Sega 32X

From Sega Retro

32X PAL logo.png
32X US.jpg
Fast facts on Sega 32X
Manufacturer: Sega
Release Date RRP Code
Sega 32X
¥16,800 HMA-0001
Sega 32X
$159.99 84001
Sega 32X
£169.99 MK-84201-50
Sega 32X
1,390[1]F MK-84201-50
Sega 32X
DM ? MK-84201-50
Sega 32X
29.900[2]Ptas MK-84201-50
Sega 32X
$349[3] ?
Sega 32X
R$? ?
Sega 32X
₩199,000 ?
Sega 32X
? MK-84202-07
Sega 32X
NT$? MK-84202-16
Sega 32X
?kr ?

The Sega 32X (スーパー32X) codenamed Project Mars, is a hardware add-on to the Sega Mega Drive created by Sega. It is the second of two major add-ons for the system, the other being the Sega Mega-CD, and was released worldwide in late 1994. The 32X was designed to extend the Mega Drive's lifespan by giving it significantly more powerful 32-bit processing and texture-mapped 3D polygon capabilities. It was thus seen as a logical upgrade to the 16-bit processing and 2D capabilities of the Mega Drive and its main rival, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The 32X was succeeded by the Sega Saturn.

In the interests of simplicity, Sega Retro uses a simplified "Sega 32X" name for the unit, though the official name differs depending on regions of the world. In Japan, it was distributed under the name Sega Super 32X, in North America, the Sega Genesis 32X, in Europe, Australia and Asia, the Sega Mega Drive 32X, in Brazil, the Mega 32X and in South Korea, the Super 32X.


The Sega 32X is a large and heavy "mushroom-shaped" unit which plugs into the Mega Drive's cartridge slot. The 32X also plays its own cartridges which are designed to take advantage of the enhancements of the system - cartridges which will not physically fit in a standard Mega Drive. The 32X cannot function as an independent machine, but unlike the Power Base Converter it was designed to be a permanent addition to the Mega Drive setup, doubling up as a passthrough device allowing normal Mega Drive games to still be played. The 32X came with ten coupons and a plastic spacer, ensuring it can work with most versions of the Mega Drive console.

As an aside, the 32X's video encoder is of a slightly higher build quality than those usually found in later iterations of the Mega Drive, potentially resulting in a slightly clearer image when playing Mega Drive titles.

Numerous factors led to the criticism over the 32X, but one of the major issues is encountered before the system is even switched on. The device requires its own AC adaptor, and a second physical connection to the Mega Drive console from the back of the unit. If the user also has a Mega-CD, this means no less than three power adapters are required (plus a fourth for a television). Both the AC adaptor and 32X Connector Cable are bespoke units - the AC adaptor is more common as it is identical to that seen with the Mega Drive 2 (though is not often covered by universal AC adaptors), but the 32X connector cable is unique to the 32X and was not sold separately (though third parties variants exist).

Furthermore, Sega's AC adaptors of the day were designed so that the transformer was located around the plug area, resulting in several bulky units obstructing surrounding sockets. Due to the extra space required just to plug the console into the wall, Sega eventually released their own Sega Power Strip in North America.

The 32X brings significant visual upgrades to the Mega Drive, including being able to display more colors on-screen (32,768 at once, which was an important requirement for games featuring 3D graphics and full-motion video and had hence been a common complaint with the Mega-CD), scaling and rotation, and significantly enhanced 3D graphics capabilities provided by its two Hitachi SH-2 32-bit RISC processors (also used for the Saturn) and 32X VDP.

Audio capabilities were also upgraded, including the addition of QSound technology, which enables multidimensional sound that allows a regular stereo audio signal to approximate the 3D sounds heard in everyday life (similar to binaural recording).

The 32X is compatible with the Sega Mega-CD, allowing the user to play one of six enhanced Sega Mega-CD 32X games.

