Japanese and American gamers may remember the Master System (or Sega Mark III) as a flop, if they have heard of it at all. That's understandable: Nintendo had a stranglehold on the market, not only because the NES came out first, but because they demanded exclusivity from third-parties. Also, Sega licensed the distribution in the US to toy truck maker Tonka, who had absolutely no clue about selling video games.
Elsewhere, however, things were very different. In Europe, Sega marketed the Master System by themselves; in Brazil, Australia, and South Korea, they partnered with companies that actually knew what the fuck they were doing (respectively: Tec Toy, OziSoft, and Samsung). Thus, in these regions, the Master System was very successful, in fact more than the NES.
Hardware-wise, the Master System was possibly the most powerful console of the third generation; it had a far more powerful CPU than the NES, and four times the memory. It took two media formats: the usual cartridge, and the cheaper but lower capacity "MyCard" or "Sega Card" (inherited from their previous console, the SG-1000). The card port was also used to plug in the system's LCD shutter 3D glasses. The Master System also had a light gun, that was heavily featured in the anime series Zillion (seriously, check this out, it puts that lame Captain N cartoon to shame).
The Mark III had the optional FM Sound Unit module, which was used by certain games to play a higher quality soundtrack (compare PSG vs FM). The redesigned Japanese Master System had it built-in, but the western Master System lacked that entirely... unless you do the FM mod.
The original Master System is backwards-compatible with all SG-1000 games. However, the Master System II and later models lack the Sega Card port.
The Mega Drive / Genesis is backwards-compatible with Master System games with a simple adapter, the Power Base Converter. While the official one doesn't have FM, the retro modding scene has come up with one with integrated FM sound.
|After Burner||Shoot 'Em Up||A pretty good port of the arcade jet fighting simulation game. The action is rather fast-paced, which makes shooting enemies and dodging obstacles and missiles a bit of a challenge. The original and sequels are better, though, especially in an actual arcade. Not as good as the Megadrive version but still good. The 32X version is near arcade perfect.|
|Air Rescue||Shoot 'Em Up/Rescue||Terrorists take over various sites like amusement parks and airports and you have to save people. Drop a rope ladder to save hostages, taking up to four of them at a time to safety centers. Evade traps and terrorists (whom you can actually kill with a stage-based weapon), and carefully maneuver around terrain to avoid crashing. The clever stages are well-designed enough to provide a nice challenge, thus preventing reckless flying. Takes a bit of time to master, but once you do, it's pretty fun.|
|Aladdin||Multi-genre||Very unlike other Aladdin games. The only consistent factors are infinite lives, a life bar (with a few easy-to-avoid insta-kills), and checkpoints per stage. Some of the stuff you'll see include: Auto-running platformer sections where you jump and avoid obstacles, Puzzle-Platformer stages with stealth and a few puzzles, Carpet flying stages with lots of shit to dodge (the life bar helps a bit), and a sword-play based final boss. Decent alternative to 16-bit consoles (which are still better), good to let a kid play (help them with A Whole New World though, because that part is BULLSHIT). Has Passwords but it is a bit short (but still fun). Both looks and sounds decent.|
|Alex Kidd in Miracle World||Platformer||Sega's answer to Mario before Sonic came out. This platformer involves punching, finding and using magical items and vehicles, and boss battles of rock, paper, scissors, which is far from good game design. One hit kills you and you respawn pretty much where you died, but it's a disadvantage in certain cases. There are some crazy motorcycle and helicopter stages, but it's easy to lose them if you're not careful, and if you do, you're shit out of luck, some of those levels are almost impossible to beat without them. There are no saves, but, with 400/800 monies (depending on the version you play), you can continue after a game over with a little trick. It's a shitty game in places, misses many opportunities even for as early as 1986, but it's a notable and important piece of Sega's history, and the charming visuals alone make it a must-play. Fun Fact: Did you know the overworld theme actually has lyrics? Straight from the 80's themselves.|
|Alex Kidd in Miracle World 2||Platformer||What is this, there was another Miracle World game?! No, actually this is fan-made. But it would be easy to think it's from Sega, as it has great level design, nice graphics, and an original soundtrack. The plot takes place just months after the first game and completely ignores the disappointing official sequel, Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle.
Get the rom here.
|Alex Kidd in Shinobi World||Platformer||The final Alex Kidd title to be released on the Master System. Alex spins from light poles, tosses shurikens, and rebound jumps up walls to save his girlfriend. Features music tracks from Sega's "Shinobi" series. Of course, since it's Alex Kidd, it feels like a self-parody in its funny and cutesy flavor. Heck, the first boss is a parody of Mario (Much more obvious in the prototype version)! One of the better MS platformers, even if it's not the best.|
|Assault City||Rail Shooter/Light Gun||A neat little arcade-like game. How well you do in training affects the games difficulty (enemy speed and aggressiveness). Has a simple level up mechanic from shooting capsules to increase the power of your shots. Shoot pills to heal your life a good deal. Has a pad and light phaser version. Where the pad's buttons control shots and movement speed, and also has a cheat. The LP version doesn't have a cheat, but lets your hand do the aiming and precision. Both work pretty well, so just take your pick.|
|Astérix||Platform||One of the best adaptations of Astérix to video game, Astérix is a pretty self explanatory 8-bit platformer that boasts a great soundtrack, neat levels, a silly story involving rescuing the druid, Panoramix, who has been kidnapped by the Romans and the ability to play as either Astérix or Obélix, each with different traits, in all levels after the first (and even Idéfix in bonus levels), both of which even have their own routes! Underrated, but kinda tough, game that might become addictive after a while.|
|Astérix and the Secret Mission||Platform||Core made a "sequel" to the first, listed as "Astérix and the Great Rescue", which is pretty damn weak all-around. Thankfully this one was made by Sega once more. The main gameplay is the same, with different routes between the characters and so forth. However, they've been given some neat upgrades. Astérix can double jump and dash-punch, and Obélix can slide down hills and throw rocks/menhirs. Aesthetically and musically, the game's great, many songs and visuals are even better than the first. But... it is kinda easy. You'll probably beat it one playthrough. Although compared with the first it is more accessible in terms of difficulty.|
