About this series: In stark contrast to the Cheapest Games series, this Rare & Valuable series will round up the rarest and most valuable games for a given console or handheld so you’ll know what to look for whether you are buying or selling.
Since Sega’s first console wasn’t a big hit in the United States and it doesn’t have as much of a collector’s following as some newer systems or Nintendo’s nostalgia powerhouses, it can be a challenge to find a lot of price information on the rarer Master System games. However, after a lot of research on eBay, forums, and rarity guides online, I have compiled a relatively solid representation of the in-demand items of the Master System library.
It’s also worth noting that with a quick search on eBay, you may find that some prices for games may vary for certain games. Often in those cases, it may be due to a more common region variation of the game being sold without being specified (often a common PAL version instead of the US version). There are a lot of subtle differences in these game releases, so we’ll do our best to educate you on what to look out for.
James Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing: $450-$1260
On the surface, this particular game seems like a rare North American exclusive that just happened to be made in low quantities. And especially when tied to a sports celebrity license, begs the question of why did they bother to produce the game?
Well, the Master System version of James Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing actually went by different names and/or used different licensing other other regions. In the PAL Regions, the same core game was published as both “Heavyweight Champ” and “George Foreman’s KO Boxing”. It was also released in Brazil as George Foreman’s KO Boxing.
The Buster Douglas license in the North America likely coincided with the Sega Genesis/Megadrive game of the same name. The 16-bit version of Buster Douglas Boxing was rather common, but also happened to be a rather lackluster game considering the hardware it was running on. Interestingly enough, the Master System version exceeds overall quality compared to the Genesis other than things like presentation and sprite size. But as we discussed above, this is probably because the games were not really developed with each other in consideration.
In the end, James Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing is arguably the hardest-to-find North American Master System release (especially when you’re looking at pure cartridges). The only close contender is the Sonic (see below) in complete condition with the US UPC on the back. But in the case of Buster Douglas, you don’t have to worry about weeding through European versions (at least with the same licensed branding).
Check for James Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing on eBay
Strider (with US UPC): $200-$545
You might simply think that this is an interesting port or alternate version of Capcom’s classic. Unlike the unique and exciting Master System version of Ninja Gaiden that we featured in our Master System Hidden Gems guide, this version is basically a heavily downgraded port of the Genesis/Megadrive game by Tiertex.
The collectability of this true North American version (and a few others below) can be a bit confusing for those new to Master System collecting.
In the later years of the Master System, Sega had a handful of popular games that were previously only published in PAL regions and Brazil. Since they knew the demand was lower in North America and it was challenging to justify different print runs for this region, the simply put a new, North American-specific UPS sticker on the back. The games in question were Strider, Sonic the Hedgehog, Golden Axe Warrior, and Spiderman. Other than these UPC stickers, the North American releases are identical to the PAL version (which are all rather common). In case you are interested, Strider’s North American UPS code is 0 10086 09005 5.
Because of this arrangement, loose copies of the cartridges are rather inexpensive as you can’t tell them from the PAL counterparts. Many North American collectors are content to save some money by having a PAL version without the sticker. However, for a true North American complete collection, you will need the stickers.
It is also worth mentioning (but not surprising) that the stickers could be prone too counterfeiting. So buyer beware (and as a result, prices haven’t gotten overly crazy without more reliable certification)
The US Sonic the Hedgehog game (see below) used to be the topic collectable in full North American glory, but dedicated Master System collectors have realized this Strider release is a bit harder to find and have paid the premium for it accordingly.
Sonic the Hedgehog (with US UPC): $188-$510
The Sonic games on the Master System (and Game Gear) weren’t actually weren’t un-interesting de-makes like Strider above, but were actually unique 8-bit creations that were worth playing — even if you were well-versed in the 16-bit games. In fact, we actually included the Sonic games as Defining titles in the Master System library and they showed the power of Sega’s 8-bit system quite well.
