Nightmare Circus

From Sega Retro


NightmareCircus title.png

Nightmare Circus
System(s): Sega Mega Drive
Publisher: Sega[1] (US), Tec Toy (Brazil)
Sound driver: GEMS
Peripherals supported: Six Button Control Pad[4]
Genre: Action

Number of players: 1-2[5]
Official in-game languages:
  • English
  • Release Date RRP Code
    Sega Mega Drive
    (Sega Channel)
    Sega Mega Drive
    (Sega Channel)
    Sega Mega Drive
    R$79.9979.99 051070
    Tectoy: 13+

    Nightmare Circus is a Sega Mega Drive action beat-'em-up game developed by Funcom.[2][9][1] Beginning as an experiment by Sega of America to finish a game's design before development had even begun[10], it was originally scheduled for a North American release in Autumn 1995[11] (later pushed back to December 1995[12], and then again to April 1996[13]), but issues during development and the dwindling lifespan of the Genesis resulted in Sega backing out of the project. While left unfinished from a design standpoint, the game was stable enough on a programming level to be technically completable; eventually it was picked up for the Brazilian market by Tec Toy and saw an official boxed release there in June 1996. Six months later, Nightmare Circus did eventually see a North American release, broadcast via Sega Channel[14][15] in both the United States[7] and United Kingdom[8] as one of the system's more notable downloadable exclusives.

    Boasting a complete lack of player direction or any indication on how to proceed, a highly complex but largely unexplained control scheme, and a notable amount of unfinished content, Nightmare Circus has become known for its modern reputation as one of the worst video games ever released. However, it also boasts a significant amount of well-considered features and a level of very visible passion that, while presented with striking inconsistency, instead notions its faults to the result of a development cycle cut short[16] - and the subsequent commercial release of a game that was almost-but not quite finished.


    When the Circo del Diablo first began setting up its tents on the edge of the city, people began to gather to purchase tickets for its opening night.

    While the circus tents were raised, Leto Diablo, the circus owner, stopped from tent to tent, ordering the artists around and treating them like slaves. Every performer, clown, and trapeze artist feared and despised Diablo for his cruelty. Because he was losing money with every performance, Leto Diablo began to hate his circus.

    But Diablo had a plan. He opened an insurance policy with a very high value for his circus, and at the start of the show on opening night, he would take advantage of the darkness and douse the tents with gasoline. It was in this way, with a simple strike of a match, he would transform the entire circus into a carnival of flames and screams of terror.

    One of the fire's survivors saw Diablo light the match, and testified at his trial. Diablo was found guilty of the murders. When sentenced to the electric chair, he cursed the people of the city.

    "You can't kill me!", he boasted. "The spirits of all your beloved ones are mine. I'll torture their souls for eternity!"

    Shortly after Diablo's death, strange things began to happen. People began to see strange lights at the circus grounds. An old man swore he saw the circus tent raise from the hereafter and return to the same place where it had been burned. Others heard laughter blowing like the wind in the desert...

    Currently, years after the tragedy, the story is considered only a legend. But the shaman warrior Raven lost his family in the fire and knows it really happened.

    Raven rushes into the desert, where the Circo del Diablo once existed. Under the heat of the sun, only ashes serve as a reminder of the horrible massacre. But this night, as soon as it grew dark, the sky remained covered by black clouds. Suddenly, the Nightmare Circus arose, floating in space where there had been previously nothing. Raven must defeat this haunted prison of spirits to avenge the death of his family.

    BR manual[17]


    Raven stands outside the initially-locked circus tent.

    Raven enters the Nightmare Circus seeking revenge for the death of his parents, and to free the souls captured by the Jester. Players begin outside the circus' three available areas (with the fourth, the main circus tent, initially locked), and are able to choose which to tackle first. By fighting their way through an area and defeating its boss, players can acquire that boss' special ability for use in the next area. When at least one of these areas is completed, the final stage is unlocked, with players able to bypass the remaining stages and proceed directly to the game's conclusion at their discretion.

    Free to explore the carnival at will, Nightmare Circus presents nothing in the way of direction during gameplay, and players are left to creatively interpret the game’s visual cues to proceed. While some stages are relatively straightforward, others can only be completed by more obtuse methods, with the game as a whole featuring little player feedback to indicate progression. Fortunately, Nightmare Circus autosaves player progress, including which stages have been cleared, which bosses have been defeated, and which special abilities have been acquired.


