Sega Master System [Original Model] Sega Master System

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Sega Master System [Remodeled]

The Sega Master System was Sega's second attempt to enter the console market. The previous attempt, the SG1000 was a complete flop.

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Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Fantasy Zone
Power Strike
Sonic 2
Sonic Chaos/Sonic and Tails
Spy Vs Spy

Nintendo had already achieved a massive market share with their NES and although technically superior to the NES the Master System never caught on in Japan and the US. The amount of third party developers making games for the console were limited as Nintendo has locked many of their third party developers in to exclusive contracts.


CPU Z80 running at 3.6Mhz
ROM 128K
Video RAM 128K
Graphics Sega Custom VDP
Reolution: 256x192
Colours on screen: 64
Colour Palette: 256
64 Onscreen Sprites
Sprite Size: 8 x 8
Screen Size: 3.2"
Screen Scroll Horizontally, diagnolly, vertically, partial
Sprites 8 x 8 Pixels, 256 Max
Characters 8 x 8 Pixels, 448 Max
Audio 3 sound generators (4 octaves each)
1 white noise Channel
Storage Cartridges 1-8 Mbit

In Europe and especially the UK, the Master System sold well and was almost single handidly responsable for reviving the console market when it was released in 1987. Previously people were playing gamers on their Commodore 64's and ZX Spectrums. The NES was selling OK also. Games like Mario and Donkey Kong made he systems name almost.

The Master System was marketed as a home arcade machine and was available in 3 different packages. The basic was the console with Hang-On built in and two controllers which retailed for around 79. Other packages included the pasic package with the light phasor and Safari Hunt for around 99 while the biggest package was the basic with the light phasor and the infamous 3D glasses with Missle Command included also for around 129. In comparison the basic NES package was 99.

The Master System console looked much better than the NES going for the black sleek design. The NES had a dull grey exterior and was seemingly modeled on the crap top loading VCRs around at the time. The unit had 2 controller ports and two cartridge ports.

One for the standard larger cartridges and the other for smaller credit card style games. These card games were limited in the size of the ROM and therefore the size of game but they were cheaper to buy.

As well as privoding quality aracde conversions like Space Harrier and Out Run they also introduced a range of budget games for 9.99. These included games like The Ninja and Transbot were pretty basic but were good games at good prices.. In comparison the cheapest game on the NES was Donkey Kong at 29.99.

There was a useful range of peripherals for the machine also. The 3D glasses were an innovative attempt to get some 3D into games. Certain games used a set colour pallete on screen which gave the "jumping out of the tv" feel with the glasses. These quickly became extinct. The 3D glasses were an innovative attempt to get some 3D into games. Certain games used a set colour pallete on screen which gave the "jumping out of the tv" feel with the glasses. These quickly became extinct.

Another great invention was the Rapid Fire Unit. This device plugged between the console and the control pad and two settings for rapid fire. Very useful for those shooters like Fantasy Zone.

Light Phasor

Arcade Stick

Handle Controller

Master System Control Pad

3D Glasses

Rapid Fire Unit


SG Commander with Built-In Rapid Fire

Hang On
Hang On
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Alex Kidd
Sonic the Hedgehog
Wonder Boy
Wonder Boy
Spy Vs Spy
Spy Vs Spy

The Master System recieved many more conversions of Sega's top aracde machines like Golden Axe, Shinobi and Wonder Boy as well as picking up a few more third party developers over the years.

In 1991 the Master System was redesigned. The consoles size was reduced and more rounded, the reset button was dropped, the card slot was removed as the games had not proven very popular and the expansion connector was also removed.The smaller design meant that the console could be sold cheaper at 59.99 and had Alex Kidd in Miricle World built in as oppose to Hang-On.

The boot sequence of the machine console was changed from the slidng Master System logo with the the two tone intro to a static Sega logo.

The Master System sold about 6 million units world wide at the end of 1994 and many of the final games were developed in Europe during 93 and 94 where the system still retailed for around 40. After this time the Master System started to slowly dissappear as the Mega Drive had been released a few years ago and was becoming more popular.

On a side not over in Brazil the Master System was relativly a new toy. Still storming on into 97/98 it was the most reasonably affordable console over there at the time.

The Master System Today

At first glance the Master System is long gone. This is probably with the console itself yet the games are set to live on. With Sega creating games for mobile devices which are ports of Master System and Game Gear titles you could find some of the classics appearing on your mobile phone or PDA.

For the collectors who want a console they can be picked up mostly in Game Station who usually have a small library of games in their shops also. I highly reccomend Fun-House as they have games at good prices and have machines most times.


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There is a reasonably active emulation scene around the Master System. As the system is almost identical to the Game Gear emulators tend to do both systems at the same time. There are both DOS and Windows versions available. PCs are fast enough now to do Master System emulation under Windows no problem. Sometimes the DOS based emulators are better.

Here are some of the best emulators and links to their official sites

MEKA is a brilliant DOS based emulator. It emulates the Master System and all the consoles that came before it.

Get it from

Another DOS based emulator. Not as fast as BRSMS but with a few tweaks to the speed settings can go as fast as you want. Not much support for the peripherals and ROM compatibity is not as high but it is much easier to use.

Wonder Boy
On a slightly different note the Wonder Boy games for the Master System are indeed some of the best games for the system and some of my all time personal favourites. There is also a small site out there on the net dedicated to just these. Check it out.


There are not many program tools around at the moment. If you are interested in having a go there is a guide online you can refer to.
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