The Sega Saturn is a 32bit gaming console that was released in 1994, and like many of its competitors at the time it uses CD-ROMs as its storage medium to play games. Sitting just behind the CD drive door a cartridge slot resides, contrary to the rumors that were hovering around before the console’s launch this cartridge slot is not used for any new games and is not compatible with any of Sega pervious cartridge based games. Probably something Sega should have added since backwards compatibility was something they were once good at. So what is that cartridge slot used for then? In this article we take a look at all available accessories that utilize this slot, some of these cartridges will massively expand your Saturn gaming experience. It is possible for many Saturn owners to live out the Sega Saturn’s life cycle and not ever use this cartridge slot once, something common amongst owners of PAL region consoles.
Sega Saturn Backup
The Saturn Backup Memory cartridge is an official Sega product (although unofficial versions were released) designed to do as the name suggest and backup all your game save data that is stored on the Saturn’s internal memory. The Saturn has 32k of internal memory, the backup cartridge offers 512k of additional memory. The cartridge only works as a backup system and game save data cannot be save directly to this cartridge while in game. You can only manage game save data while in the Saturn’s main menu screen. As you can tell from the images above each region has their own look to their memory backup cartridges with different colored casings and packaging, even though they appear to look different they all do the same thing and are compatible with all versions of Saturn consoles regardless of region. When purchased new a backup memory cartridge will come with a writable label that you can use to help catalog data.
This is must have for anyone who has a decent library of games, games like Nights into Dreams use up a lot memory for its game save data. Also given that this console is around 14 years old now an internal battery changeover is inevitable so backing up your game saves would be recommended before doing a battery changeover.
Extended RAM Cartridge
To extend the performance of the Saturn’s hardware extended RAM cartridges were released and just like the backup memory cartridge this is an official Sega product but many 3rd party versions were made as well. The extended RAM cartridge works in a similar way as the RAM Expansion pack for the Nintendo 64 does, allowing the Saturn to work with more data in real-time. Two versions of the extended RAM cartridges were available, a 1MB version offering 1.5 times the normal work RAM and a 4MB version offering 4 times the normal work RAM.
The extended RAM cartridges will work on an any version of the Saturn but was never released outside of Japan. Even though the cartridges are not region locked the games that support are and most games will not function without them. Since you cannot use two cartridges at the same time (RAM cart + region bypass cart) or even try to “hot swap” them the only way to play games that require extended RAM on a console outside of Japan is to use an unofficial multi function cartridge like the Action Replay 4 in 1.
Many games needing the extended RAM cartridges were released in Japan, most of which came bundled with either a 1MB or 4MB extended RAM cartridge. Capcom and SNK both released their fair share of games that required the extended RAM cartridges and really pushed the Saturn to its limits. A few publishers such as SNK released extended RAM cartridges with game specific artwork printed on them such as the one below.
Saturn games that require extended RAM cartridges
Dungeons & Dragons Collection
Final Fight Revenge
Friends: Seishun no Kagayaki
Marvel Super Heroes
Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter
Noёl 3 Limited Editon
Pocket Fighter (OPTIONAL)
Street Fighter Zero 3
Super Real Mahjong P7
X-Men vs. Street Fighter
Cotton 2 (OPTIONAL)
Fatal Fury 3
Fighter’s History Dynamite
Friends: Seishun no Kagayaki
Groove On Fight
King of Fighters ’96
King of Fighters ’97
King of Fighters, The: Best Collection
KOF Double Pack: King of Fighters ’95 & ’96
Noёl 3 Limited Editon
Real Bout Fatal Fury
Real Bout Fatal Fury Special
Real Bout Garou Densetsu Best Collection
Real Bout Garou Densetsu Special
Samuari Showdown IV
Samurai Showdown III
Samurai Spirits Best Collection
Samurai Spirits: Amakusa Kourin
Samurai Spirits: Zankurou Musouken
Super Real Mahjong P7
Super Real Mahjong P7 P’s Club Limited Edition
Waku Waku 7
Saturn ST Key
An unofficial item designed to bypass region locking, simply plug the ST Key into your Sega Saturn and all games from any region will now become playable. Like most other cartridge accessories for the Saturn the ST Key will work on any console regardless of region so for example if the ST Key were plugged into a US NTSC Saturn that console will be able to play PAL and NTSC-J games. The main limitation of this device is if you are using a Saturn console not from Japan and wish to play games that require the extended RAM cart you simply can’t.
