~ The Sega Master System ~

Most of our older fellow gamers probably can recall, several decades ago, the release of the Sega Master System, or SMS. Most of us are at least moderately familiar with some of its successors, the Sega Genesis, Sega Dreamcast, and Sega Saturn to name off a few. The Sega Master System was released as one of the NES's more direct competitors in the third gaming generation, with the SMS coming out less than a year after the NES, in October 1985. This was under the name of the Sega Mark III, with the Sega Master System localization for the United States, Europe, and South America coming in the next year. The Sega Mark III's games were compatible with the Sega Master System, the changes being mostly aesthetic, although you often needed special adapters.

You probably know that the NES has a myriad of games on it as well, well into the thousands. Part of this comes with Nintendo's large share of the gaming market at that time: over three-quarters of it. Sega also gave the toy company Tonka the marketing duties in the U.S., and Tonka was unskilled with such things at the time. Then there's the fact that Nintendo would not allow third-party developers for them work on other consoles, further depriving the SMS of great games. In reality, the SMS didn't have all that much of a chance against the NES and Famicom, even if the SMS had many a gem of a game. One such well-known game is Sonic the Hedgehog, the last licensed U.S. release for the Master System, released in 1991. The SMS ended its trail in the U.S. to the tone of two million consoles sold.

Sales were plenty more successful in Europe, however, especially in the countries Nintendo didn't sell consoles in. This also led to a larger amount of third-party support, and generally better sales, especially in the United Kingdom and France. In Europe, the Master System lasted until around 1993, selling nearly seven million consoles on the continent, which overshadowed the NES by a considerable margin.

Brazil, however, is the most successful SMS market, and one from which a relatively large number of games came from in the course of the FAQ Completion Project. TecToy was the main distributor here, and numerous games were translated, as well as newly-produced. The SMS also got reinvented, to some extent, several times - for example, the Master System Girl, Master System Compact, Master System 3, and Master System Evolution were released. In fact, the SMS Evolution was released relatively recently in 2009. Brazil by far posed the most successful SMS market, with a still-roaring fanbase, with just the original SMS selling over five million units, disregarding the numerous re-releases.

Eventually, though, all consoles will fade into memory. As of right now, the site SMS Power! confirms the release of around 480 games on the Master System. At this time, GameFAQs recognizes 351 of those games, the majority of the difference being Korean homebrew games and the like whose known data is insufficient to render them able to be posted at this time.

~ The SMS FAQ Completion Project ~

Current Site: selmiak.bplaced.net/sms/?page=main

Some time after an FAQ Completion Project for the NES was started in the mid-2000s, discussion of another FAQing "CP", as it is the more commonly-heard term, came to light. The Sega Master System was decided to be the main target of this alongside the already-going NES project. Masamune3 set up this project in August of 2004, although this fizzled out soon. This was not entirely a bad thing, as the main fault in this was the NES FAQ Completion Project overshadowed it with a number of American/European games that many were interested in FAQing. This first rendition of the SMS CP cleared out about 77 games, around 30% of the repertoire on the SMS back then.

Of course, time goes on and the NES FAQ CP dwindles down to mostly Japanese, Asian, Korean, and unreleased titles. Progress then slows because most people have a lack of knowledge of any of the associated languages, making the process all the more difficult, even if you don't toss in access issues. In 2009, TrulyDexterous brings up this point and a debate is taken on whether to start up another CP - while previous ones, like the first for the SMS, and the first for the GameBoy had failed due to NES focusing, that focus is now relatively little. Eventually, a decision is reached: the SMS shall get another shot!

Games (now Glacoras) started up a website for this on December 10th, 2009. He later became aided by GameFAQs user/contributor selmiak and the site moved to the previously-listed URL. (Feel free to check it out!) This project covered two 500-post topics on the FAQ Contributors Board, plus the one that completed the project. Yes, that's right - the daunting task of FAQing the remaining 212 SMS games was completed in May of 2013, with an FAQ for the one-time complete Virtua Fighter Animation finishing off the project.