    As a Native American shaman warrior[17] hailing from the state of Arizona[18], Raven boasts an extensive repertoire of both physical (C-PSI) and psionic (I-PSI) attacks. When attacking, striking with the most extended point of the animation - like the end of Raven's shoe while kicking - results in more damage dealt, discouraging players from fighting up close. Using psionic abilities drains Raven's I-PSI meter, which can be refilled by grabbing the souls which escape defeated enemies.[19] Raven can also expend I-PSI to heal himself with  MODE +Up[19], and can capture the special abilities of defeated bosses with Z.[20] However, only one special ability can be held at a time.

    Raven is able to enter Spirit Warrior Mode, in which his attacks drain enemy I-PSI instead of C-PSI. As bosses are able to rapidly heal themselves, the game encourages (and sometimes requires) that players drain bosses' I-PSI before they can be realistically defeated. This attack will also defeat most regularly enemies entirely, but does not spawn a soul. Raven can also perform the exclusive Spirit Warrior Projectile attack in this mode.

    Nightmare Circus features a difficulty scaling system which multiplies the damage and stun values used by enemy attacks, as well as Spirit Warrior Projectile damage. Scaling begins at 100% and increases with every new stage completed. On the second and third stage, attack values are doubled to 200%, and on the fourth and fifth stage they are tripled to 300%. On the sixth stage (the point at which players could have ended the game but instead opt to complete all stages), the scaling is reduced to 200%, with the seventh and final stage returning to the starting point of 100%.


    Raven's health (C-PSI) is represented by the interior of the crouching red figure, and his psionic power (I-PSI) by the figure's blue, oval-shaped background. The sphere held in the figure's hand lights up to indicate Spirit Warrior mode is active. Special abilities appear as small human silhouettes to the left of the red figure, and extra I-PSI reserves on its right. The many empty spaces on the left side of the HUD are reserved for on-screen enemies, with each represented by a blue sphere which dims as that enemy loses health.[21] When a second player is active as White Eagle, a second HUD appears.

    Game modes

    Two players can compete in 1 on 1 Combat.
    • 1 Player: Raven fights through Nightmare Circus alone.
    • 2 Player Cooperative: Raven and his twin brother White Eagle[22] fight through Nightmare Circus together, and are able to perform exclusive combination attacks. This mode doubles enemy health and spawns an additional pair of minibosses. If either player dies, the game returns to single-player mode and the living player is allowed to continue.
    • 2 Player: The first player controls Raven, while the other controls on-screen enemies (with the ability to select from and spawn additional enemies.[22]) The first player tries to play the game as normal, while the second player tries to kill the other.  MODE +X,  MODE +Y, and  MODE +Z select between enemy types, while  MODE +Left and  MODE +Right select between different enemies in that type.
    • 1 on 1 Combat: A one-stage deathmatch between either two human players, or one player and the computer, with combatants able to select from either Raven, White Eagle, or any of the game's bosses. Once a stage is cleared in any other game mode, it becomes selectable for 1 on 1 Combat. Additionally, defeating a boss and acquiring its special ability unlocks that ability's use in 1 on 1 Combat, with fighters allowed to choose from a single I-PSI ability each match.[22]

    Playable characters

    NightmareCircus MD sprites Raven.png
    Raven / White Eagle
    Raven, the game's protagonist, is able to utilize a large number of both corporeal (C-PSI) and incorporeal (I-PSI) abilities. Incorporeal abilities drain the I-PSI meter, which initially has a maximum of 1000 I-PSI. Raven's attacks will slowly change in color as this meter is depleted.[23] Defeating a boss permanently expands the I-PSI meter by an additional 1000.[20]. The C-PSI meter is permanently capped at 2000 health.

    White Eagle, Raven's twin brother, is used by the second player in 2 Player Cooperative, 2 Player, and 1 on 1 Combat modes. He shares all the same abilities as Raven and controls identically, but is imperceptibly weaker than his brother - particularly in regard to being knocked back from enemy attacks.[24] When playing cooperatively, the two have access to additional teamwork-based abilities, and can stand on each others' heads to reach otherwise-inaccessible areas.[25]

    The below controls are for the Six Button Control Pad. Controls which indicate Left or Right are in reference to the player's current direction.

