my DSLite FFS, there is no reason anything newer could not cope.

          • BlackMageMario says:

            Sounds like pure PR to me. If the 3DS can perfectly emulate GBA games (I assume the GBA Ambassador games were emulations), then it shouldn’t have trouble emulating SNES games perfectly.

            That, and I was perfectly able to run an accurate SNES emulator on a really bad laptop once, so I don’t see why a 3DS would have any more trouble than that.

          • Baines says:

            Some people have higher emulation standards than others. That is why bsnes exists, when SNES9X and ZSNES were “good enough” for many while requiring only a small fraction of the power to run.

            The same happens with most emulators. You get an early emulator that establishes that emulation can be done, and which makes some popular games playable (but not console-accurate). If a popular enough game isn’t playable, then it gets hacked in support to make it playable. As the emulation accuracy improves, the system requirements increase. And people wonder why, because they never noticed things like colors being off, that some graphical effect was missing, or that some game that they didn’t play was completely broken. They just know that their toaster ran “full speed” (which often itself wasn’t true, as people tended to either not notice or forget when frameskipping was used), and that their old consoles and handhelds ran the same stuff (with even worse performance and more issues, because these console-based emulators were often just an existing open source emulator quickly ported via some library to run on that console.) But, again, people didn’t care, because it mostly ran some games in a kind of playable form.

      • Distec says:

        As I downloaded a library of ROMs to play on my various Nintendo emulators for my phone, I thought to myself “Surely Nintendo would like me to pay money for this” and I’d honestly be happy to.

        You just have to make it easy for me.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Yeah, amazing is right. I was fully ready after the original announcement to be unimpressed with whatever “modding” kludge they came up with. I assumed it’d be something along the lines of a hard-coded selection of Game Genie codes or UT style mutators for creating new-ish game modes.

      But this… This is really really cool, and I hope Sega doesn’t get turned off by the extra policing work. Totally getting this to support the idea, if not to legally play some good games I haven’t played in ages.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, this is remarkably PC-spirited thing to do. Good on SEGA.

      Hopefully the creator of it has put up that rings-make-Sonic-fat hack, because that was probably the most hilarious-yet-actually-an-interesting-mechanic mod I can remember seeing for pretty much anything.

  4. Baines says:

    “Interestingly, Sega appear to be letting users police themselves for now, and so far haven’t drawn a line between legitimate hacks and copyright infringement.”

    Not entirely true, as there is a pinned forum post requesting people report both rom substitutions as well as “copies of other people’s works”, and that “We’ll continue to monitor this situation with a view to ensuring that mods that are entire copies of existing work/titles are removed.”

    It might also be worth noting that some of the mods are being uploaded by people other than their original creators. PatricK CruZ at least credits Kratus for his SOR2 mod, which is more than some others have done.

    • Jalan says:

      In at least one instance, the people responsible for the ROM hack(s) actually did upload the content themselves. But you’re right, most of the uploads are people just dumping work they didn’t create onto the workshop and saying nothing of who did put the work in/etc. which makes me wonder if those people eventually find their work uploaded onto Steam without their permission what actions they might take to get it removed (possibly permanently).

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Another fine example why that mod monetization experiment was never a good idea.

  5. Baines says:

    It might also be worth noting that some are complaining about crippling performance problems with the new Hub, particularly those using integrated graphics. (The forum implies the Hub is Unity-based? That would probably explain the performance issues, and possibly imply that the issues aren’t going to go away in future updates.)

    These performance issues allegedly carry into the emulator itself, even though the emulator is supposed to be entirely CPU-based.

  6. Von Uber says:

    Streets of Rage 2. Hilarious in Co-op, early gaming memories of ‘accidentally’ stabbing my mate repeatedly with a knife then stealing both chickens.

    Or in Golden Axe stealing all the magic potions from those annoying elves.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Also accidental hugs. Don’t get too near your co-op partner.

      Or, at least, don’t turn a mid-combat hug into a suplex. Don’t do it.

  7. aircool says:

    They’re probably making more money from these games now than when they were originally released.

  8. GSGregory says:

    So all this is, is a bastardized version of emulators……….. Less features, less content.

    • Baines says:

      It is an overly fancy frontend for an emulator, with built in patch support.

      The latter is a fine addition. Most emulators support playing pre-patched roms, but very few are built with the idea of convenience. (Steam Workshop gives you easy downloading without having to worry about manual patching, for example.)

