The Sega Master System was a gem of an 8-bit console. Sure, it couldn’t overtake the NES in terms of worldwide sales, but it was the purchase of choice for those gamers with no interest in a certain moustachioed plumber.
While this shiny little box of delights may seem like ancient history now, it still has its dedicated fans today. Many of them are actually in Brazil, where the Master System retains impressive popularity today, so much so that multiple extra versions have been released in the past fifteen years. Just look up the Master System 3 Compact or Master System Girl if you don’t believe us!
Still got a Master System boxed-up in your loft? Been reminiscing about those sparse white box-designs and that angular controller?
Well, join us for a look at the 10 best Sega Master System games still worth your time today.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Of course it’s here.
If you had a Sega Master System II, then you had Alex Kidd in Miracle World. Even if you didn’t want it, even if you’d never even heard of it, you had it.
Luckily, it was a fantastic game with plenty to love. While it failed to compete with Super Mario Bros. as Sega intended, Alex Kidd in Miracle World’s inherent charm still put a smile on gamers’ faces.
Not only was it colourful, simple, and vibrant, but Alex himself was a pleasure to spend time with. Remember his giant fist and love of playing rock, paper, scissors? You don’t see either of those things nearly enough anymore…
Ah, Road Rash. Remember how great it felt riding up alongside a fellow biker and punching them in the head?
The Master System version of Road Rash came late in 1994, and it’s one of the console’s best-looking titles. The backgrounds may not be up to much, and the speed isn’t quite all it could have been, but it’s a cracking little racer with plenty to love today.
Anyone else think it’s strange that this series isn’t still going today? Surely EA could do something with the license…
Sonic the Hedgehog
An obvious choice, sure, but we HAD to include it.
Sonic the Hedgehog’s appeared in countless titles now, and you can play a gorgeous port of his first appearance on your phone, but his Master System debut is still a classic.
It might not have the flair or the sheen of the 16-bit version, but Sonic the Hedgehog faired pretty darn well in an 8-bit world.
The New Zealand Story
Now, this is a stone-cold classic.
The New Zealand Story is a fast-paced, colourful, gorgeous little platformer starring all kinds of adorable creatures.
In fact, there are times when the game has the look and feel of a Studio Ghibli movie. The gameplay itself is just as solid, with plenty of on-screen action and a nice mix of land & water-based exploration.
Prince of Persia
This is one of the strongest games on the Master System, from a visual perspective at least.
The slick animation, solid attention to detail (check out those flaming sconces!) and smart level-design is still impressive today. Okay, so the difficulty level and one-hour time limit might not be for everyone, but if you can hack it, Prince of Persia’s well worth a play today.
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap
Not a million miles from Alex Kidd, Sega’s Wonder Boy is a chunky, tough little cookie. Of course, his ability to transform into various awesome creatures gives him something of an edge.
Thanks to Wonder Boy III’s simple platforming gameplay and beautiful visuals, it’s still a treat to play today. After all, where else can you play as a fire-breathing dragon and a sword-wielding lion in one game?
Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
Disney’s main mouse starred in this classic game, and it’s still a stunner. Even non-fans have got plenty to enjoy here, from the top-notch graphics to the accessible level-design.
The platforming is simple, the villains are suitably fiendish, and the melodic music helps to create an engrossing atmosphere. Considering the game’s age, Land of Illusion’s presentation has withstood the sands of time pretty well, especially Mickey himself.
Special mention also has to go to the environments, which pop with detail and life.
Zillion II: The Tri-Formation
We know you’re probably stunned to see this here, but stick with us.
The Zillion games were based on an 80s animé series, and while they may not be the most well-remembered of all Master System games (to say the least), this sequel is one of the console’s more distinctive platformers.
Why? Well, that’s all down to the titular ‘tri-formation’ itself. See, your hero spends some levels simply platforming on-foot, and it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. However, other levels put you in control of a nifty motorbike and force you to drive, shoot, and avoid pits all at the same time.
It doesn’t end there, though. With the right upgrades, your trusty chopper has the power to transform into a flying suit of armour.
Zillion II: The Tri-Formation’s not the best game you’ll ever play, but it definitely stands out; it’s kind of like ESWAT, without the cops.
The environments and enemies make a refreshing change to the castles, rocks, and greenery seen in so many other platformers of the era. Here, you’re running through colourful spaceship corridors, kicking butt with a laser blaster, and fighting weird robots. The series’ Japanese origins are pretty clear to see.
If you’ve never played it, check it out.
Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts
Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts is notorious for its sheer brutality, with the insane difficulty level and double-playthrough rule enough to make you think the developers hated gamers with a passion.
Still, despite this, it’s a definite classic. The Master System port features a special upgrade system allowing you to tweak Arthur’s armour, providing an extra dimension missing from other versions.
In other words, this is no inferior port, and it stands up well today.
Fantasy Zone II
There’s still a lot of love for Fantasy Zone II out there. The original game was hugely-popular, but the sequel’s generally recognized as the best.
Taking control of your own little self-aware spaceship, Opa-opa, you’re free to explore one gorgeous location after another. One reason Fantasy Zone II stands out is its colourful, sweet backgrounds and designs. Rather than the high-tech space stages of R-Type and the like, this puts you in more floral, rainbow-filled worlds.
This has been rereleased and remade since, but if you can get your hands on the Master System original, it’s a must-try.
What are your favourite Sega Master System games? Let us know!