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S > SEGA > Master System   

Master System

The Sega Master System (SMS) was originally released as the Sega Mark III in Japan. It was released after Nintendo's NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and was never able to catch up to its level of success. The hardware was superior to that of the NES but the number of quality games on Nintendo's console far out numbered those on the Master System.

There were some quality titles on the system and it was also the first system to have a role-playing game (RPG) in North America. This game was of course Phantasy Star which was released in 1988. The SMS also enjoyed versions of Sonic The Hedgehog, Ghouls and Ghosts, and even Mortal Kombat.

There were some interesting peripherals for the system like the 3D glasses. They hooked up through the card slot on the system and with compatible software created a 3D effect. It worked quite well. One problem was you could see the shutter of the glasses while playing which detracted from the enjoyment of the game. There was also a light gun for the system called the Light Phazer.

The SMS could play two types of games; cartridges and Sega Cards. The cartridges were used most of the time. The cards were for smaller games (32 KB max).

Early in the Master System's life Sega sold the U.S. rights to Tonka. Sega thought that the toy company would be able to market the system better then they could but they were very wrong. In 1989 Sega took control of the U.S. rights again but by then it was too late.

In 1990, after the release of the Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega released a re-designed console, the Master System II, in the U.S. and Europe to try and cut production costs and attract new users.

TRIVIA : Did you know that there is a hidden game called "The Snail Maze Game" in the Master System? To play this game, turn on your power base without a cartridge. While the Sega Master System logo is appearing on the screen, press and hold the directional button in the up position while simultaneously holding down buttons 1 and 2. Once the logo fully appears, the first maze will scroll onto the screen from the right. Have fun.


Adapted from Miles Mason's Master System text

Taneli Lukka from Filand adds :
The AV-connector of the original Master System was deleted from Master System II together with the card slot to save in manufacturing costs. This only leaves the RF-connector for TV-output (for US & UK systems) which is a bad handicap for today's players as the picture quality is very poor with the RF-lead. Because of this many collector's consoles have been modified by adding RGB-output. All Master System models also share one bad feature. This is the pause button which is mounted on the console itself instead of the controller so it's very hard to get to it quickly. The pause button and reset button are also identical so you can quite easily press reset instead of pause if you are not careful. Pray that you are not in the final level of Shinobi when that happens...

Please consider donating your old computer / videogame system to or one of our partners from anywhere in the world (Europe, America, Asia, etc.).


This was a good little console. But there''s one big thing I don''t like about it. And that is the controller. It''s perfectly functional and all that, but it just never felt comfortable to use for long periods of times. Mainly because of the overly sharp contours of the controllers itself. Not to mention that mushy feeling shield D-pad and buttons. just never felt right in my hands...

Friday 25th December 2020
Rod (canada)

The first RPG on a North American console was on the SMS, but it was not Phantsy Star (released on December 20, 1987 in Japan and in 1988 in NA ) it was Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord (released on October 18, 1987).

The built-in maze game was called Snail Maze.

Saturday 19th June 2010
Craig (Texas, Republic of)

these things are hard to find

Sunday 11th April 2010
Mrnintendo64guy (USA)


NAME  Master System
YEAR  June 1986 (U.S.A.) 1987 (Europe, Japan)
END OF PRODUCTION  1989 (Japan) 1990 (Europe, U.S.A.)
BUILT IN LANGUAGE  Hang On or Missile Defense 3D or Hang On and Astro Warrior or Hang On and Safari Hunt
KEYBOARD  8-way d-pad, 2 buttons
CPU  Zilog Z80
SPEED  3.579545 MHz (NTSC)
3.54 MHz (PAL)
CO-PROCESSOR  Texas Instruments TMS9928A VDP (NTSC)
Texas Instruments TMS9929A VDP (PAL)
ROM  8 KB to 256 KB depending on built-in software
GRAPHIC MODES  256x192, 256x224, 256x240 (PAL only), 16 sprites (8 x 8 pixels)
COLORS  64 palette, 32 on screen (16 sprite, 16 background)
SOUND  Texas Instruments SN76489 DCSG, 4 channel mono (3 tone channels, 1 white noise channel)
Yamaha YM2413 9 channel FM (Japan only)
SIZE / WEIGHT  Unknown
I/O PORTS  Cartridge, Sega Card slot, RF/AV outputs, Expansion Port, 2 Controller ports
BUILT IN MEDIA  Cartridge, Sega Cards
OS  303
PERIPHERALS  3D glasses, Light Phazer
PRICE  $199.99

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