Sega Genesis

Sega Genesis
Sega Genesis
North American logo
European/Australasian logo
The original Japanese Mega Drive
Model 2 Sega Genesis w/ controller

Top: Original Japanese Mega Drive
Sega Genesis model 2
Other variations are pictured under Variations below
Also known as Mega Drive
Manufacturer Sega
Generation Fourth generation
Release date
  • JP October 29, 1988
  • NA August 14, 1989
  • EU November 30, 1990
Units sold Estimated from 37.3 to over 40.8 million[s 1]
Media ROM cartridge
CPU 68000 and Z80
Online services Sega Meganet, Sega Channel, XBAND
Best-selling game

Sonic the Hedgehog (pack-in), 15 million[9]
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (pack-in), 6 million[10]

Aladdin, 4 million[11]
Predecessor Sega Master System
Successor Sega Saturn

The Sega Genesis is a fourth-generation video game console developed and produced by Sega. It was originally released in Japan in 1988 as Mega Drive (メガドライブ Mega Doraibu?), then in North America in 1989 as Sega Genesis, and in Europe, Australia and other PAL regions in 1990 as Mega Drive. The reason for the two names is that Sega was unable to secure legal rights to the Mega Drive name in North America. The Sega Genesis is Sega's third console and the successor to the Sega Master System with which it has backward compatibility.

The controversy over games like Mortal Kombat in the United States forced Sega to create the first content rating system for video games, the Videogame Rating Council, rather than have the games heavily censored. The rating system allowed Sega to ship games with little to no censorship and gave it a competive edge when the same game was released by Nintendo. The success of those games eventually forced Nintendo to join its rating system.

The Sega Genesis was the first of its generation to achieve notable market share in Europe and North America. The Sega Genesis was launched to compete with the Nintendo Entertainment System and NEC's PC-Engine. Two years later, Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and the competition between the two would dominate the 16-bit era of video gaming. The console began production in Japan in 1988 and ended with the last new licensed game being released in 2002 in Brazil.[12] The Sega Genesis was Sega's most successful console; though Sega has never released a total sales figure quote, sales estimates in the past have ranged from as low as 29 million to over 40.8 million.[sn 1] Several add-ons were created including the Mega-CD and 32X which extended its capabilities. The console and its games continue to be popular among fans, collectors, retro gamers, emulation enthusiasts and the fan translation scene.[24] Licensed 3rd party variations of the console are still being produced to this day, and there are also several indie game developers continuing to produce games for the console. Many games have been re-released in compilations for newer consoles, offered for download on various online services, such as Wii Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and Steam, or both.



The original Mega Drive logo

Although the Sega Master System was a success in Europe, and later also Brazil, it failed to ignite much interest in the North American or Japanese markets, which, by the mid-to-late 1980s, were both dominated by Nintendo's large market shares.[25][26][27] Meanwhile in the arcades, the Sega System 16 had become a success. Hayao Nakayama, Sega's CEO at the time, decided to make its new home system utilize a similar 16-bit architecture.[3] The final design was eventually also used in the Mega-Tech, Mega-Play and System-C arcade machines. Any game made for the Mega Drive hardware could easily be ported to these systems.[28]

During development the hardware was called "Mark V",[29] but Sega CEO Hayao Nakayama officially named it "Mega Drive." The name was said to represent superiority (Mega), and speed (Drive), with the then powerful Motorola 68000 processor in mind.[30] Sega used the name Mega Drive for the Japanese, European, Asian, Australian and Brazilian versions of the console. The North American version went by the name "Sega Genesis" due to a trademark dispute.[31]


The console was released in Japan as Mega Drive on October 29, 1988.[32] Sega announced a North American release date for the system (as Sega Genesis) on January 9, 1989.[33] Sega initially attempted to partner with Atari Corporation for distribution of the console in the US, but the two could not agree to terms and Sega decided to do it themselves.[34] Sega was not able to meet the initial release date and US sales began on August 14, 1989 in New York City and Los Angeles. The Sega Genesis was released in the rest of North America later that year[35] on September 15, 1989 with the suggested retail price of $189.99, $10 less than originally planned, and also $10 less than the competing TurboGrafx-16[3]

The European release, as Mega Drive, was on November 30, 1990. Following on from the European success of the Sega Master System, the Mega Drive became a very popular console in Europe. Unlike in other regions where the NES had been the dominant platform, the Sega Master System was the most popular console in Europe at the time. In the United Kingdom the most well known of Sega's advertising slogans was "To be this good takes AGES, to be this good takes SEGA". Some of these adverts employed adult humour and innuendo with sentences like "The more you play with it, the harder it gets" displayed with an illustration of the waggling of a joystick.[36] Sega even spent several million pounds on four or five commercials starring Peter Wingfield as Jimmy, the video game addict to use his celebrity power to help popularize the slogan.[37] It eventually spun off a popular commercial advertising a Cyber Razor Cut. A prominent figure in the European marketing was the "Sega Pirate", a talking one-eyed skull that starred in many TV adverts with a generally edgy and humorous attitude. Since the Mega Drive was already two years old at the release in Europe, the many games available at launch were naturally more in numbers compared to the launches in other regions. The ports of arcade titles like Altered Beast, Golden Axe and Ghouls 'n Ghosts, available in stores at launch, provided a strong image of the console's power to deliver an arcade-like experience. Although the Sega Genesis was not capable of arcade-exact graphics & sound, it was closer than what was possible on the NES or Master System.[38] The arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991 was just as successful as in North America, with the new Sega mascot becoming popular throughout the continent.[38]

