The Sega Master System (S.M.S.) was released in 1986 just after Nintendo released the N.E.S. and it’s hardware was actually superior to that of the N.E.S. What kept Sega from overtaking them was Nintendo’s aggressive 3rd party contracting and their headstart they had into the 8-Bit generation. Gamers don’t buy newer technology unless it is a pretty good leap over what they already own and since the S.M.S. was just an incremental step up from the N.E.S. it only really attracted those who hadn’t already purchase Nintendo’s machine or the hardcore gamer.
Thats not to say there weren’t some quality titles on the system. The S.M.S. enjoyed versions of Sonic The Hedgehog, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and even the Mortal Kombat series. That’s right, an 8-bit system actually had Mortal Kombat 1-3 released for it. The Master System was also the first system in the U.S. to have a real RPG. In 1988 Phantasy Star was released to the masses and was an instant success.
The S.M.S. also had some interesting peripherals although one was more of a gimmick than a gaming evolution. The first was the Light Phazer. The looked alot better then the orange light gun the N.E.S. had and there were some fun games that utilized them.
The Master System also had 3D glasses. They hooked up through the card slot on the system and with compatible software created a 3D effect. One problem was you could see the shutter of the glasses while playing which detracted from the enjoyment of the game.
The Master System was also unique as it had two different type of solid state media that the games came on; cartridges and credit card size game cards. The majority of the games were released on cartridges but quite a few were on the cards.
After the release of the Genesis, Sega re-designed the console to cut costs and to try and attract new users. Sega released the Master System II in 1990 and the big difference was they removed the card slot so you could only use cartridges with this version.
Finally, only release in Korea, there was the Master System Compact. This was a pretty sweet piece of hardware as it was just bigger than the Sega Game Gear and the controller was built in. It didn’t have a LCD screen as it wasn’t meant to be a portable S.M.S. but it did have an antenna that would send the signal to your TV. It was completely wireless.
After reading all this you might have a new found respect for Sega. They were innovators with every system they released. The Master System is a fantastic system and I haven’t heard anyone say otherwise.