The Sega Dreamcast is one of the most underrated gaming consoles of all time. Launched back in 1999 (in the West, at least; it was released a year earlier in Japan), the Dreamcast had to compete with the PlayStation 2, the GameCube, and the Xbox, and it struggled to do so. That’s a shame, though, because the Dreamcast has some truly excellent games. If you’ve picked up a retro system and want to know what to buy for it, you’re in luck. Here, in no particular order, are the top 25 Sega Dreamcast games of all time.
1. Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic Adventure 2 is, luckily, available on plenty of modern platforms, but it got its start on the ill-fated Dreamcast. The 3D Sonic games are unfairly maligned; while there are some awkward controls here, there’s also a huge amount of genuine gameplay innovation, dizzying speed, and heart to keep you going. Sonic’s second Dreamcast journey may be a little cringeworthy, but it’s well worth experiencing nonetheless.
2. Sonic Adventure
Speaking of 3D Dreamcast Sonic games, here’s the originator. Sonic Adventure was a hard sell for many, with its new interpretations of the characters’ classic looks and its emphasis on Americanised “butt-rock” for its soundtrack. However, its levels are endlessly creative, its environments are fun to explore, and its branching story structure is surprisingly innovative.
3. Jet Set Radio
Jet Set Radio is pretty much the archetypical example of what a video game should be. It’s an anarchic, irreverent journey through a neon-drenched post-punk future in which you play as a young graffiti artist, skating across rails and dodging the fun police. The story is characteristic nonsense, but the gameplay is cathartic and freeing. The Xbox sequel, Jet Set Radio Future, is also well worth a look.
4. Resident Evil: Code Veronica
This Resident Evil spinoff arguably represents the last time the series’ classic formula was truly great. It stars Claire Redfield as she attempts to escape an Umbrella facility, hounded at every turn by devious siblings Alfred and Alexia Ashford. The gameplay is the same combination of puzzle-solving, resource management, and combat that you’ve come to love from classic Resident Evil games.
5. Skies of Arcadia
Sega consoles have a track record for JRPGs that desperately need a re-release (well, okay, just two of them). Alongside the Saturn’s Panzer Dragoon Saga, there’s the Dreamcast’s excellent Skies of Arcadia, a space pirate RPG that is crushingly absent from modern consoles. There was a GameCube re-release, though, so if you have the cash to meet the often staggeringly high prices that game is sold for on auction sites, we recommend it.
Ryo Hazuki’s first outing in the living, breathing world of the Shenmue games has a mixed legacy. On the one hand, the game is undeniably slow-paced, and some would call it tedious. On the other, it arguably paved the way for idiosyncratic franchises like Yakuza, as well as work simulator-style games. Shenmue is incredibly influential, and remains an oddity worth your time today.
7. Shenmue II
Did you like Shenmue? If so, then you’ll like Shenmue II. Not much has changed in this sequel; it’s still the same living, breathing sandbox as the original, full of endless diversions, wonky combat, and hilarious voice acting. However, if you loved that game’s blend of slice-of-life exploration and slow-paced action, then Shenmue II needs to be on your Dreamcast list.
The sequel to Soul Edge expanded the intense, technical combat that the series would eventually become known for, introducing a number of iconic new characters (Yoshimitsu, anyone?) to the roster into the bargain. The fighting system also gains new depth thanks to the expansion of the Guard Impact system, as well as more forgiving input buffering. If you’re a fighting game fan, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.
9. Crazy Taxi
Who knew that ferrying passengers around in a taxi could be so engaging? Well, in fairness, Crazy Taxi does add a few modifiers of its own, earning the “crazy” in its name along the way. This is a fast-paced, recklessly dangerous version of taxi driving where the only thing that matters is speed. That means you need to get each passenger to their destination quickly and efficiently, and it never stops being a riot.
10. Samba de Amigo
If you’ve ever played the Sega All-Stars series, then you’re probably familiar with Amigo, the simian protagonist of this series. It’s a rhythm-action franchise at heart, full of riotously colourful songs with infectious rhythms. Originally, the game was packaged with some gimmicky maraca peripherals, and if you want to get the best experience out of Samba de Amigo, it’s worth seeking them out.
We like to think we’re fairly well-rounded people of the world. We’ve been around and seen some things, but even we have to admit that Seaman is profoundly weird. It’s a sort of life sim-come-pet-raising game where you raise a fish who has a human face (the titular Seaman). Along the way, you’ll have plenty of very odd discussions with your fish about life, the universe, and everything.
t’s difficult to imagine a world without renowned developer Treasure in it. Ikaruga is just one of this studio’s many, many hits; they’re also responsible for Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun, and Sin and Punishment, among others. Ikaruga’s ingenious colour-flip mechanic was the inspiration for many subsequent games, including platformer Outland and shoot-’em-up Pawarumi.