In Brazil, the Mega Drive was released by Tec Toy in 1990,[39] only a year after the Brazilian release of the Sega Master System. Tec Toy also ran the Internet service Sega Meganet in Brazil as well as producing games exclusively for the Brazilian market.[40] On December 5, 2007, Tec Toy released a portable version of Mega Drive with 20 built-in games.[41][42] In India, distribution of the Mega Drive was handled by Shaw Wallace, with each products sold for 18,000 Indian rupees.[43] Sega entered the partnership in the northern hemisphere spring of 1995 because it wanted to circumvent an 80% import tariff.[44] Samsung handled it in Korea. Samsung renamed the console "Super Gam*Boy",[45] while retaining the Mega Drive logo on the system in addition to their own.[46] It was later renamed as "Super Aladdin Boy".[45]

Console wars

The Mega Drive initially competed against the aging 8-bit NES, over which it had superior graphics and sound. Despite this, the Mega Drive was all but ignored in Japan as soon as it was launched. Despite some positive coverage from magazines Famitsu and Beep!, Sega only managed to ship 400,000 units in the first year.[31] In order to increase sales, Sega released various peripherals and games,[31] including an online banking system and answering machine called the Sega Mega Anser.[47] Despite this, the Mega Drive remained a distant third in Japan behind Nintendo's Super Famicom and NEC's PC Engine throughout the 16-bit era.[48]

For the North American market, new Sega of America CEO Michael Katz instituted a two-part approach to build sales in that region. The first part involved a marketing campaign to challenge Nintendo head-on and emphasize the more arcade-like experience available on the Genesis,[49] summarized by the slogans "Gotta get Genesis" and "Genesis does what Nintendon't". Since Nintendo owned the console rights to most arcade games of the time, the second part involved creating a library of instantly-recognizable titles which used the names and likenesses of celebrities and athletes such as Pat Riley Basketball, Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf, James 'Buster' Douglas Knockout Boxing, Joe Montana Football, Tommy Lasorda Baseball, Mario Lemieux Hockey and Michael Jackson's Moonwalker.[50][51] Nonetheless, it had a hard time overcoming Nintendo's ubiquitous presence in the consumer's home.[52]

A typical in-game screen shot of Sonic the Hedgehog, taken from its first level, Green Hill Zone.

In mid-1990, Sega CEO Hayao Nakayama hired Tom Kalinske to replace Katz as CEO of Sega of America. Although Kalinske initially knew little about the video game market, he surrounded himself with industry-savvy advisors. A believer in the razor and blades business model, he developed a four-point plan: cut the price of the console; create a US-based team to develop games targeted at the American market; continue and expand the aggressive advertising campaigns; and replace the bundled game, Altered Beast, with a new title, Sonic the Hedgehog.[52] The Japanese board of directors initially disapproved of the plan[53] but all four points were approved by Nakayama. Magazines praised Sonic as one of the greatest games yet made and Sega's console finally took off as customers who had been waiting for the SNES decided to purchase a Genesis instead.[52] Nintendo's console debuted against an established competitor, while NEC's TurboGrafx-16 failed to gain traction and NEC soon pulled out of the market.[54]

Due the Genesis' head start, much larger library of games, and lower price point,[55] the Genesis was able to secure an estimated 60% of the American 16-bit console market by April 1992.[56] Sega's advertising continued to position the Genesis as the "cooler" console,[55] and at one point in its campaign, it used the term "Blast Processing" (the origin of which is based on an obscure programming trick on the console's graphics hardware[57]) to suggest that the processing capabilities of the Genesis were far greater than those of the SNES.[58] A Sony focus group found that teenage boys would not admit to owning a Super NES rather than a Genesis.[59] Neither console could maintain a definitive lead in market share for several years, with Nintendo's share of the 16-bit machine business dipping down to 37% at the end of 1993,[60] and Sega accounting for 55% of all 16-bit hardware sales during 1994.[61] A 2004 study of NPD sales data would later reveal that the Sega Genesis had prevailed over the Super NES in the American 16-bit console market.[62]

In Europe the Mega Drive maintained support until 1998,[32] where it managed to sell 8 million units,[8] outselling all other consoles up through that time.[32] Brazil also saw success with the Mega Drive, where it held 75% of the market share.[32]