The Action Replay name is synonymous with gaming since the Commodore 64 days making those “impossible to finish” games conquerable regardless of skill level. The Action Replay Plus is another unofficial product and does more than just allow you to cheat and manipulate the game. There’s a number of Action Replays available for the Saturn, some of them just limited to entering cheat codes and or region by passing. The Plus version takes the good features of all the above mentioned cartridges and combines them into one handy unit. The Action Replay Plus has a cheat code system pre-loaded with 100’s of codes and the ability to enter in new codes, a massive 4MB backup memory storage, both 1MB and 4MB extended RAM compatibility, region lockout bypassing and is compatible with all versions of the Saturn. The icing on the cake for this accessory is its ability to perform all these features at the same time, excluding the backup memory of course. What that means is if you have a PAL or NTSC(US) Sega Saturn you can play any Japanese game that requires a extended memory cartridge, you can even enter in some cheat codes while you are it too.
This is a must have for any Sega Saturn owner that wishes to get the most out of their console especially anyone outside of Japan. A lot of awesome games never made it outside of Japan and lot of them require extended RAM.
The Game Shark Videogame Enhancer is similar to the Action Replay Plus combining multiple features into the one cart. It features preloaded cheat codes for common games and has the ability to accept new codes. The Game Shark can actually store up 9999 new codes. In addition to being a cheat device it also serves as a memory backup device housing 4MB or internal memory. Since it is missing some important features the Action Replay Plus has, the price of this unit is a lot cheaper. If you are just after a backup memory card and want to enter in cheat codes this is an alternative to a base model Action Replay Pro. Personally I would spend a few extra dollars and get the Action Replay Plus.
The Sega NetLink is a modem accessory that plugs into the Saturn’s cartridge slot to give the system online functionality. At this point in time online gaming hasn’t really taken off yet but Sega still gave the concept a try in both Japan and in the USA. Both regions received different models, North America got a black 28.8 kbps modem and Japan got a grey 14.4 kbps model both obviously using the now dated dial up Internet service. NetLink owners could use their own ISP for the service and could play someone else who also had a NetLink device and the same game by dialing them up directly. With no dedicated servers created technically this service could still be used today if you had the right connection and hardware. There is a bunch on enthusiasts that still organise online games today.
Just like other console online services and related hardware fir this era the NetLink was unsuccessful, factors that didn’t help it were the limited number of compatible games and high price tag of 200USD when first released. The NetLink was heavily advertised in the US but it didn’t help sales much. A few hardware accessories were released to improve the experience especially using the provided web browsing software. A Saturn keyboard, mouse, printer cable and floppy drive were available but just like the NetLink they too didn’t sell very well.
Netlink WebBrowser 2.0: Comes packaged with the NetLink itself. Supports all HTML 2.0 tags, and most HTML 3.0 tags. Unable to view framed webpages, and does not support IRC chat. Somewhat comparable to early versions of Netscape.
NetLink WebBrowser 3.0: Comes packaged with the NetLink game package. Adds support for the viewing of framed pages, sorta. All it really does is allow you to access each frame individually, but not view them all at once. Also adds a fairly basic IRC client. This IRC client is crippled in that it can’t connect to major servers like DALnet and EFnet.
NetLink WebBrowser Golden 1.135: Same code as 3.0 except no CD was ever pressed and it does not include the “NetLink City” front page. Available for download from Planetweb’s site.
NetLink Beta 4.035: Adds SSL support for secure online ordering. Available for download on Planetweb’s site. This is the final version of the NetLink Browser that will be offered. No CD was ever pressed, meaning you have to redownload it each time you want to use the NetLink (It’s not worth it in my opinion).
NetLink compatible games
Daytona USA: CCE NetLink Edition
Duke Nukem 3D
Daytona USA Circuit Edition
Dennou Senki Virtual-On
Dennou Senki Virtual-On Media Card Pack
Pad Nifty 1.1 & Habitat II
Puyo Puyo Sun
Puzzle Bobble 3
Sega Rally Championship Plus
Sega Saturn Internet 2
Sega Saturn Internet Vol.1
Sega Worldwide Soccer ’98
Shadows of the Tusk
Special Disc with Sega Saturn Internet 2
Virtua Fighter Remix
Obviously not an official Sega products the Magic card is an alternative to modifying your console. Without going into too much specific detail in risk of going against our site terms of service, this unofficial cartridge accessory and accompanying software allows users to play “backup” ROMs on the Saturn bypassing all anti-piracy measures. A very rare item to come across these days and the occasional one that gets listed on eBay usually has a ridiculous BIN price to go with it.