13. Virtua Tennis
It’s a crying shame that the Virtua series has been abandoned. Virtua Tennis combines sim-like realism with arcade gameplay to great effect, just like other Virtua games did. It’s got a great real-life roster, as well as easy-to-learn, hard-to-master controls and even a character creator. If you want to enjoy tennis on your Dreamcast, then you need to buy Virtua Tennis yesterday.
Many people remember Rez as a defining moment for the PS2, but did you know it also arrived on the Dreamcast? Since it was created by Sega, Rez was originally supposed to represent an innovative new direction for Dreamcast games, so it’s a real shame that the console had already run into serious trouble by the time it launched. It’s a colourful, weird space shooter whose wireframe-style graphics have aged extremely well.
15. Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes
“I wanna take you for a ride…” If you’ve played Marvel vs Capcom 2, you’ll know not only what an earworm that song is, but also how enjoyable this deeply complex and technical 2D fighter is. It pits some of Capcom’s most iconic characters – Mega Man, Street Fighter’s Ryu, et cetera – against iconic Marvel heroes in an engine that emphasises big combos and huge specials.
16. Power Stone
While Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros series is often cited as the greatest multiplayer party fighter of all time, Power Stone deserves to be considered for that title too. It’s a wonderfully silly, over-the-top brawler in which you can throw comically oversized bins at your enemies, and when that’s a feature in your game, it legally can’t be bad. Or something. Either way, just play Power Stone.
17. The House of the Dead 2
The rail shooter is a sadly-forgotten genre in gaming these days. The House of the Dead 2 demonstrates why it should be revived; campy action, ludicrous voice acting, and some of the best and tightest shooting you’re ever going to find in a game like this. Naturally, it also supports co-op, so grab a friend and enjoy an afternoon or two blasting the undead.
18. Street Fighter 3: Third Strike
Street Fighter 3 is the final numbered instalment of the series that has traditional 2D pixel art, and for our money, it’s the most beautiful game in the franchise bar none. Capcom are absolute masters of the fighting game genre, and Street Fighter 3’s endlessly complex series of moves, blocks, and animations demonstrate that far better than words ever could.
19. Phantasy Star Online
Before there was World of Warcraft, there was Phantasy Star Online. Alright, well, technically that’s not true; this was a far less accessible affair, and you needed to build your own party of adventurers to take on Phantasy Star Online’s perilous world rather than persistently playing alongside others. Still, this was an immensely rewarding RPG, and although you may struggle to play it today, it’s worth revisiting for posterity.
20. Chu Chu Rocket!
Today, Chu Chu Rocket would be a mobile puzzle game, or perhaps a smaller bite-sized affair released on digital download. Back in the day, though, it was a major release. Created by Sonic Team, Chu Chu Rocket has a very simple premise: all you need to do is guide mice towards a rocket and away from cats. In practice, however, this translated into a fiendishly difficult and clever puzzler.
21. Space Channel 5
The late 90s and early 2000s represented a creative explosion for Sega, and Space Channel 5 was a big part of that moment. It was a neon-coloured danceathon complete with a totally bonkers alien invasion plot, but all that really mattered was its ridiculously compelling rhythm-based gameplay. You can still hunt down and enjoy Space Channel 5 today thanks to a number of Dreamcast compilations.
Headhunter was embodying Hollywood action movies before the Uncharted series was even a glint in Naughty Dog’s eye. This game cast players as Jack Wade, a typical American action star, as he navigated an action-packed world of intrigue and conspiracy. Between the third-person shooting stages, there were also motorbike-based racing levels, making this a real genre soup.
23. Sega Bass Fishing
Remember when we said Samba de Amigo needed a gimmicky controller to fully enjoy it? Well, the same can be said for Sega Bass Fishing, which came packaged with a fishing rod. Yes, an actual fishing rod (well, not an actual rod, but a plastic peripheral that strongly resembled one). The idea of releasing such a game now is bizarre, which makes this surprisingly rich fishing sim all the sweeter.
24. Rayman 2: The Great Escape
Rayman 2 is a truly classic 3D platformer. Full of charm, character, and life, this piratical adventure takes Rayman and his buddy Globox through a dark and seedy underworld with plenty of platforms to leap across. Rayman 2 was somewhat unfairly compared to Super Mario 64 when it was first released, but that’s not doing this game justice; it aims for a different vibe, and achieves it entirely.
25. Blue Stinger
Now here’s an oddity. Blue Stinger was a sort of hybrid of action game and survival horror. Aiming to compete with the likes of Resident Evil, Blue Stinger featured a story revolving around mutated monsters, who were born on an island on which the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs landed. Yep. It’s that kind of game. Throw in a few neat mechanics, like health only returning if you stand still, and Blue Stinger is an entertaining little curio.