Useful Notes / Sega Genesis

16 Bit Arcade Graphics.
You can't do this on Nintendo,
16 Bit Sports Action
You can't do this on Nintendo,
Genesis Does What Nintendon't."
North American advertisement showing the system's Tag Line

After failing to make a real dent against the Nintendo Entertainment Systemnote , Sega decided just to top them. If Nintendo was dragging their feet to a 16-bit system (the arcade standard at the time), then Sega would beat them to the punch with a console based on its System 16 arcade board codenamed "Mark V".

Enter the Mega Drive, or as North America calls it, the Sega Genesis.note 

For the most part, it worked. This was helped by some of Nintendo's U.S. policies being ruled as anti-trust violations by some developers supporting Sega due to them becomingnote  a lot more lax note , and their first truly successful hit known as Sonic the Hedgehog. So, the Mega Drive was a hit, selling 35 million systems (with miniaturized versions and handhelds still on the market today). There were also the Sega CD and 32X add-ons, but they were commercial flops.

Nintendo eventually had its own entry in the 16-bit era in the form of the Super NES. The SNES and Mega Drive/Genesis had a long and fierce console war that is probably the best-remembered of them all.

Either way you look at it, this was the console that made SEGA a household name.

Not to be confused with the band Genesis, the Web Game Ge Ne Sis, the Genesis Device... or the book in The Bible.


  • The console has a 16-Bit Motorola 68000 runs at 7.68 MHz (varies per region). The 16-bit part was prominently used as a marketing point over the 8-bit NES.
    • Along with the Turbografx 16, the consoles brazen marketing of the 16 bit mantra (even proudly displaying it on the first model of the console) started the rather unfortunate misconception that "Bits=Better Graphics/The Power of the Console". While it does have a grain of truth in it, it's also a gross oversimplification of how bits work.
  • Graphics generated by a more advanced Video Display Processor compared to the Sega Master System.
    • The system was heavily marketed for its ability to render objects faster than the SNES, a feature for which the Sega marketing division coined the term "Blast Processing". The higher performance allowed the Mega Drive to be able to render 3D polygons even without any special chips, like with Hard Drivin' and Star Cruiser.
    • Like the NES and SNES, the Mega Drive could expand through chips on the carts. One was the Sega Virtua Processor, which functioned like the Super FX chip on the SNES, allowing for more advanced polygonal rendering (it was in fact even more powerful than the Super FX chip). Unfortunately, incorporating it was a lot more expensive than a SNES chip, and only the port of Virtua Racing used it.
  • It also has a 2nd CPU, a Zilog Z80 running at 3.58 MHz, used for the Sound chips's CPU and Master System play back.


  • Sprites up to 32x32 pixels. As on other systems, multiple sprites were placed side by side to form the large characters in games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat.
  • Up to 80 sprites on screen (not including background layer textures which could also appear animated), with a maximum of 20 sprites or 320 sprite pixels per scanline.
  • Two background layers in addition to the sprite layer.
  • Could not do scaling and rotating sprites in hardware, but the faster CPU could imitate them in software by resizing sprite data.

  • 320x224 resolution.
  • 64 colors on screen (divided into four 16-color palettes), 512 total.

  • Yamaha YM2612 (OPN2)
    • Six concurrent FM channels (voices).
    • Four operators per channel.
    • Two interval timers.
    • Stereo sound.
    • Sixth channel can be used a software mixing channel for PCM
  • Texas Instruments SN76489
    • 4 Analog generators.
    • 3 squares one noise.
    • modded for stereo sound (the chip's standers can only do Mono)

Addons and peripherals

Power Base Converter: An add-on which allowed the Mega Drive to play Sega Master System games, either of the cartridge or the chip variety, and included support for the SMS's SegaScope 3D glasses. This was initially marketed for the first model Mega Drive, but a small quantity was made for the redesigned, compact Mega Drive (But only in Europe). Also, it can not play SG-1000 games (or Master System games that use the system's video modes like F-16 Fighter Falcon) or use its Japan only FM chip (the YM2413, which was also used on the MSX under the name MSX Music and was cloned by Konami as the VRC7 chip for the Famicom in Japan) unless the unit is modded. It also won't work with a 32X unless it is modded.
Sega CD: A CD-based add-on which would allow the Mega Drive to take advantage of a higher-capacity storage medium, enabling features such as Full Motion Video and Red Book CD sound. Unfortunately, the Mega Drive' own processing power wasn't quite enough to take advantage of these features to the fullest. Commonly believed to be a flop, the add-on actually sold well enough to be incorporated into some models of the console (the JVC Wondermega/X'Eye the CDX/Multi-Mega), though it never found the sort of popularity that the PC Engine's CD add-on did in Japan. Since the system remained bound by the Mega Drive's palette limitations (except for the few CD games that also supported the 32X add-on), live-action footage often turned into "the most horrifying, blurry, reduced-color-palette mess imaginable" (to quote Digital Pictures co-founder Ken Melville).


