What I’m Playing: Hang On for Sega Master System

Hang On is a classic arcade racing game by Sega. Like many Sega arcade games, it was ported to a number of Sega systems, including the Sega Master System. With the Master System being the oldest system Hang On was ported to (excluding Mark III), how well does it look and run compared to the arcade version?

Obviously, the game doesn’t look as sharp as it’s Arcade or Sega Genesis counterpart. However, for it’s time the Master System could pull off some impressive visuals, and Hang On really doesn’t look bad for an 8 bit game.

Hang On Genesis
Hang On for the Genesis
Hang On Master System
Hang On for the Master System. If you squint, you might be able to notice some minor differences between this and the Genesis versions.


You can’t really tell from the pictures, but Hang On delivers a good sense of speed, even in the Master System version. In fact, even with a large number of other racers on the screen, the game almost never slows down.

Hang On Master System
Even with other racers and scrolling backgrounds the game rarely slows down.


So the graphics are decent for an 8 bit game, but how is the sound? Well, the sound effects are not bad. There’s plenty of tire squealing on corners, and some noises when you drive on the red and white curbs (which are called “rumble strips,” and I didn’t totally just Google that.) Also there’s sort of an attempt at a doppler effect when you pass or get passed by another racer. The most important sound is that of your own motorcycle engine, which actually helps with letting you know when to shift up!

However, there’s a complete lack of music in the game, which really could have helped. Maybe they needed the sound channels for the sound effects, but this didn’t seem to be a problem with the Master System version of Out Run, which has sound effects and music.

Hang On Master System
The changes in environment are nice, although the game remains the same.


So how does the game handle? I’m happy to say that the game controls almost as good as the Genesis or Arcade versions! Once you figure out the shifting between gears, and get the hang of slowing down on corners, it really plays quite well.

Hang On Master System
Touch anything and you will explode.


This brings me to the biggest problem with Hang On for Master System. The main problem is the controllers. Anyone that has used Master System controllers probably knows what I’m talking about.

Master System Controllers
These little buggers can ruin some games, and Hang On is no exception.


The Master System controllers are certainly not the worst controllers for an 8 bit system (I’m looking at you Intellivision), but the D-Pad is inaccurate enough to cause some issues. In Hang On you shift gears by pressing up and down, and you steer by using left and right. The problem is, the controller often times also register an up/down when you press left/right. This means it’s really easy to down shift while turning, which slows you down quite a bit.

I did find a solution (other than using a Genesis controller, which is possible on most Master System games.) Once you reach the top gear, steer using diagonal down+left and down+right. Pressing down while in the top gear doesn’t do anything, but it prevents the D-Pad from registering up.

This trick also works with the Game Gear, if you’re playing Master System games using a Master Gear Converter (which is a pretty awesome accessory, and worthy of it’s own post someday).

Hang On Master System Menu
As a sidenote, I kinda wish it saved high scores, but it doesn’t 🙁


So, is Hang On worth getting for the Master System? I would say yes, even though it’s a bit lackluster compared to other Hang On ports. It still plays well, and it’s usually quite cheap. In fact, the game was built into some Master Systems, so depending on which model of Master System you have, you may not even need to buy it!

The game also came out on 2 combo cartridges. One was Hang On/Safari Hunt and the other is Hang On/Astro Warrior. If you don’t have a Master System “Light Phaser” then you should go with the Astro Warrior combo. Astro Warrior isn’t a bad game, but if you have the light gun then go for the Safari Hunt combo. Safari Hunt is excellent, and plays like a Sega-ized version of Duck Hunt. And this Sega fanboy thinks that’s a good thing!


Note: I own an original copy of this game and I play on original hardware, but the screenshots used in this post were taken using an emulator.

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