So many. The best games imo came out late in the life of the console and never reached the US, or even Japan.
I disagree about Montezuma’s Revenge being the best version. I think it lost some charm that the older ones had. It’s more detailed but the art style is more generic. I can see why people would like the easier jumping but I prefer the old physics. Still, it’s worth playing for sure even if I rank the C64 port first.
Land of Illusion
Power Strike II (super expensive)
Robocop vs The Terminator
Master of Darkness
Operation Wolf (this crashes on many regular NTSC SMS systems, better to use a Power Base Converter or Genesis Everdrive)
Lucky Dime Caper
Wold Class Leaderboard
Chuck Rock 2
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
There are a few games that often get labeled “PAL only” but were released in Canada (and maybe a few specialty stores in the US) in limited quantities like Ultima IV, Out Run 3D, Assault City, and Battle Out Run.
Interesting! I may be in luck trying to find those, as I’m in Canada.
If you’re lucky. Since the SMS was discontinued I have only come across them locally a few times in the last 25+ years: once for Ultima IV, once for Out Run 3D, and twice for Battle Out Run. It’s much easier to buy from Europe online.
Great thread, D.Lo! I only ever played a Master System once or twice (had one kinda friend in school who had one), so I didn’t have much experience with the hardware, though I played a LOT of Game Gear, so I also had a fair amount of experience with the hardware, hah.
I’ve had a lot of fun recently discovering some SMS classic, it’s a really cool system, and the FM sound is incredible. Phantasy Star with FM soundtrack is well worth tracking down and playing to this day, it’s a great JRPG that rivaled it’s Famicom peers at the time, though unfortunately didn’t get near the success of Final Fantasy/Dragon Quest.
Another game that’s well worth playing is Master of Darkness, a Castlevania clone. The game plays extremely well, has some cool boss fights, and isn’t as punishingly difficult as its Nintendo counterparts. I played through it for the first time last year, and loved it.
My current top five SG-1000 games are H.E.R.O., Monaco GP, Girl’s Garden, Lode Runner, and Congo Bongo. I change my mind a lot on this system, though.
My current top five SMS games are Wonder Boy III, Phantasy Star, Shinobi, Kenseiden, and Penguin Land.
Some more things I love about the SMS:
Between Phantasy Star and Miracle Warriors, it was the go-to format for turn-based JRPGs in the West in 1988. Big name Famicom stuff like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy hadn’t been localized yet, and even when they were they felt dated compared to Phantasy Star. The 3D dungeons and Japanese colourful sci-fi/fantasy made this stand out.
Like with the NES, even games that weren’t technically exclusive had their own unique features or reasons to play them:
- Shinobi was tailor made for console with with added power ups, music, and a life bar.
- Bubble Bobble had a ton of extra levels and password saves.
- Choplifter was a bit faster than the arcade game and had more responsive controls.
- R-Type had a new hidden level with awesome Compile tunes.
- Golvellius was graphically enhanced over the MSX original and had different layouts.
- California Games, Impossible Mission, and Ghostbusters were graphically enhanced over the C64 originals.
- Wonder Boy in Monster Land had some extra content, and the controls were less stiff than the arcade.
- Rastan had a cool wall jump added.
- Ghouls 'n Ghosts mixed up the design by having permanent character upgrades.
- Shanghai had an exclusive soundtrack and art syle I quite like.
- Space Harrier had a mode where you can play as a spaceship.
- Moonwalker was faster than the Gen/MD game and had a lot of minor alterations to make it worth playing if you’re a fan.
- Ultima IV worked well with streamlined controls while maintaining the depth of the computer games.
- And some good games were only ports in name only: Sonic, Ninja Gaiden, Castle of Illusion.
It had two player experiences that stood out in the home market:
- With Gangster Town in 1987, it was a big deal at the time to have a light gun game with a car chase scene, scrolling levels, and co-op play.
- Fantasy Zone: The Maze was a unique co-op/competitive maze chase-shooter spin off. It sounds amazing in FM.