|Astro Warrior||Shoot 'Em Up||A short and early SMS title that's very Star Soldier-like. That said, it's hard and fast as fuck. Unless you get upgrades, you're gonna get your ass exploded in a snap, due to enemies being fast, furious, and ruthlessly aggressive. There's only 3 levels and bosses (the second boss being the hardest oddly), but upon a second loop, enemies get even tougher. There's no ending, so the only goal is to beat your high-score. This is also on a combo-pack with Pit-Pot or Hang-On depending on the region.|
|Aztec Adventure||Action/Adventure||A weird top-down action adventure game where you can get money to hire hitmen, but you (and they) die at the touch of a feather. Hard ass game that suits the masochist. Somewhat resembles Bomberman. It's pretty neat once you get the hang of it though. Note: This game has FM sound support (which adds extra sound channels and makes music sound better), so use it if you can.|
|Baku Baku Animal||Puzzle||This is a strange puzzle game that came out on different systems. The concept revolves around feeding animals, which helps you beat the other player somehow. This version retains the same action as its prettier and fancier cousins, despite cutscenes looking a bit grainy. Game Gear version is the same as this pretty much, but a bit easier to find . Also on PC (Barebones vesion) and Saturn (full).|
|Basketball Nightmare||Sports||Kind of a basic sort of basketball game, but it controls pretty well, and there's some neat little cinematics when you dunk. Also, you're a team of humans against monsters in the tournament mode. Talk about unfair odds...|
|Battle Out Run||Racing/Action-RPG?||Sega's take on Taito's Chase HQ, and arguably a bit better. For starters, you choose the stage order you want to tackle and have infinite continues. Each middle-of-the-stage, you can enter a truck to buy upgrades, including Nitro-boost (which should be your first purchase IMO). The parts stay consistent in price (except nitro, which raises, so boost sparingly), but you only get money after nabbing bounties. Bonus bucks are gained with a better time. How to nab these crooks? RAM 'EM WITH YOUR CAR.|
|Black Belt / Hokuto no Ken||Beat 'Em Up||Go around punching people in stages and go one-on-one with bosses. After beating a boss, you finish it off with a super cool cinematic attack. The Japanese version is based on Hokuto no Ken, the manliest anime ever made, where Kenshiro beats up people and makes their heads explode. There are a few differences between the two versions. Cosmetic/licensing differences aside, the biggest change is the soundtrack. Play whichever version you like, they're both cool. Hell, play both!|
|Bomber Raid||Shoot 'Em Up||A 1940s era wartime vertical shmup (although you'd NEVER guess that from the western cover). The last SMS game released in Japan, and it is kickass. Starts simple, but then reveals a nice balance of speed, enemy placement and behavior, and general gameplay to cement itself as timeless. Made by Sanritsu (later became SIMS), but feels and plays like some hybrid combo of Toaplan, Compile, and even Hudson. It's kickass to upgrade your plane's speed and power so much, and your options are cool too (gotta love those mini-planes!). There's not much music variety, but the songs sound great, and better with FM (oh so worth it).|
|Bonanza Bros.||Puzzle/Stealth||Go through different stages as you steal loot and avoid dem cops. Pretty simple gameplay, but the stage design is well done, and the music managed to convert well enough. The voices and laughter? Uh... well, it's definitely creepy as fuck. That said, this version sadly lacks 2-player, so you'll need to play the arcade or Gen/MD version to play with your "bro". To make up for it though, you can see the upper story, which is kind of helpful to locate loot and cops ahead of time.|
|Bubble Bobble||Puzzle/Platformer||You're a dragon, you shoot bubbles out of your mouth which trap enemies. Stomp on bubbled enemies to turn them into food or items. This makes perfect fucking sense. The Game Gear version has stages slightly edited to better fit the lower res and splits multiplayer to link-cable support, but is otherwise the same.|
|Buggy Run||Racing||Akin to an 8-bit version of Rock n' Roll Racing, though less groovy and space-age. It controls pretty well though, and you can still buy upgrades for your car and items to use to turn the tide of a race. It came out the same year as RnRR, so naturally it was overshadowed. Though it still remains quite solid.|
|California Games||Sports/Footbag!||A cool sports game where you compete in various different events, such as skating, BMX, Surfing and the ever-so-fun Footbag!|
|Captain Silver||Platformer||FIRST OFF, play the PAL version if you can. That one has the extra stuff cut out from the US version, including level, bosses, and the full ending. Other than that, it's a comical little platformer where you play as a would-be pirate seeking out Cap Silver's booty. Although you're a basic lad, find the power-ups scattered in stages for some impressive boosts (until you die). Pretty fun, and who doesn't want to rob dead pirate ghosts?|
|Columns||Puzzle||Match different blocks that come down in different groups. You get more points from chain combos. Pretty good if you want a break from Tetris or some other puzzler. Pretty much the same as the 16 bit version. The Game Gear version is pretty much the same as this one.|
|Cyborg Hunter||Adventure (?)||Very curious game. Linear in stage order, but you gain upgrades like Metroid to overcome obstacles and improve your powers. Uses a neat pseudo "dual-screen" to monitor enemy activity. The game's a bit hard with no saving, but not exactly long, and you can go in and out of elevators to respawn medpacks. Major Note! Be sure to play with TWO controllers. Otherwise, you can't access your menu screen! Strange, but it works.|
|Daffy Duck in Hollywood||Platformer||An enjoyable Looney Tunes game? By Probe, no less?! The concept is easy enough, go around collecting loot and killing enemies to proceed. The stage design is fair, but you can only take one hit per life unless you find a duck-fairy. Thankfully you have a bubble bazooka to KO enemies with, which can upgrade to fire more shots and even a 4-way flame shot! It won't kill certain enemies, so beware. There's a Gen/MD version, too, but this one's pretty good despite that, as the music and nicely animated effects are quite well done for 8-bit. The GG version's the same, but has "Sonic 2" zoom-in issues, which can lead to some accidental deaths.|
