Super Monaco GP (8-Bit)



Racing everywhere but in our hearts.


PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous


GENRE: Racing

RELEASE DATE: 09/90 – (US), 1990 – (EU)


Super Monaco GP for the Master System doesn’t resemble the arcade game of the same name nor does it play like the Genesis port. The first-person view has been removed in favor of a third-person view a la World Grand Prix. While each race still has fourteen racers, you’ll only see two cars on the screen at the same time, due to system limitations. The in-depth World Championship Mode has been replaced by a VS. Battle Mode. And, unlike the Genesis version which had superb handling, the controls here all but ruin the experience.



The cleanest roads this side of the border.


Before you take to the dirty streets of Monaco, you first have to assemble your car. Transmissions run from Automatic to three different manual speeds. Automatic takes forever to accelerate, but is easier to control. 3-speed, 5-speed, and 7-speed allow for quicker acceleration, but are more difficult to steer. Wings range from light to heavy. The heavier the wing, the more traction you’ll have, but the harder turns will be to make. There are four types of engines with differing top-speeds and weights. And the softness/hardness of your Tires will affect both traction and durability.



These engines sound like Cocktails of the Future.


If you choose an automatic transmission, you accelerate and brake with the face buttons, like you would any other racing game. Selecting a manual transmission means that you shift gears with the face buttons in order to accelerate and brake. This actually makes acceleration easier, since the game all but does it for you. Braking, however, is a nightmare. Rather than you having complete control over the brakes as you veer around a sharp turn, you have to deduce when to downshift based on how quickly your car decelerates. The time it takes for your car to decelerate differs based on the parts used to assemble your car. This makes for considerable guesswork just to turn and little enjoyment of the race proper.



I predict a crash around the next bend.


All the D-pad does is steer and poorly, at that. Even if you make your car as light as an aluminum derby racer, it’s next to impossible to emerge from a sharp turn without sliding onto the grass or crashing into a sign. I’ve taken turns where I’ve slowed down and jammed the left/right buttons down as hard as I possibly can, and my car still drifts onto the grass like I’m not even controlling it.





The poor controls are unfortunate, since Super Monaco GP has a lot to offer for an 8-bit racing title. The Grand Prix mode has 16 races, more than enough to keep you occupied. If you just want to get a feel for the different course layouts or only have time for one race, VS. Battle has you covered. Assembling your car adds some light sim touches. While the game could have a touch more detail in the course layouts (it’s hard to tell Spain from Japan from England), from a technical standpoint, I appreciate that Sega didn’t even try to replicate the first-person view from the arcade and the Genesis, nor did they overload the Master System with more on-screen action than it could handle.



Just bury my car in the pot fields.

Your ability to enjoy Super Monaco GP depends solely on how difficult the game is for you to control. Some might argue that the Genesis version’s controls are just as unforgiving, but at least in the latter, I had full control over my racer. Here, it feels like the game and I share responsibility over my car, and the game has no intention of letting me succeed. Keep your crooked races, Monaco, I’m going home.





The F1 Dumpling Gang races to the store for capers and wine!



Apparently, Sega’s trying to bore consumers into buying the Game Gear with this drab cover.


PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous


GENRE: Racing

NEEDS: Gear-to-Gear Cable for multiplayer

RELEASE DATE: 10/06/90 – (JP), 04/91 – (US)


Despite running on a handheld with the same processor as the Master System, Super Monaco GP for the Game Gear moves faster and controls better than its home console counterpart. Even at high speeds, the tight controls allow you to turn sharply without careening off the raceway, unlike the Master System version. Whether you’re using an automatic or a 7-speed transmission, your car soars down the track, like you just threw a gram of cocaine into the gas tank. This fix turns Super Monaco GP from an unplayable title into an enjoyable one.



“Outta my way, Chuckles, I’m late for my probation hearing.”