Videogame Rating Council

In 1993 American media began to focus on the mature content of some video games, with games like Night Trap for the Sega CD receiving unprecedented media scrutiny. By far the most controversial title of the year, however, was Acclaim's Mortal Kombat. Parents and senators alike were outraged by the level of graphic violence depicted in the arcade version of the game. In response, Nintendo decided to replace the blood in the game with "sweat" and the arcade's gruesome "fatalities" with less violent finishing moves.[63]

Instead of opting for censorship of the Genesis port, Sega instituted America's first video game ratings system called the Videogame Rating Council (or VRC) for all their current systems. Ratings ranged from the family friendly GA rating to the adults-only ratings of MA-13, and MA-17. This let Sega take a different approach with their release of Mortal Kombat.[63] At face value, the blood was completely gone, not even sweat remained, and most were finishing moves toned down even more than the SNES version, but an ominous opening screen about the value of "codes" implied something greater was under the hood. All the arcade's blood and uncensored finishing moves could be enabled by entering the infamous "Blood Code."[64] Inclusion of the code let Sega get away with the low rating of MA-13, rather than MA-17, while the SNES version shipped without a rating at all.[64] Despite the ratings system, or perhaps because of it, the Genesis version of Mortal Kombat was well received by gaming press, as well as fans, outselling the SNES version four to one,[65][66] while Nintendo was criticized for censoring the SNES version of the game.[63] With these rating systems in place, Nintendo decided its censorship policies were no longer needed. Consequently, the SNES port of Mortal Kombat II was released uncensored.[64]


Genesis model 2 with the Sega CD and 32X add-ons attached

In early 1991, Sega announced the Mega-CD, to be released in Japan in late 1991 and in North America (as the Sega CD) in 1992. While this add-on did contain a faster CPU, more memory, an additional PCM sound chip, and some enhanced graphical capabilities (similar to the SNES's mode 7) compared to the Mega Drive itself,[67] the main focus of the device was to expand the size of games. Cartridges of the day typically contained 8 to 16 megabits of data, while a CD-ROM could hold 640 megabytes (5120 megabits). While it became known for several games, including Sonic CD and Night Trap, the expansion only sold 6 million units worldwide.[68]

At June 1994's Consumer Electronics Show, Sega presented the 32X as the "poor man's entry into 'next generation' games."[69] The 32X was originally conceived by Sega of Japan as a fully compatible Mega Drive based console with enhanced color capabilities.[70] Sega of America R&D head Joe Miller convinced Sega of Japan to convert it into an add-on to the existing Genesis. Although this add-on contained two 32-bit CPUs, it failed to attract either developers or consumers as the superior Saturn had already been announced for release the next year. Originally released in November 1994 (after the release of the Sega Saturn in Japan) for US$159, Sega dropped the price to $99 after only a few months and ultimately cleared the remaining inventory at $19.95.[70] Although initial sales were good, thanks mostly to Doom and Star Wars Arcade, Sega was only able to move 665,000 units worldwide by the end of fiscal year 1994.[15]

In 1997 both the Mega CD and Sega 32X were discontinued.[21]

32-bit era and beyond

By the end of 1995, Sega was supporting five different consoles and two add-ons: Saturn, Mega Drive, Game Gear, Pico, Mega-CD, 32X and Master System in PAL and some South American (predominantly Brazilian) markets. In Japan the Mega Drive had never been successful and the Saturn was beating Sony's PlayStation, causing Sega of Japan CEO Hayao Nakayama to decide to discontinue the Mega Drive in Japan, and force Sega of America to launch the Saturn early in the summer of 1995. While this made perfect sense for the Japanese market, it was disastrous in North America: the market for Genesis games was much larger than for the Saturn but Sega was left without the inventory or software to meet demand. In comparison, Nintendo concentrated on the 16-bit market, and as a result, Nintendo took in 42 percent of the video game market dollar share with no next gen system.[1][22] While Sega was still able to capture 43 percent of the dollar share of the US video game market as a whole,[22] Nakayama's decision undercut the Sega of America executives; CEO Tom Kalinske, who oversaw the rise of the Genesis in 1991, grew uninterested in the business and resigned in mid 1996.[71]

The Mega Drive was supported until 1998 in Europe, when Sega announced it was dropping support for it.[32] It was discontinued along with its predecessor, the long-lived Sega Master System, to allow Sega to concentrate on its newer console, the Saturn.