|Danan: The Jungle Fighter||Platformer||"Look at this Conan/Tarzan ripoff, this game's gotta suck." Surprisingly, no, it doesn't! There's even some minor RPG elements as you can level up and build up points to for animal summons. Strangely, there's a stage timer as well. Thus creating a tension between leveling up and racing the death clock (it stops at boss battles thankfully). There's alot of hidden rooms to find with power-ups and traps. Not an outstanding game, but it is a damn good one. Sadly, it is a bit short.|
|Deep Duck Trouble||Platformer||Uncle Scrooge has inflated like a balloon due to a curse and it's up to Donald to help him out. You get to choose the order of the areas you go to. The gameplay has been changed to play more like Castle of Illusion (with some minor differences). However, like Lucky Dime Caper, it's still fairly hard and still good.|
|Double Dragon||Beat 'Em Up||The classic beat'em up is ported to the Master System with favorable results. It's one of the best ports made, allows 2 players, and more enemies on-screen than the NES version. The control's a tiny bit different, but easy to re-master. This supports FM music, but both versions of the tunes sound pretty good. The Game Gear game is a different game, and also a pretty crappy one (using guns? C'mon!). Therefore, you gotta knuckle-up with the MS to enjoy this one.|
|Dragon Crystal||Roguelike||A graphical roguelike that's good for roguelike beginners to try out. Stages are randomly generated and all actions take up "turns". Items and food are essential to your survival, so seek them out. You are also followed by a dragon critter. It doesn't do much except grow and take up the space behind you, but this helps prevent back-attacks. The Game Gear version uses a slightly different translation, along with different aesthetics, but is just as good.|
|Dynamite Duke||Rail Shooter||Cabal-like shmup that more resembles the gameplay of SNK's Nam-1975. A bit basic, but fairly fun. Tear through swarms of enemies with your blazing machinegun and occasional punch. Charge your punch to unleash a dynamite energy blast that damages the entire screen. Boss fights are altered to focus less on guns and distance and solely on up-close fist-combat. This makes some bosses easier, and others harder because of that. While fun, the big problem with DD is it's difficulty. You only start with 2 lives and when they're gone, it's back to square one. Rev up that Cheat Menu.|
|Dynamite Dux||Beat 'Em Up||Slightly altered from the arcade original, but still plays the same (but sadly single player). 8 directional beat 'em up that lets you attack in 4 directions. You can also find different weapons to use, ranging from rocks to rocket-fist launchers. If unarmed, you can charge-attack for a huge super-punch. Be sure to find food to eat, or your life bar will lower a bit over time. Looks and sounds decent and cartoon-ish. Pretty smooth and plays well. The only negative is that Jump-kick is useless. Still a nice alternative to the arcade and a pretty good port.|
|Dynamite Headdy||Platformer||This is pretty much the same as the GG version, but a little bit brighter and has a bigger screen space, which may incline some of you to play this version. A few power-ups were taken out, but as a whole it remains pretty solid, especially considering the weaker hardware. Like Sonic 2, some bosses are a little easier on MS, due to the higher resolution giving more movement room. Odds are you'll sooner find the GG version though, since the MS one was only released in Brazil.|
|Enduro Racer||Racing||Arguably Sega's isometric answer to Nintendo's Excitebike, but featuring more obstacles than just ramps and slow-down/slip spots. There's no fuel gauge, but the time can be pretty tough to beat. Unlike a number of 8-bit racers which just had the motor and car sounds, this actually has music in stages for you to enjoy. Pretty dang nifty, but it's a shame there's no 2-player option or Game Gear equivalent.
Now, here's something fucked up: the Japanese game was a 2Mb cart, while the American game was only 1Mb. The American release was literally half the Japanese one - rather than ten tracks, you get five tracks twice.
|Fantasy Zone||Shoot 'Em Up||A horizontal-shmup that's one of the pioneers of the "Cute 'em up" sub-genre. Scroll around stages in an early example of an "all range mode". You can buy upgrades to improve your ship as well. Boss battles are stationary, but you have full control of your ship. A bit hard, but worth a shot. The Game Gear version has easier bosses, but because of the screen resolution, you can't see most of the enemies, making the stages themselves way too hard with alot of cheap deaths. SMS is the way to go.|
|Fantasy Zone 2||Shoot 'Em Up||The sequel to the first has more colorful stages, catchy music, and strange bosses. The stages themselves are more fair in design, resulting in less cheap deaths, but the bosses seem to have gotten considerably tougher! The 3rd Fantasy Zone, "The Maze", is a weak Pac-Man-like re-imaging that just doesn't work well under either franchise.|
|Forgotten Worlds||Shoot 'Em Up||A shmup that features rotation to change shot direction. You can buy upgrades and change your "option" (helper robot) to make it fire differently. Depending on your playstyle, you may choose for widespread or concentrated firepower options. Sadly, unlike most versions, this is one player only. 2P must have been... forgotten?|
|Gain Ground||Strategy||A game that plays with a Commando-esque style. However, in contrast to usual "run 'n gun" tactics, your goal is to reach the end of a stage and save other fighters along the way. Each fighter is a bit different, in weapons or otherwise, and each counts as a "life". A unique entry to say the least. This may not be as pretty as the arcade or genesis, but the action is still as spot on as it ever was.|
|Galatic Protector||Defense||Opa Opa and his friend have to save the planet from being destroyed in this Japan-only oddity. This uses that crazy Paddle Controller, which is kinda hard to find. It also doesn't work on the standard Master System Control Pad. This also makes emulating the game tricky. The emulator MEKA uses a mouse-based emulation for the paddle, due to being an analog device, so that's about as close as you'll get. If you've played Pyoro R on WarioWare Twisted, this is a bit like that.|
|Gangster Town||Arcade/Shooting||It's time to talk in 20's slang and shoot some crooks! As a copper, it's yer job to clean up the street of dose doity mobsters usin' yer Light Phaser, see. Ya go through a whole variety of joints, from car chases to music halls to stop those capers. It's still sumthin' of a funny ordeal, as you can even shoot the angels of any jokers ya make go stiff. Just don't be a palooka and shoot any innocents or dames, ya knucklehead. Inside Scoop: If ya find yourself outta life, den at da game ovah screen, shoot off yer own hat before it flys the coop to keep on keepin' on.|