Both versions share the same features, save for some minor changes. While you can still assemble your car – tires, wings, transmission, motors – there are fewer options to choose from. The Grand Prix mode returns, complete with all sixteen courses. The VS. Battle is back as well, but only if you have a Gear-to-Gear Cable. In order to play any two-player mode, you’ll need to have two Game Gears, two copies of the game, and a cable to make the magic happen. A ridiculous setup to be sure, but in 1990, that’s just the way things were.



Japan apologizes for its track’s excessive curves.


I wouldn’t like playing such a fast game on a small, blurry screen, but there’s no denying that the portable Super Monaco GP is the better of the two 8-bit versions. Why Sega couldn’t make the Master System version run this well is beyond me.



Posts created 353

15 thoughts on “Super Monaco GP (8-Bit)

    1. Given how fast the Genesis/arcade versions are, I’m not sure they could have recreated it to optimal standards for the MS. So they just gave us a crappy alternate version instead…

  1. Sega gave Master System owners an injustice with this release. It should of been superior to the game gear version, at least in the graphics department. What’s with the split screen anyway..?

  2. Good to know about the GG version – I tend to assume GG versions are inferior to their SMS counterparts due to screen shrinkage and reduced field of view, but clearly they’ve compensated well in this case.

  3. The SGG version still holds up quite well — I know, I was playing it last night.

    I bought my SGG shortly after its release in 1991 (using the money from my 11th birthday that June). My father bought most of the launch titles and let me buy them from him as I earned money through the summer — Super Monaco GP was one of those titles.

    Anyway I was familiar with the title due to having the Genesis version, but I was not familiar with World Grand Prix which is the predecessor to this game. I liked being able to customize your setup, and all of the tracks included, which set the game apart as more serious “racing” game compared to say OutRun and Hang-On (on my SMS), which I adored (especially OutRun) but were clearly arcade games.

    The game’s difficulty curve is still pretty challenging, and it’s still fun to fire it up and go through the circuits. One of these days I might actually FINISH the Grand Prix mode!

    Having never played the SMS version I assumed it played the same as the SGG one — very disappointing to hear that the controls are so poor!

    1. Hey there Luke! It’s awesome to know that you still play your Game Gear. How’s it holding up nearly 26 years later?

      Yeah, I would’ve thought that the SMS and Game Gear versions would be exactly the same as well, but GG definitely came out the victor there. I wonder if that’s going to be a trend in the coming months when SMS titles start to appear more on the GG…

      1. My SGG is in need of a refurbish — bad capacitors so the screen is very dark, but it still plays and sounds fine. I still have all of my games, a library of about 25 games or so from childhood. Still have the carry strap on it as well, which I put on the night I bought it!

        The SGG was the first game console I bought with my own money, and bought many of the games myself as well. As such I still have a ton of affection for the system and logged many, many hours on it pretty much from when I bought it until I went to college from 7 years later. (In fact, I may have brought it with me freshman year…) The backlit screen was great for sneaking some plays in after “lights out!”

        I actually was playing emulated on the GBA, but the refurb is on the books as a project for this year.

        By the way, just found the blog a little while ago, really digging it! Long live SEGA!

        1. Thanks for sharing your experience with the Game Gear! I don’t hear from too many folks with fond memories of that handheld, so it’s nice to get some positive feedback on it.

          My Game Gear writeup will be next week. I can’t wait to play some of those games. Any ones you’d recommend?

  4. If you mean launch titles, you already covered one of the best in Revenge of Drancron. Castle of Illusion is great, and Dragon Crystal has been a constant in my life since the summer of 1991. I like G-LOC but a lot of folks are down on it.

    Beyond launch, some of my favorites include Vampire: Master of Darkness (a bonafide classic AFAIAC), Shinobi and Shinobi 2 (sort of Revenge of Shinobi meets Mega Man), X-Men and Gamesmasters Legacy, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and MMPR: The Movie (super smooth fighting games, no matter what you think of the license), the Sonic games, Ax Battler (sort of Golden Axe meets Zelda 2), and I am sure I am forgetting some!

    I very much look forward to seeing your SGG coverage and all things SEGA!

  5. Pingback: Pengo | Sega Does

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