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]
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[2][6][1] and published by Tec Toy. Originally scheduled for a December 1995 North American release[7], issues during development and the dwindling lifespan of the Sega Genesis caused publisher Sega to back out, and while nearing completion had its production formally cancelled. While unfinished from a design standpoint, the game was stable enough on a technical level to see the credits; eventually, the game 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[8][9] as one of the system's more notable downloadable exclusives.

Boasting a complete lack of any player direction or 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 unfortunate modern reputation as one of the worst video games ever released. Unlike other games which legitimately deserve the title, Nightmare Circus also boasts a significant amount of well-considered features and a level of very visible passion that, while presented with striking inconsistency, notions its faults to instead the result of a development cycle cut short[10] - 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[11]


Once the game begins, the player is free to choose which of the four stages they will attempt first.

Nightmare Circus is an action game with elements of linear beat em’ ups and action-platformers. As a native shaman warrior, 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, with the game as a whole having very little player feedback to indicate progression.


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 range of Raven’s 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.

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 the majority of debug modes was actually intended for use by players. The manual even details the menu’s control scheme and additionally offer possible ideas for players to alter gameplay, stating “the possibilities are nearly endless.”[12]


Notavailable.svg Ability 1




The Carnival




The Ticket Office

NightmareCircus MD TheCircus ferriswheel.gif

NightmareCircus MD TheCircus WallofDeath.gif


The Circus





The Completion


Wooden Man
Jack in the Floor
Toy Cannon
Tumbling Jack
Looking Glass Man
Nasty Crawler
Warrior Puppet
Maggot Man
Bar Morph
Pole Morph
Ring Morph
Rope Morph
See-Saw Morph
Trampoline Morph


Helter Skelter
Ying Yang Brother
Body Snatcher
The Jester


Main article: Nightmare Circus/History.

Production credits

  • Producer: Max Taylor
  • Designer: Ricardo Pinto[13]
  • 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[16] Page
Sega Mega Drive
CRC32 31de5a94
MD5 6e325bc3fe03b2bbcd39e667cf0b567a
SHA-1 61b7d25e15011d379d07a8dad4f8c5bb5f75e29f
2MB 1996-02 Page

External links


Nightmare Circus

NightmareCircus title.png

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Prereleases: 1995-07