Best Selling Master System Games

The Sega Master System was an 8-bit third generation home video game console that competed with the Nintendo Entertainment System. While the Master System came in second to the NES in sales, it still enjoyed strong popularity in Europe and Brazil with a library of iconic games. Here we’ll highlight the top selling Master System games that defined its catalog.

Overview of the Sega Master System

First, some background on the Master System’s history:

  • Released in 1985 in Japan and 1986 in North America
  • Sega’s predecessor to the Genesis/Mega Drive
  • Sold 10-13 million units worldwide
  • More successful in Europe and Brazil than Japan or North America
  • Later redesigned into the Master System II variant in 1990

Despite trailing behind Nintendo’s juggernaut NES console, the Master System cultivated a passionate fanbase during the 8-bit era.

Highest Selling Master System Games

Here are the top selling Master System games of all time based on total worldwide copies sold:

RankGame TitleGlobal Sales
1Sonic the Hedgehog6 million
2Alex Kidd in Miracle World2.12 million
3Phantasy Star1.7 million
4Fantasy Zone1.2 million
5R-Type1.14 million
6Out Run1 million
7The Ninja800,000
8Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap780,000
10Bubble Bobble710,000

Sonic yet again tops the charts even back in his 8-bit days. But Alex Kidd and other original Master System IPs also fared well.

Best Selling Exclusive Master System Games

Here are the top sellers that debuted on the Master System:

  • Alex Kidd in Miracle World
  • Wonder Boy in Monster Land
  • Fantasy Zone II
  • Global Defense
  • Quartet
  • Transbot
  • Golvellius
  • Psycho Fox
  • Master of Darkness
  • Spellcaster

The Master System allowed Sega to launch new game franchises like Alex Kidd and Wonder Boy that became intrinsically tied to the console.

Top Selling Sega Master System Franchises

Several major franchises flourished on the Master System:

Alex Kidd

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This platformer was designed to be Sega’s answer to Mario:

  • First appearing in Alex Kidd in Miracle World
  • One of the most popular Master System original characters
  • Starred in several sequels throughout the late 1980s

Phantasy Star

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This landmark RPG series debuted on Master System:

  • Created by Sega to bring RPGs to consoles
  • Phantasy Star was the first major JRPG for home systems
  • Set the stage for popular Genesis sequels and spinoffs

Wonder Boy

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This arcade platformer made a huge splash:

  • Wonder Boy started in arcades then launched on Master System
  • Featured bright, colorful graphics and catchy music
  • Many sequels kept the series thriving on Sega consoles

Best Selling Third Party Master System Games

Top selling titles from third parties:

  • Sonic the Hedgehog (20 million worldwide incl. Game Gear)
  • Bubble Bobble
  • R-Type
  • Rainbow Islands
  • Bomber Raid
  • Alien Syndrome
  • Spy vs. Spy
  • Buggy Run
  • Captain Silver

Strong support from outside publishers like Activision and Tecno Soft supplemented Sega’s own games.

Arcade Ports Dominated Sales

Many of the biggest Master System hits were arcade conversions:

  • Out Run
  • Fantasy Zone
  • R-Type
  • Double Dragon
  • Shinobi
  • Wonder Boy
  • After Burner
  • Astro Warrior

The Master System allowed gamers to experience popular coin-op titles at home for the first time.

Novel Types of Games

The Master System also introduced new genres and concepts:

  • 3D Glasses – Supported primitive 3D visuals in Maze Hunter 3D and Poseidon Wars 3D
  • Sports Sims – In-depth sports sims like Great Baseball and GP Rider
  • Role Playing – Landmark RPGs like Phantasy Star and Miracle Warriors
  • Cinematic Games – More story driven games like Spy vs Spy
  • Visual Novels – Text and image driven adventures like Portopia Serial Murder Case

Sega pushed creativity and explored new interactive media possibilities with Master System.

Major Regions for Master System Sales

Master System sales and game library varied significantly by region:

  • Brazil – Extremely popular with 65+ exclusive games
  • Europe – Strong sales and key target market for Sega
  • Japan – Sold poorly compared to Famicom
  • North America – Outsold by NES but had loyal fanbase
  • Asia – Decent sales in Taiwan and other Southeast Asian markets
  • Oceania – Moderate popularity in Australia and New Zealand

By catering to regional preferences, the Master System achieved success across global markets.

Legacy of the Sega Master System Games

The Master System library left a lasting impact:

  • Allowed Sega to build skills making first party games rather than relying only on arcade ports
  • Introduced acclaimed franchises like Phantasy Star and Alex Kidd
  • Proved Sega could compete in the console space and set stage for Genesis
  • Shaped appreciation for genres like RPGs and platformers on consoles
  • Influenced game design with its 3D glasses and unique peripherals

Even if not the top selling console, the Master System games library demonstrated Sega’s potential to create blockbuster hits and gave start to beloved Sega series.


With over 800 games released, the Sega Master System built an impressive and varied library full of classics like Alex Kidd, Phantasy Star, Wonder Boy and Sonic. While Sega’s 8-bit console trailed behind the juggernaut Nintendo Entertainment System in sales, the Master System’s collection of hit games across many genres won it a dedicated following across Europe, Asia, South America and beyond. Decades later, the Master System’s library stands as an integral part of Sega’s history and many of its iconic games continue to be enjoyed by retrogamers worldwide.

Frequently Asked Questions

When did the Master System release in each region?

Japan – October 1985 North America – June 1986 Europe – 1987 South America – 1989

What were the best selling Master System games in Europe?

Sonic the Hedgehog,Alex Kidd, Wonder Boy, and Fantasy Zone did extremely well in Europe where the Master System outsold the NES.

Did the Master System have any accessories?

Yes, it supported a Light Phaser gun, 3D glasses, Sports Pad, steering wheel, joystick, and even a converter to play Sega Card/Mark III games.

Were Master System games region locked?

No region locking existed, so games from any region could be played on any Master System console worldwide.

How did Master System sales compare to Game Gear?

The Game Gear sold around 11 million units compared to 13 million Master System consoles. But many Game Gear games were Master System ports or remakes.

Could the Master System play Game Gear games?

Yes, the Master System had an adapter to play Game Gear cartridges. Over 150+ Game Gear titles were playable on Master System.

What were some rare and valuable Master System games?

Notable rare titles demanding high prices include The Smurfs, Cabbage Patch Kids, Terminator 2, and the earliest Alex Kidd and Phantasy Star releases.

Does the Master System have a bios/firmware?

Yes, the Master System bios is stored internally and boots up when powered on. The bios screens vary significantly between regions.

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