SegaDoes Ep. 34: Top 10 Master System Games, ’85-’89


Alex Kidd - The Lost Stars (UE) [!]004


At long last, the cold, hard facts. Which Master System games are the best? Sam and I have the answers. The indisputable, absolutely correct answers. We delve into our personal top picks, then cobble together a unified (somewhat) top 10 list. Props to Sam for allowing me to squeeze a couple of my favorite games on there, despite his ambivalence towards them.

Listen/download here.

After we’ve discussed the majority of the Master System games in the next few years, we will do another podcast discussing The Top 10 Master System Games of All Time. I’ll be curious to see which games on our current list stay and which games exit.

Leave your own top Master System picks in the comments below. We await healthy discussion.


19 thoughts on “SegaDoes Ep. 34: Top 10 Master System Games, ’85-’89

  1. First off, fantastic episode. I love every second of it. I think your list is really good. I would say for me personally I can understand R-Type being number 1. Phantasy Star was for me like Sam said, that gaming moment of MGS etc. I too would not go back and play Phantasy Star again having played it. But if somehow I’d never played either, I would pick Phantasy Star as the top game. But I would be most likely to go back and play R-Type or WB3 now,

    Once again I think you are giving the SMS some short shrift again. You talk about stuff not really working from arcade ports, but a lot of it did. You even gave Outrun a B. Maybe I liked it even more because I enjoy a good racer. I image genre bias had a lot to do with some it. (Someone loves shooters and R-Type is number one)

    Look for a single developer,mostly, they put out slot of good games. When you say there was a lot of crap, I think you are kind of caught in a recently played games bias, 1989 was not a good year.

    My position has always been the SMS has a lot of good and average games. But way less bad games. And only a few really standout games. So I decided to tally your reviews as a reminder, since you seem to have forgotten a lot of pretty good games.

    Here is a tally of your review scores so far excluding stuff like snail maze, and tallying the most relevant review scor when you listed multiple. And not including RC Gran Prix which was 91. (I also chose the good mood Fantasy Zone score.)

    A: 9 games. (Including the original Wondeboy that you left off your list.)
    B: 44 games
    C: 40 games
    D: 28 games
    F: 7 games

    Even discounting the few games I thought you rated to low (which probrably come down a lot on genre bias. I overwhelmingly agreed with most of your reviews.) That’s a good 53 (A and B) games you could probrably recommend to people to play. And another 40 (C) where if you bought them you probrably at least didn’t feel like you wanted your money back. Leaving only about 35 (D and F) where if you got theses game you were thinking WTF is this shit. I think that’s a pretty good ratio for a system. A lot of OK games.

    It’s very heartening to hear there are some good 90 and later games. Mostly I’ve never played them. Only heard what other people had said. Like Imhear the game Sam mentioned, Lucky Dime caper starring Donald Duck is very good. I’ve never played it know much about it. I know this guy on a forum who swears up and down about how good 91 and later games are. Supposedly Power Strike 2 is the best 8-bit shooter in existence, I never even heard of it.

    Anyway fantastic episode, great to hear you hammer out this list. A lot of good points were made, and looking forward to see how the system fairs in the US second fiddle future for the system. (Was seeing a lot of ads in old game mags where Sega positions it as its budget system.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the thoughts, Sean, I love reading your comments.

      You mention genre bias. I think, for me, it’s console bias. I’m an NES boy and I really don’t think I can extract that from my blood. Nor would I want to, really, but this predilection for Nintendo sometimes makes it hard for me to see clearly.

      You say that I have forgotten a lot of good games. You’re right, as I went through, I realized that there were a lot more games that were decent then I originally thought. 1989 really was the worst year and colored my thinking considerably.

      That being said, the fact that I couldn’t remember half of these games speaks a lot to their longevity, in my opinion. I can remember almost all of the SG-1000 games, even the bad ones. They were all distinct, all weird. Even the halfway decent Master System games have a tendency to blur together.

      Poor Sega. For a company that more or less supported their console singlehandedly for years, they did a pretty good job.


