When looking back at the turn of the century, gamers often fondly remember consoles like the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and original Xbox, but it’s easy to forget another revolutionary system that helped shape the future of the medium: the Sega Dreamcast.
Its life cut short after being technically surpassed by its competition, Sega’s last game console was nonetheless an excellent machine.
With one of the most innovative library of games and a plethora of series that would continue to live on through other systems, these are the best Dreamcast games.
A successor to Soul Edge on the PlayStation and arcade, Soulcalibur is one of the most acclaimed fighting games of all time. With nearly 20 playable characters, the weapon-based fighting game was deep, replayable, and inspired a multiplayer community that remains strong today. Though the excellent create-a-character option wasn’t introduced to the series for a few more years, the Dreamcast’s Soulcalibur not only proved that the fighting genre had a home on the Dreamcast, but that is was also a far more capable platform for those games than systems like the PlayStation and Nintendo 64.
‘Marvel vs. Capcom 2’
The recently released Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite quite possibly killed the series for good, but it was at its absolute peak with Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. Released in the arcade before coming to the Dreamcast, the game throws the most famous Marvel superheroes up against Capcom’s deep roster of characters from series like Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, Mega Man, and Resident Evil. It isn’t the deepest roster ever, but the tag-team fighter had enough depth to make it a competitive staple. Unfortunately, the game is now extremely rare, selling for more than $50 used from third-party sellers.
‘Power Stone 2’
Not every fighting game has to become an esport, and they don’t necessarily stick to the standard 2D, 1v1 framework established in Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Power Stone 2 is a 3D environment-focused multiplayer fighting game that lets players use objects they find to blast away at their opponents, and the emphasis is on all-out chaos over technical mastery. That makes it a great choice for parties, and its unique take on the genre even led to the spiritual successor LastFight being released in 2016.
‘Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves’
First available at the arcade and on SNK’s Neo Geo system before coming to the Dreamcast in 2001, Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves’ status as a port likely allowed it to keep its crisp, sprite-based artwork instead of the 3D character models that were quickly becoming the industry norm. The crime-themed fighter’s cadence was similar to Street Fighter or Tekken, but with just enough extra flash. The series was killed off after Mark of the Wolves’ release, but it has aged much better than many other games for the Dreamcast.
‘Street Fighter III 3rd Strike’
Less popular than the massively influential Street Fighter II or the sequel Street Fighter IV, Capcom’s Street Fighter III 3rd Strike has nevertheless developed a cult following, and it continues to be played competitively in 2018. The game added in a host of new characters alongside staples like Ryu and Ken, but chose to eliminate many of the series’ longtime favorites. Its fighting chops aren’t up for debate, however, and it has subsequently been re-released on several other systems.
A stylish and goofy school-based 3D fighter, Project Justice is a sequel to the game Rival Schools, and uses a similar fighting style. The team-based fighter allows players to use special “Party Up” techniques to deliver damage with all teammates simultaneously, and individual fighters’ moves are based on their school specialization. With an over-the-top story that would be at home in manga or anime, Project Justice is perfect for fighting game fans who don’t take themselves, or their games, too seriously.
Sports and racing
‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2’
A phenomenal time capsule sending players back to the heyday of fast-paced punk rock and big-air skating tricks, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater took the formula established in the previous game and polished it to a glorious sheen. Classic career and free skate modes allow you to master the most difficult tricks, and the game was also the first to include the Create-a-Park option. Your imagination was the only thing between yourself and the perfect skate park, all while you blast classics from bands like Millencolin and Bad Religion in the background.
‘San Francisco Rush 2049’
A racing game from back before realism and attention to detail were truly possible – though other games would tell you they were – San Francisco Rush 2049 took the street racing genre and applied a healthy dose of science-fiction to it, resulting in a game that blurred the line between standard arcade racing and something more experimental. The Dreamcast version was a port of the original arcade game, but manages to deliver an experience that is almost identical but takes up a lot less space.
The chances are pretty good that you thought of Crazy Taxi first when you saw the title of this list. Not a traditional racing game where you attempt to beat other cars to the finish line, Crazy Taxi instead challenges you to deliver as many taxi patrons as possible to their destination, making use of ramps, hills, and shortcuts to get from point to point without wasting any time. With a bumping soundtrack and cheesy product placement for places like KFC and Pizza Hut, it’s impossible to take seriously, and that’s why it works so well.
‘Quake III: Arena’
Less can sometimes be more, and in the case of Quake III: Arena, Id Software discovered that to be true. Ditching the single-player modes of the first two games, Quake III focused entirely on lightning-fast multiplayer shooter action. Because of the Dreamcast’s internet connectivity, it was one of the first console shooters to have its own online multiplayer community, who were at last able to enjoy the same competitive experience their PC peers had been playing for several years, rage-quitting and all.
