With about 360 Sega Master System games officially released during the console's lifespan (including the Mark III), the Master System has a sizeable set of games in its library, but not as much as its successors. Though statistically better than its main rival, the Nintendo Entertainment System, a lack of third-party support ultimately placed the console in second place during the third generation of video game consoles.
The majority of the Master System's big hits were ported from the arcades, with Fantasy Zone, Space Harrier, and Out Run being amongst the more well known. Initially, Sega Master System games came in cartridge and "Sega Card" formats; the latter was phased out towards the end of the decade with developers adopting larger game sizes that only the carts could handle. By 1989 and 1991, the console had been phased out in Japan and North America respectively, but support continued to come in from European developers and publishers, and the console was kept alive well into the 21st century in Brazil.
In Japan, games were generally packaged in brown/gold cardboard packaging with rich and colourful artwork. In the west, games were packaged in plastic clamshell cases (which would also be used for the Mega Drive), featuring comparatively dull box art consisting of a grey grid on a white background and a simple graphic pertaining to the game. At first, during its early years in the 1980's, the covers had lots of unused space with only one graphic printed. However, as time went on, the covers became more colorful (especially in Brazil where later boxes were blue). Since 1991 onward in Europe, released games such as Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit), G-LOC: Air Battle, Mercs, and The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck have had their covers composed of a very large graphic of the game covering a majority of it, as well the game's title and the system's name, 'Sega Master System', shown in full on the upper half. Similar aesthetics were applied to the cartridge designs.
Brazil would receive a large amount of exclusive Master System games, often converted from the Game Gear, meaning many Master System games are now considered valuable collectors' items.
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