Despite the fact that the Sonic 8-bit games were actually good and Sonic had quite the appeal in North America, Sega still took the same PAL-to-North America publishing shortcut it did with Strider up above (and some others below) and seemed to have very limited copies produced.
Now, it is possible that there were a decent amount of copies produced and sold in the States, but the only ones that are worth much are the complete copies with that special North American UPC sticker on the back. In the case of Sonic The Hedgehog, the UPC code is 0 10086 07076 7
To be clear, if you look on eBay for a Sonic the Hedgehog for the Master System, you will indeed find some inexpensive games that will play on the North American Sega Master System, but most likely, it is actually just the more common European version.
For many years, this true North American Sonic release was ranked was ranked as the #1 most valuable Master System game, but Strider has been found to be more elusive. At the same time, Sonic hasn’t increased in value a whole lot over the last decade. It’s worth noting that we did find this sub-$200 unit with a damaged sticker sold on eBay, but that’s about as cheap as a UPC-labeled Sonic comes. these days
Spiderman (vs. The Kingpin) (with US UPC): $150-$405
Sega then created ports of the game internally to run on the Master System (mostly to support the legacy system in the PAL regions where the SMS still thrived) and the Game Gear. The 8-bit ports had the same basic format and storyline as the 16-bit version, but with redesigned levels and cutscenes.
Much like with Sonic the Hedgehog and Strider above (and Golden Axe Warrior below), Sega took some of the European production units and slapped a simple UPC barcode sticker on the back (code 0 10086 07065 1 for Spider-Man) and sold those in very limited quantities in North America.
Check for Spiderman on eBay
Power Strike (Mail In): $65 -$410
The Power Strike series (which is a localized version of Aleste w/ anime parts taken out) was mostly sold outside of North America, but Sega eventually decided to make it available to the US and Canada through mail-order.
Eventually, as the Master System continued to decline in the States, Sega unloaded remaining inventory at Toys R’ Us and some other discount stores like Toy Liquidators. One price sticker from Toy Liquidators shows an “original price” and then a “now” price of $14.99. These North American copies don’t look quite the same as a typical retail release — they have a blue monochrome cover artwork. The European releases, on the other hand, have full color retail package.
With this limited availability and the high collectability of a high-quality shmup production from Compile, Power Strike is a collectable with a lot of firepower behind it. The game remains as a strong recommendation for shooter fans — its just up to you if you want to splurge for a true North American release or not. For what it’s worth, the game and its sequels were also released on the Aleste collection for the Nintendo Switch and PS4 (Amazon/eBay).
Golden Axe Warrior (with US UPC): $100-$365
If you’re looking to build a top-notch Master System collection, this is a solid entry that will command respect in more ways than one. Of course, you could always opt for a PAL version without the elusive North American UPC sticker (with code 0 10086 07505 2 – more detail about this situation above in the Strider entry)
Regardless, Golden Axe Warrior is a rather essential game to have in a Master System collection and a Defining game in thew system’s history. Golden Axe Warrior offered significant “improvements” (such as spells) over the relatively basic Zelda. The game is colorful and makes great use of the Master System hardware while also having plenty of story tie-ins to the previous Golden Axe games. It’s quite a treat for fans of the series or of the Action RPG genre.
Dick Tracy: $75 – $570
Dick Tracy was one of the final six games released in North America for the Master System. Most of the others were the big 4 that were PAL released with the US UPS slapped on at the last minute (Sonic, Strider, Golden Axe Warrior & Spiderman). The North American release can be picked out by the yellow “New” banner in the top left corner
Being a late release isn’t a guarantee for collectability. Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse was release around the same time as well, but there seems to be a bit more copies floating around (even of the US versions) and $60 has been the ceiling for that one lately.
Dick Tracy, however does have a lot of volatility in the sales prices. Two units have sold for over $500 in April and May 2021, but there’s also a complete copy that sold in June 2021 for only $73 (granted it was coming from Canada).
