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
$349 Media:Hyper AU 014.pdf[1] ?
Sega 32X
$? ?
Sega 32X
₩199,000 ?
Sega 32X
? MK-84202-07

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 the ability to play "32-bit" games, seen by many as the logical upgrade to the "16-bit" library offered by the console and its main rival, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

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 several visual upgrades to the Mega Drive, including being able to display more colors on-screen (32768 at once, which was an important requirement for games featuring full-motion video and had hence been a common complaint with the Mega-CD), enhanced scaling and rotation, and additional 3D graphics capabilities provided by its two Hitachi 32-bit RISC processors.

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, though there currently isn't any evidence to prove these claims.


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


  • Main CPU: Twin Hitachi SH-2 (SH7095) 32-bit RISC processors
  • Co-processors: Overlay Mega Drive Motorola M68000, Zilog Z80
  • GPU (Graphics Processor): Sega 32X VDP (Sega custom LSI) Media:Genesis32XUSManual.pdf[4]
    • Color palette: 32,768 colors Media:32XUSHardwareManual.pdf[5]
    • Resolutions: 320x224, 320x240
    • Double-buffered framebuffer with three modes: Media:Genesis32XUSOverview.pdf[2]
      • 8bpp "packed pixel" mode: 256 simultaneous colors on screen; each pixel is an index into CRAM (can use full screen)
      • 16bpp "run length" mode: 256 simultaneous colors on screen; each pixel is both a number of pixels to display and the index of CRAM (limits screen size)
      • 16bpp "direct color" mode: 32,768 simultaneous colors on screen; each pixel is the color value (limits screen size)
    • 256 KB VRAM split into two 128 KB segments for each framebuffer. A priority system allows partial overlaying of Mega Drive/Mega-CD graphics.


  • 3D polygon graphics, flat shading, Gouraud shading, texture mapping, more sprites, quicker animation Media:Genesis32XUSOverview.pdf[2]
    • 3D performance: 50,000 polygons/sec
    • Fillrate: 9.216 million pixels/sec (dual 320×240 framebuffers, 60 Hz refresh rate)
    • Pixel bandwidth: 17.578 MB/sec (16-bit per pixel)




  • 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: 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


Promotional material


External links


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