The Sega Addicts 10 Great Master System Games
In the US, and several other countries, the Sega Master System was largely overshadowed by the NES. With Nintendo’s lock on most third-party developers and an early entry into the market, the Sega Master System didn’t have much of a chance in the 8-bit console wars. While it did have some success in markets like Brazil (where it’s still being sold today) there’s still quite a few gamers and even Sega fans who have little-to-no experience with the 8-bit system.
We’ve created a list of 10 of our favorite games on the system. Hit the jump to read on!
Tom Kyzivat: Like many westerners my age (I assume), my first taste of the Chinese game mahjong solitaire was through our Sega Master System. What are all these crazy game pieces? What are those funny markings on each tile? What’s a “China”? Well, all it took was one round and this shiftless American pig was hooked. As everyone knows, the premise is to remove all the tiles in the configuration by matching like tiles together. Matching them eliminates them from the pile, and so on and so forth, until all tiles are gone and you rock hard. The challenge comes when you can only remove tiles that have at least one side completely clear. That is, any tile nudged between other tiles, or underneath, or partially covered can’t be selected. It made for great gaming! Heck, even our parents, who for the most part avoided our Sega systems like the plague, enjoyed a rousing game or two. I can’t think of a puzzle game that’s more fun, and if you suck at it, like I did, and you got stuck at the end, you could set it so that you’d just eliminate each tile with one click. Matching is for san-culottes and suckers. Anyway, another fun aspect of the game is that every match was unique. Not a huge feat for a puzzle game, but the fact that no two tile arrangements were ever the same kept the game from getting boring. I would end this write-up with a fun word in Chinese, like “Have fun!” or “Good game!”, but, like I said, I’m a shiftless American pig. Maybe next time I’ll have the gumption to use an online translator.
Flake: I know I go on about this too much but I believe to this day that when Sega stuck to their arcade roots, they could do no wrong. Fantasy Zone is another of Sega’s classic shooter series. Fantasy Zone is something else: A bright colorful and cheerful world full of happy plants and cheerful creatures…who all want to murder your face.
You guide your living (and sometimes walking) ship, Opa-Opa through the lovely landscape of death. Your mission is to destroy the creature generators spewing forth your enemies. Collect the currency they drop and use it to buy power ups to temporarily boost your ships speed, firepower, or durability.
Fantasy Zone was an amazingly faithful port of the arcade original and while another shooter like Aleste might be what hard core shmup fans want, shooter fans who like a little strategy, risk, and reward in their space ship blasting affairs are going to want to look at this game. Also, the music rocks.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Flake: When the Sega Genesis launched, the Master System continued to see pretty significant support both from Sega and from whatever 3rd parties had finally gotten out from underneath Nintendo’s thumb. We’re not talking just a little support here, either. A full two years after the Genesis launched, Sega released a fairly obscure game called Sonic the Hedgehog for the Genesis. It was an overnight smash and a real wake up call for Nintendo. And then they released a version of the game for…the Master System?
Maybe it was to take one last shot at Nintendo’s 8-bit market share before the Super Nintendo launched outside of Japan. Maybe Sega wanted to revive the Master System. Probably video game companies were just terrible at figuring out how to manage their resources back then. Still no one is really certain why but Sega made Sonic the Hedgehog for their 8 bit machine and it turned out great. It does not quite have the speed of the 16 bit original but it is a solid platformer with some real challenge. It is easily the second best game called simply “Sonic the Hedgehog”. You can guess which games are first and third.
Sonic the Hedgehog was also released on the Game Gear but you should try the Master System version if you can: The reduced aspect ratio of the Game Gear kills the gameplay.
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
Alex Riggen: While Alex Kidd in Miracle World was a fun platformer on the Master System, I’ve always found Shinobi World to be the better and more creative game. It’s unfortunate that the Alex Kidd franchise died so quickly because the idea of putting Sega’s early “mascot” into other franchises was brilliant and worked extremely well in Shinobi World. By putting a cute and colorful spin on Shinobi’s usual dark and realistic aesthetic but retaining some ninja-style gameplay and enemies from Shinobi, Alex Kidd in Shinobi World does a great job of staying true to both franchises. It also helps that the difficulty curve, the level designs and the controls are some of the best out there for platformers on the Master System.
Tom Kyzivat: This game might seem a bit esoteric for anybody not familiar with the anime it was based on (like myself), but that didn’t keep it from being a great game! I’ll admit it’s been a long time since I’ve played it, and I don’t remember many details about it, but it immediately struck me as a very rich, complex and well-put together game for the Master System era. You play as either JJ, Champ or Apple, and infiltrate all sorts of bases and toss floppy disks into all sorts of computers to complete your missions. Unlike a lot of other games at the time, it actually incorporated accessing computers and using codes to advance in the levels–something pretty much every other game didn’t bother with. Of course, it was nowhere near the complexity of modern game puzzles and objectives, but for an 8-bit game, it was pretty progressive. It also featured all manner of 80s goodness, from laser guns to giant, geometric spaceships to those ridiculous 5 1/2 inch floppy disks I mentioned earlier–and a cameo by Opa Opa, everybody’s favorite inexplicable flying egg… thing. The game also spawned a more action-oriented sequel, which was so hard I never passed the first level. It might not have aged as well as one would hope, but there’s no denying that Zillion was king of the biscuits back in its day.
