Sega Mega Drive \ Genesis
Type Console Developer Sega
Release Date 1988-Oct-29 Region(s) Japan, N America, Europe, Australasia, Brazil
Initial Price $189 USD Games Released 964
     by Dark Watcher
Sega made a good attempt at the market with their Master System against Nintendo's virtual monopoly of the console industry, but they were about to introduce next generation gaming to the masses.

After two years of development the Sega Mega Drive was released in Japan on October 19, 1988 and was the first true 16-bit console to enter the console market.   The Mega Drive achieved moderate success in Japan after being beat to the market by NEC's PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) only four months earlier.  Sega had a lot of hits in the arcade such as After Burner and Golden Axe, and part of the appeal of the Mega Drive was that now these games were not only playable at home but were fairly close to the arcade versions.  Once again Sega set their sites on the rest of the console playing world.

Sega began an aggressive marketing campaign, not only to customers, but also to developers.  They quickly gained the support of western third party developer Electronic Arts and produced a line-up of quality arcade conversions and killer sports games (which were appealing to American gamers).  The Sega Genesis released in America in September 1989.  By the end of 1990 there were over 30 third-party developers writing games for the new system, compared to only four for the TurboGrafx-16.  The Sega Genesis reached a great level of success in America, but launched the system to all new heights of popularity when they released a secret project in the summer of 1991.

Sonic the Hedgehog pushed the Genesis to the limit with spectacular graphics, animation and sound.. all with incredible speed.  Sonic also became the official mascot and icon for Sega, becoming part of marketing campaign to compete against Nintendo's soon to be released console which contained a slower processor (Sega dubbed the techniques used in Sonic as "Blast Processing").
The Genesis saw many changes over the years.  The console was remodeled in 1994, and offered a sleeker / smaller case with a reduced price (at the expense of the head phone jack and volume control).  In 1998, Majesco reserved the rights to manufacture certain Sega systems.  They decided to redesign the Genesis yet again.  The Genesis 3 was released in the US for under $50.  It was made even smaller, but lacked the ability to interface with Sega CD and 32X.

  Over the years the Genesis \ Mega Drive became the center point to many upgrades and add-ons.  The Powerbase converter allowed Master System games to be played on the Genesis.  It bypassed the main 68000 processor in the Genesis and used the Z80 sound processor to run the original Master System code.  While rumors circulated of a Game Gear to Genesis converter, it never made it past the prototype stage.  Others served as upgrades, namely the Sega CD and 32X.
     by Dark Watcher
It was in the early 1990s when ole DW began feeling "Genesis" envy. The 16-bit powerhouse carried near arcade conversions of Golden Axe and Altered Beast.  Nintendo was still milking the teat of their NES and NEC really did not seem to be putting much effort into their own 16-bit console in terms of advertising.  Sega did their homework and got our attention with competitive advertising, impressive hardware and a software library that offered everything a gamer could want.  Fanboy battles began, Genesis apparently did what "Ninten-Don’t" and it was a magical time to be a gamer.

Not to sound misogynistic, but Sega's console designs were the leggy mini-skirt in a room of pant suits (Ok…ok…like a buff bare chest dude in a room of sweater vests). You will notice that we mention designs in plural.  The Genesis seemed to change like the seasons.  There are many different models of the Sega Genesis each with varied motherboard revisions.

The original Sega Genesis model 1 (MK-1601) was sleek, black, with rounded contours.  It had the large Genesis logo on top near a top-load cartridge slot and featured raised lettering emphasizing its 16-bit capabilities.  It also featured a headset jack with its own volume slider that was unique for the time (more on that later) and contained a Z80 processor to allow backwards compatibility (using a base convertor) with the Sega Master System.  We call this model the luxury edition.

The Sega Genesis model 2 (MK-1631) was the first redesign of the console and was  released in 1994.  Sega gave the console a more square-like shape while keeping the black contoured exterior and reduced the console to nearly half the size of the original.  Of course, some features were removed like the headset jack.

In 1998, Sega allowed a company named “Majesco” to release a third model of the Genesis (MK-1461).  Majesco managed to reduce the size even smaller and made the console even more affordable.  However, the size reduction came at the cost of the expansion port that allowed add-ons like the Sega CD, the Z80 co-processor and minor details like a power LED.  The Genesis 3 also lost some game compatibility.  There are other models such as the portable Sega Nomad (1995) and the more recent licensed Sega Firecore (2009), but we have not gotten our claws on any of those yet.

All three models of Genesis mentioned have the black durable case exterior.  The cases are very easy to clean (particularly the newer remodels).  The top-load cartridge slot has shutter doors that keep dust out.  They appear to be built to last and as of this writing our Genesis model 2 has survived 17 years with absolutely no issues.

