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Welcome to the Next Level

— Slogan for the Sega Mega Drive.

The Sega Mega Drive (メガドライブ Mega Doraibu?) is a video game system released by Sega in the late 1980s. It was a direct competitor of NEC's PC Engine (which was released one year earlier and had a better success in Japan) and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (which was released two years later). The console has a legacy with certain games available and regarded as the starter of the Sonic the Hedgehog series as well.

Sonic games

Characters introduced

Box artwork gallery

North America







Although the Sega Master System was a success in Europe, and later also in Brazil, it failed to ignite much attention in the North American or Japanese markets, which, by the mid-to-late 1980s, were both dominated by Nintendo's large market shares.[8][9][10]

The first name Sega considered for its console was the MK-1601, but it ultimately decided to call it the "Sega Mega Drive". The name was said to represent superiority and speed, with the new and powerful Motorola 68000 processor in mind.[11] Sega used the name Mega Drive for the worldwide version of the console, while the North American version went by the name "Genesis" due to a trademark dispute.[12]


The Mega Drive was released in Japan on 29 October 1988,[13] almost exactly a year after the release of NEC PC Engine and the same year as the release of TurboGrafx 16 in North America.

In 1987, Sega announced a North American release date for the system (under the name of "Sega Genesis") of 9 January 1989.[14] 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.[15] Sega was not able to meet the initial release date and United States sales began on 14 August 1989 in test regions New York City and Los Angeles, with the North American release following by the end of the month.[4]

The European release was in September 1990.[5] 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 Nintendo Entertainment System had been the dominant platform, the 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 a rather inappropriate sentences for example, "The more you play with it, the harder it gets" displayed with an illustration of the waggling of a joystick.[16]

Another 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.[17]

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.[17]

In Brazil, the Mega Drive was released by Tectoy in 1990, only a year after the Brazilian release of the Sega Master System. Tectoy also ran the Internet service "Sega Meganet" in Brazil, as well as producing games exclusively for the Brazilian market.[18]

End of support and third-party licensing

The Mega Drive was supported until 1997 in Europe, when Sega announced it was dropping support for it.[19] It was discontinued along with its predecessor, the long-lived Sega Master System, to allow Sega to concentrate on its newer console, the Saturn. The Mega Drive's add-ons, the Mega CD and 32X, were also both discontinued at this point, having been the same general failures they were in the other regions.[20]

In 1997, Sega licensed the Mega Drive to Majesco so that its could re-release the console in the United States.[21] Majesco began re-selling millions of formerly unsold cartridges at a budget price together with the second model of the Genesis, until it later released a third version of it.


Sega Power Base Converter

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[22] and SN76489 respectively) are included in the Mega Drive, and the Mega Drive's Video Display Processor (VDP) is capable of the Master System's VDP's mode 4, though it cannot run in modes 0, 1, 2, or 3.

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. 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.[22] This peripheral was released in Japan on 26 January 1989 for ¥4500[23] and is incompatible with the second model of the Mega Drive.[23]

The only game which does not work with this device is F-16 Fighting Falcon.[24]


The Sega Mega Drive went through many different design changes and titles over the years it was in production. This list only includes standard Mega Drive variations, and does not feature any "bundle" consoles such as the Sega CDX or TeraDrive.

Title Also known as Year Region Distributor
Sega Mega Drive

Model 1
Sega Genesis (NA)
Super Gam*Boy (KOR)
Super Aladdin Boy (KOR, later)

1988 International Sega

Samsung (KOR)

Mega Drive II

Model 2
Genesis (NA)
Super Aladdin Boy II (KOR)

Mega Drive III N/A Brazil Tectoy
Mega Game II[25] 1997 Portugal Ecofilmes
Genesis 3 Model 3 1998 United States Majesco
Super Mega Drive 3[6] N/A 2001 Brazil Tectoy


Main articles: Sega CD and Sega 32X

The Sega Mega Drive features two optional add-ons; the Sega CD and Sega 32X. Both of these peripherals helped to expand the Mega Drive's lifespan into the next-generation of consoles.