North American marketing pitched the 32X as being 40 times more powerful than the Super NES and 6 times more powerful than the 3DO. This is true in terms of CPU performance, as the 32X's dual SH-2 are capable of processing nearly 60 MIPS, compared to the Super Nintendo's Ricoh 5A22 which processes 1.5 MIPS and the 3DO's ARM60 which processes 10 MIPS. In terms of 3D polygon performance, the 32X is capable of calculating and rendering more than 200,000 flat-shaded polygons/sec, and 50,000 textured polygons/sec. In comparison, the 3DO renders 20,000 textured polygons/sec,[5] and the Super Nintendo's Super FX cartridge enhancement chip renders less than 1000 flat-shaded polygons/sec,[6] thus the 32X renders more than 200 times as many flat-shaded polygons as the Super FX chip and more than twice as many textured polygons as the 3DO. Compared to other systems at the time, the Atari Jaguar renders 10,000 textured polygons/sec,[7] while a Pentium 60 PC calculates 30,000–50,000 flat-shaded polygons/sec[8] and renders 6000 textured polygons/sec.[9] The 32X was generally the most powerful home system released to the Western world in 1994, since the more powerful Saturn and PlayStation were only released in Japan at the time.


Main article: 32X consoles.

Contrary to popular belief, the Sega 32X doesn't employ any regional lockout technology per se, instead relying on the region of the Mega Drive to determine the region of the unit. It does however have a set Genlock frequency which stops 50Hz (PAL) games from working on 60Hz (NTSC) units and vice versa. Due to the 32X only differentiating between frequencies and not region, the Japanese Super 32X and Genesis 32X are identical, and will work on either NTSC console. Much like region modifications on the Mega Drive and Saturn, this is easily changed with slight modifications to the unit, allowing for universal support of all games.

Technical specifications

See Sega Mega Drive specifications for base Mega Drive hardware specifications


  • Main CPU: Twin Hitachi SH-2 (SH7095) 32-bit RISC processors
    • Clock speed: 23.01136 MHz (NTSC), 22.801467 MHz (PAL)Media:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf[10]
    • Performance: 1.3 MIPS per MHz,Media:SH-2A.pdf[11] 59.829537 MIPS (NTSC, 29.914768 MIPS per SH-2), 59.283814 MIPS (PAL, 29.641907 MIPS per SH-2)
    • DSP: Fixed‑point geometry math processor, 1 fixed-point operation per cycle,[12] 46.022721 MOPS (NTSC, 23.01136 MOPS per SH-2), 45.602934 MOPS (PAL, 22.801467 MOPS per SH-2)
    • Clock cycles: 46.022721 MHz (NTSC, 23.01136 MHz per SH-2), 45.602934 MHz (PAL, 22.801467 MHz per SH-2)
  • CPU co-processors: Overlay processors
    • Mega Drive CPU:
      • Motorola M68000 — 7.670453 MHz (NTSC), 7.600489 MHz (PAL),Media:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf[10] 16/32-bit instructions, 32-bit internal data bus, 16-bit external data bus, 1.342329 MIPS (NTSC), 1.330085 MIPS (PAL)
      • Zilog Z80 — 3.579545 MHz (NTSC), 3.546894 MHz (PAL), 8/16-bit instructions, 8-bit data bus, 0.519034 MIPS (NTSC), 0.514299 MIPS (PAL)
    • Sega CD CPU: Motorola M68000 — 12.5 MHz, 2.1875 MIPS






  • Cartridge: Compatible with all Mega Drive models, JVC Wondermega can store save game/score information.
  • CD-ROM: If you have a Sega Mega-CD; speed same as Sega Mega-CD compatible with audio CD, CD&G, SegaCD and JVC WonderMega


  • I/O: Same as Mega Drive; 32X upgradable; can upgrade the 32X


Main article: Sega 32X cartridges.


Main article: History of the Sega 32X.


List of games

Main article: List of 32X games.

Games marked with asterisks(*) are enhanced versions of previous Sega Mega-CD-only games, taking advantage of the 32X's improved graphics, which require both the 32X and Mega-CD in order to be played (see Sega Mega-CD 32X).

Launch titles


North America


Magazine articles

Main article: Sega 32X/Magazine articles.

