This is a partner series to our Retro Let's Play FAQ, aiming to assist people finding ways of playing old games from these old systems. All talk of resolutions, PAL vs NTSC and upscaling are covered in the Retro Display Solutions thread. With the roaring success of the 8 bit console market, and the collapse of arcades, the 16bit market powered by new chips and technology was just starting. While NEC and Hudson Soft had worked together to make their odd hybrid 8/16bit PC Engine (named the TurboGrafx in the US), Sega were the second to market with their MegaDrive console. Sporting the same Motorola 68000 CPU that powered the Amiga 1000, Sega took a distinctly Japanese approach to hardware design, and offered a powerful and extensible console system that greatly improved on their previous Master System as well as Nintendo's NES. The console, while rudimentary by today's design, was quite a stunning piece of hardware on release. It offered arcade-style graphics and sounds totally unavailable in the home, and would go on to offer not just arcade ports, but many exclusive games that would define the home console genre for some time. While Sega had found some success with the Master System outside of the US, their 8 bit console never found the success that the NES did in their core markets of Japan and the USA. The release of the Sega Genesis (renamed from the MegaDrive) in the US changed that dramatically, with partnerships with companies like EA who would create and dominate licensed sporting games for many years to come, which were massively popular in the US. Meanwhile the Japanese MegaDrive boomed with arcade style shoot 'em ups, platformers and expansive RPGs popular in that area. The MegaDrive cleverly used the Master System's main Z80 CPU as its IO controller, which meant that with a simple converter cartridge, most Master System cartridge (as well as SG1000 card) games could run perfectly on the MegaDrive. This offered nice backwards compatibility to anyone upgrading across the Sega line. Sega would go on to release several versions of the hardware, within them quite a number of hardware revisions. The smaller internal revisions are not so important for playing the games, but more for modders. But for the larger revisions, there was: MegaDrive - first version of the console, with the larger case. Mono sound only out of the rear of the device, with stereo sound available only through the headphone jack at the front. MegaDrive II: Smaller base unit than the first console. Due to some poor motherboard design, the sound and video quality is noticeably worse, even though the console finally offers stereo out via the main AV port. MegaDrive III: A smaller unit again, and again with compromised sound and video quality. Notable for missing RGB out all together. Sega would later offer a CD-ROM upgrade for their system, named the MegaCD (SegaCD in the USA), which offered not only CD storage and audio, but an updated chip that could do some rudimentary 3D. Another upgrade came years later in the form of the 32X, and odd system that contained a single SH2 processor (similar to the Saturn, albeit much slower in clockspeed, and not a dual-CPU setup), but still required the MegaDrive to run. Some odd third party combinations of the MegaDrive would appear over time, including the WonderMega (combined MegaDrive / MegaCD) and the Teradrive (combined MegaDrive / PC). PAL vs NTSC Like other 16 bit consoles of its era, the MegaDrive's release in PAL territories was capped at the PAL standard of 50Hz. Very few games were adjusted for the difference, and as the hardware clock was tied so closely to the frame output, NTSC games designed for 60Hz displays were slowed down. Likewise PAL's extra resolution of 288 lines meant that NTSC's 240 line pictures would appear "squashed" with black borders above and below the picture. While there were a handful of European designed games that played as intended, the vast majority of games for the PAL MegaDrive only play at full speed on a US or Japanese system, or a PAL system modified (see below). Here's the MegaDrive's "killer app", Sonic, running on both systems side by side. The visual speed difference is clear, and listen out for the music difference half way as the source is switched. Playing the original system today Original MegaDrives are still in good supply, and most can be bought easily on eBay. Later model revisions employ copy protection via Sega's "TMSS" chip (noticeable from the copyright screen that appears before the Sega logo at boot), but there are devices that can be bought to circumvent this, which we'll cover below. Japanese units are often quite cheap, and allow for simple modding to enable playing US or PAL games. As always, the MLIG crew are the first to hit up to find out the best way to get these systems playing, looking and sounding the best: Hardware modding The MegaDrive is quite mod-friendly, with plenty of third party hardware engineers offering all sorts of circuits to enhance it. Simpler mods include region switching: http://www.mmmonkey.co.uk/category/sega/megadrive/ And more complex mods involve hijacking RGB and audio signals to remove picture and sound interference, and improve the audio in newer model hardware: https://voultar.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=59&product_id=73 http://retrorgb.com/genesisrgbbypass.html All of these do require soldering, but are great options for people wanting to play on real hardware. Flash, reproduction and clone carts The popularity of the MegaDrive and Genesis worldwide has seen plenty of third party cartridges made for it. From excellent quality stuff like Krikzz's line of Everdrives: https://krikzz.com/store/home/33-mega-everdrive-v2.html To dodgy Chinese clone carts: https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesal...d=AS_20181113192437&SearchText=sega+megadrive Clone consoles (FPGA) FPGA gurus Analogue and retro engineer Kevtris teemed up to make the Analogue Mega Sg: https://forums.overclockers.com.au/threads/analogue-mega-sg.1254087/ This FPGA-based console is a cycle accurate simulation of the original MegaDrive, takes original and/or clone cartridges, and is compatible with most controllers (not lightguns, for CRT/sync related reasons). The device offers an internal line-multiplier for lag-free upscaling up to 1080p, and HDMI out. Like the NES and SNES models, various filters and timing mode fixes are available to make for more authentic and/or more compatible experiences with modern TVs and hardware. [March 2018 update] The Analogue Mega Sg is out, and MLIG have an excellent summary: The MiSTer FPGA project also has a functioning Megadrive/Genesis core. See the OCAU thread here: https://forums.overclockers.com.au/...r-console-arcade-hardware-simulation.1253887/ Clone consoles (non-FPGA) A number of clone consoles exist currently from the infamous AtGames. These are widely considered terrible, with poor quality emulation, awful graphics and audio, and input lag. So bad, in fact, I won't even bother linking to them. Sega themselves were very unhappy with these, and announced almost a year ago that they would design their own mini-console in-house. The release of this has been delayed, presumably to improve the quality. Fingers crossed Sega rectify the issue, and leave the AtGames devices in the dust. Emulation MegaDrive emulation has been around for quite some time, courtesy of the popularity of the M68K main CPU and Z80 CPU, both of which are used in many consoles and computers, and have had plenty of good quality documentation. Unlike more complex consoles like the SNES, MegaDrive emulation is typically more consistent, and easier to achieve even on lower end hardware. With that said, the "gold standard" emulator for the MegaDrive is "BlastEm", which is the only cycle-accurate emulator to pass the most stringent hardware tests: https://www.retrodev.com/blastem/ Other less accurate, but still playable emulators are available. https://github.com/RetroPie/RetroPie-Setup/wiki/Mega-Drive-Genesis Good quality emulators such as "Genesis Plus" (available in RetroArch and RetroPie) are written by the same folks who contribute to MAME (in this case, Charles MacDonald). While emulators like PicoDrive aim to get comaptibility as high as possible while still being playable on low-end hardware (even on a NintendoDS!).