    Move list
    Type Name Description
    Movement Run Left+Left or Right+Right causes Raven to begin running. A third press will cause Raven to begin sprinting, with the time between second and third presses dictating sprint speed.[26]
    Movement Jump Up jumps upward. Holding a direction while landing from great falls increases the likelihood of stumbling.
    Movement Interact Z interacts with the environment, such as grabbing a switch. Importantly, this must be used atop the bodies of recently-defeated bosses to acquire their Special Ability.
    Movement Block C performs a basic Block. Holding Block while falling negates fall damage.[27]
    C-PSI Back Flip Up-left+B while airborne performs a mid-air backflip, essentially acting as a double jump and allowing Raven to reach higher areas.
    C-PSI Back Handspring Left+B performs a backwards handspring into enemies standing behind Raven.
    C-PSI Cartwheel Up+A performs a forward cartwheel attack.
    C-PSI Double Kick B performs a Double Kick. Despite strong damage, its slow attack speed results in it being more useful for its ability to stunlock multiple enemies.
    C-PSI Elbow Spin Left+X performs a powerful spinning elbow strike, preferable for close-quarters combat.
    C-PSI Headbutt X in close proximity to an enemy performs a headbutt.
    C-PSI Kick A performs a powerful kick, preferable for when an enemy is too far to Punch.
    C-PSI Knee A in close proximity to an enemy performs a knee strike.
    C-PSI Punch X performs a strong punch, preferable for when an enemy is too close to Kick.
    C-PSI Slide A+B performs a slide, quickly propelling Raven across the floor and granting immunity to damage.
    C-PSI Stomp Up+Down causes Raven to perform a downward stomp attack.
    C-PSI Strong Kick B performs a slow but powerful kick.
    C-PSI Strong Punch Y performs a slow but powerful punch.
    C-PSI Upper Cut Y performs an upper cut. While not as strong as other attacks, it grants Raven immunity to knockback during its animation.
    C-PSI Super Upper Cut Y+Right+Y performs a Super Upper Cut, a stronger variant of the Upper Cut which also propels Raven higher into the air than he can normally jump.
    C-PSI Chain Roll (Co-op) Z the moment two airborne players touch while facing each other performs a powerful Chain Roll. The manual purposefully hides this ability's control, instead stating "see if you are able to figure out this secret."[25]
    C-PSI Chain Thrash (Co-op) Up while performing a Chain Roll expands the ability with another attack.
    C-PSI Clothesline (Co-op) Z in front of a partner performs a Clothesline.
    C-PSI Flip (Co-op) Down+Up in front of a partner performs an assisted flip attack.
    C-PSI Screw (Co-op) Z the moment one airborne player touches another grounded player performs a Screw.
    C-PSI Torpedo (Co-op) Z+Left while in front of a partner performs a Torpedo.
    I-PSI Incarnate  MODE +Up converts I-PSI to C-PSI for every frame it is held.
    I-PSI Spirit Gate Mode  MODE +X activates Spirit Gate Mode. When active, any enemies will instantly be defeated upon spawning, allowing players to proceed directly to boss fights.[23] However, each defeated enemy consumes player I-PSI. This mode also has some limited (and likely unintended) effects on boss behaviors, particularly breaking the Body Snatcher and Hydra fights.[28]
    I-PSI Spirit Warrior Mode  MODE +Y activates Spirit Warrior Mode. When active, player attacks reduce enemy I-PSI instead of C-PSI, as well as granting access to the exclusive Spirit Warrior Projectile. Players will be forced out of Spirit Warrior Mode once they run out of I-PSI.
    I-PSI Spirit Warrior Projectile Z while in Spirit Warrior Mode fires a spiritual projectile attack at the expense of I-PSI. The damage dealt by the projectile scales depending on the number of completed stages.
    Special Ability Animate  MODE +A allows players to take control of an on-screen enemy or object, like bumper cars.
    Special Ability Bodysnatch  MODE +A possesses an on-screen enemy, with players disappearing while controlling the possessed enemy and reappearing wherever it is unpossessed.
    Special Ability Clone  MODE +A creates a decoy of the player which distracts nearby enemies but cannot deal damage.
     MODE +B expends half of the player's C-PSI and I-PSI to create a clone which fights alongside them, but will attack players when no enemies are nearby.
     MODE +C despawns the active decoy or clone.
    Special Ability Haste  MODE +A actives Rush Mode, doubling player animation speed and horizontal movement.
     MODE +B actives Tornado, a hard-hitting special attack with the highest damage-per-second in the game.
    Special Ability Hydrastrength  MODE +A increases player strength as damage is taken. The strength boost resets upon deactivating the special ability.
    Special Ability Puppeteering  MODE +A allows players to spawn and take control of a Warrior Puppet enemy.
     MODE +B spawns a Warrior Puppet enemy as a follower which attacks nearby enemies.


