Nightmare Circus

From Sega Retro


NightmareCircus title.png

Nightmare Circus
System(s): Sega Mega Drive
Publisher: Sega (US), Tec Toy (Brazil)
Sound driver: GEMS
Peripherals supported: Six Button Control Pad
Genre: Action

Number of players: 1
Release Date RRP Code
Sega Mega Drive
(Sega Channel)
Sega Mega Drive
R$79.9979.99 051070
Tectoy: 13+

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Nightmare Circus is a Sega Mega Drive action beat-em’-up game developed by Funcom and published by Tec Toy. Originally scheduled for a December 1995 North American release[1], issues during development and the dwindling lifespan of the Sega Genesis caused publisher Sega to back out. Later, the game was picked up for the Brazilian market by Tec Toy and saw an official release there in June of 1996. Six months later, Nightmare Circus did eventually see a North American release, broadcast via Sega Channel.[2]


Nightmare Circus is an action game with elements of linear beat em’ ups and action-platformers. Raven has an extensive repertoire of both physical and PSI-based attacks, the latter of which will expend his dedicated PSI meter. Free to explore the different stages of the carnival at will, the game presents nothing in the way of direction during gameplay and players are left to themselves to creatively interpret the game’s visual cues to proceed. While some stages are fairly straightforward, others can only be completed by more obtuse methods, and with the game as a whole having very little player feedback to indicate progression.


Locked behind the password screen is an extensive debug menu that allows minute alterations to things like hitboxes, variables, and even the game’s gravity. For example, the range of Raven’s attacks can be altered to be longer, or his amount of PSI increased. A second password expands this menu with a level select, and accessing the menu again during gameplay will display an additional list of variables specific to the stage being played.

Referred to by the game’s manual and advertising as U PROGRAM technology, and in-game as the Tweaker, the menu is extensively developed and properly labelled, and unlike virtually all debug modes, was intended for use by players. The manual details the menu’s controls and offer adjustment ideas, stating “the possibilities are nearly endless.”[3]


Developed late into the lifespan of the Sega Genesis in North America, Nightmare Circus was virtually complete upon the cancellation of its late 1995 release. A deal was eventually struck with Brazilian Sega distributor Tec Toy to officially publish the game in that region, where the market was younger. Stefano Arnhold has a personal recollection of Nightmare Circus being the only Brazilian-exclusive Mega Drive game not produced in-house by Tectoy themselves.[4]


While Nightmare Circus is completeable once its peculiarities have been overcome, the lack of player direction is so severe that the larger gaming community was unaware of how to even reliably beat the game until YouTube user RendMGaming uploaded a five-part tool-assisted speedrun demonstrating the game’s completion in late 2009.[5]

Production credits

  • Producer: Max Taylor
  • Designer: Ricardo Pinto
  • Lead Programmer: Johan Andersson
  • Lead Artist: Lars P. Anfinssen
  • Asst. Producers: Dante Andersson, Trond W. Larsen
  • Programmers: Martin Gram, Carsten Sørensen, Morten B. Ofstad
  • Engine Programmers: Morten B. Ofstad, Carl Skârstedt
  • Graphics Concepts: James Worall
  • Artists: Torkell Bernsen, Colin McMahon, Tom Gjerde, Mikael Noguchi, Ernie Deakyne
  • Music: Kurt Harland, Jim Hedges, Andy Armer
  • Sound Effects: Kurt Harland, Brian Coburn, Kim Jensen
  • Level Editor: Gard E. Rødahl
  • Game Tweakers: Joel Breton, Ernie Deakyne, Ron Allen, Joe Cecchin, Marcus Montgomery
  • Lead Tester: Joel Breton
  • Asst. Lead Testers: Ernie Deakyne, Joe Cecchin, Tim Hess, Marcus Montgomery, Billy Martorana, Ron Allen
  • Testers: Jack Amato, Alfred Dutton, Kim Rogers, Rick Greer, Jason Deguzman, John Amirkhan, Ed Ramirez, Tony Ciardella, Donovan Soto, Sherry Blevins, Kemrexx George, Chris Sur, Scott Crisostomo, Daniel Tyrell, Kenny Robinson, Bine Arceo, David Wood, Chris Lucich, Mark Griffin, Jeff Loney, Lance Nelson, Don Carmichael, Dermott Lyons, Mark Subotnick, Dave Paniagua, Joe Cain, Mark Paniagua, Joe Damon, Rob Prideaux, Maya De Campos, Sean Doidge, Jeremy Campbell, Jeremy Caine, Tai Huynh, Alex Barrerio, Jeff Silveira, Rolef Conlan, Matt Clerici, Anthony Desantis, Chris Johnson, Michael Ironside, Dave Asgharzadeh, Michael Douglas, Nathan Tan, Jeremy Wheat, The Big Top Mice, Zenon Thornton, Robbie Pasquini, Deserae Shanklin, Chris Baetz, Chris Cates, Charles Delay, Conner Morlang, Geoff Jones, Martin Broenkow, Roger Sommerville, George Sandoval, Ovanji Powell, Kenneth Chan, Tomothy McKnew, Christina Hurley, Six Button Bill, Toad Slepian, Sally Perlman, Joann Eastman, Pat Walsh, Phil Gamble, Geoffrey Meyers, Demian Kato, Andrew J Nolley, Darren Nagtalon, Abe Navarro
  • Tools Programmers: Blue House Prod., Morten B Ofstad, Andre Johansen, Svein Aandahl, Eivind Eklund, Jesper Hansen
  • Product Managers: John Garner, Bill Onderdonk
  • Comic Liaison: Jennifer Hunn
  • Production Asst.: Tormod Mansaker, Christian Almskog
  • Special Thanks: Erik Gloersen, Jack Kristoffersen, Tommy Svensson, Joachim Barrum, Mark Miller, Terry Tang, Suzie Greene, Joyce Takakura, Larry Loth, Camp Winnarainbow
In-game credits

Magazine articles

Main article: Nightmare Circus/Magazine articles.


Physical scans

Sega Retro Average 
Publication Score Source
{{{{{icon}}}|L}} Division by zero.
Based on
0 review
Sega Retro Average 
Publication Version Score
1700 igr dlya Sega (RU)
Tricks 16 bit (RU)
Sega Mega Drive
Based on
2 reviews

Nightmare Circus

Mega Drive, BR
NightmareCircus MD BR Box.jpg
NightmareCircus MD BR Cart.jpg
Nightmarecircus md br manual.pdf

Technical information

ROM dump status

System Hash Size Build Date Source Comments
Sega Mega Drive
CRC32 06da3217
MD5 697fe71f7c6601b80ff486297124d301
SHA-1 3c80ff5ba54abe4702a3bb7d812571d3dc50c00f
2MB 1996-02 Cartridge (BR)
Sega Mega Drive
CRC32 ee96f1b8
MD5 9d8869bf8dec6223440aaed3af202fa7
SHA-1 c48a0f275a46a4a814a4aa0926c084d27812f5ec
4MB 1995-07 Odd EPROMs[8] Page
Sega Mega Drive
CRC32 31de5a94
MD5 6e325bc3fe03b2bbcd39e667cf0b567a
SHA-1 61b7d25e15011d379d07a8dad4f8c5bb5f75e29f
2MB 1996-02 Page