The 10 best Dreamcast games – Sega is forever

Sega Dreamcast

 

Sega’s swansong may not have saved the company from exiting the console business, but it did create some utter classics that people still talk about to this day and established the Dreamcast as a fitting capstone on a career plagued by shambolic launches and too many cooks in the kitchen. You might remember my recent article about how the Sega Dreamcast was the most underrated consoles ever made.

Not only did it have awesome graphics, groundbreaking connectivity online, and even better games, but also it came out at a competitive price and never seemed to lose momentum in terms of releases. That is why I think it is high time I make a best-of list for that system – well, at least according to my tastes.

Below are the 10 best Dreamcast games ever made:

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10. Jet Set Radio (developed by Smilebit, published by Sega 2000)

Jet Set Radio for the Sega Dreamcast

Fun Fact: its original title was Jet Grind Radio

An arcade game about graffiti and roller skating? That’s the premise here and it works – really well. You go around tagging the city with your designs, racking up points along the way, and jamming out to a great soundtrack the whole time.

Like so many things about the Dreamcast, this game illustrates how the system was a transition between the dying arcades and the vibrant home consoles.

9. Ikaruga (developed by Treasure, published by Sega 2002)

Ikaruga for the Dreamcast

First stage of Ikaruga

Shoot ‘em ups are not for everyone, then again, Ikaruga is not trying to get everyone’s attention. This game is madness put into a gaming format and it works even if you are not good at it. A game that thoroughly rewards trial and error as well as mastery, Ikaruga is not casual by any stretch of the definition. Nonetheless, it is a tour-de-force experience that brings the gritty, smokey lights and sounds of the Japanese arcade to your living room. And once you do master its mechanics, you will find a whole new world of challenge and gameplay opens up before you. Using lights, sound, and addictive but tough-as-nails gameplay to reel you in, Ikaruga will never let you go once you figure out what it is all about.

8. Virtua Tennis 2 (developed by Hitmaker, published by Sega 2001)

Virtua Tennis 2 for the Dreamcast

Graphics and gameplay were absolutely next level, back then…

You might not know this, but Sega’s sports games were the envy of the industry back in the day and, oddly, their Virtua Tennis series was top dog when it came to that sport. That is for good reason, too, as VT2 is not only really engaging but also teaches you a lot about the game in fundamental ways.

This is not like a wacky Mario Tennis type of game, but rather something rather earnest and grounded in the “simulation” aspect that Virtua titles tend to promise. It is an easier game to grasp at first, but actually becoming good at it will take some work. It is so user-friendly, in fact, that it seems like it is an introduction to sports games for people who are not really into them that much.

Any gamer will find something to love with Virtua Tennis 2 and it really shows how Sega’s magical combination of arcade prowess and the ability to bring that to the home screen made it such a potent competitor in the console wars.

7. Sonic Adventure 2 (developed by Sonic Team USA, published by Sega 2001)

Sonic Adventure 2 for the Dreamcast

All I can say is Sonic as it should be!

When Sonic first entered the 3D world for real with Sonic Adventure, it gave all of us an idea of what could have been if Sonic X-treme had ever come out on the Sega Saturn. The Dreamcast itself might have ended up being a different story entirely, had Sega succeeded in at least bringing their mascot to the Saturn in some meaningful way but – outside of that racing game with the upbeat music – we got nothing. So there was a lot of pressure on Sonic Adventure to be epic as heck.

And when Sonic Adventure 2 came around people were not so much expecting the world from it, as they were expecting more of that same good gameplay they got in the first game. They got it – and in spades. SA2 is like the first game after eating corn and drinking milk for a few years: everything is beefed up from graphics to features and gameplay.

It all works really well, too. In contrast to many modern Sonic games which are known for their less-than-successful experiments, Sonic Adventure 2 sticks to the script and turns out an amazing piece in the process.
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6. Phantasy Star Online (developed by Sonic Team, published by Sega 2000)

Phantasy Star Online for the Dreamcast

I underrated this game for many years… My bad, any quest is addictive!