In 1998, Sega licensed the Genesis to Majesco in North America so that it could re-release the console.[2] Majesco began re-selling millions of formerly unsold cartridges at a budget price together with 150,000 units of the second model of the Genesis,[2] until it later released the Sega Genesis 3. In 1998 Frogger became the last commercially licensed game to be released in North America.[72] Majesco released the Genesis 3 at $50, Nintendo matched its price with their new model of the Super NES. Majesco then dropped the price of the Genesis 3 to US $40 and again to US $30, with Nintendo matching them dollar-for-dollar every step of the way. Software prices for both systems remained stagnant, ranging anywhere from US $10 to US $25 per title. By this time 16-bit sales only accounted for 10% of the total U.S. console market, but it was a brisk and fiercely fought share. Majesco would wind up selling between 1 and 2 million Genesis 3 consoles, along with 10 million or so Genesis cartridges for fiscal year 1998. In comparison, Nintendo would only sell 1 million SNES consoles and 6 million SNES carts.[3]


Like many other game consoles, the Mega Drive has a strong following among gaming enthusiasts and fans, even following its decline in the marketplace. The console has enjoyed continued popularity in the second-hand market and through emulation projects.

The first known Mega Drive emulator was called "Megadrive," and was released in 1994. This emulator was only capable of playing Sonic the Hedgehog without sound and with numerous errors.[73] In 1996, GenEM became the first fully functional Mega Drive emulator to be released.[74]

In 1997, former Genesis developer Steve Snake[74] began work on a new emulation project that would eventually be known as Kega Fusion, with the goal of perfect emulation. Sega officially commissioned Snake in the following year to create a Windows-compatible version that could be used to market some classic Genesis games in the "Sega Smash Pack."[75]

Another emulator, Gens, began development in 1999. This project achieved widespread popularity in the emulation community[76] and inspired many derivative projects.[77][78] However, the project ceased development in 2006[76] and never reached the same level of accuracy as Kega Fusion.[79] Both emulators feature online play and can record videos of gaming sessions.[79][80] A multi-system emulator, called RetroCopy, started emulating Mega Drive from version 0.666 (released Dec 12, 2009), and was the first emulator to emulate the Mega Drive VDP at a cycle accurate level.[81]

Emulation of the Mega Drive/Genesis is also available on home consoles and handheld units such as Sega's Dreamcast;[82] Nintendo's GameCube,[83] Wii,[84] and DS;[85] GamePark Holdings' GP2X;[86] Sony's PlayStation 2[87] and PlayStation Portable[88] and Microsoft's Xbox[89] and Xbox 360.[90] Emulators have also been produced for smart phones,[91] such as Apple Inc.'s iPhone[92] as well as various PDAs.[93]

In 2004, a trend emerged toward plug-and-play TV games and Radica Games released a licensed, self-contained, version of the Mega Drive in both North America (as the Play TV Legends Sega Genesis)[94] and Europe (as the Mega Drive 6-in-1 Plug 'n' Play). It contains six popular games in a small control box with a permanently connected control pad. It does not have a cartridge slot and thus is a dedicated console.[95]

The GameTap subscription gaming service included a Mega Drive emulator and had several dozen licensed Mega Drive games in its catalog.[96] These games have since been removed after the sale of Gametap to Metaboli. The Console Classix subscription gaming service also includes an emulator and has several hundred Mega Drive games in its catalog.[97]

Technical specifications

Mega Drive mainboard (PAL)
Mega Drive II mainboard (PAL)
Processor: Motorola 68000 16/32-bit processor @ 7.67 MHz (MC68HC000, CMOS version)
Co-processor: Zilog Z80 8-bit @ 3.58 MHz
Video display processor Yamaha YM7101, derivative of the VDP from the Sega Master System
Memory: 64K work RAM (68000), 64K video RAM, 8K work RAM (Z80)

Later hardware had an internal 1Kx16 ROM for the license display screen.

Display palette: 512 colors (3:3:3 RGB)
Onscreen colors: 64 (normal) or 183 (shadow/highlight mode)
Maximum onscreen sprites: 80 (320-pixel wide display) or 64 (256-pixel wide display)
Resolution: 256×224, 256×448, 320×224, 320×448, (PAL and NTSC)

256×240, 320×240, 256×480, 320×480 (PAL only), 256×192 (SMS games only)

Sound: Yamaha YM2612 5 channel FM and 1 channel FM/PCM, Texas Instruments SN76489 4 channel PSG (Programmable Sound Generator)

CPU and memory

The Mega Drive's CPU is a 16/32-bit Motorola 68000.[98] The maximum addressable memory is 16 MB from the ROM ($00000000-00400000 - 4 MB), to the RAM ($00FF0000-00FFFFFF - 64 KB). The 68000 runs at 7.61 MHz in PAL consoles, 7.67 MHz in NTSC consoles.[99] The Mega Drive also includes a Zilog Z80, which serves as secondary processor along with allowing complete Master System compatibility with only a passive adapter. The initial Mega Drive models used a Hitachi-made HD68HC000, while the Mega Drive 2 and later models used a Motorola MC68HC000, both fabricated in CMOS.

There is 64 KB of Main RAM, as part of the 68000 address space.[30] Also present is 64 KB of Video RAM,[32] for exclusive use and access by the VDP (Video Display Processor). The Z80 has 8 kilobytes of RAM for use as program RAM, which is also mapped into the 68000's address space. The Z80 can also access 32 kilobytes of the 68000s memory using bank-switching, which can be used as a sound bank while in use as an audio controller.