  • A 2nd 68000 chip running at 12.5 MHz, the main 68000 chip becomes the sound chips's CPU.

  • 512 KB of main RAM and 256 KB of video RAM.
  • 64 KB of sound RAM.
  • 16 KB of CD drive cache.
  • 8 KB of back up RAM, with memory cartridges going at 128 KB

  • Same as the Mega Drive but has a extra chip the can do scaling and rotation effects like the Super NES's Mode-7 chip (the Super NES has 2 PPUs, 1 for modes 0 to 6, and the other for mode 7) with the DPS1 chip and playing FMV video.

  • 16 bit 8 channel PCM chip running at 32 KHz (44.1 KHz for CD-DA), also it's own CPU running at 12 MHz.

    Sega CD Games 

Sega 32X: Originally conceived as the Neptune, a cartridge-based 32-bit system to go with Sega's later CD-based system, the Sega Saturn, the add-on boasted two 32-bit processors and primitive 3D graphics capabilities, and was marketed as an opportunity for consumers to get a head start on the 32-bit generation. Unfortunately, both consumers and developers knew that the superior Saturn was just around the corner (even though Sega themselves believed the 32X and Saturn could co-exist, with casual gamers gravitating towards the cheaper 32X while the Saturn was reserved for the hardcore crowd), and titles for the add-on were few and far between. Some previous Sega CD games were also re-released on the 32X to take advantage of the system's improved processing.


  • 2 Hitachi SH-2 chips, just like the Sega Saturn, but unlike the Saturn, the chip are a bit slower and are running at 23 MHz. each.

  • 256 KB of main RAM and 256 KB (128 KB X 2) of video RAM.
  • 256 KB of sound RAM

  • 2 frame buffers with 2 layers (sprites and backgrounds) each (4 in total) and can be set up as just backgrounds or a large amount of sprites or ect.
  • 32,768 Colors, no on screen limits.
  • 50,000 sprites with their blocks going up to 512 X 512; Polygons like the Saturn are done with sprites, if all 4 layers are sprite layers, it can go up to 200,000 sprites.
  • Stuff like Scaling, Rotation and 3D Engines are done with software with said software running on the second SH-2 chip.
  • Screen resolution however is still the same as the Mega Drive.

  • 2 10-bit PWM Channels.
    • Sega's apparent intention was for programmers to perform software mixing of music on one of the SH-2 chips, and use the PWM channels to play back the music, much like the Game Boy Advance several years later. While a few games attempted this (Kolibri in particular), the vast majority of games just used the Genesis's existing audio hardware for music, and the 32X's additional channels for sound effects.

    Sega 32 X Games 

In short, the Mega Drive could at least come close to the SNES in total power, and could match it with extra chips. The only major limitations that the system faced no matter what was its limited color output and smaller sprite size.
    Sega Mega Drive Games 

Tropes Related To The System And Its Add-Ons:

