Sega Genesis and Sega Mega Drive

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
  • October 29, 1988
  • August 14, 1989
  • November 30, 1990
  • 1995
  • 1997
Units sold Estimated from 37.3 to over 40.9 million
Media ROM cartridge
CPU 68000 and Z80
Online services Sega Meganet, Sega Channel, XBAND
Best-selling game

Sonic the Hedgehog (pack-in), 15 million
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (pack-in), 6 million

Aladdin, 4 million
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 competitive 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. 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. 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. 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 console was released in Japan as Mega Drive on October 29, 1988. Sega announced a North American release date for the system (as Sega Genesis) on January 9, 1989. 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. 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 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

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 advertisements employed adult humor 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. 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. 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 advertisements 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. 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.

In Brazil, the Mega Drive was released by Tec Toy in 1990, 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. On December 5, 2007, Tec Toy released a portable version of Mega Drive with 20 built-in games. In India, distribution of the Mega Drive was handled by Shaw Wallace, with each products sold for 18,000 Indian rupees. Sega entered the partnership in the northern hemisphere spring of 1995 because it wanted to circumvent an 80% import tariff. Samsung handled it in Korea. Samsung renamed the console "Super Gam*Boy", while retaining the Mega Drive logo on the system in addition to their own. It was later renamed as "Super Aladdin Boy".

Console wars

Videogame Rating Council


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. While Sega was still able to capture 43 percent of the dollar share of the US video game market as a whole, 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.

The Mega Drive was supported until 1998 in Europe, when Sega announced it was dropping support for it. 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. 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, until it later released the Sega Genesis 3. In 1998 Frogger became the last commercially licensed game to be released in North America. 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.


Technical specifications

CPU and memory

Audio and video

Inputs and outputs

On the front of the console are two controller input ports, which use 9-pin male D-subminiature connectors. 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. 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.

The console's A/V output consists of a DIN connector with composite video, RGB video and audio outputs. 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. Stereo audio for the Mega Drive and the first model Genesis were supplied by the headphone jack, which is not present on later models. 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.

Master System compatibility


Sega Virtua Processor


Legacy and revival

The Sega Genesis and Mega Drive 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". 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. 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. GamingExcellence also gave the Sega Genesis sixth place in 2008, declaring "one can truly see the Genesis for the gaming milestone it was". At the same time, GameDaily rated it ninth of ten for its memorable games.

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. These games are now available along with other systems' titles under the Wii's Virtual Console. 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, released a demo of Pier Solar and the Great Architects; the game was later released in December 2010. It is not only the first commercial role-playing game specifically developed for the console since 1996, but also the biggest 16-bit game ever produced at 64 megabits, as well as the only cartridge based game to optionally utilize the Sega CD with a special enhanced soundtrack and sound effects disc. In their 100th blog post, 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.

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. 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. On November 13, 2010, Super Fighter Team announced Star Odyssey at the Retro-gaming Connexion event in Crégy-Lès-Meaux, France. 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. 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. It was released on June 22, 2011, exactly twenty years after the June 22, 1991 release of Blue Almanac.

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. 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. 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. ATGames also produces a handheld version of the console. Both machines have been released in Europe by distributing company Blaze Europe. 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. In North American during 2009, ATGames released two new officially licensed Genesis consoles: the Firecore and the Gencore. In addition to that, two new officially licensed Genesis portables also made their debut; the Retrogen, and the Genmobile. The Firecore can play newly developed "Truecolor" games. 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).

See also

Sales numbers

Sales notes


External links

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