|Gauntlet||Quarter-munchan run n' gun||The classic over head quarter eater, now on the MS! The ridiculously huge swarms from original are still here, though you can only use 2 players. To make up for this, and the fact that you only get "4" credits, you have much more life per credit than 700. No matter what, you'll still need food badly.|
|Ghouls 'n' Ghosts||Platformer||Another port of the tough as nails original, but this version is unique. In addition to magic and aiming, you can find certain doors which give you a choice of upgraded armor. Helmets boost your magic (which you can change from the pause menu), armor increases the number of hits you can take, boots increase your running speed/control (but do NOT effect jumping, so no double-jumpan), they upgrade from silver (base) to red, green, then gold. As always, you have to beat it twice for the real ending.|
|Golden Axe Warrior||Action/Adventure||An extremely Zelda-like game. This features magic, characters, and other elements from Golden Axe as well, but you can only use "Ax-Battler" (or whatever you name him). It's actually plays quite well, and looks and sounds great, despite highly resembling its inspiration. Unlike (modern) Zelda, you can get beat down hard by strong foes if you go into later areas too early. Don't get this confused for Ax-Battler on Game Gear. That's barely anything like this and it also pretty much sucks.|
|Golvellius: Valley of Doom||Action/Adventure||This game features elements that would be seen in The Guardian Legend. There are 4 different types of areas to play through: platformer, exploration, vertical auto-scroll, and boss battles. These areas depend on what kind of location you are in. Each has different restrictions and advantages. This game has FM music support and sounds great with it. The series proper originates from the MSX, but this is arguably the best version of the first entry.|
|Hoshi wo Sagashite...||Point and Click Adventure||Translated: "Searching the Stars" a.k.a. "The Story of Mio." An adventure game loosely based off the efforts of Macventure and ICOM games, even using a similar interface. You come into the possession of a rare space critter, Mio. Depending on your actions, you may get different endings, or even have poor Mio die on you. A full English translation patch is available for the rom.|
|Impossible Mission||Platformer/Puzzler||Port of the computer-based classic. Jump-flip around and ride elevators all over the damn place. Your goal is to find the pieces of a scattered puzzle. Easier said than done, thanks to the numerous robots, traps, and other obstacles in your way! Sadly, the voices have been garbled to shit, but other than that it's still a pretty good game.|
|Kenseiden||Platformer||You start off as a fairly low-key warrior, but as you venture further and beat more bosses, you get all sorts of rad skills. Curiously, although the core gameplay remains the same, this went through a number of intriguing graphical revisions in different regions, the Korean version being the most notable. Also has FM support, so use it if you can to make the tunes extra groovy.|
|King's Quest||Adventure/Rage-Quit||Ah, King's Quest. One of the pioneers to both classical point-and-click adventure games and smashing your screen in frustration. The SMS version is a pretty good conversion, making it easier to figure out what to do by giving you menus in context, although as a result, some of the witty banter has been removed. That said, you can still crush yourself with a rock, fall to your death in a shallow hole, and drown like an idiot. If you have the patience, you may get the treasures and items needed to overcome riddles, enemies, and traps. But... realistically speaking, you'll probably just laugh at how you got imprisoned, eaten by a rat, or some other ridiculous death.|
|Laser Ghost||Arcade/Shooting||A very odd game. You must protect poor defenseless Katherine as she tries to reclaim her soul and avoids being attacked by all sorts of creepy monsters and traps with your Light Phaser. You can also use the control pad and buttons, but it's a bit weird and slow to use that. The game itself plays nicely, and you can shoot a number of things as well to find hidden goodies and power-ups like enemy-clearing bombs. It's a different sort of shooting experience for sure, but one that works well enough. Curiously, the Arcade game of the same name is entirely different, playing a bit more like Line of Fire.|
|Lemmings||Puzzle||Well, it's fucking Lemmings. Try to guide those silly little critters to the exit safely by assigning them different tasks. Like their legendary namesake, they'll pretty much fall to their doom unless you help them survive. Fun Fact: Amazingly, real life lemmings have been proven to not be so stupid. The Game Gear port is just as good, but the MS version is a bit better, because the behavior bar doesn't disappear when inactive like the GG.|
|Lord of the Sword||Platformer||A tough platformer/adventure that resembles Zelda II and Faxanadu only without the RPG stat elements and concentrating more on the ass-kicking. Although this game is a bit linear, you can side-track for better weapons. Protip: This game also has FM music support and its great soundtrack is even better if you have the option available.|
|Lucky Dime Caper||Platformer||Donald Duck's nephews have been kidnapped and it's up to him to hammer, stomp, and toss plates a variety of enemies and bosses to get them back. In addition to globetrotting, Donald's also racing against the in-stage clock (which lowers pretty fast). The Mickey games are good for beginners, but the Donald games require some real skill. This game loosely bounces locales between Quackshot on the Genesis, but the levels and bosses are different, making both worth a play.|
|Marble Madness||Puzzle/Platformer||Same game as on most consoles. Guide your marble to a goal while taking care to consider physics and the speed alterations from stage designs. Simple, but functional. Still enjoyable after all these years, but obviously not quite for everyone. Try it if you're curious and stick with it if you like it. Also on Game Gear.|
|Master of Darkness||Platformer||Sega and SIMS's answer to Castlevania. Uses a similar interface, control scheme, but with less cheap pitfall deaths. Unlike the Belmont clan, Doc Social's arsenal is a bit more practical with pistols, bombs, and boomerangs (Hey, I said a bit.). His melee weapon can both power-up to different forms like a cane, sword, or axe, but the game can troll you by putting the basic ass knife where you least want it. Despite that, it's a pretty damn good homage/rip-off to "ClassicVania". The Game Gear version is less scrunched, but plays the same and has a different name in ALL regions.|
