The Sega Master System Edition of the Totes Mathematical Top Ten Game List for Every Console Ever!

There was a time in video game history where going up against the juggernaut that was Nintendo was almost a fool’s errand. This was in part because the NES was awesome. From a strictly technical standpoint, the Master System was more awesome. But Nintendo’s one year head start was just too strong to really allow Sega to make any headway in North America.

The NES had more or less turned the video game industry around after the 1983 crash, and in the year they had before the Master System was released, Nintendo was able to go to a number of desperate game companies and bully them into signing some harsh exclusivity deals.

Still, Sega believed that a better product would eventually win out in the end. That didn’t happen in North America until Sega’s next console, the Sega Genesis, but the Master System gave it the old college try. In trying, they produced a pretty great little console. A console, I may add, which is still being used today. Mostly just in Brazil where Sega is king, but hey, a win is a win. Without further adieu, I welcome you to the wild world of the Sega Master System.

Now, there are no limits.

Sega Master System
Released: 1986
Generation of Home Consoles: Third
Graphics: 8 bit.
Rating: A solid-assed start to entering the console business.

Sega! The multinational video game juggernaut was started in 1940 when a couple of guys (Martin Bromley, Irving Bromberg, and James Humpert) got together in Hawaii and decided that the troops stationed in the island paradise needed to spend their hard earned pennies on amusement machines. After World War II, they sought to expand. Japan had a plethora of new American armed forces bases and personnel just ripe to be tapped. While they had been operating under the name Standard Games, they decided that since they were primarily selling to people in the military service, they should change the name of the company to Service Games.

Behold and be amused!

Not long after that, an American Airman by the name of David Rosen sought to make his fortune in the Japanese amusement industry as well. He started with a single instant photo booth and within five years had grown that into a huge arcade empire with 200 locations. Service Games had been sold and restarted a few times, but eventually landed in the hands of Rosen. He merged his company with the remnants of Service Games, shortened the name to Sega, and it was off to the races. Sega made pinball machines, arcade games, and once the eighties rolled around, decided to hop into the home console/computer business.

Sega released their first console, the SG-1000, in 1983.

Perfectly Cromulent.

It was only released in Japan and did ok. Not great, but ok. Sega kept tinkering with the design of the unit until 1985, when they finally landed on what was known as the Mark 3 in Japan, and was released a year later as the Master System in the U.S.

Unfortunately, while the console was more powerful than the NES, Sega didn’t have a huge game library. Nor did they have Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, etc, let alone the exclusivity deals with third party game designers which Nintendo had. In the end, Sega sold about 13 Million units during its main run. The majority of sales were in Europe and Brazil, but like I said above, it was a very solid start.

Though they didn’t have the iconic NES mainstays, and were 5 years away from finding a character to challenge Mario, the Master System did have some killer games. So without further adieu, I, along with the TMTT algorithm, proudly present the top ten games for the Sega Master System.

10. Out Run. 1987. (Sega)
Released in the arcades the year previous to its Master System release, Out Run was a pretty great 3D racing game which saw the player drive a Ferrari through a number of locations. There weren’t separate tracks per se, but at the end of each “level” the road would split and the player could chose one of two paths, each of which would bring you to a different location/terrain. The arcade game was very popular and won a number of awards, so it’s no surprise that Sega ported it to their new home console.

9. Golden Axe Warrior. 1991. (Sega)
Golden Axe started out in the arcades as a side scrolling beat-em-up. Sega arcade machines were 16 bit at the time and Sega decided that a true port wasn’t possible with the Master System hardware. They opted to take the story and characters from the original and toss the ingredients into a Zelda like game with some traditional RPG elements. There are nine crystals hidden throughout nine dungeons in the game, spread across a large world map. New dungeons give access to new weapons, magic, and tools to allow you to progress further. While some people were upset that the game play had changed so much from the game’s beat-em-up roots, many more were delighted at the new take on the Golden Axe franchise.

8. Golvellius: Valley of Doom. 1988. (Compile)
Another overhead action RPG in the Zelda vein was Golvellius: Valley of Doom. Released initially for P.C. and ported over to the Master System, the game was hard and grindy but was much beloved around the world, and is certainly loved by Master System aficionados today. The graphics in particular were amazing for the time and the gameplay was very solid, if not a little repetitive. Still, Golvellius is a fun game whose stock seems to have risen a ton lately.

