Sega Mark III \ Master System
Type Console Developer Sega
Release Date 1985-Oct-20 Region(s) Japan, North America, Europe, South America
Initial Price $199 USD Games Released 318
     by Dark Watcher
To compete with the Nintendo Famicom in Japan, Sega released the successor to the Mark I/II and called it Sega Mark III in 1985.

The Mark III could produce great 8 bit graphics with specs superior to the Famicom.  The console had two game formats which were cartridges and a Sega "Game Card" format.  The cards held only 256K of data (cartridges held over 4 times that amount), but the advantage to both Sega and the consumer was the fact that the cards were cheaper to manufacture and sold for less than the carts did.  Sega also introduced 3D glasses that could be used in some of their games.  The Mark III was also backwards compatible with SG-1000 / Mark I & II software.

When Nintendo released the Famicom (NES) to America in 1986, Sega had no intentions of letting their rival get all the market share.  They redesigned the Mark III and changed the name to the Sega Master System (SMS).  They approached Tonka Toy Distribution to market the SMS, with the console being released three months after the NES in 1986.

Although the SMS was an impressive machine, it did not reach the level of success that the NES gained in America.  The two reasons for this were poor marketing by Tonka Toys and software restrictions implemented by Nintendo to third party developers.  Third party developers were contractually prohibited from making games for any rival company.  This meant that once a company had made a game for the obviously popular NES, they weren’t allowed to make any games at all for the SMS.  As a result, the only outside developers for the SMS were Activision and Parker Brothers (though Sega did receive permission to "reprogram" numerous games developed by other companies).  Sega did the rest of the games themselves.
Some of Sega's best games started this way.  The Popular RPG series "Phantasy Star" made its first appearance on the Sega Master System.  The SMS may not have been as successful as the NES in America, but overseas was another story.  The SMS was extremely popular in the UK and Brazil where games were released into the the late 1990s.  The SMS succeeded overseas because it was much cheaper than the pricey NES.

The SMS was re-released as the Sega Master System II in 1990 with a reduction in features to save money.  The card port was cut, as was the power light and Sega logo and music upon starting the machine.  Tectoy, the licensed distributor in Brazil, is still selling this popular machine to this very day.

FACT:  The Sega Master System featured a built in secret game.  Turn the system on without a cartridge inserted, when the instructions pop up hold the D-pad up and push buttons 1 and 2.  In the game your goal is to guide a small snail through a series of different maze levels.  Not much play value, but it's a nice extra to have.  The Sega Master System II was another story - it included a built-in freebie called Alex Kidd in Miracle World.

     Officially licensed releases
Sega Mark III
Sega Master System
Sega Master System II
Sega Game Box 9
Tec Toy Master System
Tec Toy Master System II
Tec Toy Master System III Compact
Tec Toy Master System Super Compact
Tec Toy Master System Girl
Samsung Gam*Boy
Samsung Gam*Boy II
Samsung Aladdin Boy
Images of the Samsung models courtesy of
     Non-licensed hardware releases
Though Sega granted licenses to a great many companies, there are probably some clones of this popular system floating around out there in the wild.
     Interesting facts on software for this system
Software for the Sega Mark III / Master System was distributed on two different types of the ROM format: standard game cartridges and Sega Game Card.

Resembling a credit card, Sega Game Cards were significantly smaller than their standard sized brethren in both dimension and data capacity.   This format was introduced as a cost savings measure for developers, but was quickly phased out due to the inability to house the more advanced games of the system.

The release of this system also introduced the public to the popular plastic 'clam shell' game box.   These nearly indestructible cases set a new standard for game packaging, providing excellent protection for its contents as well as a large canvas for marketing gurus to advertize the respective title.

applemctom's Games that Defined Compiliation

Sega Master System Game Boxes (North America)

     Captured in-game images
Air Rescue
American Baseball
Andre Agassi Tennis
Assault City
Back to the Future 3
Batman Returns
Castle of Illusion
Championship Hockey
Danan: The Jungle Fighter
Dynamite Duke
Fantasy Zone 2
Forgotten Worlds
George Foreman's KO Boxing
G-Loc Air Battle
Golden Axe
Golf Mania
GP Rider
Great Basketball
Impossible Mission
Joe Montana Football
Marble Madness
Masters of Combat
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
Missile Defense 3D
Ninja Gaiden
Olympic Gold
Outrun Europe
Paper Boy
Phantasy Star
Prince of Persia
Rambo 3
Sonic the Hedgehog
Space Harrier 3D
Streets of Rage 2
Tecmo World Cup 93
Vampire: Master of Darkness
Wonderboy in Monsterland
Zillion 2

     First and third party system emulators

A great emulator for this console. This emulator is
Windows based,but there is a DOS version also available.
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Processor Type  Processor Speed  Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
Zilog Z80 (8-bit) 3.58 MHz (NTSC) \ 3.54 MHz (PAL) Texas Instruments TMS9928A VDP 8 KB \ 16 KB
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
256x224 (NTSC) \ 256x240 (PAL) 64 colors (32 on screen) 16 sprites max Texas Instruments SN76489 PSG (4 channel mono),
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
Cartridge \ Sega Game Card 256 KB \ 32 KB 318  
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
None None D-Pad (8-way), Two Action Buttons Light Gun, 3D Glasses, Telecon Pack (Mark III), FM Sound Unit (Mark III)
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
Two (2) None Expansion Port RF, Composite
Power Supply - External Other Outputs  Other Details \ Notes
Input: AC 120V, 60Hz
Output: DC 9V, 1A
None Channel Switch, Pause button on console
Sega Master System Owners Manual - NTSC (PDF) - 1.33 MB
Sega Master System 2 Owners Manual - PAL (PDF) - 1.74 MB

     Peripherals, Promotions, Commercials, Brochures, Etc.
Sega Mark III \ Master System Television Commercials

Sega Mark III \ Master System Advertisements

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