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Sega's first cartridge-based console started life as the SG1000 MkI in Japan in 1983. Its poor reception prompted several redesigns before rebranding to Master System. During its lifetime, the sleek black and red console suffered a series of identity crises as it strived to bring the arcade experience into the livingroom. Read More...


The original machine which evolved into the Master System on its Mark III release

Master System Version 1

Original version released in Japan.
US and European version, contains card slot in addition to cartridge slot


Cut down version which removed a card port, power light, reset button, expansion port and logo or music upon activation of the system. Also has Alex Kidd game built in or Sonic the hedgehog.

Master System Specs


Z80 MHz 3.6


ROM: 1024K Bits
RAM: 64K Bits
Video RAM: 128K Bits


Resolution: 240 x 226
Colors: 52/256
Screen Scroll: Horizontally, Diagonally, Vertically
Characters: 8 x 8 Pixels Max 488
Sprites 8 x 8 Pixels, Max 256


Audio: 3 Sound Generators, Each Four Octaves, 1 White Noise

Master System Accessories

Games which support these include Missile Defense 3-D, Zaxxon 3-D and Maze Hunter 3-D.

Sega Cards, could be used in the card slot of version 1 Master Systems.

Master System II Manual

Get the full user manual (English)


Master System Games

There are loads of classic arcade games converted to the Master System such as Golden Axe as shown here. Other titles include Space Harrier, Smash TV and Pacmania.

All the usual Sega games such as Sonic, Tennis, Super Hang-on and PGA Tour Golf also made it to the Master System.

Some early RPG's are available such as Ultima as shown here.

Master System History

The SG1000 was released the same month as Nintendo's Famicon. It had a free built in game called "snail maze". Back to the drawing board and the next year saw the unremarkable release of Sega SG-1000 Mark II. Released with a joystick and optional plug in keyboard - even the accessories still could not sell it!

In 1985, Sega introduced the Sega SG-1000 Mark III (or just Mark III) into Japan. It was now a bare bones 8 bit console which played either cartridges or cards. For its USA launch, the console was renamed Sega Master System and came preloaded with Hang On, Safari Hunt or Missile Defence 3D.

Tonka Toys
Sega could not compete with Nintendo, so it handed its North American Distribution rights to Tonka Toys. Tonka had no experience in the games marketplace. It seemed like a good idea at the time but it failed miserably. Less than a million consoles were sold over a two year stretch. Even after adding over a 100 game titles to the catalogue which included: Reggie Jackson's Baseball and Double Dragon Shinobi. Tonka gave up. Two years down the line Tonka quietly gave Sega its rights back with loads of unsold games and consoles.

Europe 1987
Master system flourished. Sega teamed up with the UK firm Mastertronic. It was sold at a bargain price of £99 with a budget range of games at £9.99 each to go along side it. The TV campaign advertised it as " The Ultimate Home Video Arcade System". Sega now was going in for the kill after loosing out twice to Nintendo and the Master System won hands down.

Master System II
This was a cosmetic redesign of the master system in 1990. It was sold for £59.99 with either Alex Kidd in Miracle World or Sonic the Hedgehog preinstalled. Sega removed the card slot

Master System III & Master System Girl
These were found only in Brazil and were distributed by Tec Toy. Master System was a huge success in Brazil and games were still being released in 1995.

Master System Trivia

On the free game Alex Kidd in Miracle world. Two versions of the game were installed. On the Jap model he is eating a rice ball, but on the American and European model he is eating a hamburger

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker was loosely based on his moonwalker video. It followed him exploring graveyards and pool halls all too synthesised versions of his hits - Billie Jean, Thriller, Bad, and Smooth Criminal Jackson was quoted in saying that "Genisis was the first game console powerful enough to handle his music" He was wrong Master system was

When Sega tackled the marketing of Sega master system in America, they set up a stand at the Summer CES in Chicago, some attendees mistook Sega for Saga Foods, saying "its strange having a food distributor at a video games conference"

Top 10 Master System Games
  1. Black Belt
  2. Rambo
  3. Phantasy Star
  4. Alex Kidd in Miracle World
  5. Wonder Boy III
  6. Golden Axe Warrior
  7. Sonic the Hedgehog
  8. Spellcaster
  9. Wonder Boy in Monster Land
  10. Michael Jackson's Moonwalker