The original 3-button controller is well designed for its time.  The controller is rounded to fit in the hands comfortably.  The digital pad is raised and very responsive to diagonal movements.  This is a good durable controller, but we are not fans of the in-line 3-button layout nor the below average cord length (same as other consoles of the time).

The Sega Genesis put out amazing graphics for its time with a 16-bit processor, 64 out of 512 simultaneous colors and maximum 80 sprites on-screen.  It outputs up to Composite quality with a max screen resolution of 320 X 224 interlaced (sure specs say 320x448, but that only applies to split screen games).  Game programmers put out games with good 2D sprite detail, character animation and graphic effects like warping, transparency, scaling, pseudo 3D, and rotation.  Ironically, some Genesis consoles look better than others.  Each motherboard revision and remodel seemed to have a different video encoder depending on where it was manufactured (Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, China, etc) and was likely a cost saving measure during production.  Each revision contained the original Sony CXA1145 encoder or a Fujitsu MB3514, Samsung KA2195D or the Sony CXA1645.  The other encoders produced darker and\or pixilated composite video output with the exception of the Sony CXA1645 found in some Genesis model 2s and Genesis model 3 (credit and thanks to Ace from Sega-16 for charting the differences!)

Audio wise, the Sega Genesis put out some really good music, voice-overs and sound effects using six channels for FM synthesis and PSG channels consisting of three square wave channels with one white noise channel.  The original model of the Sega Genesis used two separate sound amps\mixers for Mono and Stereo sound.  The standard connection only produced mono sound, but interestingly the headset jack put out full stereo sound!  By using a 3.5mm stereo to RCA plug, you could get the best quality sound the Genesis had to offer.  Unfortunately, other models and revisions changed or replaced the Yamaha YM2612 sound chip and lost much of the sound quality.  This is why we call the MK-1601 model the luxury edition.

Like other consoles of the generation, Sega used the cartridge format.  The cartridges were small and compact, durable, black, with rounded edges.  Like Nintendo, Sega also used chip enhancements (Sega Virtua Processor) in some of their carts and the games were originally stored in colorful DVD-like protective cases that feature great artwork.  The cases work great for game libraries and Sega also experimented with "lock-on" cartridges that added new features to old games.  The games themselves span many genres with a huge library of memorable titles that found sequels and remakes on newer generation consoles.

In terms of innovation, the Sega Genesis was the first true 16-bit videogame console, offered backwards compatibility and was the hub for many Sega add-ons like the 32x and Sega CD.  Definitely a true classic that belongs in any retro gamers collection.

     Officially licensed releases
Sega Mega Drive
Sega Genesis
North America
Sega Mega Drive
Sega Mega Drive
Samsung Super Gam*Boy
South Korea
Samsung Super Aladdin Boy
South Korea
Tectoy Mega Drive
Tectoy Mega Drive II

Sega Mega Drive 2
Sega Genesis 2
North America
Sega Mega Drive II
Sega Mega Drive 2
Samsung Super Aladdin Boy II
South Korea
Samsung Super Aladdin Boy II (ver. 2)
South Korea
Tectoy Mega Drive III

Majesco Sega Genesis 3
North America
New Mega Drive
South Korea

Victor Wondermega
North America
Sega CDX
North America
Sega Mega Jet
Pioneer LaserActive (S1 PAC)
Japan, North America
Aiwa Mega CD
Sega Teradrive
Japan (Computer Hybrid)
Amstrad Mega PC
Europe (Compuer Hybrid)
al-Alamiah AX-990
Arab Nations (Computer Hybrid)
     Non-licensed hardware releases
Since the patent expired for the Sega Genesis, there are a ton of both stand alone clone systems as well as Plug n' Play type units.
     by Dark Watcher
Consoles are rated based upon the available technology at the time of its release.  A 10 point scale is utilized, with 10 being excellent.

Console Design 08 For its time, the Sega Genesis had a great design with sleek, black, with rounded contours with each revision looking better.  It still looks good.
Console Durability 08 Black durable exterior that is easy to clean especially on remodels.  Top-loading cartridge slot with shutters to keep dust out.  Built to last.
Controllers 07 Original 3-button controller is well designed for the era.  Rounded and contoured to fit in the hands comfortably.  The digital pad is raised and contoured with very responsive buttons.  Good durable controller, but not a fan of the in-line 3-button layout or short cord length
Graphics 08 Colorful 2D sprites up to Composite quality with great detail, character animation and graphic effects like warping, transparency, scaling, pseudo 3D and rotation.  Games like Vector Man, GunStar Heroes and Sega Virtua Processor chip enhanced Virtua Racing showed amazing graphical effects.
Audio 07 Good music, voice-overs and sound effects using six channels for FM synthesis and PSG channels consisting of three square wave channels with one white noise channel.  The original model of the Sega Genesis used two separate sound amps/mixers for Mono and Stereo sound.  Remodels are not as good as the original.
Media 09 The jet black cartridges were small, compact and extremely durable with rounded edges.  Games were originally stored in colorful protective DVD-like protective cases that feature great artwork.
Gamer Value 09 A large library of memorable titles spanning different genres that spawned follow ups and spin offs.  A great classic console that is the hub for many of Sega's add-on devices.  Get the original Sega Genesis model MK-1601 to have the best the console has to offer.
Collector Value 06 Not winning any rarity points yet, but a definite classic.  Model MK-1601 made in Japan (not Taiwan) may be sought after more then others.

