Sega Master System

The Sega Master System is an 8-bit console which was released in Japan in 1985, North America in 1986 and Europe in 1987. It didn’t sell too well in Japan or North America however it had a large following in Europe and other regions such as South America.

Segas first console, the Sega SG-1000 was released in 1983, the same year the Nintendo Entertainment System was released in Japan. This console was also known as the Mark I.

The Mark II was released a year later in 1984. It was essentially a redesigned Mark I with additional features such as an additional port to accommodate a second controller.

Sega then released the Mark III in Japan on October 1985. This console had a much improved technical specification over the Mark II, different controllers and a port for Sega Cards. Games from the Mark I and Mark II could be played on the system.

Sega Mark III

The Mark III was later re-branded and sold around the world as the Sega Master System (it’s name didn’t change in Japan until 1987). The changes were mostly cosmetic. The case was changed from white with black to black with red but internally everything was the same.

Sega Master System

The controllers didn’t change from the Mark III (other than the colour). Like the NES controllers, they had a D-Pad on the left and two buttons, which were labelled 1 and 2. The 1 button also doubled as a start button. It was also possible to screw in a joystick to the D-Pad in some versions of the controller and since it used the standard 9 pin connector, the controllers could be used on the Atari, Commodore and Amstrad computer systems.

The console had two main peripherals: the Light Phaser and the SegaScope 3-D Glasses.

The light gun got good reviews and was much more responsive than the NES Zapper It was included in many Master System bundles.

Master System Light Phaser

The SegaScope 3-D Glasses were an interesting accessory which connected to the Master System card slot. The game screen, in conjunction with images flashed in the left and right lenses of the 3-D glasses, helped produced a 3 dimensional environment for the gamer.

In total eight 3-D games were released: Blade Eagle 3-D, Line of Fire, Maze Hunter 3-D, Missile Defense 3-D, Out Run 3-D, Poseidon Wars 3-D, Space Harrier 3-D and Zaxxon 3-D. Some of these games could be played without the 3-D glasses.

Master System SegaScope 3-D Glasses

Most Master System consoles came with a built in game, which would come on if the system was turned on without a cartridge inserted. Astro Warrior was integrated into one version of the console whilst Hang On and Safari were included in other bundles. In Europe most people got the excellent Alex Kidd in Miracle World built in though later models included Sonic the Hedgehog.

The system wasn’t very popular in Japan or North America. Though it’s understandable when you remember that Nintendo controlled a whopping 95% of the market in Japan in the late 80s and over 80% in North America too. The last official game released for the system in Japan was in 1989 whilst in North America it was 1991 (ironically, Sonic the Hedgehog was the last game released for Sega’s dying system).

The Master System was distributed in North America by the toy company Tonka. Encouraged by sales of the Sega Genesis, Sega purchased the rights to the Master System back in 1990 and released the Master System II.

The Master System II was a low budget version of the system. The console was much smaller though the reset button, card slot and expansion port were removed.

Sega Master System II

The console was much more popular in Europe though. It was released in some countries which the NES wasn’t whereas in others it held a very respectable market share. Sega actually opened Sega Europe because of the success they had in Europe.

The last official game to be sold for the Master System in Europe was in 1996, nearly 10 years after the console had been released there (quite impressive when you consider the Sega Saturn had already been out for a year at this point).

Another region where the Master System did exceptionally well was South America, specifically Brazil. It was distributed by a company called Tec Toy. Many games were released in this region which were never released elsewhere.

Tec Toy also produced a few portable versions of the Master System including the Master System Compact, Master System Girl and the Master System III Compact, which is still sold today. The Master System III Compact doesn’t have any cartridge slot, though it has 131 games built in.

Sega Master System III compact

The Master System was also repackaged and brought out in handheld form in 1990. This system was of course marketed as the Sega Game Gear.

Worldwide, the Master System wasn’t a huge financial success. However, it did do well in certain territories, and no doubt the Sega Mega Drive would not have been developed had the Master System not done well in some parts of the world.

The system did have some good games though. Alex Kidd wasn’t as good as Mario but it was a great little platformer in it’s own right. Phantasy Star was the only notable Role Playing Game on the system but it was fantastic and arguably the best game on the system. The console also boasted some good arcade ports like Golden Axe, Space Harrier and Smash TV.

Check out your local toy or games store if you want to play the Master System. There are some cheap clones and handheld devices with 30+ games included in each for as little as $40.