|Mickey Mouse: Castle of Illusion||Platformer||A rather easy, but easy to enjoy platformer. The later levels get significantly tougher though. There are a few differences between this and the 16-bit version, such as bosses and level design, but both are enjoyable games. This is a good choice for a child or someone new to games or platformers to play, partially due to its strange, colorful worlds and cute music. That said, even a gaming vet can still enjoy this one.|
|Mickey Mouse: Land of Illusion||Platformer||This game is notably harder and longer than Castle of Illusion. There are also magical items which let you get to normally unaccessible areas as well. You can also return to previous areas. It's suped-up difficulty makes it tough for beginners to get into, but it's perfect for anyone with prior gaming experience.|
|Michael Jackson's Moonwalker||Platformer||Plays similarly to the 16-bit Gen/MD version, but differs in a few ways. There's no more attack sparkles, which makes combat a bit tougher. However, the hat toss can be obtained as a powerup (versus costing life) and lasts until the next set of rounds or a death. The enemies are also more aggressive at times. While nobody would put this above the 16-bit version, it's hard to call it bad, just different. Give it a spin if you're curious.|
|Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord||RPG||One of the first JRPGs to make it to outside shores. Even before Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest! It's also damn hard too. That said, it's mostly fair, even if it lacks the pizazz of Phantasy Star. You'll probably want to use a guide. If you know Japanese and are a hardcore collector, you'll totally want the original version.|
|Montezuma's Revenge||Platformer/Puzzle||A whimsical little platformer where you play as an Indiana Jones wanna-be who raids a tomb for loot. It's full of anachronistic traps (conveyer belts and lasers? WTF, Monty?) and requires some twitch-based platforming. Similar to Spelunker,you find a number of keys and doors to find, though it's arguably much less difficult. Nothing super special, but it's a pretty fun way to spend a rainy afternoon. Had an official PC and Game Boy Color sequel, though the GBC version is 2D and plays more faithful to the original, while the PC version is 3D and rather different.|
|New Zealand Story, The||Platformer||a.k.a. Kiwi Kraze in some versions. You play a little Kiwi who has to save his buddies. He does so by going through various levels against cute enemies he shoots dead with arrows (they've got worse, so hey). You can get better weapons and even steal vehicles. Doesn't include the arcade-exclusive "Heaven" round, but that's probably for the best, because Heaven was freaky as fuck in that version. Also had a Genesis version, which isn't much different.|
|The Ninja||Run n' Gun||Somewhat hard to get the hang of at first (leading many to rage-quit), but once you do, it's much more fun. You have three actions: throw shuriken/darts upward, in the direction you are facing, or press both buttons simultaneously to vanish (which lets you move unharmed very briefly). The key is to know when to use what and also when to run/evade (the whole butterfly-bee ordeal). You can also counter enemy fire with well aimed shots. It gets more interesting the further in you get, but you need to hone your skills if you ever hope to get far! Simple, but sweet (and challenging!).|
|Ninja Gaiden (MS)||Platformer||Surprisingly, NOT a port of the NES game. It's an original story with Ryu. The end result is damn good, though shockingly only plays a bit like NG. It's like a fusion of NG with the NES games Shadow of the Ninja (by Natsume) and Batman (by Sunsoft). The graphics, music, and action are bliss, even if the cutscenes aren't as well done as the NES. You should definitely seek this out, Ninja Gaiden fan or not. "And it's pronounced Ninja Guy-den!" *Note: Not the same game as the Game Gear Ninja Gaiden, which plays more like the NES games, but is much shorter.|
|Out Run||Driving||A strange mix of Casual and Hardcore. You technically aren't racing anyone but the clock, however, the roads can be difficult to traverse. Thus, it's a "driving" game. That said, it's a pretty good one. Although the arcade version is king, this is also still good. Choose a song, and start cruisin'. The Game Gear version is almost as good (the smaller resolution is a bit of a minus), and even has a versus mode. Although Sonic Drift 2 is better when it comes to multiplayer GG racing.|
|Penguin Land||Puzzle||You've got this egg, and you need to get it to the bottom of the level in 30 different levels. Why? I dunno. Pay attention. The problem? It's a fucking egg. You've got to be very gentle with it. You can't go letting those predators eat it, and don't even think about jumping on it. The good news is that you can dig in ice, because you're a penguin (?). Now that you've got your mission, move out, soldier, and prepare for one of the earliest manly-cute games ever.|
|Phantasy Star||RPG||The first game made of the Phantasy Star franchise. A classic RPG with cool pseudo-3D maze dungeons. Features a mix of sci-fi and medieval fantasy themes that works quite well. Impressive for its time due to its great graphics, music, and story and it still holds up today. It's a bit on the hard side though. Protip: Get the Japanese version and apply the re-translation patch  for a less compressed story and better music. The FM music seriously blows away the alternative. Not to mention the naming is more in-line with the rest of the series.|
|Pit Pot||Puzzle||A funky little puzzle game. You have to hammer tiles and enemies in rooms with floors made from tons of them, and find magic items necessary to save a princess from her cursed slumber. The puzzling comes from making said items pop up, requiring certain actions to be taken in rooms, not always the same one either. There's no hints either, so you just have to figure this shit out on your own. Amusingly, this has multiple endings based on how many magic items you have when you attempt to wake up the princess, one amusing one being where you decide to slam a tile, and drop that witch into a fucking pit (game over, but eh). It was sold as a Sega Card game in Japan, but only as a 2-in-1 cartridge (with Astro Warrior) in the west.|
|Power Strike / Aleste||Shoot 'Em Up||One of Compile's earliest shooters, but still a good one. This later spawned many sequels such as the radical genesis shmup, M.U.S.H.A./Musha Aleste. Not to be confused with the Game Gear version, which is a different game.|
|Power Strike II||Shoot 'em up||
Note: this is not the same game as Power Strike II for the Game Gear. In fact, this one was only released in Europe and Brazil, so it is not the localized version of any Aleste. It also has a completely different setting - you have to shoot down sky pirates over Italy in steampunk 1930s. Still, it was also developed by Compile, and the gameplay is very similar (except this one has a charged attack, unlike any Aleste). So it is equally worth playing. Many even say this is the very best shmup for the Master System.
