Sega CD games and “Bit Rot”: A worse problem than on other disc-based platforms? Why is this?

Sorry for the lack of updates, but here’s something important. Hopefully I can get back to a more regular (at least weekly) update schedule after this.


I know that this has been mentioned plenty of times around the internet, particularly with reference to the Sega CD, but to check the status of my collection in particular, I recently checked all my Sega CD games, and here’s what I found.  It’s really bad, unlike anything for any other console I own.

First though, by “bit rot” I mean when you look at a CD, looking at the back of the disc and pointing the label towards a light source, and look to see if you can see any light through the disc.  If you can, that’s either bit rot or bad label-side surface scratches.  There isn’t really any way to tell the two apart, but it doesn’t matter really which it is, the end results are the same: dead discs.  The data on CDs is much closer to the label than the back of the disc, so scratches on the label side are actually worse than scratches on the back.  I will call any points where I can see light through the disc “bit rot” here regardless of what it actually is, because that’s a common term used for this kind of thing.

Now, I got a Sega CD in mid 2006.  Interestingly, as the list below should show, almost all of the games I own with bit-rot problems are games I bought between ’06 and ’10; few games I got since 2011 are affected.  I wonder if this is because of something that happened, or if it’s just that I got much better at checking games for damage before buying them… because that did happen, but it could be both, I’m not sure.  I do know that there are some SCD games that worked better when I got them than they do now, and others that always did have issues.

An argument against there being some kind of thing that happened, whether it’s bad storage or what have you, is that no other console’s discs, or my PC CD game collection, are similarly affected.  I do have a bunch of dead Gamecube discs, but none have ‘bit rot’ — all are just not working even though there’s no visible damage, or visible damage that I got professionally buffed out but the discs still don’t work.  Yeah, those nonworking GC discs are weird, but there are only five of them, and all are among my most played games for the console; it’s not random stuff, it’s games I played a lot of.  Also I kept many GC discs in a holder case thing instead of their jewelcases for years.  It’s an nice one with actual things to clip discs into instead of just sleeves, but still, it still was harder on them than the cases I imagine.  I was also at college during the GC generation, so I carried it around a lot.  Anyway, I mention this because it’s the only other thing I have with many nonworking discs.  I got a Playstation in January ’06, before the Sega CD, but the only nonworking PS1 discs I have are games that I got that way, I don’t have any that once worked but now don’t.  I don’t have any similar issues with any of the disc-based consoles I’ve gotten after that, either.  Oh, and as for the PC, I’ve had a PC with CD drive since ’95, but the with only a few exceptions, most of the few PC CDs I have that used to work but don’t now are discs that physically broke.  And the one or two that are actually scratched too badly to read are games I played a LOT.  It’s nothing like the Sega CD.  As for disc-based consoles I got after ’06, most have few to no nonworking discs in my collection.  I do have a some bad Dreamcast discs, but all are discs I got that way, none worked and then failed on me.  Other systems I have are not like the Sega CD, not even close.  This includes the Turbo/PC Engine CD and early to mid ’90s PC CD games, so it’s not just age.

So yeah, why is this?  Why are Sega CD games so likely to have that ‘you can see light through the disc’ issue that irreparably damage them?  Did Sega just use bad CDs or something?  I’d love to know if anyone knows anything.

Key & Definitions

Below is a list of my SCD games, followed by a note saying what I saw when I looked at the back looking towards the light.

Format: Gamename Date Purchased (Approximately, these are not all accurate) – Status

Notes: By “pinholes” I mean places where you can see a spot of light through the disc.  By “scratches” or “blobs” I mean larger areas with light shining through.  “Clumps” of damage mean bunches of pinholes and scratches together.

(J) means that it’s a Japanese import game.

32X CD Games

Fahrenheit 11/26/2007 – 32XCD disc – several pinholes and 1 clump with damage.  The game seems to work based on what I’ve played, but it’d probably crash somewhere I imagine.
Night Trap 12/09/2014 – Good
Slam City with Scottie Pippen 07/13/2011 – Good (all discs)
Supreme Warrior 12/09/2014 – Good (both discs)