  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: The reason for the Big Word Shout, plus a passive-aggressive markting push in North America was to appeal to the teenage gaming market, while Japan had aimed for a more subtile ad campaign.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Sega Nomad. While it's a near-fully functioning portable version of the Genesis, it suffered from a truly horrific battery life (six AA's, from which you'd be lucky to get two hours of playtime), lacked a "Reset" button (which made certain games such as X-Men impossible to complete, as they required pressing the button at certain points), and was incompatible with the CD and 32X add-ons.
    • Somewhat averted, though. An official chargeable battery pack was made for the handheld, and it's also compatible with the same AC adapter as the Sega Genesis model-2 and Game Gear. It was also quite a powerful handheld for its time, featuring a backlit screen, and the ability to connect with a TV to function as a traditional Genesis.
  • Big Word Shout: "SEGA!" in the ads. This would also appear in a handful of the consoles games, such as their Sonic titles and even their Jurassic Park tie-in game.
  • Country Switch: It was found that many early region-free games actually does this. Depending on the game, changes may be as subtle as removing or adding a trade mark symbol to a complete overhaul (for example, Mystic Defender revealing itself to actually be a Peacock King game and reverting certain elements to its uncensored state).
  • Darker and Edgier: Sega aimed their console more towards the older game crowd, and was much less strict with censorship than Nintendo was with their games (and not to mention a contrast from Sega's more genial Master System). As if to drive home that they weren't bluffing, instead of a colorful, kid friendly platformer like Alex Kidd being the consoles advance man, the systems first pack-in game, Altered Beast, is a arcade beat-em-up, featuring gore, violence and nightmarish content that would never have been allowed on the NES. Their port of Mortal Kombat also kept the arcades beloved blood and gore intact (albiet you needed a cheat code to turn them on), unlike the heavily censored SNES port. Their advertisements likewise had a very abrasive, "in-your-face" attitude (and an occasional penchant for innuendos and raunchy humor) that staunchly contrasted Nintendo's more wholesome image, and weren't above making mean spirited snipes at the competition.
  • Derivative Differentiation: After Sega tried to directly copy Nintendo with the Sega Master System, only to fall flat on their face, they decided to go in the opposite direction and become Nintendo's antithesis. Even their headlining mascot, Sonic, was a unique contrast from the Mario series in art and gameplay, and also a contrast to Sega's own Mario-derivative Alex Kidd, who was quickly abandoned by the company. Unsurprisingly, it worked.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The Mega Drive was more well known for its variety of big-name sports titles and arcade ports before Sonic gave the console a face in 1991.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Bringing up the Console Wars between SNES and Genesis can cause Internet Backdraft even today.
  • Fan Nickname: A Sega Mega Drive with every possible add-on (A Power Base Converter, Sega CD, a 32X, a lock-on Sonic&Knuckles cartridge with Sonic 2 or 3 hooked in, possibly if you're feeling incredibly bold a Game Genie (as seen here) has been called the "Tower of Babel". Other names include the "Tower of Power" or the "Doom Tower".
  • Follow the Leader: For a brief time, Sega took the lead from Nintendo in the console wars, and their console prompted many trends in the game industry, including their infamously abrasive ad campaigns, cartoon animal mascots with 'tude, and aiming games at the older crowd. Surprisingly, even Nintendo got on the bandwagon, in spite of eventually getting the lead over the Genesis in the end.
    • Ironically, Sega themselves would end up aping the SNES; once the roaring success of Donkey Kong Country and the SNES Super FX chip came to light, this prompted Sega to create games such as Sonic 3D Blast and the Vectorman series, plus their Virtua Racing port, complete with the Sega Virtua Processor, their own take on the Super FX chip. Also, the Sega CD came about because Sega heard rumors of Nintendo's deals with Sony to make their own cd add-on, and because NEC's Turbografx 16 had just released its own CD attachment, prompting Sega to jump the gun and push out the attachment as a countermeasure. See, aside from the Sega-Nintendo rivalry, there was also a Sega-NEC corporate rivalry going on inside both Sega and NECnote . The CD add-on also allowed the Genesis to perform otherwise impossible features similar to the SNES, such as Mode 7 effects and sprite rotation.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The Mega Drive was never a huge success in Japan compared to the PC Engine and the Super Famicom, but it was ridiculously popular in the rest of the world, especially North America and Europe. In fact, the Mega Drive outsold the SNES in countries like the United States and United Kingdom, thanks to being released two years before the SNES, promoting it as a more "edgy and cool" system, and the critical and commercial success of the Sonic the Hedgehog games. In fact, the only reason the SNES was able to outsell the Mega Drive in North America during the dying days of the 16-bit era was thanks to the release of Donkey Kong Country.
    • The trope is especially prominent in Russia, where Mega Drive was (and in many cases still is, at least for those who aren't interested in gaming industry) one and only 16-bit console. It's explainable by the fact that the Russian video game market in the nineties was mainly based on bootlegging and piracy, and since SNES was nearly impossible to clone at that time, it was much easier and cheaper for various video game stores to import countless unlicensed Mega Drive clones and cartridges. As a result, before the rise of the internet not many people in Russia even knew about SNES existing.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: One of the 32X commercials had a Mega Drive laying on a bed as the 32X came down. "Alright, bay-bay..."
