The Sega Master System is far from the world’s most successful gaming console, but some of its games are worth a pretty penny these days.
By Will Bertazzo Lambert
Published 18 hours ago
When the Nintendo Entertainment System?brought the North American gaming market back from near-death, it quickly established a de facto monopoly over the medium. But the brave souls at Sega rose to challenge the company’s rule armed with nothing but ports of?many of the best arcade games of all time and their own home console: The Sega Master System
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…And they were swiftly defeated. Despite?being no slouch in terms of quality, Sega’s 8-bit answer to the NES failed to?topple Nintendo’s black and gray crown, never reaching the sales figures of its rival console. But the scarcity of its games has only boosted their rarity,?thereby raising their monetary value. Master System owners?who wrote off its library as merely?forgotten relics may be surprised to learn they could be sitting on a proverbial goldmine. All prices listed are for games that are complete in box.
This Solomon’s Key-esque puzzle game is not just a rarity for?America, but for the entire gaming world, as well. While?the 1984 hit from Utopia Software’s Robert Jaeger has seen worldwide releases on numerous platforms, this port was only ever distributed in North America.
You read that right ！ a North American exclusive on a console that famously underperformed in North America. Needless to say, it’s not the easiest game to come across, but nonetheless, a worthy?collectors piece for any Master System fan.
It’s hard to think that Ghosts ‘n Goblins has had so few games despite being such an important name in Capcom’s library. The series is 36 years old and has only just received its fifth mainline console release with this year’s?Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection.
As if that wasn’t enough to make the second game’s Master System port stand out, it also features a unique upgrade system that allowed players to?increase their attributes through exploration. This version of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts has never been re-released, so it’s an experience only available on the Master System. If that sounds worth $130 to you, you’ll be happy to know that it’s?possibly the easiest game on this list to find, depending on who you ask.
Although all versions of this platforming crossover can fetch a pretty penny, the American release?with?its bright-blue cartridge label?easily?attracts the highest prices. Copies from?this printing reliably sell for roughly one-third more than their?traditional red-labeled?brethren.
Despite Sega pushing good old Mr. Kidd as their Mario-esque platforming mascot at the time, the game reportedly shipped in limited quantities, especially in the West.?The game’s 1990 release put it one year after the launch of the Sega Genesis and one year before the arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog, so Sega was probably beginning to consider Alex Kidd a bygone relic. But?even if that’s true, the plucky character’s ninja adventure is an ideal find for any gaming anthropologist worth their salt.
Remember ALF? He’s back in game form for only the cost of two next-gen AAA games. This?platformer based on the American sitcom of the same name was mostly developed as a side-project of programmer?Kevin Seghetti?as he worked?on the Master System port of Monopoly. Seghetti reportedly protested releasing the game because of the sorry state it was in but failed to get his way,?resulting in easily the worst?price to value?ratio on the system.
Whether it’s so expensive because of that distinction, or just because it became rare by virtue of no one buying it,?anyone with a spare ALF game in their shoebox?has a happy sale on their hands. Unless you’re a hardcore collector, this game won’t?offer you much else.
One of the?few retro gaming rare gems that are just as fun to play as?they are to collect, Phantasy Star arguably holds up better than any other JRPG of its era?！ although that probably hasn’t helped its?secondary market?value as much as its battery and above-average price upon release.
Besides being rare, the game’s demand is also bolstered by its powerful (for the time) 4 megabit cartridge and for having kicked off the long-running Phantasy Star franchise, best known today for its MMOs.
Quite possibly the Master System’s best vertical shooter, Power Strike’s high technical performance, unique selectable powerups, and tense action could have made it one of the best selling games on the console. Unfortunately, Sega of America made the confusing decision to primarily distribute the game through mail order, with only?rumors of a?limited run exclusive to Toys R’ Us suggesting it was ever sold through other means.
If that sounds like a recipe for low sales, that’s only because it is. Power Strike is?one of the hardest games in the Master System’s library to track down, which of course makes it one of the hardest games to afford, too.
This was not Sega’s first attempt at cashing in on The Legend of Zelda’s success, but it was certainly the most expensive. Golden Axe Warrior?turns the fantasy hack ‘n slash series into an overhead adventure game where players?explore an open world?teeming with fierce monsters and Byzantine labyrinths.
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The game released in 1991, at which point the Master System was all but dead ！ especially in North America ！ naturally leading to?a low production run and sales to match. At least now it stands as a valued collectible for Golden Axe fans and Master System die-hards alike.
Not to be confused with the Master System’s other mahjong game Shanghai (which goes for about $20 unopened), this oddly hyphenated release of the classic Chinese board game is?one of gaming’s great rarities. It’s so uncommon that?practically nothing is known about its stateside release, to the point where even high-quality pictures of its box are practically impossible to find online.
It would be great to at least get?some images of it, but with that price tag, it’s not likely to happen any time soon.
What?began as a cheap re-skin of Sega’s Rocky game?is now an apple in the eye of every Master System collector. The U.S. version of this game is?another one that received a print run about as long as the titular boxer’s world heavyweight championship reign ！ that is, not long.
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It’s the console’s second rarest game, has the second-highest price, and is hilariously similar to a game you can nab for $25 complete in box. Only true heavyweight collectors should step up for this title.
Can a Sonic game really be the rarest release on a Sega console? As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the answer is, technically, yes.
Sega of America had so little faith in the blue blur’s 8-bit debut that they made no changes whatsoever to the already released PAL version besides slapping a?U.S. bar code sticker on the back of the box.
On one hand, this means that the game itself is likely far more common than the price implies. But on the other, since fewer people kept their boxes at the time, only a scant few copies can be?appraised as the genuine article. One little sticker can mean the difference between your game being worth $30 or almost 40 times that.
NEXT:?10 Of The Best Sega Master System Games Of All Time
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About The Author
Will Bertazzo Lambert
(11 Articles Published)
Will Bertazzo Lambert is an experienced writer who’s held a passion for gaming since he was old enough to hold a controller. His talent has been honed writing for such publications as Smashboards, Honey’s Anime and We Got This Covered. He is always on the hunt for gaming’s next major hits and overlooked gems.
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