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Bad Sega Master System cover art

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Nah. SMS is not by any stretch of the imagination "bargain bin" compared to the NES. It has quite a few far more faithful Arcade ports than the NES, and a bunch of unique nowhere else available games. It just has a much smaller library, because they didn't have the choke hold on 3rd party developers that Nintendo did.


But then, if you remove the hundreds of shovelware dreck titles the NES had... the argument becomes more interesting.


It is a lobotomized Genesis though, that is a good description.

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What the hell - are these all actually real?


I never owned a Master System. (In the market for one now, actually!)

Please seek out these must haves:




Rampage (if you don't have access to an arcade perfect port already, that is)

Columns (superior to the Genesis version, imo)

Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse

Phantasy Star

Fantasy Zone II

Power Strike

Double Dragon (again, if you don't have access to the arcade game. This one is better than the NES port, and allows two players)

Wonder Boy III



Golden Axe Warrior (this is pretty expensive; look into it if you get deeper into collecting)




If you have a CRT, Gangster Town and Wanted are both worth having the Light Phaser for


Another tip; you can play PAL games, and with one or two exceptions, they all work flawlessly, and are sometimes cheaper than their US counterparts, as are Australian games, but they are often not worth buying due to shipping.


There are, of course, plenty of SEGA arcade conversions, but, as good as they were, generally there's not a lot of reason to play Space Barrier or Outrun in this day and age where you can play the real things. The couple of arcade ports I mentioned are both fun with two players.

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There are, of course, plenty of SEGA arcade conversions, but, as good as they were, generally there's not a lot of reason to play Space Barrier or Outrun in this day and age where you can play the real things.

That is one thing I've slowly been realizing lately - arcade ports on older consoles in general are usually kind of a waste of my time except for the novelty of seeing what corners they had to cut. But that fun doesn't last long. There are some exceptions, of course.


Anyway thanks for the list - I will check those out once I get a system. I have an SG-1000 and a Mark III, so I figure I may as well get the final form of that system. I realize I could just play SMS games on my Mark III, but I just want an SMS.


Keep posting bad cover art; I can't believe these ever made it out in public. They're like kids' drawings that you stick on a refrigerator. The graph paper look even fits, like whoever was drawing them was actually using that to measure their lines.

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Jealous of your SG-1000! Dunno if I'll ever justify getting one... I'd be better served just getting a Mark III.



I always liked Psycho Fox.


Also note that with an Everdrive, you can play SMS ROMs on a Genesis.


You can also play SG-1000 games on a Master System if you have the MS Everdrive

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Why does the guy on the Pro Wrestling cover have no head?


Well, presumably, he's fighting with himself. A rare shine of cleverness against the banality of Sega Master System packaging in North America.


The SMS has some true gems, Wonderboy III was amazing for its time and is still fun today, though I'm a bit biased there. But since I grew up with the system as a kid I have a right to say by and large there's not a whole lot else it has going for it. Sega really stretched themselves thin on account of the lack of third party support.

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I will admit the SMS game art was pretty bad, and they corrected it with the black box genesis titles while still tying in the brand (lets face it you can spot a sega game a mile away vs a boxed nes or atari game)


other game box art is pretty bad as well, while we may wonder why the pro wrestling guy has not head, we also wonder why joe biden is taking a shit in a space suit on the box of mega man


its just one of those things you have to nod and smile at ... then forget that its real




Edited by Osgeld
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Oh I think they corrected it well before that, on the back half of the SMS lifespan in the US (and beyond more so.) You go from that pile of grid based clip turd art and into actual arcade art style assets, well drawn up and painted images etc. I only ever had a SMS twice and both were well after 3D took over so I have no rose tinted love in the game but I found the system to be actually quite solid though with a smaller library (sorta like N64.) And of all things Wonderboy 3 and few others really still stand the test of time as being a fantastic title. I've had probably 40% of the US/PAL system library for it at one time or another and there's plenty of nice things, especially if you throw in some GG conversions too. Hey those arcade titles such as Double Dragon, Rampage, Paperboy, Strider, and a few others look damn nice, better than the NES art.

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I never bothered to investigate it myself, but I'm wondering now for whatever reason if it was Tonka, the US distributor of the SMS, who had a hand in the bizarre covers for the games. As we know, once Sega took over North American distribution themselves (much like Nintendo taking over from Worlds of Wonder), the cover quality did change.

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I don't know about Japan, but Europe got (most of?) the same box art so I have to guess that it came from Sega themselves.

The change in box art probably happened when Sega introduced the Megadrive, which correspond more or less on Europe at the time they took over local distributors.

Sega taking over Tonka isn't tied to change in art, IMO, but more tied to Sega wanting to improve their image on the US market.

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