Now, there are no limits.
-Master System slogan
It’s Day 6 and time is absolutely flying by!
Thus far we’ve encountered Commodore, Atari, and Nintendo but today sees Sega make their appearance in our Console Challenge. To usher in the units of the Ages, I’m proud to feature a talented creator and retro gamer, and one of the nicest people you could ever meet: Hungry Goriya. Yeah, that’s a super slick Zelda reference, kids.
You can find Hungry Goriya just about anywhere where gaming is the word: in caves you can only discover with bombs, on YouTube, on Twitch, and of course here on WordPress at their self-titled blog of blogs. Check Goriya’s content out and give them a follow! Below you’ll find HG’s top 7 best Master System picks. Let us know what your choices for top games would be in the comments below!
-The Well-Red Mage
The Sega Master System is an 8-bit gaming console that was released in various regions between 1985 and 1989. Though the Master System went very much unnoticed in North America during those early years, many gamers that fell in love with its rival, the Nintendo Entertainment System, are just now catching onto the Master System’s impressive game library. Below are seven games that I would personally consider some of the best and most unique on the system.
#7. Snail Maze
Snail Maze is a game built right into the console that never saw a physical release on cartridge or card. You play as a snail that must maneuver through the maze levels, but for something with such a simple premise, the game is quite challenging. With each new level comes a longer trek with less time allotted, making later levels harder to get through. Failing to complete a level puts you right back to the beginning. Thankfully any frustrations will be washed away with the game’s music: a repeating, upbeat song that’ll no doubt become embedded in your brain-folds for hours after you put down the controller.
#6. Penguin Land
Penguin Land can be summarized as Get Your Egg to the End of the Level: The Game. You play as a penguin that is tasked with shuffling an egg down through many platforms and obstacles without cracking it or allowing it to be lunch for polar bears. As the levels progress, the game becomes quite difficult and involves a lot of trial and error to ensure your egg’s safe passage. There is substantial replay value since it’s unlikely you’ll ever play any stage the same way twice. Like many games starring penguins, wholesome fun and adorable graphics are plentiful.
#5. Dragon Crystal
Dragon Crystal is a rogue-like adventure that packs in the randomness that lovers of the genre are likely to revel in. You play as a child who wanders into an antique shop and gets drawn into a magical world. To escape, you must find the dragon crystal, which is inconveniently placed 30 floors below where you begin your quest. Managing victory in Dragon Crystal is possible with a bit of strategy and luck since each playthrough is completely randomized. Items such as scrolls, rods and rings can help you or make your game unbeatable, and you will never know their effects until you try them out. Though it can be frustrating at times, the gameplay is highly addictive. Once you start, you won’t want to stop until you free yourself from the game’s fantasy world.
#4. Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
Alex Kidd games were numerous on the Master System, but one of the best was Alex Kidd in Shinobi World. The brightly coloured stages are craftily designed with plenty of secrets to find. Compared to many clunky action platformers of the day, the game’s controls feel great and fluid. Alex has a mixed arsenal of offensive moves to make each stage’s endeavour feel different, like turning into a chaotic tornado or morphing into a fireball after swinging around posts or ropes to plough through enemies. There is also a lot of replay value to keep people hooked after a first playthrough. Completing individual stages or rounds without taking damage or losing a life will grant players a point bonus, great goals for those that like the challenge of a perfect run. All of this fun is set to remixes of classic Shinobi tunes, along with some Japan-inspired music to establish each stage’s unique ambience.
#3. Master of Darkness
Master of Darkness is another take on the “kill Dracula, save the world” horror game phase that overtook video gaming in the late 80s and early 90s, but it stands apart from other games like it for a few reasons. The game taps into a level of grittiness and edginess that is unmatched by other 8-bit titles with similar themes. Enemies are not just the usual fare of zombies or forest creatures gone bad. They can be possessed inanimate objects that come to life to bludgeon you to death or frightening apparitions that fly at you from all angles. The levels are absolutely gorgeous with the different areas looking leaps ahead of what would normally be found on a system from this era, and a fully fleshed out story brings a thread of continuity throughout the stages. The game’s tension is maintained as the game progresses not just through its visuals, but with gradually increasing difficulty and a fitting horror-based soundtrack.
SpellCaster is a difficult game to classify because it embodies so many different genres all at once. It manages to be an action platformer with an occasional point-and-click interface, but also has RPG elements. You play the role of Kain, a SpellCaster who has been called upon to save old Japan from evil forces that are destroying his people. With a gripping story and lots of cryptic undertones in its imagery, players are in for a wild ride through jungles, forests, pyramids, the ocean, and many other locations that each poses their own individual trials. Along with tricky platforming portions, progression through the game requires puzzle solving and quick thinking using Kain’s spells and special abilities. Once the story picks up, this is a game you won’t want to put down.
#1. Phantasy Star
Phantasy Star is one of a few really great turn-based RPGs for the Master System. The best thing about this game is its story and characters. Though it doesn’t travel too far off of the Save the World path, players don’t start the game off as a chosen saviour to conquer evil. Instead, you play as Alis, a regular person seeking to avenge the death of a family member who finds herself in all sorts of trouble not too soon after taking up the cause. The world of Phantasy Star opens up slowly and presents unique challenges as you progress through the different landscapes. Much of the challenge comes from scouring caves and labyrinths for party members, useful items or top-notch equipment that will test your map-making skills, and you literally have no idea what will be around each corner. Phantasy Star’s music is beautifully crafted and does a great job of keeping your motivation high even in the darkest of places. Phantasy Star is a foundational game that was first to mix science fiction into role-playing games and consequently launched a well-loved game series that is near and dear to many.
There are so many great games for the Master System that I just couldn’t bear to leave some of these unmentioned entirely. Unfortunately many greats I wanted to talk about were mostly improved ports from older systems that were not allowed on the list, but that aside, here are a few other truly awesome games you might consider checking out! Thankfully the Master System is region free between North American NTSC and PAL regions, so you can enjoy that entire library of games.
Ys: The Vanished Omens
Fantasy Zone II
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar
Categories: Console Challenge