    • "Can we see that again?"
    • Sega absolutely loves this trope. Quoting an ad for the Genesis in the UK, whose headline is The more you play with it, the harder it gets:note 
  • Logo Joke: Quite a few of them.
  • Moe Anthropomorphism:
    • From the Neptunia franchise, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory introduces the Ultra Dimension's Planeptune CPU Pururut/Plutia a.k.a Iris Heart. Pururut is a cute girl who speaks very slowly, is very lazy, but is a very nice girl... with a hidden sadistic side. Whenever she transforms into her goddess form Iris Heart, she becomes an open Dominatrix who punishes foes and allies alike (the latter only when they disagree with her) and is The Dreaded, but with a Hidden Heart of Gold. Iris Heart's harsh and violent personality might be inspired by Sega's violent treatment towards Nintendo in the mid-90's.
    • The Meganekko Mega Drive is one of the Sega Hard Girls, a group of girls based on Sega consoles and handhelds.
      • Furthermore, both Pururut and Mega Drive appear in the crossover game Chō Jigen Taisen Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls: Yume no Gappei Special as each other's rival/counterpart.
    • Mega Drive has also an American counterpart, the Cowgirl SEGA Genesis.
  • Polygon Ceiling: Towards the end of its life in the mid-nineties Sega attempted to create (at least the illusion of) 3D games on the system, such as with Sonic 3D Blast, Vectorman 2, certain levels in The Lost World, the Toy Story video game, and others. While the graphics were ambitious for a 16-bit system, the gameplay tended to suffer as a result. Virtua Racing managed to break through it thanks to using the Sega Virtua Processor chip to allow real time 3D graphics, but the added cost of this chip (which skyrocketed the game's cost to 100$) kept anymore games with the SVP from being made.
    • To add insult to injury, due to relying on certain hardware, Virtua Racing was incompatible with the 32x and the Model 3 Genesis (unless you mod it) and pretty much all of the unofficial clone systems. So if you bought the game years later and happened to own a Model 3 system, you were SOL.
  • Product Facelift
    • The Mega Drive went through the most redesigns of any video game console in history—first, there's the original model, which also has a link port (meant for the cancelled Meganet) in the very, very earliest models, the more famous, streamlined second model Mega Drive, the Genesis CDX (Multi-Mega in Europe) which was a clever (but expensive) hybrid of the Mega Drive and Sega CD, the JVC X'Eye/Wondermega which was similar in concept to the CDX and also had enhanced sound capability (and a $500 price tag to match), the Model 3 Genesis from Majesco (released only in North America), which was as big as the controller, and then there's the Mega Jet and Genesis Nomad, both of which are portable Mega Drive consoles. There is even a licensed version of the Mega Drive, first released in Europe, the AtGames Sega Mega Drive 20-in-1 Game Console, which contains 20 games built into the console and has Region Coding fully unlocked, is even smaller than the Model 3 Genesis, and has unofficially been dubbed the "Model 4 Genesis". This version made it to the United States shortly thereafter, and comes packed with 80 games.
    • There were two different types of Mega Drive controllers. The first is the standard three button control pad, and the second is a six button control pad (known as the Fighting Pad 6B in Japan and the Six-Button Arcade Pad in North America) made specifically for fighting games such as the Street Fighter II series. The Arcade Pad later got a redesign by Majesco released in conjunction with the Genesis 3 console (same button layout, but with gumball joysticks and turbo options). Other peripherals include the Menacer light gun (Sega's answer to Nintendo's Super Scope) and the Activator motion sensor pad (which did not work as well as it was advertised).
  • Region Coding: Sega, trying to cut costs, designed the console's motherboard so that changing the region is as simple as swapping a few jumpers on the motherboard around. The first jumper determined the clock speed of the console and the second jumper determines the console's language. There were only three valid combinations - English 50Hz for PAL, English 60Hz for NTSC-U/C, and Japanese 60Hz for NTSC-J- though some games will also honor the Japanese 50Hz setting to mean Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Mainland China). This is combined with the shape of the physical cartridge (NTSC-U/C and PAL cartridges were designed the same way, whereas NTSC-J cartridges had their distinct design). All it took to make the console region free was to mod two switches into the console to select language and speed (although if you had a Japanese console, you must also mod the top loading section of the case so American and European cartridges will fit). It didn't really mattered much during the early days of the console tho, since most games released then were region free (and some even used the settings for Country Switch purposes). Only when the region locked games came out later that hobbyists took to modding.
  • Scary Black Man: One of the Sega CD commercials had one.
  • Spin-Off: The Sega Pico contained pretty much the same main components as the Genesis/Mega Drive save for replacing the OPN2 synthesizer with a uPD PCM DAC. A later Yamaha-made spinoff of the Pico reinstated the OPN2 synthesizer.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: Some of the later games for the system.
  • Take That: The Genesis's ad campaign in America took hearty pot-shots at Nintendo. After all, "Genesis does what Nintendon't!"
  • Video Game Long Runner: It was launched in 1988, and it wasn't formally discontinued until 1998. But, there are still versions of the console on sale today (and impressively, many of these clones are made under official license from Sega), and there were actually a few new unlicensed games released for it in the last decade, the most recent of which came out in 2012.
  • World of Ham: Pretty much anyone who appears in Sega's commercials.
  • X Makes Anything Cool: The Sega CDX, and the Sega 32X.


Alternative Title(s): Sega Mega Drive, Sega CD, Mega Drive