The game itself has an interesting “run-n-gun” setup (with some very modest platforming elements). The game scrolls horizontally but you shoot at enemies as they approach either along the same horizontal plane or you “rotate” to shoot those coming from farther back toward the horizon/back plane. The game design is rough enough that it’s pretty hard to dodge incoming shots, you you just need to clean up enemies as quickly as possible. The game is more of a curiosity or novelty than a solid gameplay experience.
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World [Blue Label]: $84-$200
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World [Red Label]: $50-$75
The Alex Kidd series was a staple in the Sega’s Master System ecosystem. Alex Kidd in Miracle World happened be one of the most defining games on the platform. There were a couple other follow-ups on the system, but they didn’t have quite the charm or adoration.
This sixth (!) game in the series (and fifth on the Master System) was released in 1990 and served as a bit of a parody to Sega’s Shinobi franchise. In fact, it was rumored that early prototypes didn’t have Alex Kidd involved at all, but be essentially just a “cute” version of Shinobi — much like Kid Dracula was to Castlevania. Despite its Japanese look, feel and origin, Sega never released Alex Kidd in Shinobi World in Japan.
The original Red Label (on the cartridge) version isn’t super expensive, but also not cheap at the $50 to $75 range. But the real treasure is the re-released Blue Label version for 1990. That can reach up to $200 in complete condition. Read more details about the Blue Label/Bold Text releases in the “Bold & Blue Subset” section below.
Phantasy Star: $60 -$240 High-end has map book
Its difficult to build a solid Master System collection without having a copy of Phantasy Star. It is not only one of the most Defining Games of the Sega Master System library, but it, and some of its sequels are also one of the most iconic games of the RPG genre.
There is a later 1990 re-release that has been combined by some collectors in the “Bold & Blue” subset that is mentioned below. The differences in the cover art are more minimal, but the most noticeable difference is that the re-release has a “With Battery Back-Up Memory” message on the top right area of the cover like this one here.
At this time, it doesn’t seem like there is a price difference in resale prices on eBay, but just some looking at the listings, the re-release is FAR rarer — maybe only 5% of Phantasy Star units are the re-release version. I have not seen any with Blue carts though. I don’t know for sure, but it’s possible that the Re-release does not include the full map book.
Bold & Blue Subset (1990 Re-Releases): $30-$210
Again, in 1990, Sega re-released several early Master System games with significantly redesigned box art featuring a bold typeface, manuals printed on cheaper paper with a 1990 copyright date, and, most noticeably, a blue label on the cartridge instead of the standard red. There are some variants that have the “bold” cover but still have a red label. You’ll see some of this in the value estimate breakdown below.
As you might expect, some of these units are rarer than others. At the same time, some popular games like Out Run have more of a demand premium. To learn about this subset in more detail and see physical examples, check out this video from John Hancock. Here’s a basic run-down of the subset and estimated values:
- Out Run (Blue Label): $50-$210 (eBay)
- Enduro Racer [Bold & Blue]: $210 (eBay)
- Rambo: First Blood Part II (Very Hard to Find): $200 (eBay)
- Alex Kidd In Miracle World Bold & Red: $200 (eBay)
- Black Belt: $75 Bold w/ Red (eBay)
- California Games: Blue Label $75
- Choplifter Bold w/ Red: $110
- Double Dragon w/ Blue Label: $103
- Fantasy Zone: Bold & Red: $60, Bold & Blue $180 appraisal
- Ghostbusters Bold & Blue: $50 – $75
- Reggie Jackson Baseball: Bold & Blue $40-$85
- Slap Shot w/ Blue Cart: $29 – $90
(Additionally, two games — Alex Kidd in Shinobi World and Slap Shot — were ONLY released in this format, with a blue cart label, in the U.S.)