      • Well for me, the NES had more games that were all time greats. And the SMS had only a few. But the NES had its share of forgettable games, but it could kind of buttress its reputation against a rather large list of excellent games.

        I look at NES and I think about these iconic games, SMB 1-3, Contra, Final Fantasy, Zelda, Kirby, Catslevanis 1 and 3, and many many more.

        If I was to say look at iconic SMS games if I had to really narrow it down , Phantasy Star, The Wonder Boy trilogy, Alex Kidd 1, Golvelious. (Seriously a game that should be in everyone’s vocabulary,) R-Type reluctantly (Only because it wasn’t exclusive to the SMS, it did appear in a more convoluted but arcade accurate TG-16 form.)

        But one of the things I’m doing in my spare time now is archiving magazines for Retromags. As I scan these old issues of EGM in I’m seeing a lot of really forgettable Flood of NES games that time has forgotten. You are probrably well aware of them because of your previous project. Like Kabuki Quantum Fighter (actually this one is pretty interesting)

        I got to experience both as I had obviously many friends with NES. (I actually got a NES in like 92 and used it to rent a lot of post SNES NES games) I always felt I had made the right choice with the SMS. For as great a time I had playing NES games ,mthere was always that time going to a friends house and finding out Dr. Chaos was no where near as extitomg as the box. Goonies 2 didn’t exactly make a fun game to play. Predator and Amagon were experiences in frustration. (Ok I have a secret liking for Predator after having spent a summer beating it but still.) I generally enjoyed like 80% of the SMS games I had. Despite some generic titles.

        Also the Nintendo anti competitive stuff wasn’t just specific games. It was , you will only make games for Nintendo. Especially in Japan. Nobody was willing to cross them and jump ship. Namco was really the first to jump ship after being fed up with Nintendo. But it really took a lawsuit against Nintendo to end the practice. Which Nintendo lost. And really opened the floodgates. Genesis had Sega support for sure, but it was the third party support that really made it successful. Your right the SMS had unrealized potential, it never really stood a chance against Nintendo. Had software development been more open maybe it could have. Who knows, maybe all the European stuff changed that. It certainly got third party support over there, and for some reason was far more successful than the NES.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Though not super relevant, I wanted to add a comment about SMS Choplifter. The heavier feel is true to the games design. The SMS version controls and plays like the original computer game, and the arcade port it was based on. The SG-1000 version dumbed down the control it seems likely and didn’t capture the piloting a helicopter feeling it seems like. Maybe that’s why you like it better because it’s easier to control? But it’s really not in the spirit of the game where you need to master it’s unique physics, leading to mastery and the feeling of piloting a real helicopter in a sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great list guys! I can’t argue very much with the games you picked. Luckily I owned almost all of these games growing up and I didn’t have many of the bad games. This is probably why I have such nostalgia for the SMS. I was never jealous of my NES friends. I think my biggest disagreement of your reviews so far would be Kenseiden. I would recommend that game to anyone. I think you gave that one a C+ and I would’ve had it in my top 10. I would also have Golden Axe in my top ten. It’s an ’89 game and I know you haven’t reviewed it yet. It’s only 1 player and obviously it’s inferior to the 16 bit version, but it’s an excellent game. Also Alex Kidd in Miracle World is much better than Lost Stars even though the latter is pretty good.
    Good luck on your NES book Dylan. My brother in law is a huge NES fan and it’ll make a great gift.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m actually looking forward to the rest of the SMS library to be reviewed more than the Genesis games. I’ve imported some of them via eBay and there are some great ones that we missed here in North America.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Now I’m going to have to track down a Wonder Boy 3 and Fantasy Zone 2 cart so I can play these wonderful games I somehow missed during the era.

    I really wish you would of reviewed Golden Axe because I think it deserves to be on the list. Instead it will get an unfair low score when you compare it with the Genesis version.

    My top 10 would be close to yours, but I would take Out the lost stars and add Golden Axe. First place would go to Phantasy Star because it is exclusive to the Master System. Rtype, while excellent, was a port and had some really bad flicker.