The original system and games can be picked up on auction sites like eBay for very little as well.

Specifications

The Master System used the popular Zilog Z80A 8-bit processor. It was clocked at around 3.58 Mhz in NTSC regions and 3.55 Mhz for PAL and SECAM zones.

The Texas Instruments TMS9918 Video Display Controller inside the machine allowed a screen resolution of 256×192 or 256×224 pixels. Developers could choose from a palette of 64 colours. It used a Texas Instruments and a Yamaha sound chip, which enabled up to 6 channels of mono sound.

For games the Master System had 8b of RAM, 16kb of VRAM and 8KB of ROM. Though both ROM and RAM could be upgraded using memory from the game cartridge.

As well as the two controller ports, the system also had an expansion port though this was never utilised. Additionally, the console had a data card slot, which allowed budget games to be played.

Complete Game List

In total, over 300 games were released for the Master System in Japan, North America, Europe and Brazil.

20 em 1 – Tec Toy
Ace of Aces – Artech Digital Entertainment
Action Fighter – Sega
Addams Family, The – Ocean
Aerial Assault – Sega
After Burner – Sega
Air Rescue – Sega
Aladdin – SIMS
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars – Sega
Alex Kidd BMX Trial – Sega
Alex Kidd in High-Tech World – Sega
Anmitsu – HimeJP
Alex Kidd in Miracle World – Sega
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World – Sega
ALF – Nexa Corporation
Alien³ – Probe Entertainment
Alien Storm – Sega
Alien Syndrome – Sega
Altered Beast – Sega
Andre Agassi Tennis – Lance Investments
Arcade Smash Hits – Sega
Argos no Juujiken – Tecmo
Ariel the Little Mermaid – Sega
Assault City – Sanritsu
Asterix – Sega
Asterix and the Great Rescue – Core Design
Asterix and the Secret Mission – Sega
Astro Warrior – Sega
Astro Warrior (Pit Pot) – Sega
Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II – Sega
Aztec Adventure: The Golden Road to Paradise – Sega
Back to the Future II – Mirrorsoft
Back to the Future III – Probe Entertainment
Baku Baku Animal – Sega
Bank Panic – Sanritsu
Basketball Nightmare – Sega
Batman Returns – Aspect
Battle Out Run – Sega
Battletoads in Battlemaniacs  – Virgin Interactive
Black Belt – Sega
Blade Eagle 3-D – Sega
Bomber Raid – Sanritsu
Bonanza Bros. – Sega
Bonkers Wax Up! – Al Baker & Associates
Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Probe Entertainment
Bubble Bobble – Taito Corporation
Buggy Run – Sega
California Games – Epyx
California Games 2 – Epyx
Captain Silver – Data East
Casino Games – Sega
Castelo Rá-Tim-Bum  – Tec Toy
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse – Sega
Champions of Europe – Tecmagik
Championship Hockey – Electronic Arts
Chase HQ – Taito Corporation
Cheese Cat-astrophe starring Speedy Gonzalez – Time Warner Interactive
Choplifter – Brøderbund Software
Chuck Rock – Core Design
Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck – Core Design
Cloud Master – Hot-B
Chuka TaisenArcade Title – Taito Corporation
Columns – Sega
Comical Machine Gun Joe  – Sega
Cool Spot – Virgin Interactive
Cosmic Spacehead – Codemasters
Cyber Shinobi, The – Sega
Cyborg Hunter – Sega
Daffy Duck in Hollywood – Probe Entertainment
Danan: The Jungle Fighter – Sega
Dead Angle – Seibu Kaihatsu
Deep Duck Trouble Starring Donald Duck – Sega
Desert Speedtrap – Probe Entertainment
Desert Strike – Electronic Arts
Dick Tracy – Sega
Double Dragon – Technos Japan
Double Hawk – OperaHouse
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine – Compile
Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story – Virgin Interactive
Dragon Crystal – Sega
Dynamite Duke – Seibu Kaihatsu
Dynamite Dux – Sega
Earthworm Jim – EuroCom
Ecco the Dolphin – Novotrade
Ecco: The Tides of Time – Novotrade
