Ahh, the SEGA Nomad. You know there are two ways you can look at these classic systems. Way #1 – how well did the system sell at the time? Way #2 – how cool is it now? I like #2! And in this category it is hard to beat the SEGA Nomad! When you hold one of these bad boys you can tell right away that it was ahead of its time. A very nice 3.5″ LCD Screen with very good resolution (especially compared to the Game Gear). And over 800 games available as it plays SEGA Genesis carts! I could never afford one back in the day but have a couple now.
The screen resolution while much better than the SEGA Game Gear can still make it hard to see small text or other details in some games. There is also no Pause button on this machine like the stadard SEGA Genesis systems. The missing pause button does make a hand-few of game unplayable as they require you to press the pause button at certain times.
The SEGA Nomad
This was the only model made of the SEGA Nomad But why make another? This baby came with everything out the door!
You can power the SEGA Nomad in a couple different ways. The Nomad does not have an internal battery compartment, instead it came shipped with an external pack that clips to the back of the system. This pack ran off of 6-AA batteries which will only last about 2-3 hours, the Nomad likes the taste of battery! Alternatively you can plug it in using a standard SEGA Genesis 2 power supply (MK-2103). SEGA Also released a rechargeable pack that you can find online but the internal batteries (which were not user replaceable) have long since lost there ability to hold a charge.
NOTE: There are several MODs made to change the old rechargable batteries & upgrade the LCD screen online.
You already know the SEGA Nomad is a portable SEGA Genesis but did you know you can also hook it up to your TV and play it like a regular Genesis? Like the common power supply you can use the standard SEGA Genesis 2 RCA cables and hook the Nomad up to the TV. But wait! There’s more! On the bottom of the Nomad is a second Controller port. Plug one in and two people could snuggle up to play on the provided LCD Screen, or hook it to the TV. You can find out more on our HOW TO pages.
The SEGA Nomad had all kinds of ports and buttons on it, let’s review.
The controls for the Nomad are based off of the SEGA 6-Button controller so on the face of the unit you have the standard D-pad and the XYZ-ABC and Start buttons. In addition to those you have the MODE button that acts just like the MODE button on the 6-Button Controller. This allow the 6-button controller to perform like a 3-button controller (or Nomad in this case) which is necessary to play a handful of early Genesis titles that have issues with the 6-button controller.
Note: If you are having odd control issues with a game this will probably fix the issue. Hold down the MODE button and keep it pressed down as you start the system with the game inserted. Continue to hold the mode button down until the game has fully loaded, normally when you are given the option to start the game by pressing the Start button. You can then release the MODE button and the Nomad will be in 3-button mode and your game should work.
- Unit Lifetime: 1995-1997 (US)
- Units Sold Wordlwide: 1 million
- Resolution: 320 x 224
- Colors Available: 512
- Colors on screen: 64
- Power Requirements: 9V 850amps
- Sound: 6-channels
- Games Released US: 811
On the top of the Nomad you have the red Power Switch, which slides left and right. Next to that is in power port for the SEGA Power Supply MK-2103 then the cartridge slot followed by the AV OUT port which you use to connect the Nomad to a TV using either the SEGA Genesis 2 RCA AV Cable or the SEGA Genesis 2 RF Switch. You can find detailed instruction on how to do this on our HOW TO page.
On the bottom of the SEGA Nomad you have a Brightness Dial, a Volume Dial and a Headphone Jack. Between those controls is a controller port so you can hook another SEGA Genesis controller up and play a 2 player game both on the Nomad LCD screen or when hooked up to the TV.
On the back of the unit are the contacts and tabs to attach the Battery Pack to. The Battery Pack slides down and locks into place. If you don’t have it installed you have to plug the unit into the wall.
Other than Light Guns the SEGA Nomad can use pretty much any other SEGA Genesis controller in its player 2 port.
The 3-Button Controller
The SEGA Genesis originally came with a 3-button controller. It has an 8-way directional d-pad, a Start button, and three buttons labeled A, B & C.
These controllers are fairly durable, but with original controllers being decades old now you find many that do not work. But when they are in good shape they are good quality controllers. They can be maintained, cleaned and repaired and I will go over some of that in the Gametrog Maintenance Section.
They feel beefy with a little weight and thick plastic and may feel a little big in smaller hands. The d-pad and buttons are responsive and it’s an all around solid controller. I have seen various cord lengths from plenty to short. There are also a few different internal changes over the years, but appeared the same cosmetically.
The 6-Button Controller
In 1993 SEGA made a 6-button controller for the SEGA Genesis. This was partly due to fighting games like Street Fighter that required the extra inputs. To me this is a perfect analog controller. It’s slightly smaller and easier to handle than the 3-button controller while adding 3 more action buttons.
The new buttons are labeled X, Y & Z and smaller than the original A, B & C buttons. The are also rounded or convex while the original buttons retain the recess concave shape. This makes the very easy to navigate. The buttons are sturdy and responsive.
The d-pad is slightly smaller than the original 3-button controller and raised a little higher. It had a little more movement that feels nice.
Just like the 3-button they are sturdy and well made, but time waits for nothing and maintenance or repair may be necessary.
NOTE: There is a button located on the right shoulder. This is a MODE button for a few games (ones made before the controller was) that did not work with the 6-button controller. Holding this button down and then turning on the system and waiting for the game to load will make the controller function like an original 3-button controller.
More SEGA Genesis Accessories
SEGA Nomad (Genesis) Games
The SEGA Nomad was the first 16-Bit handheld released in the US. It will work with most of the SEGA Genesis game library. The screen size and detail does make some games harder to play, especially if they have lots of small text. Some of the early EA releases and early SEGA launch titles may require you to use the MODE bottom to operate properly. The original X-Men game won’t allow you to complete the game due to the player needing to actually press the RESET button on the Genesis to reach the last level. The Nomad doesn’t have this switch. So outside of just a few titles the entire library is available for mobile play!
The SEGA Genesis and in turn the SEGA Nomad are cartridge based systems. For most of the Genesis’ life the games came in a plastic box, with clips inside that held the cartridge. There are normally tabs on the inside front that held the manual in place. These are the same boxes that were used for the SEGA Master System.
Being a plastic box these guys have held up pretty well. There is a clear mylar sleeve around the box that the game cover slips into. This allows the box art to hold up pretty well over time also. You can remove the game cover from the top or bottom of the box (opening the box gives a little slack to the mylar sleeve allowing you to reach in and pull out the cover. If yours is damaged you can even print your own cover and slide it in!
Most of the manuals were in color and informative (not like the lack of manuals with games these days). In addition to the manual you would often find several postcard like inserts that might offer phone numbers for tips or other games.
In the later years of the SEGA Genesis many games were shipping in a cardboard box. This box had close to the same dimensions of the plastic boxes, but lost the durability. There is a box with and indentation created to hold the cartridge and the manual was usually found behind the game itself. So you can pop out the game, but you would have to open the box from the top to pull out the manual. It’s also a pain to put the manual back in sometimes as the flaps that create the hole for the cartridge will snag on the manual. Also by this time most of the manuals were printed in black & white. Over the cardboard box container is a cardboard sleeve that slides over everything from the top or bottom. As the whole package is now cardboard these guys do not hold up over time as well as the plastic one.
If you have the option, get the plastic box whenever you can!