ALF: $55 -$237
As an 80s kid, it was hard not to love the ALF TV show. It wasn’t surprising that ALF would have a licensed video bearing its name, but having the Sega Master System being the home of it only console game is a bit surprising. (ALF was featured on some other home computer games, however). This may not surprise you, but the game’s development had a very small budget and was rushed out the door. Interestingly, it came out on New Years Eve, 1989 — completely missing the holiday shopping season
It is also worth noting that ALF was only released in North America and was published in the summer of 1989 as the Master System started to decline in the region. According to RarityGuide.com, ALF is actually the third rarest Master System game after James “Buster” Douglas Knockout Boxing and Sonic the Hedgehog.
ALF on the Master System is an odd game in which the title character has to go around the house and town to collect items needed to fix his spaceship. Due to the laughable oddness, the game was also featured on The Angry Video Game Nerd’s Youtube Channel with 3.5 million views, so that may factor some into the game’s collectability. And as the AVGN suggest’s it’s almost like the 90s version of ET on the 2600… only there’s a lot fewer copies around. The manual is definitely required for a premium selling price.
Check for ALF on eBay
Check for ALF on Amazon
Ghouls N Ghosts: $50 -$200
Released in January 1991, the Master System version of Ghouls N Ghosts was one of the last six games released in North America for the Master System — and most of the others were the big 4 that were PAL released with the US UPS slapped on at the last minute (Sonic, Strider, Golden Axe Warrior & Spiderman). As more collectors realized how limited this one is, the values have started to raise.
The Master System port of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts features an exclusive power-up system that allows players to enter secret areas and upgrade parts of Arthur’s armor. Otherwise, it’s a rather faithful version, considering it’s an 8-bit port of a CPS1 game. Sega did this conversion themselves and they did it right. While the graphics are scaled down a bit, they look respectable and most of the levels are still there. Controls are solid so jumping and throwing javelins feels relatively authentic.
Psycho Fox (“Psyco” Label): $85-$130
Psycho Fox Corrected Label: $55-$80
Developed internally by Sega, Psycho Fox is a solid platformer that feels a bit like an early successor to the Sonic games while being inspired by certain characteristics of Super Mario Bros 2 and 3. The game is pretty much an essential piece for deep Master System collections, but we highlighted it detail in our Master System Hidden Gems guide
The game was initially released in 1989, but was interestingly released in North America with a cartridge label featuring the spelling “Psyco Fox”. Before too long, Sega did correct their ways and put the proper spelling on the label. And like some classic baseball card spelling errors from the same era, the limited print-run mistaken cartridge is a collectors piece with a hefty premium.
Additional North American Games of Value
- Ys the Vanished Omens: $63-$135 (eBay)
- Wonder Boy III the Dragon’s Trap: $30-$160 (eBay)
- Montezuma’s Revenge : $50 -$110 (eBay)
- Galaxy Force : $25-$135 (eBay)
- Double Dragon [Blue Label] : $50 -$103 (eBay)
- King’s Quest : $20 -$130 (eBay)
- Wonder Boy in Monster Land: $20-$120 (eBay)
- Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker: $25-$97 (eBay)
- Golvellius Valley of Doom: $20 -$98 (eBay)
- Super Monaco GP: $28-$85 (eBay)
- Alex Kidd in Miracle World: $25-$79 (eBay)
The Lucky Dime Caper Box Set: $500 – $800
This lovely box set featuring Donald Duck is exclusive to PAL regions and is in a similar style of the Ecco the Dolphin Box Set on the Sega Genesis/Megadrive (shown off in our 16-bit Rare & Valuable guide).
The box set includes the Lucky Caper game, a cassette tape, t-shirt, and poster inside a sturdy and attractive box that will look nice on a bookshelf.
Supposedly, these box set units were originally sold for £49.99, but were later discounted in magazine advertisements for £14.99. In the early 2000s, Telegames was selling sealed units for in the £50 to £80 range. However, in 2014, units sold on eBay for nearly £500 / $700. We haven’t seen any show up lately, but these could possibly go for as much as $1000 in this heated market.
If you’d like to see more pictures and read more about this box set, check out SegaCollect’s blog post about this gem.