Enduro Racer – Sega
ESWAT: City Under Siege – Sega
F-16 Fighting Falcon – Nexa Corporation
F1 – Lankhor
Formula OneBR – Teque Interactive
Fantastic Dizzy – Codemasters
Fantasy Zone – Sega
Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa – Sega
Fantasy Zone: The Maze – Sega
Férias Frustradas do Pica-Pau  – Tec Toy
FIFA International Soccer – EA Sports
Fire & Forget 2 – Titus Software
Fire and Ice – Graftgold
Flash, The – Probe Entertainment
Flintstones, The – Grandslam
Forgotten Worlds – Capcom
G-LOC: Air Battle – Sega
Gain Ground – Sega
Galactic Protector  – Sega
Galaxy Force – Sega
Gangster Town – Sega
Gauntlet – Atari Games
George Foreman’s KO Boxing – SIMS
Ghost House – Sega
Ghostbusters – Activision
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts – Capcom
Global Defense – Sega
Global Gladiators – Virgin Interactive
Golden Axe – Sega
Golden Axe Warrior – Sega
Golfmania – Sega
Golvellius: Valley of Doom – Compile
GP Rider – Sega
Great Baseball – Sega
Great Basketball – Sega
Great Football – Sega
Great Golf  – Sega
Great Ice Hockey – Sega
Great Soccer  – Sega
Great Volleyball – Sega
Hang-On  – Sega
Heroes of the Lance – U.S. Gold
High School! Kimengumi – Sega
Home Alone – Probe Entertainment
Hoshi wo Sagashite… – Sega
Impossible Mission – Epyx
Incredible Crash Dummies, The – Software Creations
Incredible Hulk, The – Probe Entertainment
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Tiertex Design Studio
James Bond: The Duel – The Kremlin
James “Buster” Douglas Knockout Boxing – SIMS
James Pond 2: Codename RoboCod – Vectordean
Joe Montana Football – Electronic Arts
Jungle Book, The – Virgin Interactive
Jurassic Park – Sega
Kenseiden – Sega
King’s Quest I: Quest for the Crown – Sierra On-Line
Klax – Atari Games
Krusty’s Fun House – Audiogenic Software
Kung Fu Kid – Sega
Land of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse – Sega
Laser Ghost – Sega
Legend of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse – Aspect
Lemmings – DMA Design
Line of Fire – Sega
Lion King, The – Virgin Interactive
Lord of the Sword – Sega
Loretta no Shouzou – Sega
Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck – Sega
Machinegun Joe  – Sega
Mahjong Sengoku Jidai – Sega
Marble Madness – Atari Games
Marksman Shooting & Trap Shooting – Sega
Master of Darkness – Sega
Masters of Combat – Sega
Maze Hunter 3-D – Sega
Megumi Rescue  – Aicom
Mercs – Capcom
Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker – Sega
Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge – Designer Software
Micro Machines – Codemasters
Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord – ASCII Corporation
Missile Defense 3-D – Sega
Monopoly – Sega
Montezuma’s Revenge – Parker Brothers
Mortal Kombat – Midway Games
Mortal Kombat II – Probe Entertainment
Mortal Kombat 3  – Midway Games
Ms. Pac-Man – General Computer Corporation
My Hero – Coreland
Nekyuu Kousien – Sega
New Zealand Story, The – Taito Corporation
Ninja Gaiden – Tecmo
Ninja, The – Sega
Olympic Gold: Barcelona ’92 – U.S. Gold
Operation Wolf – Taito Corporation
Ottifants, The – Sega
Out Run – Sega
Out Run 3-D – Sega
Out Run Europa – Probe Entertainment
Pac-Mania – Namco
Paperboy – Atari Games
Parlour Games – Sega
Penguin Land – Sega
PGA Tour Golf – Polygames
Phantasy Star – Sega
Pit-Fighter – Atari Games
Pit Pot – Sega
Populous – Bullfrog Software
Poseidon Wars 3-D – Sega
Power Strike – Compile
AlesteJP – Sega
Power Strike II – Compile
Predator 2 – Teeny Weeny Games
Prince of Persia – Brøderbund Software
Pro Wrestling – Sega
Psychic World – Hertz Co. Ltd.
Psycho Fox – Sega
Putt & Putter – SIMS
Quartet – Sega
R-Type – Irem
R.C. Grand Prix – Absolute Entertainment
Rainbow Islands – Taito Corporation
Rambo: First Blood Part II – Sega
Rambo III – Sega
Rampage – Bally Midway
Rampart – Atari Games