  • The Sega CD plays a high-quality CD-ROM using a slow 1x Optical Disc Drive while increasing audio and visual capabilities over stock the Mega Drive. This add-on was first launched in Japan on 12 December 1991,[26] with a North American launch on 15 October of the following year.[27] The Sega CD is best known for the debut of Sonic the Hedgehog CD.
  • The Sega 32X works as an "enhancement" over a stock Mega Drive console, with an additional 32-bit processor to process more complex graphical tasks. The 32X was released in North America on 21 November 1994,[28] just a day before the Sega Saturn was launched in Japan. It was This peripheral is best known for being the exclusive platform of Knuckles' Chaotix.

Sega Mega Jet

The Sega Mega Jet was another handheld version of the Sega Mega Drive. It was rented for use aboard Japan Airlines flights for both first and business class.[29]

The device lacked its own screen but could play Mega Drive cartridges when connected to a small armrest monitor used on Japan Airlines. The cord that connected to the display also supplied the device's power. An extra port was featured on the top of the Mega Jet so that a standard Mega Drive controller could be connected and two players can play at once.

Four games for the flight were available, including Super Monaco GP and Sonic the Hedgehog. However, since the unit accepted standard Mega Drive cartridges, passengers could bring in and use their own. The Mega Jet was marketed in Japan as a portable Mega Drive, and was available in limited quantities in department stores.

The Mega Jet eventually became the basis for the Sega Nomad, a portable Mega Drive with a backlit screen, that was released exclusively in the United States in 1995.

Sega Nomad

The Sega Nomad, also called Sega Genesis Nomad or just the Nomad, was a handheld game system sold for the North American consumer market which played Sega Mega Drive game cartridges. The system was similar to the Japanese Sega Mega Jet, but featured a built-in color screen; the Mega Jet needed a separate monitor. Its codename during development was Project Venus, as per Sega's policy at the time of codenaming their systems after planets.

Game library

The Nomad does not have its own game library, but instead plays standard Genesis games. At the time of the Nomad's launch, the Genesis already had over 500 games available to play. However, no pack-in title was included for the Nomad. The Nomad can boot unlicensed, homebrew, and bootleg games made for the Genesis.

Some earlier third-party titles have compatibility issues when played on the Nomad, but can be successfully played through the use of a Game Genie. Likewise, due to its lack of compatibility with any of the Genesis' add-ons, it is unable to play any games for the Sega Master System, Sega CD, or Sega 32X. The Nomad employs two different regional lockout methods, physical and software, but methods have been found to bypass these restrictions.


