Master System

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The North American Master System.

The Master System, originally released in Japan as the マークIII [Maku III], Mark III, is a video game console developed by Sega and first released in Japan on 1985-10-20, and, after a slight redesign, sold in the USA in September of 1986. Although the system didn't do well in Japan or the USA, it sold very well in Europe and Brazil. Each of the permutations of the console use a Z80A CPU. The North American, Brazilian, and European versions use a SN76489 sound chip. The Japanese version use the same chip, but also add a YM2413. The platform's hardware also served as a template for what would eventually become the handheld Game Gear.


I never owned a Master System, and I only played one once around 1987, after going over to a friend's house after school. My family owned an Atari 2600, but he had a Master System. The only game I remember playing was Wonder Boy. Later, a different friend who owned a Genesis had a collection of Master System games, but he didn't have the adapter to play them, so I only got to look at the box and cartridge art. I didn't play a game on the console again until about 15 years later when Master System emulation became popular.


I've never owned a Master System, and have only used one in real life for a couple hours.


See all Master System Games.

These are the Master System games that are important to me:



  • This was the first platform to release games for the Phantasy Star and Alex Kidd series, and the first US release of a game from the Ys series.
  • The console was backward-compatible with the SG-1000. Although, this wasn't much, as the console had few games, and even fewer good games.
  • Sega used plastic boxes for its games which greatly improved their shelf life.


  • Sega couldn't attract very many third party developers, so the platform never really developed a large catalog of games. This was primarily due to Nintendo's anti-competition policy at the time.
  • Despite being released two years after the NES, games released around the same time looked better on the NES. The Master System was superior to the stock NES, but the NES saw development of various chips added into game cartridges which improved their quality.
  • Pause is not on the controller, but on the console itself, which is really annoying, especially if you're playing a game that requires fast reflexes.
  • Sega strangely forced very austere box design in order to make sure their grid pattern accounted for most of the box. This meant that game covers looked really unimpressive, which probably hurt their sales.


  • Nothing.





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