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Master System
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Master System games came in two formats: ROM cartridges held up to 4 Mbit of code, while Sega Cards held up to 256 kbit. Cards, cheaper to manufacture than the cartridges, included Spy vs. Spy and Super Tennis,[13][21] but were eventually dropped due to their small memory size.[14]

Master System games include Psycho Fox, Golvellius, an

Sega produced several iterations of the Master System. The Master System II, released in 1990, removed a number of components to reduce cost, including the Sega Card slot, reset button, power light, expansion port, and startup music and logo.[21] In Brazil, Tectoy released several licensed variations; the Master System Super Compact functions wirelessly with an RF transmitter, and the Master System Girl, molded in bright pink plastic, was targeted at girls. The Master System 3 Collection, released in 2006, contains 120 built-in games.[38] Handheld versions of the Master System were released under several brands, such as Coleco in 2006.[49]

Master System games came in two formats: ROM cartridges held up to 4 Mbit of code, while Sega Cards held up to 256 kbit. Cards, cheaper to manufacture than the cartridges, included Spy vs. Spy and Super Tennis,[13][21] but were eventually dropped due to their small memory size.[14]

Master System games include Psycho Fox, Golvellius, and Phantasy Star. Phantasy Star is considered a benchmark role-playing game (RPG), and became a successful franchise.[50] Sega's flagship character at the time, Alex Kidd, featured in games including Alex Kidd in Miracle World. Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap was influential for its blend of platform gameplay with RPG elements.[51] Different Master System consoles included built-in games, including Snail Maze, Hang-On, Alex Kidd in Miracle W

Master System games include Psycho Fox, Golvellius, and Phantasy Star. Phantasy Star is considered a benchmark role-playing game (RPG), and became a successful franchise.[50] Sega's flagship character at the time, Alex Kidd, featured in games including Alex Kidd in Miracle World. Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap was influential for its blend of platform gameplay with RPG elements.[51] Different Master System consoles included built-in games, including Snail Maze, Hang-On, Alex Kidd in Miracle World and Sonic the Hedgehog. After the Master System was discontinued in other markets, additional games were released in Brazil by Tectoy, including ports of Street Fighter II and Dynamite Headdy.[13]

Due in part to Nintendo's licensing practices, which stipulated that third-party NES developers could not release games on other platforms, few third-party developers released games for the Master System.[13] According to Sato, Sega was focused on porting its arcade games instead of building relationships with third parties.[14] According to Sega designer Mark Cerny, most of Sega's early Master System games were developed within a strict three-month deadline, which affected their quality.[20][52][53] Computer Gaming World compared new Sega games to "drops of water in the desert".[54] Games for the Master System took advantage of more advanced hardware compared to the NES; Alex Kidd in Miracle World, for example, showcases "blistering colors and more detailed sprites" than NES games.[55][56] The Master System version of R-Type has was praised for its visuals, comparable to those of the TurboGrafx-16 port.[57]

The Sega Mark III and the Japanese Master System are backwards-compatible with SC-3000/SG-1000 cartridges, and can play card games without the Card Catcher add-on.[58][59] However, educational and programming cartridges for the SC-3000 require the SK-1100 keyboard peripheral, which is compatible with the Mark III but not the Japanese Master System. Mark III-specific games were initially available in card format (labelled My Card Mark III to distinguish themselves from games designed for the SC-3000/SG-1000), starting with Teddy Boy Blues and Hang-On, both released on October 20, 1985.[60]

The first Mark III-specific cartridge was Fantasy Zone, released on June 15, 1986.[61] The final Mark III/Master System game published by Sega in Japan was Bomber Raid, released on February 4, 1989, a few months after the launch of the Mega Drive.[61] Games for PAL regions continued to be released until the mid-1990s.[13][62] The PAL library included 8-bit entries in Genesis franchises such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage and dozens of PAL-exclusives such as Lucky Dime Caper, Asterix, Ninja Gaiden, Master of Darkness and Power Strike II.[62] Retro Gamer's Damien McFerran praised the "superb" PAL library of "interesting ports and excellent exclusives", which was richer than the North American library and provided a "drip-feed of quality titles".[13]

Due to the continued release of new varients in Brazil, the Master System is considered by many video gaming publications to be the longest lived gaming console in video games history, a title it took from the Atari 2600.[63][64][65]Sales of the Master System have been estimated between 10 million and 13 million units, not including later Brazil sales.[5][6] It saw much more continued success in Europe and Brazil than it did in Japan and North America.[13] In 1989, the Sega Master System was listed in the top 20 products of NPD Group's Toy Retail Sales Tracking Service.[66] However, the Electronic Gaming Monthly 1992 Buyer's Guide indicated a souring interest in the console. Four reviewers scored it 5, 4, 5, and 5 out of a possible 10 points each, focusing on the better value of the Genesis and lack of quality games for the Master System.[67] In 1993, reviewers scored it 2, 2, 3, and 3 out of 10, noting its abandonment by Sega in North America and lack of new releases.[68]

By contrast, 62 million NES units were sold in North American, outselling the Master System several times over.[6] According to Bill Pearse of Playthings, the NES gained an advantage through better software and more recognizable

By contrast, 62 million NES units were sold in North American, outselling the Master System several times over.[6] According to Bill Pearse of Playthings, the NES gained an advantage through better software and more recognizable characters.[69] Sega closed the gap between Nintendo in the next generation with the release of the Genesis, which sold 30.75 million consoles compared with the 49 million Super Nintendo Entertainment System consoles.[70][71]

Retrospective feedback of the Master System praises its support toward development of the Sega Genesis, but has been critical of its small game library. Writing for AllGame, Dave Beuscher noted that the Master System "was doomed by the lack of third-party software support and all but disappeared from the American market by 1992".[21] However, Retro Gamer praised the larger PAL library as a "superb library of interesting ports and excellent exclusives".[62] Damien McFerran of Retro Gamer recognized its importance to the success of the Genesis, stating, "Without this criminally undervalued machine, Sega would not have enjoyed the considerable success it had with the Mega Drive. The Master System allowed Sega to experiment with arcade conversions, original IP and even create a mascot in the form of the lovable monkey-boy Alex Kidd."[13]

In 2009, the Master System was named the 20th best console of all time by IGN, behind the Atari 7800 (17th) and the NES (1st). IGN cited the Master System's small and uneven NTSC library as the major problems: "Months could go by between major releases and that made a dud on the Master System feel even more painful."[72] The Master System retains a following.[72] In 2019, Sega Master System: A Visual Compendium was published by Bitmap Books,[73] a licensed book looking at the history of the console and its games.[74]

In 2005, Sega reached a deal with Chinese company AtGames to release emulated Master System software in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.[75] Several Master System games were released for download on Nintendo's Wii Virtual Console, beginning with Fist of the North Star in 2008 in Japan and Wonder Boy in North America.[76] Master System games were also released via the GameTap online service.[77]