There is also 2 KB of Boot ROM, which is also known as the "Trademark Security System" (TMSS). When the console is started, it checks the game for certain code given to licensed developers. Unlicensed games without the code are thus locked out, but if a game is properly licensed, the ROM will display "Produced by or under license from Sega Enterprises Ltd.".[100] Also, as a hardware-feature, with later versions of the Trademark Security System "SEGA" must be written into an area of I/O memory ($A14000) in order to turn on the VDP. The TMSS was the subject of the legal case Sega v. Accolade.

Audio and video

There are two primary sound chips which can both be controlled by the Z80 or the 68000; the Yamaha YM2612 FM synth chip and the Texas Instruments SN76489 PSG chip.[32] The YM2612 is a stripped-down version of the YM2608, which is an upgraded version of the prolific Yamaha YM2203, used in many gaming machines throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. The Yamaha uses six FM channels with four operators each, and its clock speed is the same as that of the main CPU.

Stereo sound is output only through the headphone jack on model 1 systems and through AV out on model 2 systems along with mono signal.[30] Changes in the mixing circuit of late model 1 revisions, and all model 2's resulted in the hardware producing more distorted sound output than earlier models that bore the "High Definition Graphics" logo.[101]

The Mega Drive uses the Yamaha YM7101 for graphics generation and sprite control.[102] The YM7101 is based on the Master System's VDP (or Video Display Processor), which in turn is derived from the Texas Instruments TMS9918. The YM7101 includes additional display modes and capabilities along with the Master System VDP's original display modes (minus the original TMS9918 modes). Images can be output at 256 pixels (32 tiles) or 320 pixels (40 tiles) across and 224 scanlines (28 tiles) or 240 scanlines (30 tiles) down. The 240-line resolutions are only used on 50 Hz (i.e. PAL) displays, as the extra lines end up in the overscan of a 60 Hz (NTSC) signal.

NTSC games use the 224-line resolution to free up more vertical blanking time to send more updates to the VDP. Colors are chosen from a total of 512 possible colors, 3 bits per color channel; some games used a small amount of flicker to simulate more colors. Graphics consist of up to 80 sprites on screen and three background planes (Window, ScrollA, ScrollB), two of which (ScrollA and Window) share the same screen space. Palettes are stored in color RAM (CRAM) and consist of 16 colors each for a total of 64 colors.[103]

Inputs and outputs

On the front of the console are two controller input ports, which use 9-pin male D-subminiature connectors.[103] On the rear of all first-model Japanese Mega Drive units and on early American Genesis and PAL (European, Australasian and Asian) Mega Drive units is the EXT input port; a DE-9F (9-pin female D-connector) that was used with the Meganet modem peripheral, released only in Japan.[103] The power input varies depending on the model - a model 1 uses a 2.1mm barrel connector with a negative tip, and requires 9-10 volts DC at 1.2 A. The model 2 uses a EIAJ-03 connector with a positive tip, and requires 9-10 volts DC at 0.85 A . There is also an Expansion input port which is an Edge connector on the bottom right hand side of the console. It is used almost exclusively for connection for the Mega CD/Sega CD, though it was also used for the Sega Genesis 6 Cart Demo Unit (DS-16) in stores. This port is not present on the Genesis 3 model.[30]

The console's A/V output consists of a DIN connector with composite video, RGB video and audio outputs.[30] The Mega Drive and the first model Genesis have an 8-pin DIN socket (same as Sega Master System) which supports mono audio only, while the Mega Drive 2, Multi-Mega/CDX and other models have a 9-pin mini-DIN connector with both mono and stereo audio.[30] Stereo audio for the Mega Drive and the first model Genesis were supplied by the headphone jack, which is not present on later models.[30] Original model European and Asian Mega Drives and North American Geneses also include a built in RF modulator, which outputs via an RCA jack on the rear of the console; other models must use an external RF modulator for RF video/audio.[30]

Master System compatibility

Sega Power Base Converter on a model 1 Genesis

One of the key design features of the console is its backwards compatibility with Sega's previous console, the Sega Master System. The 16-bit design is based upon the 8-bit design, albeit enhanced and extended in many areas. In order to achieve backwards compatibility, the Master System's central processor and sound chip (the Zilog Z80[30] and SN76489 respectively) are included as coprocessors in the Mega Drive, and the Mega Drive's Video Display Processor (VDP) is capable of the Master System's VDP mode 4, though it cannot run in modes 0, 1, 2, or 3 (so the Mega Drive is not compatible with SG-1000 software or Master System software which uses these modes).[citation needed]