Online fantasy role-playing games are nothing novel now, but back during the Dreamcast era, it was pretty much a concept no one had ever heard of before. This was before World of Warcraft made MMORPGs a household term, and Phantasy Star Online really helped lay the groundwork for a lot of the games to come.

And did I mention that all of this was on a console? The Dreamcast’s revolutionary inclusion of a modem meant that every system was ready to game online if the owner had access to the Internet. This upfront inclusion of the modem meant that every Dreamcast owner could, in theory, play games online.

Not only did this show that Sega had learned its lessons from the endless peripherals of the Genesis days, but also showed that the company thought the Internet and online gaming were the future.

How right they were and how edifying an experience like Phantasy Star Online was, back then.

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5. Soul Calibur (developed by Project Soul, published by Namco 1999)

Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast

First battle is underway, let’s rock, Kilik!

Namco’s Soul Calibur is a weapons-based fighting game that puts as much of a premium on tight gameplay, as it does flash and bang. A gorgeous game that really pushes the Dreamcast graphically, Soul Calibur is, above all, an amazingly addictive title – especially when played with friends.

Again, the DC did a lot of awesome things in terms of multiplayer gaming and SC truly felt like you had an arcade cabinet in your home. Sounds, music, graphics, gameplay, pretty much everything about this game is perfect and it has truly stood up over time.

And this is not some obscure title, either, and, in fact, might top some lists of best games for the Dreamcast. Critics and gamers alike recognized Soul Calibur’s genius when it first came out and it was one of the most praised fighting games to ever hit a console.

4. Silver (developed by Spiral House, published by Infogrames 2000)

Silver for the Dreamcast

At the moment, Silver would be my first pick, should I make a list about the most underrated games ever… Beyond any expectations!

The short description: probably the most overlooked Dreamcast game ever released and also the most underrated on this list.

If you are looking for the Dreamcast’s own spot of Square magic, then Silver is right up your alley. We have pre-rendered backgrounds and an epic, engaging story as well as gameplay that keeps you grinding away for hours.

Best of all is that the game is available on a range of platforms now, as opposed to just the Dreamcast so you do not have to dust off your old console just to experience the wonder that silver has to offer.

If you are looking for something thoroughly classic that brings to perfection the kinds of pre-rendered fantasies that were common on the PSX, then you need Silver.

3. Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (developed and published by Capcom 2000)

Resident Evil - Code: Veronica for the Dreamcast

Survival horror games are not my cup of tea, but this one is the exception that proves the rule.

Resident Evil was such a big deal in the 1990s that it is hard to quantify in terms that make sense now, since it is everywhere and very much a part of the landscape but, back then, Resident Evil was typically known for being on Sony’s systems.

Code Veronica changed that perception in fundamental ways even if it was not the first RE title for another system ever released. In terms of how Code Veronica moved the series forward, it replaced pre-rendered backgrounds with new, shiny 3D models but maintained a lot of the game’s trademarks outside of that.

Epic, B-movie storyline? Check. Crazed bad guys with nonsense for a motivation? Present. The best thing about CV though is that it made sense in terms of RE’s established rules and the general feel of the story. There is a reason it has become a touchstone for many gamers and that is because it is really quite good. If the other Resident Evil games were not exactly your thing, this one would be.

2. Skies of Arcadia (developed by Overworks, published by Sega 2000 JP, and NA, 2001 Europe)

Skies of Arcadia for the Dreamcast

Yeah, this game rocks!

Role-playing games were a big, big deal during the PS 1 and PS 2 eras and Sega had to show up in this regard somehow. Phantasy Star Online made the console stand out, but it was Skies of Arcadia that summoned legions of classic JRPG fans to the system.

It is a beautiful title that really takes the aesthetic that Square shows us in Final Fantasy IX and gives it a Dreamcast coat of paint. The game might not be for everyone. After all, if you do not like RPGs, this title is not going to convert you as it is a distillation of pretty much every great role-playing game convention out there.