Rastan – Taito Corporation
Reggie Jackson Baseball – Sega
Renegade – Technos Japan
Ren Hoek and Stimpy: Quest for the Shaven Yak  – Realtime Associates
Rescue Mission – Sega
Road Rash – Electronic Arts
RoboCop 3 – Eden Entertainment
RoboCop vs. The Terminator – Virgin Interactive
Rocky – Sega
Running Battle – Sega
Safari Hunt – Sega
Sagaia – Taito Corporation
Sangokushi  – Panda Entertainment
Satellite 7  – Sega
Scramble Spirits – Sega
Sega Chess – Sega
Sensible Soccer – Sensible Software
Shadow Dancer – Sega
Shadow of the Beast – Reflections Interactive
Shanghai – Activision
Shinobi – Sega
Shooting Gallery – Sega
Simpsons, The: Bart vs. the Space Mutants – Imagineering
Simpsons, The: Bart vs. the World – Arc Developments
Sítio do Picapau Amarelo  – Tec Toy
Slap Shot – Sanritsu
Smash TV – Probe Entertainment
Smurfs, The – Infogrames
Smurfs 2, The: Travel the World – Infogrames
Snail Maze (Free Game built into Early Master System 1 Hardware) – Sega
Solomon no Kagi  – Tecmo
Sonic Blast  – Aspect
Sonic Chaos – Aspect
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball – Sega Technical Institute
Sonic the Hedgehog – Sega
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Aspect
Space Harrier – Sega
Space Harrier 3-D – Sega
Space Gun – Taito Corporation
Special Criminal Investigation – Taito Corporation
Speedball – Bitmap Brothers
Speedball 2 – Bitmap Brothers
SpellCaster – Sega
Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six – B.I.T.S.
Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin – Sega
Sports Pad Football – Sega
Sports Pad Soccer – Sega
Spy vs. Spy – First Star Software
Star Wars – Lucasfilm Games
Street Fighter II  – Capcom
Streets of Rage – Sega
Streets of Rage 2 – Sega
Strider – Capcom
Strider II – Tiertex Design Studio
Submarine Attack – Sega
Sukeban Deka II  – Sega
Summer Games – Epyx
Super Kick-Off – Anco Software
Super Boy 4  – Zemina
Super Monaco GP – Sega
Super Off Road – Graftgold
Super Racing  – Sega
Super Space Invaders – Taito Corporation
Super Tennis – Sega
Super Tetris – Sega
Superman: The Man of Steel – Graftgold
Taz in Escape from Mars – Head Games Publishing
Taz-Mania – Sega
Tecmo World Cup ’92 – Tecmo
Tecmo World Cup ’93 – Tecmo
Teddy Boy – Sega
Tennis Ace – Sanritsu
Tensai Bakabon  – Sega
Terminator, The – Probe Entertainment
Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Arc Developments
T2: The Arcade Game – Midway Games
Thunder Blade – Sega
Time Soldiers – Alpha Denshi
Tom and Jerry: The Movie – Sega
TransBot – Sega
Trivial Pursuit: Genus Edition – Domark
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar – Origin Systems
Ultimate Soccer – Rage Software
Vigilante – Irem
Virtua Fighter Animation – Sega
Walter Payton Football – Sega
Wanted! – Sanritsu
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? – Brøderbund Software
Wimbledon – Sega
Wimbledon 2 – Sega
Winter Olympics: Lillehammer 94 – Tiertex Design Studio
Wolfchild – Core Design
Wonder Boy – Westone
Wonder Boy in Monster Land – Westone
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap – Westone
Wonder Boy in Monster World – Westone
Woody Pop  – Sega
World Class Leader Board – Access Software
World Cup USA ’94 – Tiertex Design Studio
World Cup Italia ’90 – Virgin Mastertronic
World Games – Epyx
World Grand Prix – Sega
World Tournament Golf – Sega
WWF WrestleMania: Steel Cage Challenge – Flying Edge
X-Men 3: Mojo World – Sega
Xenon 2: Megablast – Bitmap Brothers
Y’s: The Vanished Omens – Nihon Falcom
Zaxxon 3-D – Sega
Zillion – Sega
Zillion II: The Tri Formation – Sega
Zool – Gremlin Graphics Design

Videos

1980s Sega Master System Commercial

Toys ‘R Us Sega Master System Ad

SEGA Master System – 1987 Commercial

SegaScope 3-D Commercial

100 Master System Games

Top 10 Sega Master System games

Links