Sunday, December 27, 2015

33 Sega Master System Games Worth Playing

The Sega Master System was not very successful in the United States or Japan, where Sega was unable to overcome Nintendo's massive successes.  It was markedly more successful in Europe and especially Brazil.

Unfortunately, only 116 games were released in the United States.  Quite a few of those games are pretty decent, but there is a lot of crap and uninspired games for the system.  There are also quite a few decent games that only came out in Europe.  However, for the US only releases, I can still cull 30 games worth playing from the library.  Usually I list every game in a series because the gameplay is usually consistent and you can know what to expect, but I will exclude a dud game.

I am not including any SMS games that were ports of Genesis games or which have a Genesis version unless the SMS game offers something special.  The Genesis is an extremely common system and the first two models have backwards compatiblity with SMS games with an adapter.

Title Notes
Action Fighter
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
Alex Kidd: High-Tech World
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars FM Synthesis Support
Alien Syndrome FM Synthesis Support
Bubble Bobble
California Games FM Synthesis Support
Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse Not a Port of the Genesis Game
Fantasy Zone
Fantasy Zone II FM Synthesis Support
Gangster Town Light Phaser Required
Golden Axe Warrior
Golvellius: Valley of Doom FM Synthesis Support
Master of Darkness
Maze Hunter 3-D
Missile Defense 3-D

FM Synthesis Support, 3-D Glasses Required
Light Phaser & 3-D Glasses Required
Penguin Land Battery Backup; FM Synthesis Support
Phantasy Star Battery Backup; FM Synthesis Support*
Power Strike II
Psycho Fox
R-Type  FM Synthesis Support
Shinobi FM Synthesis Support
Sonic The Hedgehog
Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Not a Port of the Genesis Game
Not a Port of the Genesis Game
Space Harrier 3D 3-D Glasses Required; FM Synthesis Support
Wonder Boy
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap FM Synthesis Support*
Wonder Boy in Monster Land FM Synthesis Support
Zillion 2: Tri Formation FM Synthesis Support

I tried to include Light Phaser and 3-D Glasses games since these were significant (Light Phaser) or unique (3-D Glasses) peripherals.  I also have noted which games have battery backup save RAM, which is a rarity for 8-bit Sega cartridges.  Finally, I have also noted which games have an optional FM Synthesis soundtrack.  For the games with an asterisk, you will need a hack to play them in anything other than a Japanese system.

If you buy a SMS, you will have a built-in game.  Early consoles will have a simple snail maze game, later consoles may come with Hang On and Safari Hunt, just Hang On or Missile Defense 3-D.  Master System IIs should come with Alex Kidd in Miracle World.

There are a couple of games that almost made the list.  Ys: The Vanished Omen has FM Synthesis but the game is too slow and difficult compared to the Turbo CD version.  King's Quest is interesting but not nearly as good as its PC original.  Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord is the only other RPG released for the system, but it has nothing to really distinguish itself from a typical JRPG before they became good.

Europe got more games than the US did, and some of them are pretty good and will run in a 60Hz NTSC System.  Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar is a superb port of the PC game, much more faithful to the PC source than the NES version and has FM Synthesis music.   Ninja Gaiden is a passable game if you need an 8-bit Ninja Gaiden fix, but it is not near the NES games.  Despite what SMS Power! may contend, Sonic 2 runs without any real issue in an NTSC machine.  


  1. I might add that the SME has the best version of Montezuma's Revenge of any computer / console and the SMS ver of Marble Madness is second only to the incredible Amiga version. (NES version looks ridiculous by comparison.)

  2. Some Master System IIs had Sonic 1 built-in.

  3. Not a fan of Kenseiden?