I had known for a long time that Sega Master System (SMS) games can be played on a Sega Megadrive/Genesis (SMD) console
using a simple 50 to 64 pin adapter, and thought a few times about making one. So when I was told my
SNES to SMD controller adapter did not work when a SMS
game was being played, it was all I needed as an excuse to design and build an SMS to SMD adapter.
Tested with Genesis/Megadrive models 1 and 2 (North-american and japanese systems)
Tested on an Hyperkin Retron5 system.
Not compatible with Genesis 3 systems.
Here are a few pictures of the result:
Most of the time, installing the adapter (in the correct direction),
inserting the cartridge and applying power is all that is needed. But
there can be some issues depending on the game:
1) Controller problems
Some games won't work properly using Megadrive controllers. A solution
is to Master System controllers instead, or to build a special adapter.
2) Start-up problems
When an SMS game is run on a Megadrive console, there is no bios
to run before the game. The CPU executes the game right from the
start. This can be a problem for games which rely on intialization
normally performed by the bios, in particular setting up the stack
(I learned about this thanks to reference #5)
A quick workaround to this is to first run SMS game that
does not have this problem, turn off the power, insert the
non-starting game and reapply power. Now the game should start.
This is because even following the power cycle, the stack pointer
register bits haven not faded away yet and are still at the
last value used!
February 2015: The above manipulations can be avoided by adding a stack
Here are the tested games:
Megadrive controller (1)
Stack pointer (2)
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Lord of The Sword
Please report if you try other games. I'd like to list them here.
Here is the schematic. I drew it using the following two sources, which agreed on
A wiring table posted in the smspower.org forums (see reference 1)
A wiring diagram, complete albeit a bit difficult to follow... (reference 5)
The one difference I noticed between the two sources above was in the value used for the pause button resistor.
One says 3.3k, the other 56k. However, regardless of the value I used, I could not get the pause button
to work. Well I don't think a pause button on the console is very useful anyway, so I don't mind
giving it up.
I took the opportunity to add a few optional 0-ohm resistors to make it easier should I need to wire
some of the signals differently. (In my schematic, the resistors labelled "NP" for not placed
should not be normally installed.)
I designed and had a PCB built specifically for this project. Basing my adapter on a rewired SMD cartridge
would have taken too much time. I kept height of the PCB low as I did not wish to have the SMS cartridge
hanging too high when using the adapter.
I ordered the PCBs from a professional manufacturer, but here are the gerbers in case you feel patient
enough to manufacture them yourself. gerbers_sms2smd_v1.zip
Here are the pictures of the PCBs I received. They are available in kit, optionally pre-assembled, in my
I also designed an enclosure specifically for this project. Details are given on another page.
There are a few games that will not work properly with Genesis/Megadrive controllers. A solution is to
use SMS controllers, but it is also possible to build this compatibility adapter. The idea is to keep
the SELECT signal on the controller side high through a resistor (100kΩ).
I don't personally own any games where this adapter is necessary, so I have not built one.
But ishiyakazuo who suggested this solution says it works great.
Pictures and pinouts for a SMS cartridge. This was of great use to double-check that I made no mistake with the connector orientation. There's also information on the connector used on Japanese systems which should be useful if I make a Japanese version of this adapter.
A very interesting discussion which begins with technical information on the custom chip Sega uses in it's own adapter (It looks like this chip initializes the stack, required for some games). Farther in the discussion, there is a schematic (sega2sms.png) a bit difficult to follow, but useful, and matching the wiring table above in reference 1
I cannot be held responsible for any damages that could occur to you
or your equipment while following the procedures present on this page.
Also, I GIVE ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY on the correctness and usability
of the informations on this page. Please note, however, that the procedures
above have worked in my case without any damages or problems.