     Interesting facts on software for this system
Software for the Sega Mega Drive \ Genesis was distributed in the ROM cartridge format.  More information to follow regarding the media and packaging.

Sega Genesis Launch Titles (United States)
     Captured in-game images
688 Attach Sub
Air Diver
Alien 3
Alien Storm
Altered Beast
Bimini Run
Brett Hull Hockey 95
Bulls vs. Blazers
Buster Douglas Knockout Boaxing
Castle of Illusion
Chuck Rock
Columns 3
Contra Hard Corps
Cutthroat Island
David Crane's Amazing Tennis
Disney's Alladin
Earthworm Jim 2
Ecco the Dolphin
Fatal Fury 2
FIFA 98: Road to the World Cup
Flashback: The Quest for Identity
Games: The Winter Challenge
Ghouls n' Ghosts
Golden Axe II
Gunstar Heroes
Hardball III
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar
M1 Abrams Battle Tank
Madden NFL 98
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
Might and Magic II
Mortal Kombat 3
NBA Jam Tournament Edition
PGA Tour Golf II
Phantasy Star IV
Pirates! Gold
Prince of Persia
Revenge of Shinobi
Road Rash 2
Shadow of the Beast
Shining Force
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sports Talk Baseball
Star Control
Streets of Rage 2
Super Monaco GP
Sword of Vermillion
Urban Strike
Zero Wing
Some images courtesy of MobyGames
     First and third party system emulators

This is an amazing emulator for Windows. It requires Direct X 8.0.
There are other emulators available, but this one is one of our favorites.
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Processor Type  Processor Speed  Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
Motorola 68000 (16\32-bit) 7.67 MHz (NTSC)
7.61 MHz (PAL)
Zilog Z80 Co-processor, Yamaha YM7101 VDP 64 KB \ 64 KB
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
256x224, 256x448, 320x224, 320x448 512 colors (64 on-screen) 80 sprites (max on-screen) Yamaha YM2612 (6 channels of FM synthesis), Texas Instruments SN76489 PSG (3 channels, 1 noise)
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
Cartridge 4 MB (up to 10 MB with memory mapper) 964 Sega Master System (with optional Power Base Conveter)
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
2 KB ROM (boot) None (battery save system available on some cartridges) 16 Directional D-Pad, Start button, Three Action Buttons Sega CD, Sega 32X, Sega Genesis Activator, Light Gun, Mouse, Multi-Tap
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
Two (2) None (optional MegaModem available in Japan) Expansion Port (Sega CD), EXT DE-9 port (model 1 only) RF, Composite
Power Supply - External Other Outputs  Other Details \ Notes
Varied None Headphone jack (model 1), Volume Slider (model 1)
Sega Genesis Model 1 Owners Manual - NTSC (PDF) - 1.54 MB
Sega Genesis Model 2 Owners Manual - NTSC (PDF) - 9.68 MB
Sega Mega Drive Model 1 Owners Manual - PAL (PDF) - 1.85 MB

     Peripherals, Promotions, Commercials, Brochures, Etc.
Sega Genesis \ Mega Drive Advertisements

Sega Channel
Headed by former Time Warner senior vice president Stanley B. Thomas Jr., the service was a joint venture between Telecommunications Inc. (TCI), Time Warner Entertainment and Sega of America Inc. for the Genesis console.  It was reportedly given its initial test run in 12 cities in June of 1993, starting its official programming schedule in December of the same year when cable TV subscribers lucky enough to have Sega Channel available in their area could pay a monthly fee (between $12.95 and $14.95) plus a one-time activation fee ($25) to download games directly into their Sega consoles through a special adapter.  The Sega Channel was also available in parts of Canada, the United Kingdom, Chile, Argentina, and Australia thanks to local cable carriers; even though its acceptance in these territories was practically non-existent.

Read more about the Sega Channel at ShellShock's excellent site!
Sega Channel Demo
Sega Channel Informercial
     Visitor insights and feedback
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