The Master System was an 8-bit home video game console manufactured by Sega. The Master System launched in North America in 1986, and Europe in 1987. An updated and cheaper model, the Master System II, was released in 1990 in North America and Europe.

The original Master System models use both cartridges and a credit card-sized format known as Sega Cards, although the later Master System II redesign removed the card slot, and the Master System became a cartridge-only system.

The Master System was released as a direct competitor to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), but with fewer games and less big name releases, the Master System struggled against the might of the NES in many regions, although it did sell better than the NES in Europe.

The Master System’s main CPU is a Zilog Z80A, an 8-bit processor running at 4 MHz. It has 8 kB of ROM, 8 kB of RAM and 16 kB of video RAM. Master System games came in two formats: ROM cartridges which held up to 4 Mbit of code, and Sega Cards which held up to 256 kbit. The cards were cheaper to manufacture than the cartridges, but were eventually dropped due to their restrictive memory size.

The Master System’s screen resolution was 256 × 192 pixels, with up to 32 colours at one time from a total palette of 64 colours. Sound is provided by the SN76489 PSG chip, which can provide three square wave channels and one noise channel.

The Master System colour palette

5 of the Best Master System Games Ever

5 of the Best Master System games ever made! These are not listed in order of preference, all 5 games are fantastic.

The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck

Great platformer starring Disney’s Donald Duck. The beautiful graphics really capture the charm and style of the character, and the game is challenging and rewarding to play.

California Games

Six different events, including halfpipe skate boarding, BMX stunt riding, surfing and footbag. Each event is a lot of fun to play, and visually the game really captures that California look. I spent a lot of time playing this one, and loved every minute.

Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap

A wonderful run ’n’ jump classic, with a hefty dose of adventuring. Charming, colourful graphics, deep gameplay and a whole lot of fun.

Space Harrier 3D

Doesn’t match the arcade original, but still a great version of Space Harrier, and quite a visual feat for an 8-bit console. One to impress your friends with!

Road Rash

Great conversion of the Megadrive original, still lots of fun, racing down highways and bashing other riders. What more could you want from a game!?

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