  • Japanese Mega Drive cartridges have a different shape and will not fit in either the Genesis or the PAL region Mega Drive cartridge slot. Japanese Mega Drive systems have a piece of plastic that slides in a place of the cartridge when the power switch is turned on, inserting a Genesis cart will make it impossible to turn on a Japanese console. Minor modifications to the plastic locks in the systems will bypass the regional locks.
    • However, the console main board was designed with language and frequency jumper sets, which originally activated features in the same ROM for the different regions, this feature was later used to enable software-based regional locks that display warning messages that prevent the game from being played. Switches placed instead of the jumpers will bypass the locks.
    • In region-locked games, if there is a multiple language feature, it can be changed with the switches after the game has booted-up.
  • There were over 900 games released for the Mega Drive across seven major regions: Japan, North America, Europe, Australasia, Korea, Asia, and Latin America.
  • The console is mentioned in a couple of songs rapped by "The Game" and "Busta Rhymes".
  • In Lego Dimensions, after Sonic follows Dr. Eggman through a portal and subsequently battles Robo Sonic, Mecha Sonic, and Metal Sonic. After he is finished fighting, Metal Sonic explodes and hits the portal device causing three portals to open and the first model of the Sega Mega Drive flies out one of them.
  • JAMMA made an arcade board called the "Sega Mega Play" in 1991, which has the ability to play Sega Mega Drive games. The hardware was released in Asia and the PAL regions, but never made it to North America.[33]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Mega Drive 2 (Japanese). Sega. Retrieved on 25 February 2022.
  2. Sega Mega Drive/Genesis Console Information. Console Database. Base Media. Retrieved on 4 June 2018.
  3. Gallery (Japanese). Sega. Retrieved on 25 February 2022.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kent, Steven L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games. Roseville, California: Prima Publishing. pp. 404–405. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Console Zone: Sega MegaDrive". New Computer Express (97): 48. 15 September 1990. Archived from the original.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tecblogger (17 September 2010). Tectoy History (Portuguese). Tectoy. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved on 26 February 2022.
  7. "Letter". Sega Force Mega: 19. November 1993. Archived from the original. Retrieved on 25 February 2022.
  8. Kent, Steven L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched our Lives and Changed the World. Roseville, California: Prima Publishing. pp. 303, 360. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4.
  9. Nintendo Official Magazine Staff (2001). Nintendo Official Magazine - Nintendo's Market Share 1988. Future Publishing. pp. 35.
  10. Business Week staff (1999). Business Week - Nintendo's Market Share 1990. pp. 60.
  11. Bolitz, Christoph . Sega Mega Drive information. skillreactor. Retrieved on 2008-04-01.
  12. Szczepaniak, John (September 2006). Retroinspection: Sega Mega Drive. Retro Gamer. Retrieved on 29 March 2018.
  13. Console Database Staff . Sega Mega Drive/Genesis Console Information. Console Database/Dale Hansen. Retrieved on 18 October 2007.
  14. Sheff, David (1993). Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children. New York: Random House. pp. 352. ISBN 0-679-40469-4.
  15. Kent, Steven L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched our Lives and Changed the World. Roseville, California: Prima Publishing. pp. 401. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4.
  16. SEGA'S BIZARRE EARLY 1990S VIZ ADVERTS. UK Resistance (2006). Retrieved on 20 October 2007.
  17. 17.0 17.1 McFerran, Damien (2007). Hardware Focus - Sega Megadrive / Genesis. VC Reviews. Retrieved on 19 October 2007.
  18. Tiago, Tex Pine (26 February 2008). How Piracy can Break an Industry - the Brazilian Case. Retrieved on 14 April 2008.
  19. Console Database Staff . Sega Mega Drive/Genesis Console Information. Retrieved on 18 October 2007.
  20. Blake, Snow (30 July 2007). The 10 Worst-Selling Consoles of All Time. GamePro. Retrieved on 20 May 2008.
  21. Sega (Majesco) Genesis 3. pelikonepeijoonit. Retrieved on 6 March 2006.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Sega Mega Drive information.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Mega Drive Adaptor (Japanese). Sega. Archived from the original on 15 February 2013. Retrieved on 25 February 2022.
  24. Master System Converter Instruction Manual, p. 7.
  25. Coelho, Miguel (26 February 2015). Coleccionismo de Mega Drive (Portugese). PUSHSTART. Archived from the original on 30 September 2021. Retrieved on 26 February 2022.
  26. Mega-CD (Japanese). Sega. Archived from the original on 16 July 2014. Retrieved on 29 March 2014.
  27. Beuscher, David . Sega CD: Biography. AllGame. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014.
  28. Kent, Steven L. (2001). "The "Next" Generation (Part 1)". The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched our Lives and Changed the World. Prima Publishing. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4.
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 Mega Jet (Japanese). Sega. Archived from the original on 9 January 2013. Retrieved on 25 February 2022.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Ultimate Gamer Magazine: Sega Nomad
  31. gabox (11 January 2018). Sega Nomad - Videogame History #30 - Retro Review. Steemit. Retrieved on 11 June 2018.
  32. Wesley, David; Barczak, Gloria (23 May 2016). Innovation and Marketing in the Video Game Industry: Avoiding the Performance Trap. CRC Press. pp. 84, 85. ISBN 1317116496, 9781317116493.
  33. Mega Play.

External links