Championship Hockey: $400-$550
This low-production 1992 international release is seemingly a European exclusive, but it is actually a port of the 1991 Sega Megadrive game, EA Hockey, which also happens to be the international version of EA’s NHL Hockey.
These title and licensing differences are mostly due to the fact that EA’s NHL license is only for North America and EA wasn’t involved in the Master System port. It’s also worth noting that Championship Hockey was also ported to the Game Gear for a 1994 release. As you might guess, without the NHL license, this game uses national hockey teams with fictional players.
Masters of Combat (Red Cart): $200-$400
Masters of Combat attempted to remedy that deficiency by delivering a rather competent and interesting 8-bit fighting game. While it didn’t have a lot of competition for the genre, the game was good enough to warrant a full write-up in our Master System Hidden Gems guide
Home Alone: $190-$385
Kevin McCallister must defend various homes from the “Wet Bandits” (aka Harry and Marv). You have to not only evade Harry and Marv but keep them from making off with valuables from the house. The game basically falls into the trap-em-up genre with the likes of Lode Runner.
The Master System Home Alone game has similarities from its Mega Drive and Game Gear games, but it is indeed a separate game from a different developer (Probe Software) and many fans consider this Master System version to actually be superior to its peers.
Home Alone on the Master System was exclusive to Europe but also wasn’t sold in especially high quantities. This pairing (along with some 90s movie nostalgia) makes for a highly collectable piece for expansive Master System collections.
Streets of Rage 2: $80 -$400
As HG101 mentions in their breakdown of the different Streets of Rage 2 versions, “The Master System version has that same very off feeling that the port of the first game had, only even more so here. The biggest problem is that the game just moves far, far too quickly, meaning enemies will rocket around the screen, surround you, and stunlock you for all your health before you can react. Enemies are also much more aggressive from the first stage, meaning they’ll bum rush you pretty much as soon as they appear on screen.”
Meanwhile HG101 mentions that the Game Gear version “moves at a much more reasonable speed, which makes it a lot easier to actually play. It’s actually pretty fun to play, so much so that it’s probably the best beat-em-up you’ll find on the Game Gear.”
Anyway, on the Master System, Streets of Rage 2 was exclusive to PAL regions and Brazil in rather limited quantities, so dedicated Master System fans (or completists Streets of Rage fans) have to pay up quite a bit to score this collectable.
Power Strike II: $120-$230
As a follow-up top Compile’s first Aleste / Power Strike game, they developed one last shmup swan song for the Master System with Power Strike II. This release was not only an exclusive to PAL regions, but it was distinctly a Power Strike game instead of part of the formal Aleste series.
Power Strike II a well-crafted game and was an easy recommendation for one of the best Master Systems Gems (check out that guide for more info on the game itself). It’s actually quite a shame that such a great game wasn’t originally sold to more parts of the world.
And while Power Strike II ranked highly on our original Rare & Valuable Master System in 2012, the price range was only $60 to $85 back then. This is an impressive testament to how collecting for both high-quality shmups and retro games overall has increased over the past decade.
Les Schtroumpfs Autour Du Monde: $120-$220 ($470 sealed)
(The Smurfs Travel the World / Smurfs 2)
For the much of the first decade of the new millennium, this late (1996) sequel release was seemingly unearthed and shared with the collector community. (Even the original Smurfs game isn’t exactly abundant) There were VERY few copies known for those first few years and was quickly dubbed a “holy grail” of Master System collecting.
As more years passed, more copies started to be discovered in small shops, and eventually unopened cases of them surfaced, resulting in sealed copies being sold on eBay to interested collectors. You can read some of the story and comparison to the original Smurfs game on SegaCollect’s blog post.
We actually see more sealed copies listed and sold (above the $400 range) than we do opened/used copies on eBay these days. Most collectors are holding onto them and the New-Old Stock units are just slowly being sold as time goes on.