Note: set your emulator to Europe (50Hz) or else the game will run too fast.
|Prince of Persia||Puzzle Platformer||Ah, the original flavor. You have to beat the game in under an hour, but because of its difficulty, it may take you much longer to pull it off! Guide your hero through a huge ass maze full of enemies, puzzles, and a lot of death traps and dead ends. The Game Gear version is pretty much a perfect port of this. You owe it to yourself to play this desert jewel, even if not on a Sega console version.|
|Psycho Fox||Platformer||Spiritual prequel to 16-bit classic, Decap Attack. Like Decap Attack, your character can punch forward and jumps with the need to build up a lot of momentum in order to move swiftly. You can switch to various animals, using a Shinto stick, that all have their strengths and weakeness from a fox, a monkey, tiger or a hippopotamus. You'll also want to pick up a Birdfly, which acts as a projectile and extra hit when held. Opinions have been mixed on this. Some absolutely love it, while others downright hate it. The momentum issues are a real base-breaker, but once you get it down, you'll find it more enjoyable for sure. Definitely worth trying to decide for yourself.|
|Rainbow Islands||Arcade/Platformer||Bubble Bobble's spinoff/sequel. Instead of using bubbles you kill things with rainbows. You can also walk and jump off of said rainbows to navigate the stages. Like Bubble Bobble, this is filled with various items and power ups.|
|Rambo: First Blood Part II / Ashura / Secret Command||Run n' Gun||Back in the day, it was easier to cash in on a hit movie: take some older game with a similar theme, change a few sprites and intro music, et voilà. Case in hand: Ashura, a ripoff of Capcom's Commando, rebranded as a Rambo game in the US (and released under yet another name in Europe). Shameless, but it worked, because Ashura was a pretty good game in the first place. Unlike others of this genre, it is slower-paced, requiring one to cautiously utilized paced movements and firing, and take advantage of saving captives for power-ups. Play it simultaneously with 2 Players for much more fun.|
|Rastan||Platformer||Pretty decent port of the arcade platformer, though thankfully a bit easier. It plays a bit like Actraiser, sans the Sim elements. Stages are pretty huge and have power-ups to seek out and enemies to tear into bloody messes. After each stage is a castle with various traps to deal with, and after that is a boss who you must fight in a poisonous room which slowly drains your life. At least Rastan has super jumps and attack aiming. Not perfect, but pretty fun. Has a perfect port to Game Gear as the Japanese only Rastan Saga, but is the same game.|
|Reggie Jackson Baseball||Sports||Nifty little baseball game. It has solid gameplay along with some amusing animations that give the game a fun vitality. Overall, It feels like a forerunner to SNK's Baseball Stars series, which actually started out a year afterwards! Also released as "American Baseball" in other regions.|
|R-Type||Shoot 'em up||A good arcade conversion with a secret level exclusive to this version. Use your invincible "Force pod" option to take out enemies in hard-to-reach places, shield yourself, and combine for concentrated attacks. The enemies and atmosphere are creepy as hell.|
|Rygar/Argos(/Argus) no Juujiken||Platformer||Only released in Japan, but has no language barrier. Port of the Arcade original (so, NOT the NES game). You attack foes with the yo-yo like Discarmor shield-on-a-chain, but you can defeat some enemies by jumping on them Mario-style. This is a lot more fun when you've obtained the power-ups to lengthen your chain and use an overhead arch-strike. One hit = death though, so without them, it's kind of cheaply difficult (thanks to tunnelers or that lizard foe-type that hits you with its stretchy dick (or so it looks)). Solid game (as long as you obtain power-ups).|
|Sagaia||Shoot 'em up||A great conversion of Darius 2. For those not in the know, Darius is a shmup that has you fighting giant fish robot ships. Despite playing, looking, and sounding great, this port unfortunately has some levels taken out. Otherwise, there's no real negatives about it, despite being ported to an 8-bit system. Get it if you're curious.|
|Shanghai||Board Game||If you like Shanghai, play this. If not, this is a decent way to start. This explains the rules at the beginning. It offers a help menu, and also shows you all your possible moves that you can make and even lets you undo a move. You can do solitaires, tournaments, and challenges. You can also choose from 3 different tunes that all sound really nifty when you use FM (not so much without it).|
|Shinobi||Action/Platformer||A bit slower paced than the arcade version, but still extremely solid. This plays similarly to Rolling Thunder, as you can jump between different planes throughout levels. Your goals are to save hostages, defeat enemies (who are damn tricky at times), and beat the level bosses. This port adds a few things to the mix as well, such as more weapons, but more importantly, a lifebar (which you WILL be thankful for later on). Unrelated to the GG Shinobi games in terms of gameplay, but all 3 are great.|
|Slap Shot||Sports||Simple little hockey game, but it's pretty much the only one on MS that plays pretty well. There's exhibition and tournament modes for single-player and exhibition matches for 2-players. It plays very well with responsive controls and doesn't lag either. Has 24 teams around the globe to choose from, each with their own stats. The aesthetics are fairly basic, but amusing. One factor of note is that you can enter a basic fist-combat with an opposing player on the ice. Pretty cool since this was before more major releases that had it. Worth playing if you like hockey and the SMS.|
|Solomon's Key||Puzzle/Platformer||VERY HARD puzzle platformer with plenty of arcade qualities. Always cited for being extremely fun but brutally tough, especially if you manage to get past stage three. Most people can't.|
|Sonic the Hedgehog||Platformer||This is different from the 16-bit entry. For starters, it was made by Ancient and has some music by Yuzo Koshiro. There are also different stages, different boss battles, and special stages DON'T have Chaos Emeralds. Instead, you find them throughout stages, some of which require some clever maneuvers to get. The game is a bit slower paced, but the stage design is quite clever to make up for it. A solid Sonic entry worth playing. The GG version is pretty much the same, although slightly altered to be easier.|
|Sonic the Hedgehog 2||Platformer||Pretty much every 8-bit Sonic game except the first and Tails' Sky Patrol was made by Aspect. As a result, they share similar physics and control. While you cannot Spin Dash, rolling does have a few unique properties here. Emeralds are found once more throughout stages. Contrary to popular belief, this game is not hard to beat, the reduced dimensions of the Game Gear version just make bosses tougher (Not so on the MS!). Completely different to the 16-bit version (and came out first, so this is the 1st game with Tails in it!)|
|Sonic Chaos||Platformer||This game gives players the choice between Sonic or Tails. Sonic has a harder game as he must complete special stages (now with Chaos Emeralds!) to get his good ending and starts with less lives. Tails can fly, starts with more lives and can't access special stages. The special stages are quite interesting and have a neat variety, but the last few are damn hard. Called Sonic & Tails in Japan. Also on Game Gear with some minor differences, but just as good.|