Promotional material

Print advertisements

EGM US 062.pdfEGM US 062.pdf

Print advert in

Electronic Gaming Monthly (US) #62: "September 1994" (1994-xx-xx)

SegaVisions US 21.pdf

Print advert in

Sega Visions (US) #21: "October/November 1994" (1994-xx-xx)
also published in:

  • GamePro (US) #64: "November 1994" (1994-xx-xx)[42]

  • EGM² (US) #5: "November 1994" (1994-xx-xx)[43]

NextGeneration US 01.pdfNextGeneration US 01.pdf

Print advert in

Next Generation (US) #1: "Premiere Issue 1995" (1994-12-08)

NextGeneration US 02.pdfNextGeneration US 02.pdf

Print advert in

Next Generation (US) #2: "February 1995" (1995-01-24)
also published in:

  • Game Players (US) Vol. 8 No. 2 "February 1995" (1995-xx-xx)[44]

  • Sega Visions (US) #23: "February/March 1995" (199x-xx-xx)[45]

SegaVisions US 24.pdfSegaVisions US 24.pdf

Print advert in

Sega Visions (US) #24: "May 1995" (1995-xx-xx)
also published in:

  • VideoGames (US) #77: "June 1995" (1995-xx-xx)[46]

  • Game Players (US) Vol. 8 No. 7 "July 1995" (1995-xx-xx)[47]

SegaPro UK 57.pdf

Print advert in

Sega Pro (UK) #57: "May 1996" (1996-03-21)

Joypad FR 036.pdfJoypad FR 036.pdf

Print advert in

Joypad (FR) #36: "Novembre 1994" (1994-xx-xx)

MegaForce FR 34.pdf

Print advert in

Mega Force (FR) #34: "Décembre 1994" (1994-xx-xx)
also published in:

  • CD Consoles (FR) #3: "Janvier 1995" (199x-xx-xx)[48]

ConsolesPlus FR 042.pdf

Print advert in

Consoles + (FR) #42: "Avril 1995" (1995-xx-xx)

Television advertisements


External links


  1. File:PlayerOne FR 046.pdf, page 37
  2. File:HobbyConsolas ES 037.pdf, page 31
  3. File:Hyper AU 014.pdf, page 16
  4. File:SegaForce SE 1994 0708.pdf, page 37
  5. Need for Speed Comparison
  6. Old games that felt next-gen (GamesRadar)
  7. Atari Jaguar 64-bit (The Atari Times)
  8. 3D Misconceived (PC Graphics Report)
  9. Spatial Multimedia and Virtual Reality, page 145
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 File:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf, page 54
  11. File:SH-2A.pdf, page 2
  12. File:Hitachi SuperH Programming Manual.pdf
  13. 13.0 13.1 File:Genesis32XUSManual.pdf, page 7
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 File:Genesis32XUSOverview.pdf
  15. 15.0 15.1 File:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf
  16. 16.0 16.1 File:Genesis32XUSOverview.pdf, page 7
  17. File:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf, page 49
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 File:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf, page 50
  19. 19.0 19.1 File:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf, page 55
  20. 20.0 20.1 File:TC511664B datasheet.pdf
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 File:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf, page 76
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 File:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf, page 53
  23. 23.0 23.1 File:Genesis32XUSOverview.pdf, page 51
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 File:Genesis32XUSOverview.pdf, page 9
  25. File:Genesis32XUSOverview.pdf, page 53
  26. File:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf, page 42
  27. Design of Digital Systems and Devices (page 95)
  28. File:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf, page 77
  29. Algorithms for Parallel Polygon Rendering (pages 34-36)
  30. Algorithms for Parallel Polygon Rendering (pages 35-36)
  31. Service Games: The Rise and Fall of SEGA, page 154
  32. File:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf, page 51
  33. Sprite engine for the Sega 32X
  34. 34.0 34.1 File:Genesis32XUSManual.pdf
  35. File:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf, page 41
  36. File:32XUSHardwareManual, page 13
  37. 37.0 37.1 Dr. DevSter's Guide to The Sega 32X
  38. File:Genesis32XUSManual.pdf, page 17
  39. File:UPD4504161 datasheet.pdf
  40. File:Genesis32XUSManual.pdf, page 22
  41. File:Genesis32XUSManual, page 7
  42. File:GamePro US 064.pdf, page 185
  43. File:EGM2 US 05.pdf, page 48
  44. File:GamePlayers US 0802.pdf, page 4
  45. File:SegaVisions US 23.pdf, page 8
  46. File:VideoGames US 77.pdf, page 4
  47. File:GamePlayers US 0807.pdf, page 4
  48. File:CDConsoles FR 03.pdf, page 15
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