That said, this is one of those rare, magical experiences and a time when both the game and the story work together to deliver something truly outstanding. If you want to see the best of what the Dreamcast has to offer when it comes to role-playing games, then you really cannot do better than Skies of Arcadia.

Honorable mentions:

Power Stone 2 (developed by Capcom for Japan and NA, Eidos Interactive for Europe 2000)

Power Stone 2 for the Dreamcast

First stage of Power Stone 2. In arcade mode, only 2 players move to the next round.

This is an off-the-wall concept for a fighting game but, since Capcom helms it, it is an amazing game that makes it work.

It is an arena fighter with really bright, colorful graphics and a simple, but intuitive fighting system that does some new things without being an isolating experience.

Fans of Capcom’s fighting games should definitely play Power Stone 2 and see what all of the fuss is about.

Crazy Taxi (developed by Hitmake, published by Sega 1999)

Crazy Taxi for the Dreamcast

Here we go!

Have you ever wanted to be an unhinged taxi driver that transforms his day-to-day work into an arcade game? That is basically the premise here, and Crazy Taxi does a great job of delivering it in a way that any gamer can grasp, but only few can master.

This reminds many of us of Sega’s glorious arcade days and, indeed, Crazy Taxi is that game that shows the transition from the arcade era to one where home consoles are more than capable of handling advanced graphics and sound.

Rez (developed and published by List 2001)

Rez for the Dreamcast

Hard to class a game as Rez… A niche on its own.

A “musical rail shooter” that combines bright, colorful arcade classic graphics with an equal dose of old-fashioned gameplay, Rez is another title that has a modern life on current platforms. The words psychedelic and maddening come to mind, but Rez is also about flow and getting into the groove of its mechanics.

Like the best arcade games from the era of Atari, Rez keeps things simple, fast, and elegant. You will not find yourself burdened by extraneous plot, ridiculous graphics, or low quality anything in this title.

Rez is about the experience of playing Rez and that makes it one of the more pure gaming concepts I have talked about on this list.

Okay, time to announce the winner, now! Guessed it already? Yeah, it is more than a safe bet…

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1. Shenmue 1 and 2 (developed by Sega AM2, published by Sega 1999 and 2001)

Shenmue 2 for the Dreamcast

Ryo heading to Hong Kong, on the trail of his father’s killer.

The original life simulator, Shenmue 1 and 2 showed that the Dreamcast was truly next generation in terms of how we understand games now. Before Grand Theft Auto 3, Shenmue showed us what it was like to live in a huge virtual world where people lived their own lives and we could too.

The fact that people want this trilogy to be concluded all these years on should tell you something about the game. Originally conceived as a combination of action-adventure game and interactive cinema, Shenmue is a work of both genius and art on many levels. Everything has an immediately organic feel that sets the game apart from pretty much everything else that came out during this console generation.

The world had a depth to it that few games have replicated and it really captured the 1980s bubble-economy Japan in a way that few games have. I do not just recommend this game, I think this game is mandatory playing material for anyone that calls themselves a gamer. Transport yourself back to 1980s Japan and experience Ryo Hazuki’s quest to avenge his father from a pair of modern eyes.

And that’s the end of another gaming journey, but what about you, retro folks? Do you have any Dreamcast favorites that you think should be on this list? Or what about your own underrated consoles? Let me know your story in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you.

Until next post!

About Andrew A.

Andrew is the founder and owner of RetroGamingLoft. He considers himself a natural-born gamer and is on a mission to keep our younger gaming years alive through the medium of Retro Stories. His event recount includes hopes, dreams, broken joysticks, magic, nostalgia and another final boss defeated.