|Space Harrier||Arcade/Shoot 'em up||A bit of a basic 3D shmup that was visually amazing for its debut. The music is super-catchy, and the action is fast-paced, requiring sharp reactions and fast fingers. It's aged a bit now, but it's still worth a go. The arcade version is better, but this isn't too bad either, despite its limitations. There's a few things in this version that aren't in the arcade though, such as a secret options screen. A '3D' version exists (Special Sega-issued glasses required). The GG version is a bit different stage and graphic-wise, but plays the same as this and just as well.|
|Special Criminal Investigation/S.C.I.||Racing/Shoot 'Em Up?||Spiritual sequel to Taito Chase H.Q. and plays mostly the same, except this time you get a gun to fire at crooks! In addition, traffic cars aren't nearly as big of as hassle (partly due to the gun blasting them away). You can also get a bazooka with limited ammo. The boost from HQ is still here though. This all makes the game a bit easier, but it's also less irritating because of that. You can still ram vehicles, but why bother? This is probably the best of these styled games on SMS. If you like Lucky and Wild-type games, try this one. It may be old, but it still puts up a fight!|
|Speedball 2||Sports||A sci-fi sports game with robots that plays like Soccer/(world) Football, except you use your hands to pass, toss, punch, etc. You can customize your bots as well, to boost certain aspects and abilities. If you have any doubts of the quality, it's made by The Bitmap Brothers, so you know it's fucking good. Was recently remixed for iPhone and similar OS types, so you may want to check that out as well.|
|Spellcaster||Platformer/Point-and-click||A curious combination of genres to say the least. This game has you platforming through stages, but also exploring villages and finding clues from people in order to solve the game's riddles and grand mystery. This had a 16-bit sequel called Mystic Defender that did away with anything that wasn't action (although it DID have uncensored nudity...). Both are based on the Kujaku Ō series.|
|Sukeban Deka II||Beat 'em up/Point-and-Click||Much shorter than Spellcaster above, but has some similar adventure aspects. Though, instead of platforming, you go around beating thugs and bosses. Saki uses a Yo-Yo and Jump Kick. Sadly, nothing else, nor do her pals help. That said, the fighting is a bit challenging, requiring careful aim and evasion. It's a pretty nifty way to kill an afternoon, and better than the NES game. The source material is also pretty cool and worth checking out. Be sure to get the translation patch first though.|
|Time Soldiers||Run 'n Gun||Decent little Commando-esque, but you travel in time and fight bosses respective to the eras you visit. It's a bit hard at first, but gets easier once you get a feel for the movements, and what not. One neat aspect is that you can use your normal weapon and a power-up weapon. Better with 2 simultaneous players.|
|TransBot / Astro Flash / Nuclear Creature||Shoot 'Em Up||Simple horizontal shmup with a curious power-up gimmick. After collecting a "?" ball, a small roulette shuffles. Each letter besides A and G lets you access a different weapon with a limited amount of ammo. You only get to choose one, but if you get G afterwards, it refills to max. Selecting G also refills your power bar (you have life and lives, and restart right where you die). A gives you your normal weapon, and C is the shit that you want to use. As for levels, there are two: overground and underground, and you get to the latter by getting the "D" weapon, and then shooting some motionless blue crystal objects that appear from time to time. This requirement is ridiculous, and nothing in the game or manual gives you a hint, I guess someone just stumbled upon it after trying everything else. After you beat the underground stage, SPOILER ALERT, you return to overground stage with higher difficulty and the loop goes on. There's cheats to make your game easier as well. Fairly easy, but still entertaining.|
|Ultima IV||RPG||FUCK YEAR, ULTIMA. This is arguably one of the better Ultima games, and was ported quite well to the MS, with some slight timing and frame rate improvements. Answer questions, become The Avatar, gather your party, conquer evil, and make Lord British proud. Easily one of the best MS RPGs.|
|Wanted||Arcade/Shooting||Well pardner, once again we've gotta take down some desperadoes. Came out between Gangster Town and Laser Ghost, and oddly enough plays like a mix of them. It has the fast paced shooting of Gangster Town, and the need to protect the hero with your gun. This also has a few bosses as well. Thankfully, there's also some power-ups and enemy-clearing bombs as well. The walking stages are easy enough, but the horseback stages are just plain hard. Luckily, you can keep continuing, and even use a control-pad assisted cheat to select stages at the difficulty screen. Not too shabby, and definitely worth a shot.|
|Wimbledon II||Sports||It's tennis. What makes this a keeper though is that the main tournament mode has 1 or 2 players, and RPG elements as you customize your player's 4 different stats. There's passwords to continue onward as well, even a mix of new/continue game for each player. You can even be a GIRL! Definitely try this out. As a side note: The original Wimbledon has one less stat, plays at a MUCH faster pace (honestly too much, especially when aiming returns), and you can't be a girl either (boo.).|
|Wonder Boy in Monster Land (Wonder Boy 2)||Platformer/RPG||The 2nd Wonder Boy title and 1st of the Monster Land series. Features great platforming action with RPG elements. Collect coins from defeated enemies to upgrade your armor and weapons. Pretty hard though, as there's no continues! If you want an easier version, try the arcade version or Bikkuri Man World, which has a continue trick and characters based on the Bikkuriman franchise.|
|Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap||Platformer/Action-RPG||One of the Master System's finest. A platformer/RPG hybrid belonging to the Monster World series. This involves upgrading your gear, finding hidden passages and shops, and killing dragons, which leads to the best feature: transformation. You obtain a number of forms in the game, each with different strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Like Metroid, you can explore the entire world, and new forms lead to hidden areas and bonuses. The Game Gear version is just as good as this one. Has FM support, I advise you DON'T use it, as the music arguably sounds better without it. Ported to TG-16 as Dragon's Curse, which features slightly different physics and arguably better music.|
|Ys||Action-RPG||The first chapter of the Ys saga. Unlike later ports, remakes, and rearrangements, this is a bit bare-bones. It is also one of the harder versions. "Attacking" requires you side-swipe your enemies, as rushing forward hurts (mostly) you and (less so) your foe. A neat little epic that looks great, plays well, and has a great soundtrack. I highly advise you to utilize its FM option, it sounds absolutely great.|
|Zillion||Platformer/Adventure||A Metroid-esque game based on a Sega-sponsored anime. It has stealth, leveling up, characters with different stats, but most importantly, finding secret items. This is needed to beat the game, as nearly everything you do needs hidden codes. Bring a pencil and pad, because they're randomly generated. You can't save either. Despite that, it's damn good, but it's better if you have someway to save state mid-game.