Sega CD Games

Adventures of Batman & Robin, The 06/12/2010 – Good
Adventures of Willy Beamish, The 01/15/2010 – 1 pinhole.  The disc works, though I haven’t gotten far into the game.
After Burner III 07/13/2011 – Good
AH-3 Thunderstrike 08/01/2007 – Not working.  There are many pinholes all over the disc.  This disc never worked for me.  I can get the game to start on my PC’s DVD drive, but it can’t read the whole disc.
Aisle Lord (J) 03/13/2014 – Good
Android Assault: The Revenge of Bari-Arm 06/12/2010 – Good
Arcus 1-2-3 (J) 04/01/2014 -Good
Arslan Senki (J) [The Heroic Legend of Arslan] 04/13/2015 – Good
Battlecorps 08/09/2006 – 1 pinhole, 1 scratch, and 2 clumps of pinhole and scratch damage.  The game works though, at least through the first few levels; I would expect it’ll fail at some point though, with all this damage…
Bram Stoker’s Dracula 08/08/2006 – Not working.  11 pinholes, a clump of pinholes, and 2 scratches are on the disc.  This game worked back in ’06 in my SCD, before failing several years later.
Brutal: Paws of Fury 08/18/2011 – Good
Chuck Rock 06/12/2010 – Good
Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck 06/12/2010 – Good
Cliffhanger 08/26/2010 – Good
Cobra Command 08/26/2010 – 3 pinholes (disc works, as far as I’ve gotten into the game)
Demolition Man 07/13/2011 – Good
Double Switch 08/17/2008 – Good
Earnest Evans (J) 03/13/2014 – Good
Ecco the Dolphin 12/02/2012 – Good
ESPN Baseball Tonight 08/22/2014 – Good
ESPN National Hockey Night 07/13/2011 – Good
Fahrenheit 11/26/2007 – 11+ pinholes and clumps.  This disc probably doesn’t work, but I haven’t used it much beyond using it as a key disc to play the 32XCD version, which has less damage (see above).  When I did play this version some in the late ’00s I did get partway in without it crashing, though.  Not sure if that’d still happen.
Fhey Area (J) [Faeria] 04/01/2014 – Good
Flink 02/24/2010 – 1 pinhole.  As far as I’ve gotten the game works fine.
Formula One World Championship: Beyond the Limit 03/30/2011 – 1 pinhole.  There’s also a scratch near the center (maybe not on data?).  The game seems to work fine.
Games Can #1 (J) [Game no Kanzume Vol. 1] 04/01/2014 – Good
Games Can #2 (J) [Game no Kanzume Vol. 2] 04/01/2014 – Good
Ground Zero Texas 11/26/2007 – Disc 1 – 3 pinholes near ring.  Game seems to work though.  Disc 2 – 3 pinholes near ring, 1 on disc.  Not sure about this disc, I haven’t finished disc 1.
Jurassic Park 11/26/2007 – Not Working – Game will not play.  There are 7 pinholes, plus a clump of damage in the center ring.
Lethal Enforcers 03/29/2011 – Good
Loadstar, The Legend of Tully Bodine 08/08/2006 & second copy several years later – The first copy doesn’t work, it did at first but failed after a few years, and has lots of pinholes and such.  The second copy has no damage and works great.
Mahou no Shoujo: Silky Lip (J) 04/13/2015 – Good
Mansion of Hidden Souls 10/08/2010 – 1 pinhole (the game works as far as I’ve gotten into it, though)
Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse 02/24/2010 – Good
Midnight Raiders 08/01/2007 – 1 pinhole on disc and 3 in ring.  The game seems to work fine though, though I’ve never gotten to the last level, level 3 (it’s so hard!).
Mortal Kombat (1993) 08/26/2010 – 1 pinhole.  This disc also is scratched up a bit.  I don’t know which is the cause, but it crashes during the intro FMV, though when I first got the game it could play it without issue.  If you skip it the game works fine though.
NBA Jam 11/05/2014 – Good
Racing Aces 04/06/2011 – Good
Record of Lodoss War: Eiyuu Sensou (J) 04/13/2015 – 1 pinhole in center ring.  Game works fine.
Rise of the Dragon 05/25/2010 – No real damage, but the center ring looks a bit ‘chewed’ — it’s uneven.  Game plays fine.
Road Avenger 02/04/2015 – 3 pinholes in center ring.  Game works as far as I’ve gotten.  I saw the damage in this before buying the game a few months back, and it seems to be fine.
Robo Aleste 06/12/2010 – Good
Sega Classics Arcade Collection 4-in-1 07/18/2011 – Good
Sega Classics Arcade Collection 5-in-1 12/02/2012 – Good
Sewer Shark 04/06/2011 – Good
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective — Volume I 07/18/2011 – Good
Silpheed 06/12/2010 – Good (the center ring is a bit chewed, as with Rise of the Dragon, but the game seems unaffected.)
Sol-Feace 04/06/2011 – Good
Sonic CD 07/21/2008 – 3 pinholes in a clump in the center ring.  Game works fine.
Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin 06/12/2010 – Good
Star Wars Chess, The Software Toolworks Presents 11/26/2007 – 1 pinhole on disc, 5 in center ring in clump.  The game seems to work.
Star Wars: Rebel Assault 08/08/2006 – Not working.  11+ pinholes on disc, plus more on the center ring.  The game will start, but crashes at certain points in multiple levels.  This disc initially worked fine — I beat teh game back after I got it, before later on the disc stopped working for whatever reason.
Starblade 11/26/2007 – 1 pinhole near ring.  The game works fine.
Stellar Fire 10/08/2010 – 1 scratch on disc, 2 pinholes in center ring.  It works as far as I’ve gotten though.
Surgical Strike 02/16/2011 – (Sega CD disc) – Good
Third World War 08/08/2006 – Not working.  The game will start, but it crashes partway through a game.  There are many pinholes in and near the center ring, and 5+ on the rest of the disc.
Tomcat Alley 05/25/2010 – 1 pinhole
Wing Commander 05/16/2015 – Good
Wirehead 02/16/2011 – Good
WWF Rage in the Cage 08/26/2010 – 5 pinholes and a (maybe deep) scratch.  The game works as far as I’ve gotten though.
Yumimi Mix (J) 02/07/2014 – Good


– I have no games I got since 2011 with damage bad enough to make the game not work, and few with damage I’ve gotten since then.  Pointing this out is why I put the dates above.

– All of my Digital Pictures games have no damage, and only 1 of the 10 Japanese import games has even a single pinhole and the one that does has only one, and it’s in the center ring where it doesn’t matter.  Huh.  Did the sellers just not sell discs with this kind of stuff, or did Sega of Japan use better discs?  Could be either one really.

– Again, no other CD game collection I have is anything REMOTELY like this in terms of damage.  The others have either no or maybe one or two games with any games where you can see light through the disc, not counting discs I got nonworking (and for Sega CD that would really only eliminate ThunderStrike, the other nonworking games used to work.).

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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