- Quartet was notable for its unique brand of platform/shooter design and weird enemies. In 1987 there wasn’t anything quite like it (aside from Activision’s computer ports of Quartet which were vastly inferior).
- In Global Defense, one player controlled the ship. the other controlled the weapons.
- While arguably dated today, at the time SMS Double Dragon was a good way to get a two-player beat 'em up fix at home.
- Rampage was the best home version at the time.
- Time Soldiers had a lot more variety of locations and bosses than overhead run 'n guns usually did.
It excelled at light gun games, and they have aged incredibly well- Rescue Mission, Safari Hunt, Missile Defense 3D, Rambo III, etc.
I actually prefer the feel of the light gun over the NES counterpart, and I think Shooting Gallery is one of the best light gun games of that era.
I recently bought a copy of Wanted, and found that the accuracy of the light gun in that game was really terrible… it was shooting everything about an inch to the right of where you aim, even if you were literally touching the screen with the gun. Has anyone else experienced this? Is that game just broken?
I tested out Shooting Gallery and Safari Hunt on the same TV, console, and phaser, and had zero accuracy problems.
excellent OP, man! yeah, it’s weird looking back that Master System was only mentioned there, but i had that setup so i took that for the name as well.
most of my favorites got mentioned already, but the arcade ports of both Rastan and Rampage were a blast. i could do a whole thing on Golvellius.
The western console does say ‘Sega Master System’ at boot too. But yeah, what other games do not say the name of the system on the game’s box? Clearly they had not finalised their branding until 1987ish!
EDIT: I guess it makes some sense, in the countries were Sega had released products before (Japan and various PAL territories) it launched solidified as the Mark III then Master System name. But in the US it was the first Sega so could get away with just being ‘The Sega’ like the NES was ‘The Nintendo’.
But then they shared design work across territories, so in Australia you would buy a Master System, but then buy a game for it that literally says ‘Master System’ nowhere on the box at all, or even in the instructions. eg:
The box says nothing, and the manual only says ‘Sega System™’
Just thought I’d share this announcement from Bitmap Books.
We’re delighted to finally announce the 6th volume in our series of visual compendiums, which will be focused on the SEGA Master System. The exciting news is that this will be the first official visual compendium, as we are working with SEGA on the book. We will therefore have access to some great assets and will be able to include some fascinating interviews that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
Over the years, we’ve produced books covering great companies such as SNK, Commodore and Nintendo and SEGA has always been the missing part of the puzzle - but not anymore.
We’ve got some really exciting things planned for the Kickstarter campaign which will launch on Monday 7th May at 7am BST. There will be early bird discounts and limited pledges, so we advise to set your alarm clocks!
Very cool! A Genesis/Mega Drive book would be incredible.
Hopefully it will not be like the misleading The Sega Master System Encyclopedia which was merely a collection of personal reviews of US games. Definitely not worthy of its title.
Have their previous books been favourably reviewed?
I’ve regretted missing out on all their other kick starters so thanks for alerting me to this one.
Surprisingly Japan got even fewer master system games than the US.
The Mark III lived for less than three years as Sega’s platform in Japan, sandwiched between the SG1000 and the 1988 release of the Mega Drive. If counting SG1000 games, Japan likely got more 8-bit Sega games.
After Europe/Australia started buying the MS in numbers as a budget/cheap kids system it was also likely easy to send a small shipment to America; some US releases are simply EU versions anyway.
You’d be surprised how few SG-1000 games there were too. There only about 85 to 90 releases.
If you do that, I strong recommend this one:
It includes FM capability so you can get FM audio out of games that support it. NA and Europe systems weren’t compatible with this, and the regular power base converter doesn’t either. It’s so worth it, and a lot of official English releases support it despite the consoles not supporting it.
Alternately, the latest version of the Mega Everdrive also supports playing SMS games with FM audio on a Genesis.
I’m approaching owning a full set of Mark III and SG1000 games.
I’m not sure what you’re replying to? Said Encyclopedia is not worthy of that title, because it’s an incomplete collection of personal opinions self-published by a guy without any experience in journalism or writing in general.
Oh, I wasn’t replying to your post. Sorry.