Also, be sure to watch the anime, it's really good. (Opa-Opa is a minor character!)
|Zillion II: The Tri Formation||Platformer||A far more linear game than its predecessor, but still damn hard and pretty good, with notably better graphics. It alternates bike-riding and traditional platforming levels.|
Korea's Samsung Gam*Boy
A short mention on a curious study...
Like Russia and its Dendy, most countries trying to catch up with others in gaming often had official re-issues of systems. More often than not, said re-issues also have unofficial and/or pirate carts of games. What's curious about this case worth mentioning then? An interesting cross-platform situation, that, despite failing to reach its highest potential, is nonetheless interesting.
Yeah. That's an MSX game on the motherfucking Master System and it plays nearly perfectly. What the hell is going on. Simple. Some software programmers noticed extreme similarities between the two hardware which allowed for the two to share software with some tweaks. But it doesn't end there...
When SMS met Korea
A number of independent and/or pirate efforts were made as well. Some of which utilize existing game aspects and elements, and others remix them or modify them.
"The Micro Xevious" being one example. It took an MSX-like Xevious concept, but added its own (then-retro/now-super-retro) look and even an option for a newly composed song instead the original's doop-a-boop loop.
Due to original carts being extremely hard to find now, even the ROM files are hard to find unless you go deep into the undernet (not saying you should!). You likely won't get to play any of these games due to their difficult-to-obtain nature. These games are also imperfect. Some require strange conveniences (like 2 controllers for Galious) and others may crash due to certain bugs. As a result, none will be listed here. Still, if you are curious after all of that...
Further Reading for the Curious:
Intro in Hardcore Gaming 101 - HG101's study on Korean gaming. In addition to bringing up the Samsung Gam*Boy and games on it, it also brings up lots of other neat info.
SMS Power! - SMS Power's list of Korean-Exclusive games. Neat to look at and find out any flaws and perks about different ones (when mentioned).
Brazil and Tec Toy
There isn't much to say about this that isn't already known, but it's a neat little tidbit.
If there's one thing that Brazil is known for vidya-wise, it's a steady support of the SMS even after most of the world gave up on it. Why? Well, let's be frank. Vidya costs money, often a shitload. Add import prices plus store price-spikes and shit gets Australia-level expensive.
So someone looked for a budget-friendly system, and found something enjoyable in the SMS. Supply-Demand factors worked favorably and Sega was able to at least partially profit off of older systems and games most other countries wouldn't even look at compared to the NES, MSX, C64, etc.
What's best about all this is that the SMS has a pretty damn good hit-to-miss ratio, so about half of the time, you knew you were getting a decent-to-good game. But it doesn't end there...
Monica and Friends to the Rescue!
Good games are always a boon, but what really helps boost sales are properties and licensed characters. At least once, all of us wanted to play at that one game with our favorite character, series, etc. Of course, Brazil has its own stars as well. The most well-known to the world being Monica of Monica's Gang (Mônica of Turma da Mônica in original Portuguese). A feisty little girl with super strength and a child's sense of wonder. How perfect for games could you get?
Here's where it gets fun. Don't just put the character/series in a half-ass original game, but instead do an OFFICIAL graphics hack to integrate them into an already good game. The most famous example of this being Turma da Mônica em: O Resgate a revision of Wonder Boy III/Monster World II: The Dragon's Trap. And it wasn't just Monica's Gang either. A number of licenses were utilized including Sapo Xulé, Pica-Pau (Woody Woodpecker), and so on, even motherfucking Bumblebee Man's inspiration.
There were some unofficial/pirate graphics hacks and even some original games made as well, but the quality of those is uh... not good.
Long Story Short: If you ever want to get some actual Master System systems and carts for wallet-friendly price and don't mind unfamiliar characters and a bit of Portuguese, or are just a curious collector, hit up the bros in the BR. Odds are they'll know what you're talking about, or at least know somebody else who does.
More Info and Further Reading:
Official English-language Monica page- Learn about the Monica universe and those in it, along with a hefty comics archive
SMS Power's Brazil list- A list of some Brazilian exclusive SMS games and game variants.
Tectoy's Wikipedia's Entry- Further info about the site.
Tectoy's Main Site- A main site to browse their wares. Not much reason to check it other than curiosity.
Tectoy Mobile- barely related to this, but still a neat little site with a cute design.
|Consoles||Action Max - Atari 7800 - Amstrad GX4000 - RDI Halcyon - View-Master Interactive Vision - Sega Master System - Nintendo Entertainment System - Casio PV-1000 - VTech Socrates - Epoch Super Cassete Vision|
|Computers||Mattel Aquarius - Acorn Archimedes - Commodore 64 - Amstrad CPC - Fujitsu FM-7 - Apple Lisa - Apple Macintosh - Microsoft MS-DOS - ASCII MSX - ASCII MSX2 - IBM OS-2 - NEC PC-88 - NEC PC-98 - Amstrad PCW - Sinclair QL - Commodore VIC-20 - Sharp X1 - Sinclair ZX Spectrum|