As the cartridge slot is of a different shape, Sega released the Power Base Converter, a separate device that sits between a Master System cartridge and the Mega Drive's cartridge slot. The Power Base Converter does not contain any Master System components, instead functioning as a pass-through device, and consisting almost entirely of passive circuitry. The converter contains a top slot for cartridge-based games along with a front slot for card-based games, as well as the 3-D glasses adapter. When a Master System game is inserted, the system puts the Z80 in control, leaving the Mega Drive's main 68000 processor idle. The Power Base Converter had inferior capacitors however, meaning that after a few years use, the system may suffer from glitchy play, to rectify this the user must remove the capacitors from the board or replace them.[30]

In Japan the device is known as the "Mega Adapter" (メガアダプタ). The Sega Mega Adapter is built for the Japanese Mega Drive cartridge slot, so it does not fit into the European Mega Drive and Genesis cartridge slot, like Japanese Mega Drive cartridges. It also has the Master System cartridge slot changed to the Sega Mark III/Japanese Master System pinout. Because of the Genesis VDP limitations listed before, it does not run SG-1000/SC-3000 games or Master System games that use the SG-1000 video modes. The Mega Adapter does not have the Yamaha YM2413 FM chip that enhances the sound of certain games. The PAL variant is called the "Master System Converter" in Europe.[104]

The Power Base Converter is not fully compatible with the redesigned Mega Drive 2. A second version, the "Master System Converter II", was released to address this problem. This second version adapter was produced in a far smaller quantity, lacks the slot for card-based games, and was only released in Europe.[30]

The only Master System game which does not work with this device is F-16 Fighting Falcon.[105] It was originally thought that the game card had more pins than the adapter could interface with, but it is actually the compatibility mode of the Mega Drive/Genesis that is responsible for the game not working, not the Power Base Converter itself.[citation needed]

Some Master System games (such as Shanghai and Alien Syndrome) are incompatible with the Mega Drive control pad, so a Master System control pad must be used instead.[citation needed] As it has the same connection port, the Master System pad can be plugged directly into the Mega Drive controller ports without any kind of adapter.[106]


Sega Genesis three button controller

The standard Mega Drive controller features three main buttons and a "start" button usually used for pausing mid-game. The controller itself has a distinctive rounded shape.[99] Sega later released a six-button version in 1993 coinciding with the release of Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition; this pad is slightly smaller and features three more face buttons, similar to the design of buttons on arcade fighting games.[99]

A number of other peripherals for the Mega Drive were released that add extra functionality. The Menacer Light Gun was developed in response to the Super Scope for the Super Nintendo and is compatible with the Menacer 6-game cartridge and a few other games.[107] The Sega Mouse was released for the Mega Drive in the Japanese and European markets,[108] as well as a North American version called the Sega Mega Mouse.[109] A foam-covered bat called the BatterUP and the TeeVGolf golf club were both released for the Mega Drive and SNES and provide support for similar games.[108][110]

Sega Genesis six button controller

One of the most unsuccessful peripherals was the Sega Activator, a 1993 peripheral based on a musical instrument called the Light Harp conceived by musician Assaf Gurner.[111] Marketed as a new type of martial arts simulator, it is an octagonal device that lays flat on the floor and reads a gamer's physical movements. As the player moves, infrared laser beams trigger which is translated into game inputs.[112] The light beams are easily distorted by a non-flat ceiling or obstructions such as blades of a ceiling fan or light fixture.[113] Along with pack-ins Eternal Champions, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition,[112] Comix Zone, Mortal Kombat 3, and Greatest Heavyweights of the Ring were all developed to support the peripheral.[112] It can also be used as an alternative to the standard three-button controller.[114] The Sega Activator was dismissed by consumers due to "unwieldiness and inaccuracy."[112] The $80 price point also contributed to the peripheral's lack of success.[112] The Sega Activator was ranked the third worst video game controller ever made by IGN editor Craig Harris.[115]

Both Electronic Arts (EA) and Sega released multitaps for the system to allow more than the standard two players to play at once.[103] Initially, EA's version, the 4-Play, and Sega's adapter, the Team Player, only supported each publisher's own titles. Later games were created to work on both adapters. Codemasters also developed the J-Cart system, providing two extra ports with no extra hardware, although the technology came late in the console's life and was only featured on a few games.[116]

The Mega Drive is also compatible with Sega Master System accessories through use of the Power Base Converter.[32][117]

Sega Virtua Processor

The graphics in Virtua Racing were comparable to those of Star Fox[118]

The practice of adding special chips to game cartridges had first been seen in various games on the NES. These chips effectively increased the console's capabilities, enabling visual effects such as split-screen scrolling (Super Mario Bros. 3) and enhanced tile switching (Kirby's Adventure), as well as providing improved battery backups (Castlevania 3). This concept was expanded on the SNES console with on-cartridge DSP chips and RISC processors (notably the Super FX chip used in Star Fox). The Super FX in particular enabled the console to render polygons in real time, as well as enabling scaling, rotation and stretching of much larger sprites than the console could handle on its own (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island). The external processors boosted the console's overall performance by offloading most of the rendering tasks from the main CPU.[118]