    Players begin outside many of the carnival's various attractions, able to choose which of the three available stages to tackle first: Amusements, Roller Coaster, or Rides. The Amusements stage is accessed through the "Amusements" building, the Roller Coaster stage is accessed through the rollercoaster at the left, and the Rides stage is accessed through the ferris wheel at the right.

    When one of these areas is completed, the final stage, Circus, becomes accessible through the big top tent at the carnival's rear. While the game encourages completion of the remaining two optional areas, players are free to proceed directly to Circus at their discretion - concluding in a fight with Jester for the fate of the ghostly carnival.


    NightmareCircus MD BR HouseofFun1.png

    NightmareCircus MD BR HouseofFun2.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR HouseofFun1.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR HouseofFun2.png

    House of Fun
    A funhouse-like maze with connecting rooms designed in a three-dimensional space. Players can turn themselves to a new cardinal direction by running to the edge of the screen, climb ladders to ascend to the upper floor, or enter trapdoors to descend to the lower floor. Different rooms feature distinct gimmicks, like one which swings back and forth while players are inside, and additional passageways can be revealed by attacking parts of the maze's walls.

    NightmareCircus MD BR HallofMirrors1.png

    NightmareCircus MD BR HallofMirrors2.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR HallofMirrors1.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR HallofMirrors2.png

    Hall of Mirrors
    A long hallway lined with mirrors where players encounters a large number of Looking Glass Men, duplicate images of Raven who step out of the mirror to fight him.

    NightmareCircus MD BR Kaleidoscope2.png

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    • NightmareCircus MD BR Kaleidoscope2.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR Kaleidoscope1.png

    A psychedelic rotating cylinder which holds a series of four rotating crystals that appear to be pushing the room around; so large that the crystals must be crawled under to proceed. Destroying these crystals (and fighting off the oncoming waves of Looking Glass Men) results in players being able to damage the stage boss Doppelganger, a powerful Looking Glass Man with the ability to spawn more of his kind.

    Roller Coaster

    NightmareCircus MD BR RollerCoaster2.png

    NightmareCircus MD BR RollerCoaster1.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR RollerCoaster2.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR RollerCoaster1.png

    Roller Coaster
    A large roller coaster stage in which players can either run around the tracks on foot, or hop in one of the passing rollercoaster trains. Large levers placed along the tracks can be kicked to change the direction of incoming trains. Thankfully, the trains cannot damage players while rolling by. Riding a specific train into the lower-left of the stage will carry players into the Work Yard.

    NightmareCircus MD BR TheWorkYard1.png

    NightmareCircus MD BR TheWorkYard2.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR TheWorkYard1.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR TheWorkYard2.png

    Work Yard
    A maintenance area for the roller coaster trains. Players spawn in front of a train buffer stop which he can push forward to shield him from the flurry of sawblades thrown from the offscreen Wooden Man enemy. After following the tracks to a decrepit workshed, players encounter the area's boss, Chainsaw.


    NightmareCircus MD BR TwinWheels1.png

    NightmareCircus MD BR TwinWheels2.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR TwinWheels1.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR TwinWheels2.png

    Twin Wheels
    A pair of ferris wheels placed beside each other, facing the camera and traveling in opposite directions. Their gondolas can be jumped on and ridden, but deadly fire at the bottom of each wheel ensures players cannot stand still for too long. While keeping themselves from getting close to the bottoms of the wheels, players must contend with ghostly Roadies attempting to push them off the gondolas. After enough enemies have been killed the fire at the bottom of the wheels extinguishes, allowing players to safely drop to the floor and exit the stage.

    NightmareCircus MD BR WallofDeath1.png

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    • NightmareCircus MD BR WallofDeath1.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR WallofDeath2.png

    Wall of Death
    A dilapidated rotating centrifuge ride constructed of chainlink fence and rotting wood which pushes players to its walls when it spins. Skinless dogs known as Crawlers patrol the fence, and are able to attack players while the ride is spinning. Hitting the switch on one of the ride's metallic clown doors stops the ride and allows players to enter the door.

