Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (System 18)

From Sega Retro


Moonwalker Title.png

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
System(s): Sega System 18
Publisher: Sega
Licensor: Triumph International[2]
Genre: Action

Number of players: 1-3
Release Date RRP Code
Arcade (System 18)
¥? ?
Arcade (System 18)
$? ?

For the Sega Mega Drive and Sega Master System game, see Michael Jackson's Moonwalker.

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Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (マイケルジャクソンズ ムーンウォーカー) is a Sega System 18 isometric action beat ‘em up game developed by Sega R&D 1 and starring world-famous pop music artist Michael Jackson. Based on the 1988 film Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, it was first released to Japanese arcades in August 1993, and was brought to the United States later that year.

Moonwalker, alongside its home counterpart of the same name, is notable for being one of the earliest uses of direct celebrity endorsement in video game production, and marks the very beginning of Jackson’s long and storied collaboration with Sega.[3][4]


The game is based on the "Smooth Criminal" segment of the 1988 film Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, following Jackson in suit and fedora through stages based on his different music videos as he rescues children from the drug dealer Mr. Big.[5]


Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker is an isometric action beat ‘em up game which emphasizes strategic movement around oncoming enemies and projectiles. Jackson’s primary attacks is a magic dazzle fired from his hand, which can be charged for a stronger burst (and during which he will be moonwalking.) By finding Jackson’s pet chimpanzee Bubbles, players transform into the giant robot from the movie and are briefly given the abilities of eye lasers and homing missiles.[5]

All incarnations of the game feature Dance Magic, a special ability where enemies are compelled to dance to short sections of "Bad", "Thriller", and "Another Part of Me" before being defeated as a result.[5]


Amusement Quarter
Night Street
Evil Fortress


Michael Jackson's Moonwalker was originally designed by Yutaka Sugano (then already the creator of the influential Shinobi) as an isometric dance action game, but Sugano left during development to work at Sega of America. The design and direction duties were handed over to newcomer Roppyaku Tsurumi, who was at a loss for how to comprehend the genre. His confidence was boosted after discussing with Sugano, about he had used the same core gameplay from Shinobi in Crack Down, despite not being obvious since one was a side-scroller and the other top-down, so Tsurumi focused more on understanding the core gameplay instead of overthinking the viewpoint.[6]

I was at a loss as to what to do with this unbelievable three-quarter view dance action game at first, but this conversation about Crack Down proved to be a very important hint for me. That was “deciding on the core game play”. Because the side-view Shinobi could be transformed into the top-view Crack Down, a three-quarter view game was nothing to be afraid of. If I was concerned about it, I could always ask the senior designers in AM1. They’d definitely help me think of a solution!

Moonwalker’s arcade hardware incorporates a "suicide battery" - a battery which, after it stops working, renders the game inoperable.[7] This makes original working releases a rare sight in the modern age. Despite this, some boards can be revived by replacing individual chips, resulting in a new copyright message of (C) 1990 RESS.

Production credits

Main article: Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (System 18)/Production credits.

Magazine articles

Main article: Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (System 18)/Magazine articles.

Promotional material

Moonwalker System18 JP Flyer.pdf

System 18 JP flyer
Moonwalker System18 JP Flyer.pdf

Moonwalker System18 EU Flyer.pdf

System 18 export flyer
Moonwalker System18 EU Flyer.pdf

Physical scans

Sega Retro Average 
Publication Score Source
90 №1990-09, p43
Based on
1 review
Sega Retro Average 
Publication Version Score
Based on
0 reviews

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (System 18)

System 18, US
Moonwalker System18 US Marquee.jpg
System 18, JP
"Long" instructions
"Long" instructions (2)
Instuction card(s)


Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (System 18)

Moonwalker Title.png

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