    Looking forward to the final top ten. There is one game that I suspect will knock out Wonder Boy 3, and Definitely knock out Golvellius it’s that good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If Golden Axe for the Master System is good, I’ll give it a good score. More often than not, 8-bit versions of 16-bit games suffer tremendously in their port job. Both you and ET have said MS Golden Axe was good, though, so I’ll remember that when I play.


      • Golden Axe and Space Harrier look alot different than I remember. All joking aside, If EGM gave a good review to a Sega game, it must have been good. I swore those guys hated Sega back in the day.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I haven’t played nearly enough of these games, to make a thorough contribution here. I currently own a SMS collection that, albeit very repectable in size (63 games), is mainly post-89 stuff. And since I feel compelled to win every game I start (and I have many consoles), I have only come around playing a minority of them (I own Zillion, Golvellius, Wonderboy 2 & 3, while I have played none of these). Nonetheless despite being way less knoledgeable on the topic than you, Sam and Sean; I would still like to offer the following remarks, observations and opinions …

    1. Despite your remark about the underwhelming arcade ports (type Outrun, Space harrier, …), Arcade ports still make up half of the list: “Alex Kidd and the Lost stars”, “Wonderboy 2”; “Shinobi”; “Choplifter”; “R-Type” all started life in the arcades. Obviously this partly reflects the direction Sega went with their console. But on the other hand there definitely are some great to good SMS-exclusive alternatives that didn’t make the cut (“Alex Kidd in Miracle World”; Kenseiden; “Aztec Adventure”, “Psycho Fox”; “Cyborg Hunter”). Of course this is not an argument against the greatness of these ports, but rather an open question on how heavily console exclusivity should be weighted in these kinds of lists

    2. I can’t believe that “Alex Kidd in Miracle world” didn’t make the list. It is one of my all-time favourite games. If “Phantasy Star” gets rewarded extra points for it’s historical importance, than the innovations in Miracle World should not go unnoticed either … And it still plays wonderfully

    3. It is rather shocking to me that so few straight-A-to-B-platformers (“Lost Stars” and ‘Shinobi” ) make a 2nd-half-of-the-eighties-games-list. Genre bias might have a little to do with it (Wonderboy, Miracle World, Psychofox, …). But still going through all the reviews on this blog, I was actually surprised that the genre made up such a small percentage of early Master System releases. Is this the same for the NES Dylan?

    4.If ever I am knoledgeable enough to churn up such a list myself, my own biases (Based upon your reviews and those of others. ) would have me probably include more deeper console experiences (“Ys”, “Spellcaster”, …) over shooters (R-type, Fantasy Zone) and arcade experiences (choplifter).

    5. I usually have a total different outlook on SMS games than Sam … But I passionately agree with him on the Nineties blowing most of this list away!

    6. Most important of all! Thank you Dylan for the great content this blog keeps on providing us! You are doing a great job!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Pieter. I always appreciate your insight and comments.

      As for your question about platformers, the NES had far more than the Master System. Though really you could say that the NES had more examples of just about every genre than the Master System, due to the sheer amount of games released for the thing. I will say that I think we’ll see more platformers for the Master System beginning in 1990. Platformers are one of my favorite genres, so I’m looking forward to it.


  7. Another great podcast guys.
    I mostly agree, I think R-Type is awesome on the SMS they actually control the flicker (enemies bullets do not flicker) so there is no unfair deaths. Plus it does have it’s own ‘exclusive’ level.

    On another note, if he is willing I think Sean would make for a great guest appearance on the show. I look forward to Sean’s insight almost as much as the reviews themselves. Hope this continues for Sega’s upcoming systems as we will soon be entering the timeframe when Sega were in their pomp.

    Stay Sega everyone


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for the pair of shout-outs, gentlemen. Keep up those rabbit trails; they’re loads of fun. Good episode. Though I haven’t played the SMS version of R-Type, by all accounts, it’s a relative technical marvel on the console, and since it’s already an outstanding game, it probably deserves that top spot for an early title. I look forward to your coverage of some Genesis titles, because that’s where I’ll be able to begin to chime in more, having been a Genesis owner now since its bit boom in ’91.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave Your Mark!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s