~ This Top 10 List ~

And so, the culmination of an effort spanning two attempts and nearly nine years has come to an end, with the SMS finally being fully covered by GameFAQs. (That is, until someone finds data for another - odino, we're looking at you.) In celebration of this effort, and a cementation of this accolade, it has been suggested that a Top 10 List be made. And so it shall.

The construction of this list involved polling the top ten contributors of the SMS CP, by the most recent edition's statistics concerning how many FAQs they wrote for the current rendition of the project. They were polled on what their favorite SMS game was that they covered during the project, and why. Games involved in the Completion Projects are usually quite obscure, and while many of them make even the hardy shudder, not all are bad - some are, in fact, shining gems for the console. That is also what this list is made to appreciate - not only the effort and persistence of many, but the lesser-known games that ought to be played for their hidden greatness.

**Editor's Note:** Glacoras's FAQ/Walkthrough for Megumi Rescue is, at this time, the only SMS FAQ ever to receive an FAQ of the Month award! Glacoras is also noteworthy for having helped to maintain the SMS Completion Project site these past years.

Megumi Rescue is my choice for the list from the contributions I have made to the Sega Master System Completion Project. This is because I found the game's concept both unique and quirky. The objective of the game is to rescue people from a burning building. Sounds ordinary, right? Well, it would be if it was not due to the way how you have to rescue them. Instead of rushing into a burning building, blasting gallons of water out of a hose to put the flames out before the building collapses on your head, you instead decide the best method to rescue these poor, trapped people is to use a bouncy mat to launch yourself into the air, outside the building, and grab people from the building out of the nearest window to rescue them.

The gameplay borrows elements from games like Arkanoid, where you control a “paddle” (in this case, a couple of guys on the ground carrying a bouncy mat) to direct the “ball” (in this case, a person) by the area where the person lands on the mat. Also, like Arkanoid-type games, you can find items to give points, lives, health, and/or enhancements. One of the enhancements you can obtain brings a helicopter onto the screen, which will fire a missile at the building to put out the flames! However, unlike Arkanoid, the people you are supposed to rescue can jump out of windows, and you can let them die without any point deductions.

If you are unaware of the levels, the game can be very challenging and you will loose quite a few lives because of how long it will take to rescue everyone. Although true with most games, it is essential in this game to know each level to get through it quickly and without any lost lives. Even with this knowledge, trying to control the direction where your rescue worker travels with a little paddle/bouncy mat still makes this game quite hard to complete.

There were so many choices to choose from, I decided to go with Tensai Bakabon. I bet everybody thought it was going to be the last game knocked off the list but thanks to my stepgrandma I got it done.

I'm fully aware that this game is only in Japanese and a translation patch has not been release for the game as of yet, but so what? Once you figure out how to play this game then the game becomes enjoyable. This game is a mixture of a action-RPG, puzzle and a shooter towards the end. It is based off the anime series of the same name and despite the show and the game's name is that of the older son; the main character in both is actually his father who took away his spotlight sometime ago.

Upon first impression, you will see Papa just kick and jump but you don't attack anybody with the kick. That is only used to reveal hidden objects and break rocks that lead to new places. When you start going through the game you will find a lot of interesting sequences and secrets. The shooting sequence can be a little tricky and cheap. One hit and your ship is destroyed but there is no game over for it. During the first shooting scenario you just buy another UFO. The order of yellow, green, and blue vary in terms of quality, speed, and how expensive the ship is. During the final ship sequence, you get to retry the sequence over and over until you defeat the final boss.

Over the course of the SEGA Master System Completion Project I had the pleasure to play a great deal of games, one of which was Marble Madness. The Master System version of the 1984 classic, designed by PlayStation 4 technical lead Mark Cerny, is an isometric platform game with six levels. In those six levels you don't use some silly figure, but a marble which you need to guide to the end of the course. The precursor to games like Super Monkey Ball requires you to complete all six courses within a set limit – if you don't use all the time, the extra time is added to the allotted time of the next course – while avoiding traps and enemies. Despite the low number of levels this will prove itself difficult quite quickly which only serves to make finishing the game that much more rewarding.