    NightmareCircus MD BR DodgemsRink1.png

    NightmareCircus MD BR DodgemsRink2.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR DodgemsRink1.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR DodgemsRink2.png

    Dodgems Rink
    Helter Skelter
    A decrepit bumper car rink with a dark, sickly mood. The stage itself is fairly open and straightforward, pitting oncoming waves of Roadies against players in a test of endurance. Surviving this spawns the boss, a magician named Helter Skelter with the ability to telekinetically propel the stage's old bumper cars into players.


    NightmareCircus MD BR TheTicketOffice1.png

    NightmareCircus MD BR TheTicketOffice2.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR TheTicketOffice1.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR TheTicketOffice2.png

    The Ticket Office
    Ying Yang Brothers
    Players begin The Ticket Office standing before long metal ladder, which reveals the stage to be a massive wooden billboard featuring decrepit clown artwork, with multiple scaffolds across its face. The billboard is comprised of numerous wooden panels which can be destroyed by performing an Elbow Spin (Left+X). Hidden behind two randomly-chosen panels are the bosses, the Ying Yang Brothers. Destroying enough of these panels and finding both brothers begins the boss fight proper. Their defeat opens the barred door at the bottom of the stage, allowing access to Maggot-Men Act. Being set outside, it is the only stage which players can choose to leave at any time by walking to the edge of the screen.

    NightmareCircus MD BR MaggotMenAct1.png

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    • NightmareCircus MD BR MaggotMenAct1.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR MaggotMenAct2.png

    Maggot-Men Act
    Maggot-Men Act opens with players strapped to circular wooden wheels in a claustrophobic wooden laboratory for a knife-tossing minigame, where the objective is to spin the wheel so that the knives avoid their bodies. After avoiding enough knives, players fall off the wheel and begins the stage proper - a massive wood-glass laboratory where the floors, walls, and ceilings are constructed entirely from a maze of interconnected glass vials. In this maze are wriggling grubs crawling between vials. As these vials are inconsistently connected to one another, grubs will constantly attack from unexpected places. The background layer consists of a second vial maze connected to the first, forcing players to keep track of a number of variables to survive. With no safe place to remain still, every movement must be timed so that players don't encounter a passing grub. Upon reaching the the top of the maze he encounters Hydra, a green-clad contortionist with the ability to disappear into the vial maze while fighting.

    NightmareCircus MD BR BodySnatchingAct2.png

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    • NightmareCircus MD BR BodySnatchingAct2.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR BodySnatchingAct1.png

    Body Snatching Act
    Body Snatcher
    A trapeze set on the main floor of the big top, in front of what appears to be an actual audience. There are clay-like enemies called Morphs which must be defeated to proceed, and which come in different varieties: some trapeze, some walk tightropes, and others juggle. Players can also properly trapeze with much of the stage's environment, something required for reaching and defeating all but one of the stage's Morph enemies. Only then can the stage boss, Body Snatcher, be fought properly. Due to the specific nature of Morph enemies to return to life dependent on its remaining I-PSI, the use of Spirit Gate Mode is highly recommended.

    NightmareCircus MD BR FinalAct1.png

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    • NightmareCircus MD BR FinalAct1.png

    • NightmareCircus MD BR FinalAct2.png

    Final Act
    The final stage is a fight with Jester, a three horned demon which appears on the game's box art. Fought in a red-tinted version of the circus' big top, Jester's gimmick is the ability to morph into previous bosses while fighting. He begins the encounter in his devil form, then progressively Transforms into other bosses for the duration of the fight. Defeating Jester causes hell itself to open from below, pulling him back into its fiery depths and bringing an end to Nightmare Circus.