10 thoughts on “The 10 best Dreamcast games – Sega is forever

  1. Charles

    First of all I like ikaruga. It reminds me of that area flat game I mentioned the last time I commented here. Second of all Phantasy Star Online is probably one of my favorite games. I played it on the GameCube it was called Phantasy Star Online episode 1 and 2 and I’m not sure if it was the same game or different. It’s interesting how Sega was actually one of the first companies to do online gaming but then they didn’t end up continuing with consoles. Rez looks interesting I never heard of it I’ll have to look more into it. Good article thank you!

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Charles, thanks for commenting again! Glad to hear you too were a Dreamcast fan. 🙂
      Phantasy Star Online 1 and 2 on the Gamecube is basically same the game (it was ported), but the GC version features new characters and also new areas, so we could call it a 1.1 version.

      Concerning Sega, yeah like I said in response to other comments, they were well ahead of their time and being a pioneer does not always guarantee success, sadly.

      Thanks again for stopping by and great that I made you want to find more about Rez, you are going to like it! Until next retro list!

      Reply
  2. Alblue

    Oh this bring back some memories. In that time, I usually played PlayStation games, but sometimes I visit my childhood friend’s home to play with the Dreamcast. I remember playing Virtua Tennis and especially Ikaruga. This is the game that make me want to play other similar shoot em up and bullet hell game in other arcade. It’s strangely addicting 🙂 

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Alblue, good to hear again from you!
      I was also a PlayStation enthusiast ( I am still lol) but there was a time when I got hooked on the Dreamcast, especially (and obviously) after someone showed me Skies of Arcadia and Shenmue.
      I am not a shoot’em up fan, but Ikaruga has got that certain something, and I can relate to feeling of wanting to play more of the same (kind). I honestly believe that games like Ikaruga are simply one of a kind. Unconventional, revolutionary and definitely ahead of its time. I remember I had the same feeling when playing Einhander, that says a lot.

      Thanks again for your nice comment, till next retro post!

      Reply
  3. RoDarrick

    Hello Andrew, I was part of the gaming universe that witnessed the rise and fall of the Sega console and I must say, I did make reference to the virtual tennis 2 some days ago when I was playing a multiplayer virtual tennis game on smartphone. I was an ardent gamer and follower of the virtual tennis2 then. Also, the topper on the list is definitely spot on. Oh my God! I played the shenmue 1 and 2. It was such a unique game with top notch storyline and huge cinematic experience which was not so common then. I really wish I could get a feel of those games back and show them to my son.

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Rodger, it is such a pleasure to hear from you!
      Yeah, this is something that I also witnessed and I think new generations need to know how great Sega was and how important it was in then gaming universe.
      There are still many Dreamcast units for sale on * eBay, please take a look if you like, you could get some good deals!
      Thanks for being such a loyal reader, I really hope you eventually buy a DC and have a lot of fun with your son! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Henderson

    Wow, this brings back alot of memories. I didn’t really play so many games on the Dreamcast then as I was young and my elder brother loved it so much, he had all his time on it. My favourite game on there was the crazy taxi. I liked that I could just bump into anything. My brother played resident evil though. They really did have good graphics for the time they came in.

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Henderson and thanks for your comment, I am pleased I was able to bring back memories. 🙂
      Well, one of the things I like most about the Dreamcast lineup is the inclusion of some unconventional, yet extremely fun titles. I would say Crazy taxi does fit the description. This console was way ahead of its time, it definitely deserved a lot more recognition.

      Thanks again for stopping by, hope you keep following my blog!

      Reply
  5. Daniel

    Hello Andrew, I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. This reminds me of my childhood where I was playing a sega whole day. My favorite game is definitely Ikaruga, I think that new generations don’t know much about it as today is popular something totally different. Thank you for sharing these amazing games.

    Reply
  6. Andrew A. Post author

    Hello Daniel, good to hear from you again!
    Yeah, I remember you saying you were a Sega and Dreamcast fan, so I am glad I brought back pleasant memories. 🙂
    You know, shoot’em up are not my thing, but I have always enjoyed playing Ikaruga. That says a lot about its quality and the fun it provides.
    Happy to have you as a regular, until next post!

    Reply

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