The twenty-sixth FAQ I wrote for the completion project was for an excellent 2D platformer known as Gaegujangi Kkachi. Like a number of others the CP covered, it was released in Korea, probably as homebrew, by Hi-Com back in 1993. What initially impressed me about the game was how it combined aspects of two other favorite platformer series of mine: MegaMan and Super Mario Bros.

The game begins with little allusion to the storyline (basically save the world and the girl, as I recall it), immediately shooting you to the level selection screen. Much like MegaMan, you get an initial choice of any six levels, after which you'll go through several more sequentially. Each level takes place in a 2D platformer format, although not are all quite the same. While they do share the general idea of just going in one direction to get to the goal, for example, unlike most platformers of its day, that direction is not always just left or right. I recall one level where you basically climbed a huge tree's branches.

Another aspect, perhaps still taking a cue from MegaMan, was the weaponry system. Unlike the aforementioned example were you got weapons by beating bosses, which were in turn used for a rock-paper-scissors strategy game (more or less), you would have to snatch up various collectibles in the levels that served as money, like bones in a graveyard or jewels in a cavern. These could be used in the relatively-sparse in-level shops to buy various items, like lasers or lightning or healing potions. Mostly, these only had the advantages of higher power or higher range compared to your meager karate chop - there was no "easy win" to a boss in this game caused by pure weapon selection. Of course, these also came in limited quantities and could be freely switched in the level itself as needed, but conservation nevertheless remained key.

This game is also a little harder than most: you only can three hits across a few lives before a game over is reached. Most of the levels do have a fair sum of enemies in them, and many levels are either treacherous (such as the tree-climbing level previously mentioned) or generally require knowledge of the environment. One of the final levels of the game was basically a labyrinth filled with enemies, with most rooms having multiple exits, making it a bit hard to beat. Still, it keeps you on your toes - at least I didn't have to use a GameGenie on this like a number of others, like The Three Dragon Story.

Other than the excellent gameplay, I suppose some could say the game was uninspired - after all, the story is minimalistic and the sound and graphics are rather around the SMS's standard. Still, I felt like this was the best game I wrote a guide for during the course of the completion project. Namely, it was an engaging, challenging platformer that actually didn't overdo itself; it was even one of the sparse few I played multiple times after the guide was written. I also did love the general combination of the aspects of Super Mario Bros. (story, gameplay) and MegaMan (gameplay, variety, weapons systems), which still remain as two of my favorite platformers. I definitely would recommend this game to you!

Despite being France's best-selling written export, spawning over a dozen films and its own theme park, and having even appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, the Asterix franchise has never really achieved anything other than a niche foothold outside of mainland Europe. So I guess it's not really that surprising that Asterix never found itself released globally. While the lack of that global release hurt it significantly in terms of exposure, the release of Sonic the Hedgehog in the same year outright sank its battleship, making sure that it would undeservedly go unremembered, despite being one of the best games to grace the console.

Asterix is an incredibly well put-together game, and it's clear that every last detail has been deeply considered. No block or enemy feels needlessly placed, potentially annoying gameplay mechanics (such as forced scrolling) are kept short and to a minimum, and new ones appear at exactly the right time to keep your interest but don't linger long enough to grow unwelcome. The difficulty progresses nicely as well, and while the game can be considered pretty hard in places, you won't find yourself getting a difficulty spike in the eyeball.

To make progress, each level has to be completed twice – that's once with each character, Holmes. While that might sound repetitive, it's not. The diversity between characters means that despite it being the same level, it'll play out completely differently the second time. Asterix might be able to fit through a small tunnel to access his own section of level, for example, whereas Obelix could be forced to break a wall to progress an entirely different way. Each level also conceals a host of hidden areas to reward players willing to explore, though to be fair, some of those are so silly and obscure that it's taken me fifteen years to stumble across them (and I wouldn't be surprised if I've still missed some). To add to all that, the game is just utterly charming, with its upbeat music, colourful sprites, and a varied cast of enemies (honourable mention goes to the Romans disguised as trees).

This is the first game I covered for the project, and it's by far still my favourite of the lot. I have the attention span of a gnat, and I've covered quite a few games for the project, so consider the fact that I can remember it this well to be a massive recommendation.

