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Best Sega Master System games of all time

40. Chuck Rock 2: Son of Chuck

The neanderthal visage of the Son of Chuck may evoke memories of horror-movie namesake Chucky, but then his old man was no Fabio either. This sequel to the original caveman-vs.-dinosaurs anachronism-fest improves on its cult predecessor in a number of ways: Rock the Younger is smaller, nimbler, and even handier in a fight thanks to a persistent melee-ready club.

With the original villain, Gary Gritter, vanquished by Chuck Sr., its down to the son to rescue his kidnapped pa from new foe Brick Jagger (look, if you didn't want awesome stone-age puns you should've picked another franchise). The games six levels offer platforming, rope-swinging, enemy-clobbering, and all the other challenges our pre-human ancestors overcame to allow you to be reading this.

39. Earthworm Jim

Doug TenNapel and Dave Perrys Earthworm Jim was one of the breakout stars of '90s gaming: Without systems to sell or an existing media property to build his brand, the hyper-powered haplotaxida sank or swam on the strength of his high-profile software debut alone.

That game's success saw widespread acclaim and conversion to anything with a controller port, including the Master System; and while the detail-rich excess of the 16-bit versions may have been scaled back for this iteration, the title's signatures are intact: lush animation, irrepressible humor, and plenty of varied platforming challenges for players willing to summon the skill to attempt them.

38. R-Type

The tiny-spaceship-versus-screenful-of-enemies genre, which would go on to grow into what we now know as bullet-hell shooters, saw some of its most formative entries in the 8-bit era; while Konami shooters such as Salamander and Life Force strode ahead on NES, Irem's fast-paced shooter series was cementing its place at the top of the heap on Sega's machine.

Giger-esque enemy designs and a chiptuned soundtrack for the ages ensured R-Type wielded an influence that continues to be felt in todays shooters - and the Master System version manages to fill the screen with menace without breaking too hard a sweat.

37. Super Off Road

Even in the arcades, Super Off-Road wasn't known for eye-popping visuals or screen-devouring sprites. This static-camera, four-player racer had speed and spills to offer, and wasn't about to slow things down with unnecessary window-dressing. Sounds like a formula for Master System success, right?

And Dragon's Lair developers The Leland Corporation didn't disappoint, loading the SMS version of Virgin's hit with 24 tracks worth of mud-caked competition. There's so much to enjoy here: fluid animation, solid physics, a masterful difficulty curve, and an incremental power-up system that rewards diligent play in single or (compellingly competitive) double-player mode.

36. Ecco: Tides of Time

Even before the brown-on-gray shooter glut of the 2000s, the lush underwater visuals of the original Ecco were one of the titles major selling points. Recreating the games look on the 64-color Master System wasn't something Sega appeared eager to rush into, but in offering an SMS port of the acclaimed sequel, the company ended up setting the bar even higher.

Known for improving on its predecessor's visuals, Tides of Time expanded the series onto Game Gear, and thence to Master System; working off the downsized handheld version, this iteration nevertheless includes plenty of the puzzles, mazes, and engagingly fluid underwater physics for which Ecco's known.

35. Virtua Fighter Animation

There was no way the Master System was ever going to get in on Virtua Fighter's groundbreaking real-time 3D combat, but that didn't mean the platform should miss out altogether on the chance to host Virtua match-ups. Originally confined to the Game Gear, Brazilian demand saw an up-rezzed conversion grace the Master System, which took inspiration from the Virtua Fighter anime series as its excuse to present Akira, Pai et al. in side-on 2D.

One-on-one fighters were an underrepresented genre on the Master System, so the attention paid to this first-party exception makes it a rare example of the form. And it was enjoyable enough that you didn't miss the third dimension.

34. G-LOC

G-LOC is short for G-force induced Loss Of Consciousness, which the arcade iteration of this After Burner spin-off elicited by literally strapping you into a daunting 360-degree revolving cabinet. A working example of same nowadays might as well have GROUNDS FOR LAWSUIT written on it, so this hyperspeed conversion might just be your best option.

And if you thought After Burner was a stunner, just wait until you're in the thick of this furious arcade sim, which starts as it means to continue with a dazzling mock-Mode 7 transition from third to first-person. This closer perspective on the action allows for greater variety, with air and ground targets challenging your ability to stay in the air.

33. GP Rider

Motorcycle racing, today a genre dwarfed by its four-wheel equivalent, saw considerable representation on the Sega Master System, perhaps because bike racing is a lot harder than car driving so you're less likely to wind up actually going very fast. Or so a cynic might think, but as it happens, this Super Hang-On semi-sequel is more interested in getting you up to speed than sending you flying over the handlebars.

Put together by Sega R&D 8 - who went on to merge into superstar Daytona developer AM2 - GP Rider offers two-player play or single-player races against a realistically fallible AI driver named Wayne. That Wayne, he really tries. Sometimes.

32. Super Monaco GP

A historical curio of ludological nomenclature (or a game with an interesting name), Super Monaco GP may be the only time that Sega offered a Super upgrade to one of its own titles - a practice that certainly slowed once it became a signature of Nintendo's.

Super Monaco GP offers considerable improvements over its top-down predecessor, including a pseudo-3D perspective, two-player split-screen, and the option to duel against computer-controlled racers. The games daunting car customization menu will delight gearheads, while speed freaks can skip straight to high-speed arcade-style play.

31. Dynamite Dux

During the Master System's heyday, arcade brawlers like Final Fight and The Punisher were all the rage, though hardware restrictions often saw the crunchiest pummel-em-ups confined to the 16-bit machines. An uber-cutesy facade may have prompted many would-be tough guys to pass this one over, but in doing so, they were unwittingly cheating themselves out of one of the SMSs most deceptively competent brawlers.

Not only was Dynamite Dux littered with hostile animals waiting for you to slug them in the face, but the game offered a healthy complement of weapons to help facilitate the process. Who'd have thought fowl play could be so punishing?

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