A Mastertronic Range To Get MAD About…

Unlike most budget publishers, Mastertronic were known to have countless sub-labels. While Ricochet existed solely for re-releases and Rack-It was established to support fellow publisher Hewson, MAD was different. The intention was to showcase a higher standard of games, hence the expanded brand name, Mastertronic’s Added Dimension, and the higher £2.99 price tag. But it didn’t take long before the MAD branding lived up to its name and started to drive collectors a little crazy…

New Numbering System

The first thing people noticed with the launch of the MAD range was the vibrant pop art style packaging, and the way games were numbered. With the original Mastertronic range, each game had a prefix which referred to the platform, followed by a four digit number. What was important to note was that the number remained the same for each game, with just the prefix changing. So every version of Vegas Jackpot, for example, all had the same number 0002 after the prefix.

MAD was different. Each game had its own unique number for every release such as Bandits At Zero being MAD12, with each port of a game having it’s own individual number. The only instances where the same number was used were for disk versions of games, such as the C64 version of The Last V8. There was one incident of a number being used several times, but this anomaly was accidental and we’ll discuss this another time.

The Fall and Rise of MAD

The MAD range lasted for just 24 titles although as you will see from our MAD Checklist there are a couple of gaps where titles were either cancelled or simply don’t exist (this seems to be a common issue with most Mastertronic labels). Now this is where things not only get interesting, but also where the confusion begins.

Before this range came to an end, a second MAD range was launched. Keeping the same numbering style as before, a new prefix was introduced – MADC – but this short-lived label only lasted for just 8 releases. In terms of release dates, it crossed over substantially with the original MAD range, but as well as a change to the logo, there was another difference…

What’s In A Name?

It’s not release dates that were inconsistent with these two MAD ranges, but this is the first instance where the label itself changed its name, albeit subtly. When first launched it was referred to as Mastertronic’s Added Dimension. But after the initial range, the “s” was dropped and it was simply referred to as Mastertronic Added Dimension. While there seems to have been no logical explanation behind this, it has to be said that the latter does roll off the tongue more easily!

In the case of MADC, we also speculate that this second range was set up with a specific reason in mind.  The first three titles are all re-releases, originally published by Creative Sparks followed by Hole In One for the Commodore 64. A fourth game of theirs – Wing Commander – was also re-released by Mastertronic outside of the MADC label but the release date was close to that of the release of the final MADC title. We believe that the initial plan for this label could have been to focus more on re-releases than anything else, but later changed.

This approach would seem consistent with the same system that was adopted with PAL Developments. An unnamed sub-label was set up for games from this developer with unique numbering, although eventually this short-lived range also included other games, namely re-releases such as Tetris.

MAD Goes Mainstream

And now the real confusion begins… The logo first seen in the MADC range was introduced for a number of games in the normal Mastertronic games, which were now being sold with MAD branding. While the artwork promoted them as MAD releases, the prefix and numbering remained consistent with regular Mastertronic releases.

This integration of the MAD brand into the main Mastertronic range lead to confusion amongst collectors. For those separating games by label, did you keep these new MAD releases with the earlier two range, or – as many do – keep them as part of the classic Mastertronic line? Certainly, if you keep games sorted in numerical order then the latter would make more sense.

More Madness Ensures

We then get onto the next curiosity when it comes to MAD. There are a number of games that cross over between variations of the labels. Con-Quest was released on the original MAD range for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad (MAD16 and MAD21 respectively). But when it came to the Commodore 64 version, this was moved to the main range with MAD branded number IC0151. The same also happened to 180. While the C64, Spectrum and Amstrad versions were released under the MADC brand, the Atari and MSX versions were released much later as part of the main range, but again with MAD packaging.

Near to the end of the run for the original range, the MAD logo changed yet again! First, a change of positioning and typeface as seen in games like Star Wars: Droids making using of the standard Times Roman font. We also saw the short-lived MAD X variant which was used for a small number of games.

Mystery Solved?

What does seem to be the case – looking back through Mastertronic’s records – is that all of the releases under all of the different MAD labels (including those on the main range) were priced at £2.99, even when other games released later on were at the standard £1.99 price tag. So this would imply that right until its demise the MAD branding was being used to promote what Mastertronic felt were premium quality games or ones that demanded a higher price tag.

While it could be argued that games like Wizards Pet didn’t justify the price increase, many fans do have fond memories for a lot of the higher priced titles. Some do seem to have had extra money invested in them such as the licensed games like Flash Gordon and the aforementioned Star Wars release so perhaps the price rise was justified.

The X Factor

So what exactly was the MAD X range I mentioned earlier? This was probably the smallest of all the MAD labels, with just a couple of titles being released, one such game being Rockford, a chapter in the Boulderdash series. We would assume that the “X” in the label stands for “eXtra” as each release contains a second bonus game free on the reverse side of the cassette. These still sold for the standard £2.99 price tag as with all of the other MAD labels, but it does seem to be one final attempt from Mastertronic to add extra value to the brand before it was dropped.

That’s A Wrap

So while the MAD range is a lot larger than might first be thought just looking at our main checklist here on the site, there’s good reason behind the wider extended range. It’s given many of us countless hours of entertainemt, just for an extra pound and seeing that change in packaging – for the most part – has definitely been worth it.

Have you got a favourite, or any fond memories of the MAD ranges? Let us know below.


  1. An informative read there.

    I’m curious to know what the short-lived MAD X games were. Is there a list at all please? I can’t say I recall seeing those from memory.


    • There weren’t many under the MAD X branding as far as I can recall, although ones I can think of off the top of my head would be Rockford and Energy Warrior. Both of these included bonus games on the reverse of the cassette, so the “X” in the branding could have been used to indicate the inclusion of a second game, adding to the premium value. They still sold at the £2.99 price point so this could have been a way to differentiate them from the other MAD releases.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.