R.C. Grand Prix (R.C. standing for Remote Controlled) was one of my favourite games back in the early 90's. I was glad when nobody else had claimed this as part of the project, as it gave me an excuse to play it again. It is a racing game which has some of the nicest graphics on the system, and is a blast to play both by yourself, or with up to 3 other people.

The goal of this game is to win through ten increasingly longer and more difficult races to become the Grand Champion. In each race you have a set time limit to finish - as long as you don't come last and make it within the time limit, you proceed to the next race. You receive more money for winning though, which is crucial to improve your car - which you will need to do to make it through the later races.

What sets this apart from plenty of similar games is the strategy that comes into play. As any computer controlled opponent receives the same parts you buy one race later (in single player) - you need to plan ahead to make sure you are still able to win the next race, when the other cars will be equally as fast. However, in multiplayer, you can really muck the other players up. Say you are the red car and you buy an Ultra Motor after Race 2; this will make you the fastest car in Race 3. However, the person in the blue car will also have to face a red car fitted with an Ultra Motor in Race 3 - meaning they will nearly certainly be unable to win. Why? Each part can only be bought by one player after each race. It's a layer of depth to a game which you may not expect from a game from this era.

The game is simply a bunch of fun. Try it out for yourself, and if you get stuck, read the handy guide available on this site!

**Editor's Note:** selmiak is one of the main admins of the cool project site. He was the 11th top contributor to the project; #10 could not make it by submission time.

Choosing my favourite game from the FAQs I've written for the SMS FAQ Completion Project is harder than I thought. I don't know if it would be easier if I had written for more games though. And hey, I coded and administrated the cool website for the project, that's why I sneaked on this list with only 3 guides for the project.

It was nearly a tie between the classic Bubble Bobble and Fantasy Zone: The Maze. But I think Fantasy Zone: The Maze is a bit better. And not many people know this title and I like underdogs and making them known to more people. There are other Fantasy Zone titles on the SMS, but the third installment is different from the sidescrolling shmups that the first two titles in the series are.

You are put in a Pac-Man-like maze where you fly around with your spaceship called Opa-Opa and collect coins (no dots). There are enemies that are after you and chase you through the maze. Sounds all like Pac-Man, doesn't it?
But now add different maze layouts, powerups, and the funnest part, weapons!

So you can fight back against the baddies while you play an improved Pac-Man game. Sounds like fun? It is fun! It never gets boring over the 50 levels, and that is just the right length. All this makes Fantasy Zone: The Maze the SMS game I enjoyed the most while writing an FAQ for it.

Some of these old games on the classic SMS that now have an FAQ are worth trying out, there are some cool gems hidden in the past. But be warned, some other SMS games are just plain stupid, annoying or even unplayable though...

Daffy Duck in Hollywood is the eighteenth and last game that I wrote a guide for, the others being mainly sports games.

Daffy Duck in Hollywood is a platformer game that sees everyone’s favourite duck Donald -- I mean Daffy, in Hollywood. There he accesses many movie scenes, 18 in all, across 6 different levels where he is searching for Yosemite Sam’s Golden Cartoon World Movie Awards (these are like Oscars, but in the shape of a duck). It ain’t easy though because several enemies are out to get him such as cowboys, ghosts and arrow-firing pigs. Luckily though Daffy has a bubble gun to defeat them all.

Of all the games I wrote for in the project this one is probably the most substantial with lots of levels/scenes and lots of little details lovingly programmed into it. For example if you stand around without pressing anything then Daffy will get impatient and start juggling or pulling out a clock. Also after 30 seconds of standing around without pressing a button Daffy will die an amusing death, such as getting squashed by a massive rock or a 1 tonne weight.

There are also loads of power-ups, lots of different enemies and several animations of Daffy. The levels are all named after specific Daffy cartoons which is another nice touch (although the levels don’t follow the plots of those). Plus the game has some cheats, such as level select and invincibility, which could be useful, especially if you are writing a walkthrough for the game.

