The SEGA Master System (SMS) was the company's first truly dedicated home games console and the first piece of their hardware which was marketed outside of Japan. The SMS was based on the 3rd iteration of the 'SG' hardware - SG-1000 Mark III (aka SEGA Mark III) - A machine designed for games (which in turn was based upon the SC-3000 personal computer) but had plenty of computing peripherals. Ultimately the SMS became SEGA's second best selling console to date mostly through European sales totalling about 13 million units worldwide at the end of 1994 and many of the final games were developed in Europe during 1993 and 1994 where the system still retailed for around £40. On a side note, over in Brazil and Latin America the Master System was relatively a new toy. The Master System II can be bought relatively easily and games can be bought for as little as 50p in Gamestation. What many are unaware of is that the Japanese Master System is backwards compatible with earlier SG-1000 and SG-3000 software - to a degree. For the Master System II (SMS2 and SMS3), the consoles size was reduced and made more rounded, the reset button was dropped, the card slot was removed as the games had not proven very popular, the AV port and the expansion connector was also removed. A type of steering wheel controller designed for driving games and those with a cockpit view.
Some first titles made specifically for the console included Phantasy Star; an RPG game that is considered to be a very rare in English form, Golden Axe Warrior and Psycho Fox. When the system eventually did get a level of 3rd party support it was from companies such as Taito, Core Design, Code Masters and Activision.
A good number of games such as Penguin Land, Cloud Master and Wonderboy games have dual languages which were the result of SEGA quickly porting the code for the western releases, but leaving Japanese text and graphics intact.
Buggy Run received a very limited production run due to being one of the very last MS releases and it got very favourable reviews thanks to its Micro Machines style gameplay.
The Master System (and SG-1000's) has been successfully emulated with programs offering a high degree of compatibility. For more information and downloads check out the Master System and Game Gear Emulators page. A valuable resource with a massive amount of information on both games and hardware with plenty of info for development.


The basic set was the console (Model 1) with Hang-On (a very popular arcade game) built in and two controllers which retailed for around £89.
These were ports of some Game Gear games such as Sonic Blast and even a port of Street Fighter 2.
Generally this is also the reverse although a few games such as Wonder Boy in Monster Land have problems. Although never reaching its full potential, the industry tends to look back at the Master System favourably. Although a superior machine on the 8-Bit market, it was never able to break the iron grip that Nintendo had created not just on the games console market but the developers also. From the outset, SEGA had a battle on its hands due to the introduction of the NES (the Famicom's stripped down US counterpart dedicated to games) into the US.
Software is preserved to a good degree as quality of emulation is excellent for many platforms and games are being released on Wii Virtual Console (which also includes Game Gear games). Master System cartridges and cards released outside of Japan had a different shape and pin configuration therefore they can not be run on a Japanese Master System. The boot sequence of the machine console was changed from the sliding Master System logo with the two tone intro to a static SEGA logo. The SMS was home to conversions of SEGA's top arcade machines like After Burner, Golden Axe, Outrun, Shinobi and Wonder Boy with notable examples being Space Harrier (which contained extra gameplay modes over the arcade version as secrets) and G-Loc which were of very high quality for an 8-Bit console. The original version of the SMS (Model 1) has a built-in snail maze game hidden within its system hardware. Dubbed the Master System II (SMS2), the built-in game was changed to Alex Kidd In Miracle World (to compete better with Super Mario Bros) which later changed to Sonic The Hedgehog.
Another exclusive MS title (the Game Gear version is completely different) with another limited production run ensures this game can sell for £75.
The Yamaha FM chip was included only in the Japanese Mark III systems and only some games supported it.
To create a truly dedicated games console, the SEGA Mark III was stripped down, removing anything not strictly related to gaming and the result was the SEGA Master System (SMS) and it was released worldwide and marketed as a home arcade machine.


Plenty of fansites exist dedicated to the system offering reviews and other stuff such as soundtracks and playing some games online.
A control stick with a T-Grip that is supposed to give more precise control for arcade gaming.
Below are probably the rarest and most expensive PAL games but the last few releases tend to be high value earner such as Ninja Gaiden. It is essentially a SMS2 with some cosmetic changes but moreover it included more built-in games. This was not because developers did want to make games for the console, instead it was the exclusive contracts that Nintendo had locked them into.
A range of peripherals was produced with the 3D glasses notable for being an innovative attempt to bring 3D into games.
There is some development on new titles but the majority of releases are dumps of newly discovered prototypes and hacks of existing games but are still worth a look.
Certain games used a set colour palette on screen which gave the "jumping out of the tv" feel. This device plugged between the console and the control pad giving two settings for upgrading firepower in more intense shooting games with relative ease.
In Europe sales were so low for the NES at one point that some SMS games were licensed for release. Only a hand full of games took advantage of these including Missile Defence 3D and Space Harrier 3D.
Overall SEGA did manage to gain the reputation of bringing arcade games into the home and these were noted for being of superb quality considering the gulf that existed at the time between arcade hardware and home console hardware (something SEGA would try to close with numerous future endeavours). These included games like The Ninja and Transbot that were pretty basic in comparison to others but were good games at good prices.



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