‘Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear’
The tough-as-nails tactical shooter Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear found the perfect home on the Dreamcast, which could properly display its visuals in a way older consoles could not. With players killed in just a few shots, making the best tactical decisions and coordinating between squad-mates is crucial to success, and the down-to-earth approach to military equipment stood in stark contrast to the over-the-top style of other popular console shooters like Goldeneye 007, and its online modes gave players even more ways to enjoy it.
Long before Gears of War and Fortnite, Epic Games created the excellent multiplayer shooter Unreal Tournament. Much like Quake III, Unreal Tournament focuses primarily on multiplayer battles rather than a staged, story-focused campaign, and it’s packed full of different modes to satisfy nearly every competitive player. First released on the PC, the Dreamcast port features smooth and twitch-focused shooting, complete with an array of crazy weapons to frag your friends and send them soaring through the air.
‘Skies of Arcadia’
Airships, more than 20 playable characters, and a story with a conflict threatening to affect the entire planet? It isn’t Final Fantasy VI, but Skies of Arcadia’s air-pirate-themed take on role-playing games was acclaimed in its own right for its combat systems, diverse environments, characters, and gorgeous visuals. The game’s unique twists on classic adventure tropes, along with its epic scope, help to make it an adventure worth taking – even nearly two decades after its initial release.
‘Phantasy Star Online’
The Nintendo and Sony consoles often received attention for their library of excellent role-playing games, often leaving Sega’s own excellent games to be ignored in the discussion. The Phantasy Star series gave Genesis players plenty to love during the 16-bit era, and Phantasy Star Online took things a step further by taking the bringing in other players from around the world. Years ahead of its time, Phantasy Star Online gave players a chance to team up and face threats together, without limiting them in the same was as MMO games typically do. It’s playable offline, as well, despite the name.
‘Jet Grind Radio’
Also known as Jet Set Radio outside North America, Jet Grind Radio was the ultimate game to ring in the new millennium. Its grinding and trick-focused movement systems were similar to the Tony Hawk series, but with less focus on realism than the skating game, and the spray-painting mechanic and over-the-top action offered a sense of rebellion and anti-corporate attitude that games in 2018 often avoid. It’s also one of the most influential games for the Dreamcast, as its movement and visual style clearly served as inspiration for the Xbox One and PC game Sunset Overdrive.
‘Sonic Adventure 2’
The Sonic the Hedgehog series fell into a freefall as it fully transitioned to 3D games in the early 2000s, but Sonic Adventure 2 managed to deliver the same fast and action-packed Sonic gameplay fans had come to expect while also putting a greater focus on puzzles, exploration, and story than its predecessors. Vehicular sections and multiple playable characters helped to keep the gameplay diverse, without going so off course to the point of being unrecognizable, and it still has plenty of that classic Sonic attitude.
A slower-paced action-adventure game with a focus on storytelling and character-building rather than all-out chaos, the Shenmue series has developed a cult following. The sequel’s approach to open-world design, bizarre mini-games, and simulation helped to make it a truly influential action-adventure game, despite the visuals looking fairly dated by today’s standards. Nearly 20 years later, the game is finally getting a sequel, as well, which aims to carry on its legacy while also feeling comparable to contemporary games.
‘Resident Evil: Code Veronica’
A successor to Resident Evil 2 and starring the Redfield siblings, Resident Evil: Code Veronica continues the survival-horror gameplay of its predecessors, delving further into the mysteries surrounding Raccoon City and the zombie outbreak threatening to destroy the world. Despite not being a numbered entry in the series, Code Veronica is crucial for those looking to understand the ongoing narrative, and it contains an appearance from longtime antagonist Albert Wesker.
Simulation and novelty
‘The Typing of the Dead’
The House of the Dead series is great fun for when you want to blast away zombies with a light gun, but it doesn’t really help you learn anything. Typing of the Dead fixes that, replacing your gun with a keyboard peripheral, and reticles on the screen are replaced by words that you must type in order to survive. Silly as the premise is, The Typing of the Dead is super addicting, and it genuinely helps you type more quickly and with fewer errors. After all, if you fail, you die, or you have to watch Uwe Boll’s horrid House of the Dead movie, which is a face much worse than death.
One of the weirdest games of all time, Seaman tasks you with raising a bizarre fish-like being from birth into a fully intelligent (and vocal) creature. Using a microphone, you must interact with your Seaman and tell it what it must do, and you have to keep careful track of temperature and other factors in order to keep it alive. The Seaman can talk back to you, and the entire experience is narrated by the late Leonard Nimoy. Why? We’re not sure, but it just adds to the bizarre novelty that is Seaman.