History Behind Master System Purchase
I have the Master System just to say I own one Sega system. Just kidding. Actually, I remember thinking that the Master System looked pretty cool, but I went with the NES since everyone else had that. When I think about it, I'm not even sure when I acquired my Master System. I believe it was around 1990 or 1991, because I remember the stores were clearing out their stock of SMS games not long after I got one. Boy, I wish I had purchased more of those games. I know I got the system and six games off a friend (who got it off someone else) for about $25. I also have the privilege of owning both the Light Phaser and the 3-D Glasses accessories. The 3-D Glasses might be the coolest thing about the Master System.
For a while, I was scouring the local flea markets and the online world for some games. It's almost kind of like a challenge to find good Master System games for a reasonable price. But I actually enjoy the system as well. I think Psycho Fox and Golden Axe Warrior, two late SMS releases, are nearly as good as the best NES games. Even though my search efforts have been reduced, I always am on the lookout for a few good SMS games to add to my collection. Something major, however, is still missing from my collection: Sonic the Hedgehog. Yes, the rodent appeared on the Master System, too, and I almost tracked it down years ago.

Retrospectively, I would describe the Sega Master System as a curiosity.  It was technically superior to the NES, but Sega could not figure out how to differentiate its system -- at least in Japan and the U.S.  (Apparently, it was more popular than Nintendo in Europe and South America.)  You will find a lot of copycat and "me too" games and ideas on the system.

P.S. I actually played the Master System far more than the follow-on Genesis.  Sega and Nintendo were in a nasty fight back in the early 1990s, and I was a staunch Nintendo supporter.  I do recognize that Sega released some good Genesis games, however, which is why I eventually downloaded some through Wii's Virtual Console service.
All-Time Favorite Master System Games
Sega Master System Collection (26 games)
Random Notes & Thoughts
What lies below is a listing of my Master System collection along with some history behind the system's purchase. One thing to keep in mind is that these are all the games I currently own. I've actually had other games throughout the years. But I got rid of some of them for whatever reason. Please also note that all of the games listed below are actual cartridges. I am neither into getting emulators for the classics nor am I into pirating the latest games.
Sega Master System, controllers, and Light Phaser
Space Harrier screenshot
Psycho Fox screenshot
Golden Axe Warrior screenshot
Double Dragon screenshot
Out Run screenshot
This is far and away my favorite Master System game, and that's because it's a Zelda rip-off. Despite all the success of Zelda, few blatant knock-offs exist. Golden Axe Warrior is a wonderful game in the same mold and vein as The Legend of Zelda on NES. I highly recommend this game if you're a Zelda fan. You'll enjoy the adventure.
Sega's Master System certainly has its share of cute "platformer" games, which means you run and jump through each level. Psycho Fox captivated me more than the others did. I thought the platforming action was more solid and enjoyable than the Alex Kidd or Wonder Boy games, and I felt the control was spot-on, too. This is a sleeper hit.
Double Dragon was one of my favorite series back in the 8-bit days. It's just hard for me to single it out amongst all the other great series. Interestingly, Double Dragon on the Master System features a two-player simultaneous mode that the NES version didn't have. This feature really makes the game standout as one of the best Master System games.
Usually, forward-scrolling racing games become forgotten with each passing generation. After all, 3D games keep getting better and better, right? Who wants to play something that pales graphically? Nevertheless, I found Out Run to be a great port of the arcade game and one of the most fun games on the Master System. Sometimes simple is better.
Space Harrier is one of the more popular Sega games of all time. It still ranks as one of the most unique gaming styles around. Moreover, the port of the game proved to be a good one. Space Harrier always has been a challenging game. There's no doubt about that. But the unique style and gameplay always have made it fun, too. Try one of the versions if you can.
  • After Burner
  • Alex Kidd in Miracle World (Wii)
  • Alien Syndrome
  • Columns (NS)
  • Double Dragon (NS)
  • F-16 Fighting Falcon
  • Ghouls 'n Ghosts (NS)
  • Golden Axe Warrior
  • Great Baseball
  • Hang On (Wii) / Astro Warrior
  • Kenseiden
  • Maze Hunter 3-D
  • Missile Defense 3-D
  • Out Run (NS)
  • Psycho Fox
  • Rampage (GCN)
  • Shinobi (Wii)
  • Shooting Gallery
  • Space Harrier (Wii)
  • Strider (Wii) and (NS)
  • Thunder Blade (Wii)
  • Time Soldiers
  • Wonder Boy (#1) (Wii) and (NS)
  • Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap (#3) (Wii)
  • Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished Omen (Wii)
  • Zaxxon 3-D
1. Golden Axe Warrior
2. Psycho Fox
3. Double Dragon
4. Out Run
5. Space Harrier
Honorable Mention: Phantasy Star, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, and Wonder Boy
6. After Burner
One thing the Master System was known for is good ports of Sega's arcade games. After Burner is another game that falls into this category. Despite the fact that home systems paled in comparison to arcades back in this era, conversions to the Master System seemed to go well. After Burner is another forward-scrolling, quasi-3D game that looked good and played even better.
After Burner screenshot
Columns screenshot
7. Columns
Another thing the Master System might be known for is clone games. Golden Axe Warrior tried to emulate Zelda. Alex Kidd tried to be the next Mario. And Columns tries to take Tetris to the next level. While there never will be another Tetris, this was an enjoyable puzzle game alternative back in the day. Plus, the two-player mode was a lot of fun.
Note: The games listed above are physical cartridges. Nintendo's Virtual Console service on Wii allowed me to augment my collection digitally by purchasing 5 more SMS games individually:
  • Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars (2nd) (Wii VC)
  • Alex Kidd in Shinobi World (5th) (Wii VC)
  • Phantasy Star (Wii VC)
  • Sonic Chaos (Wii VC)
  • Wonder Boy in Monster Land (#2) (Wii VC)
The following bulleted points are some random notes and thoughts about the Sega Master System. In the list, you will find information about the system and games that I could not place anywhere else.
  • I want to make this game part of my permanent collection: Sonic the Hedgehog. Yes, it was made available for Wii Virtual Console, but I'd rather have the physical copy.
  • Although I did not purchase Phantasy Star, one of my friends had the game. It truly was a great RPG for its time. I ended up downloading it via the Wii Virtual Console service.
  • The 3-D Glasses are more gimmick than innovation, but they are an interesting video game accessory to own.
Last Updated: November 14, 2016
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