this thing's incredible

Comforting and Addictive, This Sega Genesis Mini Is Now My Go-to Stress Reliever

Photo: Courtesy of the retailer

A common question I have been asked ever since New York and many other states enacted strict stay-at-home orders: Would you consider moving home with your parents? It makes sense that these uncertain times are driving millennials (even “older,” married ones like myself) to seek the emotional and physical comforts of home. But my answer is always no, and not just because of the risk of transporting the virus from the city to the suburbs. With the press of a button, a little gadget in my apartment will instantly transport me to my childhood living room, and I can spend hours not obsessing over the rising death toll, how many more days it will be before my husband and I need to shop for groceries again, or if we’ll have any money left in our retirement savings by the end of this pandemic. No, it’s not a teleportation device: It’s a Sega Genesis Mini.

Just like the actual Sega Genesis I grew up playing, I have my mom to thank for the mini, which she bought as a host gift of sorts the first time my husband and I invited our families to our Bushwick apartment for Thanksgiving. I suspect she thought it would provide the sort of easy entertainment one needs to keep their brothers’ and sisters’ (and even parents’) minds off of the fact that they would be crammed into an apartment together for hours. Now stuck inside that same apartment with my husband and cat for who knows how much longer, the system has become an almost daily hero for that very reason.

To anyone who grew up playing Sega Genesis, the mini-console functions more or less exactly as you remember its older sister working — except for the fact that the games are built-in, so no swapping (or blowing on) cartridges is necessary. It comes with two controllers, and when I pick one up, I’m hit with a wave of nostalgia and muscle memory that I imagine is similar to the feeling a high-school baseball star might get from putting on his old glove decades later. The array of games is delightful, from Sonic the Hedgehog to Toejam & Earl to Altered Beast (which I couldn’t beat then and still can’t now), with the system boasting 40 in total. It also comes with the cords needed to hook it up to most TVs.

Technophiles should know that I am one of those people who used an iPhone SE until this year, meaning I don’t care about the latest and greatest technology and am thus blind to some of the system’s finer details that Serious Gamers might nitpick. That said, our friends at Polygon — who are as serious about gaming as it gets — had more good things to say about the mini Sega Genesis than bad things. Also: With newer systems like the Nintendo Switch sold out seemingly everywhere, the Sega Genesis Mini, while lower-tech, presents a reasonably priced and just as addictive alternative. If you’ve never played Sega or any of its games before, there will probably be a slight learning curve (“I still don’t get the point of the presents,” was my husband’s quick take after a recent two-hour Toejam & Earl game). But if a 6-year-old me could learn them then — without the benefit of YouTube tutorials — it’s fair to say anyone that age or older can learn them now. And as our guides to quilting and knitting and drawing and origami and scrapbooking suggest, being stuck at home is as good a time as any to learn a new skill.

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This Sega Genesis Mini Is Now My Go-to Stress Reliever