For those that grew up in the golden era of gaming, the supreme graphics and highly intricate plots of games today are somewhat superfluous when it comes to enjoying games. When you consider that it was Super Mario, with its 8/16-bit graphics and simple platform-puzzler format that captured the hearts of millions of people worldwide, remaining one of the best-selling franchises of all time, then it makes you wonder if you really need photorealistic graphics at all.
The Sega Master System is like ancient technology compared to today's computers, but for those that value simplicity in their gaming - and also the fact that the Sega Master System was SEGA's best-selling console by quite a margin - there are a number of emulators available to act as a virtual Sega Master System console on your PC. Here is a rundown of most of these emulators that are available today, ranked in order of merit after their features, usability, and general design and execution has been taken into account.
Of all the emulators on this list, it is Kega Fusion that deserves to be sitting at the top. Not only does Fusion act as the perfect substitute for the Sega Master System on your computer, but it is also able to emulate a variety of different systems such as the Sega Mega CD, 32X, and the Game Gear as well as the SC and SG consoles. Essentially, the Kega Fusion emulator is able to act as the go-to emulator for those looking to play just about any Sega game from almost any Sega console imaginable. However, its versatility that is achieved through its multi-platform functionality is only one of the reasons that the Fusion Emulator is considered by many (including us) to be the best.
Kega Fusion is one of the longest-running Sega Master System emulators out there, having been around since 1997. The current version is 3.64 and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, which adds to its versatility. Functionally, you are able to edit a range of settings from different country settings to audio and video options, controller mapping (keyboard or USB peripheral), resolution options, and even two-player functionality between two separate platforms running the software. Fusion is also the most stable in the sense that it doesn't have any pesky bugs, making it extremely reliable and smooth-running.
Want to visit the official website? Then here it is for all of your emulating needs: http://www.carpeludum.com/kega-fusion/.
Gens Plus!/ Gens + Rewind
Gens Plus! is based on the original Gens emulator, only it has a few extra features added in order to justify the Plus! in its title. Like Fusion, Gens Plus! is a multi-system emulator that is able to emulate the Sega Master System, Game Gear, Genesis/Mega Drive, Genesis 32X, and the CD/Mega CD. Gens Plus has all the usual features you would expect from an emulator including keyboard mapping and control over the audio/visual aspects of the game.
Gens + Rewind makes things a little more interesting however, setting itself apart from many other emulators by offering the player the ability to rewind their gameplay. All you have to do is assign a key that can be pressed to rewind the gameplay and released in order to allow you to play again. This is an extremely handy feature and a very cool one as well.
You can grab Gens+ Rewind at the official site here.
Freeze SMS's current version is 4.6, which currently emulates the Sega Master System as well as the Game Gear, SG100 and ColecoVision (see the official Coleco Vision Page for more information on this oldie-but-goldie). Unusually, this emulator also covers roms for NES as well, making it a standout offering here.
Freeze SMS's design is fairly unassuming, with standard settings tabs allowing you to edit the various options for each separate emulator, as well as support for 2-player and even the option to change the font displayed in the emulator if you feel it's too plain. This one stands out because it also allows NES emulation, but it's still a great all-round emulator that gets the job done.
Meka's is a true multi-platform emulator, covering a wide range of platforms including the Sega Master System (Othello Vision is even amongst the list of systems it is able to emulate). Its power doesn't end here however since Meka is a powerful bit of software that allows for debugging and hacking if you know how to do that kind of thing. It is also able to support a wide range of hardware such as unusual peripherals and a staggering quantity of games. The only problem with this one is that its current version, 0.73, is a little less stable than the previous 0,72 iteration.
The official page still exists for Meka - this can be found at http://www.smspower.org/meka/ - but it hasn't been updated for quite some time.
This one's for Master System and Game Gear emulation only, but it is extremely reliable and can be run on even the slowest of computers. This isn't the most versatile in terms of systems emulated, but is extremely stable and capable if you're after emulation of Master System or Game Gear games. You'll find a very basic homepage for SMSPLUS at http://psp.akop.org/smsplus.
Another solid emulator, only one that allows for SNES emulation as well as NES, Master System, Game Gear, and SG-1000 systems. It also has extras you're unlikely to find on any other emulator such as 3D support as well as a nicely-designed aesthetic that mimics old-school arcade systems.
Unfortunately, for all these bells and whistles, it's difficult to actually get around to playing your games because it's so buggy and difficult to use. The official site for the emulator no longer exists either, so it's best to avoid trying to use this clunky and less-than-convenient emulator.