Back when the Nintendo Entertainment System dominated the blooming home games console market, Sega pulled out all of the stops in order to dislodge their rival. The result was the Sega Master System. Though it did struggle to keep up with the NES in terms of units sold, gamers were impressed, and it became clear that Nintendo had some real competition.
The Master System also had some fantastic games, many of which were original franchises that were just starting out, and some of which were ports of classic arcade games of the time. Let’s take a look back at some classic games from Sega’s breakthrough console…
Starting life as an arcade game produced by the formerly dominant video game company Atari, the Sega Master System version of Marble Madness was a perfect port of this classic “just one more go” game.
Of course, this platform classic was hardly a Sega exclusive: it was also available for home computers like the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amiga and Atari ST, as well as the Master System’s arch rival the NES.
Super Smash TV
Like a video game version of the classic Arnie movie, The Running Man, Smash TV saw you taking part in an ultra-violent TV show where you killed robots, monsters and people to win terrific prizes.
Once again, Smash TV wasn’t only available on the Sega Master System, but this bright and colourful take was arguably closest to the arcade original.
Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II
Back in 1992 (two years before the famed Formula One driver sadly died after a crash), Ayrton Senna was one of the biggest names in any sport. The fact that this game had his name on it obviously helped it sell loads of copies, but the fact that it was a genuinely decent game didn’t hurt!
Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II was a bona fide Sega original, available on the Mega Drive and Game Gear as well as the Master System.
Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck
This was a very different game to the first Chuck Rock which starred the father of the two characters, and Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck had some of the best graphics of any game on the Master System: big, bold sprites with lots of character!
As well as being available on the Master System and Sega’s other consoles, Chuck Rock II was also available on Commodore’s Amiga and CD32.
One of the best-loved side-scrolling shoot ’em ups of all time, and the Master System version was a great port of this game, with frenetic action that never stopped and got ridiculously hard very early on.
R-Type was widely considered one of the best video games ever made at the time, and remains a cult favourite today.
Originally known as Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road, this was a racing game with a difference, as you were controlling vehicles on off-road courses with the full track on screen at all times.
It was a fun multi-player game, just so long as you didn’t make the classic mistake of keeping your eye on the wrong vehicle and thinking you were doing well, when in reality you were getting thrashed!
Fantasy Zone is one of the most vibrant and colourful shooters you’ll ever play, it will feel like your eyes are on steroids if you go back and play this now!
It might have looked super-cute, cheerful and kid-friendly, but Fantasy Zone was deceptively hard even for more experienced gamers.
What could be more fun than playing with Micro Machines, those tiny little replica cars seemingly designed with the specific intention of being a slip hazard? Playing a video game based on the toy line, of course!
Micro Machines was one of the most addictive games on the Master System, and one of the best multiplayer experiences you’ll ever have.
Wonder Boy In Monster Land
Wonder Boy in Monster Land was a great fun adventure game, and one that encouraged you to collect loot and spend it on bigger and better equipment, weapons and magic spells, brilliant and a real challenge!
This was the second game in the series, following on from the original Wonder Boy and coming before Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap.
The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck
Many people will tell you it’s all about Mickey’s Castle of Illusion, but that other Sega Disney game The Lucky Dime Caper was every bit the equal.
Perhaps the only real problem with this Donald Duck game was that it was just a bit too easy, meaning it simply didn’t last long enough!
Phantasy Star was a fantastic Role Playing Game that had real depth, real challenge and a deep story that dragged you in and kept you hooked until the end.
This Sega Master System original kicked off a long-running franchise which is still going: the most recent game, Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, was released in 2021.
You’ve probably read at least some of the many comic books and seen a couple of the animated films (or even the more recent live-action ones), but did you remember that Asterix also had a Sega game?
One of the most balanced and perfectly playable platform games on the Master System, with big, bold sprites and some fantastic graphics for the system, Asterix was a true classic.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Well, duh! When talking about classic Sega Master System games, we obviously couldn’t leave out Sonic the Hedgehog. While Sega had initially attempted to rival Mario with a mascot called Alex Kidd, it was the smarmy blue ‘hedgehog’ who went on to become one of gaming’s biggest icons.
With speed, sass and bright graphics, many bought the Master System simply to play this game. Every subsequent Sega console had its own Sonic game, and even though Sega are long since out of the console business the character lives on today.