Mike Kyzivat: Before I talk about Pro Wrestling as a game I have to talk about Pro Wrestling’s baffling cover art. Not only is it pretty bad artwork, it does not make sense. And I don’t mean it is just a little hard to understand, I mean it does not make sense on at least four levels. Go ahead and look up the cover art I’ll wait…do, do-do, dum, dee dum…ah your back! Am I right or am I right? For those of you too lazy to look it up, it is a picture of a wrestler who is giving himself a headlock. And I don’t mean he has wrapped his arms around his own head and is squeezing, I mean his head is completely detached from his body and his severed head is placed firmly between his side and his bicep and he is squeezing the life out of it. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. There is not an Internet abbreviation that describes the shock and befuddlement this picture oozes. It begs at least 4 questions: 1. Why is he giving himself a headlock? 2. How can he give himself a successful headlock when there is no neck to chock? (it’s still on his body) 3. How can he continue to live without a head? 4. How did he lose his head in the first place? The list goes on and on. Why it’s enough to make your head…(boom!!!!) Oh, great now I’m typing without a head because my mind has been blown. Oh, the irony. With that there is no room now to talk about the game. Well, all you need to know is that it’s a fun little generic tag team wrestling game with super deformed characters and shared animation between the four teams. It’s a lot of fun… if you can keep your head.
Alex Riggen: Double Dragon was the first game I ever played on the Master System and it remains one of the ones I go back to the most. Unlike the NES and some other console ports of the game, the Master System version allows for two-players to play cooperatively, which is a must for beat ‘em ups. I’m sure most people are familiar with the Double Dragon franchise and Sega did a great job of porting the arcade game to the Master System. It’s got four quite long levels, boss fights, the fight against your partner at the end to win the girl and some pretty good graphics for an 8-bit arcade port. Really the only complaint is the amount of sprite flickering when a lot of characters are on screen but it does little to diminish the fun you’ll be having.
Mike Kyzivat: This is an almost perfect version of the classic arcade game. I played the hell out of this game when I was a kid. I never did beat it and the farthest I could get was the end of Stage 7, but I had such fun getting there each time. This game was super hard and is pretty much the definition of trial and error. The graphics were almost on par with the arcade version, except for some detail and pop up. The bosses are some of the most memorable, like an Aliens looking monster wrapped in tentacles with eyeballs on the end and a face in its chest, or what looks like a giant heart with a blue jewel at the top which spits out millipedes from the ventricles, to one of my all time favorite boss battles ever. Not only is this boss huge, it IS the entire third stage of R-type. It was a ginormous battle ship that was covered from head to toe in guns. It was your job to reach the reactor of the ship at the front and blow the thing sky high all the while taking out gun emplacements and various parts of the ship until you finally reached the reactor. It was like killing the scarab tanks in Halo 3, but in 1987. I believe that this game still holds up to shooters of today. There may not be the bullet hell level of gun fire in R-Type but it doesn’t need it because it is hard enough as it is. Check it out, you’ll be glad that you did.
Flake: The only Top 10 lists on our site that haven’t featured a Phantasy Star game were on subjects that had literally nothing applicable to Sega’s sci-fi space opera franchise. And even then, we still managed to name drop here and there. There is a reason: Phantasy Star, in all of its forms, is plain nerdy goodness. That’s looking to be true with the upcoming Phantasy Star Online 2 and it’s definitely true about the original Master System classic.
Phantasy Star had all of the hall marks of a great menu based RPG: A great story, compelling characters, villains you can hate, and more villagers to talk to than you can shake a stick at. What was nuts was that Sega managed to do this in 1987. Along with the original Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, Phantasy Star is one of the original greats of home console RPG’s – and Phantasy Star was arguably more complex and full featured than its two contemporaries.
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap
Mike Kyzivat: Best SEGA Master System game ever!!!! I really can’t say enough about this game. It is of course a sequel to the game Wonder Boy in Monster Land where you are tasked with defeating a dragon at the end of the game. The really cool thing about WB3 is that you start the game at the tail end of WB2. You have just entered the dragon’s lair with all the super powered armor and weapons you have at the end of the second game. Just a short jaunt to his main chamber and your kicking the dragon’s ass medieval style. But what’s this? Just before the dragon dies he curses you and changes you into a dragon man which also strips you of your armor and weapons and your huge life bar. But there’s no time to worry about that as the dragon’s lair is collapsing and you have to get out. This was a very cool way to open WB3 as I had never seen a game that had you replay the last level of the previous game to start out.
Now, in order to stop the curse you must defeat other dragons until you can find a way to lift the curse. Each dragon you defeat changes you into another animal man with different abilities. The different forms are: the dragon who can breath fire, the mouse who can fit into small places and climb certain bricks, the piranha who can swim, the lion who has a special sword that can cut certain bricks and finally the bird which can fly. These animal forms come in handy because the game is played like a side scrolling Zelda. By that I mean you have access to the whole world at once, but you will need different animal abilities to reach new areas. For example, there are various ledges and doors high up in the sky that only the bird form can fly to and there are small spaces that only the mouse form can fit through. Once you have defeated a dragon you are inclined to roam around and find those spots that your new form can enter. All this makes for a great combination of exploring and combat, and in my opinion the best SEGA Master System game ever made.
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