Of course it could have been even better if other Looney Tunes characters such as Bugs Bunny had made an appearance, plus some of the enemies could be annoying when they’d appear out of thin air, what with there being a one-hit system for losing a life. But overall a game put together with a lot of love.

1991 brought the SMS a must-play for all platform lovers in the form of James Pond 2: Codename Robocod by British-based Millennium Games. This is the visually exciting and greatly improved sequel to James Pond: Underwater Agent (which confusingly came out on the next-gen Genesis). But while the original title is a spoof-laden affair, Codename: Robocod largely managed to leave that stigma behind to become a great game in it's own right. When I was a kid people used to play this game as much as Mario and Sonic. However, outside of the UK and Europe it had a more limited success.

After his defeat at the end of the last game, Dr.Maybe fled to the North Pole, taking control of Santa's Toy Factory and enslaving all the penguin helpers. Oh my! Enter Pond, a secret agent super-fish equipped with a bionic suit. See how fast he runs, see how high he jumps, see how his body will stretch to be a thousand feet tall?! The last one is a bit gimmicky and isn't used all that much but it seems to be what most people remember the game for.

The better known Amiga and Genesis versions of this game were packed with polished imagery and shimmering backgrounds, although much of this is absent from the powered down SMS port. That said, it's still one of the better looking games on the system. You only need take a trip out into the HUB world to appreciate this. The surrealist nature of some stages such as the opposite gravity and the flying bathtubs levels being particular highlights.

The object in each stage is to free all imprisoned penguins before finding the exit pole. Do this for two worlds in a row and you'll reach a boss stage. This format continues for some fifty stages, which for an SMS title is value for money. The length helps to make this a more challenging game so by the time you've reached the end, you'll feel like you've earned it, something that is lacking from many titles in the 8-bit era. The gameplay itself doesn't deviate too far from the platformers' bible but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

James Pond went on to star in the series-defining Operation Starfish, as well as the sports-themed Aquatic games and later spawned an ill-conceived iOS title.

During the course of the SMS Completion Project, the favorite game I wrote for is Ghouls 'n Ghosts. Almost everybody has played this version of the game, or the SNES version. (I hope.) This game is a very cool platformer in which you take control of Arthur, who travels through 5 stages (which each has 2 areas) to fight Loki and rescue the princess.

Arthur can use magic as well as throw his lance. Although the game is not hard, you find several upgrades for either the different parts of his armor, his lance or for magic. However, the doors that appear to get these are random; sometimes an enemy pops out turning you into a duck or an old man, which is hilarious.

Something that the game doesn't tell you is that when you get to the final boss, Loki, is that you have to be maxed out, all armor, weapon and magic. Yes, in case you don't, you'll have to replay the whole game so you can get the upgrades. That's true, you have to replay the whole game so yeah, it can get quite tedious.

As for the writing part, it was quite fun to write for the game, since I've never written for this kind of video game. When I got to the end of the game and I had to replay the whole game in order to get all the upgrades, I got quite frustrated in having to replay the whole game, but oh well. It also has some glitches in which Arthur doesn't jump all the way and jumps down the gaps, which is tedious as well. Overall, though, it's still quite a great game!

~ Conclusion ~

To be honest, I can't think of a way to end this list that is worthy of the effort it is meant to entail. I mean, completing over 200 games and writing guides for them is no small feat, whether as a single writer or as a team. This was an effort that took, start to finish, approaching a decade.

Still, I feel I must say this, for this list is not only to celebrate the efforts of many, but to raise awareness, in a way, of one thing. It's not often that we nowadays play games from 1990s that were only released outside of the U.S., or just games in general that were not quite as popular. In general, sure, a lot of those games are just outright bad. But what I hope we ten have conveyed to you in this list is that you should be adventurous in your gaming ventures; despite the age, despite the lack of popularity, despite the pile of dust sitting on the old Japanese logo, you might just find a great game within.

I hope you have enjoyed this list, and feel free to offer any comments and trolls up to me.

List by KeyBlade999 (08/01/2013)

Discuss this list and others on the Top 10 Lists board.

Have your own Top 10 in mind? Create and submit your own Top 10 List today.

Would you recommend this
Recommend this
Top 10? Yes No