    A common humanoid enemy wearing blue overalls and wielding a nailgun. While the damage dealt from its nailgun is relatively weak, it will attempt to strike players with a hammer when close.
    Wooden Man
    A wooden robot only encountered in Work Yard, it has the ability to hurl powerful sawblades at players from a great distance. Players are encouraged to push the nearby train buffer stop towards Wooden Man to block his sawblades during their approach.
    Jack in the Floor
    A weak jack in the box-type enemy bearing sharp teeth which frequently appears from the floor to bite at players. A variation called the Tumbling Jack has the ability to scale walls.
    Toy Cannon
    A weak miniature toy cannon which fire cannonballs at players.
    A miniature toy zeppelin which drops weak bombs on players. Getting caught in its propellor causes significantly more damage.
    Looking Glass Man
    A mirror image of the player, able to perform many of the same attacks. Appears exclusively in Hall of Mirrors and Kaleidoscope, and while weak and easily dispatched, their large numbers can quickly overwhelm players.
    A demonic, emaciated dog found exclusively in Wall of Death, where it aggressively crawls along the mesh fencing of the spinning wheel. A skinless, more aggressive variation called the Nasty Crawler is encountered on later trips to the area.
    Warrior Puppet
    A highly-animated marionette of a tribal warrior with the ability to "fly" around the stage. Although not overly powerful, their small size and fast speed make them particularly challenging enemies, especially when presented in pairs.
    Maggot Man
    A large grub-like maggot described as a "man". Appearing exclusively in Maggot-Men Act, it plays into the stage's unique gimmick of being constructed from interconnected glass vials. Large numbers of Maggot Men randomly crawl between the vials, and have the ability to leap out and bite at players from virtually any floor, ceiling, or wall. While they can be defeated, the stage encourages players to proceed as fast as possible to avoid their bites.
    A featureless, clay-like circus performer appearing exclusively in Body Snatching Act. Morphs are immune to damage while performing a circus routine, and can be defeated by being knocked down with a single strong attack. It then curls into a ball for a brief period of time, and dependent on its remaining I-PSI, will either return to life or be permanently defeated. Spirit Gate Mode is recommended for dealing with Morphs.


    Special Ability:
    A large, muscular man wearing a Jason Vorhees-esque mask and wielding a chainsaw. When first encountered, he is performing his Animate ability on the nearby Wooden Man enemy and will be unable to move for the beginning of the fight. The left edge of the area can be used to corner Chainsaw into repeated stun attacks.[27]
    Special Ability:
    A powerful mirror image of the player, able to use many of the same attacks. Doppelganger is immune to damage until the four rotating crystals in his boss arena are destroyed, and will continue to spawn Looking Glass Men for the duration of the fight.
    Helter Skelter
    Special Ability:
    A magician wearing a purple suit, wielding a magician's cane and able to throw electric projectiles. He has the unique ability to possess the bumper cars scattered around the arena in an attempt to collide with players.
    Ying Yang Brother
    Special Ability:
    A pair of martial artists wielding deadly bladed fans, the Ying Yang Brothers are the bosses of The Ticket Office. Each brother is randomly hidden behind one of the wooden panels which make up the rotted billboard, and players are given no instructions for discovering them, resulting in the stage acting as a major contributing factor to the game's "incompletable" reputation. The Brothers are most easily fought when lured away from each other and fought solo.[27]
    Special Ability:
    An agile contortionist-gymnast with the ability to morph into a Maggot Man-like creature and escape into the floor of the boss arena. She is particularly susceptible to Spirit Warrior Projectile, and when flipping upside-down can be stunlocked with repeated Kicks (A).[27]
    Body Snatcher
    Special Ability:
    A featureless clay circus performer with all the abilities of the Morph enemies, Body Snatcher is able to "snatch" bodies with any Morphs remaining in the stage, switching places with a new Morph once its health is depleted. After this process has been repeated with all the stage's available Morphs, the boss will have no other bodies to snatch and becomes a relatively straightforward encounter.
    The Jester
    Special Ability:
    A large, red, horned demon which resembles traditional Christian depictions of the devil, and the final boss of Nightmare Circus. His gimmick is the ability to morph into previous bosses while fighting. Jester has an enormous I-PSI pool, and additionally absorbs the entirety of player's remaining I-PSI upon their deaths. Defeating Jester causes hell to open and pull him back in, completing the game.


    Main article: Nightmare Circus/Tweaker.

    Locked behind the password screen is the Tweaker, an extensive debug menu that allows minute alterations to things like hitboxes, variables, and even the game’s gravity - the physical range of attacks can be extended, for example, or the capacity of his PSI meter increased. Entering a second password additionally expands this menu with a level select. Accessing the Tweaker again during gameplay will display an additional list of variables specific to the stage being played, so enemies and obstacles can have their variables adjusted at any time the player chooses. The manual even offers potential ideas for players to alter gameplay, stating “the possibilities are nearly endless.”[29]



    Main article: Nightmare Circus/Development.