As these enhancements became more commonplace on the SNES, the stock of existing Mega Drive games began to look outdated in comparison. Sega quickly began work on an enhancement chip to compete with Nintendo's Super FX, resulting in the Sega Virtua Processor chip.[118] The chip enabled the Mega Drive to render polygons in real time and provided an "Axis Transformation" unit that handled scaling and rotation. Virtua Racing, the only game released for the Mega Drive to use this chip, ran at a significantly higher and more stable frame rate than similar games on the SNES.[118]

However, the chip was expensive to produce and increased the cost of the games that used it. At US$100, Virtua Racing was the most expensive domestic Genesis cartridge to be mass-produced.[118] Two other games, Virtua Fighter and Daytona USA were confirmed to have been planned for the SVP chip as well, but were instead moved into the Saturn's launch line-up.[118]


Original Japanese Mega Drive
Original PAL Mega Drive
Original Sega Genesis with High Definition Graphics logo
Majesco's Sega Genesis 3
AtGames's Sega Firecore
JP Mega Drive
PAL Mega Drive
Sega Genesis
Sega Genesis 3
Sega Firecore
JP Mega Drive model 2
PAL Mega Drive model 2
Sega Genesis model 2
Sega Multi Mega
Sega Genesis Nomad
JP Mega Drive 2
PAL Mega Drive 2
Sega Genesis 2
Sega Multi Mega
Sega Nomad

The Mega Drive has received more officially licensed variations than any other console. Each region has its own peculiarities and unique items, while other variations were exercises in reducing costs (such as the removal of the little-used 9-pin EXT. port) or expanding the capabilities of the Mega Drive.[30]

Sega also released a combined, semi-portable Mega Drive/Mega CD unit called the Sega Multi-Mega (Sega CDX in North America and Multi-Mega CDX in Brazil). Only 5,000 units were released in the United States in April 1994, making the unit "rare, very desirable, and quite collectable", according to Sega Force.[119]

Majesco's Sega Genesis 3 (single-chip and dual-chip versions) retains the Mode 4 support but has the Master System compatibility removed from the bus controller logic.[32] While 68000-based software can still use the Mode 4 capabilities, the Power Base Converter and other adapters are incompatible with this unit.[30]

The JVC X'Eye (known in Japan as the Victor Wondermega) was belatedly released in the North American market in September 1994 - about a year behind JVC's original target date of fall 1993. Its pack-ins included Prize Fighter, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia and a karaoke disc. JVC hoped to target an older, more affluent market with its console in the same way that Sega did with the CDX. However, only about 10,000 consoles were sold in all of North America.[119]

ATGames currently produces, and outsources the production of, officially-licensed, emulation-based Mega Drive consoles.[120]

Legacy and revival

The Sega Genesis has often been considered among the best video game consoles ever. In 2009, IGN named the Sega Genesis the fifth best video game console, citing its edge in sports games, the better home version of Mortal Kombat, and stating "what some consider to be the greatest controller ever created: the six button".[121] This wasn't the first time the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive have been recognized among the best video game consoles ever. In 2007, GameTrailers named the Sega Genesis as the sixth best console of all time in their list of top ten consoles that "left their mark on the history of gaming", noting its great games, a solid controller, and the "glory days" of Sonic The Hedgehog.[122] In January 2008 technology columnist Don Reisinger proclaimed that the Sega Genesis "created the industry's best console war to date", citing Sonic The Hedgehog, superior sports games, and backwards compatibility with the Sega Master System.[123] GamingExcellence also gave the Sega Genesis sixth place in 2008, declaring "one can truly see the Genesis for the gaming milestone it was".[124] At the same time, GameDaily rated it ninth of ten for its memorable games.[125]

A number of Mega Drive games have been released on compilation discs. These include Sonic Mega Collection and Sonic Gems Collection for PS2, Xbox and Nintendo GameCube; Sega Genesis Collection for PS2 and PSP and most recently Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (known as the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection in PAL territories) for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, which also supports Achievements/Trophies for various actions across all games and graphic smoothing. Some versions do feature slight emulation issues, such as sound problems on the Sega Genesis Collection. However, the more recent compilations have save states which work exactly like the save states on computer emulators in that they will save the exact point and conditions that the game was in when a player saved it. The usage of these states do not disqualify a player from acquiring a trophy/achievement in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, as it is a supported game feature.

During his keynote speech at the 2006 Game Developers Conference, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata announced that Sega was going to make a number of Genesis/Mega Drive titles available to download on the Wii's Virtual Console.[126] These games are now available along with other systems' titles under the Wii's Virtual Console.[126] At launch the 16-bit Sega games available on the North American Virtual Console were Altered Beast and Sonic the Hedgehog. In Europe Ecco the Dolphin and Golden Axe were also available in addition to the titles available in North America. There are also select Mega Drive titles available on the Xbox 360 such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2.

