3) Golden Axe Warrior (from Golden Axe)
Was Sega really struggling that much to come up with ideas for new IPs on its 8-bit machines? Apparently so. Master System already had a port of the arcade original, only slightly scaled back despite the inferior technology. This spin-off was released on the Master System and features a top-down perspective. However, rather than have random battles with a side-on perspective, this game lets you see and attack enemies in real time, a bit like a certain pointy-eared hero of legend we could mention...
Looks familiar, doesn't it? In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this is Link in a blow-up muscle suit and daft pants. You can play this game on the Ultimate Genesis Collection if you really want to. Yup, thought you'd be excited.
Special mention: Ax Battler
Golden Axe actually had another 8-bit spin-off, equally obscure, so if you're talking about one, you can't really ignore the other. Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe is a Game Gear RPG – a genre that was understandably under-represented on Sega's handheld. Understandably because the batteries would likely run out by the time you'd discovered your first village.
The top-down camera in the main world scenes is remiscent of Pokemon - as are the random battles as you walk around. But there were ultra-hardcore side-scrolling sections too, which looked amazing at the time on Game Gear's colour screen.
Nowadays, however, it's only worth remembering for what is likely gaming's only use of the word 'scoundrel' in complete sobriety in its end sequence.
Above: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never... actually, that's really mean. Big bully!
2) Chaotix (from Sonic The Hedgehog)
The Sonic game that didn't have Sonic in it. Weird, huh? In fact, you can probably see this game as the turning point for the series in general. By the time Sonic & Knuckles had come out, the formula was starting to look a little stale. Magazines at the time said 'it's still great, but there's only so long we can keep playing the same thing'. So Sega started working on an alternative.
The first part of this was Sonic Crackers – a Mega Drive prototype that found its way onto the internet in the late '90s – which featured Sonic and Tails tethered by a sort of magic string. The game was scrapped before it was completed, leaked onto the internet a few years later, but the tether mechanic was kept for the series' debut on 32X.
Above: Sonic Crackers had a pretty 'crackers' game concept. Not good enough for the hog?
Only Sonic wasn't involved. Perhaps it was too different for the company's mascot. Instead, Knuckles got his only lead role. Sure, he had a load of other characters with him (Vector the Crocodile, anyone?) but the game was known as Knuckles Chaotix in the US so we'll give him that one. Nowadays, the game is a collector's item (and getting pretty expensive in all honesty), but not because it was particularly amazing to play. Just that it's quite rare. And the fact it appeared on 32X made sure that almost nobody bought it. Mind you, the graphical style is rather lovely - check it out in action:
But while it's high-quality, totally obscure and has never appeared on any 'best of' collection anywhere, it can't hold a candle to the next game in terms of WTF-ness. Suffice to say, a lot of people at Capcom would be pleased if this next game had never been made...