    Sometime around mid to late 1994, Sega of America decided to undertake an experiment in which the company would fully complete the design and planning for a Mega Drive game before programming had even begun. To this end, the company assembled a 1000-page document for an ambitious action-platformer titled Nightmare Circus, and assigned the Swedish video game developer Funcom to the project.[10] Experiencing a number of development issues and visible delays, it was eventually released in an unfinished state, and has resulted in the game's development becoming a curiosity among the larger gaming community.


    When reviewed in the December 1995 issue of Next Generation, the magazine was sent an early review copy of the game, featuring drastic graphical differences from the final game - particularly in regards to the HUD, which was completely redesigned for launch.[30]


    Alongside its Brazilian physical release, Nightmare Circus was broadcast twice to Sega Channel subscribers in both the United States and United Kingdom. American subscribers received earlier access to the game, first broadcast over the month of December 1996.[7] It wouldn't be until halfway through 1997 that Nightmare Circus was broadcast again, this time to both the US and UK.[6][8]

    Sega Channel broadcast schedule

    Region Start date End date
    US 1996-12-01 1997-01-01[7]
    1997-05-23 1997-06-05[6]
    UK 1997-05-01 1997-06-01[8]
    1997-07-01 1997-08-01[8]


    Nightmare Circus is not one of the best platform games on the Mega Drive. With bad controls and stages with confusing layouts, this is a game that should have "stayed in the oven" longer, so that the good ideas had been better executed. However, it is worth the curiosity that the cartridge version is exclusive to us Brazilians.

    Blog TecToy[18]

    Despite its overwhelmingly negative associations, both Nightmare Circus's graphics and animations were moderately well-received among the gaming public, as was the game's dark, GEMS soundtrack.[18]

    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. However, in late 2009 YouTube user RendMGaming uploaded a five-part tool-assisted speedrun demonstrating the game’s completion[31], providing valuable insight into Nightmare Circus' gameplay progression and attracting some minor interest from the modern gaming community.

    Production credits

    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

    Main article: Nightmare Circus/Technical information.

    External links


    1. 1.0 1.1 (Wayback Machine: 2000-08-18 05:47)
    2. 2.0 2.1 (Wayback Machine: 1998-01-19 22:00)
    4. File:Nightmarecircus md br manual.pdf, page 7
    5. File:NightmareCircus MD BR Box.jpg
    6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 (Wayback Machine: 1997-06-05 18:45)
    7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Sega Channel US schedule
    8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Sega Channel UK schedule
    9. (Wayback Machine: 1998-01-19 23:05)
    10. 10.0 10.1 File:HistoriemOmSega2 SE Book.pdf
    11. 1995 Sega Product Catalog (US), page 38
    12. Sega Visions, "September 1995" (US; 1995-xx-xx), page 100
    13. Sega FY 1997 Brand Review, page 103
    14. (Wayback Machine: 1997-06-05 18:45)
    15. Sega Channel
    16. (Wayback Machine: 2022-01-08 08:45)
    17. 17.0 17.1 File:Nightmarecircus md br manual.pdf, page 5
    18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 (Wayback Machine: 2021-09-04 03:26)
    19. 19.0 19.1 File:Nightmarecircus md br manual.pdf, page 12
    20. 20.0 20.1 File:Nightmarecircus md br manual.pdf, page 13
    21. File:Nightmarecircus me br manual.pdf, page 14
    22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 File:Nightmarecircus md br manual.pdf, page 11
    23. 23.0 23.1 File:Nightmarecircus md br manual.pdf, page page=14
    25. 25.0 25.1 File:Nightmarecircus md br manual.pdf, page 10
    26. File:Nightmarecircus md br manual.pdf, page 9
    27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3
    29. File:Nightmarecircus_md_br_manual.pdf, page 15
    30. Next Generation, "December 1995" (US; 1995-11-21), page 159-160
    32. (Wayback Machine: 2020-01-15 05:23)
    33. 1700 igr dlya Sega, "" (RU; 2001-xx-xx), page 211
    34. Tricks 16 bit, "Tricks Sega Gold 800 igr" (RU; 1998-03-20), page 130

    Nightmare Circus

    NightmareCircus title.png

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    Sega Mega Drive
    Prototypes: 1995-07 | 1996-02