On September 1, 2008, WaterMelon released a demo of Pier Solar and the Great Architects; the game was later released in December 2010.[127] It is not only the first commercial role-playing game specifically developed for the console since 1996,[128] but also the biggest 16-bit game ever produced at 64 megabits,[129] as well as the only cartridge based game to optionally utilize the Sega CD with a special enhanced soundtrack and sound effects disc.[130] In their 100th blog post, WaterMelon announced that Pier Solar is about to have another production run, and will begin shipping new copies of the game in October or November 2011.[131]

On May 22, 2006, North American company Super Fighter Team released Beggar Prince, a game translated from a 1996 Chinese original. It was released worldwide and was the first commercial Genesis game release in North America since 1998.[132] On December 3, 2008, Super Fighter Team released Legend of Wukong, another translation of a 1996 Chinese game. Like Beggar Prince, it released worldwide and was the second North American commercial release since 1998.[133] On November 13, 2010, Super Fighter Team announced Star Odyssey at the Retro-gaming Connexion event in Crégy-Lès-Meaux, France.[134] Originally released in Japan under the title Blue Almanac, the game was slated for release in the US and even advertised in several print magazines, but ultimately the release was cancelled.[135] Super Fighter Team acquired a license from current IP holder Starfish-SD Inc. in order to make an official English release of the game finally possible.[136] It was released on June 22, 2011, exactly twenty years after the June 22, 1991 release of Blue Almanac.[137]

In Brazil the Mega Drive never ceased production, though Tec Toy's current models emulate the original hardware. The latest version, called "Mega Drive Guitar Idol", comes with two six-button joypads and a guitar controller with five fret buttons. The Guitar Idol game contains a mix of Brazilian and international songs.[138] The console has 87 built-in games, including some new ones from Electronic Arts, originally cellphone games: FIFA 2008, Need for Speed Pro Street, The Sims 2 and Sim City.[138] In 2008 Chinese company ATGames produced a new Mega Drive compatible console. It features a top-loading cartridge slot and includes two controllers similar to the six-button controller for the original Mega Drive. The console has 15 games built-in, and is region-free, allowing cartridge games to run regardless of their region of origin.[139] ATGames also produces a handheld version of the console.[140] Both machines have been released in Europe by distributing company Blaze Europe.[139] Mitashi, a consumer appliance manufacturer in India, released a version of the Mega Drive called Game-In Xtreme, with a few built in games. Even though the name 'Mega Drive' has never been mentioned, it plays 16-bit Mega Drive cartridges.[141] In North American during 2009, ATGames released two new officially licensed Genesis consoles: the Firecore[120] and the Gencore.[142] In addition to that, two new officially licensed Genesis portables also made their debut; the Retrogen,[143][144] and the Genmobile.[145] The Firecore can play newly developed "Truecolor" games.[120] All the consoles ship with twenty official Genesis games built in (with the exception of the Retrogen which, instead, is shipped with twenty homebrew games).[146]

See also

Sales numbers

  1. ^ Worldwide sales
    1st party: over 35.3 million[sn 1]
    3rd party: 3−4.5 million[sn 2][sn 3]
    Sega Nomad: 1 million[6]

    Regional sales
    North America: over 22.3−23.8 million (over 20.3 million 1st party[sn 1] + 1−2.5 million 3rd party[sn 2] + 1 million Sega Nomad[6])
    Brazil: 2 million[sn 3]
    Japan: 3.58 million[7]
    Europe: 8 million[8]
    Other: 3.42 million (may or may not include overlap with Tec Toy's pre 1995 sales)

Sales notes

  1. ^ a b c Sega has never released a total sales figure for the Sega Genesis. Most sources agree that 29 million units were sold worldwide, with 14 million of those in North America.[13][14] But, this data was originally released in 1995 before production and sales ended.[15]
    There is a detailed history of Sega's first party North American sales totaling over 20.3 million. A number confirmed by the New York Times' statement "some 20 million".[16]

    North American sales history
    1989-1990: 1.2 million[17]
    1991: 1.6 million[18]
    1992: 4.5 million[19]
    1993: 5.5 million[20]
    1994: over 4 million[21]
    1995: over 2 million[22]
    1996: 1.1 million[23]
    1997: 400,000[2]
    Total: over 20.3 million
  2. ^ a b Majesco sold between 1 and 2 million units of their North American only Sega Genesis 3 by the end of 1998.[3] Some fans claim as many as 2.5 million units were sold by the time of its discontinuation.[4]
  3. ^ a b Some journalists in Brazil claim Tec Toy has sold 2 million units of their own Mega Drives in Brazil (as of August 31, 2005.)[5] However, it is unknown if Tec Toy's pre 1995 sales are included in the initial 29 million or not. The Mega Drive is still produced and sold by Tec Toy to this day.


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