      The former is the issue. There have been plenty of overly fancy frontends for emulators over the years as well. Most fade out fairly quickly, because “overly fancy” quickly sours from the initial “That’s kind of neat” response. After a while, people just want to play the games themselves, and all that fancy stuff tends to get in the way of playing. It is even worse when that fancy stuff causes performance issues.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      In the same way that Steam is a bastardized version of Pirate Bay, sure, I guess.

      I’m pretty soft on piracy, and doubly so on emulators, but it’s silly to fault devs for choosing to compete with piracy on convenience and ease of use. I mean, that’s what we want them to do, right?

  9. Scandalon says:

    Can someone explain to me the repeated antipathy here on RPS about the mere concept of bedroom-themed skeumorphic UI? (I’m talking about the idea, not the technical implementation in this case, which may be causing performance issues.) I’m not a fan of it particularly, but it’s just a nice little “oh, that’s neat” bit of fun – not an affront to decency of all right-thinking people…

    • Yglorba says:

      The performance issues are why people don’t like it, though. The complexity of it means that it’s slower to load, requires more resources, has more risk of bugs or other problems, and so on, all for something that provides no real benefit. (Even if you find it amazing, it’s not something that will have much impact after the first few times you see it.)

      UIs are better off kept as simple as possible, since the purpose is just to get you quickly and easily to your game (or wherever.)

    • Baines says:

      Even as a concept, it gets in the way of actually doing stuff. It is a lot like those animated menus that were put into the first few years of DVDs, where it took you ten seconds to even “press play”, and another ten seconds before the movie would start.

      In the case of the Hub, you have options menus scattered under various other menus. You change the “room” options from a menu above the bookcase, change the game settings from the individual games in the bookcase, change the few emulator settings from the game console, and the fullscreen toggle is set at the TV. Changing a game means going to the book case, scrolling to the game you want, and setting it to load, which plays an animation of the cartridge being inserted into the console.

      It has no enhancing effect on playing the games, either. Again, in the specific example of the Hub, you can’t really do anything in the bedroom other than go into the various menus. When you actually play a game, the camera locks onto the TV (unless you activate “fullscreen” for the emulator, which ditches the “room” when playing.) Not that you’d have any reason to look around a fake room that probably looks nothing like what you’d decorate while playing anyway.

      That isn’t to say that these ideas are completely awful. I remember years back a few different attempts to recreate the arcade environment in arcade emulation. I think there were even “arcade sounds” CD/DVDs produced, so you could play the blaring of other machines over the game that you were currently playing. That at least had a nostalgia feel, and did have some impact on playing a game. I could see recreating a virtual world arcade that you physically moved through, if the arcade functioned as an avatar-based online lobby. I could really see it as a great idea if it managed to run the games even when you weren’t playing them, so that you could simply look at a machine and see people playing. That would really bring back the feel of arcades, queuing up to play the winner of the current match, talking to friends and strangers, sneaking peeks at the adjacent cabinets, and playing any game only took a few seconds. (Unfortunately, I can only see such really being possible with streaming server-based emulation.) Of course that kind of thing would be adding all sorts of different values compared to current possibilities.

  10. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    allowing intuitive modders to upload

    Is that “allowing modders to intuitively upload”? Or perhaps “allowing intrepid modders to upload”? I mean, it’s intuitive that one would want to contribute to/riff on something they love, but the modders themselves? Admittedly, I do not personally know any console ROM modders, so I may be missing out on some very intuitive people.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    For great ways to play the classic Sonic games I highly recommend Sonic Classic Heroes (for Sonic 1 and 2) and Sonic 3 complete (for Sonic 3 & Knuckles).

    For new levels and gameplay gimmicks Sonic 1 The Next Level, Sonic Boom and Metal Sonic Hyperdrive are all decent (just don’t expect them to be extremely long).

    There’s a bunch of character replacement mods for both Sonic 1 and 2 (Knuckles, Metal Sonic, Sally Acorn, Bunnie Rabbot, Amy Rose, Kirby, Vector are all there) and are fun to try out but after a while of trying them out you get a bit sick of Green and Emerald Hill Zone.

    Play Sonic the Hedgehog Omochao Edition if you really hate yourself.

  12. PenguinJim says:

    ” Ecco the Orca swaps the familiar dolphin protagonist out for an orca whale.”

    Orcas are dolphins, not whales. Sorry for the nitpick!

  13. tixylix says:

    Turn off auto updates because here’s a feature that won’t last long.