7. Ninja Gaiden. 1992. (SIMS)
Never released in North America due to slow sales in the region, although released everywhere else to massive critical acclaim, is the Master System’s entry into the fan favorite series, Ninja Gaiden. Although the plot points differed from the better known NES version, the gameplay remained the same. You’d run, jump, hack, and slash you’re way through various bad guys, using ninja weapons. It was the typical outing that Ninja Gaiden fans were used to, though much slicker than the NES versions as the graphics had a considerable uptick. It’s a shame that North American audiences weren’t given a chance to experience it at the time because it’s easily one of the best Ninja Gaidens ever made.

6. Sonic the Hedgehog. 1991. (Ancient)
As has been stated, the Master System never quite took off in the U.S. By 1989, the Genesis came out as its replacement. However, in Europe and South America the Master System still had quite a bit of life left to it. Sonic had become such a hit that Sega decided that an eight bit version for the Master System and Game Gear would sell well. They were right! Considering the limitations of the console as compared to the 16 bit Genesis, the dev team tasked with the port managed to create a game which was very true to the original. It was widely praised and really showed what one could do using 8 bit graphics.

5. Asterix. 1991. (Sega)
Asterix was another oddity which existed primarily due to Europe loving the Master System. Asterix was a popular European comic starring a group of Gauls who fought against the Roman Empire. They were super strong, loved nothing more than drinking and eating roast beast, and fighting whoever wanted to take over their village. Sega sought to capitalize on the Europeans love of the comic and released a really fun side scrolling platformer featuring the stars of the comics. This was actually the seventh game of the series which has something like thirty games, and is a must have for Master System collections.

4. Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. 1992. (Sega)
For some reason, Disney properties and Sega go together like scotch and soda, vodka and tonic, or whiskey and ginger…They work together very well is what I’m trying to say. Land of Illusion was no exception to the rule. While my North American friends may remember the eight bit Mickey/Sega games on the Game Gear, they were almost always released in Europe and Brazil on the Master System as well. It’s a prototypical side scrolling platformer, but like most Disney games in the platforming genre, Land of Illusion was a great game from a series of great games starring the world’s most famous mouse.

3. Alex Kidd in Miracle World. 1987. (Sega)
Here then is Sega’s first big attempt to topple the cult of personality which is Mario. They were not successful in that, but they were successful in creating a really fun game which is fondly remembered by almost everyone who owned a Master System. It was originally included as the pack in game for the console and eventually they just wrote the game into the Master System’s firmware. You had the game even if you didn’t want it! But you did want it. Because it was a super fun little side scrolling platformer which everyone should want.

2. Wonderboy III – The Dragon’s Trap. 1989. (Westone)

Coming in at number 2 is an absolutely gorgeous side scrolling platformer. Picking up where the second game left off, Wonderboy sets out to slay a Mecha-Dragon but gets cursed by dragon magic and must play the game as a Lizardboy. The only thing which can cure the curse is an amulet which is currently being held by a Vampire Dragon. That alone should be enough to capture the hearts of any video game fan, and capture hearts, Wonderboy did. The game was aces. So aces, that a revival is coming out for the Nintendo Switch. The graphics have been upgraded, but the gameplay uses the same coding as the original. I can’t recommend this game enough.

But it wasn’t the be all and end all of the system. No. That has to go to the game which kick started a great, though somewhat underappreciated series. It’s the one…the only..!

1. Phantasy Star. 1988. (Sega)

Released in 1987 in Japan, and in 1988 in North America is the very first Phantasy Star. The game was a true pioneer in the RPG genre and featured graphics which rivaled Final Fantasy’s Super Nintendo outings.

Gameplay featured a mix of typical overhead world map views while adding in a 3D dungeon crawling aspect. There were three planets you could travel to, each featuring different terrain, people, and monsters to slay.

You play as one of the very first women protagonists in video game history, and set out on your quest to rebel against the king of your solar system and take down his tyrannical rule. I always felt it was a HUGE shame that the Master System sold as poorly in North America as it did, because this game rivals the hell out of Zelda and Final Fantasy and really should be in everyone’s collective memory as one of the greatest of all time. It’s not, but it really should be.

And that brings us to the end of the Master System list! Upset that I picked the wrong Wonderboy to go on the list? The wrong Mickey Mouse adventure? Let me know @Whentheicebreak or leave a comment! Until the next time, avoid the outside world whenever possible, stay in, and play some of these classic games!

Series Navigation<< The Atari Jaguar Edition of the Totes Mathematical Top Ten Game List for Every Console Ever!The Intellivision Edition of the Totes Mathematical Top Ten Game List for Every Console Ever! >>

About Philippe L.

When not out exploring the stars with his good friend Hotblack Desiato, he makes his living here on Earth keeping other people's money safe from the hands of thieves and spinning the occasional yarn. He enjoys beer and coffee very much, but unfortunately he can't eat shellfish or tomatoes.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.