Additional PAL Games of Value
- Buggy Run: $140-$210 (eBay)
- OutRun 3D: $125-$220 (eBay)
- Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine: $ 60 -$240 (eBay)
- Ultima IV: $48-$245 (eBay)
- Robocop 3: $55 -$230 (eBay)
- Sonic Spinball : $55-$210 (eBay)
- Ninja Gaiden : $70 -$195 (eBay)
- 4 Pak All Action (Aust only): $50-$180 (eBay)
- Micro Machines: $70 -$150 (eBay)
- Assault City (Light Phaser Version): $80 -$140 (eBay)
- Power Strike: $70-$140 (eBay)
- The Incredible Hulk: $30 -$130 (eBay)
Brazil – Tec-Toy Releases
Tec-Toy released a large selection of Master System games in Brazil (where the Master System thrived quite a bit). Many of them were actually simple ports of Game Gear games, but ended up being regional exclusives for the Master System. There are many Tec-Toy releases that are rather hard to find and can bring in some good money, but here are some of the most valuable.
- Street Fighter II: $130-$500 (eBay)
- Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker [Paper Box]: $200-$300 (eBay)
- Ecco: Tides of Time: $90-$400 (eBay)
- Earthworm Jim: $185-$300 (eBay)
- Sonic 2: $150-$260 (eBay)
- Sonic Blast: $150-$255 (eBay)
- Masters of Combat Blue Cart – blue and white plastic box): $120-$250 (eBay)
- Battlemaniacs: $80-$250 (eBay)
- Quest for the Shaven Yak Starring Ren and Stimpy: $60 -$250 (eBay)
- X-Men Mojo World: $55-$215 (eBay)
- Dynamite Headdy: $90-$120 (eBay)
- Bonkers Wax Up: \(50-\) 150 (eBay)
- Ariel The Little Mermaid: \(50-\) 150 (eBay)
- Woody Woodpecker: \(50-\) 150 (eBay)
- Mortal Kombat 3 : $40-$150 (eBay)
- Taz in Escape from Mars : $30-$135 (eBay)
Portuguese Purple Releases / “Portuguese Purples”
Some of the games were older titles that were pushed to garner more sales while others were Portugal-specific units of the Brazilian Tec-Toy games (mentioned above). The Tec-Toy releases had the same manuals as the Brazilian release, but it wasn’t a big deal as both countries speak Portuguese.
For die-hard Master System collectors, this “Portuguese Purples” sub-set can be fun to collect. There aren’t a lot of confirmed sales recently, but you can often find some being listed on eBay at any given time.
These Portuguese Purples don’t come cheap, but there isn’t a heavy premium to their other PAL or Brazilian Tec Toy counterparts.
Valuable Releases from Japan & Other Regions
The game was released in limited quantities in China/Hong-Kong/Taiwan (not sure) and has two variations. One is titled ‘Mah-jong’, the other ‘Mak-Jong’. Covers and manual differs, cartridges are the same.
Shop for more Mah-jong on eBay
Bomber Raid: $200 – $400
This vertical 2D shooter was the very last Master System game released in Japan. Sega shared this heavily-194X-infuenced shooter in 1988 (in Europe)/1989 (Elsewhere). It’s a decent shooter, but nothing that is especially remarkable.
Bomber Raid was released by Activision in Europe and North America with what kinda looks like knock-off Megadrive/Genesis packing, but it has some beautiful, more suitable shmup artwork for this Japanese release.
Great Ice Hockey: $120 – $200
This Japanese version of Great Ice Hockey was only released through a 1987 BEEP! magazine contest that coupled the title in with a Sega Sports Pad giveaway (before the Sega Sports Pad’s official release in Japan). The game was not issued with a box in this Japan promotion, so is only sold now in this particular cartridge format.
Other Hard-to-Find Japanese Releases
- The Castle
- Comical Machine Gun Joe
- Loretta no Shouzou
- Undead Line
- Alex Kidd: BMX Trial
- Cyborg Hunter
- Hokuto no Ken
- Super Racing